Friday, October 18, 2013

OPEN - Our Last Day in DC

Regardless of our political beliefs, it sure was nice to wake up this morning to the news that everything was OPEN! YAY!!! Our first stop: The Smithsonian Museums. 

We went to the Air and SPace Museum first and only saw half of it - the airplane half. Brandon loves airplanes, in case you don’t know. He’s a commercial instrument pilot. So we spent a good amount of time looking at the airplanes and airplane history. 

In particular, the information about stewardesses/flight attendants always humors me. 

 And this was a poster that the British government posted to help its citizens identify German airships (so take cover) vs. British airships (so don't worry).

It was awesome to see the airplanes ... a Messerschmidt 262 jet & ME 109, a Gruman Tiger, and one of my favorites, a Bleriot XI (My fellow Five in a Row friends might know the significance of this). 

We got to see a fully simulated Airbus 320 take off and landing, although Brandon has experienced a real Airbus 320 landing on our trip to Canada many years ago pre-9/11. It was fun. 

We then headed to the National Museum of American History. This place was great. We didn’t see all of it since this was our last day in DC and we wanted to see as much as we could in our short 1 day that everything was finally open. Some of my highlights were ...

Brandon pretending to give a speech as president ... here he is behind the podium:

And on TV. I love this (although I think he looks a bit like Homer Simpson here). It looks like he's really on TV giving a speech:

A cello built in 1701 by Stradivari:

Kermit D. Frog:

Who remembers working on one of these? I’m raising my hand!

Dorothy’s slippers:

The entrance to the Star Spangled Banner (no pictures of the inside as no photography is allowed). Seeing the HUGE original flag that inspired the wonderful poem that became our national anthem was awesome.

And my favorite:

Julia Child’s kitchen! I was so excited to see this, especially since the Smithsonian website said that this exhibition would be only through August 2013. I just love Julia. And this is the EXACT kitchen that she lived and worked in everyday, save the floor and ceiling (cause they couldn't really move those). Everything is exactly as it was. It’s funny watching home hunting shows and the people just have to have a huge gourmet kitchen. Yet Julia’s kitchen wasn’t some massive gourmet kitchen. It was a nice, normal kitchen and she was very talented. She was able to cook and do her shows from this very kitchen. They had a video running of many, many clips of her shows. I could've watched for hours!

Her cookbooks:

Afterward we headed to the National Archives. We wanted to see the Charters of Freedom, if we could before we left DC. And we did. And that was very awesome. The original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights. Words cannot really explain how wonderful these were to view up close and in person. Awe-inspiring.

And this is how I remember DC:

It’s a lovely city. I love its energy and excitement. It's clean. And it's large, but there are no sky scrapers. I hope we can come back soon and bring the girls when everything is open (only remind me not to plan a trip when they are planning to vote on a budget!!). There is just so much here that we were not able to see.

Thanks for following our fun! Until next time ... 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Fall RV Trip - Day 6 in DC

So today was slow-paced and relaxed, considering that Brandon isn't feeling well. We got a late start and headed to the National Cathedral. It's stunning. I came here once in the 5th grade and I remember how I felt so small. And again, I felt so small today.

And we found these in the gift shop:

Seriously. Really? Darth Vader? Is he the new gargoyle???

 These are from the observation deck:

Then we headed to Georgetown for lunch and dessert. I had found The Tombs recommended so we went there for some food. It was good, and I liked the atmosphere - rowing oars and paintings and paraphernalia abound. And it's called The Tombs for a reason ... you walk down to go inside, then down again ... then we went down again, feeling like we were in the bowels of the earth.

Then we headed for baked & wired. We were originally going to go to Georgetown Cupcake (i.e. DC Cupcakes on the Food Network), but in my research for lunch and finding GC, I discovered so many positive reviews for baked and wired and so many bad reviews for GC. So baked and wired it was. Goodness at the cupcakes. And brownies. And cookies. And ice cream sandwiches. We settles on ice cream sandwich (similar to a Chipwich, but homemade). And I also couldn't resist a cupcake. So I got one to go.

We were headed to the Newseum, but by the time we got back into the area, it was too late to go there and spend the $$ for admission with only 2 hours until closing. We got so lost. Since we have been here we have driven through this intersection at least 5 times turning around:

Oh, we were following a police car and found these license plates humorous. Can you see what it says at the bottom of the tag?

In case you can't read it, it says, "Taxation without Representation." Nice.

We drove to the National Mall and bought the girls some shirts and hung out on a bench for a while.

That's when we heard sirens. And then about 10 motorcycles whizzed by, then about 10 police cars, then a black limo, then several armored Secret Service vehicles, then what looked like a SWAT-type vehicle, then more police. They came by some quickly that it was all over before I even had a chance to take a picture. The motorcade was headed from the White House towards Capitol Hill. We can only assume it was a presidential motorcade. It was exciting.

Then we headed back to the RV because it was too early to eat, but everything else was closed. And with the fact that NOTHING is open anyway, we were growing a little frustrated.

We watched Back to the Future. I haven't seen that movie in ages. The special effects are stunning! ;)

I think Thursday will be great... the Smithsonian will be OPEN!! Yes! It's our last day in DC, but at least we'll get to see this.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Fall RV Trip - Day 5 - Washington and Capitol Hill

This morning we took a detour to a little town outside of Annapolis. I told you we rented a car, right? Well, Brandon, being ever the entrepreneur that he is, had discovered a boat that he might be able to buy and sell and it just happened to be 45 minutes from where we are staying. So we got up early and drove south towards Annapolis. OK ... the town was called Deen and let me tell you ... gorgeous!! I can see why people want to live here and why it's so expensive.

We stopped and ate at one of our favorite type of places - a local hole in the wall that serves breakfast. It did not disappoint. I can't even remember the name of it, but it's off the beaten path and perfect.

We decided to visit Mount Vernon since it was still early in the day. That drive was equally lovely. If you live in Mount Vernon, VA just across the Potomac you are living the dream! At least as far as real estate goes! Interestingly the National Park that we drove through to get to Mount Vernon was closed, but the bikers didn't care - they were going around barricades and biking right in. The government had put up barricades so that you could not stop in your car and see the lovely views of the Potomac. Stupid.

Contrary to popular reports, the government has not shut down the parking areas at Mount Vernon, but I think everyone visiting DC was there yesterday!

We started at the Museum because we wanted to learn about George Washington before we ventured onto the property. I didn't know that he fought for the British during the French & Indian War. And that Martha Washington was a widow with children of her own that he raised (they had no children together). And that he had so many slaves - there was a very interesting exhibit in the museum about Washington's dilemma with slavery.

Mount Vernon is just gorgeous! We toured the mansion and it is impressive. Apparently it didn't always look like this. When he inherited it, it was just the middle and one floor with a sleeping loft.

After he inherited it and married martha (who had money) and made his own money he added on. Also, he was quite the host as many guests came and stayed in their home. During that time period when one was traveling, one would simply stop at a home to request shelter for the night and the owner of the home would welcome them in and the guest would stay as long as they would like.

Forty percent of the items inside the home were owned by Washington, hence no pictures of the inside. The other items are period items of things that probably would have been in the house. Two items that impressed me were: the actual key to the Bastille prison (check your French history if you don't know the significance of that) and his presidential chair. The actual one from Philadelphia that he sat in while president.

The view from the porch:

The porch that faces the Potomac:

Across the Potomac is a National Park (that's closed). This is exactly how it would have looked to Washington each day, save there would have been many more ships to see back in his day.

A tulip poplar tree that George Washington planted in 1759!!

We walked the grounds a bit, but by this time Brandon had begun to feel ill. Poor guy! We found the nearest drugstore and loaded him up on drugs. He's feeling a bit better now.

So we decided to head for the city again, but this time via Metro. We parked at the station nearest to the campground. Well, we drove around and around the property trying to figure out how to get to the parking deck. The address of the station was the kiss and ride parking, but the parking deck was across the tracks. After reading a map (!!) we found our way through the University of Maryland. We parked and proceeded to try and buy a fare card. HA! It took several times before we realized how to buy a day pass. We felt so stupid.

We hopped on the train and headed south. By the way, these are some dirty trains! I honestly don't remember thinking the subway in NY was so filthy as these trains. Maybe it's the fact that there is carpet on the floor of these trains. Carpet. Really? Whose idea?

We decided to get off at Union Station to see what we could see. It's mighty impressive. They did have a net up to catch falling plaster from the ceilings while they are in the process of restoration. We had a mini lunch and watched people. It's a busy place! They say that twenty five MILLION people come through there each year. And I believe it. It's the point where all the rail lines converge in the city.

From there we walked out the front and toward the Capitol. We wanted to see if we could see anything exciting going on. There were reporters waiting:

And a protester:

Although his sign didn't really make any sense. It said, "Living the American dream, just not the one intended for U.S."

The Capitol is quite impressive up close and in person. It is enormous. Too bad we couldn't go inside!

On the left is the House and on the right is the Senate.

Looking toward the Senate side.

And so we sat at the park and waited. And we waited. There were many Secret Service vehicles and tons of Capitol Police (complete with M16s!). At one point there was some stirring amongst the reporters and we were so hoping for congress to come out.

But nothing. It began to get dark and we grew weary of waiting and Brandon needed more meds, so we left.

The Capitol was lovely at dusk:

I discovered something new on my iPhone ... did you know that in maps when you ask it for directions to a place you can choose driving or walking?? So to find the nearest Metro station, we chose walking and walked right to it! We passed the Library of Congress.

Bow your heads for a moment of silence that I WILL NOT BE ABLE TO VISIT. I'm not bitter. Promise.

We jumped on the Metro and headed for our dinner destination via a close CVS to buy some more drugs (since I left them in the car). Let me say that although the trains may be dirty, the Metro is super-easy to navigate. It's like MARTA in Atlanta, honestly, only bigger and much busier.

We made reservations at Founding Farmers.

We tried to get in the night before and they had nothing available. But we called early yesterday and had a dinner reservation for 7:45. This place was jam packed. There were Secret Service vehicles parked outside. There were tourists and locals and professionals and politicians and those who work for politicians. It was awesome. The vibe was extremely lively. And the food. Oh my goodness, no wonder there was nothing available the night before. Outstanding food. We made ourselves sick, again. But this time no dessert was involved. We just couldn't stop eating the wonderful food! They're coming out with a cookbook at the end of the month and I will be buying it!

We rode the Metro back to our car and I'm sure I fell asleep more than once. We crawled into the bed for another good night's sleep. Brandon slept well, despite not feeling so great. I'm hoping he feels better today!