Monday, June 1, 2009

Washington "Da Capitol"

Thanks to the "Jay-Walk All-Stars" on The Tonight Show for explaining what the D.C. stands for.

Laurie and I made a whirlwind weekend trip down to Washington, departing from home Saturday morning and returning last evening. We stayed at a Fairfield Inn on the outskirts of the city that offered a shuttle bus to Union Station, where we could get on the Metro. Unfortunately, the shuttle only ran once an hour and we arrived about five minutes after it left.
So we asked the young man at the desk where the nearest Metro station was and he told us it was about a mile away.
Well, we are not averse to walking a bit, so, after putting our bags in the room, we set off down New York Avenue. The "about a mile" turned out to be almost two miles and a "time & temp" sign we passed said it was 89 degrees, so I had a bit of perspiration flowing by the time we got there.
We waited only a couple of minutes for a train, though, and its air conditioning was working fine. With the help of a friendly DC native, we got our bearings and were pointed to the train change we needed to make to get to the Smithsonian stop.

It was close to 4:00 by the time we got to the Museums, however, and I was recounting to Laurie the tale of my first trip to Washington, some forty-five years ago. We were on our way to Newport News to visit Aunt Pauline, Uncle Jimmy, and cousins Margo and Peter, and my father thought it would be great to stop at the Smithsonian to see "The Spirit of St Louis." Unfortunately, whatever street we were on did not allow left turns and we seemed to be going in a number of right-turn circles without ever getting closer to the museum. Finally, my father stopped at a corner where a policeman was making sure no one made a left turn and said, "If I can't make a left turn, how am I going to get over there?"
As I recall, the officer gave him instructions on how many blocks to go in each direction, making only right turns, of course, so that we would get to where we wanted to be. Despite a trip that seemed to us kids like we had left the city and come back again, we eventually arrived right in front of the museum. As we all piled out to go inside, my father went up the steps and came right back down to tell us it had closed at 4:30.

Based on my story, we expected to have about twenty minutes to go through the American History Museum, but were pleasantly surprised to discover it was open until 6:30. That gave us enough time to see pretty much everything we wanted to and even have a snack in the cafe. One of the highlights was the recreation of Julia Child's kitchen and the video of one of her programs. It was quite amusing to see just how much clarified butter she used making an apple charlotte!

Once the museum closed, we headed over to the monuments, intent on seeing ones for the Korean War and FDR. We made it to the former, but the latter is a bit of a hike, out towards the Jefferson Memorial, and, given the amount of walking we'd already done, we decided it was not to be. We walked the length of the reflecting pool and got to see them "striking the set" for the rededication of the Lincoln Memorial, which had taken place earlier in the day.
After walking through the Korean War Memorial, we headed back to the Metro station and then trained back to Union Station just in time to miss the shuttle again. This time, however, we took a cab to the hotel.

Yesterday morning we made it onto the shuttle and headed for the Postal Museum, situated right next door to Union Station. As we had some time to kill before the museum opened, we strolled through Union Station and were amazed at the size of the food court on the lower level. Suddenly, Laurie realized that she had been there about twelve years ago with the Girl Scouts and recounted how one of the girls kept buying different foods that she then decided she didn't like, and continued to do so until she ran out of money.
The Postal Museum was quite interesting, particularly the exhibit about FDR and how he used postage stamps to influence the public. Laurie was not aware that Roosevelt had been an avid stamp collector; having been a philatelist myself for many years, it was a story I knew well.
The portions of the National Stamp Collection that are available for viewing was also quite impressive. A die-hard stamp collector could easily spend a full day just looking at all the pages.
The Museum is also very kid-friendly with some interactive games that tie into how direct mail advertisers figure out exactly what to send you.
All is all, it was a pleasant way to spend the morning.

Then it was back onto the shuttle for a quick stop at the hotel before checking out and heading home. Not surprisingly, we hit traffic on the Jersey Turnpike, where we crawled along for about ten miles until reaching a sign that told us to slow to 45 mph because there was congestion ahead. Actually, there was not congestion ahead at all... we were back up to 65 mph as soon as we passed the sign!

So we had a thirty-six hour mini-vacation! Had we not gone, we undoubtedly would have spent much of the weekend sitting by the pool. But since last week's rain cooled the water off considerably, Laurie would not have gone in. We did get a nice suntan, regardless. Being in a convertible with the top down for eleven hours will do that!


  1. and not a word about Night at the Museum II?
    I visited some of the Smithsonian when I was on the US East Coast 15 years ago (or so) and have always wanted to go back with my husband, and now with my kids too. Maybe, one day, it'll happen.
    Sounds like a lovely weekend off, Bob.
    Jen in Oz
    PS what is it about getting lost in the Nation's Capital? Canberra is built concentrically and it's VERY easy to get lost there too!

  2. The Museum's gift shop had a large display of material that tied into the movie.

  3. To my complete and utter astonishment, I fell for fast food and fell hard. I LOVED the coffee-flavored thick shake at Wendy's, the self-same thick shake topped with whipped cream and chocolate syrup. The whipped cream was ReddiWhip, which I adore, and the chocolate syrup was Hershey's, I'll bet. Quite a delicious creation. Even more astonishing, I liked the broiled chicken at KFC. Me in a KFC! Me liking the food in a KFC! This is akin to Dubya developing a taste for Jane Austen novels or Merchant/Ivory films.

  4. It's officially "grilled" chicken, the new KFC version that Oprah sent all her fans off to get a free sample of.
    I should point out that we were eating dinner at 9:00 p.m. and at that point, you were so hungry, anything would taste good. We'll have to try it again at a "normal" mealtime.