Saturday, December 29, 2007

Washington DC: Day 1

We arrived at our hotel in Arlington around noon (after a slight detour thanks to some truly dreadful directions provided by the hotel website), and figured we'd quickly make our way into the city and at least get some museum visiting and sightseeing done. Not so fast...

Baggage had to be brought into the room. That was pretty fast thanks to the luggage trolly thing that fit everything easily. Then we had to find the nearest Metro. Check - only a couple of blocks away. Then we had to figure out how to buy a ticket. Um, yeah. I've ridden the Paris and New York subways, this won't be too hard, right?*

It wasn't *really* all that difficult, just harder than I expected and wanted it to be. I think it was the varying fare price based on distance and time of day. Yeah, I'm going to blame it on that. At least we did eventually figure it out and buy our farecards, guesstimating on how much money we would need for the 4 or 5 days we'd be using them.

The Metro ride itself was great, and it seemed like no time at all before we were at our station - L'Enfant Plaza. For some reason I forgot how to read a map and we went the wrong way after exiting the station, but after only a couple of minutes we reversed course and made our way towards the Mall and our destination: The National Air and Space Museum. It was now after 1 however, so we stopped at the first street vendor we saw and got a couple of hot dogs and drinks. Fantastic! After refueling, we entered the Museum.

Wow. I had no idea it was so HUGE! I think I was most fascinated by the DC3 hanging from the ceiling. Along with many many other planes. What a great place for air and space buffs (which I am most definitely NOT). L loved the gallery on Apollo to the moon. I hadn't realized how much he liked that kind of thing. I did like touching the moon rock, yes, even germophobe me touched something that I KNEW thousands of other hands had touched. So what if I then went into the bathroom to wash my hands?

I may have spent a lot of time fiddling with my new camera since I wasn't that interested in the exhibits, but I did really like one exhibit - the Treasures of American History gallery, at the NASM while the National Museum of American History is being renovated. 150 of the Museum's best artifacts, including Kermit the Frog and Dorothy's ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz.

Really though, this Museum is AMAZING, and their website is pretty good too - links to the galleries and lots of good info and pictures available from the building map. Don't let my minimal interest in the subject matter scare you away from it. I will say again how fascinated I was by all the planes and items hanging from the ceiling. I hope they knew what they were doing when they rigged those things so they're not about to come crashing down!

After L had had his fill of the NASM, we wandered over towards the Capitol which is so beautiful. I took a lot of pictures by the Capitol Reflecting Pool (the fountain was not on in December), James Garfield Monument & U.S. Grant Memorial, and of the Capitol Christmas Tree on the Capitol grounds. The sun was setting so I got some nice shots of that as well. By then we were cold and hungry (one hot dog was not enough), so we headed for the nearest Metro - Federal Center SW. Happily, a Starbucks was right next to the entrance, so we stopped there first for a hot chocolate and carmel apple cider before taking the Metro back to Arlington.

The hotel had provided an area (i.e., Arlington) map which included restaurant ads, and since I couldn't talk L into trying the Moroccan place, he picked out an Italian place that was supposed to be right around the corner from the Metro. Amazingly enough, it was. Unfortunately we took the wrong exit (hey, there are 3 choices) so it took longer to find it than that implies, but we still managed.

Dinner was at the Toscana Grill. It was very empty (hopefully for their sake that is only because we were pretty early for dinner). We each got a house salad, trying to avoid the haven't-had-vegetables-in-days situation we often find ourselves in when traveling. They were very tasty with nice and fresh greens. L ordered the lasagna, and really enjoyed it. I selected a favorite, gnocchi marinara, but felt that they gnocchi were kind of heavy and the sauce too sweet. However, I had a glass of pinot grigio (from South America I think) and it was WONDERFUL. Very flavorful and L even wished he'd ordered that instead of his soda. No desserts, because none really tempted - I know there was tiramisu and cheesecake maybe, and ice cream. Boring. Their website has expired, or I'd link to it. Maybe they really didn't have many diners and have gone out of business. I was hoping they'd list their wine menu online so I could remember what it was I drank. :)

Back to the hotel finally, where I downloaded my pictures and we plotted our next day's adventures...

*ok, so the Paris one is cheating somewhat since I was traveling with someone who knew where he was going and what he was doing so I didn't have to think much. I've also traveled on the Marseilles Metro, but was too embarrassed to claim that as anything in the main paragraph. I mean, it's got two lines. It's not hard to figure out. It's kind of like a Metro for beginners. But the New York one was the real deal. :) Back to story