Friday, June 20, 2008

And We're Back...

But I bet you already knew that. We had a fun time in D.C, but it was HOT, HOT, HOT. Let me tell you, it was thrilling to watch all the news about the northeastern heatwave and then be able to walk right out the door and experience it for ourselves. But otherwise, it was a great trip. I lived in Northern Virginia for two years in high school and had seen most of this stuff before, but John had never been to Washington. And this is what we did:

Flew out of Nashville. We stopped for lunch at Olive Garden on the way there, but John made a miscalculation on time. He dropped me off so I could get our luggage checked while he parked and he almost missed the flight, making an exciting commencement to the trip. We arrived in Baltimore because Southwest does not fly from Nashville to D.C, and took the MARC train to Union Station in D.C, where we caught the metro to our hotel stop.... where it was pouring rain. More excitement! We got to drag our luggage over a block full of puddles and rain, but finally we made it to the hotel and I was wet and my shoes were wet. Sigh. Later, we walked to dinner at the Capitol City Brewery where John sampled the brew and I had a fab crab cake sandwich and we planned the next day.

OK, might as well hit the big stuff first. The weather channel predicted rain, but it was sunny and actually kind of nice outside. We took the metro to the mall and went to the Smithsonian castle, which is a kind of information center. It also has an exhibit featuring a little of everything from all the different Smithsonian museums, and the architecture is really, really cool on the inside. To my great dismay, the American History museum was closed for renovations and it was at the top of my list! We decided to go to the Natural History museum, with a stop by the Hirschhorn Gallery, which is all contemporary and modern art. I have no patience for modern art and weird sculpture, but John has a weird fascination with it, so we walked through the sculpture garden and around one level of the gallery. Then, off to Natural History. In the lobby, you are greeted by one of the statues from Easter Island:
They have bunches of stuffed birds and animal and dinosaur skeletons and all the other things you would hope for in a Natural History museum, but my favorite gallery is Gems and Minerals. They have breathtakingly beautiful pieces of jewelry displayed, and amazing displays of gems and minerals. Shiny things... I love shiny things! Pictures don't even do it justice.
We ate lunch at the Old Post Office, which has a cool food court inside, and you can go up in the tower for great views of the city: I was glad John was content with this, because I did not want to stand in line to go up into the Washington Monument. We ate and we viewed, and then we went back to the hotel for a nap, because napping is an essential part of every great vacation, right?

We left again at dusk, and the weather was fabulous. John decided that he did not want to walk up and down the mall twice, so he gets this brilliant idea that we should take the metro to Arlington Cemetery and walk over to the Lincoln Monument which is a REALLY long walk and definitely something I had never done before and quite frankly don't care to do again. But the Lincoln Monument is gorgeous at night and after we visited Mr. Lincoln, we visited the Vietnam Memorial and then walked along the Reflecting Pool to the WWII Memorial, which I had never seen before. It was awesome in the dark, but I'd like to see it in the day so I can read all the plaques and inscriptions. Then, we hiked up the hill to the Washington Monument. It was pretty late by now, so no one was there except a security guard on his bike. We laid on one of the marble benches at the base and stared straight up at the brightly lit monument which seemed to soar up against the night sky, with the American flags all snapping in the breeze around us. Everyone should see the Washington Monument like that.

And then we had to trudge to a metro station and we were very tired and our feet hurt. Since it was almost 11 at night, our dining options were fairly limited, but someone finally directed us to the Old Ebbit Grill, which "was a favorite of Presidents Grant, Cleveland, Harding and Theodore Roosevelt and is still a popular meeting spot for political insiders, journalists, celebrities and theater-goers." There were lots of guys in suits and ties and a bunch of people watching the Lakers and the Celtics in the bar, but if we saw a celebrity, we didn't know it. We both had Shrimp Nicoise and it was very good but it was midnight, and we had to hike back several blocks to our hotel, thereby dashing John's earlier plan of getting up at the crack of dawn. Darn!

The heat wave arrived on this day. We got up late, ate breakfast late, and then went to one of my favorite places, the National Gallery of Art. In high school, my BFF Christy and I used to take the bus into D.C. and we always went here. The building itself is awe-inspiring, but nothing matches seeing real art in person. I am amazed that our Gallery has some of the artwork that it does. After John dragged me out of the gift shop (I could spend hours in this gift shop) we saw an exhibition I had never seen before. It was called "Medieval to Modern" and we walked through galleries of Rodin and Degas sculptures and then I happened upon this:
which is THE picture in all the history books when you study ancient Rome. It's called "The She-Wolf Suckling Romulus and Remus" and is from the late 15th - early 16th century... ok, so maybe you had to be there. John was amazed that all this incredible art- the stuff you see in books all the time even if you aren't an art buff- was just hanging there and you could walk right up and touch it if you were so inclined (but of course, you aren't supposed to do that and a security guard will fuss at you and follow you around from then on out, as Christy and I once discovered.) We had to fly through the galleries filled with incredible Vermeers, Monets, Van Goghs, Rembrandts, Raphaels and even a Da Vinci because we had a dinner date that evening with Steve and Sally, Christy's mom and dad, who took me in for the last 6 months of my senior year of high school after my family moved back to Alabama. We haven't seen each other since my wedding 17 years ago and John had never really got to meet them before, so I was really looking forward to this visit.

They picked us up at the Metro station in Fairfax and we went back to their house to visit for a while before they took us to dinner at a favorite Italian restaurant (which sounds really good right now, BTW). It was so great to see them again, and I guess you can tell really good friends because you just pick up right where you left off and it doesn't feel like a long time at all.

On Saturday, we got a late start too, in spite of good intentions. This time, I dragged John to the National Cathedral, which I had never visited, but that is worthy of its own post. It's off the beaten path and so doesn't get the attention that other places get, but it was definitely worth the effort to visit. We stopped and ate lunch at a Korean-Japanese restaurant and my order came with sushi which is HIGHLY OVERRATED. (There, I've said it.) And then we went to Arlington National Cemetery (did I mention it was hot?) and watched the Changing of the Guard and mercifully, took the tram tour to the Kennedy grave sites and through the rest of the cemetery. I would love to go back some time and spend an entire day there- there's so much to see, and I didn't even get to see the Iwo Jima Memorial, but it was too hot for words and all we wanted was to get back to the hotel where we could peel off our sweat-drenched clothes and lay like dead fish in front of the air conditioner. Isn't that a mental picture you really needed?

But the day ended well. We recovered in time to get gussied up for dinner at the Oceanaire, which is a restaurant done up like a 1930's ocean liner. It was pricey but ranks as some of the best seafood we've had on our vacation travels, and we ended with Baked Alaska which we were almost too stuffed to enjoy but who can resist ice cream on fire? Not I.

Got out the door late, late, late and it was totally John's fault. The plan was to visit Mount Vernon, George Washington's home, but we missed the boat (literally) because we slept in and then the Metro lines were running slow due to maintenance. It was not meant to be. Instead, we went to Union Station and hopped one of the big red double decker tour buses, which took us to all the places on John's must see list:
And then the day rapidly fell apart. We were in some fancy neighborhood among the embassies or some such places when we realized it was time to make our seat reservations for Southwest. If you've ever flown Southwest, you know what I'm talking about. It's a real showdown. But here we are, getting sunburned on the top of a big red bus and we have no idea where we are and we couldn't get hold of my mother who had said she would make the reservations for us and John's mother was at work, so we got OFF the bus so John can walk his non-techy dad through the steps to get our seats for Southwest. While we're both standing on the sidewalk in sweltering heat and we have no idea where we are, John pokes me in the leg and teases, "You're not wearing any underwear!" (Now, aren't you glad you stayed with this post just to read that line?) This was so not the time for those kind of shenanigans and I was annoyed, so I scowled at him and hissed "I AM SO!" And after he coached his dad through the seating arrangements, he looked at me and said, "You know I love you." Yes, I know you love me. "But you have a huge rip in the back of your pants."


Apparently, in my rush to get off the bus, I caught my (favorite) pair of pants on something and I had a gash in them that started midway up my butt almost down to my knee. I was mortified. And then he left! He left me standing there with a huge gash in my pants!! "We have to go find the bus stop!" he announced and he took off, leaving me to fend for myself and cover the gaping hole as best as I could with my purse. Believe me, you did not want to be there at that time and I will spare you the rest of the scene, but we did eventually get back on the bus and we made it back to Arlington, where we took the Metro back to our hotel. If he really and truly loved me, he would have hailed a taxi, but apparently he doesn't, so he just walked really close to me all the way back to the hotel. And that's all I'm going to say about that.
We somehow recovered enough to eat at the Full Kee (an excitingly authentic Chinese restaurant) in Chinatown, and we would have gone to a movie if the times had worked out but they didn't, so instead we laid in bed in our air-conditioned room and I read "The Time Traveler's Wife" and he watched the Lakers and the Celtics. I believe we stayed one day too long.

And on Monday we went home and it was very uneventful and we were very happy to be back.


~ Stephanie. said...

Ohhhhh, where do I start? Except for the heat and the NC-17 rated pants, sounds like a great trip. I have to beg to differ with you on the sushi, however!

janjanmom said...

Oh my my, the more I learn about John, the more I realize he is just Philip as a grown-up.

Sounds great and I am envious of all of it sans the rip.

PS. Sushi=parasites...I hope you got/are getting dewormed.

E.T.'s Mom said...

You always have the best vacation posts! So sorry about that last day, though. Yikes!