Posts Tagged ‘smithsonian’

Last week, I had Tuesday off for Veterans Day. I’m a little late to the game to say thank you to all those who have served in various ways for our country, but they deserve recognition all year and not just one day, so thank you all for your service and sacrifice!

Veteran’s day is not one of those holidays that Bart gets off from his work; however, after working really hard during October on a project, he decided to take one day off to relax a bit and do something fun while I was off as well. It seemed like the perfect opportunity to check another local Washington, DC attraction off our list. We tossed around a number of good ideas and finally landed on the Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport in Virginia.


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Living in Washington, DC, has its nuisances, but it has perks as well. The nation’s capital offers more sights and activities than one could ever fully explore. Since we moved, we have tried to take advantage of these opportunities and slowly work our way through some of the local attractions. Other than my excursion to the National Mall with my brother and his gang a couple of months ago, Bart and I have generally avoided downtown during the high tourist season. Now that it’s past Labor Day, however, we decided to wander back down to the area and hit a couple of items on our Washington, DC “To-Do” list.

The first stop on our agenda was the east side of the National Mall; there were a few memorials down there that we hadn’t been to. After that, since we were just a few blocks away from it, we decided to take the opportunity to walk over to the White House. We caught a vantage point from the north lawn.
White House North Lawn

White House North Lawn

We also got to see some protesters against a Syrian attack, but I assume there are people there just about every day touting some cause or another. Regardless of your personal beliefs, thank goodness for the First Amendment.
Protesters in front of the White House.

Protesters in front of the White House.

Since we had parked at a conveniently located meter for our first stops, we decided to move before we reached our final destination. Parking downtown is definitely demotivating for exploring as often as we’d like and one of the biggest reasons we don’t do it as much. Taking the metro is not cheap and takes some time, but it’s certainly more convenient; however, we had to run another errand that morning, so it wasn’t an option for this trip. After circling a couple of times just trying to find a conveniently located parking garage, I was ready to give up and go home. But before we threw in the towel, we literally stumbled upon a free parking spot just a block from our last stop. I didn’t realize there was free parking down either side of the National Mall; even if I did, I would never have counted on it for reliable availability, assuming it would always be packed to the gills. Hence we were not expecting a car to pull out of a space right in front of us, so we just snagged the spot and asked questions later. We thoroughly examined the sign and all information around it and determined that parking was, indeed, totally free, and we weren’t going to get towed or exorbitantly fined. The providential parking spot increased the enjoyment of the remainder of our afternoon by a hundredfold. Winning!

Our final stop was the Smithsonian Museum of American History, or, as I affectionately call it, the Museum of American Knickknacks. I love museums, but Bart and I have a low bandwidth for the amount of time we can spend in one before we’re ready to crash. That makes DC the perfect place for us. There are so many national museums that are totally free, so we don’t feel bad about darting into one and only seeing a few exhibits, knowing that we can come back any time we’re willing to park or take the metro.

On this trip, we saw the Star-Spangled Banner, the flag that inspired the national anthem during the war of 1812. The thing is gigantically huge and has a place of honor right by the front doors. We then turned our attention to the exhibits on the lower floor, including exhibits on Maritime, Rail, and Automobile Transportation, the development of electricity in America, and American food from the 50’s to today. In that latter exhibit, we saw Julia Child’s kitchen, a precise reconstruction of her actual kitchen as it looked the day she donated it in 2001. I took comfort in her wall of beautiful copper cookware and her words of wisdom: “You can never have enough of these tools.” Thank you, Julia. As many tiny kitchens as I’ve seen in our house hunt, I cling hopefully to your words.

Words of wisdom from Julia Child.

Words of wisdom from Julia Child: “You can never have enough of these tools.”

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We interrupt your regularly scheduled furlough pattern for a spontaneous Furlough Monday.

Yep, I took Friday and the following Monday as furlough days, resulting in a four day weekend. Since my brother and his family were coming through town on a vacation, I decided I’d leverage my day off to the beginning of the week so I could hang out with them.

Hosting my brother, sister in law, and their three teen/tween kids was the largest group we’ve ever had stay with us before. Thankfully, our rental home is quite spacious, so with our two spare rooms upstairs and a cot plus air mattress in the basement, everyone had their own bed and plenty of space. Laura, my SIL, says I missed my calling as an owner of a bed and breakfast. Maybe she’s got a real idea there…renting rooms to tourists might be a way we could help subsidize a mortgage out here. 😉

They arrived Sunday evening and had dinner with us. We grilled chicken on the Egg, and I also made some chocolate oatmeal cookies, the final recipe from Pat’s cookbook that I’ll be sharing with you…watch for that soon!

Monday morning after rush hour we headed into town with my brother driving and me navigating. I’ve got the drive to the observatory down pat, but the last couple of miles to the national mall aren’t so familiar to me. But we made it and found a parking spot in a garage on 15th Street near the national aquarium and the White House.

Our first stop was the archives, where we waited in line a little while to see the founding documents, but it wasn’t too bad. Then we meandered toward the Capitol, grabbing some lunch along the way. This was the closest I’ve been to the Capitol since I moved; I still haven’t been in yet, but I’d love to take a tour one day.

We started back down the mall and spent a little while at the Air and Space Museum. Then we took in the sights of the national mall as we strolled toward the White House. We got a view of the front amongst a throng of other tourists. I think you can get a slightly closer view if you go around to the back, but we didn’t have the time.

We opted to not continue walking down the other half of the mall to the Lincoln memorial, as we’d have to walk all the way back to the car afterward, and it’s really quite a hike, especially if you’ve already walked the first half. We opted to head a block back to the car and drive over there. Parking was a little scarce, but my brother found a spot a ways down the street. I volunteered to sit with the van while they went to the Lincoln memorial; that way I could save them the hike back when they were finished, and we cut some time off our exit (very important, as we were approaching the beginning of the evening rush hour). That worked out just right, and we made it home from downtown in practically record time.

Evidently, some loser chose yesterday to vandalize the Lincoln memorial, the National Cathedral, and a statue outside the Smithsonian Castle with green paint. It was evident on Lincoln, though we didn’t see the other two. She was eventually apprehended yesterday, but not before defacing those objects. Not super cool on her part.

So, I enjoyed spending my furlough day with family. It seemed like the perfect way to spend forced time off. I should be back on schedule next Friday, but it’ll be hard to top that!

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