I don't often travel anymore. With school expenses needing paying and being between good paying work, the last vacation I went on was Mexico with the BFs family. But Matt's sister is working for the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. till mid-Decemeber, so, of course, we decided to invite ourselves over for a visit.
Now, since I am currently very broke, we booked our flight to D.C. with airmiles. I've been collecting them since I was 18 and have never used any of them, so we paid for one whole ticket with them. Score. The weird thing though, the states airlines operate using a hub system. Whether it is actually more effecient, I don't know, but we had a choice of going through Chicago to D.C. or literally taking a tour of all the western costal airports in the entire United States until we ended up at eastern Baltimore International. Needless to say, we chose the shortest stop through Chicago.
It was the first time I had ever flown with an American airline (well since I was a newborn), and it was an interesting experience. First off, classism still exists (which is weird). I guess I'm so used to Westjet where there is only one class, Everyone. Also, on the United plane, the safety pamphlets are all so verbose in legalese that I had the sneaking suspicion that they get sued everyday. While I was checking out the weird legal spill, we sat on the tarmac for a half hour because someone hadn't made it through customs and had to have their bags taken off the plane. By bags, this person had 10 full sized Rubbermaid containers and a 5 foot tall plywood box marked fragile.... And the rest of the passengers wondered what the hell was in all those containers. (They never told us. It's a mystery!) Up in the air, the ride was smooth and very uneventful. Except Matt sat next to The Dopple-Dean's doppleganger.
Landing in Chicago was incredible. It's one of the biggest international airports in the world and it looks it. I have never seen so many planes in my life. Little prop planes to huge double-decker airbuses. It was insane! (And totally made me feel like a little Alberta hick.) We had an hour and a half of layover and then it was back onto the strange classist phenomena that is American air travel, and off to the Baltimore International airport and Washington. It was around 10:30pm when we got into Baltimore and we had no idea how to get to Washington. So we took a cab. A $100 cab ride. To be fair though, the cab driver was super nice and talked to us about the area. Fun fact, there were no lights on the highway. Seriously. It was like being on a gravel road in the boonies back home, only it was an 8 lane mega highway, with no street lights. We made it to Matt's sister's apartment in one piece. Yay!
The next morning we finally got a glimpse of the wonderfully old city of Washington D.C.. In Manon's backyard is an old stone Church and up the street in the National Zoo. I had never seen a real life panda before so we took a tour through the zoo (which is free, whaaaaaat?) before heading to the Smithsonian and the National Mall. We took the metro, which was very efficient, except for the automated machines not wanting to take our Canadian credit cards.
When we got to the Mall, we took a trip to see the underground closet where Manon works in Provenance research. It was particularly easy to find our way out to the Air and Space Museum due to the million exit signs on Every Wall. Just in case.... of really bad short term memory? The entire basement was like this. I guess if the electricity went out in an emergency it wouldn't look so foolish. But in the light, it's pretty hilarious.
Finally into our first museum, we got out bags searched, weird, and walked into the museum for free, also weird. Immediately, Matt nerd-gasmed all over the planes and space capsules and the telescopes and the spy satellites. It was nerd love at first sight. I was amazed to see the actual capsules that had been to the moon and the lunar landers and german rockets and Russian nukes that had actually been made to be used, not just be displayed. It was very impressive how humans have take to the sky.
After 2 hours, we both got hungry and ventured out, off the Mall, to find some food. On the way we saw the most Canadian flags ever on the Canadian Embassy (maybe Canadian sarcasm at the amount of flags in the States?), and we also saw the Archives building (which later inspired us to watch National Treasure, hah).
We found an all-American restaurant, including all things fried and covered in lots of cheese. Good service though! We sat outside on the patio, in November, with the flowers still in bloom. No wonder Canada has such a stigma of being cold. We close our patios in the end of September, October if we're lucky....
After lunch we headed back to the Air and Space Museum to finish up with the Wright Brothers exhibit and the old 1950s luxury air travel exhibit. The lunches back then looked delicious. Jealous.
After touching a moon rock (ahhhhhh!!!), we headed out onto the Mall to start our trek up to the Capital building. At this point we had both done 10000 steps (we both have pedometers) and my feet were starting to hurt. We walked all the way up the Mall to the Capital building, which was very cordoned off with iron fences and men with machine guns. Since you can walk into our parliament in Ottawa, a little on the Ultra side for security. We walked passed a line of black suburbans to the Federal Courthouse and the Library of Congress. There were news people just camped out in front of the courthouse, cameras on stands waiting for anything to happen. And as for the library, out of all the ostentatious buildings we saw, that was the most ridiculous. Fountains and domes and stairs and stairs and stairs.
By this time it was getting late, and my feet hurt, so we had a break in the National Conservatory gardens. Promising to meet Matt's sister to tour the National monuments, we got up and walked back down towards the Washington Memorial, covered in it's lovely scaffolding.
From here we walked through the cherry trees to the Jefferson Memorial. Something very strange was happening there. Specifically, it was packed with school children. Tour buses upon tour buses of children. At 6pm. In the pitch blackness.
From the Jefferson Memorial we walked through the Roosevelt park, and then to the Martin Luther King Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial, all the while being followed by hundreds and hundreds of children. Our last stop was to see the big man in the chair, Mr. Lincoln.
I'll give Washington brownie points for being the most monument filled place I have ever been.
At this point we had done 30000 steps and Whin-ea had been replaced with Hungr-ea, so it was time to find some food. Walking back up to the Washington Monument from the Lincoln side, we had planned to see the White House after dinner, but after a whole day of walking we got in a cab and went off to Dupont Circle for a well deserved dinner break instead.
When we finally got home, we had walked 36.7 kms. I later found out the reason my feet hurt so much was because I had dislocated my big toe on my left foot. Half-assed walking for the win!
Day two and three to come!
The Half-Assed Hobbyist