After a very very intense first day, the BF and I decided to take it a bit slower the second day out. We slept in a bit and woke to a rather grey day. Not ideal for wandering around monuments so we made a plan: see the White House, wave like the President is an 87 year old British monarch, and then take refuge in a free museum.
First things first, find the White House. This was, surprisingly, a little more difficult than we expected. This was because of how the White House is surround by trees and fences and men in big black coats wearing big black guns. We walked passed it once without even knowing it and found the National Treasury. By the time we found the back of the White House -where I stealthily stuck my phone between the fence for a picture- it had started to rain. We took cover in a coffee shop and people watched through the windows. When the raining stopped (kind of) we followed a group of tourist down a very unlikely sidewalk. It was then that we came upon the White House's front door. Also, a ton more fences. And trees. And secret police with handguns.
We had acomplished our first task, waved, and hit the pavement back to the Mall to find a museum. The first one we came upon was the American History Museum, so in we went. As per the norm, there were tour buses upon tour buses of children ahead of us. There didn't seem to be anyone coordinating these hundreds of kids, which was weird. It was a bit like being in a zoo, where the exhibits were safe behind the glass watching the masses of hormones and immaturity go by. We took refuge in the nearest, emptiest, exhibit about food.
I did my degree in Nutrition and Food Science so I always find articles about food systems and how they developed very interesting (especially since, typically, big industry is vilified when in fact it helped keep a lot of people fed who would have otherwise starved). We walked the timeline of industrializing the food market in the states, rounded the inclusion of ethnic foods from the 1950s, saw the birth of the potato chip. My two favourite parts of the exhibit were the inclusion of the Berkeley Food Pyramid and the Julia Child's Kitchen.
I love the food pyramid because I know a couple people who actually eat by it. We live in a world, afforded to us by the industrialization of food systems, where we can choose foods that we consider "better" or more "wholesome" than other types. The insatiable gourmand will believe this was how people ate originally and this is what we should harken back too. It's funny because, in fact, we wouldn't have the international availability of any of this "quality" food, had it not been for the huge changes in the food systems of the 1900s (Off topic ranty! Yay!).
Julia Child's kitchen was impressive too. Too big for my liking though. She had a similar approach to cooking that I do. Just do it. Anyone can cook, it just takes a bit of confidence and practice. It was neat to see her TV programs and even cooler to see her old cook books. (That made me sad a little. No one will ever cook from them again.)
After the Food exhibit, we went though the sea travel bits and locomotive parts (neither Matt or I really have too much interest in boats and trains) and we ended up in a room full of steam machines. Humans are impressive creatures when it comes to building large scale things. There was a piston so huge, it was 2 stories away from the actual crank shaft it would have been attached too. Insane. Getting hungry and over run by children that kept calling me "M'am", we headed out to find a Victorian restaurant called the Old Ebbitt Grill. Or rather it was kind of Victorian.
The Ebbitt Grill had a mussels menu that was very Very not Victorian. For obvious, voluptuous, reasons. I couldn't resist taking a picture. The waiter looked at me weird.
The restaurant itself, while definitely renovated sometime in the 1980s, was decidedly vintage. Real gas burning lamps hung from the ceiling and stood next to each table; the walls were panelled with dark stained wood and painted with murals of "old-time scenes"; The booths were upholstered in velvet. The food was supposedly "American", however, with how much schnitzel was involved I would say more "European, but we'll pretend". I had a guinness beef stew, which was pretty tasty. After a trip to the washroom, down more white marble stairs, we headed back out to the Mall and back into the Museum of American History for one last look at a couple exhibits.
There comes a point in every museum filled vacation when the thought of one more will break anyone's sanity into teeny tiny over-saturated brain bits. Matt and I, when we entered the Natural History Museum, had a plan of action. Get in, find the washrooms, find the hope diamond, and get out. (Bathroom's nasty, diamond very shiny, way out indicated weirdly.)
After successfully executing our plan, we met up with Matt's sister and headed to Dupont Circle again for a gander at all the neat shops and coffee places and, of course, dinner.
The next day we planned to visit Georgetown and the of-so-talked-about M street. In Edmonton we have a similar street, way smaller of course, but M street reminded my strongly of our own University-proximal street filled with adorable, expensive, shops. We went into Godiva's, Dean and DeLuce's, and ate at a pizzeria that made amazing fire baked pizza. Basically a foodies dream. I also went into the Anthropologie store, my very secret vice. It was three stories. What.
We cut up a street to get out of the shoppers flow and headed to Georgetown University campus. Which is a castle. It would be like going to Hogwarts but getting a Biology degree. With a minor in Genetics. We walked the campus, watched a soccer team practice, and promptly walked back out to the streets beyond to find some coffee.
It was around 3pm and the BF and I were done with walking. So we walked back to Washington University and took the Metro pseudo-home. We had finally been defeated by touristing. We even ate leftovers for dinner! Truly horrible tourist behaviour.
That evening we decided to go out for an walk to the National Cathedral with Manon. Keeping in mind that back home it had already snowed 5 cms, time had turned back to fall.
We explored the insanely huge exterior of the church, saw the spires that had fallen off the building two years ago, and we attempted to find Darth Vader's gargoyle. We even adventured through a super dark, and thus creepy, park that the grounds keeper had forgot to lock up. Having survived the creepy park, our reward was frozen yogurt and bed.
Our last day was upon us. The plan was to take transit to the airport so we had the morning to run around in a last attempt to be tourists again.
We headed to a diner by Manon's apartment for breakfast. Fancy coffees and a sandwich covered and filled with cheese later, we went for a last walk through the very rich area around Pennsylvania Avenue. 3 and 5 million dollar houses with brick walls and shuttered windows. It was like walking through an old town movie set. And then it turned even more into a movie set. Coming up a hill, peering into a cul-de-sac, was a giant brick house covered in toilet paper. Also the giant tree in the centre courtyard-thing. I actually only thought that happened in movies. Just wow. Our walk coming to an end, we headed back to pick up our bags from our pseudo-home.
Getting to the airport was rather painless. What really got me was the security at the airport. I have never travelled out of the States before so this was my first experience with the TSA. Giant radiation machines really aren't healthy.... To be fair though, the machine caught my Fitbit which was attached to my bra. I have never taken off before because the Canadian metal detectors don't see it.
We had arrived early for our flight so I wandered around looking at all the tourist junk. Obama-bobbleheads!!
The flight to Chicago was ok. We had a two hour layover so we had to find something to eat. There was a sushi place near where we had come into the terminal that had decent looking plates. Little did we know how mind-bogglingly good that sushi would be. And in an airport! Seriously. We people watched the rest of the time till boarding.
Now, before this trip, I had never flown an American airline. Initially, I was surprised by the classism. Then I was surprised by the massiveness of the fleets and the planes themselves. This trip home, however, I was surprised by the ridiculousness of error. After everyone was seated, 15 minutes went by where nothing happened. 15 minutes in itself is not a long time, but psychologically, apparently, some passengers of the flight couldn't take it. Specifically one over large, over vocal mid-aged women sitting two rows in front of me, who needed to get up and huff at the airline attendants when they clearly had no ability to help the problem along.
It wasn't till 30 minutes past our time of departure, with no announcement, that I started to wonder what was happening. They had asked a family to deplane and now they were rattling around in the cargo hold. At a 40 minutes past departure time, one of the attendants announced that the plane was over weight because the ground crew had over filled the necessary fuel for the trip. What? The family that got off the plane had been on stand-by so to save weight they were asked to get off. Also, the rustling from the cargo hold was bags and mail meant for Edmonton, but not belonging to anyone on board, being off-loaded. What? I had never had this experience ever. I didn't even know you could over fill a plane. So 45 minutes go by (by this time the horrible standing women was yelling "Come On Guys" to no particular person. I assume she was attempting to foster support from the embarrassed passengers around her in order to get something for free). The attendant appeared and went over to the intercom, rather incredulous of her luck, and announced that now the cockpit and front kitchen area were flooding with some unknown liquid. I had heard that ridiculous things happened on United but I didn't think I would be in for the full show. Anyways. They got a maintenance guy to drain whatever the liquid was and then seatbelt signs went on away we went! Haha.
The flight itself was very nice. We got to see the vastness of Chicago light up at night. Also, sure enough, when the first drink service arrived the horrible women demanded a complementary alcoholic drink, to which the attendant rightfully said no. Other than the no smoking light going off briefly, there were no more hiccups or floods or rants. We were en route home.
When we got back a white winter Wonderland was awaiting us. For all the majesty of Washington, I missed little concrete built Edmonton Alberta.
The Half-Assed Hobbyist