May 19

Museum of American History

Part 4 of my trip to Washington DC… The Museum of American History.

For those of you who don’t know I’m a bit of a history buff and my buffyness started with the Civil War. So when I was going to Washington DC and thought of things I could in the evening, the Museum of American History seemed like an obvious choice. It’s been a while ago, but my trip was during the Easter/Jewish holidays in March, meaning there were vacationers everywhere, luckily I spend my days in a training class. I arrived at the musem around 5pm, as all the tour busses were leaving the mall area. It was still a bit crowded when I got there, but it was empty by the time I left around 7pm.

The first place I visited was the Abraham Lincoln section, I believe this was a temporary exhibit. The first problem with this exhibit was that the entry/exit was disorganized. There was a sign near the entrance saying to stay to the right, I think this was for the line that formed during the day, but when there was no line it sent me to the right, when I should have gone left when entering the exhibit. I ended up doing the exhibit in reverse. I still enjoyed it, refreshed my memory and got to see cool stuff. They had some nice historical pieces and good signs in the exhibit explaining things.

Next up was the exhibit on the Presidents. I also enjoyed this exhibit and the museum was fairly empty by now so my friend and I could enjoy it in peace. It had some interesting pieces, like military uniforms, the more interesting ones that a couple presidents wore. I also liked the exhibit piece that showed the military rank of each of the presidents. I did learn a few things about the presidents and totally thought this exhibit was worthy of a visit.

Keeping with the presidential theme I went to see the First Lady exhibit. This was primarly clothing that was worn by the first ladies. I’m no fashion expert, but I always enjoy exhibits like this. It’s dummy proof – either you like the dress or you don’t, and the little captions just tell you who wore it and for what. How easy is that! My friend noticed that some of the first ladies were not actually the wives of the presidents but were called First Ladies. Later research revealed that presidents without wives sometimes asked a daughter or other suitable family member to serve as White House hostess and perform the duties of First Lady. I also noticed that some of these first ladies were quite beautiful and others got hit with an ugly stick. Sorry, but it’s true. Some of the dresses also got hit by the ugly stick. I think it was Calvin Cooleges wife who wore lots of flapper dresses, very contrary to the look we’re used to from contemporary first ladies. The biggest disappointment though was Michelle Obama’s dress from the Inaugeration ball. It looks much better on TV, in real life it looked like it had cotton balls and silver spiders on it.

Our final stops were at a coin exhibit, that took about 2 minutes, even my friend who was into coins was disappointed. We quickly moved onto the exhibit on transportation – boats and trains. Some of the exhibits were really cool and some were a little goofy, but I think this exhibit was designed more for kids.

I enjoyed this museum, thought it was interesting without being too heavy duty. After seeing the crowds when I got there though, I would recommend going after 5pm, when it is open later. I felt like I saw a large about of the museum with little hassel by getting there so late, certainly not all of it, but enough before feeling like the museum was sucking the life out of me.

May 12

5 Guys Burgers

While I was down in Washington DC I was in a training class and in the building was a burger place called, 5 Guys. I had never heard of it, but they did have a good burger. Within an hour of getting home I noticed one, then a few days later I noticed another. The second was along the way home from work, I drive I make 5 times a week. It might have been new, but I doubt I would have noticed it if I hadn’t just eaten at one the week before. That’s the nice thing about traveling, you find new places and that can make you more aware of your surroundings when you return home.

Apr 28

Cherry Blossoms

Part 3 of my trip to Washington DC.

I was lucky enough that my trip to Washington DC was during Cherry Blossom festival. For years I had heard about these mythical Cherry Blossoms, but had never seen them, but I was intrigued. About 2 weeks before my trip I found out that I would be there for the Cherry Blossoms. Tried as I might, I didn’t find out too much about them, none of the sites I looked at even talked about where to go see them. In retrospect, it seems obvious to those in Washington, but when all you know about them is that they are trees, you need a little more detail. For those with inquiring minds, they are around the Mall and the Potomac River.
Luckily I was there with my friend who knew slightly more then that they were trees. But we quickly learned a lesson. Driving is NOT a good way to see them. We were in the area around the Mall at rush hour – BAD, it was also during a school break so there were tons of tourists around in addition to the regular people. Being in a car gave us mobility, but also made it hard to stop and take pictures, a real problem when the sun starts going down. Low light and movement don’t go well together. Also, my friend didn’t have the best knowledge of getting around the area of the Potomac. Eventually we were able to stop, I got out and took some pictures – it was fairly dark by now and I didn’t really know how to use my camera that well and I didn’t have a tripod. I got to learn how to straighten pictures when I got home. But the cherry blossoms are pretty.

The following day I was on foot (with a very heavy backpack) and had some time to kill so I decided to go back. It was a gorgeous day – 80 degrees and sunny. The mall and the area around the Potomac was packed. I found a band on the Cherry Blossom festival stage. Well the Potomac with the Cherry Blossoms is really pretty and a great setting for photos, you’ll be seeing many of them in the coming photo’s of the week.

I didn’t get to fully experience the festival, I just got a glimpse of it. I can’t say I would kill myself trying to get back for the Cherry Blossom Festival, but it did seem like a nice way to spend a spring day in Washington DC.

This was also my only opportunity to buy souvenirs from my trip. I bought myself a Christmas tree ornament, and bought my mom a Cherry Blossom tree starter kit which I gave her for Easter.

Apr 14

I wanted to eat at the furniture store

This is part 2 about my trip to Washington DC.

I arrived in the city around 7:30 at Union Station. The station was pretty nice (for a train station) with a bunch of food places (including some that were a little better then the typical train station places.) But I went straight for the taxi stand. My first image of the city was of the Capital, I liked that, it gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling. There’s just something I like about seeing the seat of government, it makes the government feel accesable, even if it’s not. It actually reminded me of when I was in Rome and the first thing I saw when I got out of the Metro was seeing the Coloseum. My taxi took me quickly to my hotel – The Henley Hotel on Massachusets Ave.

Check in at the hotel was quick and effiecient and I was assigned room number 702. I was excited about this hotel, it’s a historic preservation building and from the website it seemed like it had a lot of character, not just a typical chain hotel. Well the hotel was nice and clean and did have a bit more character. But, it wasn’t that special. The room was small, it didn’t have a desk, I had to wiggle the cable wire to get a clear picture on the TV and it didn’t have THAT much character. I felt like every room might have had a different shape and set up, but that they probably have all the same bedding, window treatments, furniture, TV’s. Basically the character of the hotel didn’t go much past the lobby and the outside of the building. I also didn’t like the set up of the bathroom – it had a lot of empty space and the sink area was really small.

But the good things were the bedding. The bed was comfortable, though not exceptional. But the bedding did seem to be of a higher quality and the pillows were comfortable. Being as I spent about 9 hours a day in the room (mostly sleeping) a comfortable bed was the only thing I really cared about in the end.

After checking into my room I dropped my stuff off and went in search of food. I wasn’t terribly hungry, but I knew I would be if I didn’t eat. This was another problem with the hotel, there was a restaurant there, but there was nothing to eat within a 2 block radius and forget it if you wanted something quick and easy to eat, McDonalds was about 5 blocks away. At one point I saw a diner like place and got all excited, but it turned out to be a furniture store. Later on I noticed another furniture store that looked like a diner. Later on in my trip I realized that if I had done my walking in the other direction, I probably would have found a nicer McDonalds within the same distance.

The two things I learned on this night was that this hotel was poorly placed if you wanted food, and that in Washington DC furniture stores look like diners.

So I did end up eating at McDonalds, I got french fries and a soda. I have to say I’m not sure it was my best decision though. As I was walking up I passed some homeless people and at the same time 2 guys walked up to me and asked where the nearest Metro stop was, a homeless person answered, then asked for money. I’m so not into giving homeless people money so I just went to McDonalds where the clientel was a little off. There was a family of 4 who looked like they spent a fair amount of time in McDonalds, and a homeless woman who was talking to herself. Then the homeless guys came in. As a single woman in a strange city (and one not know for how safe it is), it didn’t feel terribly comfortable to me. But nothing happened to me and it just served as one of those nights when you notice everything that is going on around you, but traveling will do that to you.

Apr 12

Photo of the Week: Jefferson Memorial

I’m actually a Lincoln fan, it’s the whole Civil War buff thing that I have going on. But the Jefferson Memorial is very photogenic. Not only do I like this picture for the composition and the content but I took this with my little point and shoot camera that I had to figure out on this trip. I also didn’t have my tripod, I never seem to have the thing when I need it.