Monday, May 14, 2012

May 10th Thursday and my sprain.

Thursday started bright and early with me stepping on the zipper pull from my day bag – a miniature Eiffel tower; more about that later. I went downstairs for toast and coffee takeout from the restaurant. I had to make my own toast and pour my own coffee but since every morning they charged a different price, it was quite funny waiting for the bill.

Today we had a few more things down on the Mall to see. We started by wanting to see the front of the White House up a little closer, as we had only seen it from the other side of the Ellipse. We walked across Pennsylvania Avenue and continued on, only to be stopped by Security as Marine 1 (the President’s Helicopter) was landing on the lawn to pick him up. We got some pictures of it taking off after a long wait. We then walked to a central area where we could take pictures of the typical White House you see on the postcards. Hurried to make sure we got there before the hundreds of school kids we had surrounding us.

Washington has more helicopters flying overhead then I have seen anywhere else. Even Southern Ontario OPP in marijuana season doesn’t compare. Every time you turn around another helicopter is flying overhead. When we flew into Ronald Reagan Airport our flight path was right over the Pentagon and we couldn’t distinguish a no-fly zone anywhere.

After the White House we walked back down to the World War II Memorial but took a wider path after it so we were on Independence Ave. The first Memorial we saw was the District of Columbia Memorial. It is not very big but it reminds you of the Jefferson Memorial. Next we came to the Martin Luther King Memorial. It is constructed of white granite and is designed in a way to lead you through two large granite pieces into an area set apart from the street. Quotes from Dr. King are engraved on the two wings of the monument stretching across as a backdrop to the statue of the man partially carved out of the rock. We saw similar designs of people and statues emerging from rocks when we were in Florence, Italy. This is a very moving Memorial and I enjoyed spending a few minutes reading his words and recalling that history. We heard one little boy say to his friend – ‘If it wasn’t for him we might not even be alive’. I think they might be alive but not with such opportunities.

We took pictures of the Jefferson Memorial from there but we never visited it. Peggy kept looking for the Jeffersonian, Bones and Booth but we never found them either. Next we followed the Tidal Basin around to the FDR Memorial. It is huge and spread out. Each Presidential term was set out in a new area. Since he had four terms, it was pretty massive. There were lots of waterfalls and statues depicting him, bread lines, fireside chats, Tennessee Valley Authority and radio programs etc. Only one statue was of Eleanor and one was of his favorite dog. Lots of information and even his wheel chair (inside the building that had the bookstore).

We headed off for a midmorning coffee and found a couple of ducks that were begging Oreos and other treats from the school children. By then my foot was starting to act up and I was having trouble walking. Turned out it was a slight sprain but I wasn’t letting it stop me. We took a taxi back into the downtown area and went to the Old Post Office building for lunch. Haha. I thought we had seen lots of kids before but the food court was wall to wall students. We opted to go up in the tower first in hopes that some of the children would have left by the time we came back down. The view from the top is city-wide. There are no high rises in the city or surrounding area. I think that ten floors is about the top and many buildings are six to eight floors high. Therefore the view is unobstructed. There are bells in the tower and on the sixth floor there is an area for a bell ringing society to do their thing. Visiting bell ringers can evidently join in if they get an appointment. There were people repelling off the Tower when we were there. Everyone outside was sitting watching as they did different acrobatics on the way from the top to a balcony about halfway down.

We ate at a Deli downstairs. Peggy asked for an iced tea – thinking a can or fountain drink – she got a real one with tea poured over ice. Not a lot of taste in that iced tea. We browsed all the shops and had our picture taken with the President – It was a good fake I put it on Facebook and people asked how I got to see him. Bought a few souvenirs and decided to go the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the afternoon. It is on the property of the Catholic University of America on the opposite end of the Red Line Metro. This is the largest Catholic Church in the Americas and it is huge. Not only is the main part of the church huge there is another level known as the Crypt down below which is where daily mass is said. It also has numerous side altars and chapels. One interesting one was dedicated to Our Lady of La Vang from Viet Nam and included a statue brought from Viet Nam to keep it from being destroyed. Peggy did more exploring on this one then I did as my foot was very sore.

We went back to the Elephant and Castle for supper. We wandered back to the hotel for TV, soaked my foot in cold water and off to bed.

May 9th - Wednesday in Washington

The weather forecast called for rain today, boy were they wrong. It was hot and muggy.

Peggy is a quilter so whenever you travel with her, you must expect to go shopping for material. It has its perks though – I have purses, bags, airline carry-ons, book covers, cushion covers, a cover/holder for my Kobo, table runners, placemats and wall hangings. Many of these are from material that I picked out around the world. Several are with a rooster motif but I also have the New York subway system cushion and special designer material from Paris made into an Eiffel Tower design cushion. This all brings us to our trip to Maryland on the Metro to go to a quilt shop.

Washington Metro is based on the time of day you travel and how far. At the other end of your trip the machine scans your ticket to make sure you have enough money on it and if it is fully used up captures it and doesn’t give it back. I guess that stops littering. We got used to peak fare, normal fare and reduced fare (9:00 until 3:00) and could navigate the machines after the ticket man showed us how. The buses take exact fare and have dollar bill sucking machines.

The Metro Central Station is two blocks from the hotel. Off we went to White Flint Station to find Rockville, Maryland and G Street Fabrics. The driver calls out the stops and tells you what side the doors open on. That is a good thing as the interior stations are uplit (indirect lighting) so when the train pulls in it is like going into a dark room; you have to let your eyes adjust. Some of the drivers talk low or are garbled but the man on the way to White Flint was great. He sounded happy to be alive and his voice was sing-song and it made you perk up every time he said “This is the Red Line train to Shady Grove! The next station is Dupont Circle. The doors will open on the right!” I almost expected him to say “Have a nice day.”

We got off the train and then had to figure out where we were going. We asked a lady for directions and about 50 feet later we found a map. It was a good 10-15 minute walk but we found the place. It was a little disappointing as they didn’t have as much quilting fabric as the website intimated and I couldn’t find any roosters or anything definitive of Washington. Peggy had as little luck but she bought a little material and several spools of Egyptian cotton thread which is hard to find, including some variegated thread for some of her applique quilting.

By this time it was getting quite hot especially since we brought rain shells and umbrellas in case it rained. By the time we headed back to Washington it was time for lunch and a beer. We had planned on staying near the hotel in the evening as there are several restaurants around there, so we decided to have lunch downtown at President Obama’s or is that O’Bama’s favorite Irish Pub; the Dubliner. It is just a few blocks from Capitol Hill (there isn’t really a hill just a bit of a rise). So back we got on the Metro to Union Station and a block over to have a corned beef sandwich on the Dubliner patio and have another Smithwicks (don’t pronounce the “w”).

After lunch we walked up to Capitol Hill. We took a lot of pictures; the place wasn’t crowded except for the suits who had followed us from the Dubliner. Then we went down stairs to see about going inside. No water bottles allowed. I went in first to use the facilities and get a look at whether we should abandon the water and Peggy stayed outside. The place was swarming with at least 500 school kids. I checked out the bottom floor from the balcony and voted to skip this one for now. I don’t know any members of Congress or the Senate that I would want to run into especially with the crowd of kids in there. Peggy took her camera in and got some pictures; we rested up for a while and headed back up the elevator. Got my picture taken with the Capitol Hill Gang (see below) and started walking home. We realized how tired we were and grabbed a cab back to the hotel. Love the hotel it is right in the middle of everything.

After taking a break and catching up on e-mail etc. we walked up to Capital City Brewery for dinner. That is when it finally decided to rain. Luckily we were close to the restaurant and had the trusty umbrellas. It was a Sports Bar and rather noisy but the food was good and we were in the far corner so it kept down to a dull roar. We left before the Hockey game started as I’m sure the noise level would have risen in the sea of red shirts from the Washington Caps. The rain had stopped by the time dinner was over. I had a quiet night reading my Kobo after I yelled at the school kids in the hallway to keep the noise level down.

May 8th - Washington - the Mall.

We got up early ready for our adventure. We walked along Pennsylvania Avenue and found a beautiful plaza lined with trees and with space for different activities including one tent from the recent "One of the  99%" group. As we reached the end we found the first school groups - the first of many, many school groups. They were heading towards the next street up so we thought they knew where they were going so we followed. Wrong - they had reservations for the White House tour. As FOREIGN NATIONALS we were not allowed to tour the White House. Then again when the Canadians visited in 1812 we burned it down so maybe they know something we don't. The guards suggested we walk one block north and see the back of the White House which looks as good as the front anyway so we did. First building we passed was the Treasury; I didn't realize it was so close to the White House. At the next corner was a very interesting building - the National Savings and Trust with a unique clock tower.  Around the corner we saw the beautiful flowers on the White House property and then the beautiful White House itself.  Peggy and I took each others picture in front of the fence. This might be as close as we get.
On the other side of the White House is the Eisenhower Executive Offices and we turned south to head for the Mall. Along the way we cut across the Elipse and checked out the American Expeditionary Forces monument. I liked the topper - she looks a bit like Nike but she has wings. We passed the Daughters of the American Revolution Building and Simon Bolivar's statue. At the light heading to the Mall we saw the Lock Keepers Cottage - there was a canal originally to bring goods from the river to the Capital. Strange site - the Trees leading down to the War Memorial are all behind protective fences - on purpose! Who would want to hurt the trees?
The Washington Monument seems to be on the skyline from many different spots in the city, but from here the Capitol Building, the Washington Monument, the World War II Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial are in a straight line - two one way and two the other. It is an awesome site.
There are many memorials in Washington and they are all very impressive. The  panels around this one are for each state. VE Day anniversary was the weekend before we came so there were wreaths at the World War II Memorial. I really liked the Silver Star wall. It was moving.  We walked along the south side of the reflecting pool, which is under renovation so there was no water in it. We stopped for coffee before we went to the Lincoln Memorial and had fun watching the sparrows and grackles trying to beg and steal food from the guests. I didn't know that Japanese women were afraid of birds, but one was running and screaming whenever the birds came near her.
I can always find the elevator and all of Washington is accessible therefore the elevator is there if you look, including the Lincoln Memorial - too many stairs. The Gettyburg address reminded me of my youth when I memorized it. There were many groups there including the suits and the school kids.  The suits were of course in large groups and all in shirts, ties and suits; the school groups were usually in matching coloured t-shirts with the school name on them. Blue, orange, green , red T-shirts each school slightly different but the teachers could identify them. We walked back along the North side of the reflecting pool which took us to the Viet Nam Veterans Memorial. This was one of the quietest spots in Washington. I think this War was recent enought that people could identify with brothers and uncles and fathers and sons that were lost. There was a special statue dedicated to the Women that served.

We continued along the path and saw Canada Geese, Mallard Ducks and ducklings and what looked like an albino Mallard (since the ducklings looked like Mallards). they were swimming in the pond and climbing out when mom decided it was time to leave. We kept wandering east looking for lunch. We kept seeing the same people all day and we kept accusing each other of stalking. We found a sandwich and beer at the Ronald Reagan building. We ate inside but at an open window because it had been raining lightly off and on. We continued east until we got to the Smithsonian Institute area. I say area as the institute is made up of about 15 - 20 buildings and gardens. We went in the Castle as it had started to rain again. Smith was a Brit who donated the money but had never been to Washington. Weird eh? We decided that the Museum we wanted to see was the Air and Space Museum.  We had a ball and even got to feel a moon rock - something unique again.

After a great day we had dinner at the Elephant and Castle and headed back to the hotel.  We aren't very exciting. TV is great with us as evening entertainment.

Check out Facebook for all the pictures

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Washington, D. C. We're here. May 7, 2012

I left Ingersoll early this morning so Peggy and I could meet for lunch and we needed to be checked in by 2:30. It didn't take long for things to go wrong.  My airline boarding pass wouldn't print, because my name was on the ticket and my initial was on the passport.. So I got in line. Then the computers went down so I got out of line and we went to eat but the restaurants are on the other side of security, so I went back into line. I was about 50 people back from where I had been. The computers came back up and a roving agent said to try the machines again.  I did and it worked. So off we went through security and sat down and had a sandwich and a beer. I thoought the excitement was over but no just beginning. A short time later we heard there was a delay with the plane.  The plane had been held up and hadn't landed. I phoned the hotel to tell them we would be late. Finally we boarded but half an hour late.
No place to put the luggage near our seats, but lots of room and seats near the back. The attendant let us pick new seats near the luggage. Sat down to relax only to find a 45 minute delay because the plane had landed "hard" and had to be inspected. Air Canada passed out earbuds to everyone and turned on the entertainment. Once we got started things wenbt quickly - too quickly we didn't finish the movie so hopefully the same movies are showing when we go home.
As we flew in to Washington, we flew over the Pentagon and we could see the Washington Monument out the window. Very impressive to see a low rise city with lots of greenery. Even the downtown streets have trees set in spaces in the sidewalk.
We took a taxi to the hotel. Ended up it was more cost effective then two shuttle fares. The hotel staff was great and gave us a bunch of handouts for restauants, nearby stores, TV channels, wi-fi passwords, and a downtown street map with all the attractions marked. We checked in, took the bags up to the room, The room isn't huge but about the same siuze as in Paris. Bathroom is a good size and there is a small closet. We have a window on E street and air-conditioning.
We went out and checked out the immediate area. We found a souvenir store and decided to eat at the hotel instead of wandering around looking for a restaurant. It was almost eight when we arrived because of all the delays.
We had a couple of beer with dinner and went upstairs to bed. It was a full day.