Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Washington, D.C. - Trains, Planes and No Automobiles

This morning we awoke to our first day as tourists in Washington, D.C..  Since there is virtually no parking in D.C., we decided to leave our car in its $33 per day hotel parking garage and ride the D.C. transortation of choice, The Metro.  Our first destination was, therefore, the Metro ticket machine.  There really should be signs above the ticket machines.  One that reads "Locals", and one that reads "Tourists".  After trying to figure out where we were, where we were going, and how much it would cost to get there, it was obvious that no local wanted to be stuck in line behind us!  Fortunately for us, Subway Mike came to our rescue.  He calculated our train ride, helped us purchase our tickets and pointed us to the right side of he tracks.

He even offered to take a picture of our family in the subway!  I have decided to include the photo in this blog because, being the sole photographer on the trip, it may be one of the only photos that I am actually in!

Our first stop off the Metro was the Smithsonian visitor's center, also called "The Palace" because of its beautiful and unique architecture.  It was here that I managed to lose my entire family when they ducked into "A Night at the Smithsonian" information film while I was held up  at security getting all the bags checked.  Luckily, I had my cell phone.

Here's a trick that I learned from school.  If the kids outnumber you, put them in a uniform!  Not only is it a lot easier to keep track of them, but other people know they are with you as well.  Obviously, I was not wearing my rainbow striped dress, or I wouldn't have gotten lost!

As we exited the visitor's center, we came upon "The Mall."  You know, that large expanse of grass between the Washington Monument and The Capitol, that place where a gazillion people gather in the freezing cold to say that they witnessed the President's inauguration - the famous spot from Forrest Gump?  

Unaware of The Mall's significance, the kids spotted a carousel.  If we had done nothing else that day but ride the carousel, the kids would have been satisfied!

On our way to the Air and Space Museum, we walked through the Smithsonian Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden.  Here were a few of my favorites:

At last, we reached our final destination:  The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

Can we just call this place what it really is?  The Man Museum!  (No offense to all you techie girls out there.)  I don't mean to diminish this exceptional display of aeronautics, but as we entered the museum, I felt my eyes glaze over.   It was reminiscent of my trip here twenty-something years ago with my brother and parents.  Even then, my dad (a bio-medical engineer) and my brother (who would later receive an advanced engineering degree from Stanford University), knew my limits.  After a brief roundabout, they let me and my mom walk next door to view the First Ladies' inaugural gowns while they intently studied these airborne wonders.  My husband planned to spend an entire day here!

Despite my slight lack of interest, I was impressed by the kids unwavering enthusiasm.  After lunch, we took a break from the exhibits and watched a great IMAX movie - Hubble 3D.  My feet were thankful as were my eyes which took a few rests behind the 3D glasses!  Here's a tip:  If you go to the Smithsonian, get the membership.  While actually walking through the Smithsonian doors is free, nothing else is!  This membership paid for itself in one day.  We received free and discounted movie tickets, discounts at the Museum Gift Shop and discounts on food.  This is no small change.  A Smithsonian McDonald's Value Meal for six costs around $50!

On the bright side, I did find this amusing display of flight attendants' uniforms.  From the 1960's - HotPants!  In an attempt to lure weary businessmen, the sign reads,

"When a tired businessman gets on an airplane, we think he ought to be allowed to look at a pretty girl."
--Mary Wells, mastermind behind Braniff ad campaign, quoted in BusinessWeek, 1967 

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