This has been a very busy last few weeks and I have so much to tell you all, that I'm going to have to break it up into segments, or chapters, if you will. The following chapter will describe our trip to Washington D.C.
My son has been wanting to visit Washington since he was 6 years-old and his aunt went and brought him a book. He memorized the memorials and monuments before he ever visited, and I promised we would go when he was ten. Well he turned eleven a few weeks ago, so I figured we'd been haul rear and go. So, Memorial Day weekend we packed up our trusty Saturn and drove the 8 hours to Washington D.C. (personally, I suggested Memorial Day weekend might be a bad idea, and terribly crowded, buy the love of my life insisted it was the best weekend for him.) It was actually a relatively nice trip - the scenery was quite lovely. We made a wrong turn just before getting into the city, and ended up driving through Alexandria, but the trip was only extended by an hour, and we got to see the Pentagon and the monuments driving into the city, which was nice.
We found a spot on the street by our hotel - score! We stayed at the Topaz, about a 15 minute walk from the White House. The hotel was lovely - not really child-friendly, but very friendly to my children, and very peaceful. It was perfect for a group not planning to do anything but sleep there. We walked to Ben's Chili Bowl for dinner that night - a restaurant we had seen on the Travel Channel (we are all about the food. You will see many descriptions of meals here.) I had the Chili burger - it was quite tasty. We also walked past Duke Ellington's house to get there. Pretty freaking cool. That was one of the things I loved most about D.C. You walk by all these obscure old buildings and they end up being something important or interesting: The Embassy to Micronesia or the Association for Middle Eastern Peace or something.
Saturday we walked to the White House and Annika informed us the President lives there, can we go see him? I'm pretty sure he wasn't home, or he would have invited us in for breakfast. As it was, we ate at the Cafe du Parc, a fab old French place. A little pricey, but the berries were delish. We walked through the gardens behind the Smithsonian Castle, visited the Air and Space Museum, the Lincoln Memorial and the WWII Memorial. I took a lot of pictures, here are a few:
We walked back to the hotel, completely wiped. We decided to sup at a place just a few blocks from the hotel; Mai Thai. The whole family gave it two thumbs up - and these are kids who have not eaten a lot of Thai.
Sunday we started walking toward the Mall area again. We decided to just look for somewhere to eat breakfast, and ended up at the Old Ebbit Grill. The oldest saloon in Washington, apparently. The cool part is that it is right next door to the tavern where British generals toasted one another as they watched the White House burn during the War of 1812 (my son isn't the only history buff.) The other cool part is they made one fantastic hamburger, and they served it to me at 9AM.
From there we walked to the Museum of Natural History. We saw the dinosaurs and the Hope Diamond. I would have liked to explore the geology exhibit a bit more, but honestly, the museums were so packed, we couldn't read an entire display without getting shoved out of the way. So we left there and visited the place I wanted to go more than anywhere else: The National Archives. We stood in line for a long time. Luckily, however, the outdoor line was entertained by a 3 hour parade of motorcyclists. Apparently this is a Memorial Day thing - thousands of motorcyclists, with POW MIA flags flying, riding down Constitution and around the national monuments. It kept the kids interested for the 45 minutes outside, but unfortunately there was nothing to keep them interested inside, where Monkeybutt continued to remind me that we were just here to see "pieces of paper." I lectured him on how these were not paper, but parchment, and they were the most important parchments in the history of our nation. He didn't shut up, but I did get to see my pieces of parchment. We walked to the Capitol Building, my other favorite, but they were packed and we didn't get to go in there. I took lovely pictures though:
We walked on to a carousel in the middle of the mall, which perked the kids up a bit. Monkeybutt offered to carry the Girl Child with whiny feet on his back - as long as he could, anyway. Then we went on to the Jefferson Memorial. My very favorite of the Memorials - not only because it is so beautiful, sitting off the tidal basin like it does, but also because I have always admired Thomas Jefferson. After climbing up to it, and looking around, we walked back across the bridge and rented a peddle boat. My knee was bothering me (I may have done something stupid and jumped from something high) and the boys offered to pedal we girls around. The Girl Child and I just sat back and looked purty - and I took lots of pictures of the Memorial from the water.
We walked back to the hotel in much better spirits than earlier, and we ate at California Pizza Kitchen, which is not at all interesting, but we always liked it when we lived in Illinois and there are none around here. We went to bed with the understanding that we would try to be out of the city by 8AM the next day. We checked out at 7:30, well on our way to our goal. We walked to the car, which had been parked safely right down the street from our hotel, which was in a very safe area - and found the rear driver's side window smashed. Happy Birthday to my Studmuffin (did I mention it was his birthday?) He got to spend the next hour vacuuming glass and taping cardboard over the window, while I cleaned out the car. The hotel staff were very lovely about talking to my kids and feeding them breakfast, on their dime. I really have to give that hotel high marks - even with the smashed window. It could have been much worse, it really was little more than an inconvenience, and mildly amusing when you consider how very disappointed that criminal must have been when he or she found nothing to steal but stale Goldfish crackers, beef stick wrappers, some dirty stuffed animals and paged through comics, and an old Gameboy, not worth the energy to try and sell it. Here is a picture of our most interesting souvenier - our smashed and covered window:At any rate, we had an uneventful trip home, and the window is fixed. We had a nice visit - I don't know that we'll go back much, but it was a nice visit. It was interesting to see how countrified my kids have become since we've lived here. They were seriously shocked, not only by the assault on the car, but by the sheer number of homeless people sleeping on park benches and in doorways. Girl Child kept asking why they slept there, and I tried to explain, but she really didn't get it. Perhaps that will be a good way to introduce my children to civic duty and volunteerism. I'll have to consider that.
In a future chapter, I will discuss the last few weeks of school, my birthday (yesterday), and the opening of a good friend's business...