Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Vaughns do D.C.

I know these two would visit even if I lived in a far more boring locale...say, Bismarck, North Dakota...which may be a fascinating place for all I know...but I daresay our nation's capital holds a little more intrigue on the travel front. I just think it's much more interesting for two of your dearest friends to come into town for the weekend and do cool things like tour the Capitol, visit six Smithsonian museums, and explore the Lincoln Memorial than trek around the North Dakota Heritage Center. Although if you're looking for something a little more low-key, maybe Bismarck is the way to go. I digress. Diana and Trinity came to town for the weekend!!

After making the trek into town from Dulles late Thursday night and catching up a little bit, we woke up on Friday morning with a list to tackle. Yes, a list. A list of activities. This is only one of the many reasons why I love Diana so dearly. First on the list - we headed off to the Capitol for a tour, which involved standing in a line, standing in a line, and standing in one more line before we made our way into a theater for a short film about the history of the Capitol that actually did give me some small "I love America!!" goosebumps. We then headed out in our group of twenty or so for our guided tour. It was really interesting to hear the history of the artwork in the rotunda and learn about the "whisper spot" in the former House chamber (supposedly John Quincy Adams had a strategically placed desk where he could hear, quite clearly, what the opposition was whispering on the other side of the room...something about the arch in the ceiling and acoustics and who knows what). The visitors' center is gorgeous, by the way, which is a nice feature considering how much the darn thing cost.

After soaking up some of our nation's history and checking out a pretty impressive building, we were starving, so we headed over to my default dining spot on the National Mall, the café at the Museum of the American Indian. I tried something new this time (of course), a chipotle chicken taco on fry bread (oh yum!) while Diana and Trinity both opted for the pulled buffalo sandwich. Once we refueled our tummies, we headed out for Museum Extravaganza 2009. First stop - Air and Space Museum, where Trinity and I decided to embark on the Cosmic Coaster, described as a "white-knuckled" adventure through the solar system. Diana, fearing for the lunch resting in her tummy, decided to explore a little bit of the museum while we embarked on this amazing adventure. Ummm...her lunch would have been quite fine, because this adventure was far from white-knuckled. However, the two tiny children seated in front of us had the absolute time of their lives, which did put a smile on our faces. How we managed to pick the one ride out of four that doesn't spin you upside down, I'm not sure.

After checking out the Wright flyer and giant missiles and Skylab and a few other aviation wonders, we made a stop in the gift shop to pick up some freeze dried ice cream (astronaut food!!), in part because we needed a treat to make up for the flight simulator disappointment. It was...chalky...yet...strangely ice cream-like once it hit the tongue. Interesting.

On to natural history! We were attacked by dinosaurs, mesmerized by the Hope Diamond, and fascinated by the butterfly exhibit where you can walk through a greenhouse-type thing with about sixty kinds of butterflies. We went a little snap happy in here. Feel the flutter! Oh, and is it every little boy's instinct to attempt to catch the butterflies, thereby killing them? I can't tell you how many moms had to keep exclaiming "don't try to catch them!!" Silly little boys.

And next stop...American history! The American flag that inspired the Star-Spangled Banner, Julia Child's kitchen, and bits & pieces of pop culture all over the place. Per Trinity's request, we then embarked on a comic book mission (I know, I know...but you can see for yourself just how much the comic books mean to him when you see his despair when denied his regular comic book binge) and found ourselves at Big Monkey Comics. That expedition was a little bit of a bust, but we drowned our sorrows (well...Trinity's sorrows...Diana and I could care less) in some fine German beer and ridiculously tasty pizza at Pizza Paradiso in Dupont Circle. Absolutely exhausted after walking around all day (even though it wasn't seventeen miles, as some....ahh hmm, maybe one...pointed out at the end of the day), we retired back to my place with a deck of cards and some Blue Moon on the roof. I love rooftop time with friends - one of my favorite things about city life.

Saturday we set out to tackle the memorials and monuments, with stops at the White House (front AND back, of course - we needed to find a good photo angle for the potential Vaughn Christmas card), Washington Monument, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. There's a lot of walking there, folks, so we opted for a quick ride on the Circulator to take us back down the National Mall to the National Archives. There is always ALWAYS a line to get in, so we waited it out with some real (not astronaut) ice cream while the sun blazed down on us. After checking out some extremely old and important documents...Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, Bill of Rights, you know, semi-important stuff...along with some cool stuff in the Public Vault (the original Texas constitution!) and the BIG exhibit (Taft's bathtub! Shaq's shoe!), we continued on Museum Extravaganza 2009 with a visit to the National Portrait Gallery and Smithsonian Museum of American Art. I'd already seen a good chunk of this one, so we divided and conquered, enjoying everything from crazy modern art to the presidential portraits to some quiet time in the courtyard. I love this courtyard, by the way - it's such a great space in the middle of the city to just sit and...well, sit. Thai food for dinner, and so went another great day in the city.

Sunday we continued on Museum Extravaganza 2009 with a sobering exploration of the Holocaust Memorial Museum, which was high on Diana's list of to-dos. Before embarking on our serious afternoon, though, we spent some quality time perusing the offerings at both Borders (where I happened to buy four books and haul them around the rest of the day - this is how much I love books) and H&M (so cheap! so adorable!). Having fairly recently visited the concentration camp at Dachau, we were pretty well-versed in the horrors that took place before and during World War II, but the Holocaust museum is certainly worth a visit. Definitely a little crowded (weekend!), but watching a short film on Hitler's rise to power, walking through the moving exhibits, and hearing the stories of survivors made up for the early crowds as we worked our way through three levels of history. If you have the time, make a stop here - well worth it.

After just a little more ice cream (the street vendors suck you in with their amazing array of frozen options!!), we made our way home, loaded up in the car, and headed out to Dulles to drop off Trinity at the airport. Diana was headed to work in NYC for the next week, so we had time for a girl dinner at Jaleo...and maybe some sangria...and maybe a little extra sangria from the friendly, native Texan bartender...before heading over to Union Station so she could catch her train.

I had a fantastic weekend with these two. I can almost forget how much I miss these people until they show up for the weekend and remind me how wonderful they are. Check out my full collection of pictures from the weekend here. For the full photographic adventure, I'm sure the Vaughns won't be too far behind with their pictures here. Three cheers for good times with dear friends!


Diana said...

We had such an amazing time this weekend in DC. Thanks for being so willing to see SO many things yet again with us!!! I am already planning on next least 6 months in advance so I can see the Obama white house. :) Love you and hope to see you soon... although it will never be soon enough!

Diana said...

P.S. Our pictures should be posted this weekend.

Erin said...

I'm SO glad you guys made it out here last weekend!! Very much looking forward to the next visit - we'll have to get you through all the security checks so we can go into new things. =) Love you!

Addy's Daddy said...

Trinity was one of those children who had to be told, "Don't try to catch them!" wasn't he?

Erin said...

He was actually surprisingly well-behaved! The wives were so proud.

Girl Interrupted said...

lol aw AD beat me to that comment!

So glad you all had such a good time :) I really like posts like this because I get to travel and visit vicariously through others, I thought all the photos were great, DC really does look an amazing place ... and I'm totally envious of your rooftop parties, they sound such fun!