Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘White House’

I didn’t plan far enough in advance to score a White House tour, but the White House Visitor Center is well worth a visit. It has six permanent exhibits about White House furnishings and what not, plus a 30-minute film. Normally I’m a sucker for museum films, but I have an appointment to keep later so I’ll pass this time. On to my next destination, the Smithsonian Castle.

Smithsonian Castle Info Center

Smithsonian Castle Info Center

The mother ship of Smithsonian Museums, the Castle serves as its information center. They also have a film, this one narrated by Ben Stiller. You can watch it here. I particularly like the part of the film where the Natural History Museum guy says, “If I want to change this bird’s attitude I can pull these feathers up.” Really, a new hairstyle changes a bird’s attitude? I can SO relate!

I find it fascinating that the Smithsonian was funded by a British scientist who never visited the U.S. He did give his nephew first shot at the money, but specified that if said nephew died without heirs, his estate would go to the U.S. government to create an “Establishment for the increase & diffusion of Knowledge among men.” There are 19 Smithsonian museums; I won’t even try to see them all, but I do plan to spend most of my time here in one or the other. Where else can you see so many interesting and important things all in one place—free?

Enid Haupt Garden Image Courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Enid Haupt Garden Image Courtesy Smithsonian Institution

Wow, it’s almost time for my big adventure du jour. Until then, I’ll snag an ice cream from the cart outside and stroll through the beautiful The Enid A. Haupt Garden outside the castle. I love formal gardens; I find them particularly soothing.

Remember Vacation Rule #4? It’s time to put it into action! I’m going on a Segway Tour. I’ve wanted to ride a Segway ever since I saw one in person at Taste of Chicago several years ago. (Now THAT was a vacation that should have been virtual. I got in one good event before tripping on a broken sidewalk, busting my elbow into pieces, and spending the night in the ER, where none of the doctors looked like George Clooney…but that’s another story.) Anyway, when I saw they had Segway tours of DC I had to (virtually) go for it.

My chariot for the evening

My chariot for the evening

I’m booked on the 6 pm Day and Night Tour. Strapping on a fetching white helmet, I wobble a bit before getting a handle on the intricacies of Segway travel. It’s easier than it looks (so I’m told) and my balance has improved since I began yoga. According to City Segway’s brochure, my “self-balancing personal transportation device… requires no special skills to operate” which is a darn good thing.

Image courtesy City Segway (that's why it's so small)

Image courtesy City Segway (that's why it's so small)

Fortunately, there’s a 30-minute training session so we can all get comfortable before sightseeing. Then we’re off, gliding past all the major spots (White House, The Capitol, Washington Monument, FBI Headquarters, and so on) with ease, serenaded with fascinating stories from our guide. It’s a 3-hour tour, but unlike the ill-fated passengers of the Minnow, we avoid crashing on an uncharted desert isle and safely return to home base.

Our tour ends at 9 pm and it’s been a big day, so I hop a cab back to the hotel. Looking in on the Empress Lounge, I’m tempted to stop in to listen to some live jazz, but instead my beautiful soft bed beckons. (Besides, I have helmet hair from the Segway tour.) What a great first day in DC! I can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Quite possibly the best part of a virtual vacation is that while my virtual self had to get up in the wee hours, drive to the airport, stand in line at security, and yawn over a white chocolate mocha at the gate, my real self was nestled all snug in my bed. But now that hurdle has passed, I’ll just pretend to be my virtual self, OK? Otherwise the grammar will get too complicated and you’ll get tired of reading “virtual” over and over.

This is my travel outfit.

My travel ensemble.

My travel ensemble

(It’s from Coldwater Creek if you’d like one of your own; the pic links to it.) I like the attitude of it; it says I’m cool but comfortable, classic but adventurous. There’s no jacket to take off at airport security and no, I won’t be wearing the boots in the pic for that very reason.

Flight 1600 lands in Washington, DC at about a quarter to one (local time). It’s my first time in our nation’s capital and I can’t wait to get started seeing the sites. Fortunately, it’s just a short taxi ride to my home for the next week, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, DC

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, DC

I chose this hotel because a) it’s walking distance to the Smithsonian b) it has fantastic rooms and views and c) there’s an in-house spa and a 5 star restaurant. I cannot conceive of actually spending this much money on a hotel in real life, but this trip has a virtual budget, so a little luxury was in order. (OK, maybe a LOT of luxury.)

My virtual room at the Mandarin Oriental

My virtual room at the Mandarin Oriental

After gawking at my gorgeous hotel room for a bit like the small-town girl I am, it’s time for lunch. And where better to dine than the Old Ebbitt Grill, Washington’s oldest, most historic saloon? Founded in 1856, Presidents Grant, Andrew Johnson, Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt and Harding supposedly refreshed themselves at its stand-around bar. I’ll take a seat in the Main Dining Room instead, where I can admire antique gas chandeliers and paintings by Kamil Kubik that show patriotic scenes near the White House, Supreme Court, and Library of Congress.

Main Dining Room at Old Ebbitt Grill

Main Dining Room at Old Ebbitt Grill


They’re famous for their jumbo lump crab cakes and who am I to argue? They come with corn and tomato Chesapeake and oven roasted potatoes, bought from local farms. Delish! But you don’t have to take my word for it; I sweet-talked the chef into sharing the recipe. You’ll find it on my recipe page. It’s the perfect introduction to dining in DC.

I’ll have more to share this evening. For now, I think a post-lunch stroll is in order. After all, I’m just a block or so from here:

the_white_house

Read Full Post »