I’ve returned from my trip to the nation’s capitol (haha, pedants, I got it right, eat it).
Right, anyhow… The train ride down wasn’t bad at all. I walked out of Union Station (which is more of a mall than a train station, with an eating area four times the size of a mega mall, I swear), and could see the Capitol Building, so decided on a whim to walk there. Once there I started climbing the steps, only to be yelled at by the guards, informing me I needed to get away from the building Right Now.
Whee. I commiserated a bit with a lady experiencing similar difficulties; turned out she was some director of multicultural studies at Harvard. After a few minutes of chat I politely excused myself, and proceeded to walk up the length of the mall, turn north towards the white house, and find my way to my hotel.
So, I should mention something. I’ve been to a lot of big cities. I’ve never seen one with nearly as many homeless people. Everywhere. Any shadow you come across, and nook, park bench, and cranny? There are a pair of eyes staring at you. Most are quiet and don’t cause any trouble (the usual spat of grifters was about normal), but they’re everywhere. I was absolutely amazed.
From the hotel, I figured out the Metro subway system (it’s extremely dark and creepy down there, kinda goofy), and made my way to Chinatown, where I had Five Guys at the location recommended by Jay. Having had it in DC, I can say that my prior review of the location in Orange, CT, made them look bad. Five Guys is now my favorite chain burger joint on earth. I had a nice cheeseburger and a bucket of cajun fries, and both were excellent. My mouth is still burned from the hot grease on the fries, but it was so worth it.
Back to the hotel, read a bit, and got to bed nice and early.
Was woken the next morning by some sort of party next door; not really sure what was going on, didn’t really want to know. I had my pot of hotel coffee (yeah, it was … warm, I guess), found some breakfast, and then took a walk to the Smithsonian.
That stuff we shot into space? A lot smaller than you think, at least in the early days. I do not envy the early astronauts.
I think the most fascinating thing I learned was that Minuteman missiles are covered with a cork ablative layer, and are green because that’s the color of the fungicide they use to keep the cork from rotting when stored underground. All told, the museum was neat, though a lot smaller than I imagined. That said, the Smithsonian campus is a lot like the Louvre, in that the thing as a whole goes on forever, so there’s much more to it than this one little museum.
And along those lines, I met up with Trev, Dan, Jen, Brandon, and Tom, and we headed over to the natural history museum. There we saw fossils, typical natural history stuff, gems, and so forth, and headed out for lunch. I was a little bummed I didn’t see the orchids, but it works out.
We ate lunch at Chipotle, which was pretty good. I’d go back again, though I’d ask them to put more of the “hottest” salsa on — my burrito received a weak amount of it. Apparently meat choice also helps here, so I’d do something other than pork as well. I’m starting to worry that I’m addicted to spicy stuff now.
Anyhow, we hopped back on the Metro, and returned to the Smithsonian, where we visited the Hirshhorn gallery, which was interesting. It’s a lot like the Pompideu Center, only smaller, but you still get that sense of sensory overload, along with the occasional “ok, that’s just not art.” I’d also walked several miles over the course of two days by this point, and sort of wanted to just sit down.
You get the idea.
We were in luck however; after ditching Brandon on the Subway, Trev returned to meet us with Debby, and we went to Dino. The wine was nice — a 2001 full-bodied Zin (I regret that I forget the maker, all I recall is it was a California Zin, $32, and 15.9% by volume (!!)). I had wild boar pasta that was ok, though nothing amazing. Most seemed pleased, though nobody said much about their meal; I don’t think anybody was particularly blown away by their selections.
From there it was to ESPN Zone, another new experience for me. The place was packed, but Dan managed to snag us a table by the bar. We saw our waitress every 30 minutes or so, which made staying refreshed somewhat difficult. Feel free to insert the “I hate service in America when the gratuity is already included and there’s no motivation to provide service” rant as necessary. Needless to say, she got nothing above and beyond what she was already automatically receiving, and I hardly think she deserved that. Interestingly, my “Gin and Tonic” was a Bombay Sapphire and tonic on the bill, though it sure didn’t taste like it. I think I’m rather surprised that top-shelf liquor is used by default if you specify a generic drink, but maybe I just don’t get out enough.
All of that said, the conversation was good, and we hung out there for several hours before people went their separate ways.
Sunday I slept in a bit, and then caught my train home. All told a nice trip, was good to meet some people and get away from Norwalk for a while.