Rik's Ramblings

Monday, October 26, 2009

Washington DC, day 5

Last day. We could have just sat in the hotel for three hours and used the pool again, but instead we headed for one more museum - The Smithsonian Native American Museum.

We only had a short time, as we needed to be at the airport by noon.

I know it seems wrong to cram thousands of years of culture and heritage into 2 hours, but to put it into perspective: we did the national archives in about 60 minutes (which covers 1776-present day) and Natural History in about 5 hours (which spans about a billion years). So it wasn't too bad now was it?

Still, it felt wrong when Debbie went up to the Native American guy on the information desk and said "We've only got an hour then we need to go get a plane, what's good?". She should have added "Not only did we Europeans take your land, we relegated you a foot note of our sightseeing trip.".

I have to say, the gift shop did remind me of the concession stalls of a folk festival. All pan-pipes and hand woven shawls.

I'm now on the plane back to California.

Appropriately, United Airlines have cancelled our direct flight to SFO, so we're flying via Denver. Fitting, as I say, as the only reason we got tickets to DC was to use-up some vouchers we had. We had free flight vouchers because United bumped us from a flight from chicago to San fran last christmas. Anyway, a two hour delay to SFO nothing to complain about really.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Washington DC, day 4

Today was all about spying!

We went to the International Spy Museum just a couple blocks north of the National Archives (around 9th and F st).

Good museum dedicated to the art, and gadgets, of spying.

They take you through the history of espionage from the early days (roman times) right through to current day threats like Cyber Crime and those international terrorists and extremists.

They have lots of hands on exhibits, interactive (touchscreen) displays and artifacts or recreations of artifacts. They even have a full size replica of James Bond's Astin Martin (you know the one with rotating number plate and bullet proof shield). The car cycles through the features, awesome!

There's a good exhibit on cryptanalysis and the code breaking of WWII at Bletchly park.

It's perhaps a bit overwhelming for the kids. Too much info to take in. Ben had had enough by the time we got to the cold war, so we had to zip through that a little faster than I would have liked. It looked like a great exhibit, detailing tunnels that ran under the East Berlin and all about the selling of atomic secret to the USSR.

We stayed in the museum until about 1pm (we got there around opening time at 10am), but that wasn't the end of our spying activities for the day!

The spy museum has a "Spy in the City" game, where you get to go on a mission around DC looking for clues, retrieving microdot messages and collecting fingerprints of enemy operatives, in order to solve a mystery and deactivate an terror cells concealed device!

It's very well done! Great for the 9 year old sleuthes in your party. You are basically kitted out with a GPS enabled PDA-like device (your 'COBRA' unit) which 'receives' messages, documents and video instructions about the mission as you hunt for clues (usually on famous landmarks) around the NW DC area.

That's all I'm at liberty to disclose ;)

It was a fun few hours, despite the torrential rain that started about an hour into the game. The museum claims it's a 90 minute game, but it certainly took us longer. Also, I don't think we really needed three units (one each). I think I'd recommend just getting one (if you can get away with that). They did charge $14 per player!

We exited the Spy Museum's gift shop, crossed the road and entered Gordon Biersch. Dinner was a very nice Spinach Salad, with Salmon, accompanied by three glasses of 'Festbier', their current seasonal brew. Festbier is an unfiltered lager and very nice too.

As is customary on Sagar vacations, the day ended with a trip to the hotel swimming pool.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Washington DC, day 3

A long day in the air and space museum.

Got there a littl after 10am and didn't leave until 5pm!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Washington DC, day 2

Museum & Monument day today!

We started off by heading to the National Mall and walking along it to the Washington Monument, where we picked up some tickets (free) for the 3pm ride to the top. It was 10am and already tickets for all the morning tours were gone, so it's good that we did!

Then we went back up the Mall to the Natural History Museum. We stayed here until it was time to return to WaMo. We spent a good amount of time in the dinosaur exhibit, early life (pre dino), ice age. We saw the 3D IMAX dinosaur movie, went to the butterfly house, went in the bone room (favorite!), reptile exhibit and the insect exhibit.

Then we headed back to the WaMo great views of the White House from up there (550ft up), the Lincoln Memorial , WWII Memorial and up the Mall to Congress (though that view would be better if a. The grass wasn't dead and b. The windows on the WaMo were clean!).

Then we descended and did a shortened monument tour around the WWII, lincoln, Vietnam monuments. By this time it was past 5pm, we were getting a little tired! Stopped for a coffee, then headed up to the White House. Views are not as good from the street as from the WaMo!

Walked along Pennsylvania ave to return back to the hotel and find a place for dinner. Stopped at "Harry's" for dinner, the back to the hotel by about 9pm! Roughly a 12hour day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Washington DC, day 1

Got an early start and headed up to the National Mall. The only plan for the day was to get oriented and do a "Duck tour" to get an overview of the city and monuments.

Hotel is the Residence Inn on E St SW at 3rd St, so we walked straight up 3rd st which brought us our at the Botanical Gardens.

Headed to congress/capitol hill first, as we could see it. Did the tour of congress and looked around the visitor centre until about noon.

Headed over to Union station for the Duck ride, which wasn't available until 4pm, so we had a few hours to kill.

Had lunch then went down to the National Mall to see the National Archives (magna carta, declaration of independence, constitution). They also had an exhibition on entitled "Big"...

Duck tour was fun. Captain Briton was an excellent narrator/guide. He let the kids on the boat drive a little as we sailed down the Potomac.

After the tour, back at union station we stopped for a couple of beers and light dinner at the "Capitol City Brewing Co" to end up the day.

Back to the hotel at about 8pm, ben and I went for an hour in the pool.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Shooting stuff can be fun ...

New toys added to the Boys Toys page.