Yes! We’re on our way!!! (for reference, here’s the planned itinerary I made up before we left)
Okay, those are still in Toronto. Fast-forward 12 hours and here we are in downtown Washington, DC! Walking around, searching for lunch.
YM spots a familiar statue, which he claims is The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, from the $20 bill. I am skeptical - “never seen that before in my life, and what would it be doing in the middle of Washington, DC?”
Turns out the building is the Canadian embassy. Doh! Smart boy!
Stop for prepackaged wraps from Wrap 2 Go at Georgetown University Law Center [sic – sorry, that’s really how they spell it!]. Lots of variety, but something must have happened with the lettuce: one salad looked too slimy for Elisheva’s taste, YM found mold on his lettuce, and mine just tasted way, WAY off despite the staff’s insistence that they were fresh that morning and fridged the whole time. Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, we enjoyed our meal.
After that, fuelled by slimy, moldy lettuce, we trotted off to the Air and Space Museum for a planetarium show and photo ops with Apollo 11 and the Spirit of St Louis. Wished we could have gone to the other location in Virginia to see Discovery in its new home, but there was plenty of coolness to go around at this one museum.
Realizing we were short on time, we grabbed a pedal courier guy to haul our lazy bottoms up to see the White House. Here I am at the south side; by the time we got to the north, we were pretty much running, because it was getting late.
Crazy anti-Israel propaganda lazy staging a sit-in across from the White House.
I haven’t gone to check out her URL yet… in fact, I can’t even read it very well, and probably am not too interested in seeing what it has to say in any event.
At that point, I realized there was going to be NO TIME for my planned pilgrimage to the Dupont Circle Krispy Kreme location, because we had to get to our hosts’ home for Shabbos. So I shut the camera off and concentrated on navigating our way out to the wild woods of Silver Spring, Maryland. Which was lovely! Elisheva and I even trotted off to shul. We stayed with the scintillating Aldrich family, who were actually hosting another amazing family while we were there, including the ever-fascinating blogger Amital (aka Jen Green) of Organized Jewish Home.
My only problem with Shabbos was the level of smartness around us. Areas of conversation in which I felt utterly unqualified to comment included: politics (US or Canadian; makes no difference, I’m universally ignorant!), national security, PhD programs, fraternity vs band hazing, European travel, Asian travel and… um… homeschooling. Turns out I’m a bit of a slouch in that department, as all of their amazing, talented children put mine to shame. Well, I’m only guessing, because my little kids weren’t there, but the imprompty violin-and-guitar concert from the Aldrich kids was highly impressive. Must re-read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother sometime SOON.
We spent Sunday at the Torah Home Education Conference, which was great once I got past my nervousness that people had paid to hear me speak. I almost blacked out when I went to check on where I was talking and discovered I was in the main auditorium, but I think it turned out okay. Everything was videotaped, and they have promised to make it available on iTunes, so we shall see when I watch it…
Sunday evening, we stopped for pan-Asian delights at David Chu’s China Bistro, where I did something I am rarely foolish or brave enough to do: ordered the Hot & Sour Soup. In most kosher places, it’s somewhere between glop and slime, generously textured with cornstarch, flavoured with anything from sugar to pepper to both, coloured by soy sauce and/or red food colouring… well, the whole thing is a mess. I have learned that it is the riskiest choice (chicken/corn chowder is next-riskiest, and a yellow slimy one in Montreal may have put me off that one forever, though it was not entirely inedible, unlike some h&s soups I’ve tried in the kosher world).
However, buoyed by the conference, I was feeling brave, and ordered it, and indeed, there was hardly a trace of cornstarch, just delicate wisps of egg, discernible meat, tofu and veggie bits, and even a trace of flavour beyond pure hot or sour. Yummy!
After supper, we caught a ride back into the DC area and hopped on a subway to go visit Honest Abe. It was already MUCH later than I’d planned, and we ended up basically sprinting over a mile from the Metro station to the monuments area, with a quick stop to take a picture of the somewhat silly URL on this sign:
We love it because we’re so Britishy in our humour ways! And bottoms are, well, universally silly. We may have been a bit giddy with fatigue as well after a full day at the conference.
Anyway. I have to say, I love this about people in the U.S.: they are willing to build ridiculously large monuments to ridiculously large principles, like freedom, and democracy, and leadership. Do Canadians do this? Not within hearing distance of anyone who might be offended, I suspect. Because then we’d have to start apologizing, and once you get us started apologizing, we have a hard time quitting. There’s a reason the statue at the Canadian embassy is by a native person, and doesn’t really say much about being Canadian, one way or another.
I haven’t been to Washington in a VERY long time, so I was blown away anew at the sheer size of this thing, the grandeur and, having recently read some ancient Greeky stuff with the littles, how very Parthenesque it was, in its form and the Zeus-like majesty of Abe on his throne.
We listened to a bit of the Ranger’s talk at the Lincoln Memorial, which was interesting, except that a) we were all exhausted, b) it was after 10 pm and the last subway was at midnight, and c) he kept calling it a “mermorial,” like Abe was about to sprout fins and swim away. Visited the National Bathroom on the way out – clean and well-kept.
We were all disappointed with the bedraggled state of the National Mall, the area where the monuments and statues and Capitol building live, because it’s being dug up at the moment and there were none of the famous reflecting pools you see in all the pictures. Oh, well!
(a momentary break in the weekend-long bickering… mostly because they were too exhausted to fight anymore)
And then it was Monday! After fleeing the suburbs (no easy feat outside of rush hour), we lost one kid early on, so the other one inherited the proverbial chocolate factory, in this case, the National Zoo, which took us forever to find.
Oh – but first, we caught a “breakfast” of coffee and Krispy Kreme (at last!!!). By we, I mean me. Elisheva has far too much self-control for anything of that sort.
We discovered some urban wildlife – green weeds stretching outward through the illuminated grates of the Metro station. This is two inches from where the subway runs, but I figure the combination of full-spectrum fluorescent lighting, trickle of underground water, and the sludge of subway shmutz has created the perfect urban hydroponic environment for these brave urban plants to flourish:
A freakish bear en route to the zoo:
And then, the pandas! Well, one panda was resting, but the other was most amusingly toying with what would happen if he dumped a milk crate on his head. Over and over and over. We were both in awe of how brilliant this sweet little panda was. The other one was snoozing in the cave the whole time. It did sadden me that the zoo has a ton of bamboo growing, but there is literally NONE in the panda enclosure. Which I can understand, because – in a confined setting – they’d probably demolish it pretty quickly, but still… a bit sad.
Actually, all the bamboo made me a bit sad, or at least, annoyed, because there is a ton of it and I strongly suspect that within a couple of years, it will spread to the entire neighbourhood, wiping out other species and generally making a nuisance of itself. As zen as we generally seem to think bamboo may be, as I told Elisheva repeatedly, it is highly, highly invasive, with running roots that can get under most containment systems. Bamboo doesn’t grow well here because of the winters, but down there, I noticed it had spread well beyond the zoo fence. On the way back to the subway, I noticed an area where they’d had to rip out or burn out patches of bamboo to make way for new plantings of other species, but I suspect that’s not the end of their bamboo woes.
Great apes indoors – very stinky! But the National Zoo has this amazing device called the O Line (the O is short for orangutan), whereby the orangutans can travel from the Great Ape house to an alternate enclosure beside another building. The line is active for 3 hours a day, from 11-2, and during that time, they can choose where to spend the night when the line is closed down for the evening.
This is not my own picture, because we missed seeing the orangs travelling, but it IS very cool. The wires and towers are electrified to prevent escapes, though the FAQ says there have been 3, each time with an orangutan using the system for the very first time. The FAQ also says they can and DO “go to the bathroom” while they are over people. I’d imagine that’s way worse than birds passing overhead…
One last zoo picture…
…And we were off to meet the Other Kid and pick up our luggage at the Greyhound terminal where we’d stashed it (ridiculously expensive, so much so that we couldn’t afford to rent bikes!), and off for a delicious supper at Eli’s Kosher Restaurant. Despite mixed reviews on Shamash, the service was delightful and the food was really quite good.
Ditched my Degas dreams because none of us could face the thought of trooping through another museum, so we headed to the bus station straight from a quick convenience-store stop at Dupont Circle. We got there around 8:15 for our 10:15 bus, only to discover – at 10:15 – that they changed the bus schedule a month ago and the bus wasn’t coming until 11:45. Needless to say, we were first in line.
The upside of waiting over 3 hours for a bus is that we got EXCELLENT seats that more than made up for the foggy, obstructed view we had on the way down. We got four seats right at the very front of the top of the double-decker bus, meaning they were all window seats with a fantastic, high-up view of everything we could possibly want to see… which wasn’t much, as it was totally dark out and we were too full of hatred at the world for having made us sit in a smelly bus terminal for so long. (and I missed seeing Degas!)
In bitterness and exhaustion, we all waved a silent, motionless goodbye to DC, and headed for home. And yet, even the return journey wasn’t a bad trip. The night passed VERY quickly, and this was the fastest I’ve ever seen a bus full of people get through customs, more than making up for the slow people on the way down, though not for the belligerent customs-official fight-picking morons who were on the bus when I came home last year.
For some reason, the trip down seemed gruellingly long. Yet the trip home was quick, easy, light – do-able, and definitely leaving open the possibility that I just might travel by bus again, perhaps even with my big kids, someday soon.