Posts Tagged With: travel

Washington DC – Day 3

A much cooler day; still warm enough for shorts but not too hot to walk around in.  We did a few more museums including the Natural History Museum with a fabulous 3D film about dinosaurs, and also two art galleries where we had much fun grumbling about the modern “art”.  I really like modern art a lot more than the classics, but leaning a black plank against a wall and calling it art?  Really???  On seeing a piece by Cy Twombly, the husband’s considered criticism was “That looks like something I’d doodle while sitting on hold on the phone ….”.  He did have a point.

We also dropped into Union Station which isn’t quite as architecturally impressive as Grand Central Station in New York – maybe because it’s covered in scaffolding inside at the moment.  Not only is it a train station, it also houses lots of shops and eating places; in fact the trains are tucked right away at the back, almost as an afterthought.   We had lunch at Johnny Rockets which is a replica 50s diner (well, a whole chain of them) complete with red vinyl seats and individual jukeboxes at your booth.  The husband had a milkshake so thick that he could actually stand his spoon up in it.  I don’t know how he managed to eat a burger as well.

We had a lovely walk in the rain back to our hotel, passing the Capitol Building again on the way; yet another pretty impressive building.  Not a patch on the Lincoln Memorial though!

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Washington DC – Day 2

Another ridiculously hot day so this one was spent in a few museums including the National Air & Space Museum (looking forward to visiting the bigger version out by the airport some time) and the Hirshhorn.  Most museums in Washington are free, thanks to the generosity of a British man who left all his money for this very purpose.  We did a couple of laps of the National Mall, where most of the museums are situated, plus a trip up to see the White House.  You can only have a tour around the inside if you apply through your local Member of Congress about six months in advance or, in the case of us Brits, some other very convoluted application process which is just not worth the hassle.  And even then your tour may be cancelled at the last minute.  And you can’t take anything in, including any bags, cameras etc.  I thought I saw a couple of the infamous snipers on the roof but apparently they were only trees.  Maybe I do need my eyes tested.

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Washington DC – Day 1

Well, anyone who knows my husband won’t be at all surprised to learn that we left home at 4.30am on our trip to the nation’s capital.  We stopped at the IHOP for breakfast (where randomly they were playing Take That – I didn’t think they were even famous over here?) and I had a large bucket of coffee and some hash browns.  Wowee.  PROPER hash browns.  Those little things from McDonald’s will never seem the same again.  I was also schooled in the art of egg-ordering and can now confidently say that my choice is “over medium” – that’s “fried with a runnyish yolk” as I described it.  I still took the easy route with the bewildering choice of bread for my toast – as usual I just went for the last one on the waitress’ extensive list.

We arrived in Washington bright and early and amazingly found our hotel almost immediately, despite the satnav trying to send us down a non-existent road.  We hopped straight onto the sightseeing bus and out to Arlington Cemetery.  The highlight (if you can call it that) was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, which is guarded by soldiers 24 hours a day.  We saw the changing of the guard, which is taken very seriously and would have been even more impressive if their identical appearance (including matching sunglasses) didn’t totally remind me of the baddies from The Matrix.

While out in Arlington we also visited the Iwo Jima Memorial which has the wow factor for its sheer size if nothing else.  Definitely one I would recommend people to go and see.

We hopped back on the bus and back into the city centre to look around the rest of the notable memorials.  Having first seen the Washington Monument from the motorway on the way in, we soon started to get a bit sick of it as you can see it from absolutely everywhere.  It is cool though, and a useful marker for how far away you are.  There were hordes of TV cameras around the Washington Monument.  We thought it was just to celebrate our arrival, but in fact it was exactly one year since an earthquake hit the city and damaged the monument, which is currently closed for repairs.  I may well have spotted the US equivalent of Eamonn Holmes or Lorraine Kelly, but quite frankly if I did then I have absolutely no knowledge of it.

Washington is full of monuments and I quickly ran out of different adjectives for “impressive”.  We thought the Jefferson Memorial was the best thing ever, in a totally stunning setting.  But then we got to the Lincoln Memorial.  Which totally blew the rest out of the water.  I did have to resist the major urge to run through the Reflecting Pool shouting “FORREST GUMP!”.  Fortunately the pool is currently closed off for renovations.  Or maybe just because they knew I was coming.

The day was incredibly hot so we made the most of the air con on the tour bus as we saw the rest of Washington including Union Station and the Capitol Building (I still think the Houses of Parliament are architecturally more pleasing.  The husband disagrees).  Back at our hotel we were pleased to find a hot tub and a pool which made a good end to a tiring but enjoyable day.

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Driving Miss Crazy

It’s been weird enough being a car passenger over the last couple of weeks.   Getting into the right hand side of the car and not having a steering wheel in front of you, well, that’s just bonkers.  Travelling on the right (or should I say WRONG) side of the road ……  not normal.

Today I took it a step further.  I drove our new car!  Round our car park first, then down a straight road, then I went crazy and turned a few corners.  Heck, at one point I even put it into reverse!  The main thing you need to remember is, when turning a left hand corner, MAKE SURE YOU STAY ON THE RIGHT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD.  I personally have not had a problem doing this yet.  In my extensive half hour of driving, that is.  But I know other people who have 😀

The other thing we keep having an issue with is remembering where we’ve parked the bloomin’ thing.  It’s bad enough when you lose your trusty old car in a small Asda car park, but you try finding a hire car that you’ve only just picked up and then parked in the biggest Walmart car park you’ve ever seen ….. (although last night, queuing to leave the KISS gig, I was mightily cheered by the sight of the couple who walked past us three times in half an hour, clearly still searching for their car.  Happy days…)

We have an automatic car – it’s very rare to drive a manual in the States.  I keep wondering where the clutch is.  Also when I pull away I really want to change into second gear.  But my main problem at the moment is forgetting to take the handbrake off when I start.  It won’t take long to remember, I’m sure.  (It’s kind of a giveaway when you put your foot on the gas and the car goes nowhere.)

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USS Wisconsin – 20th July 2012

Today we visited the USS Wisconsin which is an Iowa-Class US Battleship that was in service from the 1940s to the 1990s.  If you’re not familiar with this type of ship, it’s quite a lot like the one in this Cher video.   No such cavorting in evidence today (far too warm for that type of thing) but we did meet a US Navy veteran who had served on the ship from 1944-46 and told us a few tales of how they used to pass the time and make their own entertainment in cramped conditions on the ship.  All very impressive.

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Oh Luggage, Where Art Thou? – 6th July 2012

We braced ourselves for Customs and entering the USA.  Well, we would have done if we’d had time.  It was around three minutes from stepping off the plane to having our passports stamped.  It was then relatively painless to get ourselves through screening to the connecting flight, although it certainly took most of the two hours we had to do it in.

The second plane was way smaller (maybe a 50 seater?) so no quite so luxurious as the previous flight and I certainly felt every bump along the way.  However everything had gone like clockwork and we were now on the home stretch.  What could possibly go wrong?

Well, our luggage had enjoyed itself so much in Washington that it decided to spend the night there instead of following us to our final destination.  Some fifteen hours later it eventually caught up with us, but not before I’d spent a fraught night imagining the worst (not helped by lack of sleep which made me feel like I was swaying on the deck of a small boat in high seas).

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A Class of Their Own – 6th July 2012

Well, Virgin excelled themselves today.  Forget any gripes I had yesterday.  Yes, I can be bought.

The day started with the husband waking me up at 4.30am.  We didn’t need to leave until after 7am, but that’s just him.  I was not happy.  Things got better.

After another free bus back to the airport (thanks again, National Express lady!), we arrived at the Virgin desk.  Our allocated seats from the previous day had been cancelled.  The flight was overbooked.  We were on standby.  I have to say the check-in person was lovely.  She turned a blind eye to our suitcase being 10kg overweight – phew.  We got some seats eventually and proceeded to duty free where we pottered around, sprayed on lots of smellies etc etc …. you know, the usual stuff that everyone does (don’t they?  Please tell me it’s not just us).  Eventually we proceeded to Boarding, thinking – this is actually going to happen.  We are going to live in the USA.  Then the call came over the tannoy.  Could we return to the boarding desk?  Buggeration, we thought, they’ve destroyed our luggage in a controlled explosion.  Well, apparently not.  Actually we were being bumped up to Upper Class.  Woop!  But did we mind that we couldn’t sit together?  Er …. No!!!  Who wouldn’t ditch their nearest and dearest for the chance of 8 hours of luxury at 36,000 feet?

I have to say I was not disappointed.  I’ve always loved the whole in-flight experience of having your own little Barbie cutlery etc, but this just takes it to a whole new level.  You get your own entertainment and relaxation pod with fold-flat bed (which I had to play with) and complimentary socks and duvet (always high on my list of priorities).  And you know that advice you sometimes read about dressing smartly in order to get an upgrade?  Take it from someone who was dressed in Primark trousers and cardi – it’s not necessary!

I must admit, I was surreptitiously watching other people for guidance at key points, but thanks to The Wedding Singer I already knew what the hot towel was for.

Lunch was preceded by an amuse bouche, which to all intents and purposes was cold mushy peas and a breadstick, but being served on posh china in Upper Class elevated it to something entirely different.  With the cheese course (a cheese course!!!  I know!!) I took the opportunity to sample the port, something I have never fancied before and I can see now I was right not to bother with.  Still, I finished it.  Well, it was free.

I met the husband at the bar for a drink (a bar!  On a plane!!  I know!!!) but for the most part I spent my time horizontal under my duvet on the nice fold-flat bed, drinking complimentary champagne and watching everything I could on the TV (I can highly recommend The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, if you haven’t seen it).  Unlike the man across the aisle who has clearly been in Upper Class too much, as he slept through most of the flight and all the meals.  Upper Class was clearly wasted on him.  Give it to people like me every time please Virgin – we truly appreciate it and make the most of it!

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Terminal Illness – 5th July 2012

Well, this was certainly a day of two halves.  The first half went swimmingly (if you ignore the waking every hour or so during the night, instantly calculating how much time we had left in the country).  We returned our flat keys to the landlord without problem (although it was really weird, shaking hands and walking out of “our” flat without any keys and leaving strangers in it).  Off to Asda for breakfast (thinking, this time tomorrow it’ll be Walmart), then a last visit to the local seafront for a chance to stare out at the waves (because we won’t be getting much opportunity to do that in the next three years ….)

We then repaired to our (once) local café to sit and wait for the taxi.  Our cascades of luggage rather gave us away and we were made very welcome by the café owners on the first leg of our transatlantic voyage.  When the taxi turned up I was pleasantly surprised to see the driver in a suit (when does that ever happen?  Should I refer to him as a chauffeur?).  The journey to Heathrow was uneventful.  Then the fun began.  The entrance to Terminal 3 was closed.  We got dropped off at Terminal 1.  With four EXTRA LARGE suitcases.  We navigated our way to Terminal 3 (those Body Pump classes have paid off, I can tell you) where we found some thoroughly unhelpful Virgin Atlantic staff.  We had hoped to do a twilight check in and bag drop (rather than have to drag four EXTRA LARGE suitcases on public transport the next morning).  We couldn’t check in using Virgin’s computers so I had to do it in an internet café (which is not helpful or simple when you are down to your last few English pennies and it’s pay per minute).  We also couldn’t check in any bags but we did manage to pay to leave them securely overnight (for a fat fee).

It felt like we had lost a good few hours of our lives, as our will to live had entirely drained away by this point.  I was surprised to see it was actually only four hours since we had left “home”.  Our final task we to get to our hotel.  One HUGE MENTION has to go to the LOVELY LOVELY National Express lady who pointed us in the direction of a free London bus (about 20 seconds walk around the corner) instead of the not-that-cheap National Express airport-hotel bus.  What a woman.  The last few hours of our last day in Blighty were spent alternating between bar and bath, my last chance to drink some proper ale in a long time.  I ended the night watching Question Time with John Lydon (well, he was on the show, not in my hotel room, thankfully).  I shall miss such forthright, take-no-cr@p attitudes.  I fear this will be missing in the US.

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For Queen and country

Anyone who knows me well will know that I’m not patriotic in the slightest when it comes to Blighty.  But something weird has been happening in my subconscious.  Over the past few weeks I’ve been increasingly drawn to stereotypically English foods, like apple crumble & custard, proper fat chips & gravy etc.  Then last week I was out in our local town and I happened upon a group of Morris dancers (what is the collective noun?).  We don’t live in typical Morris dancing country.  It was like dear old Blighty was taunting me, with “look at what you’ll be missing!!”.  And I’ve just come back from a weekend in London, where I got a little misty-eyed about the guards on horseback, the soldiers marching outside the Palace, the London Symphony Orchestra playing in Trafalgar Square.  Hell, I even walked up The Mall twice just to see if HM was at home (she wasn’t, although I did spot the Chancellor of the Exchequer).  So, even though I don’t think I’m that attached to it, maybe I will miss the old place after all…..

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