A blog about me and my adventure as an ex-pat.
Because someone told me to... Thank you Gaby.

Monday, June 10, 2013

a visit to Washington D.C.

We spent last weekend in Washington D.C. We have been planning to go since we moved here 2 years ago and we finally found a weekend, booked the flights and hotel and made our way to America's capital city.

Jeremy and I are planners. We like to plan and prepare and try to make sure we fill the whole weekend with as many activities as possible. You'd probably hate going on holiday with us if you are the laid back, see what happens kind of family!

So on a recent business trip Jeremy managed to read the whole of the Lonely Planet guide to Washington D.C.! And it paid off! We had a wonderful weekend, a plan for morning and afternoon activities, we didn't 'waste' any time and we saw everything we wanted to see.

There was so much to see that we knew we couldn't possibly see it all in one weekend which also took the pressure off. I even managed to suggest a lazy hour on the National Mall (between the Washington monument and the Capitol building) eating ice creams and playing frisbee whilst soaking up the sunshine.

We arrived on Friday afternoon and once we had unpacked, we jumped into a cab and headed for the National Museum of Natural History. All of the Smithsonian museums in D.C. are free! This one was huge and the kids enjoyed seeing the massive T-rex and other dinosaur skeletons.
Having lived in a small town for the last two years, I actually found the crowds a little overwhelming. People stepping on your toes, jostling for a table in the cafe and long lines to even get into the museum. But it is all worth it. And I am glad we went to the museum on the Friday afternoon because they were relatively quiet. The kids had a lot of fun walking round with my iphone snapping pictures... 117 to be exact! Most of them need deleting but I can't quite bring myself to do that yet. I loved their interest in the camera though and even let them use my dlsr. I figure if they are interested in the camera, they will let me take more photos of them.

We had just enough time before dinner to walk over to the White House. Even the rain could not dampen our enthusiasm at being able to catch a glimpse of one of the most famous buildings on earth. The kids did really well to walk all the way (it took us about 40 minutes from the museum) in the rain but Toby's face said it all - he was grinning from ear to ear (he had been asking constantly about going to see it for the whole journey to D.C.!) when we stood on the railings and waved to the President (he actually wasn't home but don't tell the kids that!).

On Saturday we bought tickets for the big bus ride and spent the day hopping on and off the various tour buses. They kindly gave us plastic ponchos when it started to rain which came in handy for the rest of the morning! The tickets were quite expensive ($35 per adult and our kids were free as they are under 5) but I would highly recommend it as a way of seeing everything. The tour went all over downtown D.C. and over the bridge including the White House, Lincoln Memorial, the Arlington cemetery, the Pentagon and all of the Smithsonian museums.
We stopped at the Lincoln memorial to walk up the steps and take in the view. Plus we managed to locate the 'I have a dream' Martin Luther King Jr plaque halfway up. The kids learnt about him at school, though Charlotte was convinced that her teacher was the one with the dream! It was the view I had gone to Washington to see. The one from the movies. Sometimes life here feels like a dream come true!

In the afternoon we took time to 'chill out' in the sunshine. It is quite a walk down the National Mall - the grassy bit between buildings - so we just did half of it. We walked from the Washington memorial all the way down to the Capitol building, stopping for ice creams and a carousel ride on the way. It's amazing how you can motivate tired legs with the promise of a treat! Some people said they couldn't believe we walked all of that way with the kids (and no buggy) but I loved being able to walk as we have to drive everywhere here. I felt it in my legs the next day and we did end up carrying the kids part way back to the hotel but it was great to be able to stroll down the mall, taking in all of the sights.

We had a fun stop at the White House gift shop. Jeremy wanted a small souvenir for his desk at work and I wanted to pick up our usual fridge magnet, post cards and maybe a picture to frame. We have a wall of travel pics in our bedroom - I love looking at them all and remembering the adventures we have been on.
Anyways we spotted a photo opportunity at the back of the shop. A mock oval office with a member of staff taking photos for you if you spent at least $5 in the shop. We could not pass up the chance to get a cheesy photo or two so we made our purchases and headed back there. It was almost 6pm and the kids were not being naughty, just a little too over stimulated I would say! But it all worked out OK and I am sure we will have a good laugh at the photos in years to come!

Sunday was spent at the zoo - another free attraction. I was very excited to see the Giant Pandas. I remember watching the kids' show 'newsround' in the '80s and hearing of the plight of the Giant Panda and falling in love with the cute black and white babies. So to actually be able to see two them in real life was amazing. We caught them at feeding time so were able to go into their house and see them chomping down on bamboo shoots.

Charlotte has just joined me whilst I am writing this and wants to help write the story. She says she loved Washington D.C. Her favourite part was visiting the White House, riding the carousel on the National Mall, posing for photos in the mock Oval office at the gift shop and seeing the Pandas at the zoo.

The kids were pretty tired by Sunday afternoon so we decided not to try and do any more sights, saving those for the next time we visit. We will definitely go to D.C. again and hopefully as soon as next year. There are so many more museums to visit. We especially want to do the Air and Space museum where you can touch a real moon rock. I think Toby will love it in another 12 months.

But for now we have a weekend full of memories (and a suitcase full of laundry to wash!) and a summer of weekends away to look forward to.


If you are interested in a trip to D.C. here is what we did:
We flew with Delta (because we are building up air miles with them and we each had $100 that they gave us to say sorry for the 4 hour delay on our last home leave trip) and the flights were great. Door to door it took us about 5.5 hours which we thought was pretty good.
We stayed at the Embassy Suites hotel on New York Ave in the business district, which was only about 6 blocks from the White House (a 20 minute walk). We have stayed in Embassy suites before and would highly recommend them if you travel with family. Jeremy has a Hilton Honors card so we got upgraded to a nice spacious corner suite. We had our own room and the kids shared the living room. Charlotte stretched out on a double sofa bed and Toby was quite happy to snuggle up on the sofa cushions laid out on the floor and covered in an extra sheet. The room also had a small kitchen with fridge and a dining table. The perfect place to come back to after a busy day in the city. 
The hotel had a pool and complimentary breakfast, plus they looked after our suitcase on the last day. 

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