DC day 1

So the boys and I traveled to Washington, DC for spring break. Our plan was to meet Mom there and spend the week sightseeing and generally having a high old time.

Our flight SJC-ORD-DCA was delayed by nearly 3 hours: the inbound aircraft was delayed by weather, then diverted to LAX for a mechanical. By the time we got to DCA, it was about 0115 Sunday morning. This was not my favorite. However, we’d planned to stay at the L’Enfant Plaza hotel because of its location, so it was super easy to get from the airport to the hotel. We checked in and got into bed so fast I’m surprised the other guests weren’t disturbed by sonic booms.

The next morning, we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant. It was only mediocre, sad to say. In fact, the best thing about the hotel (as I write this on day 5 of our trip) has been its location: it’s right above a Metro station and a short walk from most of the major DC attractions, including the Smithsonian complex, the Washington Monument, and the Holocaust Museum. The staff is friendly, and the hotel is in decent shape, but it’s not a star property. Anyway, enough hotel reviews and on to the good stuff.

After breakfast, we walked past the Smithsonian buildings along Independence Avenue to the Washington Monument. We weren’t able to get tickets for the full tour, but the monument itself is stunning up close, and the surrounding grounds help give a sense of its scale (being able to see it from practically everywhere in downtown DC doesn’t hurt either.) The boys had fun people-watching (as did I); as diverse as the Bay Area is, the tourist-y areas of DC are even more so.

A short walk later, we arrived at the Holocaust Memorial Museum. I can’t adequately explain how sobering and moving this museum is. I wanted the boys to see it so they had some sense of the history behind the Nazi regime, and I think they did. Matt and Tom more-or-less sprinted through, not unexpected at their ages, but David and Mom kept a more leisurely pace. I can’t say this was a highlight of the trip, because it’s certainly not a feel-good kind of place, but it was probably the most educational (and certainly the most emotionally resonant) of all our stops.

After another short walk, we arrived at the National Museum of American History. Paydirt! We had lunch at the Stars and Stripes Cafe; it was well-rated in Mom’s guidebook and we were all hungry, so that went well. The rest of the museum was fantastic. There’s a superb exhibition of Lincoln memorabilia, in which I was reminded that at the time of his election he was viewed as a bumpkin from the far west– Kentucky and Illinois being far west at that point in American history. There are too many other wonderful exhibits and collections here to list, though I would be remiss if I didn’t mention “The Star-Spangled Banner,” which contains the original flag that flew over the Battle of Baltimore and inspired Francis Scott Key. (My second favorite: “The American Presidency: A Glorious Burden.” The boys were commenting last night on how gray President Obama has gotten since his inauguration, and now we know why.)

We came back to the hotel and hit the pool, which inexplicably closes at 6pm each day. That didn’t stop the boys from enjoying the water, or me from enjoying the sun. Given that most of the museums and attractions close at either 5pm or 5:30pm, this isn’t terrible, but it would be nice to have a bit more flexibility.

For dinner, we trekked to Ben’s Chili Bowl, which has been in the same location since 1958. The chili fries were excellent; the chili itself was awfully good too, though it was quite spicy. Dinner really reinforced the value of the Metro, too; it was simple to go from the hotel to dinner and back again without the hassle of parking or getting lost. The milkshakes at Ben’s are excellent too.

After that, it was time for bed! Everyone was tired from our late night, so no one complained and we all slept really well. More tomorrow…

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