Friday, April 29, 2005

Washington, DC

We spent a few days in Washington, DC, as tourists. We stayed at Courtyard (by Marriott), near the Convention Center and Chinatown. They had a very nice VIP lounge with complimentary snacks and beverages. We enjoyed a couple of nice Chinese restaurants that were within walking distance, and had a few drinks at the excellent happy hour offered by McCormick & Schmick's across the street. The highlight of the trip was a guided tour of the Capitol Building led by Senator Elizabeth Dole's aide, Lauren, just for the two of us. We saved a lot of time by having an insider take us around. Definitely, try to make arrangements with your senator or congressman before you visit Washington. We took the Tourmobile to get around the Mall, with stops at the memorials and Arlington Cemetary. We missed out on going up the Washington Monument as the free tickets sold out immediately that morning. The Monument had just reopened to the public at the beginning of the month so maybe there was a lot of pent up demand. Next time, we'll probably get reserved tickets for a $2 service charge. We did get an excellent view of the Washington Monument from our plane as we arrived at Reagan National Airport so I don't think we missed much. We had a nice lunch at the Hotel Washington which has an excellent view of the Washington Monument and the White House. I've been on the White House tour before, and frankly I found it disappointing as they only let you see the section that's dedicated to tourists, so we didn't bother this time. The Capitol Building tour felt much closer to the action. The Lincoln Memorial is still one of my favorite sites, but I also enjoyed the Jefferson Memorial, which had been closed for renovations last time I was in DC. We did the usual museums and such -- some of them are trying to be a bit too "relevant" and flashy for my tastes. I'd prefer that the The National Museum of American History put more effort into actual history, rather than entertainment, but that's just me. The trip to the National Zoo was worth the walk to see the pandas. We also enjoyed the US Botanic Garden, which is near the Capitol Building.