A Travellerspoint blog

Let it Snow, let it snow, let it snow...

...on the 11th week of DC

rain 4 °C

Today is snowing, YEAH!!! Luckily this weekend we escaped nasty weather. And what better way to spend my final weekend here in DC than with my nearest and dearest. So that is what I did. Mike came to visit!!

Bright and early (as in still dark early) Mike touched down here in DC. We met up and the tourist bonanza began! Mike had never been to DC before so we had our hands full of things to do. Friday morning first stop: Bureau of Engraving and Printing. After walking a full circle around the wrong building, we finally made it to the Benjamins (the highest denomination printed and in circulation). After they "showed me the money" (sorry, I couldn't resist) we wandered through 'the castle' of the Smithsonian Institution building before checking out an amazingly lifelike mammal exhibit at the Natural History Museum and pondering the possibility of stealing the Hope Diamond...any suggestions?? Don't feel bad, we couldn't come up with anything either. Lunchtime took us to the Ronald Reagan building and the Washington International Trade Center, one of my favorite little plazas in DC. Its really European looking, and its international, what about that doesn't have 'Monica' written all over it? The afternoon brought a trek up the the Basilica of the National Shrine and the largest basilica in the US. Its huge! The most amazing part about it though are is all the mosaic work. Every panel on the walls and ceilings is mosaic. And not the ancient, drab, cubist look. Lifelike portraits and stories in bright colors with crazy detail and incredible intricate design. It was incredible...thank you mom for the tip! Our last sight on the tourist map Friday was the Washington Monument. We rode the elevator up 500' (of the 555' 5 1/8" monument to the 1st prez) to check out the 360 degree view. Luckily it was really clear and we were able to see for miles in every direction; across the river to Virginia, down the mall to the capital and Maryland, south across the Tidal Basin and north up through all the neighborhoods! That night we made dinner and headed out to a party for the interns at my work where we (ahem, I mean I, just I, cause I am over 21 and that is the law) sipped wine and were pretty tame for a Friday night.

Saturday morning we decided to head to VA. First stop, one of my favorite places in the US outside CA; Alexandria or Old Town, as the locals call it. It was so cold and windy but we managed to warm up enough to stand outside and catch the end of the Scottish Christmas Walk. With more plaid than anyone could wish for, and even dogs in kilts, the Scots were in out in full force for a battle of the bagpipes. It was pretty neat, we thought we might have seen the Buchanan plaid but it was hard to tell because, lets be honest, they all pretty much look the same. We finished up there and headed back towards DC with a stop at Arlington National Cemetary. We arrived just in time to watch the changing of the guards at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier(s). On our journey westward, we next arrived in Georgetown where we checked out the campus, marveled at all the wonderful things at Dean & DeLuca and fantasized about our careers as organic farmers (mike) and chefs who cook with organicly farmed foods (me). It was getting to be about dinner time and we knew just where to go: Five Guys! When Austin was in CA for the wedding this summer he raved about the place as being better than In 'N Out. We figured anyone willing to insuld In 'N Out was going to need to back it up with something, so we went to see if there was anything behind his bragging. First off, they are different. In 'N Out is a very west coasty thing, fast food in style but natural and clean. I don't think Five Guys would claim either of those. I was satisfied but wouldn't want Five Guys instead of In 'N Out on any given day. We were pretty tired so we headed back home to rest up for a friend's birthdday party later that night.

Sunday was supposed to rain so we were out the door to hit up all the monuments and memorials. We walked past the White House to the Capitol Mall and started at the WWII memorial. Down the reflecting pool to the Lincoln Memorial, over to the Vietnam War memorial, over to Korea, around the Tidal Basin to FDR and Jefferson. We hopped on Metro to go over to Eastern Market before trekking up to the Capitol for a close-up. The weather started to turn poor so we headed into nearby Chinatown for lunch. We were pretty sightseed-out and decided to give ourselves a break and catch a movie. It was cold and rainy when we left so we headed home to warm up. Later we dined at Bistro du Coin, this great French place in Dupont Circle recommended by mom and dad...yummy!

Monday morning Mike finally got to sleep in on his 'vacation' as I headed to work for the morning. The afternoon was cold but we hoofed it to the zoo. The lack of people or time of day was great for us. We saw most of the animals out and about, feeding, playing and not being boring. That took up most of the afternoon and it was time to head back, round up mike's stuff, and send him off.

Not a bad way to spend a weekend if you ask me. Now I have seen Dad in NY, Mike in DC, I can't wait to see my Momma. I am looking forward to getting back, see you all soon and thanks for reading!

Posted by tuffchix 05:57 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Thanksgiving of a different kind

But still beautiful.

semi-overcast 7 °C

I can't claim that I started the trend, but this year family was all over. From the east to west and north and south. Desert to mountains, plains to forest, we were and are everywhere. When I realized I wasn't going to be able to come home for Thanksgiving this year, I knew I had to find some peaceful refuge where I would be able to keep myself busy and still get the feeling that I was celebrating the holiday. I have come to the conclusion that there will be times in my life that I won't be able to celebrate a particular event with ALL the people I love, so to do the best I can so that I can still enjoy the occasion, whatever it may be. This year, among other days, its Thanksgiving.

Thankfully I was invited by the Smiths to spend the weekend with them down at their beautiful house on the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay in Northern Neck, Virginia. After Thanksgiving dinner in northern Virginia with Smith family friends, Austin, Shirley and I drove down to Ophelia. It is one of many tiny little towns along the fingers separating the Chesapeake and the Potomac in Northumberland County. We arrived at night and I didn't really get to appreciate the beauty of their house and location until waking up in the morning to the beautiful views out the back of the creek, dock, and colorful trees on the far bank. It is fall right out of an L.L. Bean catalog here!

Friday morning we woke up, and decided to check out some of the little towns along water. The closest real town around her is called Kilmarnock and we decided to save it for last. Insted we drove to the edge of the water, parked on the water taxi just big enough to float 2 cars across the river onto the opposite bank. Next we drove through to Urbanna to have limeade at the soda fountain at an old drugstore, antique shop and check out the old general store which still sells a little bit of everything. On our way back through different towns all consisting of at least 1 Baptist churchs, adorable and huge houses, a few antique shops, somewhere selling fishing bait, and very few people. When finally back in Kilmarnock, we mosied (sp?) around the town, grabbed coffee to warm up and headed back to the house for leftover turkey and stuffing dinner. Relaxing in the sun room with the moon reflecting off the water made it incredibly bright outside and after soaking in the hot tub, headed to bed.

Saturday morning we woke up to a calm day on the water. We layered up, loaded up and headed out in Shirley's small fishing boat. Once out on the water (windchill was about -500 degrees) we made it to the Chesapeake and onto shore for a stroll on the beach. Then back into the jette (sp?) for a completely fruitless..errrr, fishless, fishing trip. I got to drive the boat for a bit before docking, cleaning it out and heading back up to the house. Shirley and I spent the afternoon raking leaves and feeding the outdoor fire. Austin's girlfriend came down in the afternoon and we hopped on the little ferry again to check out Reedsville and watch the gorgeous sunset on the water.

That evening we were having oysters. That meant pulling up the oyster beds from the dock ourselves, picking out all the huge ones (not kidding, no oyster I ever eat will match these ones!), rinsing, grilling, shucking, seasoning and sucking them down! So good. Serioously. The bigger the better is my motto with these oysters. Wine and oysters followed by chocolate, games and the hot tub could not have made a better night. It really has been so nice to be out of the city, out of the dorm, away from work and in a family setting in a gorgeous place. Shirly has been so incredible welcoming and hospitable and I have really let myself relax, realize that no matter how much I wanted to I wasn't going to magically appear in Tahoe with the rest of my family and actually enjoy this time. It feels refreshing and like a nice wind down to the last couple months.

Sunday was really relaxing. Church in the morning, football in the afternoon, broken up by a little reading, maybe some leftover pumpkin pie and all with a beautiful view of the water...rough life, I know. The drive back to DC was short and I was back to 'normal' life in no time.

I get ready to head back to California in a couple weeks, but not before Mike comes out next weekend!!!

Posted by tuffchix 21:20 Archived in USA Tagged boating Comments (0)

The Holidays are here...

semi-overcast 10 °C

Coming off a fabulous weekend in New York, work was anything but exciting. Especially with the prospect of research and paper writing (my last college paper!!!!!) over the weekend. Fortunately I have perfected the art of procrastination and found plenty of other things to do with my time.

Last week was pretty low key here. Its getting pretty cold which is just an excuse for me to finally bundle up in all the clothes I have been waiting 4 years to wear (ok, thats a lie. There is no way clothes from 5 years ago still fit, but its an excuse to buy the clothes I have always wanted but never needed to wear in always-sunny-and-warm San Diego. I'm not complaining. Really). One chilly night Katie, a co-worker and I went to the screening at the really great Landmark theatre. The film was a short documentary on the South African educational transition from high school to college or work called Testing Hope. The filmmaker, Molly Blank, was there to talk about the film and answer question. Pretty neat, but the real selling point for this theatre (especially when the screenings like this are free) is the gourmet chocolate (calling all Becky's to the E Street Theatre!!!), wine and beer they sell at the concession. You can also flavor your popcorn with any assortment of gourmet flavored salts...aka don't eat dinner before the show!

Friday wrapped up the week nicely. In the morning Meredith, my boss, and I attended an invite-only (oh la la!) award ceremony being presented to a doctor from Sudan. The Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Center presents one every year and this year I got to go and sit among the likes of Mia Farrow, Danny Glover, Ethel, Ed and Kerry Kennedy! It was in this gorgous senate room (yes, that is exactly where all your dearly departed tax dollars go) with its ornate and intricate ceilings, tapestries and a fully catered reception. I headed out of work early to enjoy a relaxing evening of "research" which is what I am not calling sitting in front of a movie with my papers and books spread out on top of me. Note, I didn't say I was looking at any of those materials.

Saturday afternoon I paid for my Friday evening laziness with my eyes glued to the computer screen..as if that isn't what I do most days at work, happy friggin' weekend! I cranked out a few pages and called it a night. My roommate and I headed out that evening for some winter wonderland fun. The National Gallery of Art sculpture garden covers its huge fountain with an ice rink in the summer so we bundled up in our gloves, scarves and coats (mostly for that wintery effect, its not actually that cold) and amused ourselves for an hour by skating in circles...the things we find fascinating??!!??

Sunday was also relaxing. Some paper-writing, book-reading, movie-watching, and paper-re-writing (thanks to my computers profound hatred directed at me).

Monday evening I stayed late at work to follow up on some not-so-hot job prospects in CA. Its really hard to smile your way out of young and inexperienced over the phone...I guess my shmoozing will be put on hold until I can meet face to face.

On a brighter note I am off to Thanksgiving festivities with the Smith's on Thursday. And now that Thanksgiving is here and black Friday is upon us, I can safely listen to Christmas music without ridicule or scrutiny!

A shout out to the Taylors and Mom for my festive cards. I love you all and I'm thinking about all you guys too! Happy 21st Steven (not that you read this) and did Audrey get her package yet??? Happy Turkey Day!!!

Posted by tuffchix 20:29 Archived in USA Tagged armchair_travel Comments (0)

New York!

New York!

semi-overcast 1 °C

I finally made it to New York City!!! Thursday afternoon I jetted out of work to catch the Chinatown bus from DC to NY. In between reading and snoozing, the view out the window on the drive up the eastern seaboard captured fall perfecetly. As I checked off Delaware and New Jersey on my list of 'States Visited' I got to see a true east coast fall. I arrived in NYC at dark and could just see Miss Liberty lit up across the skyline (which looks exactly like the pictures). Dad was there on business and after his meetings we met up for a delicious steak dinner at Capitol Grill right next to our hotel in midtown on E 42nd Street right next to Grand Central Station (also as beautiful as the pictures). After a delicious dinner, and enough protein to tie me over until Thanksgiving turkey, Dad and I made it back to the hotel (a whole 3 doors away) to relax and recharge for the Friday's activities.

Friday started with a tour of the UN building. We saw where the UN bodies sit and deliberate, learned about the UN and all its organizations, some of the structure, and its activities. Our tour guide was really knowledgable and I would highly recommend this tour if you have even the slightest interest in international affairs (plus its cool to say you left the country because technically the UN is situated on international territory and you are not in the United States while at the UN!) Then we headed down to NYMEX in the World Financial Center downtown. NYMEX is the New York Mercantile Exchange and houses the trading floor for things like crude oil. We were there to meet with Anu, the director or public relations for NYMEX. After Dad got his work stuff out of the way, I was able to pick her brain for anything useful about getting into and being in PR (financial culture and career development all in one day!!!). Then Dad was off to more meetings and I got to play tourist.

The World Financial Center is just east, along the East River, from Ground Zero. My first stop was taking a look at the World Trade Center site which is currently a literal pit of constructions equipment. You have to peek through holes in fences and peer through scaffolding surrounding the concave city block. From the river (as I later saw) it is blatantly obvious that the skyline is missing the towers. There is a huge hole where they should be making New York look incomplete.

From Ground Zero, I walked down Broadway past Trinity Church and its eery cemetery. I crossed Wall Street and made my way down to the Staten Island Ferry building where I hopped on the ferry to get a view of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the New York City skyline. I can say I stepped foot on Staten Island but I can't say I've seen much of it as I just hopped on the return ferry as soon as I got to the dock..I was just in it for the view. Once back in Manhattan, I made my way uptown (stopping ever so briefly to shop--Mom, I got you a present!) before taking the subway (New York has a long way to go to have their subways be considered state-of-the-art, or even clean for that matter...no offense NY) to change, bundle up and head to Union Square (NY) to get Dad out of another meeting (and maybe a Bellini in the process) before heading to Times Square to catch RENT on Broadway!!! We were lucky and able to get tickets for Friday night, just hours before all the stagehands went on strike and Broadway theatres were dark. RENT was phenomenal, everyone has amazing voice and all the characters were exactly like I had imagined (from listening obssessively to the soundtrack; both Broadway original and film). The day was almost perfect except for the drenching pre-show rain and a little mishap with Dad's portfolio (still locked in the Nederlander theatre in NYC) All in all, it was a great day!

Saturday was just as exciting, I got Dad all to myself as all the meetings were over, the suit was hung up and we could just explore the city. Dad, having 'done' NY before steered and I got to go along for the ride..err, walk. We walked to Times Square to see it in the day (equally as flashy and obnoxiously bright as the night) and to venture into Toys R Us, the Hershey store and to give Dad his first taste of M&M World (what color M&M would you be??). But not before passing the Grandiose Ney York City Public Library, Bryant Park (a tree lined oasis in the middle of metropolis where you can ice skate for free!!). Then we succumbed to the true tourist persona and waited in line to go up to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building for THE best views of the entire city, all the surrounding burrows, New Jersey, Staten Island and anything else you want to see for miles in every direction.

After that ordeal (and yes, its an ordeal. A sort of linear cattle herding process up 86 stories, and then back down again) we subway-ed down to SOHO (the area south of Houston street, pronounces House-ton) for a walk through an actual neighborhood and a pizza stop at America's first pizzeria; Lombardi's. Pizza and beer for lunch with Dad...kind of ideal! We walked through SOHO and all its glorious shopping and interesting food stops; you can get any flavor of rice pudding you want at Rice to Riches on Spring Street. Continuing over and up to Greenwich Village for some hot cider before stopping to watch the street performers at Washington Square Park (with the faux arc de triomphe at the base of 5th Street) before walking the 50 block back up to midtown. Walking really is the best way to see the city. We saw Gramercy Park, the only remaining private park in NY where you acutally need a key to get in the gate. And Pete's taver, the oldest continuously operating bar in NY city with the original 40 ft. bar and old hangout for Dad's literary heros! Then up through all the different neighborhoods (the few blocks between 25th and 35th on Lexington Ave reek of Curry...delicious!) and back to our hotel to rest our little tootsies.

Saturday night we headed next door to Grand Central Station's famous Oyster Bar for dinner and to people watch. Grand Central is beautiful. Its marble, high ceilings painted with a huge map of the constellations, and chandelier really do make it grand!

Sunday was our relaxing day. The sun came out for our walk in the park. We walked up 5th Avenue to Rockefeller Center where the tree was standing but surrounded by scaffolding and NBC Studios. Past all the shops and the Plaza Hotel (closed for renovation). To warm my gloved and still freezing hands, Dad and I split a bag of roasted Chestnuts and (I) marveled at all the holiday cheer...I just love Christmas time in big cities!! We made it to the park for a beautiful walk through 'the mall' where Harry met Sally on a park bench and through Strawberry Fields dedicated to John Lennon, past every dog, horse and buggy, and orange, golden, auburn colored trees, ice arena, family outing, jogger and park maintenence truck before stopping for brunch at Tavern on the Green in the east side of the park.

The Tavern is decorated in this really ornate almost gaudy french colonial style with the same ecclecticism you would find at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, but the food was phenomenal. It set up like an old carriage house with different dining rooms. The one we were in was a beatiful atrium in the middle of courtyard with lots of light and a view of everything around us.

The rest of the afternoon was lazy as we walked back up 5th as the Veteran's Day Parade crowd dispersed, stopping in just a few shops to marvel (Tiffany & Co. anyone?). That afternoon we saw a movie over in Times Square before lazily making it back to the hotel, ordering my favorite matzo ball soup from the hotel and packing up for the trip home monday morning.

Well, if you have made it this far, you are better than I. I even had to take breaks in writing its so long so, thanks. New York is a wonderful city. Very lively and bustling but still with its oases scattered throughout as a reprieve from all the craziness...and it looks just like the pictures. I had a wonderful weekend and it was great to be able to spend that time with Dad. Looking forward to finishing up the next few days before making it down to VA for Thanksgiving with Steph's in-laws!

Posted by tuffchix 06:36 Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

The end of the beginning...

...and the beginning of the end.

semi-overcast 11 °C

This past week was different from the ones before. Unlike the craziness of the weeks leading up to last, work had died down, I finally feel like I know my way around, things seem familiar, and I'm just kinda into the swing of things. The week itself kept me pretty busy. I got a chance to meet Bob McCarty, the director of the National Federation for Catholic Youth Ministry and the head honcho of all the youth ministry stuff that goes on on the national level. I wanted to hear his take on youth ministry 'from the top' and not that I have any clearer picture of where it fits into my life in the future, but perspective is always good. He is just a really genuine guy and runs some really great programs and loves life...who wouldn't wanna know that guy?

Tuesday was when the Halloween festivities began. I got my candy pumpkin from Mom (thanks momma!) and with my new sugar high walked down 17th street to the 'Mardi Gras' of DC where the drag queens dress up and participate in a parade and high heel race. If I was about 200 Lbs. bigger and 2 feet taller (I would be very unhappy) but able to see everything going on. After taking pictures over the tops of everyone's heads, getting a feel (literally) for everyone squished up and pushing around me, I headed home to work on my Halloween costume.

Wednesday was Halloween and I made sure to wear orange and black, a kickback to the Santa Rosa High School pride days, and headed to work for meetings and the office celebratory bash! That evening adorned in my recently finished Queen of Hearts get-up, make-up done, hair so ratted and caked with hairspray I looked like a cross between the behive days of the 60's and the royal up-do's of Marie Antoinette and the like. Ladies, haispray has managed to break the laws of physics and allow hair to actually defy gravity-- quite a feat for one Halloween Wednesday. Some girls from work, aka the Cheshire Cat and the White Rabbit and I headed to Georgetown to be herded through the masses of people coralled onto the narrow sidewalks lining the bars on either side of M Street. Alice bailed (that absent-minded ding bat never learned anything!) but people still could guess who we were and the night turned out to be lots of fun!

Perhaps the most exciting part of me week, and definitely the thing pulling me through the groggy mornings and long quasi-uneventful work days was anticipating Marty's visit!!! He arrived on Friday morning and I went on my first driving adventure here in DC (people suck at driving here) before showing him the apartment and the city. He has been here before so it was really nice to not have to cram it all in and instead we just got to relax, catch up, hang out, eat out, see friends, hang out with his sister, and just be together. Needless to say it was wonderful. It was great to have him come here, see a little chunk of what my life is like and still tell me to go out and enjoy myself while I am here. I am not a big fan of the whole distance thing, but even the short amount of time we got (he left Sunday morning early) was just enough of a refresher and I think this next month will fly by.

This week has started much better already. I am much more relaxed about enjoying myself, doing things that I like and make me happy and looking forward, but not too far forward, to the upcoming fun. This Thursday I'm off to meet Dad in New York for my first trip EVER to the land of Broadway showtunes, over priced merchandise, yellow taxis and eccentricity at its finest...I can't wait!

Posted by tuffchix 11:17 Archived in USA Tagged events Comments (0)

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