After we checked in at the hotel, the kids and I headed into the city to go to the International Spy Museum. We walked the couple blocks to the DuPont Circle Metro station, and while Alex easily added some money to his fare card that he uses all the time, I was having technical difficulties buying cards for Nikki and myself (difficulties in the sense that I wasn't understanding the system quickly enough for the impatient kiddos). After a couple failed attempts, the end result was that the machine ate a $10 bill. We were just working out "why", and "what to try next", when a Miss ________ [unfortunately I didn't catch her name, so I'll just call her Miss WMATA] came over from her monitoring booth to see if she could help. I said I thought we had it figured out now, thanks, but Nikki (the ever-assertive) told her the machine ate our $10. Miss W said "well, just follow me", and she took us to the booth where she filled out an envelope form which theoretically will get us our $10 back in the mail, and not only that, but she comped our ride by calling ahead to the Federal Triangle station where we were going, and told them she was sending us through and to let us out with no charge! She gave us a "secret" code number to repeat at the other end, but as it turned out, they didn't even ask for it. So that was all a pleasantly surprising experience with the Metro Authority!
On the other hand, the Spy Museum idea was a bust :-( By the time we got there it was about 4:00, and all the entry tickets were sold out for the day (I had expected maybe the "Operation Spy" tickets would be gone, but I hadn't thought about not being able to get in at all!) … we decided it must have been because of the Easter weekend. I still really want to go there, so we'll try to reserve tickets online next time, I guess (or get there earlier). Bah.
So we pondered what else we could find to do so late in the day, but yet still make it back to DuPont Circle for our 7:00 dinner reservation…. We spotted the National Portrait Gallery across the street, and although we weren't all that interested in it, we popped inside to try to find out the hours for the various Smithsonian museums, and a list to choose from. While inside, we headed out the opposite door, and found ourselves in this great courtyard [which I saw in this Sunday's newspaper was named to a list of 7 modern architectural wonders!]. My photo doesn't do it justice; you should check out the link for better pix.
So anyway, we looked at a map, and decided on the National Aquarium, having never been there, so I checked the Nav on my phone, and we struck out. When we found ourselves on Pennsylvania Ave, and at the proper end of it, I suggested we at least take a quick look at the White House, even if it would probably be impossible to get a tour (do they even do that any more?). So we trekked over there, and they had apparently just opened up the sidewalk which had been barricaded, so lots of people were swarming in to take photos through the wrought-iron fence. It's certainly a much different setup than when I was there in 1969 or so. More secure, I suppose, but also less American it seems to me. As you can maybe see in the photo, they were setting up for the big Easter Egg Hunt or whatever it is they do there on the lawn for Easter. We wondered to ourselves how kids get picked to participate in that? Sons and daughters of oil barons perhaps? 🙂
[Digression: I went to Washington DC as a child with my family in 1968 or 1969. I know we went for the cherry blossom festival because I've seen the photos, but the images I remember are: the changing colored lights in the fountain below our hotel window, standing in line to tour the White House, and not being able to go to the Washington Monument because of a "hippie" (per my Dad) protest there, where they were pulling over the flagpoles as I recall, but that may just be a child's eye…]
So, on to the National Aquarium… another bust. The sign said it was only open till 5:00, and by then it was about 4:30, but also it cost $5, not $0 like many things, so we didn't feel it would be worth it for 1/2 hour when it probably is no better than our Pittsburgh AquaZoo. Sooo, we decided on the Natural History Museum, having not been there for a while. Another bit of a trek, but I figured I was pre-working-off my dinner! Nikki recommended the nature photography display, which really was fantastic! In fact, I noticed Beanie had recently posted a bunch of these photos – you should check them out! In the gallery, they're all blown up to a very large and wonderful size – just astounding!
We also especially liked the skeleton exhibit (which I don't really recall from previous trips), and the insect zoo. After the gem & mineral exhibit, our feet were tired, and it was about time to find a Metro station and head back, which we were able to do uneventfully.