First, there was timing. I had been planning this trip for about 2 months, first inquiring about my sister’s plans for Thanksgiving. When I found out that DC was very close to Durham, NC, I decided I’ll go visit Derek as I had promised years ago. However, work got really busy and for those who know me, I tend to procrastinate a lot. I also had a friend visiting me the weekend before Thanksgiving, so that added additional constraints. After coordinating with my sister and Derek, what should’ve been planned months ago, was only finalized a little over a week before my trip.
Second, being someone mindful of money, flying anywhere during Thanksgiving has always been painful. Apparently $650 total to fly from Seattle to Durham to DC and back is actually a decent price given this was during Thanksgiving.
My sister is currently getting her masters at Duke. I figured since I hardly get to see my little sister these days, this would be a good time. Plus it gave me an excuse to travel. Durham is a pretty quiet town, but that could be because I went during Thanksgiving and all the Duke students have gone home. The Duke campus was small, but was really pretty and used a lot of old architecture (I don’t know from which period). They also had a really beautiful botanical garden.
We went and saw Harry Potter 7, something about the deathly hallows. The movie was fun and the acting has definitely improved, but I was never really a big fan of Harry Potter and I guess the movie didn’t affect me much. It was enjoyable otherwise.
For Thanksgiving, we were invited to some other engineering student group’s party and had a rather swell time. They had tons of food, too much in fact, but I guess Thanksgiving is all about abundance and overeating. Met some interesting people there.
On one of the other days, we went and checked out Falls Lake, about 40 minutes NE of Durham. The lake was pretty, but we sort of got lost hiking and trust me, it’s not fun trying to find your way back when the sun’s setting. We managed to get lost several times, trying to look for the little white dots on trees that identified the way back. After a couple mis-turns, we finally made our way out of the forest.
Did you know for people who live in DC, you put Washington as your city and DC (or District of Columbia) as your state?
For those who saw my Facebook status earlier, you knew I was extremely fond of their subway system. I wouldn’t say it was as good as Hong Kong’s octopus system, but it was really up there in convenience and usability. I was flying into Baltimore and Derek had sent me his spare keys along with a SmarTrip card several days before I flew out. The SmarTrip card is similar to Seattle’s Orca card or Hong Kong’s Octopus card where you can preload it with money and use it for any public transportation.
The 2nd day I was there, I visited a couple of the Smithsonian museums. Did you know all the Smithsonian museums are free? In fact I was told there were only 3 museums in all of DC that actually charged an entrance fee. These are not your dinky little museums, but world-class museums. I got to check out the Gallery of Art, Natural History, Air and Space, and Portrait Gallery. Due to time constraints, I had to briefly go through them and even then each museum took about 2-3hrs to complete. My favorite was the Natural History museum. While browsing through it, I had wished I could’ve visited here as a kid as I’m sure I would’ve enjoyed it much more. The thing I really liked about the Natural History museum is that you get to touch everything. Bones, rocks, … I mean with the museum’s target audience of kids of all ages, they were prepared for this. The Air and Space museum was really cool too, but it reminded me a lot of Boeing’s Museum of Flight in Seattle and maybe that’s why I was not as impressed.
Apparently in order to tour the White House, you have to request like 6 months in advance. The White House was also a lot smaller than I had imagined and less grandeur (from the outside). The Capitol Building gives tours every 15 or 30 minutes. Derek mention that we could try and get a private tour from either my senator or representative. Unfortunately I forgot the names of either of my senators, but for some odd reason I remember California’s. I did remember my rep was Dave Reichart. We located his office in the directory. The people there were very nice. Unfortunately a private tour required 24hr notice in advance, but they were able to give us gallery passes to visit the House of Representative gallery. When the tour started, we were told they were still in session, but they must’ve ended sometime during our tour as we only got to see an empty gallery with a few pages.
The monuments were also really cool. Did you know that the stretch of grass between the Capitol and Lincoln’s memorial is called the mall. When Derek first mentioned the mall, I was a bit confused as I thought he was referring to a bunch of retail stores along that stretch of land. But nope, the mall is what they call that area. I didn’t get to check out all the monuments and memorials as by the time I got to the Vietnam Memorial, the sun was setting. I really wanted to see the statue they put up for the Iwojima soldiers (after watching Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers), but apparently that wasn’t located at the WWII memorial. Derek says that statue is located in some circle, but we never got a chance to visit it.
We also did a Segway tour of the city and that was extremely fun. It was my first time on the Segway, but it was rather intuitive to learn. It was scary when I first got on it, but by the end of the tour, I was doing pretty well. I contemplated for a bit about getting my own Segway, but ultimately decided that it’s not for me, especially given where I lived. Maybe if I lived in the city or if I lived closer to work.
There is so much more to say, so much more I saw, so much more I wanted to do, but I won’t bore you with the details. For my Facebook friends, do check out the photo album (if it’s not up yet, it’ll be up shortly).
I was surprised with how much there is to do in DC. I’ve been there for 3 full days, and wished I could have stayed for at least a full week. That just means there’s a next visit. 😀