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Sunday, March 31, 2013


History Muse in Rotunda of Capitol

One advantage to our hotel location is its proximity to monuments, museums,and places of interest.  One disadvantage is because of its proximity to these things many businesses are closed on places for breakfast.  Thankfully we often travel with Jenna and her innate ability to have things she wishes appear, like a Starbucks.  Having discovered the spot we had breakfast by the pound was closed yesterday, the girls said they wanted Starbucks. I said okay and started hitting Google maps on the increasingly handy Galaxy S-III.

"Dad, there is one down here."

"How do you know?"

"I saw it."

How could you, we've never been here or walked or driven in this area.  Let me look on the map."

"There it is...."

Sure enough there was the sign, nestled into a hotel up a street we had not been on, Starbucks.  As we sipped coffee and munched blueberry muffins our topic of discussion was Dottie.  Dottie has been a member of the Smith family since Jenna was a baby.  A small stuffed elephant who spent her early life being transported by having her trunk securely held by Jenna's mouth while she called around the house, Dottie has been across the United States, from Hawaii to South Carolina, Minnesota to Oklahoma, Tennessee to Nevada.  Over the years Dottie would go off on her own vacations to reappear after a few days in a FedEx envelope or under a bed.  It seems Dottie's adventurous spirit has once again gotten ahold of her as it seems she stayed on JetBlue flight 300 when we disembarked in the early hours of Friday morning.

A call to JetBlue lost and found at Dulles Airport turned up no Dottie so at Starbucks we discussed our next steps to bring her home to a very distressed Jenna.

After breakfast we headed back to our hotel where we were picked up by my Uncle Tony and Aunt Mary for a visit to Mount Vernon.  They had arranged a special tour also incredibly beautiful weather for us.  After snow last week, all the locals were  out on the bike trails and walking paths along the Potomac.

If I were to have a second career it would be to teach American history, more specifically our history from pre-Revolution through the Civil War.  My daughters either benefit or suffer from this passion and hobby of mine, depending on point of view.

The opportunity to walk where George Washington walked, go up in the  cupola and survey the Maryland countryside across the Potomac to the east and the Virginia countryside and Mount Vernon lands to the west as Washington did, to see the hogs, sheep and oxen that were direct hereditary descendents of the livestock bred by Washington, fills me with awe, wonder and gratitude.

Following our tour we had a nice lunch at the restaurant on premises (delicious pulled pork sandwich) we headed back to Washington along the Potomac, through Alexandria where we were dropped off at the Capitol for our 3:00 tour.  "There is the 1.2 billion dollar visitor center, you paid for it you should spend some time in it," was the uncly advice.

The tour comprises mostly of commentary on the statues and art work in the Rotunda, which is very interesting but makes for a shorter tour than I imagined.

Following the tour and visit to the gift shop (here is a great lesson Congress and the federal government learned from the private sector, in this case Disney  having you exit rides into themed gift shops) we walked a few blocks to the metro and spent several minutes trying to figure out the rate cards.  Leslie discerned the instructions and produced four rate cards for a brief ride to the stop for the Smith Son Ian (we have now all adopted Jenna's naming of the institute).

When we exited the subway platform and climbed the steps to the station we were in the middle of a huge throng of people passing through the turnstiles going both directions.  Exiting the station and coming above ground in the middle  the Mall, it was filled  with people, and hundreds of them flying kites.

Our objective was the Natural History Museum, Jenna really wanted to see the Hope Diamond and Blaire really wanted to see dinosaurs.  We thought we would have a time church as it was approaching five o'clock and the posted closing time of five-thirty, but once inside we saw they delayed closing until seven thirty to accommodate the crowds.  The crowds in the museum were easily three times more so than our visit the day before at the American History Museum.  We pushed through to the Hope Diamond in its setting made by Harry Winston (either the History Channel or NatGeo has a great show on the designing and making of the setting).

As we worked our way towards the dinosaurs we split up with Leslie pairing up with Jenna and me tagging along with Blaire as she studied the fossils, bones and skeletons.  Rapidly losing steam, I found some energy by watching my daughter as she so intently read about what she was seeing and thinking, "who knows, maybe this will be the spark that sets her off on a career as a paleontologist."

After our wandering we located Leslie and Jenna taking a breather on a bench and headed to the gift shop where we purchased Stampy, newly named pink elephant who is no replacement for Dottie, but a void filler for now.

Announcing my fatigue and the possibility of an on-set of irritability, and it being after six o'clock, I suggested we find dinner.  Several blocks later we sat down at Harry's Bar (which is also Harriet's Restaurant) and quaffed a mug (possibly more than one) cold beer and felt considerably better and ready for what was an adequate but easily forgettable meal.

After our walk back to the hotel Jenna got me the contact information for the JetBlue lost and found back at Long Beach airport.  That led to information that the plane we were on may have headed to either West Palm Beach or New York JFK--providing positive information for Jenna since we will be at JFK next Sunday for our flight home.  

Our vacation is now also a quest for our lost little, tattered elephant.

Smith's with our hosts Uncle Tony and Aunt Mary

HAR, Hogs of the American Revolution, not as prestigious as the Daughter's of the
American Revolution, but tastier

Late afternoon kite flying on the Mall

President Reagan, one of the two statues in the
Capitol from California.  Every state gets two,
California's other statue is Father Junipero Serra


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