Archive for the ‘Sightseeing’ Category

spring garden tour
April 23, 2012

It’s crazy to me that as I write this post, it’s in the forties with an outside chance of snow later–blech.  Get me back to bed.

On Saturday, it was sunny and gorgeous and surprisingly, just on the verge of being humid.  I had stumbled across some article advertising the annual White House Spring Garden Tour, and quickly harassed asked my friends if they wanted to go.  Long story short: most said no, two said yes, alarms were set, hangovers ignored, blah blah blah helllooooo garden party.

We showed up at the little visitor’s kiosk at EIGHT AM to get our tickets, and were astounded to see a line of extremely motivated tourists winding through the streets.  Luckily, after stuffing their tickets into their fanny packs, the rabid tourists sped away on their Segways to go snap up all the dehydrated ice cream from the Air & Space museum so that they would have enough sustenance tonot walk upthe metro escalators.  Ahem.

Guys, this tour is pretty legit.  I can understand why so many tourists seemed to plan their vacations around it–you can literally step right up to the White House.  Despite the fact that it must be the biggest security nightmare of the year, it’s a really amazing way to feel a connection with the daily, more mundane aspects of the President’s life.  The lawn was littered with pretty, educational signs showing past presidents and their wives planting trees–did you know that almost every tree on the White House grounds is commemorative for something?  It’s weird to think that if, say, the Oklahoma City bombing had never happened, this pretty whatever-tree behind us here wouldn’t exist.

lis, me, colleen

Look at this view!!  I had no idea that the monuments all lined up like this. 

We all noticed immediately that the gardens felt completely secluded from the city.  They were quiet, and there were actually a fair amount of places tucked away that would be completely hidden from any public eye.  In our little pamphlet we read that President Ford had built a swimming pool somewhere–and even though we looked, we didn’t see a single sign of it.  Sneaky sneaky, Gerald. 

This is the Rose Garden, site of some press conferences and countless photos of pensive, pacing Presidents.  (Alliteration!) 

Oh heeeyyyyy, Barack.  Let’s hang out because literally, I’m on your balcony.  Whattup.

The Presidential/National/Royal Band was on hand, playing all kinds of patriotic songs and even a little jazz.  Without a doubt, they put the party into garden party. 

We stopped by Mrs. O’s vegetable garden, which I actually found fascinating.  It was small, but our trusty pamphlet said it produced over A THOUSAND POUNDS of produce it’s first year.  One third of all the produce goes to a local charity that helps feed the hungry here in Washington.  In a little corner of the garden were plants that had been grown from heirloom seeds sent over from Monticello.  What a neat way to incorporate a little founding father action into your veggies. 

Oh look, Barack, now I’m standing on your putting green. 

lis, colleen, me

I am happy to say that my hair was doing a really lovely thing where it greases itself back so as to suggest that I am bald with a seven inch forehead, so we will never discuss these photos again.  But on another note, how pretty are my friends? 

Okay, enough about the friends, back to me, this is my blog, no?  I spent the rest of Saturday deep conditioning my hair (no joke, takes two hours), realizing that I need new clothes for spring (just kidding, Mom), and aggressively pursuing a new man who may or may not now be my boyfriend.  You will never know because then I would have to show him the above pictures in which I imitate a greaser with a never-ending forehead. 

Have a great week.

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oak hill cemetery
February 27, 2012

As I start gearing up for the Cherry Blossom 10 Miler round two (hopefully followed by a half marathon in Charlottesville a few weeks later!), I’ve been doing a lot of running along the Rock Creek parkway.  One of my turn-around points is this quaint little bridge, and a few weeks ago I noticed for the first time that the bridge actually lines the back side of a cemetery.  On each of my runs since then, I’ve been looking closer and closer trying to get more details of what lies behind the ivy-covered cemetery fence. 

Simply looking was not enough to satiate my curiousity, so I embarked on an intense Google search for more information.  The cemetery is actually called Oak Hill and is a sprawling, romantic place that was established in 1848 by Mr. Corcoran (of The Corcoran Gallery fame, which, p.s., has a STUNNING Degas exhibit in town right now).  The website describes the cemetery as “a major example of the 19th Century Romantic movement, the natural and not formal English garden, an acceptance and blending of nature rather than a geometrical imposition.” 

Of course, I had to visit.  I went on the first Friday I had off that offered decent weather, and was lucky that my friend who owns a real camera was interested in accompanying me.  (No more iPhone pictures, yay!) 

{click on any of the images to make them bigger!}

Oak Hill is beyond beautiful.  It has all these cracked stone paths and crumbling gravestones, and I think because it had been sunny all week, teeny little flowers were starting to bloom all over.  It was quiet in the way that places warranting respect tend to be, and I felt my mind immediately go calm.  There were intricate wrought iron benches tucked away throughout the cemetery, and I could easily picture myself on one of them, curled up with a book on a lazy Sunday afternoon.

In an eerie way, I find cemeteries to be very romantic.  One gravestone of a soldier who had died in the Civil War was etched with: “For all eternity, I will love you.”  What a searingly beautiful tribute to your relationship–we should all be so lucky to have someone write that on our gravestones! 

Even wilted flowers seemed so tender resting on a tombstone, a remnant of a visitor who had been thinking about someone they lost. 

We saw an old couple wandering the cracked paths, him in a three piece suit and a cane, her in a lovely black pillbox hat and gloves, and simply observing them, I felt like I was infringing upon the most private of moments; they had an obvious connection to the cemetery and I couldn’t help but wonder who they were visiting. 

I am in no way an expert on cemeteries, but it seemed to me that Oak Hill had some extraordinary details in its’ graves, perhaps because of the era in which it was founded.  I particularly loved the gravestones that had been worn away by rain and were thus unreadable, they lent such an air of mystery to who was buried there.

I was drawn to the intricacies of the stones, and wondered if such handiwork can still be found in headstones today.

Death is actually what I am most afraid of.  I try to never think about it, because it makes me extremely anxious.  It’s funny a little because doing things where I have a chance of dying, like skydiving, doesn’t scare me at all; rather, I relish those activities.  But the actual thought of being dead is really tough for me to wrap my head around.  Sometimes I think about my life and how it is so much to lose–it scares me and I start to worry a lot. 

Just a little pause for introspection here, sorry.

This is the Corcoran mausoleum (the guy who founded the cemetery, if you remember from earlier). He lost almost all of his sons in WWII. The mausoleum was designed by one of the architects of the U.S. Capitol.

I thought these flowers in the tree were so striking, such a pop of color against all the gray. I wonder if someone planted them in the hole, or if the seends were blown there over time and grew all on their own.

Oak Hill has a very eclectic list of people who call it their final resting place. Notables include Jefferson Davis and his infant son; Bettie Duvall, a confederate spy who hid messages in her hair; Joseph K. Barnes, the surgeon who attended President Lincoln on the night of his assassination; Joseph Henry, who discovered electromagnetism; and Dean Acheson, President Truman’s Secretary of State. Unfortunately I didn’t print out the cemetery map beforehand, so I didn’t actually get to see any of these graves. Next time, though.

Do you enjoy spending time in cemeteries?  I’ve been thinking about Oak Hill ever since I went, and I’m surprised by how much I feel like I miss it.  I bet that would change if I was actually going to visit someone, but maybe not. 

I hope you enjoy your week.  It’s been staying light outside later and later, which THRILLS me.  I think spring is just around the corner.

great falls nature walk
February 24, 2012

One of my favorite things about living in DC is, ironically, how easy it is to get out of.  The city itself is amazing, with nooks and crannies and political heavyweights hiding around every corner, but sometimes all I want to do is drive and be surrounded by silence and non-smoggy air.  This past weekend we had beauuuuuuutiful weather, and so my friends and I decided to take advantage of it and seek out some nature.

Luckily, we did not have far to go.  The national park of Great Falls is physically located just outside of DC, so after a short drive we made it to one of the most relaxing parks I’ve ever been to. 

Great Falls straddles the Potomac, so one side of the park is in Virginia and the other side is in Maryland.  It’s really interesting because just a few miles downriver, as it crosses under DC’s plethora of bridges, the water of the Potomac is muddy and brown and most likely full of bodies.  But as it plummets over the falls, the water is clear and a beautiful sea-foam green that is apparently going to be a huge nail polish trend this spring. 

The three of us picked a path and walked alongside the river for a good while.  Notable sights included the first brown poodle any of us had ever seen, owned by the most adorably foreign German family; tons and tons of rock climbers who were all drastically handsome; a BLIND woman hiking the trail with her stick and a touchingly attentive daughter; and multiple tweeners in bikinis sunbathing on the, cough, Maryland side.    

I really do feel so lucky that I have such easy access to amazing outdoorsy parks like Great Falls; it allows for such variation on weekends when I can go to a heated political conference in a drab, enclosed office building on Saturday, and then spend hours outdoors listening to a rushing river on Sunday. 

PS-Look at that SKY!!!!  Not a cloud to be found.

You can see a few rock climbing lines here, I was shocked by how flimsy the trees–saplings, really–were that the climbers were tying their ropes to. 

les & me

The Maryland side!!!

colleen, les, me

christmas snapshots
December 19, 2011

I’m about to dive into my monstrous pile of clean clothes in an attempt to begin the holiday packing process, but thought I’d share a few photos of my supremely festive weekend first.

I think winter has finally found DC, as it has been CHILLY here for the past week.  I can’t wait to be back in the Bay Area where, according to numerous Facebook statuses, it’s mild and not too windy.  Crossing my fingers that the cold doesn’t travel with me when I head back on Thursday.

les, beales, me, thiel

On Thursday, my friends and I ventured to the White House to see the National Christmas Tree.  According to legend the news, this particular tree came all the from the Sequoyah Forest in Northern California.  On its long journey, it made numerous pit stops where children were invited to sign the protective covering over the tree, which I think is a very sweet tradition.  (Fun Fact: in this picture, I was convinced that that beautiful orb right by the Monument was the moon rising–nope, it was just a spotlight for the tree.)

We also grabbed SIXTEEN DOLLAR DRINKS at the Willard next door, which were quite tasty but still not worth SIXTEEN DOLLARS.

Also at the Willard (where the lighting was really bad, apologies), I saw my first gingerbread house!  I’ve been surprised by how hard these are to find in DC, since it seems like even homeless people in San Francisco have them.  This one, while not the prettiest thing I’ve ever seen, reminded me of all the ones Lisa and I used to see when we would go to SF for a weekend with our Grandparents.

les, thiel, SANTA!, beales, me

We found Santa’s Workshop right next to the Christmas tree, and took a hasty but memorable picture with Santa.

Yesterday, we went to Zoo Lights, an annual event where they decorate the Zoo with millions (??) of lights.

It’s almost embarrassing how much I, a 23 year old, enjoyed Zoo Lights.  The whole zoo is pitch black besides for the lights that they have on the trees and on displays, so you really get the full effect.  At one point we walked by a row of trees whose lights were flashing in time to music!  It was amazing.  I then and there decided that when I have enough money to contribute regularly to charity, the Smithsonian is going to be one of the ones I support.

zebra!

 How great is this???

chameleon!

And this!!  I mean, WHAT?!?!?!  They made a chameleon eating a fly out of lights?!

wolf!

A lonely wolf!

panda!

And of course, the Zoo Lights wouldn’t be complete without the obligatory panda.

I also finished up my Christmas shopping this weekend, so I am now officially EXCITED for the holiday season.  I’m going to throw on Love Actually while I pack up my suitcase and prep for the rest of my short week.

I hope you’re enjoying (read: not stressing) this last week before Christmas, and I’m sending you Season’s Greetings from here in Washington DC.

the end of fall
November 17, 2011

Fall on the east coast is dwindling down to bare bushes and spindly branches, leaving little behind except for wet sidewalks hidden under colorful, glistening leaves.  As my favorite season ebbs away, out comes my ultra-warm Northface jacket, my hidden stash of whiskey, and my seasonal depression.  I miss the sunlight!    

Luckily the past few months have regaled us with more than our fair share of stunning autumn scenery.  Few things bring me more joy than walking down the street with a steaming cup of coffee, looking up at a fiery ceiling of crisp orange leaves, invigorated by the spicy air and clear sunlight. 

Before I burst into tears reminsicing about something that isn’t even quite gone yet, let’s all look at these–




This is Mount Vernon–the grounds are absolutely STUNNING in the fall. I can’t wait to go back for Christmas and see their storied holiday decorations.



Isn’t this foggy one so pretty? I love how eerie and almost spooky it is; we hardly ever get fog like this in DC, and it reminds me of the bay area.



This one’s a little hazy, but I loved the organic shape of the tree branches.

This group of trees is right by my apartment! It’s so nice to walk off the metro and be greeted by such gaudy colors, it really wakes me up after a stressful day at work.


This is Mount Vernon’s backyard–ahem, Mr. Washington, you were not doing too bad for yourself, my friend.

I found this dainty little maple (?) on a super urban street in Baltimore. It brought so much color to a really dreary street.

This is my absolute FAVORITE. I have no clue what kind of tree it is, but it is so ridiculously bright that I just fell in love. Looking at it, I for some reason think of an old Russian ballet I read once before bed–The Firebird–and the main ballerina’s vivid red costume.

me & beales


This is the last one–Beales and I standing on the Potomac outside Mount Vernon.

national gallery of art + andy warhol
October 26, 2011

I believe I mentioned this in one of my previous posts, but I am a big fan of Andy Warhol’s art.  I like how you are unable to look away from his crazy use of colors, and how the seeming inane repetitions remain implanted on your brain even after you turn away, like how the sun is imprinted on your eyelids if you look right at it on a clear day, or how you continue to hear the blaring bass from a dance club even when you are home in your quiet apartment, the remnants of the night following you home. 

Whenever I see works by Warhol, I always think about this random, unrelated print by Craig Damrauer:  

via

Isn’t that so true though?  I look at Jackson Pollock’s splatter paintings and Warhol’s colored Marilyn Monroe photograph and think, man, I seriously could do that.  But I, we, no one ever did. 

I drew my inspiration* for my framed hi print from Andy Warhol’s Campbells soup cans.  See?

*inspiration=hangover

 

Ehh?? Eh? (There’s a lot of elbow nudging going on here.)  Definitely some similarities. 

Regardless of the obvious parallels between myself and Warhol, I still like his stuff.  So when I heard there was not one, but TWO exhibits of his lesser seen works coming to town, I was excited.  I chose this past Saturday, grey without being gloomy, to visit the National Gallery of Art for my first time.

I’m a huge fan of doing museums by myself.  I think it’s from the annual summer vacations my family used to go on, 99.1% of the time to museums only, where I would be bored to tears looking at colonial artifacts and reading about Civil War battle strategies.  I would stand in front of (probably the world’s most amazing) painting and pick my nose, growl at strangers, and chew on my hair until my parents would be so embarrassed that they’d take me out to the rental car where I would blissfully play with the automatic windows.  In short, a nightmare for everyone involved. 

My appreciation for art/culture/history/sightseeing has improved dramatically since those days.  I still believe, however, that there is absolutely no shame in spending .001 seconds looking at an exhibit, or skipping it entirely.  Everyone has different things that appeal to them, and you are not obligated to act interested in every single grain of dust that floats by just because it’s famous.  So, I fully support museum-going alone–it is my perferred method.  Nobody is judging me for skipping the Something Something gallery, and I don’t have to wait on someone while they read the Blah Blah plaque. 

So I went to the Art Gallery by myself, obviously looking like a baller because 43 people asked me for directions on the way there, to go see the Warhol: Headlines exhibit.  This time, I was that person reading the whole Blah Blah plaque–and I learned a lot.  (Huh.  Who would’ve thought.) 

The introduction described Warhol’s obsession with Consumerism, and how he viewed the media as just another product, its’ loud and visual headlines the label on another omnipresent package.  Warhol was especially attracted to the subjects of death, disaster, and celebrity, and loved the “stark contrast between the sensational and the mundane.”  [Source.]  He started to satiate his interest in the headlines by simply replicating them, two virtually identical images.  As he studied them more, perhaps becoming more frustrated? more engrossed?, he began twisting and manipulating the front pages until they reflected less the news of the day and more the inner workings of the artist. 

As I wandered through the exhibit, I thought it was interesting to see Warhol’s liberties with the headlines expand.  I got the sense at the end of the exhibit that he was just so fed up with the outrageous front pages and the rather dull news that was being reported; it seemed to me that he relished clawing apart the papers and piecing them back together into his own vision.  There was almost a franticness to his art–this message MUST be changed!  I liked it.

I bought an overpriced catalog book on my way out–the NGA has the best gift shop!–and it’s sitting on my coffee table.  I actually should read it, since it has full pages of text dedicated to explaining each work, and I would thus be more knowledgeable when reviewing the exhibit here.  But I really enjoyed just looking at each headline without necessarily knowing the history behind it–this way I can make my own.

albuquerque
September 12, 2011

As I near my one year anniversary of living in Washington D.C., I am still astounded that I live here.  I was watching the 9/11 memorial at the Pentagon yesterday on TV, and I realized that the ceremony was taking place a mere 10 minute drive away from my apartment.  I walked by the White House every Wednesday on my way to kickball, rarely giving it a second thought but knowing now that the President must have been in there at least one of the times.  Also, perhaps less impressive, I was watching the TV show Bones the other day, which is set in DC, and when Zooey Deschanel’s sister said that someone was murdered in ——- U Street club, I became inordinately excited because I had been there.  Man, is this city important. 

Anyways, I am also in awe of the fact that upon accepting a job offer last June, as I awoke from a nap the day we left for a week of shame at Myrtle Beach, I essentially cemented my employment for the rest of my career.  I have a great job, ripe with opportunities, and everyone knows the government never fires anyone.  Yay.  So, as Year One of being gainfully employed approaches, I feel pretty lucky to be where I am.   

I am rambling.  I was hoping to gradually and eloquently turn the conversation toward my recent business trip to Albuquerque, New Mexico, but I am failing.  (My original plan had been to talk about how lucky I am to have been chosen to travel three times in my first year, but I realize three times is not actually that much, and I have lots of photos to share, so I’m going to pick up the pace here.) 

I spent the last week in Albuquerque for some work meetings, which I was excited about because I’d never been to New Mexico and was looking forward to checking it off my list.  (Spoiler Alert: New Mexico is nothing to get excited about.  Sorry, Albuquerquians.)  I was with coworker Suzannah and boss Sara, so “us girls” made sure to cram as much sightseeing and Mexican food into the trip as possible. 

On Wednesday, we went to Albuquerque’s “Old Town,” a small square of town four blocks long by five blocks wide.  I knew ahead of time that the turquoise jewelry and southwestern art was not my style, but I was still hoping to find a little souvenier of some sort for myself or a friend.  I found nothing, and Old Town was tiny and dead.  I much prefer downtowns or Old Towns that are actually part of the city and not so much tourist attractions; Albuquerque was shutting down at 4:30 as the flow of tourists slowed to a trickle.  It was evident that locals would never step foot in the Old Town area, a fact that I did not like. 

"street" vendors

the church, founded in early 1700

We stayed for about an hour, and no purchases were made.  The night ended with a dinner at Chili’s, including my all-time favorite Quesadilla Explosion Salad and an attractive waiter. 

But don’t worry bloggies–Thursday was much better.  Using some advice from a coworker who stayed back in DC, we had booked reservations for dinner at a swanky restaurant at the top of the local “mountain,” Sandia Peak.  Access to the restaurant was by tram, a great way to see all that Albuquerque had to offer.  We gamely showed up to the tramway after a long day of meetings, and purchased our $15 tickets. 

welcome sign

our tiny, all-glass tram car


suzannah & me, pre lift-off


The nifty little car was all glass, allowing for some spectacular views.  The ride was fairly long, fifteen minutes at least, and was slightly unnerving when you looked down.  The landscape on the mountain was stunning in a desert-y, brown way, and the views over the city was equally beautiful.  Compared to smoggy, humid Washington, the air in New Mexico is clear and crisp, and made for great photos.

the start of the ascent

beautiful landscape


cliffs


more cliffs


so many cliffs!


almost to the top


looking back down the mountain


me at the top!

start of the sunset


a lovely sunset

the ride back down

Aren’t these pictures amazing?  The tram ride made me crave one of those really nice cameras that would capture all the details, but never discredit the iPhone!  I made sure to text the picture of me at the top to my mom, and then we headed back to the hotel. 

I found Albuquerque to be completely average.  It felt like a huge suburb to me, even more so than DC does.  Aside for the landscape, I felt there was very little in Albuquerque worth writing home about.  I’m glad I had the opportunity to see it, but I would never make it a destination for myself or anyone else.  I would have liked to have been there for the hot air balloon festival extravaganza, but I can’t win ’em all.  (I would say “Next time!” but we all know there won’t be one.  Hopefully.)  I was out of the office for a week, and didn’t have to spend any of my own money during the trip, so overall I’m very happy to have gone.  The End.

In other news, I read Tina Fey’s book Bossypants and freaking LOVED it.  She is hilarious.  Go buy it or ask for mine.

seacrets
August 24, 2011

I know I’m a few days late here, bloggies, but I hope everyone had a great weekend!!  I had a whimsical three-day weekend, beginning with a visit from old Pleasanton Seahawk friend Matt on Friday and ending with a scary summer thunderstorm on Sunday.  In between, however, I went to a new bar in Ocean City that is now one of my very favorite places on Earth.  (Other favorite places on Earth include Jim’s Country Restaurant in Pleasanton, Bergdorf Goodman’s in NYC, and the Lawn at UVa.)  Colleen is spending this entire week at her beach house before heading to a wedding this weekend, so some of her high school friends and I decided to drive up to Bethany to see her–and, more importantly, to visit Seacrets

We had been hearing tales about Seacrets from friends in all walks of life, and decided we had to experience it ourselves.  We weren’t sure what to expect, and even had to emergency dial a few of those friends to get more information, but Seacrets did NOT disappoint.  We arrived late in the afternoon, paid a measly $5 cover (by the way, the cover goes up a dollar every hour after 5 pm), and walked into a sandy, palm-tree-filled oasis. 

I felt like the only thing missing was a rail track with coconut-shaped cars to take us around the gigantic place and offer informational tidbits on what was what.  Seacrets could LITERALLY be a ride in any trendy theme park. 

While the tables in the water looked appealing, we decided to forgo them when we saw a drunk man with a huge bandage on his foot who said he stepped on a broken bottle in the sand.  They sure make for a great picture, though!

Seacrets is hard to describe.  It is a huge place, with sandy paths running through it and at least four stages occupied by bands.  There is a “Nite Club” with dancing and confetti falling from the ceiling, as well as a restaurant with stunning views of the bay.  The signature drink is a “Pain In De Ass,” which consists of a pina colada swirled with run runner.  YUM. 

jen r, meghan, me-- and lots of Pain In De Asses me & colleenme & colleen

me & colleen

 

me, jen r, meghan

jen r, colleen, me, meghan

Seacrets really was the best place ever.  It was so much more than just a bar–is was a whole experience.  We were sad that Colleen wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t stay evey long, but now we have an excuse to go back soon.  If you ever find yourself in the Ocean City area, you NEED to check out Seacrets.  (Note: adults and babies are welcome!  Not only did we see couples with infants, but also couples in their eighties dancing the night away.  Seacrets does not judge.)  I ended up not staying very long to tan on Sunday, and I still felt that my drive and quick visit was well worth it.

A DC earthquake post is coming soon!

skydiving
August 1, 2011

As is evident by the title of this post, I went skydiving this weekend!  Yay! 

I think skydiving is one of those things that people either want to do or don’t– there’s no room for halfheartedness when you’re plunging out of an airplane.  I’ve been wanting to go ever since high school, and finally saw a Living Social deal I couldn’t resist and booked a jump.  After getting cancelled on twice (with extremely poor customer service–I would not recommend Sportations to anyone), Michelle and I were hoping the third time would truly be the charm.  Luckily, we ran into no issues and our jump went off without a hitch.

michelle getting strapped in

This particular place only offered video, no pictures, and were charging a pretty fee of 90-something dollars.  Michelle and I, having only paid $100 for the entire jump, were reluctant to essentially double that for just a video, so we sadly have no evidence of the physical jump.

 

the teeny plane

Skydiving is tough to explain.  I think the best way to do it is to simply say that it’s exactly like what you would expect it to be.  When I finished, I didn’t feel like my world had changed at all; it was certainly exhilarating, but not earth-shattering in its unexpectedness.  The views were stunning, and I had a full 5 minutes to absorb them on my gentle ride down once the parachute had opened.
 

me & michelle

As we rode up in the teeny plane (up to 9,000 feet!), I kept thinking how lucky I was to be crossing this off my bucket list.  When I put on my hideous goggles and started scooting toward the door of the plane, I wasn’t nervous, merely curious about what was coming.  When we got to the door of the plane, I had a number of things that I had been instructed to do, but the wind basically sucked me out before I could do any of them.  My guy took me into an unexpected somersault and we were free falling!!  I think I was screaming, but the one thing I was really thinking about was my earrings!  I had in my real pearl earrings from my mom, and I kept thinking my earring backs were going to come flying off and I would be in BIG trouble for losing my expensive pearls.  I mean, of all things to be worrying about–I guess the mind just has an instinct to think about something trivial and harmless when it senses that danger is near.  Anyways, my earrings stayed safe, and except for my poorly-selected boat shoes coming untied and a halo of tangled hair, I landed exactly the same as when I went up. 

I loved my jump–if it wasn’t so expensive, I would book another one right now. 

P.S.  Someone at work found this comic for me before my first scheduled jump and I just thought it was so funny…

…And then shoved a handful of lifesaver candies at me before I left.  They came pretty handy when we landed because our mouths had gotten pretty dry, and sucking on them helped get our saliva going until we could grab some water.  I snapped a picture for proof to show the coworker–he was thrilled!!

a perfect day at the zoo
May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!  Hope you’re busy getting tan and fat off grill food in hot and humid DC this weekend.

I just bade farewell to my younger sister, Lisa, who drove in from Ohio State for the long weekend.  After getting a little lost (495 is so confusing!), she made it to my apartment on Friday night, just in time to pay Spike Mendelsohn’s burger joint a quick visit.  On Saturday, after squeezing in a few episodes of best-show-ever Arrested Development, we meandered down to the National Zoo.

Bloggies, there are two reasons the National Zoo is one of the best attractions in the DC metro area:

1. It’s F-R-E-E.  And what does my family like more than free anything?  Nothing.

2. When the stars align, you can literally have the best zoo experience possible.  This is what happened to me and Lisa.

For whatever reason, the Smithsonian Gods were smiling down on us, most likely in the form of Simba’s dad in The Lion King, and they made magic happen for us at each exhibit we went to.  First, we went to the sloth bears, where we actually didn’t see any animals.  (The magic in this is that sloth bears are actually really ugly, so we didn’t know that we didn’t really want to see them.  The Smithsonian/Mufasa Gods saved us.)  Then we went to the panda exhibit, where I’ve always had bad luck spotting one of the bears.  Good thing we saw…. a tail.

Disappointed, we turned to leave, when all of a sudden we saw one of the big guys come barreling out of a secret hiding place, happy as could be.

He was only out for a few seconds–just long enough for him to see all the sticky, screaming children and for me to snap my photo.  He disappeared, and I waved my camera in petty triumph over all the other unfortunate tourists.  I figured they had it coming for their blatant disregard for the unspoken Metro rules.

Thrilled with our luck, but acknowledging that we probably wouldn’t have such an experience again, we set off for the cat exhibit.  We got to the daddy lion cage, and found him snoozing on a rock, looking like a big tan blob.  We stood there for a minute, and then a miracle: the clouds parted, the sun beamed a ray of light down onto the lion, and he lifted his head and roared.  AHHHH.

He was stunning, and his roar must have been a straight sign from Smithsonian/Mufasa Gods that Lisa and I were the days’ Chosen Visitors.  We felt so privileged.

We moved next door to the mama lions, who had their sweet cubs out for naptime.

As we walked around the exhibit, a few of the cubs woke up and started roughhousing with each other.  (They reminded Lisa and I of how our brain-damaged cat, Licorice, would play with himself before he reached his current geriatric state.)  The lioness sat serenely above them, knowing that with one swipe of her paw, she could get the little rascals back in line.  They must have been behaving, however, because after growing tired of an energetic hide-and-seek/pounce combo game, the cubs curled up once again and went back to sleep.

Moving on to the last of the cat exhibits, we got up close and personal with Mr. Tiger.  Just as we were coming around the corner to his cage, he popped up (like he had been waiting for us!), bounded down to the water, then walked with purpose to a spot right in front of us.

The minute we walked away, he went straight back into his little cave, leaving us to marvel at yet again how lucky we were.

Last but not least, we ventured into the invertebrate house to oogle the octopus.  We were there just in time for the feeding, where we got to see the normally red creature turn pale in anticipation of his dinner.  While we were crowded by tourists we obviously had never heard the term “personal space,” we had a pretty good view of the octopus (and a stranger).

Aren’t sea creatures just incredibly interesting?  I used to want to be a deep sea diver so I could see all the bizarre animals that live underwater.

Having exhausted all the zoo activities and our leg muscles, Lisa and I headed back home.  We dropped to our knees at the exit to offer a quick prayer of thanks to Mufasa for the incredible visit we had (don’t worry–we didn’t actually do this) before scooting across the street to the new frozen yogurt place (opinion: better than Yogiberry in Cleveland Park, nowhere near as good as Yogafina in downtown Pleasanton).

I can’t speak for my sister, but I know that that was one of the best zoo trips I’ve ever had.  I am obviously a huge proponent of the National Zoo, and encourage any tourist or resident to pay it a visit.  I can’t wait to go back for Zoo Lights this winter!

 

Do you like the zoo?  Which zoo is your favorite?

After Saturday, I would say the DC zoo is the best in the world.  But I also went to the San Diego zoo when I was a wee child, which is supposed to be phenomenal, so maybe that really was my favorite and I just can’t remember anything.