Monday, March 31, 2014

Washington, D.C. Day One

During our sojourn in Washington, D.C., we were actually bunking down in a hotel in Virginia just a short drive from a Metro station with very inexpensive all-day parking. Happily, the Metro rail system was built by the same people as the BART in the San Francisco Bay Area, so I was able to figure it out pretty quickly. I also decided that the Metro has an advantage over BART in its seats. BART has cloth seats that are badly (and grossly) stained, sometimes to the point that one feels dirty sitting on them. There is also a distinct BART smell. Metro has none of that. The seats are vinyl and can easily be wiped clean with a damp rag and some disinfectant. I noticed no particular odor.

On our first morning in D.C., my boyfriend Greg and I made our way to the International Spy Museum. We received half off admission because they were running a special for people with Smart Cards, which we had just purchased in order to use the Metro. It was the last day of the offer. Score! The Spy Museum turned out to be quite interesting! I will never again put anything past any world government ever. Or writers, for that matter! I had no idea Daniel Defoe, most known for his novel Robinson Crusoe, was a spy. Apparently "author" was (is?) an often used disguise. 

The museum starts you off in a room full of plaques with personas and you are asked to pick one. It will be your disguise as you tour the museum. You may also ignore this part if you don't feel like participating. There is a terminal at the beginning after they release you and another at the end that rates how well you remembered your persona. The one at the start immediately gets super crowded, and we didn't feel like waiting, so we skipped it. 

Some highlights of the museum include, but are not limited to: an umbrella that shoots undetectable poisoned darts, numerous cigarette cameras, a cigarette gun (single shot), a heating duct you can crawl through, and many personal spy accounts. While we were there, there was also a special exhibit on James Bond villains that was more entertaining than I'd anticipated! You can play "Who said it? James Bond Villain or Real Life Villain?" Some of the real life quotes are chilling. We also learned that some James Bond tech didn't exist before being featured in the films. In at least one instance, a CIA agent saw a James Bond film, said "I want that" and someone made it happen. (Nerds.)

After we failed at being spies, we headed over to Union Station for a conveyor belt sushi lunch. The station was under construction, but still a grand and bustling place. 

Next up was the Thomas Jefferson Building, aka the Library of Congress Main Building, aka Heaven Brought to Earth. (Well, I think of it that way, anyway.) Seriously, it is the most beautiful thing I have ever laid eyes on. I took many, many pictures. When we revisited later that night on our ghost tour, we learned that the building is supposedly haunted by a former librarian. After the library has closed for the night, guards have reported hearing pages rustle as if someone were flipping through them, and lights will turn on by themselves. I tried to get into the reading room while I was there, but a pass to do research is required. Visitors are only allowed onto an enclosed balcony. SIGH. At least I got to see that much. 

I ended up spending all of my cash at the library gift shop, purchasing my first nerdy book shirt of the trip, a gray V-neck T with an old cover of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, a magnet of the Jefferson Building for my fridge, and a few post cards. 

We spent a couple hours at the National Museum of Natural History, then, as I mentioned above, we finished the night with a haunted Capitol Hill ghost tour. Greg and I both agreed the tour seemed quite brief and not as full of stories as others we've been on, but we did visit a lot of places, and a couple people on the tour with us captured orbs with their digital cameras, which has never happened before.

Stay tuned for more adventures in D.C. and Massachusetts!

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