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Meet Me in St. Louis, Day 4

Sunday!

We took advantage of nothing being open in the morning to sleep in. First stop of the day – brunch at Layla, “St. Louis’ only Gourmet Burger & Shawarma Joint.” The regular menu online looked delicious and the brunch menu looked okay, but not as delicious (we forgot about it being Sunday and didn’t look at the brunch menu beforehand). From our seats, we could see the line waiting to get into Sweetie Pie’s. No thank you; there should be no lines at brunch.

I ordered the Havanah Sunrise Stacker (menu description: shaved ham, smoked pulled pork, melted swiss, chartreuse pickles, dijon aioli and two eggs any style on grilled sourdough). The husband ordered the Pork Belly Skillet (menu description: smoked cured diced pork belly, peppers, onions, and sweet potato home fries. topped with two eggs any style and a roasted garlic aioli). The daughter settled on a traditional burger. She was the winner of the day – that burger was spectacular. The husband and I found our meals to be lackluster. I’ll give my stacker the benefit of the doubt because I like my eggs scrambled and therefore deprived it of the drippy goodness that might have tied everything together. The husband’s pork belly was disastrously overcooked.

Next stop: Budweiser!
Budweiser
We had the most fun of the day here and ended up staying for several hours. It was busy – we had to wait an hour and a half for our free tour – but the gift shop was big and the beer was on tap. The tour was approximately forty-five minutes and was wheelchair accessible. A lot of that time spent leading the group from building to building, so I think it was a good length to keep people interested. They had several other tour options too (some free, some not).

At one point our tour guide said my favorite line of the day “After this step you have a beer, but not the king of beers.” I’m not a Bud drinker – or a beer drinker, really – but I thought that was really funny and effective. Adult visitors get a sample of beer in the middle of the tour (just Bud or Bud Light) and then a token for a full-sized free one at the end (anything they have on tap). FYI: Sodas are free at the bar, but it gets very backed up when a tour lets out.

Let’s be honest though, I was just there to see the Clydesdales.
Horse
It was late in the day when we left Budweiser and we didn’t have time to go anywhere else before Sunday-night closing time. We ended up driving to St. Charles to see their historic Main Street. The city was founded in 1769, was the site of the first state capitol, and was the starting point for Lewis and Clark. The Main Street is adorable. I may have squealed a bit. We didn’t actually get out and walk around, so I’ll just show you some taken by other people.

Top: "Historic Saint Charles Main Street 3". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.  Bottom: "St Charles MO Stone Row" and "1st Capitol St Charles MO" by Smallbones. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.
Top: “Historic Saint Charles Main Street 3”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Bottom: “St Charles MO Stone Row” and “1st Capitol St Charles MO” by Smallbones. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Meet Me in St. Louis, Day 3

We were slow to get up on Saturday morning, but once we finally rolled out of bed and made ourselves presentable the first stop was the St. Louis Science Center. My family is a sucker for a good science center and this one delivered.

Overall it was your standard science center – a mix of new shiny exhibits and older well-loved exhibits. It also had animatronic dinosaurs and a crap-load of stuff to touch. My daughter’s favorite part was the area dedicated to different kind of structures. She actually did the activities at all of the little centers. The little man’s favorite part was the fossil/dinosaur section. Lots and lots of things to touch.
Science
We ended up staying long enough to eat lunch at the science center (pretty good for museum food, if you are curious). Next stop: Gooey Louie for delicious gooey butter cakes. The owner at Gooey Louie was a little odd (talking about the cakes being homemade and not from a Chinese assembly line, etc. It was borderline racist.), but the cakes were delicious. Are delicious, I mean; we brought it home with us and are still eating. You do not need a big piece to satisfy that sweet tooth.

We headed back to the hotel to save the cakes from melting in the family truckster and took the opportunity for a little rest. Nothing wrong with all four family members piling on top of a king-sized bed to close their eyes, talk, and snuggle.

With our second wind approaching, we got back in the truckster bound for the St. Louis Galleria for shopping. Why this mall? Eh, it seemed like the most well-rounded to spend a few hours in. And we did spend a few hours; we walked out the door ten minutes before the entire place closed.

Of course, that stay also included dinner at the Cheesecake Factory. This kind of breaks on of our vacation rules: Local food only! On one hand, it is a national chain and really isn’t anything special. On the other hand, we don’t actually have a Cheesecake Factory anywhere in our home state and well. . . cheesecake. Here, let me throw in a visual aid:
cheesecake
One final stop before bed (Walgreens for blister band aids and green tea) and – once again – we fell into bed, satisfied and exhausted.

Meet Me in St. Louis, Day 2

history museum
First stop was the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park. This great place boasts free admission and free parking – super! I’m going to talk about the exhibits that we saw here in the order I most enjoyed them:

1) A Walk in 1875 St. Louis
Whoa. This was an awesome exhibit. It was based around an 1875 pictorial map of St. Louis (don’t know what that is? Click here.) with every other wall covered in humorous, interesting, and visually-striking factoids. Nothing will stop a kid in their tracks and make them read an exhibit panel like colorful facts about the disgusting waste disposal of our ancestors. You really could have spent a couple of hours in here reading everything.

2) State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda
This one was from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. I particularly enjoyed that it steered the exhibit towards a discussion about how we can be provoked by propaganda – especially when put out by something as successful as the Nazi machine. I’d love to see an exhibit focusing on more modern propaganda to really make people think about what they see and hear every day. I’m also not ashamed to admit that the little man found the videos of Hitler speaking absolutely hilarious; he loves it when anyone throws their arms around and yells.

3) The 1904 World’s Fair: Looking Back at Looking Forward
Great artifacts in this one, but it didn’t really hold our attention as much as the first two. It did open up a fun conversation where I explained the concept of a world’s fair to the daughter. You probably don’t want to visit a museum with this historian.

4) Seeking St. Louis
This exhibit was on the second floor and was clearly an older, more permanent exhibit. The content wasn’t as appealing for my family, but I really appreciate the amount of touchable things at little-kid-level. The little man can’t get anything out of a text panel, but he can – and will! –touch anything you put in front of him. I am a big fan of cultural intuitions doing anything they can to get the little ones (and those challenged in some way, like the little man) involved.

Lunch! It was utterly forgettable, so I’ll skip it.

Next stop was the Grand Hall of Union Station. We pulled into the (pay) parking lot and headed into what was supposed to be a little shopping mall. Well. . . I think it was probably really, really neat when it first opened, but now it is just another monument to one of those failed 80s-90s revitalization movements. The second floor featured a nice array of boarded-up storefronts. Of course, if you are in the market for sequin purses, tacky souvenirs, or vapor supplies this is the spot for you!

We walked to the end of the Midway, found no elevator access on that end, and found all of the doors into the station proper blocked with signs saying the entrances were for hotel guests only or key carded (the hotel is not a failed experiment like the rest of the place). Hmm. So, we walked back down the Midway, up the elevator, and back down the Midway again, only to be confronted with the same signs.

Wanting to be good, rule-following people, we headed out the side door and to the front of the building. Grumbling all the way. The front door had the same sign. Screw the hotel; we went in.
grand hall
Totally worth it! Gorgeous. We enjoyed the Grand Hall lobby for a while and indulged in some Starbucks. Confession: I absolutely love sitting in large hotel lobbies while people watching and sipping on something delicious. Mix in the Grand Hall atmosphere and I was in heaven.

Last attraction of the day was the City Museum. I don’t even know if I can explain this place – it is part playground, part art installation, part museum, part amusement park. My husband described it best when we compared it to the movie Little Monsters. You know, the one from the 90s* with Fred Savage and Howie Mandell? Well, the City Museum – especially the darker inside bits – looks a whole lot like the monster land that you could get to by going under your bed.
city museum
This place was geared to very active children and wasn’t 100% accessible (impossible to be so considering what it is), so it didn’t have a ton for the little man to do (although he had a great time in the toddler area with squishy blocks). This was all about the daughter. And the dad. But mostly the daughter. This place was really amazing. I highly recommend it just for the unique factor alone.

Dinner was deep dish pizza at Pi Pizza, our best meal of the trip. Afterwards all four of us collapsed into bed by 9:30pm.

*I looked it up. It is 1989.

Meet Me in St. Louis, Day 1

Oh boy did we ever need a vacation. We didn’t really have the time or funds necessary for the vacation, but it was a must-do for the sanity of the family. Since we are pretty good at a budget-trip when necessary, the four of us loaded up in the new van [hereafter referred to as the family truckster] and set out for St. Louis.

Why St. Louis?
1) It is a place we haven’t really visited. The husband and I did a quick overnight with my sister once for a concert, but we only did the generic downtown stuff (i.e. the Arch). So basically the city was unexplored.
2) It is close. The road trip is only six hours. I’m not ready to try and fly with the little man, so a nice comfortable road trip was really the only option. Six hours is totally doable.
3) It is a city and the tacky family is a city-visiting family. Outdoors is nice – for a night – but I’ll take good eating and high-quality museums over nature any day of the week.

After dropping the dogs off for boarding, we pointed the family truckster north and immediately noticed our gps trying to reroute us. I assumed – wrongly, it turns out – that it was being a stickler about picking the shortest route over the easiest route and ignored it. A couple of hours later when the navigator (me) went to sleep and we needed the gps however, it took us on a country detour through every business district imaginable. Turns out we still had the thing set to avoid highways from our trip to Austin (when we wanted to explore the city more). I should point out that we weren’t on the interstate here; setting the thing to avoid highways meant avoiding the biggest state highways in the area too. It added 1 ½ or 2 hours to our trip. Luckily we all found it funny. It helped that we weren’t hungry, tired, or cranky since the drive really wasn’t that long to begin with.
IMG_1204
The longer drive only left time for eating dinner and doing a little neighborhood exploration when we finally arrived. We stayed in an extended-stay suite hotel in The Grove* neighborhood and it turned out to be a great pick. Quiet, easy to navigate, visually interesting. I highly recommended an extended-stay for families traveling with wheelchairs. Even with a simple studio suite (king bed and pull-out sofa), we had plenty of room and no one had to fight with the chair for space.

Let me stick in an aside here to talk about St. Louis roads. We are not friends. The city doesn’t seem to be set up on any reasonable pattern. The sheer numbers of signs I passed that said “Street Not Thru” was astounding, as was the number of large planters severing what used to be normal streets. Don’t even get me started on the X-shaped intersections with multiple additional streets bisecting the X. I’m a good navigator and I like to explore cities based on a general feel for how the roads run. Impossible.

Anyway, we headed to The Kitchen Sink for dinner. It was highly rated and recommended on several sites. I called first to make sure they had a back entrance that was wheelchair accessible (the front had stairs) and we were on our way. Hmmm . . . well, service was bad. Wait, let me qualify that. Our server was wonderful when she was able to make it to us, but they were clearly understaffed. The two(!) servers were running around like crazy and just couldn’t keep up. A table next to us left after no one came to take their order for ten minutes or so. I don’t fault them for this – it was clearly an unusual situation.

But let’s talk about the food. It was good. Nothing amazing – certainly not “unique” like many of the reviews and the restaurant’s own website described. I don’t live in what you would consider a foodie town, but can get something like this in any local restaurant. The daughter had a waffle, the husband had the 4 Horseman (small helpings of sausage/beans/rice, jambalaya, etouffee, and gumbo), and I had the Doc Holiday (a coffee-rubbed ribeye sandwich with mushrooms and cheese). Again, it was good. Nothing to write home about. Maybe they were having an off night. Maybe we ordered the wrong things. Maybe I was just annoyed by the dish on their menu called the “Special Ed.” Maybe their American food with a Cajun twist just wasn’t twisty enough for a family from below the Mason-Dixon Line.

4 Horseman - the husband like it, especially the, and eventually ate all of his leftovers over the course of our stay.
4 Horseman – the husband like it, especially the jambalaya, and eventually ate all of his leftovers over the course of our stay.

*”The Grove is a growing vibrant business and entertainment district along Manchester between Kingshighway and Vandeventer in St. Louis City. In the Grove you can find a diversity of independently owned restaurants, nightlife, retail, and services. It is also home to the premier nightlife in the area, and is a thriving center for the LGBT, artist, and cycling communities in the St. Louis area.”

The One Where Texas Tries to Keep Me. . . Again

In the grand scheme of things, I know these travel woes are minor. After last weekend’s botched road trip though, it just seems like Texas is trying to eat me. Any more delays and I was going to abandon my old life and start looking for apartments.

Friday
12:30pm: I get into my car to head to the airport for my afternoon flight. I could wait a bit longer, but I want a good seat to read in and time to grab some coffee.

12:32pm: I get a text informing me of an hour and half delay. Well, damn. I’m all ready to go and don’t want to go back inside with the dogs who are already waiting at the door, just in case.

12:45pm: After sitting in my driveway like an idiot, I decide to head to Panera for a cookie, iced green tea, and reading time. This plan quickly falls apart however, as I realize everything is packed since it is lunchtime and the day before a holiday weekend. Yuck. That does not sound like a pleasant reading atmosphere, so I decide to just grab a drink from the Starbuck’s drive thru and park somewhere quiet.

Eight minutes before I was supposed to board. Departure time #3.
Eight minutes before I was supposed to board. Departure time #3.

12:50pm: While sitting in the drive thru, I get a second text saying my flight will only be delayed 30 minutes. Oh good, I think. I’ll just go to the airport anyway and read there.

1:15pm: Arrive at airport. Original departure time = 2:47. Current departure time = 3:26. Not bad. I ponder whether to take a Xanax for stress (I’m not a good flyer) or Dramamine for nausea (I get nauseous if I turn around too fast). I pick the Dramamine.

1:25pm: The line at the American Airlines counter is long. And the only line in the whole airport (it’s a small one). I’ve never had good luck on American Airlines and I’m starting to wonder if booking with them was a mistake. I’m flying first class, so I get in my special line to wait. It quickly becomes clear that some of the desk workers are kind of freaking out. Several late flights (weather was not cooperating in this case) mean lots of connections to be worked out. Unfortunately, it also means they are randomly calling people out of line depending on what flight they are taking. This is not making the crowd happy.

2:00pm: I make it out of the line and through security. Since everyone is still downstairs at the counter, I breeze right through the security line. I have an hour to kill before boarding, but that isn’t too bad.

2:20pm: While sitting at my gate, I realize one of the flights the desk workers were so concerned about actually leaves after our plane from the same gate going to the same place. Way to be inefficient. With two sets of passengers waiting in the same place with boarding times that have changed multiple times, there is some confusion. It interrupts my reading.

Friday Night Dinner!
Friday Night Dinner!

Late Afternoon/Evening: The forty minute flight is uneventful, as is getting out of the airport and grabbing a cab to my hotel. My fellow conference-goers are all at a reception (I didn’t register since I would have just arrived), so I eat alone in the hotel restaurant. And when I say alone, I don’t just mean by myself at a table. I mean totally alone – there was no one else in the restaurant. I tipped my waiter well since I was probably going to be his only diner that evening. Eat. Read. Sleep.

Saturday
8:00am-2:00pm: Conference business breakfast, followed by a session about film preservation, and my first board meeting (and the reason for planning such a whirlwind trip to a conference I wasn’t actually able to attend).

4:00pm: My flight doesn’t actually leave until 9:15, but I have to check out. I have the choice of sitting in the hotel lobby (or, more likely, the bar) or sitting in the airport. I choose airport. Mistake.

4:30pm-7:00pm: I eat dinner, roam the terminal, visit the silly shops, and find a comfy seat. At some point, I finish reading the second book I brought with me and stop by the book store to buy another.

7:15pm: I get a text that my flight has been cancelled. It is the last one to Little Rock from this airport – on any airline. I’m rebooked for 8:30am Sunday morning. No one even says sorry. Sorry goes a long way, American Airlines. You can’t control the weather, but you can at least smile.

7:30pm: I hit up Dunkin Donuts for some kind of frozen coffee ice cream drink and reevaluate my situation. I’m alone and don’t want to sleep in the airport. I need to find a hotel asap. I realize that I’m lucky to be alone – not that I wouldn’t love some company, but because when I travel with other people (especially my husband) I fall back into my neuroses and anxieties. Alone, I’ve got it under control.

Stereotypical Travel Legs!
Stereotypical Travel Legs!

7:30pm-8:30pm: I book a room at the Hyatt on airport property – it is pretty much right next to one of the terminals. They make me give them a credit card to hold the room even though they are going to come pick me up in the shuttle as soon as we hang up the phone. I have trouble finding the shuttle, miss it because I’m not where I’m supposed to be, and have to call back. The shuttle eventually finds me (still not where I’m supposed to be) and the driver is great. He is the first one to say sorry for the canceled flight. In fact, everybody at the hotel expresses sympathy. This is how you do it American Airlines. I know they don’t care – they are getting my money and just don’t want me to complain – but they smile and say sorry. It’s not hard.

8:30pm: The hotel gives me a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and makeup removal wipes. They are out of women’s deodorant, so I’ll be rocking Old Spice Sunday morning. It’s better than the alternative. I order a $15 glass of wine from room service and call it a night.

Sunday
2:00am: My phone shrieks about a flash flood warning. I open the curtains of my small balcony to check out the weather, momentarily forgetting I’m naked. It is raining sideways.

2:30am: My phone shrieks again, this time about a tornado warning. The television doesn’t have a signal, so I find a local station on my telephone and check that I’m safe. The hotel is quiet, so I don’t feel like I need to be alarmed, but it is always good to check.

6:30am: Up and at ‘em. Too tired for a shower, I put on yesterday’s clothes and head downstairs to catch the shuttle sometime after 7:00.

8:45am: I finally leave Texas. The flight is uneventful, but pretty bumpy (weather again).

10:30am: Home.

11:30am: Nap.

And I Would Walk 1,119.5 Miles, Cont.

Don’t know what I’m talking about? Read part one of our trip to Austin here.

Saturday started as you might expect a childfree weekend vacation to start – with sleeping in. We finally rolled out of bed around ten and got ourselves ready to head to the part that made this trip a “meat pilgrimage” . . . The Salt Lick!

The Salt Lick is a well-known barbecue joint about an hour outside of Austin that doesn’t accept checks and is BYOB. Although, they technically have a “winery” next door that sells beer you can bring over with you. Heavy markup, I would imagine. We stuck with soda, so I can’t really comment I guess.

The food was good. I was a little worried about the mustard-based sauce – being a ketchup-based girl myself – but was pleasantly surprised. I didn’t care for the taste of the spicy, but enjoyed the regular quite a bit. I also like that they asked me exactly how I wanted my brisket – lean, fatty, burnt ends. I choose a mix of lean and burnt ends, if you are curious. Brisket was a change for me too, actually. I’m general of the “no-bbq-but-pork-bbq” kind of person.

My verdict: it was yummy, but even if I lived in Austin the drive would keep me from ever going there. I’m not a big barbecue connoisseur (or even a big fan of meat), so I’ll let my husband speak for the quality of this joint.

Tacky Husband’s Meat Review: Delicious. The brisket was the best part, but I really enjoyed the massive beef rib – you don’t typically see big beef ribs like that in Arkansas (pork, pork, pork). It was the size of my face. I probably would have been able to finish all of my food if there had been some beer with the meal. Worthy of the hype? Yeah, I think so.

SaltLick

After stuffing ourselves, we drove around a bit and headed for South Congress Street for some stereotypical Austin shopping. We made a couple of random purchases, but mostly just explored. And stopped for an afternoon drink, of course.

Next up. . . Gourdough’s.

I’d been there before and knew I had to share this deliciousness with the husband. This time I indulged in the “Mama’s Cake” donut – yellow cake batter filling with chocolate fudge Icing – and the husband had the “Fat Elvis” donut – grilled bananas and bacon with peanut butter icing and honey. I have never been able to explain how delicious these are, so I’ll just say this: If you are ever in Austin, head straight to Gourdough’s. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. You won’t need it; the donuts aren’t expensive.

Gourdoughs

Our last stop for the evening was the Alamo Drafthouse for a Master Pancake screening of The Goonies. According to the Alamo’s website, “Master Pancake is the Alamo Drafthouse tradition of pairing questionable movies with live comedy (and beer)! It’s smart, fast, and bust-a-gut funny.”

And it really was pretty funny. I probably almost busted-a-gut, but that might have been from filling up on the doughnut. My favorite joke of the whole night was when the movie started and Master Pancake pointed out that simply changing the opening song could turn the whole thing into a Wes Anderson movie. It was true. It was hilariously true!

Sunday started with a late brunch at a tex-mex restaurant, Maudie’s at the Triangle. Delicious. And we set out for home all happy-go-lucky. Unfortunately, the trip was a bitch. We ended up stuck in a traffic jam on the interstate and it took us a little over three hours to go approximately 70 miles. By the time we pulled off at the glorious, shining Buc-ee’s I mentioned in my last post, we were cranky and I had a headache from gritting my teeth.

Thank God for Buc-ee’s.

Bucees

Traffic was better from that point on and once we made it to Dallas it was as we expected. We ate dinner at a sad Taco Bell, rocked out to some awesome ‘90s music for a few hours, and eventually made it home. Eleven hours after we left Austin.

I did not sign up for an eleven hour road trip, fyi. But I’m going to assume that – just like childbirth – one day I will forget the pain and want to do it all over again.

And I Would Walk 1,119.5 Miles

Okay, so we drove.

Hey there! I didn’t mean to go incognito for so long, but I got caught up in real life. And – let’s be honest here – Netflix. I’m not going to bore you with my stress binge-watching though; let’s talk about the road trip my husband and I took to Austin, Texas, last weekend.

Why did we go to Austin? Technically for the husband’s birthday, but the trip was really for both of us. Unplugging and getting away from the house is a necessity for us or else raising the little man can become overwhelming. I used to feel fairly guilty about it (and still do to a point) because there are so many other things we should be spending money on (or, in this case, adding to the van down payment savings account). Still, I’ve come to realize the difference a weekend away makes when you return to hauling around a five year old, changing diapers way past diaper-changing-age, and measuring food for his tube.

Anyway, we decide to road trip this one. I love road trips. Or I used to, but more on that later.
After dropping the kids off at school Friday morning, we set out on the seven hour drive. Overall, the drive down was just great. The weather was nice, traffic was light, and we made excellent time.
austin
Our only big pit stop on the way down was for kolaches at the Czech Stop in West, Texas. I’ve driven through this area before, but never pulled off the freeway to investigate. Man, was I missing out. Turns out, kolaches are delicious. I had a coconut cream and poppy seed. The husband enjoyed strawberry cream cheese and peach (on the way home he picked up regular cream cheese and strawberry cream cheese, as well as a giant cinnamon roll for the daughter). Great road fuel, for sure. Related reading from The New York Times: The Kolache: Czech, Texan or All-American? (All Three).

czech

At some point we passed a billboard alerting me to a Buc-ees only seventy-something miles away. I believe my exact response was “OH MY GOD, A BUC-EES! I DIDN’T KNOW THERE WAS ONE ON THIS SIDE OF AUSTIN!” My husband was a little confused when I informed him that Buc-ees was a gas station. He understood my excitement when we finally passed it in Temple, Texas, though, shining on the hill like a desert oasis. We didn’t actually get to stop until the trip home, so stay tuned for that excursion.

We arrived in Austin around 5:30 and made our way to where we were staying. I booked a lovely little cottage through AirBnB and it was absolutely wonderful. While we were packing the night before, I told my husband I was sure if we would have an iron (thereby alerting him to the untypical nature of our accommodations). When I finally revealed we were going to Austin just before we walked out of the door, his next question was “Where are we staying?” and I enjoyed responded “With some guy.” Ha! It was a great place to stay though – quiet, clean, cozy, with easy parking. I loved coming back to something that felt a little homier each night.

Tired from the driving, we took it easy the first night. First stop – the Driskill hotel for a drink. I’ve only been to Austin once before and regretted not making it to see the Driskill, so this was a must-do. Actually, I originally wanted to stay there, but I was trying to stick to a good budget for this trip. Wow! The Driskill was gorgeous and sitting in their bar listening to a singer with a ZZTop beard was a great way to start the evening. Didn’t see any ghosts though. Maybe next time.

Driskill Blog

After that was dinner at the Iron Cactus. We’ve been to this restaurant in Dallas before, but made an exception because 1) I forgot, 2) we didn’t want to wander around looking for someplace else, and 3) it wasn’t just a bar (we were on 6th Street). Yum. After stopping at a couple of stores and buying t-shirts for the kids, we called it a night and headed back to our room.

Iron Cactus

DC – Day 3 and 4

— Day 3 —

First off, I overslept and missed the first plenary. I know lots of people skip the early morning plenary sessions at these kinds of conferences, but I don’t – I actually really enjoy them. When my alarm went off only 30 minutes before it started, I was a little sad. My fault though for not paying attention when setting it.

The rest of the conference day included great sessions and the Academy of Certified Archivists business luncheon. But you don’t want to hear about that. You want to hear about the sightseeing.

I headed to Ford’s Theater first. Like I mentioned before, I’m only visiting sites I’ve never seen before; all of the big landmarks and monuments are out. This was a biggie to cross off my list – I’ve only seen the outside.

IMG_20140814_014829Ford’ Theater visitor center – the actual theater is behind the scaffolding on the right

Ford’s Theater started with a small museum. It was visually striking and well interpreted. I enjoyed it. In the actual theater, I was creeped out by people taking photographs of their children in front of the box where a president was assassinated . . . to each their own, I guess.

A park ranger gave a short overview of the history. It was conversational and I think it held the attention of the children much better than the museum probably did. If your kids aren’t up for the museum, save it for another time and just do the theater/ranger program. Unfortunately, I was running out of afternoon and was unable to finish the tour with the Peterson House. I snapped a quick photo before heading back to the Metro.

By now I was getting pretty tired, but powered through on my way to the National Archives. I didn’t tour all of the exhibits (it was pretty busy and I was out of patience), but I saw the Magna Carta, Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. I heard a lot of people talk about National Treasure when talking about the document housing. That movie really made an impression.

20140814_154304National Archives

Next up, I needed a break. I spotted a Starbucks just off of Pennsylvania and indulged in a green tea lemonade concoction. After a little people-watching, I joined the commuters and headed back to the hotel.

IMG_20140814_043635A gorgeous day – the Starbucks is in the brick building in the center

The best part of the day was dinner with friends I had not seen in quite a while. We had great conversation and good food. I was sorry to see them go, but happy we had been able to meet up. Till the next time, I guess!

All of that and I was still in my pajamas by 9:15. Conference continues tomorrow . . .

— Day 4 —

This day was a huge conference day. With the exception of lunch and the evening reception, I spent all day shuffling from session to meeting to session. I won’t share the details of my archives day, but I will leave you with a few photos of my lunch. It was restaurant week and I indulged in one of the preplanned, multi-course meals.

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— Day 5? —

Day 5 had a couple of final sessions, but was mostly a travel day like the first (although without the longer layover) and doesn’t really need to be recounted. I made it home around 9:30pm and was happy to see my bed.

DC – Day 1 and 2

— Day 1 —

My day started with a very horrible alarm clock as 3:30am. I immediately started questioning my sanity for booking a 6am flight. When I made it to the airport at 5, I was happily surprised to see my airline had curbside check-in. This made the check-in process a breeze, although I was starting to wonder why I was there an hour early if I didn’t have to stand in line to check my bag.

Another lucky moment, I got put in the TSA expedited screening line. I didn’t have to take off my shoes or remove my laptop from my bag. Plus, the line was short.

I made it to my gate by 5:16 and spent the rest of the time thinking about the extra sleep I could have enjoyed. ::sigh::

Flight #1: first class to Atlanta, slept, no turbulence
Layover: Atlanta, wondered around for a while, bought some hummus

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Cloudy at the Atlanta airport

Flight #2: first class to DC, flight crew late, plane slightly delayed, rained, no turbulence

It was raining when we landed and I didn’t get to enjoy the view of the city coming in. The Washington Monument was so foggy it might as well have been a smoke stack. I quickly caught my shuttle and headed to the conference hotel – with a van full of archival strangers.

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Reagan National airport

The hotel room was nice – standard business room – and I was excited to see my king sized bed. View was pretty lacking though. Oddly enough, you could open the windows.
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I grabbed lunch in one of the hotel restaurants and intended to settle in, but found a second wind when the rain stopped. A metro stop was right across from the hotel. I headed down and – once I got my bearings – set off towards Chinatown. Then Dupont Circle. Then I walked down to Nordstorm Rack and didn’t find one single thing to buy (that I could afford anyway). After about three hours I crashed back in the room.

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The Friendship Arch in Chinatown

I love exploring cities.

— Day 2 —

Prepare yourself for a very boring conference day. I don’t even really have any photos to share to make it more interesting. This is my real-life work travel though, warts and all.

I originally attended to get up early and head to the National Archives to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights (I’m limiting my sightseeing to things I’ve never seen before). Unfortunately, I misread my schedule and actually had to be in a meeting at 10:30. Good thing I remembered that before I headed out.

So, 10:30-12:00. Leadership forum. Because I’m a leader. No really, I hold a leadership position. It was a very interesting meeting and I got some good ideas from the others at my table.

For lunch, I headed back to up my room and ate my leftovers from the night before. Yeah fancy, I know. It was all for a purpose though; I had to create and print a couple of documents for a meeting I was co-leading later in the afternoon.

After lunch I went to a great meeting for women archivists. The speakers were interesting and I really enjoyed myself. I almost decided to skip it – since it butted up against my meeting – but I’m really glad I changed my mind. Plus, great conversation with the other ladies at my table.

Next up was the meeting I was co-leading. I’m not going to tell you what it was because 1) it feels like the only thing I haven’t revealed and 2) you don’t care. I kind of steamrolled and talked way too much, but it was a good meeting. Afterwards a group of us headed to dinner at the nearby Lebanese Taverna.

Yum. I had chicken schwarma and a passion fruit mojito. It was lovely. The restaurant was wonderful and the staff did a great job dealing with our table of fourteen.

It was a beautiful night, so after dinner I took a little walk around the block to enjoy it. After that? Pajamas and television. The television in this hotel is lacking, so I spent way too much time just flipping through the channels over and over again.

Don’t worry – tomorrow there is actual sightseeing to tell you about.