Sunday, November 20, 2011

washington dc october 2011

Flying out to Washington, D.C. in October to visit Darren's brother's family is starting to become a "thing" for us. We love that AirTran has settled in to the Huntsville International Airport quite nicely and has great fare prices to places like Nassau, Aruba, Orlando, and even Baltimore, which is a mere hour or so of public transportation from D.C. itself.

After landing at BWI, we took a shuttle to the MARC/Amtrak station, purchased tickets on the next train to the D.C. Metro station (a mere $6.00 each- can't beat that), and then walked around a bit while we waiting for our train to arrive.

The MARC station is connected to some nearby businesses and parking areas by an elevated walkway running through a gorgeous bit of forest, so we spent some time strolling around before settling in for the rest of our wait.

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This was actually the first time I'd ever traveled by commuter train (last time we visited, Darren's brother Hung picked us up at the airport), so I was quite fascinated with all of it. I do love public transportation!

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At the Metro station we picked up fare cards to take us to the Smithsonian and were on our way.

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Darren's brother met us near the station and shuttled us over to Chinatown, one of my favorite parts of D.C. We're seriously considering coming back here for Chinese New Year.

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Lunch was at Chipotle (of course!). Hung knows how much I love it, but I think that even he was surprised that I knew exactly where to find this one. Yes, I am a complete and total Chipotle addict!

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After lunch we went to the Smithsonian American History museum- one of the few Smithsonians that we hadn't been to yet.

One of the very first things we saw? The Star Spangled Banner. Yes, that Star Spangled Banner. It was so amazingly cool. But unfortunately I wasn't allowed to take photos, even without a flash. :(

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I have to admit that I like the Smithsonian Natural History Museum much more than its American History counterpart, but there were still so many cool things to be found here- like this WWII era "Blackout Kit" that advertised itself as containing a new "wonder material" that glowed in the dark.

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I just had to snap a photo of this display card about historical scrapbooks. Unfortunately there weren't any on display!

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One of the most popular exhibits in the museum centered on all the First Ladies in our country's history, including many of their actual inaugural ball gowns. I don't recall the original owner of this dress, but I thought it was quite lovely.

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More science-y stuff in the form of a vintage Lionel chemistry set.

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And I totally geeked when Darren pointed this out to me. Nope, it's not a typewriter...

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...it's a Cobol programming machine. Yes, seriously, this is how people programmed computers before compilers and symbolic debuggers.

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I took a quick look around the gift shop (where I picked up a lovely book of cherry blossom photos) and was tickled to see a massive display of Star Wars items.

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And then we headed to the downstairs portion of the museum, which turned out to be where they kept all the cool stuff, like trains...

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...and old toasters...

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...and all kinds of machinery that completely fascinated Darren.

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I, however, was fascinated by these old ivory carvings.

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And then Darren had a total moment of vindication when he found this writeup about the hogshead unit of measure. Apparently he and his graduate biology adviser have some sort of running argument about this...

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After a couple of hours at the museum, we left D.C. and picked up Natalie and Matt (Hung and Huong's kids) from school. Both of them have grown so much in the year since we last saw them!

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Huong always cooks such goooooood food. Both Darren and I love Vietnamese, so egg rolls and Vietnamese barbeque were totally good with us!

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Natalie bounced from chair to chair during every meal, always sitting with someone!

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I cannot believe that Matt is getting so big!

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The next morning Huong and I made a run to the grocery store to pick up a few items needed for one of the family's favorite activities when I visit- baking! Last time I just made cupcakes, but this time it was cupcakes, cookies, and brownies, too!

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Natalie helped out and was particularly fascinated with the mixer.

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And Darren actually picked up the camera and took a few photos of me (thank you!).

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Both kids were so excited about the goodies that they pulled chairs over next to the oven so they could stand and watch them cook.

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And of course there's always fun with frosting. :)

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A little dance party while waiting for the cupcakes to cool.

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And more fun with frosting!

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Darren and Hung were out picking up the van (it was at the mechanic) while Huong and the kids and I baked, and by the time they got back with a massive order of pho (really, really yummy soup), I was on a massive sugar high and definitely in need of real food.

If only we had a pho shop near our house. ::sigh::

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After lunch (and munching on cupcakes and cookies), we all loaded up in the van for a trip to Harper's Ferry.

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This place was absolutely gorgeous and was made even more so by the amazing fall color in Virginia.

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This may be my favorite photo of Darren. Ever.

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Harper's Ferry has a cool old village that you can visit, too, and it's set up sort of like a living museum.

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I loved the old "general store."

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And the old schoolhouse as well.

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Back outside we decided to walk across the bridge, which was not a great thing for me and my fear of heights. Luckily Darren took my camera from me (I was a bit to frozen to pick it up and use it myself) and got these gorgeous shots for me.

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One last photo of the old church before we left. I only took my 50mm lens (I've become such a minimalist about lenses lately), so I couldn't get the whole thing in.

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Back at the house that night we watched a couple of movies. Actually, that's not true. Darren watched Thor. Hung fell asleep, and Huong and I were both all over our laptops in the back of the home theater. But it was a good night. :)

The next morning (Sunday) the kids were treated to cookies and cupcakes for breakfast. Matt said his favorite part of me visiting is definitely the baking. :)

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And then we all enjoyed a low-key morning of hanging out around the house. Huong looked through photos on my laptop while I worked on my scrapbook on the go about the trip, and Hung and Darren did a little repair work on the central unit.

Yes, we do consider that a low-key morning. :)

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Since this was the last day of our trip, we made plans to do a couple more fun things before the family dropped us off at the airport.

First on the list? Eden- an awesomely cool Vietnamese market in D.C.

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The first order of business was lunch at Huong Viet.

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Huong snapped this photo for me, and I love it!

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Natalie is so cute with her chopsticks.

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I don't know why, but I thought that these plastic tops on our water cups were so cute!

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Oooh, look, more fun with chopsticks!

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Our food was superb, especially Darren's beef lemongrass.

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After lunch we did a bit of shopping. Huong picked up a bunch of these Vietnamese donuts (seriously, I have to learn to make these- they are so good!) for us to take home.

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And then Huong, Darren, Natalie, and I browsed while Hung took Matt to get a haircut. I found all kinds of interesting stuff to photograph in the various shops.

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Of course, you know me- I found the grocery store the most fascinating of all!

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After lunch, shopping, and haircuts were all done, we headed off to the National Zoo. They were closing a lot of exhibits early for the Boo at the Zoo even, but we still were able to see lots of cool animals.

Big cats...

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...otters...

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...and elephants!

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I adored the red pandas especially.

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And of course the big panda, too!

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The kids loved the reptile house- even Natalie wasn't scared of the snakes and lizards (though she did point and say "ewwwww" a lot).

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How fitting is it that the tortoises were the last things we saw before heading to the airport in Baltimore? (The University of Maryland's mascot is a terrapin, and I have the hoodie to prove it. :) ).

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And that was the end of our D.C. adventure for the year. These trips always seem to fly by so quickly- we pack so much into such a short period of time, but it's always so much fun!