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Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 3

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

In no particular order…

Snowshoeing, Longmire Cabin, Girl’s Weekend, Mount Rainier, February 2018

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Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 2

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

Me with the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, March 2018

Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 1

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming.  So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

In no particular order…

Hot Chocolate (with secret liquor), Girl’s Weekend, Mount Rainier, February 2018

Atlanta 2018: Planning

What does any traveler love?  Trips booked with rewards points!  Last fall, I was poking around and discovered that I had more than enough Delta miles to book a trip to Atlanta with miles – fees would make the round trip ticket a mere $11.  Of course I would book it!

I have been wanting to swim with Whale Sharks for a while – I saw another blogger’s post on it several years ago, and was instantly intrigued.  The Georgia Aquarium is the largest aquarium in the world, by the volume of the main tank, and is the home to four whale sharks.  There they do a program where people can swim, or if you are dive certified you can scuba dive, with Whale Sharks.

So, I booked a trip and decided I was going to swim with the Whale Sharks as a late Christmas present for myself!  I booked my trip for late January 2018.

To manage costs, because hotels in downtown Atlanta are expensive, I wasn’t going to rent a car, and instead decided to make my way around walking and on the subway.  I built on the Whale Shark experience, finding lots of other fun things to do within walking or subway distance of where I was staying, since I like to stay busy when I travel!  I was spending 6 days total, and I was so excited!

Georgia Aquarium Jellyfish

Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: Where Lincoln Died

Day 5, Sunday, November 12, 2017

My last day in Washington D.C., I was going to be heading to someplace that has been on my bucket list for a very long time, and I was really excited.  Hopefully you don’t think this is too morbid though, because I was going to visit Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen Boarding House.  The sites in Washington, DC where Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth and where he died.  I think anybody who truly admires Lincoln probably wants to see these two sites with their own eyes, so I’m sticking with that…

Admission is free, and you don’t have to have advance tickets, but they are recommended, because the spaces fill up quickly.  The days I was there, they only did the tours (I used the word tour loosely) until about 11 am, because there were rehearsals for a play after that.  Advance tickets only cost $3, which is basically a processing fee for buying them online.  It is worth the small price to have the guaranteed slot!

It is strange to see it up close and in person.  Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen Boarding House have been preserved, but the entire rest of the area around them has been built up with modern buildings.  It is a little like seeing the tiny little house in the animated movie UP, dwarfed by the skyscrapers all around.  After waiting in line for a bit (outside, so be prepared for weather), I was in!

 

Ford’s Theatre Line

The tour takes you up the back stairs into the upper balcony seating area of the theatre, where you have a great view of the stage, and the Presidential Box.  Only Mary’s chair is original in the box, but the theatre has been restored to the way it looked at the time of Lincoln’s assassination with period replicas.  One day, I would love to see a play there.

 

When I say I use the term tour loosely, I mean that the docent basically just answered questions – there wasn’t really any information she presented to the group.  Which is fine for me, since I have read about the assassination and know the players and how it all went down.  If you didn’t know the story, you weren’t going to get it there though.  It was interesting to see where Booth jumped from the box to the stage, and where he exited the stage after breaking his leg.  I was a little disappointed, because the “tour” was supposed to be longer, but they were kind of trying to rush us out of the theatre section because of the upcoming rehearsal. I hung back and waited for everybody to file out and was able to get some good photos after most of the people had gone.  The docents didn’t bother me, even though I was one of the last ones there.

 

Me with the President’s Box

Down in the basement of the theatre, there is a great museum.  It includes artifacts pertaining to Lincoln’s life and family in the aftermath of the assassination, the assassination itself, and the conspirators and the hunt to find them and convict them afterwards.  The museum has the Deringer pistol that Booth used to shoot Lincoln on display.  It was so small – it is hard to imagine such a small implement doing so much damage.  The museum has a lot of good information, so I spend a while there taking it all in.

 

The Deringer pistol used to kill Lincoln

My last stop was the Petersen House.  There isn’t a timed entry here or an issue with rehearsals, so you can visit any time after your theatre tour.  You might have to wait outside for a little while, if there is a line, because the house is very narrow and doesn’t fit that many people.  Like the theatre, not much inside is original, as the originals were sold off as souvenirs after Lincoln’s death.  The original bed that Lincoln died in is now housed in the Chicago History Museum (note to self: visit Chicago History Museum).

 

The Petersen Boarding House

The Ranger did point out where Mary Todd Lincoln sat in the sitting room when she was too upset to stay with Lincoln, and where the men discussed what to do outside of the room.  The small back bedroom is where Lincoln lay, diagonally across the bed, because he was too tall for the bed.  He died there at 7:22 am the next day.  The original bloodstained pillows are in the room.

 

The Petersen house also houses an extensive Lincoln archive; you can tour that too if you are so inclined (I opted not to, as I was getting pretty hungry at that point).  There is a very cool tower of books written about Lincoln in the front room of the archive building. Floor to ceiling Lincoln books, 34 feet in all– this nerd was in heaven!  I was pretty proud of myself, because I had read at least half a dozen of the books included in the tower. I stared at the tower for a bit, thinking to myself, “I’ve read that one, and that one and that one…”

The Tower O’ Lincoln Books

 

On my walk back to the car, I stopped in at Capitol City Brewing Company.  I had a crab cake sandwich and a beer; so good!  You even get a homemade soft pretzel as a starter…

 

Capitol City Brewing Company

 

All in all, I had a really good trip – it was a great long weekend with a good mix of relaxing and sightseeing.  Sadly, it was time to head home, so I made my way back to the Baltimore airport to check in for my flight home.  On the way, I checked out a bit more of D.C. from the car, and saw a bit of Baltimore.  I will have to get back and explore more at some point!  But for now, I boarded the plane and made my way home…  Another wonderful trip had come to an end.

Accidental Airport Selfie – I was taking a pic of the plane hanging above…

Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: Museum of Natural History

Day 4, Saturday, November 11, 2017

After seeing part of the National Mall, I was getting really hungry, and tired of walking, so I headed over to the Museum of Natural History for lunch.  My short time in D.C. meant that I only had time for one Smithsonian museum – I wanted to go to several, but that just means I will need to make another trip.  I had lunch in the museum café, which was pretty good; I had a pulled pork sandwich, tomato salad and a beer.

Museum of Natural History

Then I went upstairs to see the exhibits.  The museum has a lot of cool artifacts.  I saw a tyrannosaurus rex skull, several other dinosaur skeletons including another nearly complete tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, a whole exhibit on different kinds of rocks, minerals and precious and semi-precious gems.  The museum is home to the Hope Diamond.  Let me just tell you, the Hope Diamond has a pretty fascinating history, even if you don’t believe in the curse that it supposedly has.  You can read all about it!

I also saw a great wildlife photography exhibit, a seemingly random collection of jewelry, taxidermied animals and African tribal artifacts.  Did you know the Egyptians used to mummify cats?  And lots of other animals too, including ibis, bulls, and snakes.  However, they also wrapped linens to look like mummies, even though the inside was empty.  Egyptian trickery!  The museum has a large collection of mummies and other Egyptian artifacts.

 

They also have early hominoid fossils. Taung Child is there, a fossilized skull of an Australopithecus africanus, one of the precursors to homosapiens.  The child is thought at around 3-4 years old, and may have been killed by an eagle, based on damage to the skull.  Another interesting reading foray!

Taung Child Skull (a replica)

I finished off my visit with a viewing of the marine exhibit, including a whole section on Narwhals!  I loved Narwhals as a child, even though I have still never seen one, except on TV.  The exhibit had a couple of Narwhal skulls, so you can see where the tooth erupts from their skull.  It is actually a tooth and not a horn or bone.

In Inuit legend, the tusk was created after a woman was dragged into the ocean with a harpoon rope tied around her waist after the harpoon had struck a large narwhal. When she was transformed into a narwhal; her hair, became the spiral tusk.  Fun facts: only 1 in 500 male narwhals grow two tusks, and only 15% of females even have one tusk.  One female narwhal with two tusks is known; its skull was found in the 1600s.

A rare, two tusked Narwhal skull

Last but not least is the African Elephant on display in the rotunda.  This elephant has an interesting history too!

African Elephant – first displayed in 1959

What a fantastic museum!

After having my fill, I briefed checked out the original Smithsonian building and a small exhibit on Smithson; the man who donated money for the creation of the museum.  He had never even traveled to the United States! Smithson was an born illegitimately in France, and later naturalized as a British citizen; he went to university and became a scientist.  He led a nomadic lifestyle, and never married or had children.  When he died, he left his wealth to a nephew, with the stipulation that if the nephew didn’t died without heirs, the money would go to the United States to create “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”  Through some strange circumstances, Smithson’s body was moved to the Smithsonian Castle in the early 1900s; it is still there under the floor.

By this time it was about 5:30, and I was tired of standing and walking.  My subway ride home was uneventful, and after resting up a bit at the hotel, I ventured out again and had a fantastic pasta dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy.  It had been years since I had a meal there and it was delicious.  It certainly wrapped up a wonderful day.

The End

Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: The National Mall

Day 4, Saturday, November 11, 2017

Today was the day that I was going to get to go to Washington D.C.!  I have long wanted to go, and spend about 2-3 weeks there, touring the many monuments and museums on the mall.  A couple of days in D.C. was going to have to suffice on this trip, but I certainly made good use of my time!  Not only that though; I got to go on Veteran’s Day!

I grabbed a yogurt and granola cup at the hotel to eat on the subway into town.  I made my way the few blocks to the Metro station and found my way to the Mall.  The subway station pops up right in the middle of the Mall – so cool!  And cold – it was freaking cold that day, and sadly, I had forgotten to bring a hat or a scarf with me.  I did have some gloves though.  It had been so much warmer the previous day!

I talked to the lady at the Visitor’s booth, and she explained where I could find my National Parks Passport stamps for the various monuments, and off I went.  I stopped first at the Washington Monument – it is so tall!  It is really neat, with its simple clean lines.  Unfortunately, it is closed for renovations until 2019, so you can’t go inside.

Then I wandered down to the World War II Memorial – the memorial is beautiful and humbling.  It is divided into two sections – Atlantic and Pacific – and has pillars for each State.  The fountain is gorgeous, as well as the field of stars.  There are 4,048 stars on the wall here – each star represents 100 American service personnel who died or remain missing – 405,399 in all.  That is a sobering statistic.  I spent some time taking it all in.

I continued on my way down to the Lincoln Memorial, past the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.  The area is very large – I don’t know if I had ever seen it not completely packed with people; usually when the Washington Mall is on the news on the West Coast, it is because there was a big event there.  It was interesting to see.

The Lincoln Memorial

I had a mission at the Lincoln Memorial, besides just seeing the memorial.  I have been a long-time admirer of Abraham Lincoln, and the opportunity to stand there before his likeness, and read the words from his Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address were all amazing, but there was something else too.

There was something I wanted to see for myself.  A trivia thing…  Did you know that in the chiseled marble of the second inaugural address there is a mistake chiseled in?  Yea.  Some poor worker accidentally chiseled an E that should have been an F.  Instead of starting that whole panel over again, they didn’t outline the bottom leg of the E in the black paint, so it is hard to notice that it isn’t the correct letter – unless of course, you are looking for it.  It was so much fun to find it!  It is completely a nerd thing; right up my alley.

It was so humbling to stand in front of Lincoln’s huge marble statue and take it all in.

Heading back outside, I stood on the steps looking towards the Washington Monument.  These are the steps where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his I Have A Dream speech.  Hearing that speech, seeing Abraham Lincoln’s marble form towering in the background, would have been an amazing experience.

As I was coming down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, there was a Peruvian dance troupe just starting to perform a traditional dance.  I don’t know the significance of the man in the half-woman/half-military man costume, so if you do, please let me know.  It was amazing seeing these women dance on top of the boards!  The dance was very beautiful, and I watched for several minutes.

There was also a group of Vietnam Vets gathered on the steps for a ceremony – the 5th Battalion of the 7th Cavalry.  Since it was Veteran’s Day, there was a ceremony taking place at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and they were there with their families for a reunion.  I talked to a gentleman about his service for a few minutes and thanked him.   At the memorial itself, vets and their families were lining up and getting seated.  I watched for a little while, humbled to be in the presence of these brave heroes.

The 5th Battalion of the 7th Cavalry – Heroes

I did get some photos at the edges, but the ceremony meant less access to the memorial than there would usually be.  And that’s ok – the 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Wall mean something special to these men and women.  The Women’s Vietnam Memorial is nearby, and it was neat to see.  I didn’t realize that there was a memorial dedicated to the women who supported the troops in the war zone.

A few of the 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial

 

Walking back down to the Washington Memorial, I checked out a festival that was on the Mall called Catharsis on the Mall; its purpose was to celebrate and promote the empowerment of women.  There were lots of helmets you could wear, and a women’s march for equality, which was not going on while I was there.  When I passed by, there was music and the opportunity to dance on top of a bus that was decorated like a dragon.  It was cool to see, but I’m not really a dancing on top of a dragon bus type – maybe I should be.  The festival also included a women’s march, which was going to be later in the day.

Golden Dragon Dancing Bus

I had already seen so much, and I had barely scratched the surface of the Mall!