Wednesday, March 31, 2010

We Should Make a Walking Workout Video

Today was an intense day of walking- and we mean intense. We started off at the National Zoo, where we saw the pandas, nearly got run over by the stroller derby (moms with strollers), and ate a semi-dry, but still edible cheeseburger.

Overall the National Zoo is pretty nice, but is basically one huge slope, and with renovations you have to go to one end and then turnaround and go back the other way. KJ got to relive one of her favorite childhood pictures in front of the animal wall, and Chunk enjoyed laughing at a woman who tripped over a giant rock. It sounds mean, but it was kind of funny- this rock was giant, and we don't really see how she missed it (see photo). Please also note Chunk's reenactment of "rock lady". Oh, and his serious frog pose.

Funny things overheard at the Zoo:
"Hey Joey! Look at the thing!" - parent to child not knowing the animal or even seeing (apparently it's too hard to look at the signs next to exhibits)
"Look at the monkey!" - mom to children in a very annoying voice for every animal in the small mammal house- even the non-monkeys (go education!)
"I see the sloth!...Nope, that's someone's face." -dad to kid, trying to find the sloth and mistakenly identifying someone's reflection as the sloth (see sloth here)

We then continued to Arlington Cemetery. Very neat and peaceful- a must for any DC visitor. We were short on time as they close at 5pm, but we did visit JFK's grave site (along with Jackie O), the Arlington House, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. We even got to see the changing of the guards there! Very cool. Fun fact: The Tomb is guarded 24/7 year round, and being selected to guard it is considered a high honor.

We also saw the memorials for the Challenger and Columbia memorials, as well as the grave of Pierre L'enfant who planned out Washington DC. Fun fact: His protege, Alexander Ralston, laid out the plans for Indianapolis.

Since we'd already walked a ton (trust us, it was a ton), we decided to walk the additional mile from the cemetery to the Lincoln Memorial. Tons of people and very nice. We even overheard a couple of Latvians speaking next to us, but we didn't recognize them, and by the time we'd decided to talk to them they'd walked off. We continued on to the Vietnam Memorial, the Korean Memorial, and then walked by the WWII Memorial and the WWI Memorial (much smaller, and a bit forgotten, but we hear they're going to refurbish it).

Our last stop was at the Tidal Basin where the Jefferson Memorial and the cherry blossoms are. A gift from Japan in 1912, these cherry blossoms are celebrated each year with the Cherry Blossom Festival (going on right now actually!).

And so after an eventful and very aerobic day, we are now relaxing with an episode of The Office.

Doing it Panda Style

On our way to the National Zoo to see the famous pandas! Maybe while we're there we'll get some food that's finger Ling-Ling good!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Rockets and Things

Day two of our Washington DC visit, was just as full as the first, maybe even more so. Although it was windy and not exactly warm, we didn't really mind since we spent most of our time inside. We first stopped at the Washington Monument (as mentioned in our earlier post), only to find that tickets were not available and would have to come back at 6:30 the next morning. Thanks, but no thanks. At least not his time (we'll have to save it for another trip).

We then moved on to the Castle- informative, but one section had the scent of onions in the air, so we affectionately renamed it The Hall of Onions. We then attempted a human experiment: Look at something intently with much interest, and see how many people you can get to do the same. Success, as we checked out an old desk (cool, but not of great historical interest) a group of tween girls got really excited to look at it (see photo). After a good chuckle, we continued to look around before going to the National Air and Space Museum. We saw some pretty big planes, rockets, and other flight related things, before checking out the IMAX movie Hubble 3D (narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio). It talks about the Hubble telescope, and follows the astronauts who had to fix it into space. It also shows images that Hubble has sent back to Earth. Very, very cool. *Check out that cell phone in the picture below!

Afterward, our stomachs were growling so we stopped at a hot dog vendor and picked up some dogs. We highly recommend this tactic, as the museum cafes are SUPER crowded. After chowing down, we walked over to the Library of Congress, passing the Capitol Building and the Supreme Court. If you've ever wondered why you should visit the Library, well, we'll tell you why. It's super cool! Awesome architecture, artistry, and a beautifully, vast array of books. You need a special library card to be able to access the section that houses the books, but visitors can overlook the area from an enclosed balcony. *Please also note this teen we spotted, who was attempting to dress trendily by hand folding a handkerchief, and carefully placing it into his back pocket. So cool kid, so cool.

After getting our fill of the Library, we decided to check out the rest of the Air and Space Museum (we'd skipped the second floor, so that we could make it to the Library before it closed- the Air and Space Museum was open late). On our way, we quickly ran in to the Botanical Gardens- gorgeous! We hadn't discussed visiting, but it seemed easy to access and our way, so why not? They were having their orchid exhibit, which featured a ton of different types. Very beautiful.

We finished up the day at the Air and Space Museum, where Chunk started to call KJ a canard, which is French for duck, but also is an airframe configuration of fixed-wing aircraft in which the front canard surface is smaller than the rear main wing. Hahah, jokes, jokes. *Note Chunk standing with the Wright brothers- it was a very serious time. Also note the Riga bread, brought on board by astronauts as space food.

We also, took a late night drive through the city with KJ's Godmother and her husband. Very pretty and informative! We also saw the Latvian Embassy!

Camping out for the Washington Monument??

So we stopped by the Washington monument to see if any tickets were available. It turns out that you have to be at the monument at 6:30 am to get tickets (they have 800 a day) The cranky man behind the counter was sick of answering this question! So basically you have to be here at the crack of dawn to wait up to 11 hours to enter the obelisk! Off to some museums!!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Welcome to Washington

Our first day in DC proved to be fruitful as we somehow got our time management mojo back. We started off at the Museum of American History, where got an awesome look at....well, American history (duh, we know). We saw a ton of stuff, including the First Ladies' dresses, Julia Child's kitchen, a creepy George Washington Zeus statue, the original Star Spangled Banner, and KJ's favorite- the shirt Tom Selleck wore as Thomas Magnum in Magnum PI- she was 'whooping' and 'whoa-ing' over it (so Tom Selleck if you're reading this, KJ loves you and Magnum!). Chunk got to see his favorite Ninja Turtle, Michelangelo, and was almost as excited as KJ was about the Magnum shirt.

We then moved on to the Museum of Natural History, which was overrun by groups of school children (as noted in our last post...). Although we didn't get to see everything, we did get to see multiple examples of animals, the evolution of man, and the Hope Diamond (beware of the curse! ahh!).

Afterward, we strolled by the National Archives, but since the line was winding around the block, we decided to stop at Potbelly's (which, as posted before, helped us regain our sanity). So with full stomachs and clear minds, we checked out the International Spy Museum. Fairly new in DC and definitely cool. There was even a Minox spy camera from the 1940s that had been made in Riga, Latvia! Worth checking out and spending the extra bucks to see it.*

*Side note: Most museums and attractions in Washington DC are free, which makes it an awesome place to visit.

(Chunk doing his Japanese tourist pose)

We then decided to check out the Archives again to see if the line had died down. They close at 7pm, and since it was around 6pm we were in luck! The line was fairly short, and we got to see The Declaration of Independence, The Bill of Rights, and The Constitution. Very cool!

All in all it was a great first day, plus we get to take the train in, and the stations look like something out of the Death Star.


Here is a short list of ridiculousness we observed:
  • Julia Child's kitchen being super packed most likely due to the movie Julie and Julia (good movie, but we're just wondering how many people were only interested because of that).
  • A little girl reading books and urging her parents to hurry up so that she can learn and see more, while a 14-year-old boy was being entertained by a long red balloon that he was carrying around.
  • A woman asking her husband why braille was just random dots instead of carved letters (um, because it's easier).
  • A woman telling her husband what he was going to eat while standing in line at a cafe (a Caesar salad, in case you're wondering).
  • A five person family at the Spy Museum , of which two members would constantly cut people and be rude, while the others were visibly embarrassed by their behavior.
Now off to plan day two!

Walkers Rage

Apologies for the last post and being so short. We unfortunately fell victim to a fit of walkers rage. A ray of sunshine, in this otherwise overcast day, appeared in the form of a familiar and delicious Potbelly's. Now we're refuled and ready to take on the crowds of school children and families with sport utility strollers.


Waiting to get into the Museum of Natural History, ran into some characters at the Museum of American History. Updates coming later....

Arrived In Washington DC

After an overly long drive from NYC, we finally made it to Washington DC. We're staying with KJ's Godmother and her husband in Vienna, and were welcomed with our first homemade meal of the trip, a glass of wine, and a vodka cocktail. Thank goodness for family!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Got Crabs??

Driving through crazy crazy rain and traffic in Baltimore, not able to stop for delicious crabs. We were hoping to stop to see Duff and crew at Charm City Cakes as well, but I guess they lucked out this time!

Big Willie style!

Before leaving NYC, we got some New York style bagels and then went to L's ceramics studio to check out her work. It's still on display from the show she had some weeks ago. See the artist and her work below:

Now, we're rolling through Philadelphia (no sign of Will Smith yet) on our way to D.C. No cheesesteaks this time, since we had and outrageously long time in ridiculous traffic on our way out of NYC Via the Holland tunnel. Running behind schedule, we have decided to fire Ivars, and have switched to Aonghus, our friendly Irish GPS navigator.

Goodbye NYC, Hello Washington DC

After Thai food, we met up with A, who we haven't seen in years, at Union Hall in Brooklyn. Pretty neat, with indoor bocce ball courts! Then we headed on a ridiculous flim flam on the trains. Where it should have taken one simple train ride, it turned into multiple separate rides and creepy stations (we also noted that everyone appeared to be zombie like, and then we really got creeped out). Note creepy station below:

We finally arrived at our destination- Lucky Jacks- to meet up with a ton of awesome Latvians. Ended up staying for a bit, and then headed back to L's apartment.

All in all a fabulous trip, and now off to Washington DC!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Song and Dance

Just sat down at L's favorite Thai place- Song. Waiting for what L says us the best Thai food in the world- take that back- it just showed up! Super fast! We checked out the Brooklyn promenade earlier, and soon we're off to meet some friends for a night out!

5pointz and Sunnyside

We checked out some awesome graffiti art at 5pointz, where we met the main guy that runs it, Meres. Pretty awesome. He told us about some events they're planning over the summer- perhaps another trip to NYC?

We're now sitting in A and E's apartment in Sunnyside Queens, enjoying some beverages and kebabs from the local Lebanese shop, and being entertained by the adorable S. Tonight we're eating at L's favorite Thai restaurant, and then we'll see.

Isn't little S super cute?

Day 2: NYC

About to go out for the day to grab some grub, and check out 5pointz (a graffiti spot Chunk wants to check out). Then we'll see what the day will hold?

Friday, March 26, 2010

Daytime Wrap Up: NYC (Day 1)

Here's a wrap up of today's daytime events for our faithful followers...

We started out a little later than usual, but didn't know that visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island would take a gazillion hours. Not really a big deal, except that some of our other plans for the day got pushed back. So here are a few points of "interest" from our journey to the islands.

(Above picture notes the amount of Latvians in each state according to the come that wasn't a question on this year's census?)

Tip #1: On the way to the Statue of Liberty, go to the top deck of the ferry, but don't bother sitting since everyone and their mom stands up even on benches and blocks your view. You're better off standing along the right side rail.

Tip #2: Be prepared for a serious security check, and allot an extra hour to this visit.

Tip #3: Be sure to check online how to get tickets to go into the Statue (even the base of the Statue), because only a small number of people had these magical tickets. The rest of us had to observe from the very bottom of the island. (This magical ticket also requires that you stand in an additional line once you reach the island).

Aggravating Observation #1: Dad and Mom texting and checking smart phone constantly, while on vacation with children. Even their small children were telling them to hurry up. Dad was writing a message on Facebook, and only looking up in order to not trip on the way to the back of the boat. Then told his kids to move so he could continue entertainment on phone.

Aggravating Observation #2: Line of people at concessions on ferry, and different Dad with family decides to cut in front of everyone in line while yelling over shoulder of person paying for snacks for the family. Later daughter asks for Milky Way, and again he cuts the line, buys a Milky Way, and gives her a half eaten one (the other half being in his mouth). Noted that he knew he was cutting because he pointed out that the line was gone to others looking for snacks.

Aggravating Observation #3: A ridiculous amount of people that apparently have no manners, and can not even say a simple 'excuse me'.

By this time we were slightly aggravated, but there were some pleasant people along the way.

Pleasant people #1: Big smiles from passing strangers.

Pleasant people #2: Teenagers that said 'excuse me'.

Pleasant people #3: A super well behaved group of teens- 4-H Clubbers (unlike another raucous group we saw earlier).

Pleasant person #4: The guy that served us our 'the reason Americans are fat' loaded fries (cheese, bacon, sour cream, chipotle sauce) for lunch. Super smiley and super friendly. He said he ate the same thing the day before, and fell asleep in the basement of Ellis Island for 3 hours.

Pleasant person #5: Lady that offered to take our picture, while we were trying to take a selfie. Too bad it was completely the wrong angle we were going for.


We then made our way up to the World Trade Center sight. We didn't really get to see it though, as the sight is surrounded by a fence. They're currently building a memorial, which will nice to see in the future.

Afterward we headed up to Times Square- very cool and very fun! We checked out the southern section of Central Park, and then grabbed a few slices of pizza before heading to the Top of the Rock at Rockefeller Center. Really awesome views of the city all the way around. Three different levels, inside and outside. A must do if in NYC.

(Note the Latvian flag to the right of the US flag)

We then strolled back into Times Square (this time viewing it in the darkness of night), and sat for a bit enjoying the scene. Really neat cafe tables set up in the areas that used to be open streets. Very Euro feeling.

So that, in a nutshell, has been our day in NYC up to this point. Stay tuned for more!

Side note: We made it to over 1,000 hits! Thanks guys!


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