DAY ONE: 5:00am Start. 7:00am Flight.
Who knew that the airport is so busy on an early Wed. morning? Well, maybe people who travel regularly, but to us poor schmo's who are
chipper (well, THERE anyway) this fine morning, the crowds are pretty amazing. We start the day with a rocket-ship-ride that in a futuristic jet-propelled device we in Seattle refer to as "Caffeinated Cabbies." We slowed down a bit when our Boeing 737 took to the air with the usually good natured Southwest carrying our non-paying-free-ticket-holding butts to Chicago, and then to Baltimore. On the second leg of the trip we sat opposite a pilot returning home. He recommended that we check out the Hotel Washington, a classic early 20th century building right in Foggy Bottom a block from the White House. They have a terrace-roof bar and bistro that overlooks the white house and the Washington Monument. We thought it sounded like a good idea and decided to check it out.
We landed without fanfair in Baltimore, and spent a long time with a crush of a crowd staring at poorly designed video reader boards that were supposed to tell us just exactly where our luggage would be showing. Steen and I bought new suitcases, smaller ones so that we could carry them on, but sadly the second leg was too full, so we had to check them.
We rebuked the throng with our stealthy crowd weaving, and retrieved our new suitcases which, to my eyes, are so new that the scream AMATEUR TRAVELERS something that one, no matter how true it is, hates to cop to. We took the free tram to the Train station where we acted like cool commuters and took the MARC train into Washington, about 40 minutes. The amazing thing was that during that 40 minutes the train didn't once cross a road. Imagine that in Washington State--this region was built around the trains, it seems, so that they have an uninterrupted run as fast as they can go. These are also the tracks that carry the legendary Acela line for Amtrak (one of the few Amtrak lines, along with our own Cascades run, that make money), but at $75.00 for the two of us for the 30 minute high-speed plush ride as opposed to the $12.00 for the both of us on MARC, we made the right choice.
We're staying at the Holiday Inn on the Hill, a block or so from the senate, and two blocks from the train station, which we easily walked. Interestingly, every building you see here is famous, nearly. Oh, there's the teamsters. Oh, there's the mint. Oh, there's the National Press Club. Oh, there's THAT GIANT OBELISK WATCHING ME WITH TWO LITTLE RED BEADY EYES! (Trivia time: when the Washington Monument was built it had a steam powered elevator to raise the 550 feet to the top, but it was considered too dangerous for women and children, so only men could ride it. The ladies and the babies had to do the stairs).
Anyway, the HIOTH is a nice place, modern accouterments including high speed internet in the rooms, and late 90's style modernish redesign. Our first celebrity sighting was when were checking in, and next to us was ex-Illinois Senator Paul Simon also checking in.
We did indeed catch a cab to the Hotel Washington. Cabs here are great--rates are set by region, so if you stay within the mall area, any cab ride is $6.50--easy to plan for. The Hotel Washington is like the Camlin in Seattle (or what the Camlin was before it was bought and stripped down), an older hotel with some classy features, but maybe a little long in the tooth. We were seated by our nice russian waitress who couldn't understand a word I said between one couple who ignored each other (after spitting water on each other through straws) to talk on cell phones, and on the other by a young British couple who literally did not talk for 10 minutes straight. Nor did they eat. Or drink. They sat there like logs with duct tape over their yaws. Finally, the loud couple left and we stole their choice little table in the corner, from which we were looking ominously down on the Treasury building, a block from the White House. A funny elderly british couple of ladies then sat down next to us and ordered some Budweisers and a mango smoothie. They were very witty, and said "oh yes, that must be the white house over there with the little men in black patrolling the roof." I couldn't see the guys, but as Christine pointed out their irony in this quip is a bit mitigated by those funny soldiers outside Buckingham palace.
So, we ate and drank a whiskey toasting DC and the pilot who told us about this place, and then came back here to watch a bit of TV and go to sleep. We turned on the television and on C-SPAN was a bunch of Democrats discussing the 2004 presidential hopefuls, including Bruce Reed, the Democratic Leadership Council president. He's from Idaho and family friends with Christine's family. We're seeing him and his wife tomorrow, so it was a bit odd to see him on TV tonight.
Tomorrow we rise early to go walk the mall and see what we see. Maybe that will include little men in black suits on the roof of the White House. I'll let you know...
Martin & Christine from DC
PS--as we were heading off to sleep I twiddled the radio dial to see what I could see, and stumbled across my usual bedtime entertainment--the Canadian radio show As it Happens. Hurray for public radio! I was able to fall asleep to the familiar sounds. Just like being at home.
Posted by: Martin McClellan
On the date of: October 16, 2003 06:05 PM