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Our Washington, DC Vacation

Travelling on vacation is fun, especially when you’re going into a nice hotel with children. In the summer of 1990, my family went to Washington, DC for vacation. We went on a weekend because hotel rates were cheaper. Through the week politicians would use the hotels for meetings etc., but they reduced the prices to get business on the weekends. Apparently, you can stay at nice places for a relatively cheap price.

In 1990, I was a nine-year-old child, and my brother Dave was four. Our family stayed at the Mayflower Hotel in DC which is a big, fancy hotel. Many Inaugural Balls have been held there. How it must have looked, going in there with a bunch of toys including Duplos, Tinkertoys and a bunch of stuffed animals for time spent in the room, on the bellhop’s cart.

We spent our first day at the Washington Zoo. Dave was little enough that he still used a stroller; this made taking him places easier. It was easier for my parents to push him in a stroller, than to try to get him to walk long distances without tiring. He was at the cusp of not needing a stroller, though the stroller was a big help. I wanted to see the lions and tigers. I had learned that these large animals were cats just like their smaller cousins which have always been my favorite animal. I had also received a plastic lion figurine as a stocking gift for Christmas, 1989. The zoo kept both the lions and tigers in a large outdoor enclosure together. There was no cage or glass. They had a large area to roam around in. They appeared relatively small in size, due to them being far off in their area when we saw them.

I finally got to see the camels! The last time I went to the Washington Zoo, I only wanted to see the camels, and we had to traipse across the whole zoo to find them. I did not want to visit any other animals on the way. As luck would have it, when we got to their area, they were hiding, so I never did get to see them on that visit.

As a souvenir, I bought a plastic tiger figurine to go with the lion I had at home. It was smaller in size, but I liked it quite much.

That evening we investigated the metro. The hotel was located by the Farragut North Station metro stop which sat on the corner. We took the escalator down to the doors to enter the station. The McDonald’s logo was painted on the glass on the door into the station. That made me happy as I loved going to McDonald’s as a child. I enjoyed their Chicken McNuggets, and I would always get a soda. Eating out was an opportunity to get soda, and I could even have it with my meal instead of water (I never liked the taste of water.) Inside the station was a door that had a sign above it which read, “McDonald’s”. The station walls contained maps that showed the various routes of the metro. My parents came to no conclusions on using the metro, but we did go in the door with the McDonald’s sign to eat. Instead of being just McDonald’s, it was a nice little food court. Initially there were a bunch of tables and then a handful of restaurants starting with the McDonald’s and including a Sbarro’s pizza. For my meal I chose the classic, Chicken McNuggets and fries. For a drink I decided as an exception, I wanted an apple juice, which was great. I had had their apple juice before when we would stop there for breakfast. The only downside— The drink came in the same small container similarly as it does for breakfast so I had to ration it. My parents selected a slice of pizza each and a drink.

The next day we went to tour the city. We had only reached the first corner past the hotel (where the metro station was), and Dave’s stroller broke. We went back into the station to look in to using the metro to tour the city, but Mom and Dad ultimately decided that it would be better to keep walking. We also needed to locate a place to get rid of the broken stroller, as we didn’t want to take it back home with us. Dave would tire easily when we were touring. Sometimes we would have to stop for him to rest. Other times my parents would say, “One, two, three, whee!” as they each took a hand, lifted him off the ground, and swung him a little. This “game” helped some of the time. Our first destination was the White House. I remember it was on Pennsylvania Avenue. The house was fancy inside, and only certain sections were open for visitors. I wasn’t enamored with all the flowers in the dining area. We walked down Pennsylvania Avenue to Eleventh Street to visit Ford’s Theater. We entered the National Mall. I thought the name was funny as it contained the word “mall”, which made me think of shopping malls. The National Mall is a large green, grassy area in DC anchored by four major tourist locations. Behind us was the White House, and at the other end was the Jefferson Memorial. In the middle was the Washington Monument. The other direction was flanked by the Capitol Building on one end, and the Lincoln Memorial on the other.

While at the center of the mall, we visited the Washington Monument. The tall structure had both steps and an elevator. We took the elevator to the top, and looked out the windows around Washington, DC. There was a good view up there. I wanted to take the steps on the way back down. Before embarking on this trip, I had learned that the monument had eight hundred ninety-eight steps, and had wanted to descend them. The steps were divided into short, curvy flights. After descending a couple flights to please me, we finished the trek using the elevator.

There was also a reflection pool, lined with trees. The Capitol was on the far end and the Washington Monument on the close end. We also took our good old time looking around the mall.

Dad wanted to go to the Bureau of Engraving to see them make money. It was located at the far end of the mall, by the Jefferson Memorial. There was only one problem, I was having some asthma symptoms, and the Bureau was getting ready to close. It was challenging to move fast to try to get there in time. When we arrived, we had missed their last tour by a narrow margin! As a side note, we visited Washington, DC again in 1998 to see a Star Wars exhibit at the Smithsonian, and this time we did get to take a tour at the Bureau.

Now down at this end of the mall was the Jefferson Memorial so we went there. Next was the Lincoln Memorial. The next stop was the Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial which was a low but very long wall with the names carved in of soldiers, from the war. We were starting to get tired by now, especially Dave and I. My feet were hurting. We were all getting hungry. We didn’t know of a good place to eat. After asking, a person recommended the Old Post Office, and gave us directions there. We were told that they had shopping and a food court in the basement.

The Old Post Office was a multi-story building with a clock tower (discovered during our trip in 1998). We entered at street level into what appeared as a large gift shop. Towards the middle of the building was a flight of steps that led to the basement. Surprise, the basement was a nice-sized food court, and a good place to rest our aching feet and bodies. From the food court, a person could look up and see the shopping area we came from. The inside of the building was circular and a three railed fence was around the perimeter of the main floor. When we were up there, I simply didn’t notice it. We ate and rested before going back to the hotel for the night.

On the third and final day, I asked if this day was going to be a longer day yet then the previous one. Dad said that it could be. We first went to the Capitol. We saw both chambers, The House of Representatives and the Senate. I thought it was interesting, as I had learned about them previously in third grade. We also stopped at the Smithsonian Institute. We were going to visit all three buildings, and started at The Air and Space Museum. What we didn’t know was that these museums closed at an early time such as five o’clock. We didn’t have much time to spend at the Air and Space Museum. I remember around closing time seeing a room with the caption, “The Outer Limits,” that we never made it to as they were closing. It started to storm. Rain poured, and lightning struck. Like always, I was terrified of the lightning. My reasoning for my fear on this trip was getting zapped by it as we were walking outside. The storm prematurely ended our touring for the day as we returned to our hotel.

Though brief, and slightly incomplete at times, I enjoyed the vacation. I liked the zoo. I also liked seeing the historical places, and as mentioned before I thought the name, The National Mall, was funny. As indicated earlier we did have opportunities to go back and see some of the areas we missed. In 1998 we saw a Star Wars Exhibition at the Air and Space Museum, which allowed us to tour the museum more. Besides Star Wars which I really enjoy, I spent time in the room with the planets. And years later, we returned to DC a third time to attend a show, and this trip besides spending even more time in the Air and Space Museum, we went to the Natural History Museum which contained taxidermied animals of all types. In the end, we were able to see everything we wanted anyway, just in some cases at a different time.

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