The day started at 8:00 with Don calling my cell phone. “Have you seen my conference badge?” Turns out that last night Don had been holding both of our conference bags and he handed me his bag, which contained his badge. I didn’t find it immediately, but I located it before the conference started as Noon. It is a good thing too, because this conference gives away loads of free food and they’re not likely to be giving away replacement badges willy nilly.
Stephanie and I wanted to grab some lunch before the conference started, so we got down to Connecticut Avenue and realized we should see if Don wants to join us. We gave him a call and he agreed to join us. While we were standing at the corner of Woodley Avenue and Connecticut Avenue, a car turns the corner, pulls over and the passenger window comes down. “You’re a little far from Oklahoma to be standing around here, aren’t you?” It was a friend of mine from my I.T. organization I belong to. The last thing I expected was to be recognized by somebody driving a car in D.C.
Don caught up with Stephanie and I, and we ate lunch at a Thai restaurant on Connecticut Avenue, just a few storefronts down from where we ate dinner the night before. Despite being the only customers, the service was dreadfully slow. The food was pretty good, and we did enjoy eating outside again. There was not much foot traffic at all during the Noon hour on a Sunday.
Don and I were off to the conference, while Stephanie did some exploring of her own. She visited the National Zoo, which is essentially down the street from where we are staying. It is easily within walking distance. Admission to the zoo is free. We knew that the various museums around DC were free, but we really didn’t expect the zoo to be free. Stephanie made up for it by spending huge sums of money at the National Zoo Gift Shoppe.
The National Zoo is probably best known for one thing – being one of the four zoos in the U.S. that have panda bears. The other three are in San Diego, Atlanta and Memphis. Did you know that it costs five times as much to keep a panda in a zoo than it does the next most expensive animal – the elephant? Stephanie did get lucky enough to see one of the panda bears for a minute, but it was gone so fast she could not even get her camera out before it disappeared from view.
Stephanie said that the National Zoo reminded her a lot of the San Diego Zoo. While the National Zoo had a larger footprint than San Diego (in her opinion), she thought the San Diego Zoo had a greater variety of animals. The zoo was clean and there were lots of families out and about in it today.
While Stephanie was exploring the zoo, Don and I were interacting with animals of another sort at the conference. During one of the afternoon sessions that we were both attending, a Russian lady showed up wearing a leopard print outfit from head to toe. Blouse, skirt, shoes. We had the good fortune of her sitting in the row in front of us. (Who better to facilitate Communist – Capitalist relations than Don Hammons?) We had the misfortune of her turning around and leaning into Don asking for his handout, which he had brought with him from Tulsa. Don refused her advances, and later assured me, “I swear I only looked her in the eyes”. Nyet!
After the session concluded, Don took me on a tour of the many chocolate statues adorning the hallways of the Marriott hotel. The highlights were the U.S. Capital made of 100% pure white chocolate, Abraham Lincoln made of dark chocolate, the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima, and Albert Einstein. Can you think of a better way to celebrate the achievements of this country than with sculptures made of chocolate?
I finished up my time at the conference working at the Vendor Expo Hall. The colleague I am working with lives in Maryland but purchased a home in Las Vegas several years ago, which will be his retirement home. He and I obviously see eye to eye on a lot of things. He brought some pictures of the house to share with us. There are several interesting things about this house; such as the front yard is covered in concrete and house has two fireplaces. Two Fireplaces! I would suggest if you get chilly, just crack a window.
Don and I picked up Stephanie and we set out on foot at 6:30. Personally, I have not seen LaDeanna, the 4thmember of our party, since we got out of the taxi cab yesterday. However, Don assures me that he saw her in one of the sessions today.
Our focal point of tonight’s sightseeing was the Washington National Cathedral. This was a 20 minute walk that we turned into 30 minutes by stopping multiple times to take pictures of this & that. Our first stop was the Swiss Embassy, which just happened to be sitting all by itself on a residential street. The most striking aspect of the Embassy grounds was a dead tree that had been painted all white, which was situated right in front of the modernly designed building. After several minutes of us taunting them to “get off the fence”, we were back on our way.
When we arrived at the National Cathedral, dusk was turning to night. I was making art with my camera, capturing the spires and gothic architecture of this Episcopal Church, but later was disappointed to see that it was too dark for the pics to look very good. Stephanie may go visit again tomorrow, and take the camera with her.
It is just as well that the pictures did not turn out well, because this Cathedral defies pictures. It was massive. It was beautiful. We are all very glad that we made it there to see it tonight.
We were surprised to learn that the Cathedral’s construction began in 1907, but was not completed until 1990. It is the United State’s 2nd largest cathedral, and the 6th largest in the world. (The largest is St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.) There are over 200 people buried at the National Cathedral, including Woodrow Wilson and Helen Keller. Also, there are over 100 gargoyles on the cathedral, including one of Darth Vader, located on the Northwest Tower.
We spent a few minutes peering through the massive front doors, to see what we could view of the sanctuary. While standing there, we could hear somebody inside playing the massive pipe organ.
Once it got too dark to see, we set off on our quest for food. Our intention was to walk down Wisconsin Avenue, and then take Macomb Street over to the Cleveland Park district for dinner. Stephanie had scoped out some possibilities while in Cleveland Park earlier in the day. However, just a few blocks down Wisconsin, we came upon several busy restaurants. The atmosphere looked lively, so we chose a Mexican place called the Cactus Cantina.
Of course, we received slow service, but after two days, we are getting used to this. We got some appetizers, but the star of the show were our entrees. I ordered the Lomas Saltoda, which was a sirloin steak simmered in Peruvian sauces, with squash, peppers and shoestring french fries. It was outstanding. Stephanie ordered the Masitas de Puerco. It was Cuban style pork, roasted in bitter oranges, with a side of oven roasted plantains. Don ordered the Camarones Brochette, which was jumbo shrimp stuffed with cheese & jalapeno, wrapped in bacon. We all shared these great foods with each other. Six thumbs up for the Cactus Cantina!
Across the street from the Cactus Cantina was a little dessert shop called “Something Sweet”. Not that we were hungry, but we had to check it out. Stephanie and I got the Devil Dog Cupcakes and Don got a buttered pecan ice cream cone. We had to eat them outside because the shop was closing. We were distracted by the cool temps by something we were unaccustomed to seeing – a group of Muslim women in head scarves having a girl’s night out. They were living it up at one of the streetside restaurants, laughing, taking party pics, etc. We decided to get out of there, as we may have violated some moral code without even knowing it.
The walk back to the Woodley Park Guest House was about 45 minutes. We walked down Macomb Street to Connecticut Avenue. Macomb Street was house after house after house, that were all three stories, with large front porches, and huge, mature trees. The interesting thing about walking through the side streets of DC is that there is hardly any traffic. You definitely see more pedestrians than you do cars. Connecticut Avenue was much busier. We walked past a number of apartment buildings and condos, some of which were built back in the 1920s. Several of these were getting renovations made to them, and they were advertised as priced from the low 300’s to over one million.
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.” ~G.K. Chesterton
For the first few days, we have been travelers. We have been wandering around our neighborhood, just seeing what we can find. Tomorrow, we become tourists.