Archive for July, 2011

Washington Trip – Day 3 – Patatas Bravas

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Today was our first whole day in Washington DC and it promised to be an eventful one, given the whole 4th of July thing. Assuming that our day would be a little messy, we decided to spend some serious time plotting out our next few days and taking care of some procedural things, like getting cell phones to use in Washington. For this, we needed to head off to Pentagon City Mall beside, you guessed it, the Pentagon.

Getting to the Metro was a bit of a chore. Yes, the metro is accessible but the signage is definitely lacking. In fact, yesterday Clara and Jeff went into the Rosslyn Station, used their cards to get in through the accessible gate, only to discover there was no access for wheelchairs. Why there was an accessible gate is beyond us. Anyway, as it turns out we needed to use the elevator across the road and, because we’d already checked in, we had to be escorted by an attendant who buzzed us through the proper gate. As we waiting for our subway, we noticed a television screen listing places where elevators were not working–sure enough, Pentagon City was one of the stops affected by elevator outages. So, we decided to just get off one stop earlier, check out the Pentagon and then walk over to the mall. Once again we were faced with a bit of an accessibility barrier, as people refused to yield to let Jeff through the wheelchair accessible gate. In fact, Jeff actually had to pull his chair right into the gate just to block people from coming through and they STILL kept coming and trying to climb over him. Kind of ridiculous.

America! The Store

"Hey, you guys got those Roots Canada hats here or...?"

Anyway, arriving at the Pentagon, we had another hilarious “Americans are anti-walking” moment, when we were forced on a bus only to drive across the street, literally across the street, to the mall. Why are Americans so afraid of walking anywhere? We may never know. Anyway, the mall was pretty standard. Oh also, we were left weeping at how cheap cellphones are here…like $40 for two cell phones with unlimited text and call anywhere in America for 2 weeks. We’re pretty sure $40 a month won’t even get you 200 local talk minutes in Canada. We also found one of our favourite stores in Washington, titled “America!” which sold, as you might assume, American…stuff…

After wandering around the mall and buying some great (and cheap) new glasses, we were back to Georgetown to check in to our new hotel, the Georgetown Suites. The room is huge and works really well for me, despite not being an officially designated “accessible” room. Apparently the only difference between this room and the “accessible” ones is a drive-in shower–otherwise the rooms are identical.

Checked in and nicely unpacked, we ventured out to find food, only to find a Spanish tapas restaurant! Jeff cried with joy when he discovered they had Patatas Bravas on the menu. It was truly a beautiful moment for all of us. With nice tapas in our bellies and fond memories of Barcelona floating through our minds, we made our way down to the river to make some new memories with the 4th of July Fireworks. While we had planned to watch the fireworks at the National Mall, countless locals told us to not head down as it would be a giant tourist trap and, if the weatherman has his way, the rain would likely make it a big muddy wheelchair trap too. Instead, all the locals line the shores of the Potamec river and watch the fireworks in relative peace. All in all, this was a good choice. We met some really cool people and didn’t even have to fight for a spot. The fireworks were pretty good, although it was a little sad when the obligatory “U-S-A! U-S-A!” chants fired up. We tried to launch into a rendition of the “War of 1812” song, but people didn’t seem to take kindly to our White House burning ways.

God bless America…

With the fireworks finished and energy running low, it was time to come back to the hotel (but not before picking up some juice at the local grocery store) and take it easy before a big day of touristing tomorrow when Clara and Jeff begin trying to see everything humanly possible in 2 weeks. On the docket for tomorrow are some small art and sculpture museums followed by a trip to the zoo after dinner. There’s a chance tomorrow will be our only day this week without threat of rain, so we’re going to try and do as much of the outdoorsy stuff as possible.

More photos and stories to come…

Jeff & Clara

Travel Log - Washington

Today was our first whole day in Washington DC and it promised to be an eventful one, given the whole 4th of July thing. Assuming that our day would be a little messy, we decided to spend some serious time plotting out our next few days and taking care of some procedural things, like getting […]

Read More

Washington Trip – Day 2 – 1789

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The Diamond Club, a gentleman's club advertising "BYOB!"

Do you think the 2nd B stands for bacon? If so, I'm no longer interested.

Before we begin today, we have one tidbit of information to include from yesterday that somehow Jeff forgot to mention. So as dusk was setting in and energy was running slim, we realized we were quickly running out of gas and needed some American cash to pay for an upcoming toll road — they don’t take kindly to our funny-money down here. As we pulled off the highway in search of a gas station, we discovered this Gentleman’s Club, advertising “BYOB!!!” Now we’re not sure if this is the standard “bring your own beer” or if perhaps in strip club lingo this means “bring your own babe” which, frankly, kind of defeats the purpose…we think…we’ve never set foot in that type of establishment. Anyway, we found it totally perplexing and in some ways wish we would have ventured inside to figure out what it meant. In other ways (most ways, honestly) we’re glad we resisted.

This morning began a bit late, opting for a good sleep after a long drive. After shaking out the cobwebs of an extremely deep sleep we headed down the road to a local pub to wrestle up some good ol’ American greasy breakfast. For Jeff, this was the moment when memories of past trips to America began really flooding back as he noticed just how many American flags are out and about in these parts.

Tons of American flags in a garden

We'll give a signed print from Cripz to the first person to tell us how many stars are in this photo. Spoiler alert: there's too many to count.

Granted, it’s the 3rd of July and people are feeling especially patriotic, but it was pretty red, white and blue out there. Also eagles. Tons of eagles. The breakfast was great, although the portions were a bit…extreme…as in enough to feed an army. In fact, Clara could have taken a bath inside her coffee cup. That is not an exaggeration.

Heading off from Ali’s uncle and aunt’s mansion-where-they-filmed-The Village was extremely tough, because it was beautiful and cozy, but soon we were on the road on the final stretch to Washington DC. Driving past Baltimore was cool, given that Jeff has been there before for a conference and could see the hotel he stayed at from the high way (yes, it was that tall). The drive was uneventful, aside from an impromptu group sing-a-long of the theme from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, which will likely go down as a favourite moment from the trip.

Arriving in Washington was breathtaking. Driving past the Washington Monument was definitely a “we’re really here” moment–that is not a small obelisk, we’ll say that much. The roads are pretty confusing, especially down in the core where they’ve decided to move away from the grid pattern of most major cities and go with something closer to the Boston “roads just going wherever the hell they choose” philosophy, which wreaked havoc on our GPS. We made it to the hotel in one piece though and were anxious to have at the city.

Given the driving and lack of energy, we opted for a quiet night including a nice team dinner in Georgetown. After deciding on the restaurant called 1789, we set out on foot but not before asking directions. Asking the woman at the front, she was shocked to hear we were considering walking, exclaiming “But that’s like a 50 minute walk! The bridge alone is like 30 minutes!” We’re not sure if she was perhaps being paid by the Metro to really push the service or perhaps was just trying to save Clara and Ali from heat exhaustion, but we decided to go against her advice and hoof it. In the end, we’re kinda glad we did because it wasn’t a long walk at all (maybe 20 minutes, tops) and we got to see a slice of the city in the process.

A picture of houses slanted to the left.

They build some weeeeird houses here in the USA. The recession hit the leveler industry the hardest apparently.

The end result? Georgetown is BEAUTIFUL and we can’t wait to move hotels. Right now we’re in a Marriott in Arlington but tomorrow we move to our main hotel, the Georgetown Suites. Clara and Jeff even took a second to visit Georgetown University, right around the corner from the restaurant, and both had moments of “Man…why did we go to Western?”

But the real point of reading this blog is to hear about 1789. Wow. What a meal. This place is absolutely top notch fine dining with a wonderfully friendly staff (including Paul who has his own YouTube channel under the username “MrPMorton”). As we discovered from talking to our waiter, apparently 1789 is actually a bit of an up-and-comer right now on the DC restaurant scene ever since Barack Obama ate there a few weeks ago. Yep, THE Barack Obama. Clara has convinced herself that she used the same fork as Obama. Ali has convinced herself she used the same toilet paper as him. Jeff is confused why Barack was using the women’s bathroom. Anyway, apparently one of the Supreme Court Judges was a floor above us, likely also being fed some of the best food he’s ever eaten in his life. Pretty cool, all in all. If you are ever in DC, do not miss out on this place–the food and wine is matched only by it’s ambiance, which is very chill and exclusive-feeling. Beyond 5 out of 5 stars for this little gem. But don’t take our word for it, listen to Barack Obama. He is your overlord. Clara would like to disagree with most of the above; the food was too salty. Fuck salt. Also they wouldn’t serve her wine because she looked too prepubescent or something.

With full bellies and bright spirits, we decided to head back to the hotel for some quick schedule making and an early bedtime. Overall, we’re feeling pretty good about this trip–there are tons of accessible signs and entrances to stores and restaurants that we’ve seen and wheelchair taxis appear to be pretty common. With the little bit that we’ve seen, so far, this may be one of the more accessible tourist places we’ve ever seen.

God bless America.

Well that’s about it for today. It was a long day, despite doing little more than eating. Perhaps we’re better at being American than we thought. Hiyoooooo. Tomorrow the real deal gets going though…Washington DC on the 4th of July? Hells yeah. We fully intend on bringing a boombox with us tomorrow and playing the Arrogant Worms song “War of 1812” on repeat…just to remind those Yankee Doodle Dandies who’s the boss.

From Americaland with love,

– Jeff and Clara

Travel Log - Washington

Before we begin today, we have one tidbit of information to include from yesterday that somehow Jeff forgot to mention. So as dusk was setting in and energy was running slim, we realized we were quickly running out of gas and needed some American cash to pay for an upcoming toll road — they don’t […]

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Washington Trip — Day 1 — Ever get that feeling you’re about to drive to Washington?

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That’s right gals and guys, it’s time again for another thrilling two weeks of travel blogging courtesy of Jeff and Clara. As you might remember, we blogged about our trip to Barcelona last summer, when Jeff went to meet Clara’s relatives and become a professional bull fighter. This time around, Clara is getting a taste of Americana and it’s gonna be like biting into a big warm slice of apple pie. Because of some scheduling stupidity on Jeff’s part, our trip is going to consist of several days sight-seeing in Washington DC, followed by a few days of family reunioning in Anderson, South Carolina, finalized with a few more days of sight-seeing in Washington DC.

But enough babbling, let’s get right into it. We left London this morning around 9:30 and, after discovering Jeff had forgotten our passports, we were officially on the road around 10. The border was slow, as expected, but we managed to get across in a little under two hours. Also note that Ali, Jeff’s PSW who is driving us, attempted to pick up a tattooed man in the car next to us and would later nearly get Jeff repossessed by the border guard when he asked “Are you importing anything to the USA?” and she replied “Only Jeff.” We’re pretty sure there are rules against importing cripple revolutionaries.

Shortly after getting into Americaland, we decided to grab a bite to eat at a “Pizza Plant” and Clara got her first glimpse at all-American obesity. At this pizza joint, they have created a “double-decker stuffed pizza” which essentially is like a birthday cake made with pizza. We’re guessing eating one of these monstrosities is probably like 4 medium pizzas. Of course, we were sitting beside two large men (one of whom was popping his diabetic pills washed down with a Pepsi–NOT diet) who would go on to eat said enormous pie in the time it took the 3 of us to eat a normal thin crust medium pizza.

Map of the USA with pins in it

Lotta Canucks passing through this rest stop...

God bless America.

The real joy of the day happened later, right before leaving New York state. As energy levels were beginning to run low and Jeff and Clara had both decided to take a nap, Ali noticed an interesting sign which announced the local Boy Scouts would be giving out free hot dogs and lemonade at the next rest stop. Of course, we stopped and were given some delicious free eats.

A list of places with pins beside them

Sure, I've never had a problem finding my hometown on a map, but this is AMERICA--the map should put the pin in for YOU.

Two interesting points. Number one is that the boy scouts had set up a map in front of their hot dog tent where they asked visitors to place a pin of where they’re from. Amazingly, there was already a pin from London, Ontario. Jerks. Of course the map was only of the USA and southern Ontario, so many travelers had begun writing non-mapped locations along the side. While most of them were from Asia, we noticed that someone had hilariously written “Chicago” and placed a pin. If this didn’t round out the “Silly Americans” experience enough, we then discovered the rest stop had decided they would just hang urinal cakes from the ceiling fan in an effort to keep the air nice and fresh. It was largely a failed effort.

Once again, God bless America.

Bathroom ceiling fan with urinal cake attached by string

They probably figured "Why buy TWO air fresheners when these urinal cakes ARE air fresheners?" It's American industriousness at it's best.

In the end we stopped at Ali’s aunt and uncle’s place in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania for the night. Apparently that M Night Shyamalan movie, The Village, was filmed on this street. Tomorrow we’re going to re-enact the scene when the townsfolk see the airplane for the first time.

Until tomorrow,

– Jeff and Clara

Travel Log - Washington

That’s right gals and guys, it’s time again for another thrilling two weeks of travel blogging courtesy of Jeff and Clara. As you might remember, we blogged about our trip to Barcelona last summer, when Jeff went to meet Clara’s relatives and become a professional bull fighter. This time around, Clara is getting a taste […]

Read More