09/20/10 - NY/DC Normally, on our long vacations, I like to have a separate diary entry for each day; however, I was really lax this year about keeping track of what was done on specific days. I actually do have a physical diary I carry along with me on vacations for just that purpose.  On cruises it is easy to update - we usually have a few hours of down time each day.  On wine trips it is easy to update - I use the same diary to keep all of my tasting notes for the various wineries.  For NY and DC - well, I don't think we had 5 spare minutes to relax our feet let alone write about it :).  In fact, I'm almost certain this is the last time Susan and Nina will ever let me plan an "urban" vacation - I'm pretty sure I squeezed just about everything I ever wanted to do at those two cities into the six days we were there.  It was a ton of fun, a wonderful historical and cultural adventure, but gosh I need a vacation from my vacation (even more than normal - yes, I know, our cruises are fairly jam-packed).   


Liberty's Tablet

Times Square

Day 1 - Foot Tiredness Scale (●◦◦◦◦◦◦◦◦◦) : "These Boots Were Made for Walkin" - We left for New York on an early Sunday morning.  Most of the day was spent traveling between DFW and New Jersey, and then taking a train from New Jersey to Manhattan.  If there was one thing we learned on this trip it was how to navigate public transportation (Planes, trains/subways, and automobiles/taxis, oh my... oh, and boats too).  We checked into the Herald Square Hotel (nice hotel located about a block away from the Empire State Building - perfect centralized location to everything at a great value) early in the afternoon and dropped off our luggage and then hit the streets of NY.  For our first evening we explored Times Square (saw the naked cowgranny - wish I hadn't) and caught an evening showing of the Lion King.  The performance was simply breathtaking and the theatrics were impressive - they certainly know how to put on a Broadway show, well, on Broadway.


Central Park

Little Italy

Day 2 - Foot Tiredness Scale (●●●●◦◦◦◦◦◦) : "A Mile in Her Shoes" - First up on the agenda for Monday was a subway ride to Battery Park on the South end of Manhattan.  From there we took a quick ferry ride over to Liberty Island where we admired the view of an American icon and then we climbed 354 steps to the crown of Lady Liberty herself (Note:  If you want to view the crown be sure to acquire tickets online at least 4 months in advance).  The staircase of 354 steps was tiny (I had to hunch over) and the view from the crown was quite a bit like looking out of airplane windows (you can't see much); however, the experience was still priceless and I would highly recommend it to everyone.  Once our Liberty tour was completed we visited Battery Park, Ground Zero, Wall Street, China Town, Little Italy, and Grand Central Station.  We had a superb Indian food dinner followed by a perfect evening admiring the NY skyline from the top of the Empire State Building.


Belvedere's Castle

86th Floor of Empire State Building

Day 3 - Foot Tiredness Scale (●●●●●●●◦◦◦) : "A Walk in the Park" - We started with a quick subway ride to the North side of Manhattan and spent the morning touring Central Park.  There is a huge variety of things to do in Central Park and I really think I could spend an entire day exploring the sites.  We fed squirrels,  viewed Shakespeare's garden, climbed to the top of Belvedere's Castle, and explored the Rambling Forest.  The hustle and bustle of traffic could be heard throughout Central Park but it was still a nice bit of peacefulness in the middle of the mayhem that is New York.  Following the park we spent a few hours discovering unique art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 


Street Food

National Botanic Garden

Day 4 - Foot Tiredness Scale (●●●◦◦◦◦◦◦◦) : "A Break From the Daily Stroll" - Throughout most of the NY trip I was on a quest to find the best slice of pizza.  Most of everything I tried was yummy (one exception; Speedy's pizza - blah), but I did finally find the best slice (at the 5th pizza place I tried) mere minutes before our train left NY for DC.   On a tip from my neighbor I tracked down Famous Ray's Pizza and enjoyed a tasty slice.  Other than pizza I was also always on the lookout for a unique dining experience from a street vendor.  We enjoyed hot dogs, kniches, falafel, and muffins.  If I lived in NY I think I'd pick up food from the street cart every chance I had - not only because it is delicious (and unfortunately very unhealthy), but also because it is dirt cheap.  I will admit the one of two downsides to NY is that most restaurant pricing could almost be considered extortion.  The second downside is you can just about "catch" cancer from the large percentage of people who smoke in public (I think I held my breath half the trip).


DC at Night

Capitol Building

Fortunately the train ride from NY to DC was a great opportunity to rest our weary feet.  Although I wasn't a big fan of Penn Station (talk about a madhouse - they force everyone to try to get to a specific train dock in about 10 minutes to catch a specific train - you cannot plan ahead), the train ride itself was wonderful.  I think I may have to plan a few more trips by train instead of plane in order to enjoy the ability to walk around, the increased leg room, and the dining cart.   The view from the train is also much better ;).  Once we arrived at Union Station in DC we took the subway to the B&B on U Street and checked into our quaint little suite.  Although we certainly enjoyed our share of ethnic cuisine in NY (Persian and Indian), we were in awe at the variety available near our B&B at a section of town called Adams Morgan.  During our trip to DC we had Belgian, Peruvian, Serbian, and Bulgarian; however, the sky was the limit with all the places we didn't have the time (or stomach capacity).  I think I could spend an entire week in DC just in order to try all the different foods available.


The White House

Lincoln Monument

Day 5 - Foot Tiredness Scale (●●●●●◦◦◦◦◦) : "Back On My Feet Again" - On our first full day in DC we toured the White House (mainly the East Wing and State Floor), the Capitol Building (we had an awesome personal tour provided by Kay Granger's office staff - special thanks to Sara and Chana), the Library of Congress, and we also visited the Smithsonian Museum of Science and Nature.  After dinner I returned, by myself, to the National Mall and visited several of the historical monuments after dark - the illumination on each monument was fantastic.


Susan & FDR

Vietnam War Memorial

Day 6 - Foot Tiredness Scale (●●●●●●●●●◦) : "If I Ever Feel My Feet Again I'm Going to Kick Nathan" - Our second full day in DC was a thorough tour of the remainder of the National Mall.  We started with a visit to the top of the Washington Monument and followed up with stops at the WWII, Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean, FDR, and Jefferson monuments.  Each site was individually fascinating and a joy to see in person.  Later in the afternoon we had a personal tour of the National Botanic Garden (also arranged by Granger's office), and finished up our day of long walking with a stop at the Smithsonian Museum of American History.  All in all I was very happy I finally got to personally see some of the history of our country (and definitely glad to see it before the US closes down any more sites for "safety reasons").


Washington Monument

National Mall - Reflecting Pool

It was a whirlwind of a trip and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I was definitely glad we combined the two trips together since they were quite similar in style.  Now, where is the nearest beach?

- Nathan