So after rolling home from Ben’s we found that the really obnoxious roommate mentioned in the previous post also snores like a steam engine, the type that even an ipod playing full volume heavy rock cant make go away! A few bleary eyed comments about snore-a-tron with our roommates over the breakfast table improved our mood after a poor night’s sleep and we headed off to the National Museum of the American Indian, where we learnt about Indian tribes and their ceremonies and beliefs and how the Americans were generally a bit mean. We went for a late lunch in the museum’s cafe for some buffalo chilli and fry bread, Yummy! An attempt to look around the Air and Space Museum had to be temporarily aborted because Abby was feeling a bit poorly (she could just tell me that apparently girls don’t like space rockets – Andrew). Refreshed after a couple of hours nap (and out of danger of planes) Abby made a miraculous recovery and was well enough to go on Larry’s VIP evening tour of the city’s monuments. What a tour!
We saw the Capitol all lit up, the Washington Monument, the WWII Memorial, the Korean War Memorial, the Vietnam War Memorial, the Iwo Jima Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Martin Luther King Jr Memorial, Arlington Cemetery and plenty more besides. After being entertained and educated by Larry we were then wined and dined at the Old Ebbitt Grill and it’s happy hour… half price oysters and shrimp from the raw bar! The shrimp were great, the oysters were a new experience, and neither of us is sure if we’d have them again, but glad to have tried them. All washed down with a few beers of course! We said a fond farewell to Larry and should we ever be back in the area, he’d better expect to see us!!!
The next day we were checking out of the hostel but not leaving DC until about 6, so Abby hadn’t quite got out of the planes and space rockets and we returned to the air and space museum! Just for long enough for a quick look around and to see the Wright Brothers Plane, then off to the Washington Zoo, which like most other cool things in DC is run by the Smithsonian and therefore 100% free!!!
We spent a fun few hours trying to see as much as possible, being frustrated by kids banging on glass, and amused by the otters chasing a butterfly, before getting back to the hostel to be picked up by John, Andrew’s cousin. They hadn’t seen each other in four years and it did take a quick double take outside the hostel before recognition set in. He drove us out to Andrew’s Aunt and Uncle’s house where there was a bed waiting and John’s wife Sara had dinner for us. We were joined by Andrew’s other cousin Liz and caught up over a few beers.
The next morning we borrowed a car and set off for the three hour drive to the Shenandoah National Park (apparently a short drive in the US but felt bloody long behind the wheel – Andrew). Getting there we soon realised that the views more than made up for the hours on the freeway! Unfortunately we only had time for one short hike, up to the second highest point, the Stony Man, but again the views were breathtaking.
On the drive back through the park the trip was completed by the sight of a deer and a few seconds later, her fawn! Sometime, and a few hundred miles later, we arrived back and went out for dinner and a few drinks in the local town, where again we managed to eat our own weight in food, and not the vegetarian kind!
After a well deserved lie in (it was nice to have a proper bed and shower for a few nights) we got up, watched some awful American TV with Liz (‘who the $@&* did I marry’) and then went out to explore the nearby Sugarloaf Mountain. This involved rock climbing, spider avoiding and more stunning views.
Then it was back to the house to pack and get ready to catch a 15 hour bus to Chicago (gulp)! We said our goodbyes to Andrew’s cousins and looked back on a lovely couple of days catching up.
On the busy bus Andrew was stuck with the hillbilliest red-neck ever, we never knew it was possible to be lost on a bus journey with only one destination but apparently he was! Fortunately he got out at our second stop (around 1am) and we assume eventually made it to Kentucky. 8 days later, or so it seemed, we finally pulled up in Chicago, fell out of the bus, and fell into a taxi to the hostel. Fortunately we were able to check into the room early so we got ourselves settled and then headed out for brunch at a cafe down the street, where Abby had pancakes the size of her torso! Again Chicago had a free zoo and not having the energy to start real sight-seeing we headed to our second zoo in four days! Andrew was in his element of course! Andrew sat next to a very sleepy bear, and Abby saw a beaver, completing her Canada Big Five. On the way back home we stopped off at an Irish Bar so Andrew could have his much craved pint of Cider. And now, dear reader, you find us in the hostel, with a very classy mug of wine, writing this blog.
Nice to catch up with you again,
Abby the Panda and Andrew ‘Billy Bob’ Stafford