Saturday, August 29, 2009

quacking through DC

For my first official tour of DC, I decided to fork over $32 and go on the DC Duck Tour. I've seen these amphibious vehicles in Boston and San Francisco, and thought that I might as well experience DC on land and water! And if you're wondering if you can buy your own duckmobile, I think that is a possibility.

Here's my tour duck -- the Lucky Duck!

I thought this was a pretty cool reflection of the entire duckmobile.
This is Union Station, the starting/ending point of the tour. There's a statute of Christopher Columbus in front of Union Station, and the three flags represent the three ships that Columbus sailed over the ocean blue.
Below is a fuzzy image of the White House because we practically whizzed by (security won't allow lingering).
This is the Atlantic part of the WWII Memorial...I couldn't fit in the Pacific side.
Here's the Lincoln Memorial from a distance and the Reflection Pool.
The WWI Memorial, which rumor has it that you can get married under this memorial.
The Arlington, Virginia skyline (my new home for the next 9 months).
Our tour guide, Captain Mike, told us this was the most exciting part of the tour -- the MERGE. It was really death defying as cars were just zooming up into the merge. Since I was sitting on the window side, I did fear for my life for a few seconds.
At this point in the tour, we're in the Potomac River and Captain Mike is allowing some photo ops for anyone who wants to try driving the duck truck. Secretly, I wanted to go up and drive the duck, but I didn't want to be the only big kid doing so.
The Washington Monument view from the Potomac River.
A plane taking off from Reagan National Airport.
The Jefferson Memorial (I hear this one should be visited at nighttime).
The Castle at the Smithsonian -- I need to get started on visiting the numerous museums.
The Capital Building. The House and Senate are not in session because there are no flags flying over either of the houses.
And this is me with a quacker in my mouth. The quacker was a souvenir of the tour.
Captain Mike was both funny and informative in his narratives of the sites he took us to. He opened up the tour with:

"We have four different tour routes that we can possibly take. The A Tour goes down Constitution. The B Tour goes down Pennsylvania. The C Tour goes down Louisiana. And we lucky ducks get to go on the Deeee Tour!"

Get it? At some points the jokes got corny but it was all fun in the end. It was a great way to get a quick sample of all the sites one needs to visit while in DC. I would highly recommend it to anyone coming for a visit!

Monday, August 24, 2009

nature in bloom

After we finished playing/exploring/learning at the Academy of Science, The Boy and I quickly walked through the Botanical Gardens at Golden Gate Park. Not tooting my own horn or anything, but I got a lot of good pictures of the flowers using the macro feature on my camera.

This last one is my favorite photo.

I know I haven't been posting a lot about food, and I'm trying to make up for it. It's coming soon! In the meantime, there is a funny story about food on this outing with The Boy. We had lunch at the Academy of Science in their cafe, which boasted food from around the world. So naturally, we decided to order a little bit of everything. The cafe has a cafeteria style setup and just like a cafeteria in high school, you take your tray and put whatever dish you want and move along until you're ready for the register. And since we wanted a bit of every international flavor, we ordered way too much for two people to eat. There were springrolls, porkbuns, quesadillas, pho, Mexican soda. We ate only half of it and had to brown bag the rest.

So, The Boy was carrying around the bag of leftovers while we were walking around the Botanical Gardens. At one point, I look over and noticed that he is surrounded by squirrels. Seriously, there was like ten squirrels surrounding him. I took one picture from about twenty feet away. Then I slowly sneaked up to him because there was one squirrel that was climbing up his pant leg aiming for the bag of leftovers. I wasn't able to get a picture of the squirrel climbing up his jeans, though, because The Boy flinched when the squirrel started digging his claws into his jeans. The Boy then tore a piece of quesadilla and fed it to the one squirrel. The other squirrels were jealous.

I just gotta say that those squirrels were not the least bit shy of humans. Especially humans with food in hand.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

cool images of science

I took about 200+ pictures from our day at the Academy of Science, but these are a few of my favorites.

The Rainforest Globe
a giant squid
The famous white alligator that the aquarium is known for housing.

a prehistoric bird that was even larger than the ostrich

Palm trees that remind me of being on a beach in sunny Hawaii.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

how much of a carbon footprint does your food leave?

I saw food on one of the exhibits at the Science Museum and pulled The Boy directly over to that area.
Turns out it was just fake food, but it was fake food with educational materials.
I thought it was funny how each plate was bolted to the table. This plate looked especially humorous with the tomatoes eyeballs and asparagus mouth.

And if you can see it (click on the image to get a bigger picture), this shows what the emission levels of vegetables are. Told you it was educational fake food.

butterflies in the rainforest

Before I left SF for DC, The Boy and I went to spend half the day at the California Academy of Science. I was pretty peeved that day because: 1) we had to wait in line for 45 minutes just to get tickets, and this was on a weekday!; 2) they ran out of passes to the Planetarium, which is one of the main attractions; and 3) the 3D Bugs show was not running. I was looking forward to visiting this place for such a long time that I felt cheated for paying $19.95 per person (student discount) and not being able to see 2 of the 3 things that the science museum is known for.

Okay, now that that's out of my system, we were able to get in line to see the Rainforest Globe. It was full of butterflies flying around and it was humid as heck (because it's the rainforest you know). The butterflies were mostly on the top level of the rainforest, so I got some better close-ups once we were at the top.

I don't know how, but this one lady was able to get a butterfly to land on her fingertips. She quickly became an immediate photo opportunity and everyone starting circling around her while being careful not to scare the butterfly away.

While we were walking up from the bottom of the rainforest, we saw these yellow plates in the tress, but we didn't know what they were for. Well, at the top, you can see the butterflies and birds feeding on these oranges.

More to come with the Academy of Science fun.

party plane in the sky

Now that I'm in DC with reliable internet access that allows quick uploads of pictures, I'm going back to describing my traveling experience on Virgin America.

I got to the airport pretty early because I had a ton of luggage that needed to get checked and I figured if I had to lug all the suitcases myself, it might take me awhile. Surprisingly, it only took me 15 minutes to check in and get all my luggage checked. Pretty quickly if I do say so myself. Going through security, however, was another thirty minutes of my life.

There's the Virgin America plane waiting at the gate.
I hadn't had breakfast yet, so this was my first meal of the day -- Peet's Lemon & Rose hot tea and an almond croissant. I was also reading Julie & Julia while passing the time (the book is really different from the movie, mainly because the book is only about Julie).
The waiting area at Gate A11 waiting for boarding time.
And here is a photo of the interior of the Virgin America main cabin. They have pretty purple lights and "cool music" (their quote, not mine) in the lavatories. I walked by the First Class cabin and was envious of those people. If only I had $200 for the upgrade. Oh well, I sat in the main cabin with a handful of screaming toddlers but no one's complaining about that, are they? (I think children under age 10 should be banned from this airline.)
This is the view from my window seat, somewhere over Nevada or other.

And this, my friends, is the cool individual tv monitor at each seat. You can watch on demand movies for $8 each (apparently this is free in First Class), or a foreign film for $5 (not sure why there's a discrepancy between those categories). There's also on demand tv that ranges from free to $2 per episode. I just spent the 5+ hours flight watching satellite tv (NCIS marathon on USA).

And then there's the food menu, that ranges from $3 to $9...

...I opted for a free coke and brought my own lunch, $2.50 lunchables for adults.
Overall, it was a pretty good flight. In between watching satellite tv and eating, I was also online surfing the web (mostly looking through craigslist ads for apartments). It was kinda neat to email The Boy and keep him updated on my flight status while I was in the air, all the while emailing him pictures of the party plane that he still has yet to experience (he tells me Virgin America is the party plane to take to Vegas).

I really hate layovers, especially on cross country flights. And with non-stop flights from SFO to IAD starting at $119 each way, I'll gladly pay $15 per bag for checked luggage so as to enjoy the non-stop flight, the individual tv monitors, and wi-fi in the air. I am definitely going to use Virgin America again for my trips back to the West Coast.

Don't worry, Southwest, you still have my patronage for flying from BWI to BOS since you still carry the cheaper flights for that travel.