It was a very short one compared to what we want to do in the future, but it was a start, and it taught us some things about what kind of travelers we are. We went to Washington DC, and we were gone five days, but two of those were spent getting there and back.
The first good thing about our trip was taking Amtrak instead of driving or flying. Airplane tickets are expensive, and we had heard horrible things about DC traffic, so we looked into train travel. The trip seemed long - 10 hours!- and I was a little concerned with keeping the kids busy all that time, but we decided to give it a try, and we were all so glad! Taking the train doesn't involve any of the TSA nonsense of flying - they don't X-ray anything or make you put all your toiletries in little bottles in a ziploc bag. I didn't even notice if anyone counted carryons (you're supposed to be allowed 2 per person, but I saw people bring all kinds of wacky bags on board, and no one blinked). Someone scanned our tickets after we were already moving, and that was it for ID! Should I be worried about this seeming lack of security? It seems out of character for my Type-A self to just let all that go, but I did. And it was nice.
|First time on the train!|
Day One: We boarded the train just before 10:00 am. One coloring book, one sketchpad, some Mad-Libs and two movies later we pulled into Union Station in DC. Then we took the subway three stops to our hotel, and we were there! May I just interrupt here to say one thing about public transportation in DC? You guys should talk to the CTA in Chicago, because they have got this thing down. We had to buy one transit card PER PERSON (in Chicago you just put a bunch of money on one card and use it until it's empty), and we couldn't use it on the bus. Only cash or a completely separate card on the bus, folks. Stupid payment methods, but the transportation itself was great. And my girls were fantastic! They loved the train and the bus, and they were such troopers, and I kinda knew they would be.
Day Two: The National Zoo!!
The zoo is part of the Smithsonian system of museums and attractions, and as such it is FREE!! It's in a beautiful neighborhood, and at least part of it was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead. Just a gorgeous way to spend a Sunday - if I lived in DC, I like to think I'd go there all the time. After the zoo we walked for several blocks to find restaurants, and we all ate like we hadn't had food in days!
Next was the National Cathedral, which is beautiful.
I'll stop here for this post because this is the only part of our trip where pretty much everything went as planned. Here is what we have learned thus far:
Positive: train travel, mass transit and walking everywhere (I quickly learned that good walking shoes are priceless); being in a new place and figuring out how to get around; being in neighborhoods around locals as well as visiting tourist attractions
Negative: my husband is a whip cracker! He has his day planned out and has a hard time veering off that plan. Once he's veered, though, it's OK; it's just hard to make that first leap from the schedule. This can also be a positive, as the girls and I all get distracted . . . what was I saying? Oh yes, negatives. DC is VERY expensive! I had a hard time spending so much money every day, even though we had saved for this trip. I'm more comfortable in a suite or apartment where I have the option of cooking than in a two-bed hotel room where we have to go out for everything and can't even heat up leftovers. I think this will be a positive when we take our big trip, because we want to live somewhere like locals for a time instead of just visiting as many places as possible. One other negative is that the girls are a little young for as much exploring as D and I like to do. If it were just the two of us we could wander around all day, but it's not fair to make the girls do that, so we have to be aware of the time and everyone's energy level. It will be at least a year or two before we can really travel like we want to, and hopefully they'll be able to last a little longer per outing :)
All in all, the first couple of days left us exhausted but excited to be somewhere new. More in the next post!