06 May 2007

Vacation of dreams

I’m home.

The ups and downs during our cross-country flights were only scary and obviously, not disastrous. But once my feet were on the ground again, I fell in love with springtime Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland. The whole area was so gloriously green! The trees were budding, there were wild white dogwoods scattered through the undergrowth in the verdant forests along the Capitol Beltway, and everywhere, azaleas and rhododendrons were ablaze with color. The weather was perfect throughout the week we visited – something my uncle commented on again and again. He and my aunt, who aren’t a lot older than I am, live in a colonial-style townhouse in Alexandria. He works at the Pentagon and she dons a tuxedo for her work as a greeter at an elegant conference center and hotel there. Both of them are incredibly kind, caring and gracious people.

My skin turned soft all by itself while I was there, a small pleasure I can only attribute to the gentle humidity. I caught a glimpse of a bright red cardinal – my first. I saw the Potomac and the Shenandoah rivers, and did a waving drive-by of Harper’s Ferry.

We drove through parts of the Virginia and W. Virginia “horse country.” My sister (who neighed in her sleep as a child) is an accomplished horsewoman. She lives in Los Alamos, New Mexico, so she was in heaven. She couldn’t stop from exclaiming about all the vasty green, either. “Look! trees!” We went to the Dover Saddlery shop in Chantilly, Va., where she bought her thoroughbred jumping horse a fine, new leather halter, and I bought Mr. Wren some fancy horse liniment for his aches and pains.

We took the Metro from Alexandria to Washington, DC for a private tour of the Capitol building (I was in heaven, this time). While waiting for our guide, a truly nice woman who works for Congressman Donald Payne of New Jersey, we had drinks and spanikopita at Bullfeathers among a crowd of DC staffers doing power lunches. Although it was Monday, and the House wasn’t in session, I waved at Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office (I’d hoped to meet her and at least shake her hand, but it wasn’t to be) and sat for a few minutes in the House chamber, where the president gives his annual State of the Union address. I shot a photo of one of the columned balconies, more inside of the ornate rotunda and the seemingly forgotten quote over the House Sergeant at Arms’ office.

We spent a couple of truly too-short hours in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I could have wandered there for days, camping out beneath the jaws of Tyrannosaurus Rex, but time was short so we crowded into a taxi for a ride to Old Ebbitt Grill to dine. Didn’t see Ted Kennedy, but the meal was terrific.

We spent two nights at the Bavarian Inn in Shepherdstown, W. Va. – Mom and I had the Presidential Suite the first night, sleeping in rarified air. Dined on venison and elk at the inn’s Ratskeller and sighed over the view of the Shenandoah River out the suite windows.

And because my uncle and aunt simply love casinos – they’re extraordinarily lucky; my aunt won a jawdropping $750 on a nickel machine in her first 15 minutes on our first of four visits – we visited the huge, cacophonous casino and racetrack at Charles Town. I even watched a couple of horse races from the rails, shouting for the pretty dapple gray and the bay with the jockey in pink and green perched on his back.

This short vacation on the other side of America was quite overwhelming for this wee Wren. My brain’s on overload. I fell into my own bed at 8:30 last night, wiped out but grinning.


Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

Sounds like a great trip!

You really never saw a cardinal??? Funny how we all take different things for granted around the country. I grew up in St. Louis, so of course have seen my share of them (there's a reason the baseball team AND the old football team are/were named The Cardinals). They're here in Pittsburgh, too -- just not as many. But, I do notice different birds here versus there. We seem to lack St. Louis' awesome Blue Jays, for example. I miss those birds!

Dragon Laugh said...

You went to the Smithsoniain??? Oh you lucky bird you! That is one place I absolutley have to see before I die.

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