Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Washington DC

Hello readers! It's been a while, but what's new? I've been passing the time with work, yoga, and lounging by the pool when I can. 2 weeks ago I took a family trip to Washington DC. What a beautiful city!! It has amazing parks, museums that would take you years to see in their entirety, cute neighborhoods, good food, Ivy League Universities, and of course is the main stage for all US political happenings. I've always been really interested in politics and for most of my life planned to go into diplomacy as a career. Even though I'm not making a living off of it right now, I've done a lot of political work over the year (including a trip to lobby in congress in 2007! So exciting!) and continue to volunteer with local politicians when I can. I haven't ruled out a diplomatic position in the future, even though I love the interpreting/ yoga mix I'm doing now. We'll see....anyways, as a highly opinionated (aka. always right!) individual, being in the middle of a city with so much power to change the world is fascinating for me.

Here's just a few snapshots of what I did and what you should do if you're lucky enough to visit-

Washington is divided into numerous neighborhoods, though, compared to Houston, it's all very small and easy to navigate. My brother, cousins, and I did much of it by foot, and when we were tired, it was really simple to hop on the subway. You get reusable passes and it's very easy to navigate, they're clean, don't have many creepy people, and are never overly crowded. And before I get anyone from the area screaming at me  to take a look at it during rush hour....I did in fact see the subway crowded, but keep in mind I'm South American, and also lived in Spain. Just trust me when I say DC has it good!
They also have trolleybus's called circulars that can get you between some of the areas that aren't easily connected by subway, but we never really had to use them.

Our hotel was in Woodley Park.It's a really nice area, and upscale neighborhood with nice restaurants. We ate numerous times at Open City for breakfast, because it was across the street, and also once for dinner. Tons of vegan options!  The trail through the park began almost at the corner of the hotel and it's beautiful!! There's a running and bike trail, little fitness jungle gyms along the way, lots of green, berry trees, flowers and a creek.

 The kiddos crossing the bridge

The zoo is great. They have educational shows spread out throughout the day, all kinds of animals, and plenty of space. Most importantly, it's FREE!!! Like all the DC museums and most attractions, it is 100% open to the public. We spent a morning taking a billion photos of cute animals and basking in the perfect sunny warm weather that DC only has in June. 

How to care for your elephant 101

 DC's Pride and Joy! There's even a live Panda Camera playing at all times at the Smithsonian Castle. 
He's really cute and just sits and eats bamboo shoots all the time. 

From our hotel, we could walk south to Dupont Circle, or north to Adam's Morgan. Adam's Morgan has a ton of good restaurants, cafe's and bars. It's a bit like the Montrose area in Houston, or the Castro district in San Francisco, for those of you that have been to either of these places. Georgetown was to the west of us but a little harder to get to by subway. The school is of course amazing in terms of architecture, and the area is full of good shopping, eating, and cute shops and houses. A friend of mine took me to a very vegan friendly Chinese place, Harmony Cafe,  with some of the best faux meat I've ever had! And you can believe me because I typically avoid Chinese food, but wow, this was good. I also remembered my love of Indian food at Aditi. Aloo Paratha, how could I neglect you for so long??

Almost every morning though, we hopped on the subway and went downtown to the Mall area. This is where all the museums are. It's huge so there are several different subway stops depending on what museum you're going to.

We went to the Smithsonian Castle. It's really just a collection of random historical things, and not so old things, but it has a beautiful garden behind it!

I finally saw the air and space museum that I've been dying to go to since I didn't make it on my 2007 trip! It's full of these cool models of airplanes ranging from the very first Wright brothers flight, to modern passenger planes. Exhibits talking about the history of flight, how airplanes have been used throughout time. It also has several exhibits on space exploration, past, present and future, along with several models to Ooh and Aah at! 

Welcome to Julia Child's Kitchen! Bon Apetit! This can be seen at the National Museum of American History. This place is full of interactive exhibits, national "treasures" like the Wizard of Oz slippers, a First Lady dress gallery, and more objects from American History than we would ever have time to see. The museum also has quite a tasty cafeteria!  This was good because it was the one day it rained.

This is at the Natural Science Museum. Me and my cousins pretending to be fish inside the marine exhibit. This place is HUGE and so interesting! Had it not been freezing inside the building we would have spent countless more hours in there. There are gems, an IMAX, all of human origins including models of our neanderthal ancestors. They have every creature that has existed throughout time, like dinosaur and mammoth skeletons, animals of all sizes and types, and more that I'm not remembering. 

Where's Waldo Gaby? There's a sculpture garden in the middle of the mall that includes this giant right outside before you descend some stairs into a peaceful little park with a pond, and several bronze and metal sculptures. 

We also went to the National Museum of the American Indian, which I believe is fairly new. This, too, was really interesting and had all kinds of pretty artifacts, but I was exhausted and failed to take out my camera. I was probably worn out from going photo crazy in the Botanical gardens! 

The Botanical Gardens are inside a big greenhouse building and are divided up into rooms based on the region the plants and flowers are from. There's rain forest plants, dessert plants and succulents, medicinal plants, an orchid room, and several more. It was so beautiful inside and gave us an excuse to sit on some benches to admire it/ rest. There is also a huge outdoor garden that we walked through, but, unfortunately, this was the one rainy day of the trip.

From the Mall, you simply keep walking East towards Capitol Hill. There you can find the White House, the Library of Congress, Supreme Court, and Union Square a bit to the North (and where you'll also find a little shopping, though it's higher end, and a lot more restaurants). 

From left to right: Daisy, Michael, ME, Vanessa. We were the lucky ones not working. My parents were interpreting at an HIV/ AIDS conference all day and met us for dinner every night. Here we are in front of the White House! 

Shortly after, we were invited in to meet the President and First Lady. 
Ok, ok, we just had a really good time at the wax museum :)

Hope you enjoyed my picture tour! I know there's much more but I wouldn't want this to be even lengthier. The only solution is for all of you to take your own trips to Washington DC! Then email me and let me know what I've left out. Better yet, take me with you. YES, that seems like a plan. 

Til next trip!


Ps. Anyone else enjoying the World Cup? Leave a comment and tell me who you're rooting for!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Summer time! And with the season comes the travel bug...

Unfortunately, in grown up world there is no summer really, but the temperatures have reached the 100's and I've been keeping busy not only working but having fun too! I am actually very thankful for the amount of work I've had. My bank account has a tiny bit more of a buffer before the red zone, I enjoy what I'm doing, and most importantly for me, I feel a little more like a productive member of society. I thrive on busy-ness! (I made that a word)

I'll be doing some studying and preparing for the legal interpreting exams I have to take in the next month, but work will also slow down so that I can prepare for some BIG, as in far away, travels. I'm so excited! First up, I'm leaving for DC this Sunday for 5 days. My parents are working but I'm just tagging along this time so that I can do some sight seeing with my brother and cousins. I haven't seen DC since I was 10, and at that age I was busy cartwheeling and probably saw it all from funky angles, and while I won't make promises that if placed in a large grassy area, I won't spontaneously flip over, I DO think I have a little more knowledge and perspective now. So expect a DC post soon!

After that I get to go on a 3 week family vacation to Australia! I've never even been to that region, so it is a whole new world for me to explore and I know it will be amazing! Has anyone been there before? I'd love to get some tips. I want to start making my itinerary soon!

In the meantime I've been enjoying lots of pool time in Houston, indoor time with family and friends, and a mini Memorial Day weekend vacation to the beach this past Sunday afternoon. While Galveston is not really a choice destination for most people, it's close by, convenient, and really not as bad as some make it out to be! I know so many people that complain that it's dirty, or boring, or have a number of negative things to say. But the truth is that (as long as the oil spill does not keep spreading!) it's not dirty at all. Yes, it is brown, but that's only because of the type of sand we have. And there is plenty to do. Of course, I'm happy to have sand, sun, and water wherever that may be. Easy to please :) But there are plenty of restaurants, art galleries, a little town square, private beaches with natural reserves, public beaches, and the well known Moody Gardens to go visit. I haven't been to Moody Gardens in years and years but from what I remember they have a water park, butterfly garden, Imax, and that cool movie ride thing.

To make this fun, here are some photos to show you what I've been up to-

I had signed up to run the Pug Fun Run 5k to benefit the Houston Pug Rescue Organization. Unfortunately I ended up getting sick the day before, plus it was raining, so I knew that would not be good for my sore throat. But I went anyways to show my support and take pictures of all these adorable rescues! Can you believe that face?! 

Galveston! See? Not so bad. It looks quite beautiful to me in fact. 

And the water is always warm enough for me to get in, meaning we got to play in these. 

This is my parent's backyard where I *try* to get used to the cold pool, or just lay out and read when I'm there. 

Then I was inspired on Monday to make up a recipe using my mom's fresh lavender plant in the backyard (she also has some little green tomatoes growing, and fresh basil!). I came up with these lemon lavender tea cake type things and thought they'd be cute as hearts. Oh, and they were good too! 

Monday night we had a big family BBQ. I brought along my own homemade vegan Italian Sausage that I made for the first time using the recipe from "Vegan Brunch". Then we ended the night with karaoke competitions. Fun times!

I've been feeling really grateful lately for my family and friends and all the great things going on around me. I'm taking charge of my life- meaning I'm working hard, doing yoga, relaxing, being active, and involving myself in as many things as possible. And also trying not to feel too old because my 24th birthday is coming up in 2 weeks, eeeek!!!!

This summer will be good, my sixth sense tells me so.

Hope everyone's having a good week! Feel free to share your summer plans with me!