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Washington D.C. (Baltimore) – Day 4

| June 24, 2011 1:38 pm

We checked out of the hotel this morning and headed to Baltimore.   I’ll write a review of the hotels from our trip once we return home but this one has a lion that bites!

We wanted to be near our airport (BWI) and we had a few hours to kill so we hung out at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor.  Similar to Navy Pier in Chicago although not anywhere near as entertaining.   The harbor does have restaurants, shopping and a few water rides; the kids couldn’t pass up the water dragons.

And check out the guns on this battleship.

Boom! Boom!  Fire Power!

For lunch we went over to Nick’s Seafood located in the Cross Street Market where the kids downed some Snow King crab and Marge and I had some King crab and fried soft crab!

We’re at the airport on our way home…. All photos will be added to the photo gallery this weekend when we get faster internet!

Washington D.C. – Day 3

| June 23, 2011 4:50 pm

Happy Birthday Marge!   Today is Marge’s birthday so we had a great dinner tonight (more on that later).   We started the day with a visit to Arlington Cemetery.

We came to visit one of Marge’s high school classmates that was killed in Somalia in 1993.

Bart said a nice prayer since he is currently Chaplin for his troop and we paid our respects to the dead before we left.  Our next stop was Mount Vernon, the original estate of George Washington.

The estate was amazing and I never knew George Washington had such opulence.   This guy had a lot to lose so no wonder he gave it his all to be free!

The views from Mount Vernon are spectacular no matter where you look.   The Potomac is fairly serene as the backdrop to this wondrous estate.

After spending the better part of the day on Mount Vernon, we drove back to D.C. to celebrate Marge’s birthday at Fogo De Ciao.   We invited my cousin to the party and we all had a great time and a marvelous Malbec from Argentina.

 

We fly out late tomorrow and we’ll probably spend the day in Baltimore checking out the city after we leave our hotel but we’ll see how the day turns out.

Washington D.C. – Day 2

| June 22, 2011 5:25 pm

We had a full day of adventures today…we started out by taking a taxi over to the Washington monument (hint:  driving your rental car is twice as expensive because of parking so take a taxi!).

After checking out the scenic views from the Washington Monument, we headed over to the Jefferson Memorial which was a nice walk despite the heat.

From the Jefferson Memorial, we walked over to the Roosevelt Memorial and captured some nice pictures as we walked along the basin.

After visiting and resting at the Roosevelt Memorial, we headed over to the Korea War Memorial where we found two uncanny ghosts of my grandfather and cousin on the wall.

After stopping at the Korean War Memorial, we climbed up to the Lincoln Memorial.

We picked up a few souvenirs at the Lincoln Memorial and walked through the Vietnam Memorial.

We read a few of the thousands of names on the wall and carried on our journey to explore Washington D.C.   We stopped at the park for some rest and snacks and gave the leftovers to the ducks (shhh…don’t tell anyone).

After our rest and play with the ducks, we went over to see the World War II Memorial.   I have to admit, most of these memorials are new or expanded than the last time I visited Washington D.C. about 20 years ago.   A lot has changed as well, security is tight everywhere and it’s a hassle to go through metal detectors and have your bags x-ray’d at every single site!

From the World War II Memorial, we headed over to the White House to visit Barack Obama.

Unfortunately, our idiot representative failed to get us the appropriate passes in time for our visit.  I’ll be voting against the moron at the next election so no Barack 🙁 but we got to see the grounds of the White House from a distance.

We headed over to lunch at a nearby Potbelly a few blocks away from the White House then headed over to the hotel for some rest since it was only five blocks away.

After an hour rest at the Hotel, we headed over to the National Gallery Art Museum to capture some more images for my iPad and check out the art work.  We bought some jewelry and other items at the gallery.

After the art gallery we headed back to the hotel where the kids went into the pool to relax and rejuvenate while I ordered pizza for the crew.   It was a long day and we have another full day tomorrow in D.C.  so more will follow….

Washington D.C. – Day 1

| June 21, 2011 6:35 pm

Well today is actually our second day in Washington D.C. but our first day was the trip from New York to D.C.   We didn’t do much other than drive into the city, check into the hotel, and do some laundry at a nearby laundry mat.   Our choice was to pack for 10 days of travel or 5 days of travel with a wash day so we chose the wash day.

Actually, we spent our “first” day with the kids at the pool followed by dinner at the hotel restaurant and a nice bottle of Tierra Secreta Malbec from Argentina!

Our “second” first day was spent traveling to the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum to check out the planes.   Bart chose to fly the 360 degree flight simulator while I got on board the more subtle F-18 simulator with no 360 spinning!   Meanwhile the girls checked out the museum…

We also opted to see an IMAX show called Hubble 3D and the show was pretty spectacular!

After the Smithsonian, we headed down to Capital Hill to check out the Senate in action.   Unfortunately, all we really got to see from the Senate gallery was Senator Dick Durbin sing praises about Leon Panetta about becoming the next Secretary of Defense.  Seriously, Durbin was slobering all over Panetta, these guys need to get a room…

Unfortunately, no photography, note taking or anything else is pretty much allowed in the Senate gallery so I have no photos other than the video that will eventually show up on CSPAN at some point for this day.   Nevertheless, we were able to take photos outside the building!

While inside the capital building we were required to watch a video about the legislative process while informative a bit oppressive.    The last time I visited Capital Hill in the 90’s I was allowed to roam freely by just walking in and out but now there are at least three security check points and going anywhere is a hassle….so much for open government!

The capital hill dome (above).  The capital hill figure “Freedom” pictured below.  This guy sits on top of the dome too!

 

After Capital Hill, we did a quick look at the Supreme Court and opted not to go inside and deal with the security hassle!

 

Tomorrow, we’ll head over to the Washington Monument,  Lincoln Memorial, and White House and perhaps the Jefferson Memorial if time allows!

 

New York, NY – Day 4

| June 19, 2011 5:44 pm

Essentially our last day in New York as we head over to Washington D.C. tomorrow morning.   Given my back problems we started the day with me going over to a massage spa to relieve the pressure on my back muscles.   The massage worked pretty well as I am mobile again and not walking crooked.

Meanwhile, the kids took a walk about around time square to take it all in before we leave.

Of course, the kids did horse around while waiting for the broadway show, The Lion King today….

After all the horse play, we headed to the Minksoff theatre to watch The Lion King.    Because of my back injury, I didn’t know if I would be going but because I felt better I went to the standby booth to try to get a ticket for the sold out show.   Fortunately I found a seat but it wasn’t in the box seats with the rest of the family so I really lucked out!

I thought the show would be for the little kiddies but it ended up being a pretty good show and one of the few shows on Broadway that is appropriate for young kids, most are adult oriented and not family friendly which is why I think it sells out fairly frequently.

We’ve had a great time in New York taking in a couple of Broadway shows, shopping, fun and relaxation but the kids thought the city was a bit too busy and you can see what they mean with the photo below.

We’ll need to come back some day to catch up on some more Broadway Shows.  I wanted to see the Book of Mormon but that was sold out for the entire time we were here as well.

We will be back!

New York, NY – Day 3

| June 18, 2011 4:50 pm

After a late start this morning, we split into two groups.  I headed over to Canal Street for the infamous cheap knock offs and to buy a suitcase for all the stuff we bought since we were out of capacity.

I managed to pick up a small suitcase for $15 after haggling with the chinese lady about the recession.   I then ended up haggling with some Indian woman about the recession and got some concessions on some NY t-shirts.   Finally, some Nigerian (maybe Ghanan) convinced me to overpay for a knock off Rolex that was a cheap as a dime store watch but hey…they all got families to feed in this recession and I didn’t feel bad about it since at least they’re working for their money.

Meanwhile….   the kids and Marge went over to the Empire State building.

We’ve taken in a whole lot of New York so far: broadway show, shopping, monuments and more!  But unfortunately, I hurt my back boarding one of the Gray Line Buses so tomorrow, I won’t be joining the kids for The Lion King.  I’ll be heading to the Spa to get a massage and fix my twisted muscles in my lower back.

While I was interned at the hotel bed tonight, the kids and Marge went shopping in the Times Square area.  They came back with buckets of candy from the M&M store and a few momentous from the trip.

New York, NY – Day 2

| June 17, 2011 8:20 pm

We started late in the morning and headed to our usual gray line red bus to go uptown and check out the museum district and central park.

Notably absent from the bus ride was Marge who was back at the hotel room feeling a bit sick.    She eventually caught up with us but we headed out to our first stop the American Museum of Natural History.

This museum was the one that was used as a basis for the movie “A Night at the Museum” and yes we did get to go see the “dum dum” statue as it’s now known at the museum.   We were disappointed to find out that they don’t actually have a Roman diorama or cowboys and indians fighting at night 🙁

After meeting up with Marge at the museum, we decided to split the team.  Marge & Lisa headed out to Central Park while Bart and I headed over to see Grant’s Tomb.  Trivia:  Who is buried in Grant’s Tomb?    Trivia:  Which Tomb is the largest in North America?

After leaving Grant’s Tomb and the nearby Riverside Church, we hooked up again with Marge and Lisa at Central Park.

After having an overpriced lunch and horrible food in Central Park, we headed over to the Metropolitan Museum where we got caught in a rain storm and totally soaked.

We all got thoroughly soaked so the kids and Marge opted to head back to the hotel to change into some dry clothes while I toughed it out and saw the magnificent works of art and captured quite a few good ones for the background on my ipad.

 

Oddly enough, the sculpture above was like staring in a mirror….

 

After a quick visit to the Met’s gift shop and picking up a few mementos, I headed back to the hotel where Marge had already purchased some tickets for a broadway show.    Much to my surprise it was Priscilla but an entertaining show nonetheless.

It was a pretty long day so it’s time to go to bed!

New York, NY – Day 1

| June 16, 2011 7:54 pm

We arrived last night and the limo driver was at the wrong terminal.   He was at Terminal A while we were waiting on Terminal C.  After waiting a few minutes he finally showed up and we were off to downtown Manhattan!  The kids had a good time in the limo.

Upon arriving our hotel and checking in, we dropped our bags off and took a quick walk about at Times Square.

On our first full day in New York, we boarded the Gray Line bus and headed to the Statue of Liberty!  While we were there we got a bird’s eye view of many of New York’s landmarks, many of which we plan on visiting later!

After arriving at Battery Park, we bought our tickets and were warned that it would take up to 90 minutes to get to Liberty Island but we managed to get there in about 40 minutes despite the long lines!

 

We spent quite a bit of time on the island checking out the Statue of Liberty!

After leaving Liberty Island, we headed over to the World Trade Center on this historic 10 year anniversary of 9/11.

We also checked out the new Freedom Tower which will be 1776 ft high.

It wouldn’t be America if we didn’t do some shopping after visiting the memorial; remember if you stop shopping the terrorist win so we stopped at  Century 21 to load up on some bargains.     Homer picked up 10 shirts at low, low prices…

After resting a bit, we headed out to dinner at a nearby restaurant (Olive Garden) and used some gift cards from Christmas that we hadn’t happen to lose.   We then headed back to the hotel to get some rest….we’ll have a full day tomorrow.

Chicago – TheWit Hotel Review

| May 23, 2011 1:50 pm

During our stay in downtown Chicago, we stayed at theWit hotel and while we loved the location and had a great time, I have a few qualms about this hotel.

First, in my opinion, I would not characterize this hotel as family friendly.   There is a bar and club at the 27th floor of this hotel and it is prone to constant visitors traveling to and from the bar at all hours of the day.    The 27th floor is off limits to anyone under 21 except during certain times.

This hotel is fairly loud, partly because of the constant stream of visitors and yapping alcoholics, and I couldn’t help but notice that every floor has security cameras peering into every hallway of the corridors.   I began to worry that this hotel isn’t the safest hotel due largely to the large influx of visitors heading to the club on top.

The hotel is equipped is a bunch of money booby traps including a pressure control minibar that charges you $12 for opening the bar.   My bill has a $12 mini bar charge and we couldn’t figure out why it was there other than for just opening the fridge!   Internet access is $9.95 per day which is ridiculous considering the$349 nightly rate!   You can also expect to pay $46/day to park your car here.

Be forewarned, the city of Chicago is hostile toward visitors through incredulous taxation.  Sales tax is 11% on almost everything, hotel fees and surcharges easily add up to over $54 per night and did I mention there is a $46/day valet fee if you bring a car?

The hotel staff was very friendly and helpful and have no complaints about them but if you’re traveling with children, there are way better options for you in the city of Chicago.

Lastly, we ate at State Lake and would pass on this restaurant as the food was edible but nothing special to write home about especially if you’re interested in the $10 burger and beer special, just go across the street to Johnny Rockets and save yourself $60.

 

 

 

Chicago – Day 3

| May 22, 2011 6:48 pm

We started the day very early this morning as we had a two hour drive from Chicago to South Bend, Indiana to visit a graduating senior at Notre Dame.    We spend the better part of the day on campus and a nice photo collage will appear as soon as I get back and have adequate bandwidth to download the video and photo streams but for now here are a couple of memorable moments from our trip.

After spending most of our day at South Bend, we headed back to the hotel and went down for dinner at State & Lake and was disappointed with the food.     We decided to try to make up for the poor meal by walking over to Grant Park and strolling along Buckinham Fountain.

 

We headed back to the hotel in preparation for our departure the following morning.  We had a great time and I’ll write a review of our hotel stay soon.

The photos for our trip can be seen here.