Now, I know what you’re thinking. This guy and his family sure do travel a lot! And I know it may seem like that, but I swear it’s not true. Yes, we’ve been going places like every month, but it’s a total fluke. It never happens. We were toying with the idea for this trip for a few weeks, and it wasn’t decided on till about 2 days before. Thanks to my wife’s love for Holiday Inn Express, she got some card with a rewards program and we managed to build up enough points to stay in this fairly sweet hotel for absolutely free. Zip. Zilch. Nada! We are insanely fortunate for that because it saved us a good chunk and was the ultimate reason for taking the trip.
Oh yeah.. And the whole America’s birthday in the Nation’s capital thing, but whatever.
So what do you say we bring back the bullet points, shall we?
- After a short and painless 4 and a half hour drive, we made it to the hotel. Considering we’ve stayed in a few hotels lately and are able to compare, it’s easy to say this was by far the best one. And it was nothing out of pocket (besides pet fee and parking), which I thought was hilarious.
- The hotel is called Even Hotels and is located in Rockville, MD. The metro, said in my ultra fancy rich person voice because it’s actually called a metro (come on, I’m from New York, I’ve known it as train or subway), is a whole 5 minute walk around the corner. And from there it’s a half hour ride to the D.C. area so it’s in a pretty great spot.
- It’s also a brand spanking new hotel. By new, I mean it was open a whole week before we stayed there.
- We were pretty scared because as it turns out, it’s a health and wellness hotel. So the theme and main focus is fitness and other in-shape people stuff like working on your core (whatever that means). And I’m not sure if you’re aware, but my core has seen better days. That didn’t stop us from booking it though! #NoShame. …Ok, there was a #goodamountofshame, but free is free. At least it wasn’t a gay and lesbian hotel like we almost booked for a family vacation in Florida. Nothing wrong with that, I’m just saying it would’ve been a little #awkward.
- Anyway, there was an exercise ball along with a yoga mat, and other fitness necessities (necessities?) like stretchy ropes with handles and really big rubber band looking things, all in the room! And we got a free water bottle that we were able to use at the free filtered water dispenser down the hall. Which was pretty damn useful, tell you the truth. These fit people know what they’re doing!
- Oh, you see on the right side of the pic? There were positive, motivational messages all over the place! And when I mean all over, I mean all over. On the shower door, over the bed (haha, not that type of motivational message), in the hallways, the lobby, over the entryway outside.. I felt like I was in the middle of a game and should’ve been trying to decipher some sort of hidden message. But it was cool though. I enjoyed reading and seeing new ones.
- See the “Oddly enough, every room number is even” coded message thing? I didn’t notice it till I saw that. I told the wife, “hey, every room number is even. Probably some mumbo jumbo to do with yoga and keeping the mind balanced.” Then she said, “…Or maybe it has to do with the hotel’s name being ‘Even’..” I felt like crap. Like I was racist towards fit people or something. I’m sorry fit people, I didn’t mean it! Some of my best friends are in shape…
- Among other small things, all the noticeable amenities that made it a fitness/wellness hotel took nothing away. Great things to have if that’s what you’re there for, but we just didn’t use them. Well, Seb was rolling around on the exercise ball like he was trying out for the circus, but I don’t think that counts. Overall, I’m making jokes, but it was a really great stay and we would probably stay there again. The staff was insanely friendly and helpful, everything was clean, towels were so soft they felt like they were layered with lotion the way puff pastry dough is layered with butter, it was just plain ol’ enjoyable all the way around. Good job, Even Hotels! You make me want to layer my towels with
- I almost stuffed a few towels in my bag before I left too (the wife told me to do it). But better judgement told me not to. It must have been hard for that better judgement of mine because man… those towels. And the pillows too, don’t forget the pillows. Ugh. I hate when a hotel is good.
- But! There wasn’t any free breakfast. Which sucks because we’ve been spoiled with that lately. But in a way I’m glad because I didn’t want to embarrass myself with a plate full of bacon, sausage and eggs when the fit guests were getting fruit and a slice of wheat toast and acting like they were full.
- OMG, I’m sorry, I did it again! I’m so mean to skinny people :(. Guess I’m subconsciously getting them back for the years of torment in Jr. High.
- So one day we went to some local diner that looked awesome outside but inside looked like a reject from Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares. Not to mention everything was fairly overpriced for blah food. But the next day we went to IHOP. Then I saw this wall and realized they’re probably making fun of our hotel. I laughed like a deranged maniac at the wall because I thought how much tastier it would be to stay at an IHOP hotel. But I’m sure the staff wouldn’t have been anywhere near as pleasant and helpful as Even’s so I’m glad I wasn’t plagued with that decision.
- Not to take away from the hotel’s menu. Because it sounded pretty freaking good to be honest. They just weren’t open when we wanted to order something. And I’m telling you, I was eyeing a few things on that menu.
Ok, enough about the hotel. Let’s talk about what we were there for!
- When we first got off the train, we headed towards the National Mall to try and catch the National Independence Day Parade. Then we saw the White House and couldn’t contain our touristy selves so we started taking pictures with the kids in front of the gate.
- With all the people gathered out there taking pictures, I got the strange vision in my head of the President outside with the First Lady and Secret Service, the whole nine, just all taking pictures and signing autographs as if they were characters in Disney World. I know that’s my mind trying to cope with not spending a 3 day weekend in Florida, but I thought it was a pretty funny thought.
- We kept walking and crossed the field separating the White House from the Washington Monument, which I’m sure is a thousand times more fun when it’s not a giant mud puddle. We caught the parade and stayed for bit before continuing our journey.
- Everything from the amazing stone work on buildings to documents signed by former Presidents, all in front of me and within arms reach. The sense of being in the presence of some of the most powerful and meaningful things of our nation’s history really opens your eyes and gives you a sense of pride.
- For instance, after 45 minutes of waiting in line, we made it inside the National Archives where there was this white, wooden door with writing on it. It stood out from the other paper documents around in the signature exhibit so I went up to it and started reading. On it was a letter addressed to President Reagan. There were no pictures allowed in the Archives but I managed to find a site that captured it:
- It read,
Dear Mr. President,
“To our keys you did not respond,
our customers can reach this door
but financially they cannot go beyond.”
We have sent you this door to keep you aware of the critical situation that exists with home builders in Mississippi. We need your help immediately.
It was followed by all the signatures you see on the bottom half of the door. I don’t know why but reading that got me a little teary eyed. I just thought it was quite the powerful message to send the most powerful man in the country, and on top of that, asking for his immediate help. It just gave a sense of pride that in those tough times in this country, people could reach out and ask for help from the one person they felt could make a difference. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me getting caught up in the moment.
- The National Archives was a great place to get lost in history. “Study the Past” is engraved in stone outside and I thought it was a perfect message for such a historically rich place.
- Shhhhhhh, I found a secret door….
- I know it sounds like I’m all high on the magic of history, but in all honesty, what I loved most about the National Archives was knowing that I got to visit a place that was in one of my favorite movies: National Treasure! Haha. Looking for a souvenir, I thought it fitting to get a poster sized copy of the Declaration of Independence.
- Sadly, thanks to cranky kids and a 30 minute line, we didn’t get to see the real Declaration or the Bill of Rights. But there’s always next time!
- Next time was something we told ourselves a few times that day. We had this feeling of urgency, wanting to see what we could while getting back in time to try and get a good spot to watch the fireworks. Never doing this before, we had no idea where the best spot was, or when to get there, so we started walking knowing we had to be back at a certain time. When we got to the area around the Monument, there were people settled everywhere. We noticed a good amount around us so we thought where we were was going to be a good spot to stay even though we had no idea where the fireworks were coming from. We set up a blanket, parked our butts on the grass and just waited and watched the place fill up. While waiting we had a nice view of the Monument in front of us, while behind us sat the White House and the party going on there which was seemingly hosted by Pitbull. Or maybe he just performed a few songs, who knows, I was never invited… #ThanksObama
- Before the trip I made sure to do some research and figure out the proper way to take good pictures of fireworks. I found a pretty good guideline, which was keeping the aperture around f/8-f/11, having the shutter speed to bulb or something long like 1 or 2 seconds to capture the trails of the fireworks, and the ISO to 100 to minimize noise. But the wife refused to let me take the tripod. Said it was too big, too much to carry. Pfft, women, amiright? …No? Ok. I was just going to let the tripod dangle from my camera bag but nooooooo. So all that research and excitement went out the window and I had to improvise. I guess she was right though. It was a pretty hectic scene when that time came around. Ugh, I hate when she’s right. Still though, I took close to 300 pictures of the fireworks and only a small handful were good and usable. At least I got those, I guess… #ThanksWife
- Fireworks started on time and it turned out we weren’t in the best of spots. You can see everything but there was no iconic backdrop like the Washington Monument which was right in front of us like I was hoping for. With this insane mob of people around us, the plan was to start walking while the fireworks were still going. We stopped at a few spots but made sure when it was done we were on the corner of the street we had to walk down. When the show was over there was no time to gush over your patriotic feels, it was time to freaking bounce. With hundreds in front of us we thought we didn’t plan it well, but with thousands behind us I knew we could’ve done worse. “Don’t stop and don’t look back”, I told Seb. Which was totally dumb on my part because of course his reaction was “What? Why?” as he stopped to look back… We kept on and kept on and finally made it to the metro where it was so packed on the platform they couldn’t let anyone on it anymore. Finally, we were able to get on the train and out of there. It sounds absolutely insane but the experience was worth it, looking back. Next time though, we’ll definitely stay in the city.
- We were there for 2 days and we must have walked the equivalent of 3 1/2 trips from the Shire to Mordor. The first day was understandable since it was our first time exploring the city. But the second day we got lost and walked a 3 mile detour through a much less tourist friendly area. Though, we did find a really nice cafe that we wished we had time to eat more than a cookie at.
- My wife’s co-worker had this insane idea for us to not bring the stroller. At first I thought she had it out for us, but it made sense with how crazy we knew it was going to be, so we took her word for it and didn’t even pack it. About halfway through the first day I made a note to myself reminding to never trust a single word her co-worker ever said again. The first thing we did the second day was go to target and buy a $15 stroller. Best idea ever.
- That second day, the plan was to get on a trolley to take a tour. We had plans to visit all the memorials we didn’t see the day before, but that detour through the unsavory side of D.C. really messed us up. After all that walking though I made the decision to pay for the tour anyway despite there only being like an hour and a half left of service. Dammit, we walked for what felt like days for this thing, we were going to do it!
- And I’m glad we did because we were tired and we got to see a lot of stuff that we wouldn’t have been able to see otherwise. Next time we’re totally going to hit up the tour early in the day to get out and see everything.
- For some reason, I was impressed by the metro (*sips tea, raises pinky*). The architecture in their platforms astonished me since I’m used to the graffiti decorated concrete of New York’s subway. It reminded me that we don’t travel to different places nearly as much as we should.
- That night, my wife wanted ice cream. And I learned the hard way, when a woman says she wants ice cream, she does not want gelato. I did a search and found a nice spot that looks like it’s in the hip and happening night scene of the area. The gelato place was highly rated and I was excited to try it out thinking it was going to be like any other ice cream place. We’ve never gone to a place like this so what was I supposed to know? Obviously, my assumptions were incorrect. The joint was probably about 10 feet wide and had a line going out the door. I automatically knew what that meant. The wife did not approve since it was $6 for a tiny cup that normal people would be able to eat in 3 spoonfuls. It was.. well, it was a learning experience.
And I think that’s it. Our 2 days in the nation’s capital for America’s birthday. The whole plan was to do something different. Whenever the wife had a long weekend we found ourselves homesteading or taking the journey to Florida that I could probably do blindfolded by now. Well a couple of months before hand I made a decision with all the executive power that I possess and said, “we’re going to Washington D.C. for the 4th of July!” Of course, if you’re following along, you’d know how much my executive power matters in such decisions because we didn’t really decide to definitely go until a few days prior. Even so, we went and I was happy we did. I usually avoid things like that. Heck, I lived in New York for 18 years and never once did I have the urge to go to Times Square for New Year’s. But even though we walked as if transportation was never invented, and we were dragging along kids who obviously wouldn’t have minded going somewhere more fun, I don’t regret going. It’s something you can proudly tell people and memories you can’t take away.
With all the different memorials scattered about and knowing the things that happened on those busy streets, it’s all great reminders of the way the country used to be, how life was before and the way those times have changed thanks to those who were being remembered. With every description I heard of the memorials and how they came about made me want to bury my head in a history book to learn more. Where in the hell was that feeling when I was in school?!
Ever since I was young, when it comes to politics and government and all that other fun stuff, I’m usually the first one to back out of the conversation and just completely leave the room. It’s something I was never into following. And I know it’s the one thing I should follow since it has such a heavy impact on my day to day life, but when it boils down to it, I just don’t care. Sorry, but it’s the same reason why I love what I love – real world stuff is just too real. There’s a joy to reading or following something fictional like a show’s storyline or a comic or game character. Game of Thrones? I know the name of that guy’s sister’s cousin. Lord of the Rings? I bought an Elvish-to-English Dictionary to try and learn the language. Holy crap, I did not just share that with you… I don’t even think the wife knew about that. Good thing it was before she came along and I had a mind to hide it from her… Anyway, fictional things are telling a story that I want to follow. And while they may seem deep and complex and intriguing as characters, they’re still the brainchild of someone else. Someone else whose job it is to entertain and delight you. With politics and everything that goes on in government, there’s too many factors that are unknown. Too many lies hidden in the tiny truths. There’s no fun to be had and if I’m spending my time being into something, I want it to be fun.
With all that said, you would think a trip to D.C. was a mistake. But I’m here to tell you it’s the opposite. If there is one thing I learned while over there, it’s that I may not be a fan of current events, I’m a sucker for history. And D.C. is chock full of historical sights and documents and memorials. Our country is not even 250 years old yet. In terms of the world’s time, that’s like a blink! With so much that has happened in so little time, there is great reason to be excited and in awe while traversing around the capital.
A lot say this country isn’t what it used to be. Some say we’re never going to get better. I’ve always had this pride for our home and never took to heart negativity I hear out there. But after this trip and seeing D.C. as an adult, I feel like there’s more pride in me now than there ever was. Just taking in the sights, learning small chunks of history and seeing memorials of the greatest people in our history is enough to give you a deeper appreciation for where we came from and what we are.
Is there a better place to spend the 4th of July than this great country’s capital? I think not. Trust me, I’ve been there.