Steven came home from Iraq so we went on a vacation before Christmas, just the two of us. On the chilly morning of Monday, Dec 15, we left Austin and flew into Washington DC. It was the first time there for both of us, and it was a beautiful, sunny, 65 degrees. We got our Metro passes and checked into our hotel in Alexandria, VA. We decided to explore Old Town Alexandria that evening. We walked down King Street, stopping for lunch at Pines of Florence, a cute little Italian place. The "Fresh Mozzarella Caprese" was a wonderful appetizer to our meal. Afterwards, we windowshopped and wound up at the pier on the Potomac. We had our "Monday Meeting" at Murphy's Irish pub--meaning we had our beers while our friends back in Austin were doing the same!--then had a wonderful dinner at the Chart House overlooking the river. By the time we finished we were thoroughly stuffed but managed to make room for a piece of chocolate Lava Cake. Tuesday morning--it is cold!!! The front followed us from Texas and now it's in the 30's. We slept in, then hopped on the Metro. We were serenaded by a trio of gentlemen in the train station singing Christmas carols. Then off for a quick lunch of kebabs inside the old Postal building--Steven made me try the lamb. After, we spent the entire afternoon in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. Until they closed. They had to kick us out. He wouldn't leave!!! Then back to our Irish pub for a tasty burger. And a beer or two.
Wednesday we tried the breakfast buffet at the hotel--not great, but convenient. Then we went to the Holocaust museum for a couple of hours. So much history there; it was very moving. Lunch was chili dogs from a street vendor, then on to the American History museum. This museum is divided into East and West. Or the boy side and the girl side. To compromise we had to go to both. Steven got to learn all about the American wars, electricity, automobiles, and motors, while i got to see things like Julia Child's kitchen, Mohammed Ali's boxing gloves and Dorothy's ruby slippers. So much to see that again, they had to kick us out at closing. Later we had dinner in downtown DC at Elephant and Castle, a British pub that was recommended to us by one of the locals.
Thursday started with a great breakfast at a Waffle House in DC. Our waitress was the nicest person we met on the trip. We decided to brave the cold outside and walk the Mall. We saw the Reflection Pool, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Memorial, and Korean War Memorial. We were trying to find a route on the Metro to get to Arlington Cemetary and realized it would be faster to just walk across the bridge to Arlington. There we saw the Kennedy graves and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, along with the many rows and rows of all the others. Fortunately we were there to witness the changing of the guard ceremony at the Tomb. We took the train back to DC to give our feet a break and had a hot chocolate and biscotti snack at Cosi since we missed lunch. As we were leaving we saw a giant Gingerbread Woman and Christmas Tree walking down the street. So...we followed them! Straight to an outdoor holiday market, with food, art, music and more. We bought some pieces of art and a few souvenirs, then walked to the Gordon Biersch Brewery for a couple beers. Then, on recommendation from the girl at the art stand, we went to Kanlaya in Chinatown for a Thai dinner.
Friday we got up early and took the Amtrak train to NYC (not early enough--we barely got on the train in time!). It was more fun than flying because there's more room, and you can walk to the food car whenever you get hungry. We popped up out of the train station in New York, right into the middle of a blizzard. We walked to the hotel, and by the time we got there, my (non-waterproof) boots were soaked through to my socks. Got checked in and put on dry socks. Then grabbed a triple decker sandwich from the deli around the corner and went shopping for some cool snow boots for me! Walked past the World Trade Center site, then went to Central Park for a romantic walk/snowball fight! At this point we were ready to try our luck on the subway, so we bought an unlimited pass and managed to get going in the right direction. We made it to Times Square, where we found some pizza, and hot chocolate to-go. Our mission in New York was to find the best pizza. Checked out the giant Toys R Us in Times Square, complete with indoor ferris wheel, then walked to Rockafeller Center to see the Christmas tree. Had a beer at an Irish pub (notice a trend here???), but we were too tired to go back to Rockafeller for ice skating because they didn't reopen until 10:30 pm.
Saturday was the coldest day--it stayed in the 20's and snowed/sleeted all day long. We got donuts and hot chocolate and took the ferry to Liberty Island to see the Statue of Liberty. We walked up 156 steps, only to find out the observation area was closed due to ice. So, we walked right back down 156 steps and got on the boat to Ellis Island to tour the immigration building. Afterwards, we had pizza for lunch again. We were freezing so we took a nap at the hotel to rest up and get out of the cold, then went back to Times Square for dinner. Felt great so we went back to the ice rink around 11:15pm but found out they were only open at night from 10:30 to 11:30 so we were out of luck again. I am determined to skate under that Christmas tree before we leave!
Sunday we slept a little later, then went to the Empire State Building. We went all the way up, even though we couldn't see anything because of the fog. Went back down and had the best pizza of the trip at Little Italy. I think the secret was the garlic on the underside of the crust. Then a bit of souvenir shopping, and back to Rockafeller Center for ICE SKATING! Later we did a little more shopping, watched break-dancers perform on the sidewalk, then had dinner at Bloom's deli by the hotel.
Monday was our day to come home. We had arranged for a Town Car to pick us up and take us to the airport but were pleasantly surprised with a limo instead! Got there in record time--10 mins--it was 4:15 in the morning, after all. Steven was hoping his first limo ride could have lasted a little longer, but we were ready to come home.