Friday, September 20, 2013

Boats, Shakes, and Spies

Thursday was our first full day in Washington, and I had planned ahead by booking us seats on a DC Duck Tour in the morning and making reservations at the International Spy Museum in the afternoon. The Boy was still feverish, the Girl was still limping, and the Baby was still incapable of walking a city block without turning around with her hands in the air and moaning, "cawey me!" Despite all this, we were going to have some fun! The Duck Tours depart from Union Station, which allowed me to reminisce to the children all my fond memories of the venerable train station. I mentioned the time that I bought a scarf at the Putumayo clothing store in the retail area at Union Station in the early 90's, before I realized that I wasn't a scarf person (and before Putumayo realized it was a world music company, not a clothing company). And, I told them that the Pizzeria Uno has been in the same spot on the upper level since I visited Union Station in high school. "When was that? The 1900's or something?" the Girl asked. Well, I never! Yes, but it was the late 1900's.

Pizzeria Uno in Union Station in 1990, or perhaps 2013. Who knows?
Obviously, the children were not entertained by my Union Station memories, which was unfortunately as we were quite early for the tour and had some time to kill. This is bad news because whenever the Baby gets bored and we're at a new place, her bladder shrinks to the size of a quarter and she'll whisper in her little voice,"Mommy, I need to use the westwoom." I'm fairly sure that it's just her love of public restrooms and not an actual physical need that is driving her request. Public bathrooms are generally just gross. Navigating public bathrooms with three children of different genders is highly inconvenient. I do love a nice family bathroom because it spares me the mental gymnastics involved in figuring out how whether it's more potentially damaging to take an eight-year-old boy to the women's room or send him alone into the men's room. Similarly, I haven't solved what to do with him while I take the Baby to the women's bathroom, except to have him loiter in the hallway outside the restroom like a pervert. If anyone has figured out how to do this, please let me know!

Finally, we wasted enough time in the bathroom that we could board the Duck Boat. Luckily for us, Sister was able to join us for the tour. Yay! I do like some adult companionship. Our driver and tour guide was pretty knowledgeable, and quizzed us on our American history knowledge, the results of which were a little depressing. For example, no one was able to tell him in which year the War of 1812 began. It's 1812, in case you were wondering. The first part of the trip we drove around some of the monuments and heard about the history of a few notable buildings. I thought it was all interesting, but I think the kids were less enthused. I had high hopes, though, for the part of the tour when the Duck Boat leaves the land and goes into the Potomac. Surely, they'll like that!

Or, maybe not.
The poor Baby was terrified by the boat portion of the trip. I looked over at her at one point and she had a single tear rolling down her cheek. I scooped her up and she sat on my lap for the rest of the voyage. We got a great view of the Washington Monument from the water:

The Monument sustained damage in the great 2011 Virginia earthquake and the entire building has been rigged up in this unusual way so that the panels of scaffolding can be illuminated at night. It looks so cool that everyone seems to be hoping that it will take a long time to repair.

After the Duck tour, the kids and I headed to Shake Shack for lunch. It is right next to the Spy Museum and has a kid-friendly menu, so it seemed like a good choice. After my disappointing veggie burger at BGR, I decided to forget about the vegetarian option at Shake Shack (a fried portobello mushroom filled with muenster and cheddar cheese didn't sound sound like a healthier option, anyway) and got a cheese burger. It was delicious. I forced everyone to get frozen custard for dessert (it's called Shake Shack, after all) and while I liked mine, the kids were not as pleased with the texture. More for me! In the good news/bad news department, my friend, Elizabeth told me that Shake Shack is coming to Atlanta! This could be dangerous, so thank goodness it will be all the way over in Buckhead where it's less likely to do damage to my cholesterol levels.

Apropos of nothing, the Spy Museum and Shake Shack are right near Chinatown in DC. Even though I literally saw no one who looked remotely Asian in the area, all of the store signs are in Chinese (not that I'd recognize Chinese, but I'm assuming). Which results in stuff like this:

Which makes me wonder if this is a literal translation or a figurative (ahem) translation?

Back to Shake Shack. The low light of the Shake Shack experience was seeing a rather heavyset man plunk down his tray on the table, slide himself into his seat, roll up his sleeve, inject himself with a hypodermic needle full of insulin, and devour his two burger and fries lunch. It was like watching the show, I Didn't Know I was Pregnant, simultaneously disturbing and fascinating. Of course, it didn't stop us from camping out at Shake Shack for over an hour while we waited for our Spy Museum reservation time to roll around.

We loved the Spy Museum. We absolutely lucked out because it was not busy at all. I take from the fact that you have to make a reservation that it is usually jammed. I do not think it would have been nearly as fun had it been crowded. When you arrive, you are instructed to chose a secret identity and memorize facts about your identity. Here was mine:

If I ever get famous, I'm going to check into hotels under the name Carol Liu. The museum was very interactive, which was great for the kids. I'd say that the Baby was a touch young, but she still enjoyed aspects of the exhibits. Her favorite part of the museum was crawling through an air vent. My favorite part of the museum was the exhibit about the brave, majestic pigeons who risked their lives to spy for the American government:

Cher Ami, heroic WWII pigeon. via
I had always thought they were rats with wings, but how wrong I was!

We also all enjoyed the special exhibit on James Bond films, even though I'm not sure I've actually watched a James Bond film. That's now on my bucket list because I really should see a James Bond film. Any recommendations for a good one? My only regret from the Spy Museum is that we didn't visit the gift shop where they sell this shirt:

Good policy. Available here
The kids loved the Spy Museum. The Boy has already said that he wants to go back and he is tough to please. After nearly three hours of fun at the Spy Museum, we headed to Sister's apartment to rest and recover. We had to be well-rested for our big day on Friday. We were going to the White House!

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