Tag Archives: tourist

Hair past a freckle

24 Apr

IMG_3836When we arrived in London, Kelly asked if I wanted any specific souvenirs from the trip. “I don’t have room in my suitcase,” I told her, nodding to the small carry-on I was hoping would get me through two weeks. “But I DO need a watch, so maybe if I find one I like, that could be a good keepsake.”

A few days later, I’m sure she agreed that it would not only be a good keepsake, but an essential item for the rest of the trip, as I asked her to check her watch for what felt like the fiftieth time.

I didn’t buy a watch, however, and instead used my iPhone as my timepiece when I wasn’t bugging Kelly for the time.

That was fine until we arrived in Paris, where we entered a bit of a time-warp. We arrived Friday night and made plans to meet the next morning at 9am for breakfast. I woke early the next day (as I tend to do every day) and spent the wee hours reading and planning the agenda for the day.

At about 8:30, I received a text from Kelly. “Have you eaten already?”

“No!” I wrote back. (I’m not sure why I was excited enough to use an exclamation point.)

“Want to meet downstairs in 30 minutes?” She wrote.

“Perfect.” I responded, thinking, “Isn’t that what we decided last night??”

Half an hour later, I was seated a table enjoying a croissant. “I’m here,” I wrote to her. “Got a table for two near the back. No rush.”

She wrote back, “I ate already. Want to let me know when you’re done?”

Confused, I thought maybe she decided she was tired of me and needed a bit more down-time. I plowed through my meal and met her in the lobby 30 minutes later.

“Sorry for the confusion this morning,” I said.

“Yeah, I think I must’ve been tired when we made plans last night,” she offered.

“No biggie!” I dismissed it, excited to get our day started. “I found a walking tour for us over in Montmartre – if we head out now, we should have perfect timing!”

Screen Shot 2016-04-24 at 7.31.28 AMWe popped up at the Metro station near the Moulin Rouge about five minutes before the tour was slated to leave. “I don’t remember what they said they would be wearing,” I told her. “Let’s check both sides of the street to see if there is a group forming.”

We spent the next ten minutes looking everywhere that seemed plausible for a tour to meet, without any luck. Then Kelly said, “Wait. What time was the tour supposed to leave?”

“Eleven,” I told her, pointing to my phone. “Basically, right now. Maybe they’re being very French about it and it doesn’t start on time?”

“Alison,” she said, pointing to her watch, “It’s noon.”

I looked at my phone again. “No, it’s 11.”

She shook her head and showed me her watch. “Noon.”

Suddenly, our confused dining plans earlier in the morning made perfect sense. The clock on my phone hadn’t automatically gained an hour when we arrived in Paris, so I was still operating on London time with an hour delay. No wonder we had missed each other in the dining room. As I paged back through our texts, the mistake was obvious.

Realizing a tour guide was never going to meet us, we started up the hill toward Sacré Coeur on our own. And I never DID find a watch I liked. Next time…

IMG_3837

Sacré Coeur, which inexplicably smelled like cheese and manure.

A tourist in my own city

15 Oct

We’re having an amazing fall (read: 70 degrees and sunny) in DC, so I’ve been taking advantage of the weather by playing tourist. For my nerdy self, that means one thing: WALKING TOURS.

Last weekend I tagged onto a walking tour of Embassy Row, which felt a bit lazy since the starting point was a ten minute walk from my place. While it may sound dumb to take a walking tour of your own neighborhood, I wanted to do it because whenever I have visitors, I find myself making up stories in response to their questions. I thought it might be helpful to equip myself with a few facts for a change.

And man was I ever equipped! I learned a ton. Here are just two highlights to tease you into attending your own tour:

  • Embassy Row was originally called Millionaires’ Row and was where “new money” built their homes – and it became Embassy Row after the crash of the stock market, when many residents were forced to sell their homes (and foreign countries were the only entities flush with cash to purchase them).
  • Westinghouse lived here when the whole AC/DC battle was going on with Edison and he spent $1m of his own money to defend a guy on death row in NY to try to prevent the electric chair (with his current) making its debut (and generating some pretty horrible PR for his cause). It goes without saying that his house was pretty fantastic.

Excited from all that I learned on that tour, this weekend I signed up for a walking tour of Georgetown. Unfortunately, the guide had an artificially boisterous delivery style and over-the-top vocal projection, so listening to him made me cringe. I felt like a legitimate tourist as he yelled history at us on the otherwise quiet streets of Georgetown, so about halfway through the tour, when the group turned left, I turned right and walked home.

If I’m being fair, the guide was only part of the reason I bailed. My feet were hurting because I’d already walked seven miles that day because I’d stumbled upon something called “Do the Loop,” which was an art event in which several museums and galleries in upper Northwest opened their doors at no charge for the day. I used this as an excuse to check out the Kreeger Museum up on Foxhall Road, and I was impressed with the collection, which included many Picassos, Monets, Renoirs – and even a small Calder mobile.

As fantastic as the collection was, I was actually slightly more intrigued by the museum building itself, which had originally been designed and built as the private residence for the Kreegers (president of GEICO back in the day) – with the stipulation by the architect (Philip Johnson) that they leave it as a museum one day. Imagine living in a home designed to one day become a museum? It was fun to roam around and imagine decorating it for entertainment back in the 70s.

So… not much pith in this post, but if you find yourself in DC and looking for something to do, perhaps this will give you some ideas. And if you have an obnoxious tour guide, hopefully you’ll feel fine turning right when he goes left. Because he deserves it.

Flying fox, my ass. You know that’s a bat.

21 Aug

After getting rejected from the City2Surf fun run, I ventured down to the Royal Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens are beautiful — it’s a huge chunk of land that slopes down to the harbor and is incredibly well manicured, with a flagstone path guiding you along fountains and statues.

The garden is surrounded by a fence and the gate is opened at 6am on weekends, so you know someone must be around. But when I tentatively set foot inside the gate at 7:30 last Sunday morning, I definitely stood there for a moment, debating the wisdom of walking solo  into a park that seemed desserted.

I was still standing there imaging serial killers lurking at every turn, when I started seeing a few people on the paths in the distance. Activity was starting to pick up, so I proceeded.

(After the fact, I checked out Wikipedia for information on Australian serial killers. Australia has a pretty sizable list compared to other countries, which shouldn’t have come as a shock considering Australia was originally founded as a penal colony. The wording of one line item in particular disturbed me: John and Sarah Makin – who killed 12 children in their work as “baby farmers.” Seriously? Baby Farmers?)

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