If you thought my New York trip was hectic, it was nothing on my trip to Washington DC.
Got up before the sun did on Wednesday, May 22, barely recovered from my attempt to see two week’s worth of New York sights in two days. Mum, Kristine, and I hopped the 5:50AM Amtrack from Metro Park to DC, facing our first major hiccup of the day: our Old Town Trolley Tour e-tickets.
More specifically, the lack of them.
We’d booked the hop-on, hop-off tour late the night before, fully expecting the powers of automation to work in our favor and have the tickets in my A-ee Irene’s inbox way before our train was scheduled to leave. Apparently not: the tickets were emailed at nearly seven, while we were already en route, and as an added bonus we were not allowed to simply flash the email. No, we had to show a printed copy.
Again, panic mode.
Luckily, Kristine managed to befriend her seatmate on the train, a Dubai-born Comcast IT Manager named Abrar. He gamely offered to give us a hand, and so, being a regular pack of Blanche Duboises, we “relied on the kindness of strangers” and took him up on his offer, taking a cab with him from Union Station to his offices, where we waited in the Starbucks downstairs while he printed the tickets for us.
First crisis averted.
Operative word, first.
With our printed e-tickets in hand, we three were feeling pretty optimistic, and so set off at a brisk pace through DC to the White House Visitors’ Center, where we hoped to catch the potential trolley. It was about twenty minutes walking, but the sun wasn’t that strong yet (note: YET) so it seemed manageable at first, especially with Kristine’s Google Map. Then, the inevitable happened: Murphy’s Law.
The White House Visitor’s Center was under construction.
Fast forward to fifteen minutes of walking around in circles (and seeing the Washington Monument and Sherman’s memorial) later. We ended up catching the trolley in front of the W Hotel, which was definitely not on the provided list of stops on the ticket (we found out about it only after visiting the temporary White House Visitors’ Center, another ten minutes away from the first one; better yet the W Hotel was right in front of the original Visitors’ Center). We got on the trolley only to find out that we would have to take it back to Union Station, where we’d have to exchange our e-tickets for actual passes.
The trolley driver/tour guide’s entertaining commentary more than made up for the fact that we were going around in circles, and I managed to get a few shots of the Capitol en route, so for a time it seemed like the day had finally taken a turn for the better. Wrong. Having been walking around in the sun for too long, Kristine succumbed to a combination of heat exhaustion, motion sickness (from the trolley), and her seasonal allergies, which, in our rush to leave, we’d forgotten the medicine for. Being a completely inexperienced nurse, I thought it was nothing a good meal couldn’t cure, but after an hour of watching her pick sadly at her meal (Chipotle, again), I realized we had a bit of a situation on our hands. Fortunately, Mum’s a better nurse than I (random fact: I was a sickly kid), and after a quick call to A-ee Irene we ascertained that Claritin, Bonamine, bread, and ginger ale were all that Kristine needed.
By then, though, we only had five hours left in DC, which sounds like a long time…until you take into account just how much there is to see in DC.
Cue a mad dash to get the tickets, get on the trolley (again), and frantically edit my itinerary to take into account our abbreviated travel time. Deciding to hop off only at monuments (sorry, Smithsonian!), I came up with a “Big Three” of FDR; Martin Luther King, Jr; and Lincoln memorials, viewing the Washington Monument only in passing (it was closed anyway) and stealing photos of Jefferson’s from across the river. The Capitol, too, got the drive-by treatment, as did the National Cathedral, the Ford Theatre, and even Georgetown, where we enjoyed the pre- and post-Federal architecture from within the confines of our trolley. Our tour guides kept everything light and informative, though, so while I didn’t actually get to see inside many of the sights, I learned a lot of interesting tidbits about them.
(I also learned that I’d make a very good paparazzi, with my rapid-fire photography.)
Our last stop, before catching the 7PM train back to Jersey, was, of course, the White House, which obviously deserved more than just a “drive by.” With Abrar joining us once again, this time as a tour guide, we walked through the pedestrian mall and got a picture of both the front façade and the famous rear rotunda, with its lovely kitchen and rose gardens. We treated our volunteer guide to dinner at a soup place, Zoup, and kept him so entertained that by the time we had to leave he was discussing a potential sitcom starring me and my manic pixie dream-girl of a Mum. We all had so much fun that we nearly missed our train. Thankfully, being three very pretty Asians, we managed to catch a cab in record time and make it to Union Station, and our platform, with just minutes (actually, a minute) to spare.
How’s that for an adrenalin rush?
Despite being completely exhausted, I couldn’t sleep on the three-hour journey back. As penance for wearing both Mum and Achie Kristine out, I had to stay up to watch for our stop, while they slept. Fortunately, Amtrak trains have WiFi, so I burned my iPhone battery chatting with meu irmão and Jethro to keep awake.
A (relatively) full night’s sleep wasn’t enough to restore my worn-out achie to health, so Kristine sat out the last full day Mum and I had in the US, which was devoted to, what else, shopping. We raided Costco (I got some Calvin Klein generic t-shirts and some scarves), the Jersey Gardens outlet mall (again), Nordstrom’s, and DSW Shoes for every conceivable item on my wishlist, from–get this–leather trousers to my favorite finds: black motorcycle and brown knee-high riding boots, both of which I spotted at the DSW Shoes clearance rack. The majority of the items are on reserve for my Christmas gifts this year (waiting will be torture), but I set aside a couple of pieces for the inevitable #OOTD on Instagram.
Packing required quite a bit of choreography and brain-work after, but with the help of two extra luggages (one a gift from A-ee Irene, another on loan from Mama Gigi) Mum and I managed to cram everything in and take the whole haul to the Newark airport on Friday afternoon, where we proceeded to board the flight to Detroit Metro, but not before buying more stuff at the airport gift shop.
…What can I say? I’m a woman.
Since we checked our baggage through to Manila, we were spared the song-and-dance number with our accumulated luggage, and so managed to get from Newark to Detroit Metro and Detroit to Nagoya with little incident. I found, however, that unlike on my flight from Narita to JFK, I was unable to fall asleep on the long-haul leg of my journey, which is probably why I still have really bad jet lag right now. I managed to fall asleep on the plane from Nagoya, though, arriving slightly less worse for wear in Manila at 10:30PM on a humid Saturday night, exactly two months since I’d left.
The roaming Tsinay was back home.