Not really about coffee

This is not a short post. This is your warning but I hope you’ll keep reading anyway.

As life revolves around many things, so this post goes outside the coffee world to a recent trip to Washington, DC that I was able to take with EBHS. The trip takes place every 3 or 4 years but isn’t your typical group trip. One of the teachers from EBHS does all the planning, organizing and booking instead of using a tour group. So what the students get is a custom designed trip that is gently tweeked from past experience and new additions in Washington. This is a trip that creates life long memories and new friendships you just don’t get riding on a tour bus.

The trip began with a late night bus trip to Calgary for a 6:45 am departure for Toronto and then on to Washington. We arrived late after noon in Washington, collected our luggage and began the first unique part of the trip. Since we weren’t riding a tour bus, the students (and adult chaperones) gathered our luggage and headed for the Metro station. We all received our Metro Smart Cards that would be used daily as the Metro would be our main mode of transportation. It was a strange caravan of students and adults getting onto the Metro in Washington as we headed to our hotel. The Metro stop is about a 12 minute walk from our hotel, so we disembarked from the Metro cars, up the escalator and began our walk. One of the great things about using the Metro is that it really is a life skill to learn how to read the maps, plan your departure locations, and know where to get off and whether you need to change trains to get to your destination. A couple of the kids were very good at being able to help determine which trains we would be on. As we headed to the hotel, we walked through a large park that was obviously a prime location for a number of homeless people. Likely they slept there when the weather was good, and a number of them had carts with what was obviously everything they owned. Eye opening for some of the kids.

Our hotel was the Renaissance near downtown. One of the reasons for this is due to its proximity to a number of Metro stations we would use. It’s a little more expensive, (and very nice) but an ideal location for our needs. And from a coffee perspective, not too bad either as it had an Illy coffee shop attached. (If you don’t know about Illy, that’s a research project of it’s own.) After getting checked in, we took a walk to a Trader Joe’s grocery store to stock up on food and drinks for our daily use. The rooms had fridges, and with the way our schedule was, it was important that we could make bag lunches for some of our days on the road. And breakfast in your room each morning. It was an early night for all as we prepared for the adventure to begin the next day.

One of the best things about the way this trip is organized is the sheer volume of things you get to see and do. You can check out the ones you think are interesting just in case you’re heading to Washington any time soon. I’ll outline the days briefly with some comments about my personal favorites. I think you’ll see this was an amazing experience for all.

Thursday April 2. Depart the hotel at 8 am for Metro to head to Newseum. From there a tour of the Pentagon, then to Arlington Cemetery. Then back to the hotel to clean up and walk to the Kennedy Center for a comedy theatre production called “Shear Madness.” We were in a small theatre but the Centre itself is amazing. The Pentagon tour was interesting and we were able to see the changing of the guard at Arlington. Word in the group was we walked over 10 miles. On day 1.

Friday April 3. Depart at 8 am to the Metro for a trip to the Library of Congress. Definitely a highlight to see the amazing building architecture and library. Through an underground tunnel for a tour of the Capitol building. Quick lunch on the go, then to the US Botanical garden and a very humbling visit to the Holocaust Museum. We then took a very crowded, crazy Metro trip to the Verizon Center to see the Washington Wizards and New York Knicks basketball game. Then back to the hotel to prepare for Day 3. 8 – 10 miles walked today.

Saturday April 4. Depart at 7:45 for Metro to the National Zoo. It’s a Smithsonian so there was no charge to enter. Nice zoo. Pandas were active and the lions were great. For me, having been on safari in Africa, zoo visits are always interesting. We then got on the Metro for National Stadium for a preseason baseball game against the Yankees. I’m not a big baseball fan, but it’s the Yankees. Great atmosphere in the Stadium even though the Nationals lost. We then took the Metro to an area called Old Town for supper and some shopping and looking around. Found a great little Italian restaurant with great food. Old Town was fascinating with old and new shops that really needed more than the 2.5 hours we had to check it out. 7-8 miles walked.

Sunday April 5. Depart at 7:45 for Metro to do a tour of the Memorials. I was looking forward to this day as Lincoln is one of the Presidents I’m interested in. There is a great path to follow to check out each of the monuments that are there. We finished at the Washington Monument and Reflecting pool, which wasn’t doing much reflecting as it wasn’t filled yet. We then stopped at the White House Visitor center and were hoping for pictures of the White House however the area had been closed off so we could only see it from the distance. A stop at the National Archives, supper and a fun night at the International Spy Museum. Apparently James Bond is 50 years old this year. Over 10 miles again today.

Monday April 6. Depart at 7:30 by bus for Annapolis. Bus was late as it got stuck in traffic so a late start. I realized why the Metro is so important. Vehicle traffic is a nightmare. Had a 1 hour walking tour of the US Naval Academy, then a boat tour of Chesapeake Bay. We then had the afternoon in Annapolis for shopping and sight seeing, then a seafood buffet dinner at Buddy’s Crab House before leaving. Bus ride back to Washington. We all had to pack up our rooms for one night in preparation for our night in Baltimore.

Tuesday April 7. Depart at 7 for Union Station to take the MARC train to Baltimore. Unfortunately we got delayed on the line due to a “suspicious package” at one of the stations. I’ll talk more about that later. We arrived late in Baltimore, took free transit to the USS Constellation to drop off our bags. I traveled with one of the other chaperones to get sleeping bags from Walmart that had been ordered ahead of time. Sadly, they did not arrive so we had to scramble to put together 30 sleeping bags for everyone, which involved a second cab ride to another Walmart. In the end, mission accomplished. (The sleeping bags are then donated to a homeless shelter or church near our hotel). While we were sleeping bagging it, the rest of the group took the water taxi and toured Fort McHenry, and then a tour of the Baltimore Museum of Industry. I arrived late to the Museum (missed the Fort) and enjoyed the tour immensely. Definitely a step back in time. We then returned to the ship for training and a tour of the boat and supper on board. The staff did a great time of keeping the kids involved and interested. We were then broken off into groups for night watch for one hour shifts. It was a cool and rainy day so the night watch shifts were good for people to see what it was like on a ship. We slept on the berth deck in hammocks which was very interesting for a guy my size. Overall, thoroughly enjoyable.

Wednesday April 8. Up at 7:30 to clean up and have breakfast. No showers this morning which I’m sure was challenging for some of the kids. A hat day for everyone. Bacon and porridge and coffee for breakfast. We then toured the National Aquarium which was pretty incredible. An afternoon of free time to check out some other ships and a submarine, then on the MARC train back to Washington to eat, clean up, and get ready for another show at the Kennedy Center. Jay Leno live. For the chaperones it was great. For the kids, lots of his humor was lost due to their ages and not a lot of knowledge of the US political system and people.

Thursday April 9. Depart at 10 am for Peterson House and a tour of the Ford Theatre. We didn’t end up checking out the Peterson House due to the huge lineup, so we headed to the Smithsonians for the day. I checked out the Air/Space Museum, and the American History Museum. Also toured the Smithsonian Castle which was the original location of the Smithsonian. Some great artifacts there including a pair of Gordie Howe’s skates. A pre arranged supper at Hard Rock Cafe before a show at Ford’s Theatre. Again, interesting for me as that was where Lincoln was shot shortly after his reelection. The show was called Freedom’s Song, which was fantastic. Nothing like live theatre. Back to the hotel to pack up for a 4:40 am departure for the airport.

Friday April 10. 4:45 am departure to the Metro for the Airport. Flying to Ottawa to tour Parliament Hill, the Canadian Mint, Byward Market, and the Canadian War Museum. The Canadian War Museum is one of our National gems for sure. Then back to the airport to fly home.

Some favorites for me were the International Spy Museum, the overnight on the USS Constellation and the live show at Ford’s Theatre. The seafood buffet at Buddy’s Crab House was high up there as well. Seeing all the tombstones at Arlington was humbling, but not as much as the Holocaust Museum. My high point was seeing the Lincoln Memorial after reading about his work to end slavery while being the President during the Civil War. For me, Lincoln is the most influential President for what he accomplished.

We also learned how much havoc the words “suspicious package” could wreak. We were in the Capitol for our tour when the tunnel between the Library and the Capitol were closed.  We had used the tunnel to go between the two locations and now had to travel outside and wait in the rain to go back to the Library to pick up our things. Then again at the White House, although not sure if it was a package, but definitely something “suspicious” as we were not allowed to see the front of the White House. Then we were delayed on the train to Baltimore, which, according to the conductor must have been more serious as he said he’d never had the line closed indefinitely to traffic.

These are just a few brief thoughts on the trip. It was amazing. Below is a link to our family travel blog which has more details and pictures.