Highlights from the Okanagan

Sharon and I usually take a vacation toward the end of September and this year was no different. We decided to stay in Canada this time however, and spent nine days in the Okanagan. Aside from a quick trip to Kamloops and Kelowna a few years ago, neither of us had been to the Okanagan since we were kids. I keep joking that it’s nice to want to go to the wineries instead of being dragged along!

We flew into Kelowna and spent a couple of days there before moving on to Penticton and then Osoyoos. It was an interesting time of year to visit as we found ourselves right between high season and the winter season when many things close until the spring. We were also able to enjoy the beautiful fall colors and relatively warm weather (it snowed here a day after we returned home). Along the way we met a surprising number of Albertans including a few fellow Edmontonians!

Our guide for the trip was Jennifer Cockrall-King’s book Food Artisans of the Okanagan. Combined with a bit of TripAdvisor, which I finally started adding reviews to, we had no shortage of things to see and do. You can see my full collection of photos on Flickr, but here are some highlights from our trip!

We of course spent some time in downtown Kelowna, walking along the marina and through Stuart Park. It’s a beautiful part of the city an well worth a visit. You can even see Ogopogo!

Stuart Park Kelowna

We saw dozens and dozens of fruit stands throughout the Okanagan but decided to visit one in Kelowna very early on in our trip. Paynter’s Fruit Market is located in West Kelowna (which we learned separated from Kelowna in 2007 and was designated a city in 2015). There wasn’t much left, but picked some delicious pears and apples! The Red Delicious looked purple on the tree and were very tasty indeed.

Paynter's Fruit Market

The number one Kelowna attraction in TripAdvisor is Myra Canyon Park, known for its historic trestle bridges. There are sixteen wooden bridges and two steel bridges that were once part of the Kettle Valley Railway that have been saved (and reconstructed after a devastating fire in 2003) and incorporated into an amazing pedestrian and cycling trail. It was not particularly easy to find or get to, but was totally worth it once we did.

Myra Canyon Trestles

We decided to spring for the bike rentals and completed the entire 24 km circuit in about three and a half hours. The well-maintained trail was easy to navigate and the views along the way were spectacular. If you’re in the Kelowna area, don’t miss this!

Myra Canyon Trestles

On our way out of the city we stopped at Hardy Falls, near Peachland. It’s a relatively short trail and the falls are not very big but we really enjoyed our visit. We were lucky to witness the annual Kokanee salmon run which meant the creek was full of bright orange fish!

Hardy Falls

I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting much from Penticton and was pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed the city. This is the view from Munson Mountain which is on the east side of the city.

Munson Mountain

Penticton is bounded by Okanagan Lake to the north and Skaha Lake to the south. It was a bit too cold to go into the water while we were there, but we did manage to catch some amazing sunsets over the lake.

Sunset over Skaha Lake

A short drive from Penticton in Summerland is the Kettle Valley Steam Railway. Knowing how much I love trains, Sharon made sure we didn’t miss it!

Kettle Valley Steam Railway

On our way back to Penticton we came across this orchard with apples covering the ground and I just had to stop to take a photo. This wasn’t the only fruit we saw on the ground during our trip, and it was suggested to us that the Okanagan Valley is simply over-producing.

Excess Fruit

We realized that the Festival of the Grape was on in Oliver so purchased tickets and made a stop there on our way to Osoyoos. This was the 20th year of the festival which attracts more than 3,000 people each year. We enjoyed the wine tasting, Grape Stomp, and some food trucks too.

Festival of the Grape

Just south of Oliver is where we found Steve and Dan’s Fresh BC Fruit farm. We buy from them every week at the City Market Downtown so we had to stop for a photo!

Steve & Dan's

We spent a few days in Osoyoos staying at the Watermark Beach Resort, which had been recommended to us by a few people. I can see how it would be packed in the hot summer months but at this time of year it felt like we basically had the place to ourselves! It was a good homebase for our stay in the desert.

Watermark Osoyoos

Osoyoos is pretty close to the Similkameen Valley so we took a trip there one day. The highlight for me was visiting The Grist Mill, a historic water-powered mill that has been painstakingly restored to its original 1881 operating layout and actually grinds flour for sale once again. We spent about an hour with Cuyler Page, the man behind the project. His passion was clear and we learned a lot, including that the site is basically the reason (along with the work of Page and Sharon Rempel) we have Red Fife wheat again today.

The Grist Mill

We stopped in Keremeos on the way home at Benja Thai, a restaurant that you simply wouldn’t expect to find in such a small place. It was great, and it was very busy too! Just before getting back into Osoyoos we stopped for a photo at Spotted Lake, which is a “saline endorheic alkali lake”. It’s also a sacred site thought by First Nations peoples to provide therapeutic waters.

Spotted Lake

Before leaving Osoyoos we went on a tour of Nk’Mip Cellars, the first Aboriginal-owned winery in North America. Owned by the Osoyoos Indian Band, the winery is a small part of the 32,000 acres that make up the Osoyoos Indian Reserve.

NK'MIP Winery

I was really happy that we made it to the final day of the season for Hammer’s House of Hog, a food truck in Oliver. We ate a delicious pulled pork sandwich and enjoyed the beautiful scenery in the nearby park.

Fall Colours

It was the fuel we needed to tackle the four hour hike up to McIntyre Bluff. It’s a well-known landmark with an elevation at the highest point of 673 m (2,208 feet). It’s also known to be home to bears and rattlesnakes, neither of which we ran into.

Covert Farms

We’re fairly inexperienced hikers so it was quite the trek for us! I’m glad we did it though. It was really windy at the top but the views were great.

Hiking to McIntyre Bluff

On our last morning we toured Covert Farms, an organic farm and winery. It was really interesting to hear how they stay grow more than 40 different crops organically, not to mention grapes.

Covert Farms

Like all vacations, it came and went too quickly, but we had a great time and learned a lot along the way!

Covert Farms

You can see my full collection of photos on Flickr. Stay tuned for more detailed posts from Sharon if you’re thinking of a trip to the Okanagan yourself!

On vacation in New York!

Just a quick post to say that I am on vacation this week and likely won’t be blogging. I was in Miami all last week for work, which was nice considering it was one of the few hot places in the United States, and now I am in New York with Sharon. We’ll be back in Edmonton for Christmas.

Manhattan, NYC

If you want to see what we’re up to in the Big Apple, follow along on Twitter, Instagram, and Foursquare.

If you’re looking for Edmonton news, check out ShareEdmonton. Or, you know, Twitter.

Recap: Vacation in San Francisco

Sharon and I got back to Edmonton last night after spending ten days in San Francisco. I had never been there before but had always heard great things. As a bit of a “food town” we thought it would be a great place for us to go to get away from things for a while. Here are some of the highlights.

San Francisco
Based on a couple of recommendations, we looked at the Kimpton Hotel chain. We chose Hotel Triton, located right near the Chinatown gate. It was fantastic!

Heart of the City Farmers' Market
Pretty much the first thing we did after arriving was visit the Heart of the City Farmers’ Market. It reminded us of our own City Market.

Chinatown was an early highlight for me. I’d never seen a Chinatown like the one in San Francisco!

Fisherman's Wharf
Without a doubt the most touristy place we visited was Fisherman’s Wharf. Lots to see and do in the area. I enjoyed eating fresh crab there!

Crooked Street
Another popular tourist spot is the crookedest street in America. No not Wall Street, Lombard Street.

Of course, no trip to San Francisco would be complete without a trip to the infamous rock! We actually watched The Rock before leaving for our trip.

Coit Tower
This photo was taken from Coit Tower (you can see the reflection). If you can believe it, we ran into a couple we knew from Edmonton at the top of the tower! Small world.

Ferry Building
We loved all of the fresh produce that was available (and Sharon was particularly sad that we didn’t have a kitchen available). Visiting the Ferry Building Farmers’ Market was pretty cool.

Domaine Chandon
The tasting fees quickly added up, but our decision to take a tour of wine country turned out to be a good one.

Mack, Sharon, Hubert Keller
One of the dinners we had made reservations for in advance was at Fleur de Lys. The highlight was getting to meet Chef Hubert Keller, one of our favorites from Top Chef Masters.

Golden Gate Bridge
We decided to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. It started off foggy but quickly cleared. Other than being very windy, it was a great walk!

Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival
All the festivals we visited seemed to be extremely well attended, and the Ghirardelli Square Chocolate Festival was no exception. The lines were insane!

Opera in the Park

Opera in the Park
One of my favorite events was Opera in the Park. This year was San Francisco Opera’s 37th annual event.

San Francisco
This is me sitting in a POPOS – a privately owned public open space. I’m holding a Super Burrito from the San Buena Taco Truck, one of my favorite things we ate.

San Francisco
We did ride the cable car once. This photo also shows the hills San Francisco is known for, and a fire escape too (they were a very common sight).

Chez Panisse
Potentially my favorite dish – a pizza from Chez Panisse. I’m a sucker for eggs.

Muir Woods
On our last morning, we visited Muir Woods. It was so quiet!

Domaine Chandon
Sharon and I at the Domaine Chandon winery.

That’s really just a taste of our trip. You can see the rest of our photos (846 in all) here.

I really enjoyed San Francisco and would definitely visit again!

Washington Trip Recap

I sometimes look back at the posts I wrote while Sharon and I were on vacation in New York a couple years ago, and I wish they were a little more organized. I decided that I’d make an effort to organize my posts and photos from our most recent vacation, to Washington, DC.

Sharon & MackSharon & Mack

We arrived in DC on May 18th, and left May 23rd. Though I posted each day of our trip, I didn’t include any photos after the first day. Uploading was taking so long that I decided to just wait until I got home. I have since gone back and added some thumbnails to each of the daily posts:

We took nearly 900 photos on the trip, and uploaded 607 of them. Here are a few of my favorites:

Washington MonumentCapitol BuildingCanadian Embassy & Capitol as seen from NewseumMack @ Lincoln MemorialKennedy CenterJefferson Memorial

MetroWet PaintSharon with Iced CoffeeSo many boxesLincoln at NightCrazy escalator

As Sharon said on the flight home, we should have taken a pedometer with us! We did so much walking and it would have been interesting to know exactly how much. We made use of the Metro quite extensively too. Here is a map including all the major stops we made:

A few places in particular that we wanted to visit but didn’t: Arlington National Cemetary, the Washington National Cathedral, and the International Spy Museum. Some of my favorites from the trip: the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Newseum, Ben’s Chili Bowl, Founding Farmers, and the Capitol.

I had a great time in Washington, and I’d definitely go back. There is so much to see, and so much history. I’m sure we could easily have filled another six days!

When Sharon has posted her entries about the trip, I’ll update this post with links.

Washington DC Trip: Day 6

Today was our last day in Washington. We left the hotel just after 9:30am and headed toward the Eastern Market, a large farmers market east of the Capitol Building. We both like markets, but Sharon in particular was excited to see what the locals have available to them. Eastern Market is just a block or two away from a metro stop, and is situated in a neighborhood seemingly full of little shops. The market consists of the primary food vendors indoors, and additional food vendors and craft tables outdoors. Today there was also a flea market set up outside.

We walked past a number of the tables, before deciding we should get coffee before going any further. We spotted a shop called Port City Java across the street and stopped in to get an iced coffee. I liked the vanilla flavor shot (for some sweetness) while Sharon liked the crushed ice. Coffee in hand, we continued through the outdoor tables, purchasing a couple peaches (which we ate at the airport), half a pound of coffee, a necklace for Sharon, and an Obama/McCain photograph for me. Before heading back to the metro, we took a quick walk through the indoor market with all the food just to see. Two primary observations: they sell non-local produce (such as bananas and pineapples), and the line-up for Market Lunch (where they serve their famous blueberry pancakes) was out the door!

Eastern MarketEastern MarketSharon with Iced CoffeeEastern MarketEastern MarketSo many boxes

Our next stop was Tabard Inn, where we had a brunch reservation. The closest Metro stop was Dupont Circle, in what is called the Golden Triangle. We were dismayed to discover that both up escalators at the station were not working, which meant we had to walk up probably 200 steps! Everyone struggled to make it to the top, laughing along the way. It was quite the workout!

Tabard Inn was one of the places we had written down as a potential place to stay. but I’m glad we didn’t, because it was further from a Metro stop than GWU, and while quaint and homey inside, didn’t seem as comfortable. We found the restaurant in the back, and were happy to sit indoors away from the sun and heat. One of the neat things they serve are donuts, which we were told are usually eaten as an appetizer. I can best describe the donuts as large mini-donuts! For brunch, Sharon ordered the Blueberry Pancakes, while I went for the Scrambled Eggs with Sausage. Everything was pretty good, but I particularly liked the bread they served.

Tabard InnMack @ Tabard InnSharon @ Tabard InnBlueberry PancakesDrumming!Crazy escalator

After brunch we slowly made our way back to our hotel, stopping briefly in Dupont Circle to watch an impromptu drumming performance and at Macy’s to discover their shoe selection was relatively weak (compared with the one we visited in NY anyway). We retrieved our bags, and set off for the Rosslyn Metro station, where we planned to catch the bus to Dulles International Airport.

We arrived at Rosslyn just as the bus was loading, but were turned away because it was full. That meant we had to wait another hour for the next bus! This was both good and bad: good because we didn’t have as much time to kill at the airport, bad because we had to wait in the crazy heat and sun! Fortunately we didn’t spend the entire time outside, seeking refuge in the nearby McDonalds for a while (but we wanted to make sure we were near the front of the line for the next bus so didn’t venture too far).

We caught the bus (air conditioned, thank goodness) and made it to Dulles with time to spare. Our flight into Ottawa was uneventful, as is the one we’re currently on back to Edmonton.

It was a great vacation but it seemed relatively short. I guess the best ones always do! I’ll be posting all our photos this weekend, as well as a final recap post. Sharon will be making her posts over the next week or so also, with more detail than mine I’m sure.

Washington DC Trip: Day 5

Today was our last full day in DC, and it was a good one. We began by going to Caribou Coffee, a place we’ve never been to before. The coffee was ridiculously hot, but it wasn’t bad. Sharon remarked that the interior looked a little like Montana’s. So true.

Our first major stop was supposed to be the Jefferson Memorial, but we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere and ended up at a large fish market! It was actually pretty cool to see – so many varieties of fish, shrimp, and other seafood, including some absolutely massive crab legs! We looked around for a bit, then started walking in the general direction of the Jefferson.

Caribou CoffeeSeafood MarketJefferson MemorialJefferson MemorialSharon on Tidal BasinTweeting on the water!

It wasn’t too much longer before we arrived! There were far less people there than at the Lincoln, and thankfully, only one or two tour buses full of kids. It was fairly impressive, but perhaps less so than if we had seen it before all the other memorials. We walked around but our eye was drawn by the paddleboats (or pedal-boats) out on Tidal Basin. We decided to walk over to the rental desk and join them. It turned out to be a good decision – the paddleboats were only $10 for an hour! While we were out on the water, President Obama’s helicopter flew overhead, as did a couple of Marine choppers.

After a quick ice cream after our hour was up, we set off for U Street to visit the famed Ben’s Chili Bowl. It was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives, and was visited by President Obama himself! In fact, there’s a sign inside that lists the people who eat for free: Bill Cosby and The Obamas. Sharon and I each ordered a chili dog, and we shared chili cheese fries. While eating, a local came over and pointed out that I was sitting in the exact spot that President Obama did when he visited the restaurant! So cool and the food was great!

Ben's Chili BowlMack at Ben's Chili BowlBen's Chili BowlGeorgetownGeorgetownSharon with Cupcakes

After lunch, we came back to the hotel to change into some fancier clothes, and then went to Georgetown to do some shopping. It was ridiculously hot, but we trudged on (well I did, Sharon was fine). We didn’t buy too much, but I got some Dean & Deluca mugs that I had been wanting, and Sharon bought a new purse.

Our dinner reservation was at Hook, a high-end seafood restaurant in the heart of Georgetown at M Street and 32nd Street (you can follow them on Twitter: @HookGeorgetown). It was definitely the fanciest eatery we visited this trip! We had to ask about some of the kinds of fish, but that didn’t really help in the end – Sharon’s Lingcod was quite tasty, but my Moonfish was mostly raw. When the waiter said “pink” I thought he meant like Salmon! Ah well, I ate most of it, and now I know. Everything else was great though.

Dean & DelucaDean & DelucaHookMack @ HookLingcodMoonfish

We walked back along the waterfront, which was really busy. Been relaxing mostly since then, trying not to think about the fact that we are going home tomorrow! I’ll be posting all our photos once we’re back.

Washington DC Trip: Day 4

I’m pretty tired tonight so to change it up, I’m gonna do this entry in point form:

MetroPresident Obama's MotorcadeSharon & MackSharon at the Museum of Natural HistoryMuseum of Natural HistoryMuseum of Natural History

  • We started off with coffee at the Starbucks near our hotel, then took the Metro toward the White House. It was another great day weather-wise, at around 27 degrees Celsius.
  • The White House Visitor Center was mostly unimpressive, especially when compared with the Visitor Center at the Capitol. We did find the short video they were looping informative, however.
  • About a minute or so after leaving the Visitor Center, we crossed 15th Street at E Street, and with sirens coming closer noticed that many people had stopped to look. We figured it was an emergency vehicle of some kind.
  • We realized fairly quickly that something bigger was happening. Half a dozen police motorcycles had appeared, with a few cars behind them and four or five tour buses behind the cars. Policeman started ensuring all pedestrians were a few feet back from the roads.
  • Then, from a different direction, more police motorcycles drove past, turning off 15th Street west onto E Street. More vehicles with lights went by, then we saw Cadillac One and a number of other presidential vehicles drive past. We got to see President Obama’s motorcade!
  • After the cars had passed we walked toward the White House, but couldn’t get very close. We took a picture as close as we could get.
  • Our next stop was the Museum of Natural History. We tried to go through relatively quickly, but still spent quite a bit of time looking at everything!

Union StationUnion StationObama, Mack, BidenAir & Space MuseumAir & Space MuseumAir & Space Museum

  • We then took the Metro to Union Station, where we did some shopping and exploring. Sharon bought some really nice clothes, and we stopped for cookies and an iced coffee at Au Bon Pain.
  • With about two hours to kill before a walking tour, we decided to stop at the Air & Space Museum (which we later learned is the busiest of the Smithsonian museums). We didn’t have much time there before it closed, so we zipped through it.
  • After the museum closed, we sat outside for a bit, then made our way to the meeting point for a free walking tour.
  • Though the tour covered all the places we had already seen (Washington Monument, war memorials, etc.) it was worthwhile for all of the stuff we learned. Lots of history, and some great trivia too! For instance, we learned the Secret Service codenames for the First Family: Barack is Renegade, Michelle is Renaissance, Malia is Radiance, and Sasha is Rosebud.
  • The tour ended at the Lincoln Memorial, where we remained until sunset. We wanted to see the Korea War Veterans Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial at night, and neither disappointed. We also got some great views of the illuminated Washington Monument and the Capitol.
  • We walked back across the bridge toward Georgetown, but didn’t quite get that far. Instead, we picked up some dinner from Safeway at Watergate, and came back to the hotel.
  • I think I should have brought or bought better shoes – all the walking has made my feet incredibly sore! Sharon seems to be doing a bit better, but we’re both fairly exhausted this evening!

Stars and StripesWalking tourWet PaintSharon & MackWashington at NightWashington at Night

Tomorrow we’re going to do some shopping in Georgetown, among other things!

Washington DC Trip: Day 3

We planned to walk less today than we did yesterday, but I’m not sure we accomplished that! We started off early once again, making our way to the The Capitol Building to line-up for tickets. We found a distinct lack of signage outside the iconic building. It wasn’t clear which entrance was for visitors, nor where to line up for tickets. The interior of the Capitol Visitor Center was only marginally better.

Eventually we made it inside and near the front of the line for the 8:50am tour, which started with a 13 minute video describing some of the history of the Capitol. It was a bit over-the-top but I appreciated the refresher. Next we got to see the inside of the Capitol itself, starting with the magnificent center dome. It was really interesting to hear about some of the history. For instance, the artwork around the top contains the Wright Brothers and their plane, even though the Capitol was built during the time of Lincoln! The reason is that the last 30 feet of the painting were not finished until the mid 1900s.

Sharon reading the paperCapitol BuildingOur tourCapitol BuildingMack with gallery ticketsCapitol Building

We also got to see the “whispering room” and a bunch of other unique halls and rooms inside the Capitol (one contained a beautiful chandelier that was apparently purchased not too long ago for just $1500). Most surprising to me were the incredible number of statues! Apparently each State can have two inside the building at any given time, and they can be replaced after ten years. After the tour, we stopped in the cafeteria for a coffee, and went to get tickets for the House and Senate galleries!

Considering it’s not trivial for international visitors to get into the Capitol in the first place, we were surprised that all you had to do to get tickets to the galleries was walk up to a counter and ask. We did so, and decided to go sit it on the House of Representatives for a bit. After a couple more security checks, we found ourselves in a mostly empty room. A few representatives were discussing the recent credit card legislation and there were about a dozen other visitors. It was pretty cool to see, but we didn’t stay too long.

Supreme CourtLibrary of CongressLibrary of CongressJimmy T'sCheeseburger and friesWashington

Next we stopped across the street at both the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. The former was underwhelming because we didn’t get to see much, and the latter was better than I expected. The interior of the Library of Congress is pretty impressive. I particularly liked looking at Jefferson’s Library. After a quick walk around, we decided it was time for lunch, and walked a few blocks east to a small diner called Jimmy T’s. It was pretty ghetto looking but hit the spot – I had the eggs benedict (they serve breakfast all day) and Sharon had the cheeseburger and fries. It was nice to be able to walk through some residential neighborhoods along the way.

After lunch, we hopped on the Metro and headed downtown. Our first stop was the Canadian Embassy, an impressive building on the outside that we didn’t get to see much of on the inside. We wondered how they managed to snag such prime real estate – Pennsylvania Avenue and 5th Street, with a clear view of the Capitol. Right next door to the embassy was our main stop of the afternoon – the Newseum.

Canadian Embassy & Capitol as seen from NewseumNewseumNewseum9/11 Exhibit at NewseumNewseumPulitzer Prize-Winning Photographs Exhibit

At $20 per person, Newseum was the first attraction of the trip that wasn’t free. The building itself is incredible, and includes two incredibly large, hydraulic elevators. There are six floors to Newseum, and we visited each one. I particularly enjoyed the News History exhibit, the 9/11 exhibit, the Future of the News exhibit (where they had a Twittering the news section), and the Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographs exhibit. They also display the front pages of newspapers from around the world. There was so much to see, and all of it so interesting. Newseum also includes a large number of interactive displays and consoles – dozens and dozens of touch screens that allow you to explore even further. I really enjoyed it!

With a bit of time to kill before dinner, we found a nearby Starbucks and sat down for a while. Our feet enjoyed the brief break! Eventually we made our back toward Georgetown, and right outside the Foggy Bottom Metro station discovered a small Farmers Market! Sharon was quite excited, so we had to stop and check it out. We ended up purchasing fresh strawberries (enjoying them right now) and a lavender teacake.

Sharon at the marketFoggy Bottom Farmers MarketMack at Founding FarmersCheeseburgersWatergateKennedy Center

Our dinner reservation this evening was at Founding Farmers, a restaurant with a serious focus on local and sustainable food (and is the first LEED certified restaurant in DC). I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy sitting at a communal table, but it worked out just fine. We had the mini cheeseburgers to start, and I tried one of their local beers. For dinner, Sharon ordered the meatloaf and I chose the lobster mac and cheese. It was delicious, but we both left the restaurant feeling stuffed. I’m sure Sharon will have much more to say about it in her review.

We took our time walking back, detouring to see the Kennedy Center and Watergate along the way. We discovered that both are just about three blocks from where we’re staying! Tomorrow we’re going to the White House (well, to the visitor center and as close as we can get) and thankfully, it won’t be quite as early a start!

I’ve got a ton of photos to upload, but it’s taking quite a while to do so. You can find them in this photoset as I get them uploaded.

Washington DC Trip: Day 2

Our first full day in Washington was a busy one! Sharon had checked before we left home to see if there were any advance tickets available for the Washington Monument, but there weren’t. That left us with one option: lining up at 7am to get tickets. We woke up just after 6am and made our way to the monument (taking the very efficient Metro). Part of me thought that Sharon was the only tourist crazy enough to line up so early but sure enough, there were about a dozen people already in the line! I should have known better than to question her!

In our rush to get there however, we didn’t have time to stop for coffee. As we had to wait an hour and a half until the ticket office opened anyway, that gave me lots of time to find a Starbucks and return with coffee and breakfast sandwiches. Before long, we had our tickets in hand and went to line up at the Washington Monument!

We made it to the front of the line for the 9am tour, just ahead of about six tour buses, thankfully. It’s pretty cool that you can go up to the top of the Washington Monument, and once you’re there you have a clear view of many of Washington’s major attractions, including the Capitol Building, the Lincoln Memorial, and the White House. It was very cool, and the staff were all so welcoming and entertaining – it was definitely a highlight of the day.

Walk-upsWashington MonumentYay tickets!Sharon touching the monumentMackSharon & Mack with the Washington Monument

Next we made our way to the World War II Memorial, the Reflecting Pool, the Lincoln Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the Constitution Gardens. It all looks relatively close together on the map, but make no mistake, we walked a lot. There were tons of tour groups at each memorial. I think my favorite was the Lincoln Memorial – it was just so impressive. We also found the spot on the stairs where Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his historic speech, marked by the words “I Have A Dream”.

After the Memorials, we made our way back toward the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Once we got there however, we decided it probably made more sense to get some lunch first. We wandered toward the office buildings, passing the Old Post Office and the J. Edgar Hoover (FBI) Building, eventually spotting Teaism. Continuing with our good timing, we just beat the lunchtime office crowd, and managed to snag a seat inside. I ordered a Chicken Bento Box, Sharon ordered the Chicken Udon soup, and since it was a tea place, we shared an Iced Black Tea. Everything was pretty tasty, and Teaism proved to be quite popular – the line was out the door for most of the time we were there (they do both eat-in and take-out). On our way back to the museum, we decided to check out the Old Post Office, taking the free tour up to the top of the clock tower. Compared with the Washington Monument, it was a bit underwhelming.

Sharon @ WW2 MemorialMack @ Reflecting PoolMack @ Lincoln MemorialVietnam War Veterans MemorialChicken Bento BoxTeaism

We spent most of the afternoon inside the National Museum of American History, visiting all three floors. There was lots to look at of course, including a couple of relatively new exhibits. One was the “Star-Spangled Banner” exhibit, and the other was the “I Do Solemnly Swear” (pictures from Obama’s inauguration). I really enjoyed looking at all of the shots from that event. The Lincoln exhibit was a nice complement to our visit earlier in the day, and I also liked the “Lighting a Revolution” and “America on the Move” exhibits. Sharon was excited to see Julia Child’s kitchen. We would have spent more time in the Pop Culture exhibit, but it was packed with tour groups of kids.

Museum of American HistoryInside the Old Post OfficeMack with C-3POSharon with the Sex and the City laptopMuseum of American HistoryWhite House Cup

By the time we were finished at the museum, we were both getting pretty tired. Up since 6am and walking almost non-stop since then was starting to take its toll! We decided to walk over to the National Mall to sit for a while before going for dinner. We did some people-watching, and tried to imagine the 2 million people who where there for Obama’s inauguration. At one point, Sharon remarked “Jogging – Washington’s Official Sport” – there were definitely a lot of joggers passing by (all day actually).

We hopped back on the Metro, and made our way toward Chinatown. We still had a bit of time before our reservation, so we walked around the area, passing the Verizon Center and many familiar logos (though interestingly, many of them had both English and Chinese signs). Eventually we walked to Proof, one of the restaurants Sharon had picked out. At first I was a little worried that we were underdressed, but it turned out to be fine (not nearly as awkward as our Gramercy Tavern experience in NY). We decided to go with the Charcuterie and some appetizers, in addition to a variety of 2oz samples of wine. Sharon will be writing all about it later, but I can say that we really enjoyed it. The cheese and meats were fantastic, as were the appetizers (spicy meatballs, pork confit, and gnocchi). It was a great dinner!

Chinatown GateStarbucks in Chinese!ProofInside ProofCharcuterieSpicy Little Meatball

We briefly considered walking over to the Jefferson Memorial afterward, but decided to come back to the hotel to rest instead. The weather today was great – warm and sunny but not sweltering or unbearable. Hopefully it’s more of the same tomorrow when we’re off to the Capitol Building, among other places!

You can see my photos from the Washington Monument here – the rest of today’s photos (nearly 250) will be uploaded later!

Washington DC Trip: Day 1

Yay we made it to DC! Sharon and I started our adventure early this morning, leaving Edmonton bright and early at 7 AM. It was a chilly morning back home, so we were definitely looking forward to some warmer temperatures in Washington. We flew through Toronto, and happily the flights were uneventful (though Sharon didn’t enjoy the turbulence on the small plane from Toronto to Dulles). We took a taxi from Dulles International into Washington, which was expensive but stress-free and somewhat relaxing. Our driver told us we were lucky as the traffic was relatively light.

We arrived late this afternoon at the George Washington University Inn, located in Foggy Bottom. The area is kind of like Old Strathcona, but with lots of walk-ups and much more greenery. Upon check-in, we were informed that we had been upgraded to a large suite for no extra charge – always a good way to start off! We took a quick nap, and set off for Five Guys Burgers and Fries.

George Washington University InnGeorge Washington University InnMack in GeorgetownGeorgetownOld Stone House

I used Google Maps to locate the nearest one, which turned out to be closed when we got there (as it was inside a food court of sorts). That was just as well, because it allowed us time to walk through Georgetown, eventually making our way to the location at 1335 Wisconsin Ave. We marveled at the little shops and cafes inside old houses along M street. It’s a little like Whyte Avenue with less traffic, more pedestrians, and much older buildings. We stopped at IceBerry, which serves frozen yoghurt (Sharon tells me the cold treat is really catching on in DC lately). We decided to share a small strawberry cup, with blackberries. It was good, but we both agreed it would have been better with strawberry chunks in it!

When we finally made it to Five Guys, we were both famished! There was an interesting mix of patrons inside the restaurant, including groups of young people and guys in suits. Sharon ordered a single cheeseburger, while I opted for the single bacon cheeseburger. We also split small Cajun fries. After a short wait, our order number was called out and we retrieved the brown paper bag containing our meal, grease stains already starting to seep through it. The burgers and fries really hit the spot, however! I particularly enjoyed the fries, which were not overly spicy. Sharon couldn’t resist filling a small tray with peanuts, and was happy that we had started our trip with a “dive”.

IceBerryFive Guys Burgers and FriesMack at Five GuysCheeseburger from Five GuysSharon at Five Guys

After dinner we made our way back to the hotel, stopping at Gap to get me a dress shirt (I packed dress pants, but totally forgot to pack a shirt to go with it) and Starbucks for a coffee. M street was definitely quieter after dark than it was earlier, though I suppose it is Monday. The busiest place seemed to be the Haagen-Dazs!

We walked quite a bit this evening, but nothing compared to the amount of ground we’re planning to cover tomorrow! You can see the rest of my photos here.