Category Archives: Travelling

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Washington D.C.

Forget the White House, forget the Star Spangled Banner, forget all the steak; the best thing about Washington D.C. is the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Holy fuck, they have some amazing shit here!

I honestly didn’t know where to run to first!  Upon entry, you go through security, then you are PRESENTED WITH THE APOLLO LUNAR MODULE!!  THE FUCKING APOLLO LUNAR MODULE FOR GOODNESS SAKE!

3 exceptionally brave men sat in this little thing for a week, going to the moon and back!  And the yanks have it displayed in the foyer!  You gotta love that?  The module is AMAZING, seeing the re-entry burn marks on the blast shield made me feel faint with geek shock; I personally could not fit in the module if I laid across all three seats, so goodness knows how the astronauts managed it.

After regaining my composure and putting my tongue in my mouth, I staggered and looked around the little ‘square’ foyer.  There in all their glory were the X-1 (Which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier in), the X-15 (which broke the barrier of our atmosphere before rockets went further) and Space Ship One (The future of commercial space travel?).   Next to those, the Spirit of St Louis, the first aircraft to travel non-stop over the Atlantic.

I could not take it in?  I have loved planes and space travel since I can remember, so to be confronted with Man’s greatest technological achievements was something to cherish.

Around the museum, you can go from seeing the Wright Brothers ‘Wright Flyer’ through to WW1 and the bi-planes, then sample the WW2 planes (one of my favourite parts of the museum) and then into supersonic, before breaking into the space age.  It’s like a timeline of flight.

In addition to this, you also have a fantastic and comprehensive guide to rocket technology, from the Nazi V2 right up to things like intercontinental ballistic missles and a skylab module which was amazing to see.

It’s not all big vehicles, they have space suits, moon rock, the Wright Brothers tools, Gene Kranz’s waistcoat (NASA Flight Director during the Apollo 13 triumph).  More than you could possibly hope to see, if you are as big a science geek as I am.

Look at it all!

 

Smithsonian National Zoological Park (Washington D.C.) – Zoolights

The Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington D.C. has free entry and pandas!  Therefore, it deserves some of your time if you are in the area!  (And a generous donation!).

The zoo is situated between two Metro stations, Woodley Park and Cleveland Park; much of the park is on a very steep hill, so it’s a good idea to go the extra stop to Cleveland Park and walk down through all the exhibits.

Considering it’s a free zoo, it’s a fantastic park; I particularly liked the O-line method of transportation that’s available to the Orangutan’s so that they can swing overhead between two habitats.  Very cool!

The American trail is also another great feature, I’ve never seen a spectacled bear before,  beautiful animal.  Kudos for the amazon feature as well; walking through a very humid mini jungle was an odd sensation after having been exposed to chilly weather in D.C. throughout the week.

The Panda enclosure is the big feature and quite right too!  An adult and baby panda majestically sat just in front of me whilst I was inside the centre (well, the adult sprawled out on her stomach like she’d been on a hen party the night before).  I’ve seen pandas before, but it’s always a special feeling; such a cute baby!

I deliberately stayed at the zoo until closing time for the annual Zoolights feature.  The security staff cordon off the exhibits, but leave the main walkway through the park available so that you can waltz through and enjoy the lights with Christmas music (got to love the ratpack!).

Beautiful neon lights adorn trees and are also presented in animal statue forms during the holiday season; it was quite sweet seeing busloads of excited kids disembark and run around the zoo marveling at the dazzling display.

Excellent, excellent, excellent!  Shine on, you crazy diamond.

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Four Seasons – Georgetown – Washington D.C.

I could not get 5 consecutive nights at the Fairmont due to availability, so I arranged to stay at the Four Seasons hotel in Georgetown for two nights before heading back to the UK.

Upon getting out of the taxi, I noticed how the place dripped in pretentious luxury; being in places like the Four Seasons is slightly uncomfortable for me because I did not feel like I belonged here at all? The valet guys are wonderful and genuine in their welcome , but the reception staff are trying so hard to be 5 star that it feels like you’re in a Hollywood movie?

That’s not to be dismissive of their excellent service, I just felt it was a little robotic?

The lobby is amazing, a roaring fireplace and sitting area is right by the revolving door, just before the reception.  The reception staff looked after me so well, took my baggage (still not comfortable with someone doing that) and had it delivered to the room.

The journey to my room felt like it took ages because of how big this hotel is?  Perhaps they could benefit from adding some of the Heathrow pod parking vehicles to take guests from reception to their rooms?

The room is definitely more classy than the Fairmont, but the rooms are slightly smaller?  That said, it’s immediately apparent that you are in a different class of hotel here.  The bed is beautiful, the chairs are extremely comfortable and the TV was almost twice the size of the last one!

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The bathroom had a HUGE shower (but no bath) and beautiful sink and countertop with a fantastic selection of toiletries.

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For a single night, I’d recommend a stay at the Four Seasons because it is absolutely amazing and I would not like to get too used to this kind of lifestyle, so that it remains a treat?  It was exceptional, but perhaps I was punching a little bit above my weight?

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Fairmont – Washington D.C.

I had the pleasure of staying in the Fairmont hotel in Washington D.C. for three nights between the 11th to 13th of December.

Upon my arrival in a taxi from Dulles airport, I was greeted (very genuinely) by some very cool valet dudes and made my way through the stunning lobby to check in. Again, all very professional.

The lobby is beautiful with a centrepiece Christmas tree right next to the bar; just at the back of the lobby area is a concept fireplace (lots of photo opportunities to be had) and plush armchairs are littered about which make for a nice place to sit and plan out your days in D.C.

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I had a really nice cheeseboard with a beer one evening whilst watching some American football and the prices are very reasonable.

There’s also a gorgeous courtyard full of trees and plants which are currently covered in Christmas lights for the festive season; animal statues made up of wireframe Christmas lights are on show here, their heads move with little motors which was a nice touch. Perfect for when you are totally fuzzed following a transatlantic flight and just want to watch some pretty lights.

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The rooms at the Fairmont are big and are generously furnished along with a very, very comfortable bed. The bathroom I had contained a nice sized bath with shower next to a really big sink and counter, massive mirror for a shave (if you are so inclined!).

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As you’d expect for a luxury hotel, the TV is bloody massive and has lots of channels to enjoy after trudging around the Capital. I watched the United vs Liverpool game, up yours you Scouse slags!

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What makes the Fairmont stand out, is it’s concierge team, particularly a chap named Chris, for whom nothing is too much trouble in going above and beyond the call of duty for people staying at the hotel. Chris provided us with a reservation at nearby Clydes restaurant in Georgetown (excellent) and provided me with a handy ‘family’ discount at Macy along with general advice about the metro. Huge thanks to him for that.

Absolutely fantastic value for money!

Heathrow T5 Business Pod Parking

Heathrow Business Pod Parking in Terminal 5 is rather swish!  

The pods are futuristic looking contraptions which are about double the size of a smart car and reminded me of something out of Blade Runner or Total Recall (The Johnny cab!).

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After parking up in a standard airport car park (conveniently situated just off the motorway), you head to a pod station and programme a simple journey to the terminal on a touchscreen monitor.

The doors open, you get in and after selecting ‘start’ on a button, off you go!

It’s about a 3-5 minute ride from the pod station to the terminal, you go over the lake using a skyway; the ride is quite nippy and it’s almost like being on a rollercoaster!  Almost.

During the journey, you have a little information video telling you where to go, nice and professional.

A weeks pod parking was about £90, which isn’t too bad when you consider the other parking companies operating at London airports are alleged to park your car in nearby streets or probably go joy riding in them!

It’s a fun experience to start your journey off and certainly a very easy way to get to your car after you arrive back to Heathrow.

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