Exploring DC – Day 1 of Adventures

We went to Washington, DC to watch my friend Komal’s documentary, Dream, Girl, at the White House, but we also took the opportunity to spend a few days on holidays in DC. My mom and I had been before, but Kevin and my dad had never seen any of the Washington, DC attractions, so we got to work quickly on our tourist experience.

Morning Adventures

We stayed at a hotel within walking distance to Capitol Hill, which also put us within a short distance of the Washington Mall.

If you’re not familiar with Washington, DC, here’s how Wikipedia describes the National Mall:

The National Mall is a national park in downtownWashington, D.C., the capital of the United States. The National Park Service (NPS) administers the National Mall, which is part of its National Mall and Memorial Parks unit.[2] The term National Mall commonly includes areas that are officially part of West Potomac Park and Constitution Gardensto the west, and often is taken to refer to the entire area between the Lincoln Memorial and the United States Capitol, with the Washington Monument dividing the area slightly west of its midpoint.[3] The National Mall receives approximately 24 million visitors each year.[4]

Here’s a photo of the National Mall, and some notes on different landmarks, relative to our hotel.

dcnationalmall

We started early in the morning with a quick breakfast and a walk around the Capitol Building. The heat was pretty intense, so my parents opted for a relaxed, air-conditioned morning at the hotel while Kevin and I rented some Capital Bixi bikes, and biked down the Washington Mall to see the Lincoln Memorial.

With Tony & Judy relaxing, Kevin and I bike in the sun along the Mall, past the Smithsonian museums. We stopped for a photo op at the Washington Monument, and then carried on to the WWII memorial. I’d seen all of this before, but it was great to see it again. The size and beauty of the National Mall is always impressive, and even Kevin agreed with that, so it was fun to see him enjoying himself so much.

The WWII Memorial in particular includes such great attention to detail. Between the carvings, and the sounds of the fountains, it’s truly a work of art.

The weather was nice and hot, but it was too early in the year for DC’s infamous humidity, so we enjoyed the sun as we biked along the reflecting pool and then climbed the steps to the Lincoln Memorial.

Because we were in DC for Memorial Day weekend, it was an especially busy spot. At every memorial and landmark, we saw different veterans and veteran groups, which added a bit of extra meaning and context to all that we were seeing. As a Canadian, American politics can sometimes be a bit bewildering, so it was interesting to see Americans expressing their meaningful politics on this set of national landmarks.

After the Lincoln Memorial we saw the Vietnam War Memorial. It’s one of my favourite things to see in DC because it’s so different from typical war memorials. Rather than celebrating achievements or supposedly high minded ideals, this memorial is a wall of stone, cut into a hill, with all the names of the American soldiers lost in Vietnam carved into it. Rather than celebrating the state, it recognizes the American soldiers who were lost in the war. It’s rather emotional to walk along, even more so when you’re walking behind and in front of Vietnam war veterans.

On our way back to the other end of the mall, we stopped for a photo op near the White House, then headed to the Museum of Native American History for lunch (which was excellent).

Afternoon Adventures

After lunch we met up with my parents at the National Air and Space Museum. The Smithsonian has a really impressive collection of things in general, and this museum was no different. We saw exhibits covering the first attempts at flight, the first launches into space, and real pieces of modern spaces stations and technology. It was a great way to see and understand the progress of travel over the last few generations.

Kevin was pretty bummed to not see Cape Canaveral when we went to Florida, so he was quite thrilled to see some spaces ships, rovers, etc at the Smithsonian.

Next up we went to the National Gallery of Art. We only had time to see the basement floor, but we stumbled upon some Mark Rothko paintings, so we were quite excited. All in all, we had a great time on our first day exploring DC!

Evening Adventures

After the museums closed, we headed back to the hotel to shower off all the sweat and sunscreen of our day. After changing, I headed out with Kevin and my Dad. Unfortunately, my mom wasn’t feeling well so she stayed back in the room to sleep.

Before going to dinner, we went to the Sculpture Garden at the National Gallery of Art. It was “Jazz in the Garden” night, which I thought meant that it would be full of stuffy rich people doing the polite golf clap while listening to jazz. I could not have been more wrong. By the time we got there, the garden was completely full. We found a line up, bought pitchers of beer and sangria, and stood in the garden to listen to the music and enjoy the energy of the crowd. It was a great crowd of people of all ages, gathering for what was clearly a very popular Friday night social event. It also helped that we were at the season debut. If you’re in DC on a Friday night, I highly suggest you check out this awesome free event!

Next up we headed to a wine bar for dinner. I did some heavy research on WikiTravel for this trip, as I’d been advised that good restaurants were hard to find in DC due to the high amount of touristy/business-y nonsense restaurants. Fortunately, I found a great list of places, and we didn’t have a single bad meal.

On Friday night we ate at Proof. The food was excellent, and the wine was also great. The wine list wasn’t as varied as I’d been hoping, but everything we ate and drank was delicious. Unfortunately, the aesthetic of the restaurant includes lighting so lacking that you can’t even read the menu. I found this to be completely pointless, and annoying. Otherwise, it’s a top notch experience, but eating in the dark is just plain weird. That said, we ate some of the most delicious charcuterie of all time there, so it was worth going to. Still, it was the weak point of meals over our weekend, which likely says more about how well we ate in DC.

Photos are below, in reverse order for some reason:

Dream, Girl Field Trips: We went to the White House!!

** Updated to include more photos of people other than just me 🙂

I’m currently writing this from my gate at Pearson Airport. My computer and phone are both charging because I forgot to plan ahead for battery power while travelling. I also forgot my business cards, once again.

I’m heading to New York City this morning to join my university gal pals as we watch the world premiere of Dream, Girl, a documentary produced by our very own best friend, Komal Minhas.

The fun thing about being 26 is that all your friends who were totally floundering at 22 (and we talked about it non. stop.) are coming into their own with amazing achievements and careers, and accomplishing their dreams.

Of course, I’ve already seen Dream, Girl. I saw it’s first ever public screening on May 26th when my family and I roadtripped to the White House!

I bought my ticket to the New York premiere the day they went on sale, but with a trip to DC for a screening, I wasn’t sure I’d make it to New York City as well. But after seeing the documentary, and realizing that in NYC I’d be watching this incredible story about female CEOs with some of the most powerful and creative women that I know, the premiere event was no longer optional. I booked my flight to New York just a couple of days after returning home from DC.

I’ll back up a second here though, to remind you that we went to the White House!!!

Through the type of creative hard work, charm, and networking that characterizes so many of Komal’s achievements, Dream, Girl was screened at the White House for family, friends, and public. It was a pre-event for the United State of Women Summit being held this week.

When Komal told me about the screening, and I told Kevin and my parents, we all immediately agreed that we should go. I mean, you don’t say no to an opportunity to go to the White House.

And so on Thursday May 26th, the four of us piled into my mom’s cushy SUV and drove to DC at 6am. It was a beautiful day, and a beautiful scenic drive. We arrived in DC to check quickly into our hotel, get changed, and then Uber over to the White House!

Seeing familiar faces in foreign places is one of the great joys of life, and I was so pleased to see that so many of our friends had made the trek to DC to support Komal and her co-producer Erin in their White House debut.

The documentary, as expected, was excellent in every way. Not only was it beautifully produced, but it shines a light on some of the most incredible business women you could imagine. It’s inspirational, educational, heart warming, and so much more. I am so grateful and so glad that this film exists.

After dinner, my family and I went for dinner at a great restaurant called Vidalia, and had some truly eye-opening conversations about entrepreneurship, women in business, and the power of helping your network to succeed. We spend a lot of time at our house talking about business, but it’s rare that we have deep conversations about the challenges and achievements of women in business. For me, that alone was worth the drive.

We didn’t take many photos that day, but those we did are attached below.

I’m hopping on my flight now, and will be in NYC soon to check out Dream, Girl’s World Premiere and surround myself with the infectious excitement of women accomplishing their dreams.

 

 

#tbt: Spring time in the Algarve

April in Canada is the time when mother nature teases us all. Releasing sunshine and flowers, just in time to snow all over it one last time.

Nonetheless, spring is upon us, which means that it’s the season for adorable baby animals, the return of flowers, and much more.

This time last year, Kevin and I were in Alte, living with his grandmother in southern Portugal. With the weather being decidedly less chilly, the spring seasons feels much more played out. That is to say, there’s no temporary pause, and the warm months go on for quite a while. If you’re paying attention, you can easily see the springtime cycles of life emerging. Particularly in the rural Algarve, this is especially true.

We saw a mama duck sitting on her eggs, and just a few weeks later we saw her baby ducks beside the river. A month later, many of those babies hadn’t survived, but we all knew who the new teenager ducks were, and we were so happy to see the swimming around and thriving.

When the neighbour’s cat had kittens (this was a big theme in the Algarve – we met a lot of people whose neighbour’s cat had kittens last spring), Kevin and I would sneak food outside for them. The would sit on the neighbours shed and “mew, mew, mew” in the saddest way possible, and then we’d sneak out and toss them our leftover bones & scraps from dinner.

Down the street, there was a neighbour who had a horse. It was fairly routine to see him riding around on the horse instead of using a car. It was also fairly routine for the horse to be housed in all different yards and fields in and around Alte. Two of those locations were a quick walk down the street (basically in someone’s backyard). One day while walking, we noticed there was a baby horse hiding behind the mother. Over the proceeding weeks and months, we saw the baby become bigger and more independent. On one particularly memorable day we saw the baby walk right up to us:

If you follow Kevin and I on Instagram, then you might already know about our baby “javali” – Portuguese for wild boar. My friend Christina and I had gone for a run. Attracted by the sound of our voices, a baby javali wandered out of an orange grove and followed us.

After a while, we managed to get him to wander off on his own, and we ran home to tell Kevin about what we saw. He agreed that it would be good to help the isolated little guy, so we drove out to the hills and picked him up.

Kevin’s grandmother was not impressed. Javali are famously destructive. They’ll eat anything and everything, and she was concerned about her flower beds. Our little javali had to stay in the garage.

Within 24 hours, it was pretty clear that he was sick. Within 36 hours, it was pretty clear that he was going to die. A family friend who raises javali came to pick him up, but even his nursing wasn’t enough. Not such a happy ending to that springtime adventure, but part of the season of growth and change nonetheless.

Now that we’re in Canada, we’re keeping our eyes open for springtime growth and life. With a shorter warm season, we’ll be missing the variety of activity we saw in the Algarve, but we’re getting into birding and hiking, so time will tell how many baby creatures we’ll get to see this year.

Day 7 Recap: golf & food & magic, oh my!

Friday was our last day in the Disney parks, but the day started early for my Dad, Tyler, and Kevin. They were up at the crack of dawn for a round of golf. Though it was cut short by rain, their 12-hole golf round brought them tons of joy, evident when my mom and I met them for lunch – they were drinking champagne!

After taking a short time to relax, we took a quick trip to Epcot (to view the “Canada” video – if the Disney people are reading this, it needs updating and more Drake!) before going to dinner at the Flying Fish Cafe (thanks to Aunt Elaine for the recommendation!). Our dinner was top notch. We left to check out the Electrical Light Parade at the Magic Kingdom and go on a few more rides before our trip was over. It was easily the loudest parade I’d ever seen, but we did get to go to the Hall of Presidents one last time, so the noise was somewhat worth it.

Our evening wrapped up at “Top of the World” bar, on top of a nearby hotel. A few drinks and many stories later, and we were home to bed.

The suitcase is now packed, and we’re about to check out of our hotel. Flying home tonight means we have the majority of today for some additional adventures!

Day 6 Recap: Animals & Deliciousness

On Thursday we went to the Animal Kingdom theme park. We also ate quite a bit of delicious food.

I hadn’t really planned on going to the Animal Kingdom, but Kevin heard there were giraffes and gators and got so stoked that we had to go. We saw lions, gorillas, fish, giraffes, monkeys, birds, rhinos, hippos, zebras, and much more. Kevin took a TON of photos and even some cool videos to share the memories.

 

Beside the Animal Kingdom is a hotel/resort called the Animal Kingdom Lodge. We dropped in to check out their view of the animals, and also stumbled upon a restaurant called Sanaa. According to their ‘bit’ they serve South African food, influenced by Indian flavours. Stoked to eat something flavourful and different, we ordered a ton of food and devoured it all. Having rarely seen his kids eat anything more exotic than chicken fingers with sauce, my dad was in complete awe as we ripped apart naan and came down on all the various dressings in what can only be described as a feeding frenzy.

After lunch, we also saw some zebra mating rituals, also fortunately captured on video:

That evening, we went for dinner at a restaurant known for its wine selection, Artist Point, at the Wilderness Lodge hotel. Again we had wine for our appetizers and again for our dinner, stretching out our dining experience and enjoying some great wines from Washington state.

For photos of all that and more, see below:

 

Day 5 Recap: Enjoying some quiet time

We kicked off Wednesday morning with breakfast at Kona Cafe, a staple for our family trips, at the Caribbean Beach Resort. As has been the case so far on this trip, breakfast was decent but service was weirdly slow to get started.

I had their signature dish, Tonga Toast, which is basically a ginormous French Toast + Bananas sandwich, with tons of cinnamon and sugar as a coating. As you can imagine, it was delicious but not quite filling in the longterm. Everyone else had a large traditional style breakfast, and was happy with the results.

We spent the rest of the day relaxing at the hotel. Reading, napping, swimming, going to the gym, etc.

For dinner that night, we headed over to the BoardWalk Hotel for dinner at Trattoria Al Forno, a well-reviewed Italian restaurant. After many food-related misses this week, we were so pleased to have a long, relaxing dinner here.

The food, wine, and service were all excellent. We took our time with appetizers, mains, and multiple wines, and had a truly excellent dining experience. We followed it up with baileys and desserts at our hotel, and bed. Vacationing is exhausting!

Day 4 Recap: A quick 5-photo summary

We’ve already packed a lot into our first few days here. Yesterday we began our day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios for lunch at the Sci-Fi Drive In Diner. It’s a concept restaurant that reproduces the notion of being in a drive-in under the stars.

The decor was cool, but the food and the service were lacking, which is a pattern we’ve been noticing since arriving. A bit concerning to say the least, so we’ll be including more research in our restaurant decisions the rest of this week.

We did minimal exploring of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and then headed back to the hotel for a quiet dinner, followed by drinks at a bar in Disney Springs.

Overall, a quiet day, and today is even quieter as we make some much-needed time to actually relax and ‘do nothing’ while we vacation. Photos below show the highlights of yesterday’s activities!

Day 3 Recap: Around the World in Several Drinks

The game plan for Monday was simple: go to Epcot and have a drink in each of the countries that make up the “Around the World Showcase”. It got predictably sloppy, but we topped off the day with a delicious dinner at “Le Cellier” at the Canada pavilion, and a good time was had by all.

The drinking around the world bit (inspired by this blog post and this one). It took around 6 hours to go through all the countries, including a stop for lunch that was clearly mandatory by the time we got to the Japan showcase.

Highlights included tequila shots at the Mexico showcase, and the best dinner we’ve had so far this trip.

As usual, Kevin kept us engaged with the camera and captured some amazing memories:

“the word of the day is fakades…”

… that’s what Tyler told Kevin on Sunday morning after we entered and began exploring Disney’s “Magic Kingdom” park. We quickly realized he meant ‘facades’ and had a good laugh. But he’s right on about that being the word of the day. The Magic Kingdom is a imagination-driven park, designed to present a variety of illusions and fantasies and magical experiences. This often means that things, particularly buildings, will look one way, and be another. Streets that look like old-timey shops and apartments are often long stores or restaurants or rides. As Kevin pointed out, “simulacra” is also an apt term.

In any case, we kicked off our day with Sunday brunch at the Grand Floridian resort, followed by a day at the Magic Kingdom. We busted out our best Algarve-style saunter, and spent lots of time wandering and looking at things. Later in the evening, after a break/rest, we went back for 2 hours, at a time when the park was mostly empty.

This was good because there were no lineups, because Kevin was finally able to see a crowd-free area (it has been SO busy everywhere this weekend!), and because Kevin met Mickey Mouse!

As we were leaving the Magic Kingdom at 11:55pm last night, I noticed that a “meet a character” attraction was still open. We popped over, and were the last in line (a very short line!) to meet Mickey Mouse “backstage” for the night!

This was a totally bizarre experience. Kevin wasn’t even sure who Mickey Mouse was 3 months ago, and this Mickey actually spoke! We were all a bit flabbergasted, in awe, creeped out, etc. It was a lot to take in, and it was a great top off to a jam packed day of looking at unreal things.

Check out the photos below – Kevin’s photo taking skills are back in full-force 🙂

We’re at Walt Disney World all week long!

For all of this week, we’re on vacation at “the happiest place on Earth”, Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

Who’s “we”? It’s me, Kevin, my brother Tyler, and my parents. It’s mine and Tyler’s first trip in awhile, and Kevin’s first-ever Disney experience, so we’ll be taking many pictures and making many observations. We’ll be blogging everyday to share the highlights of those observations, and of course we’ll be sharing some of the best photos from the day.

We arrived early this afternoon at Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa, where we’ll be staying all week. We treated this as an orientation day. It involved lunch at Olivia’s Restaurant at Old Key West, shopping at Target, considerable naps, dinner at Raglan Road Restaurant, and an evening of exploration at Disney Springs and Disney’s Boardwalk Resort. We packed a lot in, and we’re looking forward to getting into the full swing of things tomorrow.

Here’s the best of our photos from today: