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Smithsonian: Air and Space Museum and Mitsitam Café

Posted by on Sep 21, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

Smithsonian American Indian Museum
Cafe at Smithsonian American Indian Museum

Cafe at National Museum of the American Indian

While I could have easily spent a full day at the Smithsonian American History Museum, a D.C.-area friend had recommended the Mitsitam Café at the Smithsonian American Indian Museum as a “little known gem.” I decided to make my way there for lunch.

Mitsitam cafe
Smithsonian Native American Museum

The cafeteria serves native-inspired foods that span the American continents. I got a buffalo burger and fry bread.

Smithsonian Native American Museum

The menu also includes options like wild rice and ceviche.

DC Museum cafe

This is definitely a place I’d like to come back to and try more things!

Smithsonian space museum

National Air and Space Museum

When I walked down Independence Avenue to the south entrance of the Air and Space Museum, I was discouraged to see a line over 100 feet long to get in. I had started back toward our hotel, when I looked back and saw that the northern entrance – along Jefferson Drive – didn’t seem to have a line! Sure enough, about five minutes later I was in the museum!

Air and space museum

So keep in mind that there is more than one entrance, especially since, as Stephanie later told me, the Air and Space Museum is the most popular of the Smithsonian museums.

Amelia Earhart

Immediately upon entering, I saw display spaces festoooned with replica and original air and space craft – a lunar landing module, the “Spirit of St. Louis,” the front half of the fuselage of a 747, rocket nozzles as big as my living room.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum: plane

In the past I had wanted to be an astronaut, so I was particularly intrigued by the exhibits showing relics of the U.S. space program in the 60s and 70s – toolkits, suits, windowed hatches, flight manuals, and the like. There’s even a very official and ornate “certificate of merit” presented to the first chimpanzee sent to space by the U.S., which I found both ridiculous and moving. While I was certainly impressed by the spacecrafts themselves, oddly, it was these historic bits of ephemera that captivated me the most.

image

The guided tour moved a bit too slow for me, so I bailed out to cover more ground.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum

Marty met up with me about an hour into my museum visit, so that was a nice surprise. We toured the World War II fighter aircraft exhibit together. I especially appreciated the naval aircraft display that replicated both the deck and interior of an aircraft carrier.

Air and space museum

Unfortunately, our time soon ran out at the Air and Space Museum. We went to the food court with the biggest McDonald’s I’d ever been to. There was a large seating area and lots of windows to let in light. Fortunately, we went as the day was winding down, so we didn’t have to wait in line long.

National Mall sunset

I enjoyed sitting in the gradually-emptying mega-McDonald’s and debriefing the museum sights with Marty.

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A Hike in Le Marche

Posted by on Sep 18, 2017 in Travel | 5 comments

Le Marche countryside

At about the halfway point in our Italy trip, we took a break from museums and city streets and headed to the country.

Le Marche Road

We went to Le Marche, a region east of Tuscany that stretches to the Adriatic Sea.

hike in Le Marche - berries

Le Marche Hillside

One morning, we hiked up a hillside to some ruins of a city that had been abandoned there hundreds of years ago.

Le Marche Ruins

Le Marche Ruins

Coming over one ridge, we spotted a pair of horses grazing. One had a bell around its neck (like a cowbell – apparently it keeps porcupines away).

They seemed as curious about us as we were about them, both parties making our way cautiously toward each other bit by bit.

image

We stared at each other awhile until, finally, Phillip and I turned to scramble up the next hill to see the crumbling stone houses there. The horses continued to mosey down their path.

Le Marche Hike




 

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Smithsonian: American History Museum

Posted by on Sep 7, 2017 in Travel | 2 comments

Smithsonian American History Museum

I arrived at the National Museum of American History just in time for a guided tour. The group was small – only me – but the docent/tour guide was still more than happy to take me on the full tour.

It started with a walk through the first floor exhibit on the history of transportation in the US with early trains and automobiles on display.

Transportation Smithsonian - American history museum

My tour guide mentioned that, at any one time, there is way more stuff in storage at the Smithsonian than there is on display.

Julia Child's Kitchen - Smithsonian - American history museum

One thing that’s always out, however, is Julia Child’s kitchen, rebuilt piece by piece. It reminded me of the end of the movie Julie and Julia, where a scene in this historic kitchen fades into today’s museum display.

Uniform at Smithsonian - American history museum

Combat Zone

One standout section for me was the display on the history of war in the United States. It was more realistic than idealistic, providing insight into the enormous human toll war has had on our country.

I was also profoundly moved by a display of items left at the Vietnam Memorial including notes from loved ones and friends. I looked at the dates of the “boys” that died. Some of them were born about the same time as my father. I thought about all the friends, fathers, and uncles that those in my generations never grew up knowing.

Smithsonian lunch counter

Counter Protest

A section of the lunch counter from the Greensboro sit-in during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s was on display, somewhat unceremoniously, in a clear space between larger exhibits. If I hadn’t known it was a display, I might have just thought it was a closed (and very dated) snack stand.

When I saw the placard and description, I stood there a long time, trying to imagine how it would have been to sit there in protest years ago.

It’s easy to idealize the moral stands of the past; with the benefit of reflection and history, most would agree the Greensboro sit-in was necessary. However, in the moment, with hostile people around clamoring for “peace and order” and to “stop trespassing,” it would have been easy to flinch or doubt oneself.

National Mall

History doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s made up of the mundane things of life, uncertainties and all. I stared at the lunch counter and marveled in its reality. It was gathering place with ugly pastel-colored seats. A place where people sat down to eat and drink coffee. A place where people sat down to protest a kind of oppression I will never know.

With the voices of so many marginalized populations still asking for a place at the table to speak, it doesn’t feel like it was all that long ago.

 

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Itineraries Meet Reality

Posted by on Aug 31, 2017 in Travel | 0 comments

We had to cut David.

I know! I know! I know.

Uffizi by Petar Milošević. • CC BY-SA 4.0

 

Past Me (i.e. me several months ago, before we got into the trip planning nitty gritty) would be saying the same thing you are right now. “You’re not going to see David?!! You’re going all the way to Italy, all the way to Florence, you’re probably going to walk by the building that Michelangelo’s most famous statue is inside of – but not go in?!!

I KNOW.

Michelangelo

It’s not that I’m not interested in art. Or Renaissance art specifically. (I am.) It’s not that I don’t want to see it. (I do.)

The thing is this: You don’t just pop in to see The David. The sculpture is housed in La Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze, along with small collections of other artwork and molds and models for sculptures. I’d actually be interested in seeing all that.

David selfie

But David is a very popular guy. To the point that, getting inside l’Accademia usually means either (a) waiting in line for a couple hours to buy a ticket on-site or (b) buying a timed ticket online that allows you to skip the line that you cannot make changes to once purchased. You pick the time, buy the ticket, and then it’s set. No changes. No refunds. No mercy.

It’s the same deal at the Uffizi Gallery, which is a large musuem full of some of the most important art of the Renaissance (just not David). Either wait in line or be tied to a time.

Uffizi © Samuli Lintula / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

We had considered doing both during our morning in Florence. And in a guidebook-itinerary perfect world, that’s totally possible. But, in reality, it became clear that attempting to do both in one morning was not a good plan for us.

So that meant choosing between l’Accademia (David) or Uffizi (tons of art). You might’ve made a different choice. Or might’ve been willing to rush around and cram both in. Or maybe you’re not that into art and would’ve skipped both.

Florence Duomo by Petar Milošević • CC BY-SA 4.0

The point is there’s the trip you would plan in a vacuum, based solely on your interests and preferences. And then there’s the real-world itinerary (both planned and unplanned) that is limited by time and money and energy and weather and who you are traveling with and when things are open and whether your feet hurt and what else is happening in the town/the world/your life that day.

In the real world, you make trade-offs, try to be flexible, and do your best to enjoy the story as it unfolds.




Photo credits:

1+5 Petar Milošević • CC BY-SA 4.0

2 Me

La Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze

4 © Samuli Lintula / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0

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Virtually Visit Italy

Posted by on Aug 28, 2017 in Travel | 5 comments

If you can’t take a plane to Italy, there are still ways to see the sights from where you are.

Florence Duomo by Petar Milošević • CC BY-SA 4.0

If you can’t take a plane to Italy, there are still ways to see the sights from where you are.

Museums and monuments sometimes have “virtual tours” that allow you to see 3D views of a place and (usually) click to navigate through it – like Google Street View but inside.

A group of Russian photographers has taken incredible 360-degree photographs around the world. You can probably get lost in their site, AirPano, for days. I’ve linked to some of the AirPano pages for Italian cities (below).

Skyline Webcams allows you to search for live camera feeds of public places by country or category (city views, landscapes, etc.) I’ve included a few live cams from Italy in the lists below, but there are lots more on their site.

 

David selfie

Florence

Milan

 

Galleria Umberto, Naples

Naples and Pompeii

Pisa

 

Vatican

Rome and the Vatican

 

regata storica venice http://www.regatastoricavenezia.it/mg.php?fg=2016&pg=2&lang=it

Venice

Where would you like to “travel” to without leaving home?

Happy virtual trails!


*Not mobile friendly.


 

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Photo credits —

  1. Florence (Duomo): Petar Milošević • CC BY-SA 4.0
  2. Florence (David): La Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze
  3. Naples: Italy Guides
  4. Rome: Vatican City State
  5. Venice: Regata Storica
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