I’ve officially been writing this blog for so long that I’m starting to be able to write about second annual trips–in this case, the second year we visited the National Book Festival. Yes, I’m that much of a nerd. I’m a National Book Festival groupie.
To be honest–which clearly is the point of everything I write–I was a bit apprehensive about the book fest trip. Up until the week before I wasn’t even sure if we were going to go. This was for a number of reasons, but the main one was, well, my apprehension. It was our first trip anywhere since The Great Europe Trip, and the idea of heading off to a city once again–even though it is my third favorite city in the world–made me a little sick to my stomach. I have honestly never been so nervous about such a short, run-of-the-mill trip before. I’m like a dog, beaten by an abusive man who now fears all men. But instead of dog, I’m a tourist. And instead of a man, it was Paris. Ok–I’m nothing like the dog. But still–it was traumatic.
Fortunately, most everything worked out very well. We left for D.C. after work on Friday–which is never a good
idea–and it only took us around four hours to make the three hour trip–not bad during Friday rush hour traffic. We boarded the metro in Maryland with no problems, and the hotel we’d booked on priceline sight-unseen turned out to have a metro stop in the basement–the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel–so all we had to do was take an elevator from the station and we were in the lobby of the hotel. How great is that?
It was around 8:30 by the time we’d finally arrived, and we decided to cancel our reservations at Jaleo because, well, we were tired and didn’t want to venture out into the city. While the hotel was convenient in that the metro was in the basement, it was inconvenient in that you needed the metro in the basement, because there is absolutely nothing on that side of the National Mall–not even a Dunkin Donuts! (note: I hate Dunkin Donuts, particularly because of the spelling) So we ended up having a perfectly awful meal in the hotel restaurant–which I do not ever recommend doing–and then retiring to our room. I should mention that our room did have a fabulous view of both the Washington Monument and the Capitol building from the north facing balcony, which was lovely at night.
Saturday dawned bright and sunny, and started off rather well as I discovered something amazing on this trip–the awesomeness of room service. There was a little card that you could put on your doorknob to order breakfast at a certain time, and it would be delivered to you like a yummy, coffee scented wake up call. As my husband snored on Friday night, my slightly tipsy self (we’d had some wine with dinner) filled out the card and slipped it on the doorknob–and at 8:00 sharp the next morning, a man knocked on our door with hot coffee and biscuits and muffins and juice. It was awesome, and my husband was thrilled to be served breakfast in bed. He literally woke up, rolled over, sat up, and I placed food on his lap. He was thrilled–as was I, as usually breakfast at hotels is an annoying affair consisting of getting up, getting showered, heading out, and then returning to the room after dinner so my husband can, ahem, do what he has to do in the ‘room’ (read: bathroom) after breakfast. It typically takes at least an hour and a half out of our morning. I feel the time savings alone more than makes up for the cost–which, I admit, is insane. But they bring it to you–I’ll pay for that! We ordered an even more comprehensive breakfast for the next day, also delivered right on time. It was so substantial that not only did they wheel it in on a little linen covered table, but it held us over until we returned home that night for dinner.
The book fest was even more enjoyable than last year, as this year we had great weather. We got there before it even started, after walking through a beautiful garden on the Independence Ave. side of the Smithsonian Castle (at which point, many times, I repeated the phrase ‘screw Europe–it’s pretty AND clean here!’) Because we arrived at the fest so early, we were seated front and center for THE author we came to see, Suzanne Collins of Hunger Games fame. Her talk was interesting–we learned a lot about her own background and came to understand where the inspiration for her stories comes from–and then headed out to lunch at Mitsam, the very best cafeteria in the whole world, located in the American Indian Museum. I wrote about Mitsam as part of my REALLY long post on day two of our Thanksgiving Trip, and it did not let us down during this visit, either. In fact, we got there so early we got great seats with a view of the fountains.
After lunch we visited the Fiction and Mystery tent to hear Ken Follet speak. Pillars of the Earth is one of my all time favorite books, but it seems that everyone was there to ask him about the recent mini series adaptation. And by ‘everyone’ I literally mean EVERYONE. Every single person at the entire festival tried to squeeze under the tent, and I was reminded yet again why I work with children and not adults–when adults do stupid, annoying, self-centered things, I get beyond annoyed. Because adults should know better. But yet time after time, adults would enter the crowded tent, shove their way through the hoards of people already standing behind the seats, and place themselves in the middle of an open aisle. The aisle was open for a reason, moron. And then the usher security guy would have to go up to yet another person and shoo them out of the open walkway. I enjoyed Ken Follet’s talk, but was so annoyed by the other people there–and by the fact that I was
literally being crushed by said people, even though I was trying to take up as little room as possible–it was a welcome relief to return to the Children’s and Young Adult’s tent to hear one of my other favorite YA authors, M.T. Anderson, speak. His talk was possibly the most enjoyable of the day; I felt like I was watching not only the guy who wrote one of my all-time favorite YA books–Feed–but a stand up comedian.
All in all, the day was very inspirational, and I came home with lots of ideas of how to write my own book–if and when I ever get around to doing that. I really need to do that. I’ve started many–I’ve finished none.
It was hot–very, very hot–as we walked back to the hotel around 3:00, and so we stopped at the hotel bar on our way to our room to enjoy the air conditioning and a glass of wine. Later, we retired to the pool to cool off before dinner, which was at Fogo De Chao, a place we’d visited on day one of our Thanksgiving trip to D.C. last year. It was meat-tastic, as usual, though I really still do prefer the cheddar popover-style rolls to anything animal based on the menu (if you can consider ‘men in gaucho pants walking around with meat on sticks’ a menu!)
After an ok night’s rest in two separate beds–we had two doubles instead of a queen or king, so we slept 1950’s-tv-style–I was tired and ready to go home. But before leaving for the weekend, we ventured out one more time, fortified by the afore mentioned room service breakfast. The mission–space.
We arrived at my least favorite Smithsonian right after it opened, and only a few minutes before the morning guided tour began. Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know–we LOVE guided tours. This tour was no exception–we learned so much about things we never thought we’d understand–like the physics behind flight, for example. The tour was led by an insanely knowledgeable ex-fighter pilot who was beyond anything that I could have expected from a tour. This man knew more about flight than the tour guides at the National Gallery in London knew about art (and that’s A FREAKING LOT, in case you were wondering). In fact, had we more time, we would have stayed on said tour for the entire, oh, I don’t know, four hours it would have spanned. But we had to be on our way by early afternoon, so we hung out on the tour for a little under two hours, before abandoning ship to check out a bit more of the museum on our own before our 12:25 Imax Hubble 3D showing. My husband was all psyched about this show, and I have to admit that I was, well, less than. But it was amazing–the 3D images in the opening sequence alone caused me to close my eyes, and learning about how galaxies are born–well, that was pretty freaking awesome.
We left the Air and Space Museum around 1:00 to make our way back to the hotel, to the metro, to our cars, back to PA. We arrived home around 5:00 and sighed as we prepared for the new work week.
Nothing went wrong on this trip. It was definitely not the best trip we’ve ever taken, but it was also not a disaster. For some reason (Europe, I’m looking at you) I assumed it would be awful. It was not. And I’m glad we went. I really needed a palate cleansing trip before our NCTE slash Disney trip in November (which is now officially 40 days away!) I have high hopes for the NCTE adventure, mainly because, well, I loved last year’s convention so very much. Plus, now that I’ve discovered room service, I’m guaranteed at least one meal per day–which is more than I could say for any day on The Great Europe Trip. And breakfast is the most important meal of the day, after all.