Pandas, Monkeys and War Monuments - oh my!

Washington Travel Blog

 › entry 3 of 3 › view all entries
Chili, anyone? =)
Today was the LONGEST day, but also the most fun too! We started off at an EXCELLENT suggestion from Mark and Lena - Ben's Chili Bowl. What a great place with yet again, AMAZING food. Between Ping Pong for Asian food and Ben's Chili bowl - I think I could be a very happy camper living in DC!

A magician came by and did tricks while we waited for our food. The half-smoked is a MUST try, and the cheese fries without chili is also quite good. I wanted to try like 3 different things so Chris told me to order however many things I wanted and we would share everything. It ended up being the perfect quantity with me tasting a bit of everything. We finished up around 12:30pm and Mark, Lena, and Lola had to leave for the airport so we took a couple more pictures outside of Ben's.
Hi Panda!!!!!!!


The remaining out-of-staters decided to band together and tour around a bit more, but we couldn't decide what to do! I really wanted to see the Panda and the Hope Diamond at the Natural History Museum (yay science!), but as it was nearing 1pm and we were hoping to leave DC by 5pm, it probably wasn't possible. Carole and Bill wanted to see the war memorials along the reflecting pool, and all of a sudden - quiet, agreeable Mike piped in wanting to see monkeys with such enthusiasm!! So off to the zoo we went after all the paler TBers applied sunscreen for the days' activities in the sun ;) Most of them were a little red already from the previous days' adventures! =) I was worried the pandas wouldn't be there, as they're notorious for sleeping tons, but with Mike's clear excitement at going to see animals, we all agreed to set off to the zoo!

We headed into a new part of town adjacent to the zoo.
oooh I want to hug you and kiss you and squeeze you while you eat your juicy pop!
We're not sure what this area is called, but it is posh, with cafes along the sidewalks and lots of brides walking down the street. A huge Marriott sits on a hill next to a metro station and across the street from the zoo. More fantastic-ness!

We went in and of course being in DC it was free. They don't even seem to track the number that enters here - I think that would be incredibly useful data, but ah well. We entered the wide walkway amongst more throngs of people and came upon the small-mammal building. It was stinky but there was a small blue-faced monkey darting out of a hole in the wall providing beautiful photo ops! A little girl taught me how to use the hand sanitizer and we left pretty soon after because it was incredibly hot and stuffy inside this building.
Reflecting Pool and Washington Monument in daytime


Off we went to find the panda sanctuary. Upon entry, it said "panda house closed" and I almost turned around disappointed, but people were still walking in that direction so Mike encouraged me to keep going. Sure enough - the pandas were out!! This was the first time I've seen a panda!! The male kept walking back and forth on a hilltop just barely out of view. Somehow, by some great stroke of luck after about 2 minutes, it stopped pacing back and forth and made a beeline towards my area of the fence. I was so excited I started clapping and jumping up and down, completely forgetting to take pictures!! Everyone got great shots and the male picked something up and started suckling on it - it looked like a frozen cylinder of sugar, which must've been nice in this hot weather! Wow, what a beautiful creature! Chris was standing with me during this time and he was such a sweetheart, he kept asking me to stop jumping and to turn around so he could capture me with the panda in the background for my memories.
Vietnam War Memorial
What a guy! =)

We head off to see more monkeys for Mike and went into a gorilla and orangutan holding area. Wow this was terribly small for such enormous creatures, and the orangutans were staring at computer screens with their backs to the crowd the whole time - how depressing! =( I don't like zoos. I was happy to see the panda - Lord knows how long they'll be around considering how little China cares about its wildlife (goodbye forever, Yangtze pink dolphin!) but I don't think I'll be returning to any zoo for quite some time.

We left the zoo dehydrated again as it was quite hot, and stopped for a second to get drinks and fruit bowls at one of the pretty cafes nearby. We got on the train and headed to Foggy Bottom station to start at the Lincoln Memorial and work our way towards the Smithsonian metro station.
The 4 musketeers!
Considering we were here just 12 hours ago it was a bit of a shock seeing it noisy, hot and packed with people, when 12 hours ago in the wee hours of the night it was the exact opposite. We made our way from one memorial to another - Carole knew quite a bit of history about the monuments and also gave us a few details out of her guidebook. We visited the Vietnam World Memorial first, then the Korean War Memorial, and finally the WWII Monument which was another beautiful public space packed with people admiring the view of the Lincoln Memorial in the distance. Unfortunately the sun was setting behind the Lincoln Memorial so we could not quite capture that beautiful view.

We wanted to get a quick bite to eat and many wanted sushi so we made our way back to the original hotel area downtown and went to Sushi Aoi - a bit disappointing but got the job down and they had a table big enough for all of us.
OH MY GOODNESS, how did it become 9pm already?! Carole, Mike and I should have been almost home around now! We tried to eat as quickly as possible, tried to find an open Starbucks at this hour on a Sunday to no avail so we said our goodbyes and left to pick up Carole's car from the garage. Somehow avoided the $25/day parking charges - whether due to miscommunication or kindness from the parking attendant I'll never know, but lord I hope I don't get some bill after the fact!

The goodbyes were one of the saddest I've had. Meeting such great people from so far away with such similar interests is always enlightening and then bonding under intense circumstances always creates a situation hard to pull away from. There people were great, and it was so hard for all of us to pull away after being together for three days.
Gorgeous
Throughout this last day, more than one person piped up about when we would hang out again, what meetup we might attend together to explore some more. It was clear that this group really enjoyed each others' company, which was satisfying to witness. This last group to part ways was all in 30s, kind of low-key, very polite, very smart and just incredibly kind people with lots of great stories. You simply can't ask for more.

Apologies for the delay in finishing this last part up. It's simply that it was SO TIRING just THINKING about it that I never managed to gather the energy! ;) The journey that Milienko and I were about to take should under no circumstances have been after a full day in the sun. The trip back to NY took over 6 hours, with about 12 wrong turns leaving DC, a missed exit, passing through 6 states, accidentally routed through Philadelphia, had one minor run-in with the cops in New Jersey, stopping by a wreck of a diner with bizarre looking patrons, and finally crossing Times Square at 3:30am and there STILL being tons of people walking around on the streets! Much as I enjoyed DC, it was a sleepy town compared to my big, beautiful, vibrant city.
World War II Monument
I was SO happy to be home. If only I could take all my new friends home with me!

Milienko dropped me off and said goodnight. I couldn't believe what good spirits he was in considering how long our day was and then what a long trip back ensued. Now, he would have to double back 40 minutes out of the way and across toll bridges to get home. What a great new friend, I owe you one Mike! =) If Mike hadn't brought me home, I would have had to stay in DC another night because there were no buses after 7pm back to NY and then I'd have to drag my stuff through the subways and home at 1 in the morning.

All in all - what a great trip. It was beautiful and relaxing and fun and exciting! I can't wait to see you all very soon! Maybe in Canada? =)
marksreynolds says:
So glad you came down and we were able to meet!! Can't wait for the next time :)
xo
Posted on: Apr 17, 2010
vances says:
lol at your comments about crowds at Foggy Bottom metro stop - I used to work in Georgetown and let me tell you about crowds there during morning rush hour!

A great adventure, but you missed Teddy Roosevelt Island...my favorite DC haunt! A wee bit of a hike from Foggy Bottom, but worth the stroll. Agree with the zoo comments...
Posted on: Apr 16, 2010
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Chili, anyone? =)
Chili, anyone? =)
Hi Panda!!!!!!!
Hi Panda!!!!!!!
oooh I want to hug you and kiss yo…
oooh I want to hug you and kiss y…
Reflecting Pool and Washington Mon…
Reflecting Pool and Washington Mo…
Vietnam War Memorial
Vietnam War Memorial
The 4 musketeers!
The 4 musketeers!
Gorgeous
Gorgeous
World War II Monument
World War II Monument
Walls of Vietnam War Memorial
Walls of Vietnam War Memorial
Korean War Memorial
Korean War Memorial
faces etched into a wall behind th…
faces etched into a wall behind t…
Monument to Wars. All of em.
Monument to Wars. All of 'em.
walking into the WWII Monument
walking into the WWII Monument
I couldnt resist cooling my feet …
I couldn't resist cooling my feet…
Dinner at Sushi Aoi
Dinner at Sushi Aoi
Washington
photo by: b93sp