Monday, October 01, 2007

Ms. Smith Goes to Washington

When I was invited to the 2007 National Book Festival, GLS I decided that we would zip to DC a couple of days early to soak in some of the sights.

We flew United into Dulles on Wednesday morning, waking up at 5:45 a.m. to get to the Austin-Bergstrom Airport on time. Highlights included pretzels and Head Case by SA (Roaring Brook, 2007). We sat in the last row, which meant we couldn't push our seats back at all, and any number of people bumped me on the way to the restrooms. But I still managed to sleep a good hour of the three-hour flight.

We were picked up at the baggage terminal by Ravi in his black Caddy, courtesy of CP. Lovely man, nice car. The interior was black leather with complimentary bottled water and mints.

Ravi dropped us off at the Hotel George, which is the same place we stayed last time. Our room wouldn't be ready until 3 p.m., so we decided to grab lunch at Bistro Bis, which is next door. I enjoyed my artichoke soup and crab salad.

Then we went onto the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History for the rest of the afternoon. Our main destinations were the dinosaur, Ice Age Mammal, and main mammal exhibits. Of these, the mammals exhibit was the newest and best.

We also shopped, picking a number of books, DVDs, and a holiday ornament of the White House. Bookstore sightings included Mammoths on the Move by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Kurt Cyrus (Harcourt, 2006).

After returning to the hotel and settling into our room, we had dinner at the Acadian Restaurant. The chef was from Dallas and served a Gulf-coast menu. I had the smoked chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, split the trio of deviled eggs (crab-meat ravigote, shrimp rémoulade, Louisiana choupique caviar), and my main course was the New Orleans style barbecue shrimp ("USA Today top 25 dishes 2005"), meaning full shrimp with garlic butter, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and warm French bread.

On Thursday, after a room-service breakfast (omelet with country ham) we visited the International Spy Museum, an absolutely don't-miss DC destination. It took us about two and a half hours to wind our way through the state of the art exhibits, many of them interactive and computer based. Think: Gadgets, G-men, G-women, lots of trivia, and trust no one (really). Equal parts inspiring, fascinating, and down-right scary. Nifty factoid: Josephine Baker was a spy for the French during World War II.

Afterward, we had lunch at Zola (tuna tartare and chopped salad with shrimp) and then shopped at the gift store. Book sightings included Time Spies by CR (see book six, Riders in the Night (Mirrorstone, Oct. 2007), Spy Mice by HVF (Simon & Schuster, 2005-), and A Coming Evil by VVV (Houghton Mifflin, 2007).

We considered having dinner that night at Union Station but opted for room service instead. I had the French Onion soup and a club sandwich. We also tried to order "Knocked Up" on TV, but the sound wouldn't work, so we watched "X-Men: The Last Stand" again instead. I'd forgotten how great of a job Kelsey Grammar did as Beast.

On Friday, we went to the Air and Space Museum, which had an extensive exhibit on the Wright Brothers as well as a wing temporarily devoted to the collection from the Museum of American History (currently under renovation). Highlights included Abraham Lincoln's top hat, R2D2 and C3PO, Kermit the Frog, and Dorothy's red slippers.

After the National Book Festival on Saturday (see full report at Cynsations), we dined at a local Irish pub (fish and chips), enjoyed a good night's sleep, and flew back to Austin the following afternoon. It was a bumpy ride due to area storms, but Choices by DLJ (Roaring Brook, 2007) was so engrossing that I hardly noticed.