Washington, District of Columbia – February 24, 2010

Tyler and I headed out today for a quick trip from Madrid, Spain to Georgetown, Washington, D.C.  While we were waiting at the Barajas Airport in Madrid, my boss sent me an e­mail that I received on my Blackberry.  He wanted to know if I wanted to attend a greening conference in Paris in April.  It took me about two nanoseconds to say yes.  However, I could not get my Blackberry to work to send a reply.  Finally, not wanting to miss out on this opportunity, I called my boss’s office manager and asked her to sign me up!

Waiting in Barajas Airport in Madrid for our plane to Washington, D.C.
Our airplane getting ready for us.

In preparation for our trip, I woke up at 05:00 in Spain.  Tyler and I actually sat down for dinner in Washington, D.C. at 03:00 (Madrid time) the following day!  We were bushed.  When we arrived in Philadelphia from Spain we went through the diplomatic line at immigration.  That only took about a minute.  Then we had to go to the luggage area to get our bag.  After that, we breezed right through customs.  Then the ordeal began.

Even though we had been through three different security screenings in Madrid, we had to go through security again in Philadelphia.  It was like standing in line for a ride at Disney World.  The line snaked back and forth multiple times.  We finally made it through the x-ray area with no problem.

We made our way to the gate for our flight.  Our flight to Washington, D.C. was supposed to leave Philadelphia at 17:45.  Tyler and I sat down and I looked up at the sign in the boarding area.  The sign indicated our departure time at 18:40.  I got up to go check the monitors in the hall.  Sure enough, the new time was listed as 18:40.  I got back to the seating area and shared the news with Tyler.  Just as I did, the gate agent made an announcement that our gate had changed.  We were fortunate that the new gate was right next to our old gate.  We entered that seating area, sat down, and watched it fill up with people.

The sign in our seating area still showed a departure time of 18:40.  After being there for nearly an hour, the gate agent announced they were still waiting for our plane.  They expected it at the gate at 18:05.  At about 18:05, the gate agent said they were changing our gate again.  The new gate was at the far end of the concourse.

Tyler and I made our way to the newly assigned gate and sat down.  We did not see anyone coming down the ramp from the plane at that gate until about 18:20.  I told Tyler there was no way we were going to take off at 18:40.  Sure enough, we did not board until about 19:00.  The plane was packed.  There were only about one or two empty seats.

We finally pushed back from the gate and taxied toward the runway.  When we got in line for takeoff, the captain announced that we were number 13 for takeoff.  There was a huge, collective sigh of disbelief from the cabin.  We finally took off at about 19:30.

When we got to Reagan National Airport, we had to wait for our bag.  Of course, they changed the baggage pickup point once while we were there.  We finally got our bag, got a taxi, and rode to the hotel.  As I noted above, it was about 03:00 Spain time when we finally sat down to have something to eat.

While we were in the gate seating area in Philadelphia, it was approaching midnight Spain time. I was tired so I would lean my head back against the wall and close my eyes.  I was shocked at the cacophony of sound.  The Muzak playing in the area was classical music.  Competing for that at about the same sound level was the CNN Headline News coming from the television.  Also competing for sound space was the ever-present clicking of keys as people typed away on their laptop computers.  I could hear several people having conversations on their cell phones.  Trying to drown that out was the dull roar of many conversations taking place both in the seating area and in the concourse.  Periodically it was all punctuated with an unintelligible announcement on the speakers in the concourse.  As if that were not enough, there were many different food smells also vying for my attention.  It was nearly a sensory overload.

The following morning, we heard on the news that they are expecting another heavy winter storm in the northeast.  Just a couple of weeks ago, Washington, D.C. was hit with about three feet of snow.  They are only expecting 1 – 3 inches from this system; however, Philadelphia is expecting about 12 inches.  That is a little unnerving because today is Thursday and we are supposed to fly out of Philadelphia this Saturday.  I do not think the snow will be a problem on Saturday.  But I am concerned about the airlines trying to get back on schedule after having multiple canceled flights because of the weather.  Oh well, it is out of our hands.

The view from our room in the Georgetown Inn, Washington, D.C.

In Georgetown, just a couple of doors from where we were staying was a Five Guys burger joint.  We decided to eat there.  The burger was huge, the french fries were huge, and the drinks were huge.  They don’t eat like that in Spain, but it sure was good!  We both had a bacon cheeseburger. On them, we both had pickles, grilled onions, catsup, and mustard.  When we ordered, I did not realize they were double hamburgers.  It was a huge lunch.  We did not even put a dent in the french fries.

For dinner, we ate at the Sea Catch restaurant.  It was a little pricier than I originally anticipated.  Tyler and I both had lobster and fillet Mignon.  We also had a Cesar salad.  All total, including the tip, our dinner was $150.  That being said, it was very good.

While we had some free time, we went to the National Aquarium.  I was very disappointed with that venue.  It was by far one of the worst aquariums I have ever visited.

A puffer fish.
An emperor anglefish.
A blue tang.

When we left the aquarium, we took a taxi to the mall.  We got out near the Washington monument.  It was bitterly cold and a stiff wind was blowing.  We walked to the Smithsonian castle and looked around there for a while.  A couple of the memorable items we saw were a Gibson Les Paul guitar and the crypt of John Smithson.

It was definitely a whirlwind trip.

James Smithson’s crypt in the Smithsonian Castle, Washington, D.C.
A Gibson guitar, Les Paul model, in the Smithsonian Castle.
Waiting at Reagan National Airport for our return trip to Madrid, Spain.

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