Saturday, 27 February 2016

Reality telly

In a world where a reality TV star might well become the next president, it was fitting to read about actor Kevin Spacey having his portrait painted as the fictional president he plays on TV (even if the British original was better).  And they hung it up right here in DC!  Of course.  So we went to have a look.  Except the gallery didn't open until 11.30am so we popped into the National Museum of the American Indian on the way.

We've been to the older Museum of American History quite a few times.  Pete is quite taken with the Star Spangled Banner, but the place is shockingly devoid of any history before that unfortunate falling out of 1776.  It turns out that all the original history is up the road in another, brand new, building.

Here we got to sit in kayaks, build an igloo, listen to several live musical performances (including Stand By Me sung in Iroquoian, which was...interesting), and get a whistle-stop tour of any number of cultures stretching from Chile to Alaska.  Interestingly, a new National Museum of African American History is opening in a few months.  So soon you'll be able to choose which version of history you want to see - there's nothing more American than personal choice!

On our way to the gallery an unforeseen blessing occurred when Pete fell asleep in his buggy, which hasn't happened for months; Hannah and I got to act like adults and actually stop and look at pictures and stuff.  The Spacey portrait is right there as you walk in, painted by British artist Jonathan Yeo, the pretend president looking suitably formidable and unimpressed by us minions looking up at him.

The gallery shares the building with the American Art Museum so there's no end of weird and wonderful modern things on display, surprising few of which elicited the usual "my-three-year-old-could-have-done-that" response.

The centre of the building is a huge courtyard that's been covered by Sir Norman Foster in a similar way he did The British Museum in London.  We adults sipped a coffee as the child slept on, taking in the sunshine that fell through the impressive glass roof.  You see?  Architecture, politics, painting, or television, the Brits just do it better.  Now about re-establishing the monarchy over here...

On the Metro into Washington.  Real political adverts are banned on public transport, I imagine.  Things are starting to feel weird.

The American Indian museum.  Nice building.

Keep paddling!

I don't have words to describe how difficult it was to build this igloo from slippy vinyl blocks.  I will say we got many plaudits from various other parents standing around.

I have no idea what's going on here.

An American lunch out.

The portrait!  It is actually pretty impressive when you see it.

Hannah interprets.

Pete keeps sleeping.

United States of Television.

They had Katharine Hepburn's Oscars in there!  Will I ever win one of my own?  No.

The building inside...

...and outside.  All-in-all, a very nice day out.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Picture postcard

"It's going to be seventy degrees on Sunday," said Christine.  I still get confused between Celsius and Fahrenheit, but I knew this meant hot.  "Let's go to the beach!"  Going to the beach is Hannah's favourite thing (apart from oil) so she didn't need much convincing.  We were in!

Unfortunately, Sunday was rainy and fifty degrees.  But the Davieses are nothing if not committed (or should be) so we got in the car and drove East to our state's capital, Annapolis.  The place is named after one of our queens and sits on the River Severn so I was feeling very at home.  We even found a restaurant serving fish and chips and somehow convinced our American friends to have lunch there.

Sadly, inevitably, the fish and chips were a disappointment, and as the rain fell outside the Muckers decided to do their weekly shopping (!?) instead of come to the beach.  The beach in question was Sandy Point State Park which I'm sure is lovely in the summer but as the rain blew in horizontal, traffic rumbled across the Maryland Bay Bridge, and all the loos were shut because it was out of season, I found myself transported back to any number of British summer holidays.  A bit more mud, a few more donkeys, and we would have been in Weston-super-Mare.

There was the chance for some family photos before lunch and storms.  How charming.

And some more.

Be careful, Christine - you know what they say about oysters.

Hot drinks and pastries at a nearby cafe for dessert.

Then we were abandoned, just like this beach.  That's the Severn out there, but not the Severn Bridge.

Why wouldn't you come to a beach with us?

Wish you were here.

The rains came down and the floods came up.

Like icebergs and hypothermia.

Thursday, 11 February 2016

Wild minnows

I love fish - both in tanks and with chips - so jumped at the opportunity to go with the Murnanes to our local aquarium in Baltimore.  The National Aquarium, as it's grandly known, used to be in DC but around ten years ago they shipped them all up to Baltimore.  It's the one "National" thing around here that you have to pay money to visit, an eye-watering $40!  Luckily Amanda is a member so got us in free.  I told you I jumped at the opportunity.

We wandered around the tanks, enjoying blacktip reef sharks, local Maryland wildlife (including some rescued puffins), and even got to stroke a stingray.  The kids were vaguely interested, although Pete's main topic of conversation was when we were going to have lunch (pizza, not sushi).  After they were refueled the fish were forgotten in favour of running around like loons in any open space they could find.  I kept my eye out for an unoccupied tank that could house a few wild animals but sadly they were all taken.

You don't expect to see so many monkeys in an aquarium.

Apex predators greet each other.

Cute baby turtle.

Things got more interesting when a touch-screen was located.

The mammal tank, for rescued dolphins, where we went to see a trainer presentation.

Boys sitting at the back.  The dolphins were far more obedient than the children.



Rough play.

There was some freaking-out from the toddlers when the diver waved at them.

The boys refused to have their picture taken, so here's the best Davies-Murnane-fish family mash-up we could manage.