Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Back in the U.S. of A.

As much as we enjoy living in London, there are still a lot of things we miss, including our friends in the DC area. So when Josh was scheduled to give a presentation at a conference in Annapolis, MD on Oct 12-13, that seemed as good an excuse as any to plan a week-long trip back to DC.  We flew out on Friday, Oct 7, which gave us just two days at home to unpack, do laundry, and repack after returning from Vienna.  Josh came down with the same nasty cold I picked up in Vienna during that time, so we were both pretty miserable when we flew to DC.

Nevertheless, after we arrived and got settled in at Josh's parents' house, we ventured out for a quick dinner with our friends Rob and Diana, since we weren't sure if we'd have another opportunity to see them while we were in town.  Despite the jet lag, we had no trouble falling asleep at a decent hour.

Saturday morning we met our friends Jason & Elizabeth and Ann & Matt (and their kids) in Arlington and took a quick tour of the house Ann & Matt are building a couple blocks away from ours (and yes, we are ALL sad that we are not living in our house while this is going on).  Then we piled into two cars and drove out to Harper's Ferry, WV, to recreate a similar outing we had all taken together a year ago.  The weather was considerably warmer this time, and Josh and I hoped the fresh air and sunshine would help us shake our colds.  We had been planning this Harper's Ferry trip for weeks, so we weren't about to let our runny noses hold us back.
Josh, Matt, Elizabeth, Ann, and kids
I agree with Thomas Jefferson!
 There was just a hint of Fall color, and a profusion of stink bugs, but it was a lovely day.
Historic Harper's Ferry
Soldiers in period costume
We had lunch at the same "train restaurant" where we ate last time, since the kids loved not only sitting in an old railroad car, but being able to see trains coming into the station across the street. 
Lunch al fresco
Afterwards, we went for a short walk across the river.  While we were on the bridge, a train went by carrying dozens of these red and blue tractors.
tractors on a train!
Proof we were in HF
The bridge across the Shenandoah River
Lauren stopped to make a bouquet of wildflowers, and was hounded by the paparazzi.
the prey
the hunter

Lauren & Jason
We would have liked to spend more time there, but we had dinner plans to get back to, and the kids were starting to get a little tired.
Taking a rest
Ann & Matt drove us back to Arlington, where we retrieved our rental car from their house and drove down to our friends Scott & Paige's house in Alexandria.  They are just finishing a major addition to their house, so we were treated to another fabulous house tour before changing for dinner.  To celebrate Scott's 40th birthday and Scott & Paige's 10th wedding anniversary (yes, they got married on Scott's 30th birthday!), we met up with some of their friends at Brabo for a nice dinner.

Sunday we were pretty wiped out from having such a full day on Saturday, so we nursed our colds at Josh's parents' house for most of the day, and then met up with our friends Kevin & Jessica and their three daughters at the National Building Museum in the afternoon to see the LEGO exhibit.
National Building Museum interior
LEGO model of National Building Museum
Trying, and failing, to build an arch
After the museum closed, we had dinner together at the Austin Grill (ahhhh, Tex-Mex!) and then splurged on cupcakes from the Red Velvet bakery nearby.  Yum!

Monday we laid low again during the day, and Josh did some work from home.  In the evening, we went to our friends John & Jen's house for a barbecue (ahhhh, barbecue!).  We had fun playing with their two adorable daughters.
Cutie pile
Tuesday morning, Josh had to go in to the BAE office in Rosslyn to do some work, and then drove to Annapolis that afternoon to check in to the hotel for his conference.  Meanwhile, I had a dentist appointment downtown, and then borrowed my friend Ann's car to drive to a hair appointment, Trader Joe's, and Tyson's Corner, where I did some clothes shopping and then met my friend Margie for dinner.  By the time I returned the car and took the Metro back, it was after 11, but Josh's dad was still up, reading in the living room.  If I didn't know better, I would have thought he was waiting up for me.  They had just driven home from Vermont that day, so even though we had just seen them in London, they were disappointed that they missed seeing Josh before he left for Annapolis.

Wednesday the warm, sunny weather we had enjoyed when we first arrived had cooled down and turned rainy and windy.  I met some of my Discovery friends for lunch in Silver Spring, and spent a couple hours in the Discovery building visiting a few others.  Then I met my cousin Nirmita for an early dinner downtown.  We took advantage of the happy hour specials at Chef Geoff's, and I had a tasty burger with French fries -- much better than the meatloafy burgers and soggy chips you find in London -- and a glass of sangria, which more than made up for the inclement weather.

When I got home, the house was empty, so I took the opportunity to Skype with my parents.  Our conversation was interrupted every few minutes by someone coming through the front door.  First it was Josh's mom; then his dad, accompanied by a newly-arrived visitor from Mongolia (really!); and finally my sister-in-law, Laada, who had flown out from Seattle to attend a meeting at the National Science Foundation.  I eventually gave up and promised to call my parents back another time so I could catch up with my in-laws.   We had quite a full house that night!

Thursday I met Ann & Matt for lunch, and then Ann and I went to the Pentagon City mall to run some errands and do a little shopping.  Everything is so expensive in London, and the brands and sizes are all different, so I find it easier and much more affordable to shop for myself when I'm back in the US. (Good thing I have a big suitcase!)  Most other Americans I've meet in London do the same.  Josh returned from Annapolis in the evening, and we all gathered for dinner with his parents, godparents Stephen & Joan, and Laada to celebrate our anniversary (Oct 14), Ben & Laada's anniversary (Oct 15), and Stephen's birthday (Oct 15).  Lynne made a wonderful dinner and blueberry cake for dessert.  Then Josh and I packed up our things and decamped to the Westin hotel in Arlington, since we didn't really want to spend our anniversary sleeping in twin beds at his parents' house.  They were disappointed that we were leaving, but admitted it was getting a bit crowded.

We were glad to have a room with a real king-size bed (and not two twins pushed together, like in Vienna), but we weren't expecting it to have an exercise bike, balance board, and a set of weights.  This was particularly puzzling since the hotel fitness center was literally right next to the room.  I suspect they normally charge extra for these rooms, but it must have been the only king room available when we checked in. 

Friday Josh and I had breakfast at IHOP before he had to go downtown for a meeting, and I took the car and ran some more errands.  We met up at the hotel in the evening, and I found these flowers on the bed:
anniversary flowers from Josh!
We didn't have a vase, so we used the plastic recycling bin in the room as a temporary measure until we could get one from the hotel.  Then we drove over to Clarendon to meet with our tenant.  Our house looked fine, although it appeared to be infested with giant spiders!  Our neighborhood really gets into the Halloween spirit.
Eek!  Spiders!
We picked up a pile of mail and retrieved a few items from the basement that we wanted to bring back to London with us.  Then we walked up to Hard Times Cafe to meet some friends for dinner.  Normally, that's not a place we'd go to celebrate our wedding anniversary, but since there were 10 of us, including 4 kids (the same crowd from Harper's Ferry, plus our friend Patrick), it was a good choice logistically.  Afterwards, the kids got ice cream from a new place around the corner, which made them extremely happy.
ice cream!
We abstained from ice cream, and after saying our goodbyes, walked back towards our house.  We had been invited to drinks and dessert with some of our neighbors -- Jeremy & Alison and Ross & Melissa.  It was fun to have a chance to catch up with them and hear about the latest goings-on around the neighborhood.  It's not just our house that we miss, but all the wonderful, friendly people who live around it!

Saturday morning we drove out to Fairfax to have brunch with our friends Rob & Addie and their little boy, Quin.  If you read my renovation blog, Rob is the guy who made it all happen, and we became good friends with him during the process.  He made us a tasty brunch of eggs Benedict with asparagus and fruit, and he and Addie surprised us with the news that they are expecting another baby next year.  Congratulations!

After brunch, we headed to the nearest DSW to do some shoe-shopping, and then stopped by Margie's place briefly so Josh could say hello before heading back to the hotel to change for dinner.  This was another event that had been planned weeks in advance -- dinner at Citronelle to celebrate Jason's 40th birthday (and our 11th anniversary).  The food was fantastic, the drinks were strong, and a good time was had by all.  So good, that we broke out the cameras during dessert...
"The gang" at Citronelle
"Chocolate Degustation"  4 chocolate desserts in one!
Diana had something called "Rubber Ducky Taking a Bath" that was a yellow duck-shaped meringue filled with pineapple sorbet sitting on a base of foamy coconut stuff.  Cute.  I, of course, went for the chocolate dessert, which included a chocolate raspberry tart, a chocolate hazelnut mini cupcake, a chocolate-coated ice cream pop, and a home-made Kit Kat bar.  So yummy!  I couldn't finish it, let alone sample the plates of petit-fours that were put on the table for us to share.  Next time I'll have to pace myself better...
Well-fed friends after dinner
Sunday we had brunch with Josh's parents before heading out to Dulles to fly back to London.  Josh has flown on Virgin Atlantic so many times in the past year that he is already a Gold member of their frequent-flier program (and I'm Silver).  One of the perks is being able to use their airport lounges, which are awesome.  The one at Heathrow is by far the best and biggest.  It feels like Austin Powers' swanky pad, with mod, 60's style furnishings, multiple seating areas, bathrooms with showers, TVs, newspapers, WiFi, and a full-service cafe where you can order FREE food and drinks.  The one at Dulles is much smaller, but still a far nicer place to hang out before a flight.  I enjoyed a glass of champagne and berries and whipped cream while waiting for them to announce our flight, which was conveniently boarding at the gate directly across from the lounge.  Sweet!

The flight home went smoothly and I even managed to get a little sleep before we landed at Heathrow at 6:30 am the next morning, although I still took a long nap after we got home.  It's hard to transition back and forth between the US and the UK, but I should be back to normal (whatever that is) in a few days.

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