Friday, June 20, 2014

Moments with Strangers: The Beauty of Travel

The day was hot and muggy.  My husband of about four hours and I were tired from a long day of getting ready, getting photographed, getting married, and getting away from it all via a hilarious ziplining adventure through the jungle in our wedding clothes.  We were exhausted from a day where every moment had been laid back and at the same time also hectic, but we weren't ready to go back to our lodgings just yet.

We had gotten married in Costa Rica, and it had been beautiful.  It had also been as stress-free as any wedding ever could be.  But we still needed to unwind.

destination wedding, beach wedding photos
Joey and I enjoying our fun wedding day.

Hoping to discover some hidden oasis, we drove straight past the turn-off to the house where we were staying, and kept on cruising down the road.  What we were looking for, I'm not sure.  Some sort of tucked away waterfall, with rainbows beaming through the crystalline mist, and a mermaid serving smooth strawberry daiquiris?  I don't know.  What we DID find was a small, ramshackle Tiko restaurant perched on the right side of the highway, open to the elements except for the large, palm-leafed roof.  A creaking sign advertising Imperial proved to be too tempting for us, and we pulled Snowball (our affectionately named white Jeep) to the side of the road and disembarked.

We were still in our wedding clothes, having come directly from the ziplining establishment.  Joey`s outfit consisted of khaki pants and a white pin-striped summer shirt, so he looked relatively normal. I, however, was still decked out in my white wedding gown; granted, I had shorts and a tank top underneath from our jungle canopy adventure, but still.  It didn't seem right to saunter into a Costa Rican restaurant, now acting more as a pub, in a wrinkled, shredded, dirty wedding gown.  (The ziplining adventure had not treated the dress very well, but when was I ever going to wear it again?!)

grass hut restaurant, Costa Rica buildings
This is not the same restaurant, but it looked very similar (just not as big!)

Unperturbed, I told Joey not to lock the doors yet, and then proceeded to wriggle out of my dress on the side of the road, in clear view of the Tiko restaurant.  There weren't many patrons inside, but those that were stared curiously as they watched a sweaty white girl shed her clothes in plain view. (Like I said, I had other clothes on underneath, so it wasn't that exciting of a show.)  After unceremoniously balling up what was left of my gown and chucking it in the backseat, we headed into the building.

It was very small, run by a family who lived in the back of the restaurant - the eating area was like a giant domed patio jutting off the front of their home.  It was late: there were only a few loyal customers inside drinking beer, and our waitress (the only visible person working there) must have been the grandmother of the family.  She spoke not a shred of English.

Joey and I ordered an Imperial each, and then my hubby noticed that across the parking lot, a couple of the family members were struggling to move a bulky refrigerator off the bed of a truck and inside their house.  They were trying to recruit a young, skinny girl of about 10 to help them.

"I'll go help," he told me, not wanting to witness the little girl get crushed by a 300-pound appliance. Off he trotted, and I watched with newlywed pride as he introduced himself and rolled up his sleeves jovially.

The old woman returned with our beers, and seeing me sitting alone, looked around for my husband.

"Marido?" she asked, and I, unable to understand, shook my head helplessly.  As I was mentally attempting to translate using my limited knowledge of Spanish, the woman noticed Joey moving the fridge and smiled.  She plunked down beside me at the table, and grabbed my hand.  I was just a little surprised.

Her tanned fingers reached for the shining ring on my ring finger and spun it softly.  "Marido," she repeated, tapping the ring and then pointing with her other hand to Joey.  I understood.

wedding ring photo, Costa Rica wedding
If not for those rings, I wouldn't have had my conversation with the wonderful woman

"Husband!" I said brightly, realizing this wonderful lady was giving me an impromptu Spanish lesson.  She nodded, and then pointed to me.


"Wife," I translated, and she nodded again.  (I still to this day do not know if she was nodding because she could understand my English translations, or if she was just nodding to make me feel intelligent.)

"Nosotros... uh... got married... hoy," I stuttered, trying to explain that Joey and I had just tied the knot today.

"Casado," the woman filled in, meaning 'married' in Spanish. Unfortunately, casado only meant one thing to me at the time, and that was a delicious Costa Rican dish that I often ordered at restaurants.  I instantly became confused.

"No, gracias.  No hambre." I tried to explain to her that I wasn't hungry, at the same time massacring her language. (For your information, it is 'no tengo hambre' but apparently I didn't like to use verbs.)  The lady, realizing my mistake, chuckled pleasantly.  She pointed to Joey, then to me and back again, and held my hand and squeezed it. "Casado," she repeated pointedly.  It took me a second, and then the light bulb came on.

Joey and Marti, casado on the beach!

"Ahhh, casado! Married! Si, casado! Mi marido," I said proudly, indicating Joey who was now returning to the eating area.  The old woman chuckled again, and got up.  She smiled at Joey and returned to the kitchen area in the back just as smoothly as she'd arrived.  It was like I had been visited by a mysterious Spanish-teaching angel.

Joey was tired from moving the fridge, and happy for the cool beer.  I taught him the three new words I had learned from the woman as we drank our beverages.  He was interested, but didn't seem to find the words quite as enchanting as I had.  He preferred to tell me about the family-run business, as he'd learned all about it from the sons who owned the new fridge.

Maybe it wasn't the words themselves that were so enchanting.  Maybe it was that unexpected shared moment with a kind stranger that was.  Our world, and the people in it, can be so beautiful.

Friday, June 13, 2014

How (Not) To Be a Horrible Hotel Guest

Allow me to set the scene:  It is the summer of 2012.  A rental car pulls up to a beautiful, large log cabin, surrounded by pines and a thin sheet of fog that drifts off the cooling waters of Loch Ness.  The 'parking lot' of this bed and breakfast cabin is a large rectangle, cut into the front lawn, covered in a layer of sweet-smelling wood chips. A tired couple emerges from the vehicle, stiff from a long drive from Stirling and a little stressed after getting lost along the banks of Loch Ness, with its twisting roads and wooded avenues.

They drag their heavy suitcases (because they don't know how to pack light) into the cabin's main entrance, and ring the little bell resting on the front desk.  A young girl emerges from a back room, and smiles in welcome.  The couple hands over their reservation confirmation, made online through a booking website.

road to Loch Ness, winding road Scotland
The twisting, winding, narrow road to Loch Ness in Scotland.

"That will be 73 pounds," the girl says with a pleasant Scottish lilt.

"Wait, wait," the woman traveler says, holding up a hand.  "We already paid online... that's the right price, but we already paid."  She keeps her voice polite, sure that the girl has just misread the information on the screen.

The young girl frowns.  "I have your reservation right here, but it says you haven't paid in full yet."

"No, I did," the wife insists.  "I booked online and the website took my credit card payment at the time of booking.  I've seen the charge on my credit card statement already, since I booked so long ago." The woman's tone is not rude, but firm and full of conviction. In fact, she's got a chart in her travel documents listing the trip's costs thus far, and this evening's accommodations are on it, listed as fully paid. She's ready to whip it out, not that it will prove anything to the desk clerk, who is unsure of what to do.

The young girl's smile wavers as she clicks on the computer a bit more.  "One moment," she smiles thinly, and disappears back into the posterior room.

The husband turns to his wife, and mutters, "Are you sure? I doubt their records would be wrong."  He hates conflict, and he can see that this encounter might escalate into something uncomfortable.

"There was a charge on my credit card - I saw it! It was for this place.  We've paid - the website took the payment up front, online," the wife insists.  She has a bad feeling in her gut, like perhaps the booking website wasn't legitimate.  Just thinking about being the victim of a scam already has her blood starting to boil!

When the back door opens once more, a short, slightly round older woman with grey hair emerges.  "Hello, I'm Ethel, the owner," she nods, without a smile.  (The name has been changed, since I can't actually remember what she said her name was).  The couple nods back, also not smiling.  "What is the problem here?"

waters of Loch Ness, gloomy day at Loch Ness
A gloomy day on Loch Ness, Scotland - almost as gloomy as my story!

"We booked our room online, and the website took payment for the room already, but your system is saying we haven't paid yet," the wife explains, perhaps a bit shortly.  She is tired, sore, and now leery that either the website has stolen money from her card, or that this bed and breakfast establishment has no idea how to work a computer.

Once again, when Ethel checks, she confirms that the room was reserved, but not paid for.  She is as warm as a snowman on a frosty day.

"Well, what was the charge on my credit card?" the wife bursts out in frustration. At this point, Ethel is standing with her arms crossed, chin jutting out defensively, but offers no explanation.  She just wants these people to pay or, preferably, leave. The wife is certain someone is trying to steal from her: either the booking website or the lady standing in front of her.  The two women seem to be at an impasse.  Thank goodness for cool-headed husbands.

"We can check your credit card statement when we get back to Canada," the husband whispers into his wife's ear.  "If they did charge us, we can call them and file a complaint.  Let's just pay for the room and go relax."

Scotland bridge, old stone bridge Scotland
On the road to Loch Ness, before things got stressful-ish.

The wife nods, although she still isn't pleased.  The husband turns to gather the bags, and the wife smiles stiffly at the owner.  "We'll put the room on my card.  I'll check with my credit card company later," she says, implying that she still thinks something fishy is going on.

The transaction is awkward, to say the least.  Ethel wishes the guests a lovely stay, although it is clear from the look on her face that she'd prefer to turn them out and have them sleep in their tiny rental car.  She doesn't even give them the spiel that she usually presents to her guests about dining areas and times, and any other amenities the bed and breakfast provides.  She shuffles out from behind the desk and silently leads them to their room, speaking only to point out a sitting area with a TV in case they want to rest a bit before dinner.  The couple is silent, too: the husband embarrassed, the wife still mulling over why she has had to pay twice for the same room.

In the room, the couple unpacks and freshens up. The room is homey and comfortable, with a soft double bed and a worn but cozy tartan armchair in the corner.  They admire the beautiful view of Loch Ness from above, then realize they are hungry.  Not knowing the area at all, they have to return to the front desk to ask about nearby restaurants.

Loch Ness from above, Scotland Loch Ness
The beautiful view of Loch Ness from the bed and breakfast room window.

"Well, there's a diner down the road, but it closes by 7 p.m.," Ethel ponders.  "Otherwise, you'll have to drive for quite a ways."

The couple looks dismayed, since it is 8 p.m. and there seems to be no way to get sustenance.  "How far of a drive?" the wife queries, once again not looking happy. (Ethel probably thought that the sour shrew standing in front of her didn't even have the facial muscles to smile!)  And when she says how far, the wife frowns even more. She's already grumpy about the whole payment debacle, and now she's hungry, and she's one of the those people who get nasty when her blood sugar is too low.

"Well, we have some snacks from the car.  Why don't we just eat that?" the husband tries valiantly to keep things positive.  The wife sighs, and Ethel looks extremely hurt.

"The dining room here is open until 9 p.m." she says, and the couple looks surprised.  They thought this was a bed and breakfast, meaning only breakfast was served.

"That would be great!" the husband says cheerily. "We didn't know you had dinner here!  Otherwise we would have done that straight away."  Ethel still doesn't smile - it is obvious she thinks the couple is a pair of yuppees who are too good for anything.

The husband maintains his smile, but the wife scowls back. "She shouldn't act like we didn't want her food just because we didn't know she even had food in the first place!" the wife thinks.  "I bet she poisons our food, too."


Ah, mis-communication is a wonderful thing... this is a true story, as close to word-for-word as I could make it.  Naturally, I am the nasty shrew-like woman with the credit card fetish, and my husband Joey the patient and smart one. (Please don't tell him I said that - I'll never hear the end of it!)  Our trip to Scotland was a dream adventure, to say the least: Loch Ness, Edinburgh, Stirling, Glasgow, and the list goes on.  This experience was the only negative blip, and it was entirely my fault.  Our stay at the bed and breakfast ended up being very pleasant, and our room had one amazing view of Loch Ness.  The owner did not poison our food, either.  In fact, she was one of the best cooks I've ever encountered.  Her butter chicken was superb! If you want to know the name of the place, just email me and I'll send you the details.

My husband - oh, how he keeps me sane!

Here's how this all went down and ended up.

I booked the bed and breakfast through a website called "".  The website searches hotels for you, and comes up with lists based on location, price, ratings, etc.  It is a simple and easy website to navigate, and I really liked using it.

However... the website is set up so that you enter all your credit card information right there online. It advertises that there are no booking fees, and says that the hotel will charge your credit card once you confirm your booking.  The website sends you a confirmation email.  After I received the confirmation email, I noticed a charge from the hotel on my statement.  I thought it was a done deal and that we were paid in full.

Obviously, I did not look close enough.  The hotel charged me a reservation fee - not the total cost of the stay.  When you book online, for any newbies out there like I was, read the fine print and see if the hotel you are booking with has reservation fees or not, as not all do. I felt like a total dolt when I saw on my credit card statement, after we got home from our trip, that I'd only been charged a tiny amount and not the full amount like I'd been arguing.  (Although, to be fair, the owner could have explained the reservation fee dealio with me, and I also feel that could have been clearer about it during the booking process.  But the onus is on me, ultimately, to read the fine print.)

A stupid mistake on my part, which made me look like a stuck-up harpy, but one I will never make again!  And hopefully with this story in mind and my advice, a mistake that you, dear reader, will never have to make in the first place.  Good luck and happy booking!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Dining at "Papa Rex" in Rome: Dinner with Flair

Sometimes in life it's good to have a little 'cheese'.  No, not mozzeralla - I'm talking about tacky, wacky, and even a bit cliched type cheesy.  What's travel without a little 'over-the-top' now and then?

When my husband and I visited Rome, we were there for three days with a tour group. On our last evening in Rome, our group was invited to an evening meal at a restaurant called "Papa Rex", which offered amazing food and, even better, dining entertainment.  After eating a delicious multi-course meal, we were surprised by a man, fully dressed in gladiator regalia, leaping into the center of our tables.

Our delicious meal menu from Papa Rex

What ensued was a dramatic, funny, and well-choreographed battle between two gladiators, while uniformed Roman soldiers stood nearby and gave orders.  Our group laughed, gasped, and applauded - the battle was quite entertaining.  It turns out the actors were promoting a 'gladiator school' that you can attend for a full or half day while visiting Rome. We never got to go, as it was our last night, but for anyone traveling to Rome with children it would probably be worth checking out!

gladiators in Italy, gladiator school Rome
The gladiators preparing to fight

After the gladiator fight, we settled in for some tasty dessert, but were interrupted by another surprise: a love triangle acted out in front of us, but sung in opera!  It was more of a love duet, except that at one point, I got pulled into it!  I had innocently walked over to compare photos of the gladiators with another member of our travel group, and was trying to return as sneakily as I could to my spot at the table, when the two singers pulled me in.  It was embarrassing, but I endured it!

opera in Italy, opera in Rome
Getting trapped in some sort of operatic love triangle

I have compiled a little video of the shots we took - my 'video camera' was the cheap one on my old-school digital camera, so the quality is not the greatest, but it will give you an idea of what fun we had at the "Papa Rex" restaurant!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

What to Expect on a Washington D.C. Monument Tour

Some cities are known for fantastic food, some for the exciting night life, some for their sports teams and events.  Some cities, however, are dripping in history and are known for the one billion monuments sprinkled throughout various neighborhoods, making the city a fascinating place to explore.  Washington, D.C. is such a place.

The Washington Monument mirrored in the Reflecting Pool

There are a few ways you can feast your eyes on the various monuments throughout town: several are all within walking distance from one another, and so a walking tour is easily accomplished.  You can hire a cab to take you to the rest.  You can also hop on a city bus and find your own way to each monument. There are two bus systems: the DC Circulator buses run every 5 to 10 minutes and cost $1 per ride; these buses stay in the National Mall area and are great for seeing some of the most popular monuments.  To see some of the more distant sights, you can purchase a ticket for the Metrobus, which can cost between $1.25 and $3.10.  You can also ride the Metrorail to some of the more remote sights (we did that to see the Arlington Cemetery).

If, however, you are worried about navigating the city on your own, getting lost, or just want to have someone take you to all the sights without you having to worry about the hassle, you can purchase a ticket for a city monuments tour - I did that for an evening tour of the monuments, which I highly recommend.  The monuments look amazing at night: Washington D.C. sure knows how to light something for dramatic effect!

The Lincoln Memorial all aglow in the evening.

We bought the "Monuments at Moonlight" tour package, which is $39.00 USD (and $29.00 USD for a child, but we had no children with us). There are little tour kiosks and buildings all over the downtown area of D.C., or you can purchase passes online.  The tour lasted 2 1/2 hours, and took us all over the city to see the most popular stops (some that I hadn't seen when I was touring the monuments on my own).  It was nice to be in a big group with a fun guide on an evening tour - I don't know details about Washington D.C.'s crime rate but I felt a little safer out at night with the tour group.

So without further ado, here are some of the key monuments that you should visit when staying in the lovely city of Washington D.C.

The Washington Monument

This structure is so important to Washington D.C. that it is named "The Monument". It is in the center of the green space known as the National Mall. You can go to the tippy top of the monument on the elevator (which as of lately has been shutting down, leaving visitors stranded at the top) or walk the 897 stairs up (and then back down again).  We did not go to the top, although if I returned to Washington D.C. I think I would definitely give it a go... on the elevator! Tickets are free, but you have to reserve them in advance, which can be tricky.  See the monument website for more details.

To help you understand the scale of the Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

This monument is located on the end of the National Mall, opposite the Capitol Building.  It was built to honor the 16th president of the United States, Abraham Lincoln.  The monument is free to visit, and it is really fun to pack a snack and eat it while sitting on the steps leading up to the monument - they offer a great view of the National Mall, including the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument.

The Lincoln Memorial - don't expect to find the steps empty!

The giant statue of Abe Lincoln is impressive, and you'll enjoy reading the inscriptions from the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inagural Address that are etched into the interior walls of the structure.

Statue of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial

The Reflecting Pool

If you've seen the movie Forrest Gump then you'll definitely recognize this beautiful and peaceful monument. This is the water feature that Forrest's precious Jenny runs through in order to leap into Forrest's arms.  Seen best at twilight, with the sunset aptly reflecting off the water, this is one of my favorite Washington D.C. sights.  The pool separates the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial, and is over a third of a mile long.  It has recently undergone some extensive repairs to spruce it up, which is good: when I visited it was disappointingly scummy, low on water, with obvious cracks to the cement and facade.  Lots of ducks enjoyed, it however, and the little baby chicks seemed to make up for the pool's shabby state.  I am sure it is much nicer now that D.C. has decided to fix it up!

Enjoying the peaceful but slightly scummy Reflecting Pool

Jefferson Memorial

In keeping with the "democracy is America's foundation, and democracy was invented in Athens, so we'll be building the monuments with a distinctly Greek theme" design of most of Washington D.C.'s historical structures, the Jefferson Memorial is built with the Parthenon as inspiration. Thomas Jefferson was America's third president, and inside the columned dome you'll find a gigantic statue of said leader.  Like pretty much all of the monuments in D.C., it is free to stroll the memorial and its grounds.

Standing outside the statue of Jefferson

It stands on the edge of the Tidal Basin, a beautiful body of water, and there are lovely pathways and gardens all around the memorial where you can enjoy a nice walk or picnic when you are done marveling at the massive statue of Jefferson.  This monument is NOT located in the National Mall, so you'll have to find a way to transport yourself there, using one of the methods I listed above.

Jefferson Memorial exterior - so pretty!

World War II Memorial

This circular plaza is located on the eastern side of the Reflecting Pool, between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial. It is a large plaza with a central fountain (sooo nice in the summer, but don't try to swim in it!) surrounded by 56 pillars and a pair of arches.  The pillars each represent a U.S. state or territory related to the U.S. who aided in the triumph of the Allies during World War II.  The arches are inscribed with the terms "Atlantic" and "Pacific".  The memorial is beautiful at night, as each pillar and both arches are lit up brilliantly, with the Washington Monument peeping through the gap in the pillars.

The World War II Memorial in the early evening - a nice place to relax.

Many have criticized the location of the memorial, saying that it interferes with the view of the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial, but I thought the design was great - the Monument is featured centrally, with the World War II Memorial framing it on either side.  You'll have to visit it yourself to decide - other than strolling through the plaza, there really isn't too much to do at this location, but it sure is pretty.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

Out of all the 'memorials' and 'monuments' in Washington D.C., I found this landmark to be the most sobering and thought-provoking.  Located just off the National Mall, and accessed through a lovely stroll in the Constitution Gardens - which are worth a visit alone - the Vietnam Veterans Memorial can be found in three parts.

The Three Soldiers statue depicts three soldiers, all with different ethnicities in an effort to represent the diversity of the U.S. army, standing in tribute to their fallen comrades.  The Vietnam Women's Memorial shows three uniformed females tending to a fallen soldier.  They represent the women who served during Vietnam, mainly as nurses.  These are both spectacular sculptures, full of meaning.

But they don't hold a candle to the Memorial Wall, at least not for me. The Memorial Wall is a harsh reminder of the damages in war - etched plainly for all to see in black and white.  The Memorial Wall is made of two large, 250-feet long black gabbro slabs (I always thought the stone was black granite, but nope, it is gabbro).  The slabs are triangular shaped, so that they begin at only 8 inches high but meet in the middle at 10 feet high.  They don't stand out like the walls of a fence - instead, they are sunk into the ground so that they are surrounded by earth.  The grabbo is polished to a high shine, which makes it tricky to take photos of the walls, as they act a lot like mirrors.

A portion of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall.

But that's not what is impressive.  Etched into the stone are the names of the men and women that were killed in action, or listed as missing in action during the Vietnam War.  There are a whopping 58, 272 names in total - a reminder of the horrific loss we suffer when we go to war. (And yes, I realize war serves an ultimate purpose to retain peace, but I'm not interested in a philosophical debate about the validity of war.  Seeing all those names is slightly stunning - and those are only Americans.  It boggles the mind to think about the loss of Vietnamese lives, or the lives of other nationalities involved in the war.  Just crazy...)

So many names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall...

Not all the names mean the person died - a few people who were listed as missing in action have actually resurfaced.  However, those circumstances are indeed rare, and it doesn't take more than one look to realize how devastating the Vietnam War was.

Franklin Roosevelt Memorial

The Franklin Roosevelt Memorial is less of a memorial and more of a museum gallery in a park.  Rather than visiting a single statue and reading a placard about its history and significance, the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial allows viewers to stroll around its 7 1/2 acres, enjoying sculptures, fountains, gardens, and snippets of speeches engraved in stone.  You are virtually walking through time, as the memorial spans 12 years of Roosevelt-related U.S. history.

Statue of Franklin Roosevelt at the FDR Memorial

If I found the Reflecting Pool peaceful, and the Vietnam Veterans Memorial sobering, then I found the Franklin Roosevelt Memorial inspiring.  If a memorial can be graceful, then that is what the FDR Memorial is.  Birds flock to it.  Waterfalls bubble and splash, shining out tiny rainbows.  Messages of peace, hope, and the end of war appear around corners.  You can even visit a statue of Teddy and kiss him on the cheek in thanks for all the good he did for the country of America!

Enjoying the cool spray of the waterfalls at the FDR Memorial

Iwo Jima Memorial

The Iwo Jima Memorial is perhaps the furthest away from the National Mall, so you'll really need to find additional transport in order to see this gem.  Also called the Marine Corps War Memorial, this memorial is a sculpture depicting the six soldiers who raised a U.S. flag during World War II during the Battle of Iwo Jima.  It is dedicated to all the U.S. Marine Corps who have died while defending their nation.

The iconic Iwo Jima Memorial

I don't know a lot about the Battle of Iwo Jima - I was only able to recognize the memorial because I'd seen the image on the DVD case of "Flags of our Fathers".  So that's something I'll have to research one day, unless anyone can leave a synopsis in the comments section below and school me now! All I know is that the memorial is very iconic and worth the view, even if you get caught in the rain while exploring it, as I did!

Navy Memorial

My travel companions and I didn't even realize we were visiting this memorial until we were standing right smack in the center of it.  The circular plaza memorial is located right in the downtown area of D.C., on Pennsylvania Avenue NW between 7th St. NW and 9th St. NW.  It is fairly nondescript compared to some of the more popular memorials in Washington D.C., but once you find yourself there, it is pretty interesting.   There are some really nice fountains, and a statue entitled The Lone Sailor which overlooks a map engraved into the floor of the plaza.  The map is called The Granite Sea and accurately depicts the world's oceans.

The compass from the Navy Memorial plaza floor

There are, as always, way more monuments and memorials than we had time to visit.  For example, we didn't have the chance to see the Koren War Memorial, the Air Force Memorial, the Pentagon Memorial, or Theodore Roosevelt Memorial.  For the short amount of time that we were in Washington, I'm pretty impressed with what we did manage to see during the evenings and our two days where we weren't conferencing!

Taking a stroll to the Capitol Building in Washington D.C.

Other sights that you really shouldn't skip are the Whitehouse (I didn't get a tour but I stood outside of it, which I suppose qualifies), and the Capitol Building.