Huntley Meadows

Growing up I have fond memories of my parents taking us to Huntley Meadows Park. It’s a local nature preserve and wetland. Located in the southern end of Fairfax County, just south of Alexandria City, it’s a great location to head to for a few hours to get away from the busy life of the surrounding area. It had been years since I had visited and one spring weekend before the weather got too hot, I ventured out with my family. There is walking trails, boardwalk trails, a historical home, an observation tower, and plenty of wildlife. If you’re in town and enjoy nature, or live locally looking for a place to get away, or enjoy nature photography, I highly recommend a visit.

Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows

Huntley Meadows

All of the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links

Fairfax County Parks, Huntley Meadows

Friends of Huntley Meadows Park

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The Spy Museum

The International Spy Museum opening to the public in 2002 as a place “the only public museum in the United States solely dedicated to espionage and the only one in the world to provide a global perspective on an all-but-invisible profession that has shaped history”. The museum is small, but if you like a lot of reading, it contains a lot of fun facts and information. The Spy Museum is full of tidbits about international spying and the equipment used throughout history to spy on our neighbors and them to spy on us. The museum offer’s many interactive screens to get you involved and also a large vent, big enough to crawl through, so individuals can do a bit of spying on their family observing the displays below! My favorite exhibit is the Bond car, including a model of the decked out car! And the most interesting thing I learned, would have been that Washington, DC is home to more spies than any other city in the world. Gives you something to think about!

If you are in DC, and aren’t too tired out of museums, I would recommend stopping by. However, I do want to mention that unlike our Smithsonian’s, The Spy Museum isn’t free. So make sure this is a subject you are into, before making the commitment. The Spy Museum also offers lectures & seminars and is available for hosting events… these options, I would highly consider taking advantage of!

The quote about is from their website. All though I was visiting as a guest of the museum, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links

The International Spy Museum

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Mallow Bay, The Ships Graveyard…

Growing up on the Potomac River, I never knew about this beautiful and historic spot. This beautiful park is located along the Potomac River in Charles County, Maryland is the final resting place of many abandoned ships. Many of them were built during WWI for the US military, however the order was finished way to late and many were poorly built. So they were laid to rest. Today the bay is a popular fishing spot. The park contains a walking trail along the river and through the surrounding wooded area as well as a small boat launch. Majority of the graveyard is best viewed via kayak or canoe, but enough can be seen from the water’s edge for a fun and relaxing afternoon taking pictures.

Mallow Bay, Charles County, Maryland

Mallow Bay, Charles County, Maryland

Mallow Bay, Charles County, Maryland

Mallow Bay, Charles County, Maryland

Mallow Bay, Charles County, Maryland

Mallow Bay, Charles County, Maryland

Mallow Bay, Charles County, Maryland

Mallow Bay, Charles County, Maryland

All of the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links

Charles County Parks, Mallow Bay Park

The sordid story of the ghost fleet of Mallows Bay. John Kelly, Washington Post, December 11, 2010.

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Lee-Fendall House

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

For as historic as Old Town Alexandria, Virginia is, they only have two historic homes open to the public year round. Although in many ways, that doesn’t bother me, I like the idea that history lives on and new memories are filling the halls of the ghostly past.

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

One of these two homes is the Lee-Fendall House. What makes this home historic aside from being family owned through many generations, is that the “Lee” in Lee-Fendall is Robert E. Lee’s family. From the time the home was built-in 1785 until 1903 when the house was sold to the Downham family, it was family owned. Eventually in 1937 John L. Lewis purchased the house and lived there until his death in 1969.

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

This Victorian home was built-in a country side style, something unique for Alexandria City. Homes as large as this in a city were “urban plantations”. The garden would have been full of stables, laundries, a rabbit house, a pigeon-house. No space spared. Throughout time however, the garden turned into something peaceful and serene, for those who had leisure time. Today the half-acre lot is an award-winning garden maintained partially by the Alexandria Council of Garden Clubs. The council established an endowment fund which continues to support a portion of the garden’s ongoing maintenance and restoration costs since 1974.

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

During the Civil War, the house, as many grand houses were, was turned into a medical hospital for union soldiers. It is believed this hospital was for the terminally ill men as a morgue had been built-in the garden at this time. This house is probably most historically known for the simple knowledge that the first, successful, blood transfusion in the US was performed here. Now, that is not to say it could be immediately repeated, however, it was finally understood that it could be done.

Lee-Fendall House, Alexandria, Virginia

All of the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links

Lee-Fendall House Museum

Visit Alexandria

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The Newseum

Newseum Sign

Continuing my adventures locally, I decided it’s time to start hitting up some of the museums I have been meaning to get to over time. I wasn’t sure what to expect from the Newseum, not knowing much about it other than everyone who has been there speaks highly of it. I loved it! Great exhibits of major news events, and about the history of news, from around the world. What a wonderful way to show off the history of life then through the eyes of the media!

Newseum Building

The museum itself stands proudly on Pennsylvania Avenue, although the building looks massive, it’s exhibits are well laid out in small sections surrounding a massive 6 story entrance hall fully equipped with a news helicopter! The museum also offers an introductory video, 4D theatre, and supporting videos throughout most of the exhibits, along with a lot of interactive touch screens and a mock news studio section where visitors can show off their talents and take pictures! Come with me as I take you on a brief walk through of my favorite highlights…

Newseum entrance hall with helicopter

We decided to start at the bottom and work our way to the top. The first exhibit, on the ground floor after the introduction video, is the graffiti covered Berlin Wall, fully equipped with a Death Tower. This particular Death Tower, which stands three-stories tall, was used to house armed guards with search lights on top, stood at Stallschreiberstrasse. This tower was gifted from the Checkpoint Charlie Museum in Berlin in 1994.

Berlin Wall at the Newseum

Berlin Wall Death Tower at the Newseum

On our way to the Photo of the Year exhibit, housing amazing and some very tragic and heart wrenching photographs was a satellite news truck, locate next to the cafeteria, surprisingly, with good fresh food. The photo exhibit leads into the FBI exhibit. Home to the ever hot topic in the news, terrorism. On display is everything from the Unabomber’s cabin, airplane engines from 9-11, cells phones from the 9-11 wreckage, a sneaker bomb, and hand written letters from the Waco disaster. A really interesting section.

Newseum FBI Exhibit

Newseum FBI Exhibit Unabomber Cabin

Newseum FBI Exhibit Waco Display

One of the more off the cuff exhibits that I wasn’t expecting was an exhibit on The Anchor Man movie. The most interesting part I found of this exhibit was “The Real Story” signage that went along with it discussing topics such as the format of news and women anchors. Without putting much thought into the history of television news. Heading upwards, there is an exhibit with a massive three wall timeline of “Internet, TV, and Radio”. It’s truly amazing how modern technology has changed the face of news, including the most recent trends of social media. My favorite part of this exhibit was the display case housing an original professional digital camera that was produced by Kodak and Nikon produced in 1994. It’s big, and knowing how heavy my professional camera is, I cannot imagine how heavy the one in the case is! Working our way up to the next floor we found ourself in front of what I feel is probably the most important in the history of the way the news has developed in our country, the First Amendment Gallery. If it wasn’t for so many of our First Amendment rights in this country, especially Freedom of the Press, our news could not possibly be what it is. This section although brief, is very valuable. On the Freedom of Press display,they even discuss Garrett Graff, the first White House Blogger. My favorite, and if anyone was following my tweets from this day, is the big poster of Bart Simpson writing on the chalkboard “The first amendment does not cover burping”!

Newseum First Amendment Exhibit, Freedom of the Press Display

Further down the hall is the “Inside Tim Russert’s Office. Tim Russert (1950-2008) well-known for NBC’s Meet the Press, had a special exhibit, including a recreation his messy office space along with a diagram of what was on his desk.

Newseum, Tim Russert's Exhibit

Around the corner is located an exhibit on a modern news story that effected so many people and their lives. The 9-11’s exhibit. This two-story exhibit houses an antenna from the top of one of the World Trade Center’s buildings. Along with a two-story wall covered with front page newspapers from the attack. Although this section does contain other items such as items found in the wreckage and a limestone cornice piece from the pentagon, the antenna and wall of newspapers is pretty overwhelming and was the majority of my focus in this exhibit.

Newseum, 9-11 Exhibit, World Trade Center Tower Antenna

Probably the most important section of the whole museum is the room full of newspapers from important events from around the world across time. Off to the left of this exhibit were some really old books, including the Magna Carta from 1215. But the room full of newspaper draws is filled with fun and heroic and terrifying stories from throughout history. From war, to peace, to Jesse James assassination, women’s right to vote, to the man on the moon.

Newseum, Manga Carta

Newseum, Tray's of Newspapers

Newseum, Tray's of Newspapers

Although I didn’t discuss all the exhibits, I really enjoyed myself. Be prepared for a long day out. Even if you don’t read all the signs you walk past and stop to watch the videos, the museum has so much to offer. We spent 5 hours including lunch and we figured we could have spent another 2 hours easily. And make sure and take in the 4D movie, it was worth the watch!

Although I the Newseum was happy to sponsor my visit, all of the thoughts and opinions are my own.

Interesting Links

Newseum

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How I ended up in the wrong CA!

Flying Over the Rockies on AA

I couldn’t believe it, Maryam said some place cold?! No one ever wants to go some place cold. I’m not sure one can imagine just how excited I was. After tossing around a few destinations we quickly selected Lake Louise and Banff National Park as the top choice. After a month of researching and reaching out to the tourism board to selecting local activities that would give us both a fantastic opportunity to take pictures of the amazing scenery that region has to offer and enjoy the – albeit cold – outdoors, we were set. The investment in winter wear wasn’t cheap, but would be worthwhile in the long run, and I really needed a pair of proper snow boots, even if I wasn’t sure when I might wear the long johns! Bundled in wool socks and ski jackets we head to the airport at some unseemly hour of the morning to catch a stupid early flight.

At Dallas we found a bar directly across from our gate and decided to start our vacation off proper and have a beer with the ten minutes we had until boarding. We were in such high spirits. What could go wrong? Although I didn’t know Maryam that well, we had been co-workers for about a year. I knew she enjoyed traveling as much as I did. What I didn’t know was how well we would travel together. I didn’t give it too much thought being that we were only headed out for a weekend and our schedule was pretty full. The thought that we wouldn’t end up in Calgary 4 hours later and in the blink of an eye change our plans wasn’t even a considered thought.

Then it happened. Given 2 minutes to decide to get on a plane by myself and travel solo on what was meant to be a girls getaway, or say forget about it, let’s go somewhere else and make the best of it, is really not a lot of time. If I had already been seated on the plane when I got the news, I probably wouldn’t have gotten off. But as they started to board us, they quickly realized the crew wasn’t on board yet and sent the few of us priority boards back to the gate. Maryam had been not allowed to board, so being turned back, I joined her at the gate counter while she curiously stood waiting for someone to explain why she wasn’t allowed to board.

“Ma’am you cannot travel on this passport”. Excuse us? Did we hear that right? Her passport wasn’t due to expire for a few more months, but it was well outside of the three-month range. And this is Canada, practically a domestic flight, it was a domestic flight if you consider we still had to pay for luggage. This particular passport had been well-traveled and very well-loved. Was it the stamps from the Middle East? Is she being profiled? Is she black listed? She had just used in to go to Puerto Rico less than two weeks before. Evidently the ladies at the airline counter wouldn’t let her board because the passport was plain worn out – the back page was peeling apart.

WOW…disappointment. What do I do? What could I do? I didn’t have enough time to weigh my options. I am an organizer. Do I just not get on that flight and say let’s fly by the seat of our pants? Is she capable of doing that without freaking out? As we stood stunned, I couldn’t speak and my decision was there for made for me. The airline ladies ordered both of our luggage removed from the plane. Well, there it is. My first major travel hiccup…ever.

Our tickets had been purchased with my air miles, and not even with air miles of the airline we were flying with. We collected our luggage and as I sat on hold for over an hour with for my executive airline club, Maryam set to seeing if a manager would override the other ladies decision. The answer was no. The most the airline people could offer was telling us to go to the passport office…which was closed on a Saturday and wouldn’t reopen until the following Tuesday, the day we were suppose to be headed home. Maryam began to cancel all of our reservations for the following few days that I spent a month arranging. I finally got someone on the phone, and a shout out to British Airways for being so awesome, but… what were our options?

We sure as hell didn’t fly to Dallas to fly down the street to Huston, and we didn’t want to spend the weekend in Dallas, and definitely weren’t flying back to the east coast to end up in Atlanta… California, Las Vegas, Seattle, Denver, Chicago??? Nothing that same day… but wait, 7am tomorrow to Los Angeles… sure! Snow boots, wool socks and long johns in tow… we were headed to the amazingly year round good weather destination of LA!