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Oh look, llama butt. What a surprise.

The last thing we did in DC (yes, we were there for a few days!), was go to the National Zoo. We didn’t get there until after lunch again. I know! It’s not that we were lazy, but that with four people in the house and one bathroom, that sort of extends your getting ready time by a little bit.

So the National Zoo is free, but the parking costs about $20 and is a total bitch. There are very few spaces to park. So take the train. Since we’d gotten there late and that we knew the zoo closed at 7, we decided to go see only the big ticket items. Namely, the pandas!

Except that none of them were outside.

And one looked dead inside.

But really, he was just sleeping. All they do is eat and sleep. They don’t do much else.

While we were watching one of the pandas eat. He got up and turned around. His tail lifted up a little bit and I said, oh no. It’s gonna dooky. And guess what? He doodied. And you know, people were all surprised. I said it pretty loudly!

And as a side note, World Market sells a product that enables you to re-enact the scene that I saw.

We ended up skipping a lot of the exhibits indoors (like the reptiles). And though we had time left in the zoo to see things, most of the animals had gone into their night-time abodes and we couldn’t see them anyway.

They were all this fat. Who knew you can store up that much fat eating hay!

Also, if you go see the pandas, make sure to go up the trail some more and take a look at this really cute guy.

It’s a red panda! My telephoto lens tends to distort the colors a bit when its extended like that and gets that milky haze. But the red panda had a really great color. This reddish coppery color.

You can see a few more of these photos over at smugmug.

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

Spy on Me

Dec. 14th, 2009 09:00 am
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One of the other things that we did was go to the International Spy Museum. It cost us $18 per ticket. But if you can manage to get your ass up and to the museum before 8, you can get the ticket for $8. That just was not going to happen in my lifetime. Triple J lives like thirty minutes from DC, at least. Even longer by train.

So the spy museum told us all about spies, from the ancient times to now. Most of it centered on WWII. There were some spy equipment. A few cameras and hidden guns and whatnot from history and equipment to look at microdots. They even had a ventilation shaft that you could crawl through, but you know, that crap isn’t padded and my knees are not what they used to be. Plus, a thousand other little snotty children have crawled through those tunnels as well. So make sure to wash your hands before you touch your face after crawling through there.

A cute thing they do at the beginning of the museum is have you memorize your legend (i.e. your secret ID.) There were several to choose from including one for children. A while later, at a computer station, you’re asked who you are, how old, where you’re going and why. They then give you another set of info to remember and you do the same thing at the end of the museum. I found it relatively easy since it was multiple guess and an easy one at that. I was going to Russia to meet Oksana. And the options that I had to like Natasha and Sergei. Had it been a bunch of names that started with O, I might have had more trouble.

The most interesting thing I found was about Mata Hari. Apparantly, she wasn’t the master spy. She was originally an exotic dancer, who, due to her waning beauty, became a mistress to many powerful men. When the war came around, one side asked her to spy on the other, which she agreed to. Then the other side asked her to do the same. She agreed to that as well. But neither side gained any useful information about the other. She just took the money. But according to Wikipedia, which is true in all things, it seems that she wasn’t a spy at all. She was simply a scapegoat.

Overall, I enjoyed the spy museum, but it isn’t something that I think you have to see. If you’re only in DC for a few days, skip this one.

Oh, also, since we had time after the spy museum (we were there for 6 hours or so), we went across the street to the portrait gallery museum. We weren’t hungry yet, and it was as good as any to spend some time.

Totally skippable. It’s all portraits and photos of famous people. One of which was LL Cool J. He had this 12 foot portrait of himself on a throne-like chair that he had painted. He loaned it to the museum. Guess he was tired of looking at himself all day.

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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One of the many things that we did in DC was go to the museums. Most of the museums had extended holiday hours and the Natural History museum was one of those. So we went after lunch. (I think we went to Hard Times Cafe, which had delicious chili. Wish we had one here!)

The place is huge. We were there for about 7 hours and we still didn’t see everything. But to be fair, there was also a bajillion people there.

Here we are standing next to a giant squid. I’d always imagined that those things would be much much bigger, but I think that it’s the tentacles that make the length and not the body. Still, I was pretty excited to see it. (BTW, it was freezing there and we all wore scarves and jackets. But by the time we got inside the museum, it was hellaciously hot from the number of bodies. By the end of the day, when everyone else had left, the museum was actually pretty cold.)

There is like an ancient societies section in the museum. It goes from like the dawn of civilization to now and how tall you’d be on average. As you can see, Mr. J hasn’t quite reached adulthood yet.

The one thing that everybody seemed to be crowded around was the Hope Diamond. Now it’s not even all that big. From how everybody talks about it, I thought it’d be like as big as my head. But really, it’s like the size of a baby’s fist. It’s no bigger than that big sapphire Celine Dion wore for her Titanic song way back in the day. Still, it’s a pretty big rock, just not the overexaggerated size that I thought it was.

People were crowded around that thing like it was some magical thing. But I guess I’m just not that into that particular diamond. I wandered off to see the myriad of other gems that they had displayed. I especially like the totally ancient pieces from (I think) Marie Antoinette.

I enclose this with Chris being chomped on by a great white shark. He’s almost as big!

Crossposted to Samantha Ling, Dreamwidth and Livejournal

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We spent the bulk of our days walking around Vegas. The last time we were there, we stayed mostly near our hotel, The Aladdin. We had an extra day this time, so we walked all the way to Mandalay Bay and the Wynn (Not all in one day thought). All the hotels were busy with gamblers, but it seemed the only reason to go to specific hotels was because of the massive amount of shopping they offered. Unfortunately for me, pretty much all the stores they had, we have in Orlando. And our sales tax is lower by 1.5% point. So it wasn't as though there was anything new there that I couldn't find at home. For cheaper. One of the things I really enjoyed about Vegas was the shopping, but alas. I get the same shopping at home. But it was still nice to walk around the hotels.

Bellagio always has the lovely garden in which they change periodically. This time around, it was the fall season, so there were lots of pumpkins everywhere and a lot of fall colors. My phone lacks muchly in the ways of photo taking and I didn't bring my big camera, so we're left with really bad photos. But luckily there were other people who'd gone previous years and taken better photos. I was surprised not to find any photos from this year though since there were about a thousand people taking photos there, but maybe none of them were internet savvy. Or maybe they haven't returned home yet. But here's one of the photos from the garden.

I really liked the fantasy of it. There were grasshoppers as well and giant Venus fly traps. It's one of my favorite one's for that garden. But I haven't been there in so long, I've mostly forgotten what the others were.

The further we went down towards Mandalay Bay, the seedier it seemed to get. We got a lot more nudie show offers down that way. Chris called it the nudie end of the strip. I used to remember as a kid that Excalibur and the Luxor were awesome. Maybe they were more awesome back then, but as an adult, they looked like run-down little hotels with too low ceilings. However, Mandalay Bay was still very nice and it smelled of Gardenias. The Bellagio and many of the other hotels stank of cigarette smoke, more so than I remembered. I'm not sure if it's because I'd just become more sensitive to it, or that there were so many more smokers this time. I never wanted to stay in the casino area long at all.

New York, New York seemed like a dark little hotel with nothing to offer except Coyote Ugly. That's all nice and good, but not for me. I wish that the Caesar's magical Empire was still around because that's more my thing that the Pussycat Dolls that replaced them. But Vegas changes in order to get as much action as it can and for the time being, it still thinks that trying to get a younger, cooler generation to visit is where the money is.

As we walked through all the hotels, Chris stopped by all the restaurants to check out their menus. Having seen pretty much all of them, the food seemed to be pretty much the same from hotel to hotel. The prices differed depending on who the chef was and which hotel you were staying in.

One of the restaurants was offering the 777 Burger.

And yes, it does cost you $777. Needless to say, we didn't eat there nor get that.

The Wynn was completely dead. There was no one there except this overly dressed couple who went down to the club 1p.m. The doorman was a tweedy looking man in an argyle sweater who we thought was just waiting for his friend. I felt like the hotel tried too hard to be the "it" place. I mean, that place was deserted. Even Excalibur had more people milling around gambling. The Wynn staff tried to give us packages and incentives to stay there and play. We declined. We had better hotels to visit and shop at.

The Aladdin hotel was taken over by Planet Hollywood, but it's a fake sort of take-over. Everything's the same except for the front facade and the gambling area. The Desert Passage still looked like a desert market and the back of the hotel still looked like an Arabian palace. Even the hotel rooms were still the same, so I've heard. It's been that way since they bought the place. I don't suppose they're going to change it. Maybe they're just trying to figure out what they want to do with it before they do it. But everything's still pretty much the same.

We walked for more than 5 hours each day, wandering from hotel to hotel. It's way more exercise than I get in a month at home. My feet are still trying to recover!

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The moment we stepped off our flight from Vegas, I could feel the humidity in the air. We weren't even outside. There's a pervasive wetness that permeates your clothes. It's a subtle dampness that makes you feel hot even though it's only 70 degrees.

Our flight was delayed by thirty minutes due to trouble with getting water on our plane, but Chris thought it was something else. They lie about major problems on the plane so as not to frighten anyone. I like to think that there was something wrong with the plumbing and not, say, the engine. Let me live in my fantasy land.

Vegas was a lot of fun, but I think three whole days was more than enough for us. Any more than that and you'd end up being bored and scrounging for things to do. Vegas does have plenty of places to eat at though, and there's definitely never enough time for that.

We ate at several places. One of them was Noodles, which is a chinese food restaurant. They have an abbreviated dim sum menu during the weekends, which I had. I don't have a decent place for dim sum here. There's Ming Court, which has like 1/4 of a real dim sum place and you order it off the menu, not off carts. And then there's this other restaurant I've never bothered to go to because they serve cold dim sum. There's just no point in that. So I spent a little extra money for that. I only ever get good dim sum when I visit my parents. And I also had a beef noodle dish that was also absolutely yummy.

What we noticed was that there were a lot more chinese food restaurants in the hotels since we last visited a few years ago. Every major hotel seemed to have one. Noodles in the Bellagio had chinese food that you wouldn't normally get at an Americanized restaurant (they served varieties of Congee, for instance). It was also conveniently located near the Pai Gow tables. I also noticed that there were a lot more signs with Chinese on them.

There were also a lot more foreigners in Vegas than I remembered. I heard several different languages while riding the elevator from French, to Italian, to Russian and yet another language I couldn't place.

We also ate at Prime, a steakhouse in the Bellagio. They are downstairs at water level, so if you're lucky, you can sit by the windows and watch the fountains. I didn't know that they had a balcony that you could eat at, but it could also be just for special occassions. There was a private party outside that I thought would have been lovely to sit at and eat. A long time ago, I ate at Olives on the patio and it was great to be able to eat dinner and watch the fountains. But that wasn't to be the case this time. We sat near the window, but not at the window. The people sitting at the window didn't even bother to look when the fountains were on. Those seats were totally wasted on them.

We also ate at the Bellagio lunch buffet. I ate too much. And those that know me, know that's something I manage to do often. But I really did eat too much at the buffet. The problem being that I wanted to sample everything they had. I didn't pile things on my plate. I took a little bit of everything. I still didn't taste everything and my stomach was bloated. But at least I didn't throw up. I kept it all down! The second time we went, however, I knew what I wanted and I ate just the right amount. They have a really good flank steak and delicious desserts. Chris liked the soft serve with chocolate syrup. He's so cute. He misses the buffet. We don't have good one's here in Orlando. At least not like the Bellagio one. The buffet was, not surprising, less than going to a sit down place to eat. Vegas has pricey food!

We also ate at Chinois, Wolfgang Puck's asian restaurant. It has a mix of Chinese and Japanese foods. I tell you what. That is the last time I eat at any Wolfgang Puck restaurant. We ate at Spago's before and the meatloaf tasted like seasoned taco meat. It gave me indigestion. At Chinois, I had fried tofu. Gave me such bad indigestion, I couldn't sleep at night. I have forever sworn off any Wolfgang Puck restaurant. I no longer wish to stay up late at night because of stomach troubles.

There's also a lovely crepe place in the Bellagio called Jean-Philipe Patisserie. They had this delicious turkey sandwich croissant with cranberry jelly. I tell you what, so worth the $10 for the sandwich. We got another one to go for the plane ride home. We were flying from 4:40p.m. to 12:10a.m. so we knew we'd be skipping lunch due to the flight. It was consumed heartily on the plane. So we are home in Orlando. And I already miss the Vegas food.


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Samantha Ling

August 2013

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