Today was overwhelming in so many aspects. It was pretty fricking cool though! I slept in until about 9:15 and then finally got up and moving. Showered, had a quick breakfast and then drove to where my class is being held in order to ensure I could find it. No problem. I made a beeline for the local MetroRail stop and found free parking again (it's not a coincidence, google verified it is free. Duh!).
So, I jumped on the train, and headed to the Smithsonian stop. Much less eventful ride today, that's for sure. My first stop was the Air and Space museum. Holy cow! This place rocks. There are so many amazing sights in this building! The Spirit of Saint Louis, the original Wright Flyer, Apollo modules, satellites, space suits, planes from all the wars that the US has been involved in since 1918, etc, etc, etc. I spent about 4 hours in here and saw all of the exhibits, lots of it I'm not even 100% sure what I saw. My favorite halls were the Early Days of Flight (lots of cool models of early balloons), the WWI exhibit, and the Golden Age of Flight. The Hughes H1 Racer was probably my favorite plane in the building, but I really liked all of the 1930s era flyers. I love big, low slung wing planes with massive rotaries out front. These are amazing! I also flew in the flight simulator with some random stranger as my gunner, it was pretty fun. We rolled a few times, the kid said he was okay with them, but not excited about doing rolls, but by the end he was telling me to keep rolling. That was funny.
After seeing much of this museum, buying a T-Shirt, and getting excited about going to the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles airport this weekend, I hit up the street vendors. I bought my friends some DC swag, got Karen's gifts, and wolfed down a polish sausage. Pretty decent. I walked over to the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. This place was simply very hard to process. I mostly focused on the fossil and mineral exhibits. It is so hard to even take in the number of fossils and mineral specimens in this building. I wandered through the fossil area and found the fossil prep lab. I spoke with one of the volunteers for several minutes about prep-work, collecting locales, and general geology; it was nice. I then went upstairs and started wandering the mineral hall. WOW! Tons of awesome specimens, huge slabs of minerals worth gobs of money, just plain mindblowing. I sort of regretted going up there, it made me want to start collecting (both buying and personally collecting) and that's not good. I don't need ANOTHER hobby. It was really cool though. I blew through the gemstone hall (oddly enough, it was packed with females) and made my way to the Hope Diamond... It was neat, I guess. Just a big blue diamond. Glad I saw it though.
After wrapping up in this museum and hitting up the gift shop, I made my way back to the hotel to relax for a bit, and decide what to do for dinner. At the last moment, I decided to go to Maryland, if for nothing else but to say I had been there. I ended up driving to Bethesda and tracked down a French restaurant. It was closed, and I passed a number of cool looking restaurants before I ended up back immediately next door to the French place. I ate at Lilit Cafe (http://www.lilitcafe.com/); after walking in, I wasn't sure if I made the right choice.... fortunately, I did! I had crab cakes, man, meals like this made me wish I lived by the ocean. GREAT! For desert, I got a pint of hazelnut gelato to go. It was still very firm when I got back to the hotel, but I could only eat like half of the gelato. It was very tasty, very similar to real Italian gelato, and honestly, I would be hard pressed to choose the Italian gelato.
Shot back to the hotel and watched some TV before crashing out.
More pictures here: http://s290.photobucket.com/albums/ll256/sandalscout/DC%202011/Sunday%20-%20Day%202/