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It is hereby resolved

January 04, 2010 By: dcgrrl Category: 2009, 2010, environment, green, health, holiday, home, museum, music, reduce, resolution, resolutions, travel

cocktailsIt’s the beginning of 2010, and I’ve gotta set my goals! Last year I gave up buying plastic water bottles, and it worked! I recommend it to everyone. We saved lots of money, and got attached to our water bottles and filtering system. It works just fine, and now we’ve got more room in the refrigerator for BEER! ☺

So here are the resolutions:

  • More writing: journal every day, on paper. Some stuff didn’t get recorded last year because I didn’t want to share it with the world. So I need to organize my thoughts on paper first.
  • More exercise: get in that gym, at least twice a week.
  • More travel: including within DC. There are some great exhibits and museums that I need to see. Concerts and shows, too!
  • Home improvement: continue to green my lifestyle, purge the junk and organize the good stuff.
  • Taco night on Mondays: to simplify menu planning and because we like tacos. ☺

Wish me luck, and I wish you luck with your resolutions… if you’ve made them? If you haven’t yet, I hereby give you til the end of January to come up with some. We’ve got 11 months to go, folks. That’s a lot of time to pick something to improve on or have fun with.

Most importantly,

★  ♪ ♫   Happy New Year! ♪ ♫ ♪ ★

Germany together

November 10, 2009 By: dcgrrl Category: politics, travel

Ten years ago, I visited Berlin with a great friend of mine. It wasn’t our primary destination in Germany, or our main purpose for travel, but it was certainly tops on our list of things to see.

I’m old enough that I watched the wall come down on television with my friends in college, and I had heard Pink Floyd’s, Ronald Reagan’s and U2′s demands that it come down.

hatwallBut 10 years ago, there weren’t yet celebrations of the anniversary. Things were still a bit uncomfortable. And when we crossed the border to East Germany, people were still a bit rusty on their English. And even a bit rusty on their German. We found our cab driver was more comfortable with Russian.

When we got to the wall itself, I was floored by how long it was, and by the variety of artwork covering it. The portion near the Brandenburg Gate is such a small bit, and it doesn’t show the large gap between the guard stations where people could get shot down in no man’s land.

The wall just went on and on, covered by messages of hope, despair, anger, frustration and love. The East Germans had splattered their guts on the wall over the years, trying pretty much everything to get past it. Art was their last attempt.

Anyway, that was ten long years ago.  Congratulations, Berlin, Germany. The drastic change — the domino effect of positive changes — that came from the wall coming down is something we should all remember when things look dim.

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Culebra, Puerto Rico

November 04, 2009 By: dcgrrl Category: Uncategorized

Flamenco BeachMy husband and I just got back from our second trip to Culebra. I haven’t been on a lot of Caribbean vacations, but from what I’ve been told, Culebra is not typical.

Some know Culebra and its neighboring island Veiques because they were used by the US military as training areas up until 1975.

Culebra takes a bit more effort to get to, and it’s still fairly unknown. But for those of us who like to go the road less traveled, it’s a great payoff.

The beaches are unspoiled and the opportunities for snorkeling are plentiful. You can walk into the surf and find a coral reef on nearly any beach on the island. Still, it’s not as easy to get to as booking a trip to Disneyworld, and there is no Starbucks or McDonald’s on the island. So Culebra is not for everyone. You need to be ready to carry your own luggage, and expect to see some chickens in the middle of the road.
Flamenco tank
Some tips if you decide to follow me to Culebra:

  1. Getting there: You need to take a small plane or ferry to get there from Puerto Rico’s big island. The small plane is easiest. These fly out of Isla Grande, a small airport near SJU in San Juan. Be prepared for a $18 taxi trip.
  2. Accomodations: You can stay in a ‘hotel’ in Culebra, or rent reasonably priced guest houses that will provide you more space and a kitchen of your own. If you’re staying for a length of time, I recommend renting.
  3. Transportation: You can rent scooters, Jeeps, or golf carts while you’re on the island. If you want to reach the more remote beaches, you’ll need a Jeep. Many roads are unfinished.
  4. Guidance: If it’s tourism advice you’re looking for, head to one of the local bars – Dinghy Dock or Heather’s Pizza. Your bartender can direct you towards a captain who can sail you around the island, or to the dive shop for scuba lessons. Everyone knows everyone in Culebra.
  5. Timing: Many local establishments, restaurants included, have different hours or are just closed in the off season (Labor Day through Halloween), so keep this in mind when planning your trip.
  6. Language: Don’t be scared if you don’t understand Spanish. A good part of Culebra is made up of gringos (white folks) that moved from mainland USA to enjoy the island life. Some, I’m told, came down after Hugo decimated the island in 1989 to help with the rebuilding effort and just never left.

Some links to help you research:

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Change of perspective

November 02, 2009 By: dcgrrl Category: eco, tourism

There is nothing like a vacation to change your point of view.

Zoni BeachI spent last week on Culebra, Puerto Rico, an island of approximately 2,500 people, and it was off season. So there were not a lot of tourists around, and that was just fine with me.

Culebra is not what I’d call a posh sorta place. It’s great for eco-tourism. Lots of untouched beaches. Plenty of opportunity for snorkeling and scuba. It’s a perfect place to go sailing. You can even do a fair bit of hiking.

Things you will not find on Culebra:

  • McDonald’s
  • WalMart
  • CVS
  • Starbucks
  • movie theater
  • 7-11
  • Four Seasons
  • Target

It took me a couple of days to get used to “island time,” as my friend Steve, who lives there, calls it. They get up with the roosters there, and everyone has a couple of jobs. But nothing gets done urgently.

So we could decide to go snorkeling in the morning, and the exact time of that was variable. It was ‘after breakfast,’ and we might go to the store, or two, on the way, depending on what needed picking up. You go with the flow.

It makes me stop and think, with all the beautiful places and wonderful people in the world, what am I so stressed out about?

I’m worried about the downfall of newspapers when Culebra has a monthly newsletter?

I’m worried about healthcare when there’s one clinic on the island?

I’m worried about Metro prices when there’s one lane to get two Jeeps past each other on this dirt road?

Well, for now, I’m relaxed. Thanks to some time away, and a great reminder that DC is not the center of the universe. Hope you get a chance to vacation, too.

City mice & country mice

August 14, 2009 By: dcgrrl Category: tourism, travel, Washington

farmworkLast week I went to get my morning coffee and I was met by a belt buckle with a young man attached to it.

The buckle clearly stated the man’s affection for Texas, and I found it distracted me from noticing much of anything else about the poor guy. I was also distracted from noticing anyone else in the coffee shop, which really bothered me, as a city girl who prefers to be aware of her surroundings.

Living in DC, especially in the summer, I am reminded on a daily basis of how America is full of different types of folks. We are city mice and country mice, liberal and conservative, blue collar and white collar, civilian and military, guests and staff, students and faculty – etcetera.

As tourists from around the country visit their nation’s Capitol, it’s interesting to hear them speak to each other on the Metro or in our museums.

I truly enjoy the sense of wonder I get to relive through a tourist when they are awestruck by our Metro trains or they get their first glimpse of the Washington Monument.

As tourist season wraps up, I have been watching students arrive to attend the numerous universities in DC. These students bring a fresh set of accents and experiences to the city, as does the Congress with their staff.

I hope all who read this, Americans especially, get the chance to visit their Nation’s Capital to see it in action. I like to see you here! Washington is much more than a land of bureaucrats and politicians. It is filled and surrounded by Americans, and those eager to learn more about us.

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Destination: Mount Vernon

July 25, 2009 By: dcgrrl Category: america, DC, family, garden, museum, president, tourism, Uncategorized, Washington

mtvernon

“It’s our duty as parents to take you to places like this, because when you’re grown up and you’re a garbage truck driver, you won’t be able to afford to do these things.”

That’s what the mother behind me was telling her son as we were waiting in line for the tour of the Mount Vernon mansion. Her husband had been reading a Mt. Vernon guidebook to the family of four for the previous ten minutes. The pre-teen kids were rolling their eyes, but were laughing.

Mt. Vernon, the plantation home of George Washington, is in remarkably good shape. There are still original pieces of furniture there that our first president used. The Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association has preserved the plantation the way it was about 200 years ago, so you can see the mansion, slave quarters, gardens and farm from 1799.

  1. You will need a full day to visit Mount Vernon. They have a nice food court and a full-service restaurant on site to make your day more comfortable.
  2. Before you go, check the Calendar of Events on the website to see if there is a special event you can take advantage of while you’re there.
  3. Start your visit at their new orientation center, then proceed to the tour of the mansion. During the summer, lines can be long to get into the mansion, but the tour isn’t long.
  4. Use your time waiting for the mansion tour to study the map. After the tour of the mansion, it’s up to you to decide what parts of the plantation you’d like to see, and it’s a bit spread out.
  5. There is LOTS of green space for kids with energy to run around, and the Mt. Vernon staff is pretty liberal about letting kids run. Enjoy.
  6. There are some fabulous views of the Potomac from the back of the mansion, a wonderful place for photos.

There are a couple of cruise lines that will take you there by boat, a trip which adds to the fun. We took the Potomac Riverboat Company from the Torpedo Factory dock in Old Town Alexandria. The open-air boat has plenty of seating, an air-conditioned level and a snack bar. Yes, there were even rest rooms on board. A tour guide provided a narration of sights along the river that corresponded with our visit of Mt.Vernon. The boat left Alexandria at 10:15 a.m. and returned at 5:30 p.m. Once you get to the dock at Mt. Vernon, you can either walk up the hill or take a shuttle bus. I recommend taking the bus, regardless of your energy level, since this will drop you off at the new orientation center, and you’ll be able to see a great little film that’s been put together about George Washington, and experience Mt. Vernon in the ‘right’ order.

Keep in mind that Mount Vernon is privately owned, and there is a reasonable admission fee.

Chincoteague: A great vacation close to DC

June 03, 2009 By: dcgrrl Category: environment, vegetarian

horses1The Washington Post recently wrote a story on the little island of Chincoteague, and it just so happened that my lover man and I were planning an escape to the island made famous by Misty too.

We’ve been there before, and we have a favorite hotel. It so happens our favorite is not one of the rentals, nor a campground, nor a bed & breakfast, although those are all there. I really do love watching the ducks in the yards of the B&Bs.

We like to stay in the Best Western that is the last hotel on the road to the beach. They offer a hot breakfast in the lobby in the morning, and they have bicycles for rent behind the hotel. It means we were able to get to the beach before (mostly) anyone else in the morning, (although there is also a pool there at the hotel). We were out there with the fishermen and the lifeguards. First dibs!

img_0586Since we’re vegetarians, we take our own food with us and the hotel is quite nice about letting us use the microwave in the lobby whenever necessary. There are sizeable refrigerators in the rooms. But we found a pretty plentiful vegetarian selection at the new Mexican restaurant, Don Alarios, just down the road, too. There is also a nice sandwich shack down on Main Street. And I would never miss Mr. Whippy’s drive-through ice cream shop.

Our other favorite stop is Psychotronic, an electic shop full of collectible books, records, videos and ‘stuff.’ It’s at 4102 Main Street in Chincoteague and is run by the legendary Michael Weldon and his wife Mia.

I highly recommend visiting the wildlife refuge on Assateague Island to take advantage of the bus tour of the refuge. We really enjoyed the opportunity to see more of the wild horses in their natural habitat, and the driver/tour guide really knew her stuff not only about the refuge, but also about the lighthouse and the rest of the island. It was a great introduction, and a good way to start a vacation there at Chincoteague if you’ve never been there before.

beach1You’ll also notice when you make your way towards the beach that it’s a National Park, which asks you to pay an admission/parking fee each day. If you’re around for a few days, go ahead and get the weekly pass for $15 and save yourself the money and trouble of paying the daily fee. That’s a free tip from me to you! ♥

And OH the big story… the wild horses are owned by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. Technically, they rent space from the National Park Service for the horses to run wild on Assateague Island. But there’s only enough room for 150 or so horses on the refuge. So the pony swim happens once every summer when the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department sells off the extra ponies from the refuge -  the foals born over the year get sold off each summer at an auction. It’s late July this year, and it’s a BIG DEAL in Chincoteague.

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