The Smithsonian National Postal Museum

My husband is a retired mailman and the trip to DC was his retirement trip, so of course we just had to visit the Smithsonian National Postal Museum

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The National Postal Museum, a Smithsonian Institution museum, is located in the old Post Office building next to Union Station in Washington, D.C. The Museum was created by an agreement between the Smithsonian Institution and the United States Postal Service in 1990 and opened to the public in 1993.

Museum Hours
The Museum is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., except December 25. Admission is free.

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-Photo of a card provided at the National Postal Museum store

As we rode the escalator down to the museum, the first thing that caught my eye was an LLV – Long Life Vehicle.  This is the type of vehicle that my husband drove for the last 15 or so of his 29+ years with the United States Postal Service

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Of course they also had a mailbox.  For his retirement party I made one of these out of cardboard to hold all his retirement congratulations cards. 

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My version of the mailbox, which I think turned out pretty good if I do say so myself.

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Here is Benjamin Franklin, First Postmaster General.

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They had lots of cool displays and here are some things that caught my eye.

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One of the permanent exhibits that they have, that I particularly enjoyed, was the Mail Call exhibit.  Mail Call explores how the military postal system works and why the mail is an important resource.  Types of mail, transportation methods, and postal workers have all changed over time.  Through innovations in technology and organization, mail has become more diverse and military mail services more reliable. 

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An example of a “Post Office” on a Navy ship. 

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This exhibit hit closer to home as I am a military mom.  The role of the Post Office takes on a greater importance when the mail becomes one of your primary sources of connecting with your loved one. 

One of the activities that they had was a mail sorting “game”.  Marvin tried his hand at it and he did pretty good!

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-Photo of a card provided at the National Postal Museum store

I played a “sorting game” with this vintage machine.  You had to push certain buttons to sort the mail.

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As you can see, I sent most of the letters on the right path.  Yea me!!

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Marvin posing with Mr. Zip

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Me with Mr. Zip. 

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We had a lot of fun and if you have time I recommend stopping by as there are lots of interactive displays to enjoy with your family. 

  • What museums have you seen recently?
  • When is the last time you mailed a letter? 

(((hugs))) ~lisa

How to navigate around DC on the Metro

Have you ever ridden public transportation?  Prior to our DC trip we had limited experience, so let me share a little bit about riding on the DC Metro

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This was a new experience for us, so we left the hotel at 7:30a.m. to take the hotel shuttle to the Rosslyn Metro station.  On the shuttle we met a couple from Beaumont, TX.  It’s funny how when you are on vacation, or are away from home for some reason, and you meet someone from your home state that you kind of feel a kinship with them! 

Since this was our first time riding the Metro, we needed some guidance on how it all worked.  We asked the first employee we came to and he was so helpful!  He suggested for us to read the signs.  Okay – maybe not the helpfulness we were looking for.  We were undeterred and looked for someone else who might have a little more patience to explain this to us.  

We met another worker, Ms. Davis, who helped us by trying to explain the difference between the cards and how it all worked.  Depending on how long you are staying and how many times you’ll get on the Metro, we recommend buying the SmarTrip® card because you get the lowest fair that way.  On Metrorail, each trip taken with a SmarTrip® card cost $1 less than those taken with a paper farecard. That’s a minimum savings of $2 per roundtrip!!  More if you are taking multiple trips like we were.  We initially purchased the paper card not realizing we were spending an extra $1 every time we rode the rail.  Good news is, you can transfer the balance to a SmarTrip® card at no cost.  To buy the card initially it is a $10 fee but $5 of that is a credit on the card that you can use for trips.

Basically, to navigate the Metro as a newbie you have to utilize the map otherwise it doesn’t really make sense.  Here’s a copy of the map we used that is available at the Metro and around town.  Also keep in mind the time of day you are traveling on the Metro as they do have a rush hour which sometimes delays the schedules. 

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You will notice our map is a little worn looking.  That’s because we referred to it. 

A lot. 

There are also maps, similar to the directory maps at a mall, placed throughout the various stations.

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Basically, you figure out where you want to go and locate it on the map.  If you open up the map it has a lot of landmarks on there with colored dots (which represent the rail line to use) and the corresponding station that you would need to get off at. 

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So let’s say you are like us, and your first excursion of the day was to go to the Washington National Cathedral.  Your first step would be to look for it in the alphabetical list on the map. 

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As you can see above, the Washington National Cathedral has a red dot (which represents the rail line it is on) and the station that you will get off at is the Tenleytown-AU station. 

Next find the station you will be departing from, and for us, it was the Rosslyn station.  You will then need to find your destination on the map, which for us, was the Tenleytown-AU station.  As you can see, the Rosslyn station is a stop on both the Orange and Blue lines and our destination is on the Red line.  This means you will have to transfer rails at some point on your trip. 

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To figure out what rail to initially get on, you will need to look at the direction you need to go and find the very last stop on the current color line you are using. 

In our example, we were getting on at the Rosslyn station and we are going to use the Blue line for reference even though we could have also used the Orange line. 

::This will make more sense in a minute:: 

So starting at the Rosslyn station trace the Blue line to the right and you will “end” at the Largo Town Center station. 

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The Largo Town Center Blue line will be the one that we need to get on but wait….our destination is actually on the Red line so what do we do??   Following the map you will see that we will need to get off at the Metro Center station and transfer to the Red line in order to get to the Tenleytown-AU station.  The rails run every few minutes so no worries on getting to the rail because if you miss one, another will be along shortly.  

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There are several platforms to catch the rails on so how will you know which one is the one you need?  You will see signs like these in the stations.

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See that big blue dot?  That tells you the way to the Blue line for Largo Town Center.  Listed under the arrow are the station stops along the way.   

They also have these signs on the platforms that tell you when the next rails are coming and unfortunately, I forgot to get a close-up of one.  Here’s an example and again, this will make more sense when you are there.

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Remember, to know which red line to get on at the transfer station, you need to know the last stop on that line in the direction you are wanting to go.  In our case, it was Shady Grove station. 

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All we had to do now was get on the Red Line to Shady Grove and get off at the Tenleytown-AU station and we’d be in business. 

Are y’all ready to try out your new skills?

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The view from my seat.

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To recap, we got on at the Rosslyn station using the Blue line for Largo Town Center station.  The rail stopped at Foggy Bottoms – GWU, Farragut West, McPherson Sq, and when it reached Metro Center station we got off.  We then found and got on the Red line for Shady Grove station.  The rail stopped at Farragut North, Dupont Circle, Woodley Park, Cleveland Park, Van Ness – UDC and finally at Tenleytown – AU where we got off.  The driver/conductor (I am not sure what they are called) also announces the station at the stop. 

WE MADE IT!! 

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Now I thought it was pretty awesome and even more so once we got the hang of it all. 

  • Have you ever ridden the DC Metro?
  • What was your experience?
  • What suggestion do you have to help folks navigate the DC Metro?
  • And is it just me, or was anyone else wondering if you could truly survive if you fell on the tracks and squeezed in between them like you see on the movies?  Yeah…probably just me.

(((hugs))) ~lisa

The old jail that never really was…

In the morning we had visited my childhood home and we headed back to the downtown Fredericksburg area to explore some more.  When my family lived there, I remember going on field trips and we visited the old jail as well.  We went to try and find it but first we needed some lunch!  We stopped at Sammy T’s.  It was pretty good.

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Sammy T’s / 801 Caroline Street / Fredericksburg, VA 22401 / 540-371-2008

Sammy T’s is located just one block from the Visitor Center so after filling our tummies we headed there to get some directions.  We picked up a map of the city and started to map out our route.  While we were there I asked about the old jail as I didn’t see it on the map.  The Fredericksburg Visitor Center attendant there mentioned that years ago some folks had called it the old jail.  She said they even had a stockade out in front of it.  The real history behind the building was different.  It was actually an Old Stone Warehouse.  I learned something new!

We got the directions to what I still call the old jail and headed that way.  As we walked to our car I happened to look down a small alley/walkway and noticed this.

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I think this is St. Francis, patron saint of animals and the environment.

We got in the car and were heading to the “old jail” (yes I know I should call it the Old Stone Warehouse but it’s just weird…that’s not how I remember it).  I saw this sign and though we didn’t stop to write anything I did think about it.

Before I die...

Would you have stopped?  What would you have written?

We finally got to the old jail.  Except it isn’t really a jail and apparently never was. According to the current owner and what I could find out online, this was actually an Old Stone Warehouse. 

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The owner/docent was a very friendly guy who was very happy to share about the history of the building. 

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We were allowed to go all throughout the building.  We went into the “basement” which used to be the first story of the building. 

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This actually used to be the front door.  Back in the 1700’s when the building was built, the front door faced the river as that is where all the boats would come to trade. 

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After you go through the door you can see the Rappahannock River.

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Going back up to the building we entered through what used to be the front door.

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The guy had lots of antique type things and they didn’t necessarily have to do with the actual building but they were interesting to look at.  One of my favorite things that I saw were these old movie theater seats.  They looked very cool. 

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It was a fun little stop and we wrapped up this part of our day so we walked back to our car and headed back to Arlington.

What fun and interesting places have you been to lately?

(((hugs))) ~lisa

Quarterdeck Restaurant Review

We dropped off our bags at The Virginian Suites, freshened up a bit and headed back down to the front desk.  Since we were new in town, and we we were hungry, we asked for a dinner recommendation.  Edward, the awesome front desk guy that I mentioned in my review of the hotel, suggested Quarterdeck Restaurant.  He said it was “just up the road” so we decided to try it out.

We didn’t know anything about the restaurant so of course I googled it.  According to the Quarterdeck Restaurant’s website, the Quarterdeck is a fixture of the Fort Meyer Heights neighborhood for over 30 years providing a relaxed atmosphere perfect for family dining or just catching up with old friends.  Most notably known for their seasonal Maryland Blue Crab feast and cold beer, they also serve a wide variety of classic American and Seafood fare year round.  I’m not a big seafood fan but I am a big fan of trying something new so off we went. 

We headed that way not knowing that when Edward said, “just up the road”, he meant literally up the road because it was up a steep hill.  The fact that I am out-of-shape was immediately evident.  😉  We arrived and now we were not only hungry but hot and tired too. 

Quarterdeck was crazy busy.  As in beyond crazy busy.  It was so crowded, (how crowded was it??), that they were pulling extra tables from a store room in the back and setting up a makeshift dining area next to the patio to seat additional customers.  Now all that really did was strain the wait staff who were already overwhelmed but we were hot, tired and hungry so we stayed. 

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Of course our decision to stay would presumably add to the overcrowding, but considering we were out-of-towners we were not sure exactly what and where our other options were.  They asked if we minded sharing a table with strangers and having limited options, we agreed.

We sat with Rob, Jackie and Kyle and even though it seemed a little weird to share a table with strangers, it ended up being really fun!  They gave us pointers on what to see and do, filled us in on some local gossip and made the whole evening very enjoyable.  

The whole vibe of the restaurant is indeed what it says on their website.  The atmosphere was very casual and relaxed.  It is perfect for family dining or just catching up with old friends.  We saw several large groups of folks really having a great time. 

I didn’t take any pics of our food but our new trio of friends ordered the crabs and despite the fact that I am not a seafood fan, the crabs are seasoned with Old Bay Seasoning and they smelled absolutely yummy!  Pardon my poor phone pic but I was truly very tempted to try the crabs…they smelled that good.

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I ordered steak and it was delish and Marvin ordered salmon and he said it was quite tasty too.  We had a really good time sharing a meal with some new friends. 

I would say our first evening and first meal in DC was a success! 

  • Are you a seafood fan? 
  • What new restaurants have you tried lately?

(((hugs))) ~lisa