November 9-13, 2011: I would have been very happy to stay longer in Budapest, but not enough to pay change fees on my airline tickets. Since they were (relatively) cheap tickets I had to get up well before dawn to make it to Budapest airport and my flight to Frankfurt. I had arranged for a taxi, and we had a fast drive through cold and empty streets.
The Lufthansa flight from Frankfurt to Washington fulfilled my expectations: more comfortable and better food than on Continental. Dulles airport, in turn, lived down to my memories. In fact, it was worse, I could find neither a free hotel phone, nor a public phone, and had to have the information desk call the Best Western for pickup.
Between Dulles and the Best Western I did not feel welcomed back to the U.S. The Best Western has taken a precipitous dive down the tripadvisor ratings since I booked it last year, and my review didn’t help. Still, I was only there for one night. My usual Washington digs, the Marriott at Crystal City, wouldn’t have weekend rates until the next night, plus I figured I wouldn’t want to trek into town after my flight.
The Washington Metro also disappointed me. In Budapest I had never waited more than three or four minutes for a train, but when I changed at Rosslyn I had to wait twenty minutes for a Blue Line train. Later I discovered that on the weekend the trains didn’t start running until 7:00 am. Time for some infrastructure spending!
All was not aggravation. Although the Marriott didn’t upgrade me this time, my room was fine. Thanks to reserving before I left, I finally got to see the Diplomatic Rooms at the State Department, which were appropriately lush, although I didn’t make it to the White House, thanks to the late-starting metro. But I spent most of my time at the Newseum, which fortunately gave me two days admission on one ticket. I had visited the original version some years back, but now it had moved into custom-built digs on Pennsylvania Avenue it was much bigger and much better. It was also much more popular.
I did head out for lunch – at the absolutely mobbed Museum of the American Indian one day and at the Cascade Cafe at the National Gallery of Art the other – and I spent one peaceful afternoon at the virtually deserted Sackler/Freer. I’m not sure why the Asian galleries should be so neglected, but they always seem to be an oasis of peace. Add in my usual D.C. dinners at Nando and at Jaleo, and the visit was a worthwhile stop.
Amtrak managed to get me home almost on time for once. (I think it may have a better record on Sundays than on weekdays.) My carriage was completely full – another target for infrastructure funds. I was depressed to discover the other day that while Amtrak has to fight for every dollar, we are spending $8 billion (yes, with a B) on the TSA every year.
I didn’t take photos in Washington this trip, having visited several times before. These are from 2006, when I took Amtrak both ways and flew round trip to Europe out of Washington. After I got home from this trip, I found myself planning a rather longer trip on Amtrak. Coming up.