A couple weeks ago, Max and I were itching for a weekend outing. Max offered that he knew the BEST place that he adored visiting with his parents as a kid. He described the reconstructed farming village, vintage car museum, miniature train shuttle to carry you throughout the park, and all the cool and bizarre animals you could play with!
Based on this description, I was already picturing a Sturbridge Village/Heritage Plantation hybrid, plus a zoo!
Two hours later, we arrived at what appeared to be the creation of an eccentric hoarder of both antiques and animals. We quickly met a man of very few teeth, who directed us to the car museum (museum hereby meaning barns of decaying farm equipment and vehicles). The most impressive car was from 1913.
Next, we strolled through the reconstructed farming village, a self-guided tour where we were followed by an elderly employee to make sure we didn’t steal anything. We were able to see fashion, household equipment, and the general way of life of rural French farming towns (I think the exhibits mostly aimed around 1900). Unfortunately, there were no wide-eyed actors portraying the roles, but instead room upon room of creepy mannequins. Some of the rooms even featured misogynistic quotes to complement the experience.
“A home ceases to be a home, when the dog brings your slippers and the wife barks.”
The highlight of our visit was seeing the animals. We met an extremely friendly donkey, some napping pot-bellied pigs, viewed many cages of exotic birds (many of which we gave funny nicknames like David Bowie or Fluffy), and learned that cassowaries aren’t very friendly.
Then we discovered an enormous field enclosure, where we were free to roam with small deer and llamas. The animals quickly decided that we were intruders without tasty snacks and mostly ran away, though we were able to corner a few llamas in their llama home. While La Petite Couère was definitely was not what I had expected, we had a lot of fun mocking history and the countryside.
My second day in DC was equally action-packed. In the morning, I headed over to the National Gallery, which is comprised of two enormous buildings. The first is mostly European and American art from the 1300s to the 1800s.
There was plenty of cool Flemish portraiture:
And even this famous ballerina sculpture by Dumas:
Next I headed next door to the contemporary building, where I saw some exhibitions, including Matisse and mobiles by Alexander Calder:
Lee and I had lunch at an excellent sandwich shop, and then it was back to the city center for the Native American History Museum. The building was constructed with an adobe-inspired design, and features many exhibits designed by members of different Native American tribes describing the diverse history, culture, art, and modern culture.
In the evening, it was back to Bethesda, MD for an evening of Dickinson reminiscing and pool-noodle duels.
Thanks to jetlag, my first full day in DC I was up super early to roam the city while my friends had to work. First stop was the National Zoo! I had the chance to speed-walk through the grounds before most of the school groups showed up. The museum buildings have some great exhibits (the reptile and small mammals houses!), and I was impressed with the animal enclosures as well.
Animals spotted : zebras, gorillas, an orangutan hiding in a sheet, pandas!, komodo dragons, and gharials!
Animals missed : cool birds, lions, tigers, and cheetas
After the zoo, I cruised through the city and zipped over to Meridian Park, which features a really cool fountain.
I met up with Megan for a delicious Panera lunch (why don’t they exist in France??), and went to check out the National Botanic Garden. The entire museum is a greenhouse filled with interesting plant exhibits. They had a “rain forest” room, a hall filled entirely with desert plants, and an orchid room. A temporary exhibit featured medicinal plants from around the world, which was really interesting.