Thursday, November 27, 2008

Garlord National hotel near Washington DC

I first saw this large hotel when flying in over the Potomac into Washington Reagan/National airport. A couple of weeks ago I visited it.

Having watched Ali G, it is hard to look at a magazine called "Gaylord" without sniggering (or, indeed, "snickering" as Americans say). I could not resist photographing the magazine. Unfortunately there were no t-shirts on sale which said "Gaylord".

Here is the front of the hotel, on a gray November morning:

Here is the part of the hotel which faces the Potomac, and provides a distant view of the Washington Monument and the Capitol:

Inside the glass enclosure, there is a recreation of some wooden houses, containing shops selling coffee and (yep) pajamas:

DC itself is across that bridge which you can see out the window.

I can't help thinking that the hotel is here so that conferences and weekend trippers can make a trip to Washington DC without staying in DC itself (the Gaylord National is actually in Maryland). There are some new restaurants under construction nearby, which offers dining and some nightlife. But, really, I can imagine personally I would find it frustrating to be so close to Washington DC but not in Washington DC itself (e.g. Georgetown, or the more edgy Adams Morgan with its great Ethiopian restaurants).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What's behind this door?

This is a door into the National Archives in Washington DC. As you can see, it is a large heavy wooden locked door, behind a high gate, behind a car barrier. They are not taking any chances here.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bypassing US Customs at Boston Logan Airport

No, this is not a post about some crafty way to sneak goods past the authorities at Logan Airport. But rather, it's about the new agreement between Ireland and the US which will allow transatlantic travelers to clear US immigration and customs in Ireland, prior to actually crossing the Atlantic. Right now, you clear US immigration in Ireland, but not customs.

At present, the situations for Dublin-to-Boston is:

- Go through US Immigration in Ireland, get your passport stamped.
- Fly to Boston
- Sometimes wait on the plane because "another plane arrived the same time as us"
- A brisk walk to the baggage hall, bypassing US Immigration (as we already went through that in Ireland)
- A long wait at the baggage carousel
- Then a long queue, along with planeloads of people from Frankfurt and Paris and the Caribbean, to then be processed by US Customs staff.

This change means that flights from Ireland could land at a domestic terminal, e.g. the underused Terminal A, which is preferable to dealing with Terminal E with its delayed baggage carousels and long customs lines.

Full details in the Irish Times.

[Crossposted to Boston Irish]

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile

This museum is close to the center of Santiago, beside the river roughly in between the hills of Cerro Santa Lucia and Cerro San Cristobal.

When I've stayed in the Providencia area of Santiago, I've walked along by the river up to the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Here is a view of the outside:


Entering the museum, you pass a gift shop on your right (where I bought a print of the architectural drawings of the museum building). Then you are in a large atrium area:

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Santiago, Chile

Inside there are, of course, many paintings and sculptures. It is interesting to look at the paintings from Chilean history, such as this one of Bernardo O'Higgins the Irish/Chilean independence hero:


Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Flight Simulators at the Washington DC National Air and Space Museum

The National Air and Space museum has some flight simulators which, for a fee of $8 a person, allow you to pilot your own plane place which can turn upside-down. The objective in the game is to shoot at other planes (within each game, not between the simulators, sadly).

Well worth trying out. Amazingly, for something I would have killed for as a kid, there was little or no line for the flight simulators when I was there (on a Saturday afternoon too!).

Each simulator seats two people (a pilot and a gunner).

There is also another simulator which is not controlled by the passengers. It simulates a kind of space roller coaster, or a selection of fighter planes, depending on which one you choose. This one is $7 a pop.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Washington DC kids attractions tips

From experience, I recommend booking early for:

- IMAX movies at the Air and Space Museum (the venerable "To Fly", and the new "Fighter Pilot"
- Trips up to the top of the Washington Monument

And, forget about getting to the new Udvar-Hazy Center site for the Air and Space Museum by public transport. Unless you are flying in or out of Dulles Airport, you will spend more time on buses and trains than at the museum itself.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Voting at the Chancellor Hotel in San Francisco

Here at the Chancellor Hotel in San Francisco there is a long line of people who are voting, since the hotel lobby is a polling place:

Monday, November 3, 2008

St Pancras station in London

St Pancras station is now the terminal for the high-speed train from London over to France. Here is a view of the station, walking over from Kings Cross station:


The high ceiling, clock and lighting, creates an awe-inspiring effect:

It is somewhat weird to see bilingual French/English signs at the St Pancras underground station. I am used to seeing bilingual Irish/English signs in Ireland, or English/Spanish signs in the US, but seeing French/English signs in London was a bit strange.