Then we drove downtown to the Silver Spring Metro station, eventually figured out where we could park, and took the train into DC for the day. Robin's agenda included the Holocaust Memorial Museum and the National Aquarium, and we tagged along. The Holocaust Museum was every bit as depressing as I knew it would be, and it reminded me a lot of the Shtetl exhibit Joy and I saw at the Tulane museum in March.
We walked across the Mall and towards the National Aquarium, using one of the big maps and then following signs. As we passed the Ronald Reagan Building, we considered checking out their food court, but decided that since the big map had showed a little fork-and-knife icon for the Aquarium listing, we'd just eat there. Had to wander around a little before discovering that the Aquarium was right across the street from the Reagan building, and we'd distractedly walked past.
Surprise! No food at the National Aquarium. Luckily, it's a pretty small place, so it didn't take long to finish (though we did get to watch the piranhas eat) and then go back across the street for lunch. Their basement contains a huge food court, four times the size of our mall's. I took advantage of the sushi stand to get some grilled eel, and got some blackened fish at the Cajun Grill that's similar to our Cajun Cafe, but quite a bit better. There were lots of open tables when we came, pretty late, but I bet the place is mobbed at lunchtime.
After lunch, we walked over to the White House. It's one of the handful of DC locations I know I'll always be able to find without a map. Hard to miss, with the diagonal street aimed right at it! After we took some pictures, Robin considered all of the nearby souvenir vendors to find stuff for her kids, and then we headed for Metro Center to get a train back to Silver Spring.
Driving down to Virginia to visit the Tysons Corner Center mall and eat at their Rainforest Cafe seemed like a good idea at the time... and actually, exploring the mall was fine. We all got to poke at the new iPod nano, which really impressed me. If I thought I'd be happy constantly swapping things in and out of 4GB of space, I'd get one of them. It's ludicrously small, and doesn't feel nearly as flimsy as I expected it to. We also got to check out the Lego store and the Build-a-Bear store, which looked like a lot of fun! One little girl was very serious about everything regarding her bear.
Dinner at the Rainforest Cafe was disastrous in every way but the quality of the food. We were seated, then a few minutes later, asked to move to another area so they could close that one. At our new table, it took quite a while before anyone found us. Our waiter, Ram, was friendly and well-intentioned, but shockingly inept. You should have seen the gift-shop cashier's face when we told her he was spraying cleaning fluid on the salt and pepper shakers at the next table, and wiping off the tops with his fingers.
I think we all enjoyed our food; my Pastalaya was excellent. But Denise's chicken fried steak showed up without gravy, and when we asked about it, the chef came out to explain that someone had messed it up and they were making more. Everything took way too long, and we did not tip well. (I rarely tip under 20%, and often go quite a bit higher, when the service warrants it.) I hope Ram can find another career soon; he's not cut out for waiting tables.