We had another conference in Washington DC last week. I took advantage of the timing and went up to NJ and NYC the weekend before to visit my favorite city in the U.S. (NYC), and take part in a surprise baby shower for my girl friend Fabienne.
I flew in to Newark on Saturday, May 1, and stayed at the Hilton in Newark attached to the Penn Station, so I had easy access in and out of NYC via PATH and Amtrak down to DC. I last saw Fabbie in October of 2009 and we had a blast roaming around NYC (see blog). She found out she's pregnant the weekend before I saw her in October but didn't break the news to me until New Year. Fabbie's sister and boyfriend contacted me a month ago and told me they are planning a surprise baby shower for her, and I offered to help with the conspiracy.
Fabbie's boyfriend Glenn asked me to keep Fabbie occupied Saturday night while he and Fabbie's sister Jenny finalize the baby shower details. Fabbie and I decided to dine at this Cuban restaurant in Jersey City, Hard Grove Cafe. The wait was super long, but the food was worth the wait!
Since the weather was warm like summer in NYC and NJ over the weekend, I told Fabbie I wanted to go to Serendipity 3 and have their famous Frozen Hot Chocolate for dessert. It was still 80 degrees by the time we left at midnight! (And we found out about the Time Square car bomb. It felt surreal being in such close proximity. We're glad they didn't shut down the train.)
This was my second time at Serendipity 3. This Frozen Hot Chocolate is heaven on earth, I tell ya!
We switched train to PATH at the World Trade Center. This is my third time at Ground Zero over the last 6 years. I am mad that there is still NOTHING being built at this site! Not even a two-story structure. Next year would mark the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, and all the red tapes and politics are halting the construction of the memorial site. What a shame.
It was 12:30am when we were heading back to Jersey. I told Fabbie I felt bad dragging a pregnant woman around at this obscene hour all over town and people were looking at her like "shouldn't you be staying at home?" :D
By the way, the whole time I was in New Jersey, I had flashbacks of the spoof of NY Governor David Paterson from Saturday Night Live that says, "New Jersey!" Too funny.
The next morning, I helped Jenny set up the shower at a restaurant. Fabbie called and I had to walk outside and tell her that I was walking around SoHo in the City, and that she and Glenn can come pick me up at the hotel in an hour. She totally bought it. :D
After Glenn picked up Fabbie and headed toward the restaurant, Fabbie said, "What about Joy? We need to pick up Joy!" Glenn told her, "Let's not worry about Joy right now. I don't really like her anyway." Haha! That's when she got suspicious, but she was totally surprised that I was involved in this whole thing. Here's Fabbie coming to the shower with Glenn with families from both sides and close friends waiting.
After the party started, Glenn told me Jenny needed help with the baby shower games. So I became an impromptu co-host using the skills I learned from comedians such as Dave Chappelle. Seriously, I got people rolling. Glenn told me I did an excellent job and that I've earned a spot as their bridesmaid when they get married. Woo hoo!
Here's me with the wonderful couple. It was also their 1-year anniversary that day, but Fabbie totally forgot about it. (Another surprise for her. Haha!) Glenn and his two adorable daughters wrote Fabbie a card and read it to her. It was very touching and Fabbie got teary as she listened to them. I feel so honored to be included in their celebration. :)
It was hard to say goodbye to Fabbie, Glenn, and Jenny, but this was my last night in NJ. After parting from them, I went to NYC to meet up with my good friend Rasheed, who lives in Philly, and his fiancee, Andrea, who is visiting him from Vancouver, Canada. I indirectly introduced Rasheed and Andrea when Rasheed and I went to Las Vegas in 2008. They started dating in June/July of 2009, and got engaged on New Year's day. They are getting married next June in Vancouver (another trip for me, yippee!) I have not seen Rasheed since our Vegas trip, and I have yet to meet Andrea. We met up in Time Square. Here's me and and the lovely Andrea finally meeting in person.
Since this was the day after they closed down Time Square because of the bomb scare, there were news vans and reporters everywhere.
NYPD set up a command center with several trailers right around the corner.
I told Rasheed and Andrea about Serendipity 3, so we decided to go. I can't believe I'm going there two nights in a row, but hey, I'm not gonna complain. Rasheed has been visiting NYC from Philly for many years, but I ended up taking him to lots of places. He said to me when we hung out in NYC in 2006, "How come a West Coast person is taking me to spots in NYC? This is not right!" :D
Andrea tried the Frozen Hot Chocolate and she finished the whole thing! I tried their cream cheese cake and it was delicious as well. Rasheed stayed on the healthy side but he had a sip of the Frozen Hot Chocolate as well and enjoyed it.
The next morning, I took a train from the Newark Penn Station to DC. I used to ride Amtrak during breaks in college going home to my parents. The 3-hour ride from Newark - Wilmington, DE - Philadelphia - Baltimore - DC was a great way to see the East Coast.
I haven't visited Philly since 2006. Need to come back. I loved walking around South Street and having some Jim's cheese steak.
Finally, Union Station in DC.
After settling in at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City, I went to one of the Smithsonian museums, the Natural History Museum, to see the famous Hope diamond. It's just my luck that another rare flawless blue diamond, the Wittelsbach-Graff diamond, was on display in a special exhibition alongside the Hope diamond. More bling for me!
The Hope diamond.
The Wittelsbach-Graff diamond on display for the first time in 50 years.
After drooling over these two huge rocks, I went up to the White House. For as many times as I've visited DC (and even had a boyfriend here for a year), I never visited the White House. Shame on me. When I saw the White House, I had an urge to do a Ty Pennington from "Extreme Makeover: The Home Edition": "GOOOOOOOD MORNING THE OBAMA FAMILY! Barack, Michelle, Malia, Sasha! Come on out!" And they'd come running out of the front door all happy. I know, I'm silly.
Then, I went over to the World War II memorial.
Here's looking at the Lincoln memorial.
I read Dan Brown's latest Lost Symbol last year. This time, the story line is set in DC revolving around the capstone atop the Washington Monument that sent Robert Langdon chasing around town. It's fun to visit these sites after reading his novels. I did the same thing after reading his Angel and Demon and Da Vinci Code.
Normally, you'd have to come early in the morning to get the free tickets to go to top of the monument, but I ran into this couple from Minnesota and two other guys visiting from Montreal Canada telling me they are letting everyone in because it's a slow day. I'm not gonna miss this opportunity to live out as Robert Langdon!
What a view!
The replica of the capstone which is the center of story line in Dan Brown's Lost Symbol, particularly, the engraving that says "Laus Deo" on the other side of the capstone. This is too cool.
While I was in NYC over the weekend, I found out that a former colleague of mine, Neva, was down in DC for a trade show. She and I don't hang out much in LA because of our schedules, but we somehow always meet up elsewhere. When I was in NYC in 2006, she was house-swapping with a friend in NYC, so we ended up cooking dinner at her friend's apartment in Tribeca living out as New Yorkers for a night. Neva was coming back to LA the next day, so we met up at a pub in Dupont Circle for a drink and to catch up.
Work started the next day. The weather has been incredibly beautiful in DC the last two days. Last year around this time, it rained the whole time and was super muggy (see blog), but this year, it was in low 80's with relatively low humidity. It was a gorgeous day out so we decided to have lunch at a Lebanese restaurant in Pentagon Row right next to our hotel. I had some lamb stew and it was yummy.
After work, I went to the Lincoln Memorial to watch the sun set in our Capitol. I had always wanted to do this but hadn't had a chance until now.
Looking at the Washington Monument from Lincoln Memorial. Beautiful colors as the sun sets.
My colleague Claudia came along with me. We sat on the steps at the memorial, chatted, chilled, people watched, and enjoyed the scenery. All is calm until...
We started acting goofy!
We walked around the Vietnam Memorial when Claudia said we should "walk over" to the Capitol since it's in sight. I strongly disagreed! It may look close but that's a long, long walk! We took the metro over instead. The Capitol is the opening scene in Dan Brown's "Lost Symbol." I wanted to go inside and see the painting on the dome which is part of the story, but it was closed. I had to admire it from the outside.
Claudia wanted to see the Supreme Court so we walked over there as well.
On our way to the metro station, we passed the Library of Congress with a beautiful fountain in front of it. I called it "The Trevi Fountain of America." Of course, we decided to act silly again.
DC metro is my favorite out of all the places I've ridden underground in (Paris, London, NYC, Barcelona, Seoul, Singapore). Not only it's clean and easy to navigate, but the station design is very modern. It looks like a time tunnel.
During our conference, a speaker showed a clip of this very funny "Facebook in Reality" YouTube video. Everyone had a good laugh since we all are active on Facebook.
Although I didn't run into any celebrities on this trip, I did have the pleasure of listening to former CIA and NSA director General Michael Hayden and Ambassador John Negroponte speak at our meeting. It's energizing to hear these brilliant minds speak. I'm also very happy to catch up with great friends that live thousands of miles away and be part of their milestones. I'm blessed to have these wonderful people to enrich my life!
The complete photo album is here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/purplejoy/sets/72157623895677645/