A Week at PyCon DC 2004 -- Day 0

Arrival and Sightseeing -- Friday, March 19

Author: David Goodger
Contact: goodger@python.org

6:30am -- Left home after saying goodbye to my wife & kids. I'll miss them; hope they miss me too!

7am -- Arrived at Pierre Elliott Trudeau (formerly Dorval) International Airport. Got my boarding pass from a kiosk with my credit card. Neat. Checked one bag, but the new security requires me to carry it through US customs & immigration. Then, because my destination was Reagan National Airport, a security guard pawed through my checked bag and sent it through X-ray. Fine.

But when I got to the gate, I had to undergo another search with a hand-held metal detector, including my shoes. My carry-on, jacket, and wallet were searched too.

I feel safe now.

10:30am -- Arrived in DC after an uneventful flight. Took the metro in to Dupont Circle, but I should've gone one further -- long walk. In the metro, I kept hearing the PA system saying "George Clinton". I finally realized I was misunderstanding "doors closing" through a poor speaker system.

Checked in at the Washington International Student Center (WISC) by a Japanese guy named Tomo, with whom I had a nice conversation. WISC is a hostel, very no-frills. Each room has 3 sets of triple bunk beds, everything needs a paint job, but the bathrooms are clean. Can't beat $22/night, breakfast included (toast, jelly, and cheap "citrus punch").

12:30pm -- Made my bed, dropped off my stuff, and headed in to the Smithsonian museums. Tomo noted that pattern: whereas Americans usually wanted to see the White House first, Canadians tended toward the Smithsonian. I did the geekiest two: Air & Space and Natural History. Apollo capsule, moon lander, Saturn V engines -- very cool. Hope diamond, crystals and mineral formations -- amazingly beautiful.

I consider this an "advance scout" mission for the day when my whole family visits. That happened once before, when I went to France on business and had a free day in Paris. Saw all the major sights -- from the outside. Didn't have time to wait in line to get in.

Washington's National Mall is a lot like the Champs Elysee in Paris. The Washington Monument was closed by the time I got there, but it's so huge that didn't really matter.

I was a bit disappointed that the Reflecting Pool was empty. I wanted to do the "Forrest?" "Jenny?" "Forrest!" "Jenny!" scene or at least imagine it, but no luck.

The new World War II Memorial, around the Rainbow Pool, looks quite impressive. Almost ready to open.

The Lincoln Memorial was most impressive. I'd never read the entire Gettysburg Address, so it was moving to read it carved into the wall.

Next, I visited the Korean War Veterans Memorial -- very moving. Especially reading these words carved into the wall: "Freedom Is Not Free".

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial was particularly moving. I know no one who fought in Vietnam or lost a relative or friend there, but still I felt tears welling up. The names just go on and on. What a waste of life, on both sides. War has no winners, only losers, but the price must be paid from time to time.

Back to WISC, dropped off the Smithsonian gifts for the wife & kids. Then off to Best Buy to check out DVDs. I found a few that were good deals, considering the exchange rate. But only a few. Most had the same price point in US dollars as in Canadian, favoring the Canadian consumer.

10pm -- Back at WISC now. Had no dinner, but don't feel hungry. Had a Polish sausage between Smithsonian museums around 2:30.

I'll be heading for bed soon. I don't have an alarm clock or watch for the morning, but I should be able to wake up in time.

I noticed that DC is a jaywalking town, much like Montreal. Warms my heart.