Spies, American Indians and astronauts

When we set out today, we were planning to go back to the Space and Air Museum, but on the way we came across the Spy Museum so stopped there first. It was a lot of fun! We started off playing a 1 hour game. There were just over 10 people in the group and they took us on a pretend spy mission. We had to work in small groups to follow people via security cameras, enhance a recorded phone call, search an office without leaving any traces, and conduct an interrogation. It was really well done, and a lot of fun. Definitely worth doing before going through the rest of the museum!

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Entering the Spy Museum

After that we spent a couple of hours exploring the exhibit. It goes through different types of spy equipment, like listening devices, cameras and disguises. There’s also a historical section about the role of spies in the World Wars and Cold War, along with spies in movies. There was a special exhibit dedicated just to James Bond, with displays and information about each of the villains, and in some cases explanations of how the storyline in the movies was relevant to real world events at the time. Overall it was a really good museum.

From there we went to the Museum of the American Indian. They have a restaurant there which serves traditional native Indian food so we had lunch before looking at the exhibits. I had bison steak with hominy and wild rice. The bison tasted a lot like beef steak, but a little bit tougher. It was marinated in some salt and spices which was quite nice. The high salad reminded me a bit if a chickpea salad and the wild rice salad was quite light and refreshing.

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Outside the Museum of the American Indian

The museum started with a short film covering some history of the Native Indians in America, then there are three sections each dedicated to the people, environment and culture. There were some fascinating artifacts on display, and it was really interesting to learn about modern day communities of native Indians and how they incorporate their traditions into their daily lives.

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Pottery from the gallery

Before we knew it, it was heading to 3pm and we still hadn’t got back to the Space and Air Museum! It’s right next door to the American Indian museum, so we went there next. There’s a really interesting display on navigation, from using the stars right through to satellite navigation and self driving cars. I tried using a sextant to work out land coordinates from a set of stars painted on the wall, but failed miserably. From there I took a look at the Space exploration and solar system exhibits, featuring actual rockets and spacecraft!

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Rocket booster from the Saturn 5 rocket

We went to the short IMAX show on space junk, which was an interesting and slightly disturbing documentary on the amount of stuff orbiting around earth, most of which is discarded rocket parts and out of service satellites. When two of them collide they break into hundreds of small pieces which then collide and the cycle continues. Even though some of these are very small, they’re travelling at very fast speeds so can still do a fair bit of damage. Scientists have started looking at methods of cleaning up the mess, and also ways to prevent future satellites and rockets from leaving pieces in orbit, because it’s starting to pose a threat to things like active satellites and the space station.

There was just enough time after that to take a look at the history of flight section. It starts with the Wright brothers’ first aircraft and goes through the involvement of planes in wars and modern day jumbo jets. There were some older planes on display, and a cockpit of a recent jumbo that I was able to walk inside of. There are so many buttons and controls, I don’t know how the pilots know what to do!

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The Wright brothers' first successful aircraft

For the second day in a row we were kicked out of the museum at closing time. It didn’t bother us too much though because we’d had enough time in there. We went back to the hotel for free snacks and drinks, then walked to Dupont Circle for dinner. We found a nice Turkish restaurant there and shared tapas. I ordered a glass of wine with dinner and, as I have been everywhere so far, I was asked for ID. I only had my driver’s license which has worked everywhere else, but they were hesitant without my passport. The guy couldn’t find my birthday, then told me the card was expired because it’s June 3 which was written backwards to how Americans write it. I explained that to him then said not to worry I’ll just have water, but he said it was ok and I could have one drink but no more. Seemed a bit silly because one drink would be enough to lose his licence… Anyway, dinner was great. We skipped dessert and had a Pink Berry frozen yoghurt.

After dinner we hired bikes and rode to the Lincoln Memorial to see it all lit up. It was very impressive in the dark, and the Washington Monument looked great reflected in the pond. We sat there enjoying the view for a little while, after the tour groups had left, and had planned on riding up to the Capitol as well, but it started to rain so we just got a cab back to the hotel and called it a day.

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Lincoln Memorial at night
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