Wandering in Washington – Part 1: The Tourist

What do you do when you are between jobs? I decided to travel to the US and spend two weeks in Washington D.C. I arranged several meetings with scientists working at the Smithsonian Museum and reserved some days for ‘touristy’ activities. The outcome? Several new contacts (including a collaboration) and many adventures…


Saturday 25th of February

My girlfriend got accepted to a statistics course organised by the Smithsonian Mason University in Washington, DC. Because my postdoc will start in a couple of months, I decided to accompany her. So, on Saturday 25th of February, we boarded the plane in Amsterdam. The flight was enjoyable, although my entertainment system failed a couple of times. The real problems, however, started above Dulles Airport. Heavy turbulence hampered the landing, forcing the pilot to pull out and try again. The roller coaster-like movements of the plane stimulated some passengers to have another look at their dinner (in other words, they had to vomit). I managed to keep my stomach steady but left the plane with slightly less color in my face.

Sunday 26th of February

After a well-deserved sleep in a cozy bed-and-breakfast, we headed to the center of Washington DC. This day was reserved for only one purpose: being a tourist. We rushed from one historical monument to another. Here is an overview of some places.

Washington Monument
Lincoln Memorial
The White House

At the end of the day, I dropped my girlfriend of at the airport from where she took a taxi to Front Royal, Virginia. This remote place would be the scenery of the statistics course. After saying goodbye, I headed back to the center of Washington. A new adventure was awaiting me: my first couch surfing experience! For those of you who don’t know what couch surfing entails: it is a large social network for travelers to stay at someone’s home without any costs. Traditionally, you sleep on the couch. I met my host, Graham Cole, at the McDonald’s in Silver Spring. We did not eat there (Graham doesn’t like ‘that crap’), we just needed a place to meet. We walked to his place where we watched the Oscar’s. The jetlag was taking its toll so I decided to hit the sack. I prepared my bed (read: couch) and dozed off.

My bed / couch at Graham’s place

The next morning I woke up early (damn jetlag!). And Graham prepared a delicious breakfast with Belgian waffles. I was ready for the next phase of my visit to Washington: meeting fellow scientists at the museum. You can read all about that in Part 2: Science!


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