Thursday, June 30, 2011

And We're Off!

The long-awaited day has finally arrived – the day I left home for a month to spend a month at the University of Pennsylvania. I left my house at 2:40 AM this morning and departed for El Cerrito High School to meet with my cohort. Despite not getting any sleep that night, I was surprisingly awake, most likely because I could not wait to begin my journey.

My parents and I were the second party to arrive, the first being Don.

We actually arrived at the school earlier than we had anticipated, so our wait in the cold was much longer. My cohorts were not far behind me and soon we were enjoying each other’s company (and taking a few group photos) while we waited for the airport shuttle. The arrival of the shuttle was a pleasant surprise. Airport shuttles have drastically improved since I last saw one. I recall them being similar to vans or busses. This one was a stretch limo. I don’t know how or why this change was made, but I certainly do approve of it. Once we were all finished saying goodbye to our loved ones, we climbed into the oh-so-luxurious shuttle and began our drive to the San Francisco Airport.

Our time actually spent in the terminal was relatively short. We got some coffee from Peet’s and when we got to our gate it was just beginning to board. We actually spent longer in the line at Peet’s than we did in the TSA security line, but that’s a story for another day.

After the usual pre-flight procedures, I plugged my headphones into the armrest and began listening to the “Top Zune Hits” station. I can’t tell you much about what happened after that because I quickly fell asleep. I slept for the majority of the flight, only waking up for about the last hour and fifteen minutes of the flight. I could tell Julia had followed suit because when I glanced over in her direction, she was using her tray table as a pillow rest and sleeping on it. We were all pretty beat and slept for most of the first flight. Our transfer at O’Hare was quick and painless, which is a nice contrast to how I spent my time in O’Hare last year…twenty-three hours of time to be exact. This time, however, we found our gate, grabbed some lunch, and boarded fairly quickly. Our second flight was shorter and I didn’t sleep because I was well awake by that point. Once we landed in Washington DC, our day became much more interesting.

We took a cab to our hotel in Georgetown so we could check in and place our luggage in our rooms. I’m rooming with Brian, Julia is right across the hall from us, and Mr. Miranda is farther down the hall. Once we settled in, we walked up the street to a CVS for a few supplies and took a walk around the border of the US Naval Observatory. This is also the location of one of Vice President Joe Biden’s two houses. It turned out that he would be arriving at the gates about ten minutes after our arrival at the main gates. We decided to wait around and see if we could snap a quick photo of his car. Unfortunately, we were pushed back about thirty feet from the driveway. Needless to say, we were not able to get a photo. We did, however, see his motorcade and his car drive through the gates! It was quite a hectic scene when his car was approaching, so it was worth the wait.

After our walk, we returned to the hotel to rest for about an hour before leaving again for dinner. Brian and I watched some of Inception and got to know a little bit more about each other during that break. We met in the lobby about an hour later in our formal attire and took a cab to the Hay Adams Hotel, which housed the Lafayette Restaurant. We arrived about twenty minutes early so we decided to stroll over to the White House gates. The restaurant is only about a block away, so it was a pretty quick walk. We watched several groups take pictures in front of the gates, with the White House in the background, as well as listened to an anti-nuclear missile protestor who was spreading his beliefs to any passerby that would listen. After a few minutes waiting around that area, we headed back to the restaurant.

Tonight’s dinner was one of the most exquisite experiences I’ve ever had. The Lafayette is a very prestigious restaurant and has been known to serve government officials from time to time. Unfortunately there were no senators or congresspeople to be seen, but it didn’t take away from the experience in the slightest. We were seated in a dining room softly lit by candles with several beautiful pieces of art adorning the walls and soft piano being played in the center of the dining room. The atmosphere was excellent. The food was to die for. I enjoyed a bowl of creamy eggplant soup for an appetizer and lamb loin with mashed potatoes for my entrée. Both dishes were divine. The lamb was cooked to perfection and was flavorful as well as succulent. The dessert was equally amazing. I had a dark chocolate mousse with chocolate gelato. This was, by far, one of the best meals that I have ever eaten. I’m sorry, Don, but I was only able to remember to pull out my camera for my entrée. I will be sure to take photos of my remaining two fine meals though.

Today was a long day, but a great one. My journey is only just beginning and I am already having a terrific time with Brian, Julia, and Mr. Miranda. They are all excellent company and I can feel a sense of cohesion in our group. I look forward to touring Georgetown University tomorrow and with that in mind, I must be off to bed. We will be rising early tomorrow and I will need all my energy. Until then, I’m signing off.

Our luxurious airport shuttle...

O'Hare Airport...with clear skies!!!

Our room at the Holiday Inn
The White House...and huge groups of tourists...

Everybody is reviewing photos...

My dinner. Oh how I wish there was more of it...


  1. Alex,

    At what point will you all start listening to me like I know something of which I speak? The consensus was that arriving at ECHS at 3:45 would still give you all plenty of time to do your things and get to the airport in plenty of time. Even though it was my call, I still had to fight for the 3:15 arrival time.

    You all arrived on time, we took care of our business and you all took off earlier than planned. The trip to the airport was uneventful (without any delays due to work on the Bay Bridge). Yet you still arrived at your gate as they were boarding!

    Earlier is better—get that through your heads. Even though you all had assigned seats, you didn’t have assigned space in the overhead compartments and had they filled before you got there you might have had to check your bags. Your suit bag might not have been a problem but I know I’d rather have walked to Georgetown before checking my laptop bag or by cameras.

    As I’m composing this, Alex, I’m staring at your photo of your fine dinner right above the comment box. You all had what has been described as possibly the finest meal you’ve ever eaten and I had leftover pizza. And my apologies to your protesting friends in front of the White House but I warmed my pizza in my nuclear oven. ☺

    I, too, am quite fond of lamb but I don’t recall ever seeing such large portions in a restaurant. My leftover pizza was good but I’m envious nonetheless.

  2. SFO Airport Shuttle

    Airport Shuttle is considered one of the fastest and cheapest way to travel to and from the airports of San Francisco.