Monday, July 12, 2010

Katie and Mommy's Big Adventure - National Zoo (Day 4)

After our adventure at the National Mall, Katie and I took an even longer metro ride to the National Zoo.  Katie has been really excited about watching Go Diego, Go recently and one of the episodes includes giant pandas.  The National Zoo in Washington, DC has two of the few giant pandas that are not in China so we wanted to go see them while we had the chance.

 This is a very cool place.  I didn't realize that this zoo is entirely free to the public (minus $2 for the map) and I am amazed that such a place exists for free.  The animals there include the usual elephants, monkeys, etc but also include animals that are harder to come by such as sloth bears and the giant panda.  Unfortunately for us, it was such a hot day (100 degrees again) that many of the animals weren't out and about.  For the first 20 minutes of wandering the zoo, this picture of the sloth bear is as close as we got to any animals.

Just when I had started to despair that our whole long walk in the hot weather had been for naught, we came upon the red panda.  Although it is called a panda and comes from the same area of China as the giant panda, it actually looks more like a fox or a raccoon. 
Fortunately, the main attraction of the zoo (at least for us) had a nicely air conditioned home where they could eat and rest in peace during the hot days, and lots of windows that we tourists could gawk through to see them.  Behold, the giant panda:

 This is one of my first attempts at using the manual focus on my new camera and lens.  Still needs a bit of work since this is the only one that allows you to actually see both subjects and still had to be edited some.  Even after editing it isn't really clear, but, I found that taking a picture of a child who was hot and not especially cooperative, the crowds of tourists flocking around in waves, and thick glass with limited lighting in the room I was standing in, was difficult.  I'm kind of pleased I got a picture this nice.  More training is needed on manual focus.  At least the panda didn't move. :)

After the pandas we stopped to eat lunch and some flavored ice and then hunted down the elephants.

I had watched the weather that morning and noticed that it had called for scattered afternoon thunderstorms and, noting that it was afternoon, I decided to call my resourceful husband back home to get an idea of whether there were thunderstorms headed our way or not.  My call was just in time as he told me that there was a cell with a red center headed our way within 15 minutes. We headed back toward the entrance of the zoo, knowing we wouldn't make it before the rain but we wanted to see a few more animals.  On our way to shelter we managed to see zebras and a pacing cheetah.   I was also pleased to see a maned wolf (which I actually recognized by the picture on the map because Katie is not the only one who has been watching Diego save animals...) although he was hot and all we could see of him was the back of his ears.

We managed to take shelter under a canopy where talks are held when the first raindrops hit.  After the first blitz, we continued to head toward the front of the zoo but stopped at the entrance to look at the gift shop again and go to the bathroom.  Jim then called to tell me that the second cell was coming our way so we needed to go quickly to the metro station.  As I looked outside from the gift shop, the downpour had already begun.  I'm glad that we made it to the building because we were there for a good 30 minutes watching the downpour.  Katie amused herself pretending to be an animal and running up and down the stairs and I amused myself spending too much money in the gift shop (have to support such a lovely zoo!).  At long last, the rain cleared and we headed back to the hotel to pick up the car and head to our next destination...Williamsburg!

(Did I mention that, after a long, hot day of walking around the zoo and riding the metro back to the hotel, the hotel shuttle from the metro stop had been in an accident and couldn't take us to the hotel?  We walked a mile to the hotel and we were POOPED.  Katie wanted TV and I wanted her to nap.  We both got what we wanted as she fell asleep in less than two minutes to the opening song of Diego.  Another funny note:  When we were standing in line to eat dinner at Golden Corral that night, Katie commented that something smelled bad as she held her nose in distaste.  After our long hot day of lots of walking, I told her I thought it was us.)

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