Around The World In 18 Museums

I’m a bit (a lot) of a history geek, and its International Museum Day tomorrow, so I thought I’d take a look at some of the best museums husband and I have seen on our travels. They’re an easily overlooked activity when you’re travelling because they have a reputation for being boring (probably because a lot of kids were dragged to them against their will at school), but there are soooo many different types of museums out there that are a hell of a lot more fun than what you did back in year 5!

Top left: Banff Park Museum -Top right: Chicago History Museum – Bottom left: Museum at Mondragon Palace in Ronda – Bottom right: Saga Museum in Reykjavík

1. Banff Park Museum, Banff, Canada
91 Banff Ave, Banff
Cost: free
This museum looks at animals of all sorts native to the area (like elk, mountain goats, bears, wolves). It also has some gorgeous geological displays of stones and crystals and random curiosities donated by locals. And on the way out, for bonus points, there’s a beautiful library!

2. Chicago History Museum, Chicago, USA
1601 N Clark Street, Chicago
Cost: USD$16.00 per person
This was like walking through a history book in the best possible way. I learned more than expected to about Chicago’s history, random things like how the city flag came to be, and about the incredible work of Vivian Maier, which I’m not obsessed with.

3. Museum at Mondragon Palace, Ronda, Spain
Plaza Mondragon, Ronda
Cost: €3.00 per person
This old Moorish palace has been renovated and restored, and given new life as a natural history museum. A lot of the ceiling and tile details are original, and the garden (while small compared to some of the other palaces) is stunning.

4. Saga Museum, Reykjavík, Iceland
Grandagarður 2, Reykjavík
Cost: 2.200kr per person
This is like a history picture book come to life – with an audio guide to talk you through, you walk through the museum’s displays of figures (all crafted based on descriptions found in the Viking sagas and chronicles), demonstrating events from Iceland’s history.

Top left: Guinness Storehouse in Dublin – Top right: Mardi Gras World in New Orleans – Bottom left: DDR Museum in Berlin – Bottom right: Czech Beer Museum in Prague

5. Guinness Storehouse, Dublin, Ireland
St James’s Gate, Ushers, Dublin
Cost: €17.50 per person
I’m not a beer drinker, and I still had a blast here! Yes, you get to go through a proper tasting session, and learn how to pour the perfect pint, and enjoy said pint in the rooftop bar with a killer view over Dublin, but it’s also a multi-level museum looking at everything from the beer creation process to it’s many marketing campaigns.

6. Mardi Gras World, New Orleans, USA
1380 Port of New Orleans Place
Cost: USD$20.00 per person
You can read more about our visit to Mardi Gras World here, but basically it’s a tour through one of the warehouses the Kern family use to create the incredible parades floats. You’ll get to see the props and some floats, as well as getting a peek at some of the artists at work.

7. DDR Museum, Berlin, Germany
Karl-Liebknecht-Str. 1, Berlin
Cost: €5.50 per person
This is an incredibly interactive museum, encouraging visitors to open cupboards, sit in cars, and listen to the sounds coming through the headphones. You’ll get a disconcerting taste of life in war-time East Germany, including being able to walk through a full “apartment” and rifling through the kitchen, bedrooms and lounge room.

8. Czech Beer Museum, Prague, Czech Republic
Husova 241/7, Prague
Cost: 280CZK per person
Again, not a beer drinker, so this was mostly for husband’s benefit, but turned out it was a really cool little museum! It covered the history of beer, had some crazy beer collections (bottles, labels, model trucks), and at the end of the tour, you received 4 beers to sample. Not little 30ml sips, but full glasses of beer. Enjoy!

Top left: MOMA in New York – Top right: Bier & Oktoberfest Museum in Munich – Bottom left: Castel Sant’Angelo in Rome – Bottom right: Totem Heritage Center in Ketchikan

9. Museum of Modern Art, New York City, USA
11 W 53rd St, New York, USA
Cost: USD$25.00 per person
It shouldn’t need much of an introduction – this is THE place to go for art in New York. The modern exhibits change regularly, but honestly, my favourite pieces were the classics like Monet’s Water Lilies and Van Gogh’s Starry Night – you see these in magazines and art textbooks at school, but in real life, they’re something else.

10. Bier & Oktoberfest Museum, Munich, Germany
Sterneckerstraße 2, Munich
Cost: €4.00 per person
This little museum lives in an old (when I say old, I mean from the 1300s) townhouse, accessible by a 500-year old wooden staircases, over a few floors. You’ll find an impressive collection of Oktoberfest paraphernalia (mugs, posters, etc), and can sit down to watch a short film about the history of Oktoberfest. Even as a non-beer lover, this was an awesome piece of history to see.

11. Castel Sant’Angelo, Rome, Italy
Lungotevere Castello, 50, Rome
Cost: €14.00 per person
It took me three visits to Rome, but I finally got to Castel Sant’Angelo! It’s had a few lives, originally built as a mausoleum, and also serving as a fortress and castle before turning into a museum. The most stunning part of the museum are the paintings, Renaissance era frescoes, which have been preserved almost perfectly. Even if you’re not an art lover, they’re worth seeing. Speaking of worth seeing, make it all the way to the top and you’ll be rewarded with one hell of a view.

12. Totem Heritage Centre, Ketchikan, USA
601 Deermount Street, Ketchikan
Cost: USD$5.00
It’s not a huge museum, but the history it holds is massive. It holds some of the city’s most previous totem poles, as well as other native artifacts (think intricate hand-beaded purses and ornaments).


And, because this wasn’t our first (nor will it be our last!) adventure, here are a few more museums worth checking out that we’ve found on our travels…

– Holocaust Museum, Washington, D.C., USA
– The Egyptian Museum, Cairo, Egypt

Top 10 Things To Do in Washington, D.C.

1. Walk through Arlington National Cemetery
Where? Arlington, Virginia
Why go? To call over 600 acres of tombs an overwhelming experience would be a disrespectful understatement. I wasn’t at all prepared for the enormity of it, or the impact seeing all of those tombs would have on me. It wasn’t easy to walk through, but I felt it was a necessary walk, not just for me but for everyone; in order to continue to justify war and hatred and taking of lives, I think everyone should take a walk through here
How long will you need? We spent around 2 hours here.
Cost? Free.
Read more:
– Arlington National Cemetery


2. Eat and shop your way through the Eastern Market
Where? 225 7th St SE, Washington, DC
Why go? The market itself left a lot to be desired on the day we visited, with very few stalls open, but the food section was pumping! Places like Market Lunch were full of people, and sitting at the big communal table with locals and my giant plate of pancakes was a brilliant way to start a day of exploring!
How long will you need? With the market not offering a lot, we were there for about an hour to enjoy some serious breaky and people watching.
Cost? My “short stack” of blueberry buckwheat pancakes with toasted pecans cost around USD$5.00. I use the term “short stack” very loosely, because the serving was so big I couldn’t finish it, even with husband’s help.
Read more:
– Eat here: Market Lunch at the Eastern Market


3. Take time to reflect at the Holocaust Museum
Where? 100 Raoul Wallenberg Pl SW, Washington, DC
Why go? I’ve had a strong sense of horror, curiosity, intrigue and admiration for the victim’s of Hitler’s war of terror ever since reading Anne Frank’s Diary and Elie Wiesel’s “Night” in high school. The more I read from survivors, the more it digs into my soul, so I felt a strong pull to visit the Holocaust Museum. I moved through in in quiet reverence, took only one photo (above) in order to remember it, and left in silent tears. Again, if we are living in an age where our leaders condemn war, this is something that must be experienced, regardless of how painful that is.
How long will you need? We were in there for around 2 hours.
Cost? Free.


4. Indulge your inner bookworm at the Library of Congress
Where? 101 Independence Ave SE, Washington, DC
Why go? This is an experience for both book and architecture lovers. The building will leave you speechless if you take the time to look at the little details, and the collection of books is mind-blowing.
How long will you need? We were there for an hour or so – I could have stayed all day!
Cost? Free! How wonderful is this city of free education?!
Read more:
From my travel journal: Washington, D.C., 2015


5. Make yourself at home at Ben’s Chili Bowl
Where? 1213 U St NW, Washington, DC
Why go? The dogs were fantastic, more of a sausage than a frank, absolutely delicious. The chili was great too, a little bit of a kick, heaps of flavour, and plenty of it. What was even better was the gentleman pictured above in the bottom left corner; he came over to our table to say hi, welcome to Ben’s, and asked how the meal was; not only did he stay for a chat and a photo, he introduced us to the lovely lady in the photo top right, one of the owners and family members of Ben. The food was good, but the people were better!
How long will you need? We weren’t planning to stay long, but ended up there for just under an hour, chatting to our new friends 🙂
Cost? USD$5.95 for the classic jumbo chili dog.
Read more:
– Eat here: Ben’s Chili Bowl, Washington, D.C., USA


6. Wonder through Georgetown

Why go? After the intensity of the museums and monuments, it’s kinda nice to just get away and take a stroll and look at the beautiful buildings that reside in Georgetown…
How long will you need? We were wondering around for an hour or two.
Cost? Free.


7. Take a quiet timeout at the Reflecting Pool
Where? National Mall
Why go? The day we visited was cold and rainy, and I was getting a bit overwhelmed by it all. By the time we reached the reflecting pool, I needed to pause, and there couldn’t be a more beautiful spot in the city to do that. Watching the ripples across the water and the reflection of the trees above, it was the perfect place to stop and consider how far we’d come by that point in our trip. And when I finally looked up, I found I wasn’t the only one taking a time out 🙂
How long will you need? I took about half an hour (under my umbrella!).
Cost? Free!


8. Let your inner dorky child run wild at the National Air & Space Museum
Where? 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC
Why go? I’m actually a bit of an aviation and space nerd, so when husband suggested a stop in at this museum, I was stoked! There is SO much to see in here, and quite a few interactive stations – perfect for when it’s really raining and you need a break. Or for when your kids are starting to drive you up the wall and you to distract them!
How long will you need? At least a few hours.
Cost? Free! How great is that?!


9. People watch at Washington Harbor
Where? 3000 & 3050 K Street NW, Washington, DC
Why go? This was sunset on the harbor after a long and emotionally taxing afternoon in Arlington. There weren’t many people out, being the middle of winter; a few joggers and dog walkers, and us. We sat down, watched a few planes soar overhead, and let the experiences of the day wash over us.
How long will you need? An hour or two, depending on how much is going on.
Cost? Another freebie!


10. Get into the greatest food combo the city has to offer, fried chicken and donuts

Where? My personal favourites were Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken (1308 G Street NW, Washington, DC) and GBD Fried Chicken & Doughnuts (which is sadly now closed).
Why go? Fried dough. Fried chicken. I had no idea it as a thing to throw them together. Now I don’t know why it took me so long to discover it! Astro’s chicken was so tender and juicy on the inside and ridiculously crispy inside, and their doughnuts were some of the best I’ve had.
How long will you need? How fast can you eat?!
Cost? Doughnuts cost around USD$3.00 each, and the big 8 piece chicken box will set you back around USD$20.00 (Tip – we didn’t get through the 8 pieces. The services are WAY bigger than those you get in Australia!)
Read more:
– Eat here: Astro Doughnuts & Fried Chicken, Washington, D.C., USA
Eat here: GBD Fried Chicken & Doughnuts, Washington, D.C. (donuts)

From my travel journal: Washington, D.C., 2015

When I find things getting hectic, I tend to crave more time in my book nook; time to read or write, to just generally be in a quiet, comforting place filled with books…



“THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS (Jefferson Building).
This was a gorgeous building, as they all were, really. The upper level was beautifully decorated, with quotes lining the walls. I quite liked “Books will speak plain when counsellors blanch.” The ornate columns and ceiling were really magnificent, and seeing Thomas Jefferson’s library was brilliant. To have a lifetime of being around all of those books…”

Remembering the fallen on Purple Heart Day: a walk through Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C.

Arlington National Cemetery
Virginia side of Memorial Bridge, Washington DC


I’m not a supporter of war. I’m not saying I don’t support our troops when they’re called upon. I’m not saying I’m not extremely proud of the men and women who have fought for us and the comfortable and relatively safe lives we lead here. I’m not saying I haven’t been extremely humbled by the willingness of every day people to take up arms to defend their country and people. But a quote I read years ago that’s always stuck with me is “war doesn’t determine who is right; only who is left.”

I’m not going to write this post about my feelings and beliefs towards acts of war; I don’t want to open the debate, because I believe it’s too sensitive and personal. But yesterday marked Purple Heart Day in America, the day they choose to honor the men and women who have been wounded or killed in military service, and I thought it an appropriate and poignant time to share a few photos from my visit to Arlington National Cemetery in January. To call over 600 acres of tombs an overwhelming experience would be a disrespectful understatement. I wasn’t at all prepared for the enormity of it, or the impact seeing all of those tombs would have on me. It wasn’t easy to walk through, yet I felt it was a necessary walk, not just for me but for everyone. I think that in order to continue to justify the waging of war and hatred and taking of lives, everyone should walk through here; it completely takes your breath away to be standing among so many lost souls who needn’t have lost their lives so violently and horribly…



Through my eyes: Washington DC’s National Mall


Firstly, you may have noticed the slight change in blog name; while I didn’t necessarily want to be “ordinary” any more, it’s occurred to me that for better or worse, Ordinary Girl, Extraordinary Dreamer is my brand and my online identity now, and I’ve gotta honour that! That’s how I’ve become known, and I’m still surprised and grateful at the fact that my blog actually is known, so I’m going to partially return to my roots 🙂

Secondly, we had a great weekend escape to Warburton yesterday! We did eat delicious pizza, as I suspected we would, and had an awesome time just leaving the world behind for a while and exploring on our own  : )   And despite the absolutely freezing cold, it was really nice – it was also nice to get back home, into warm PJs, the heater, and a book to read at the end of it all!

Don’t ask me why, but I associate cold weather with books. I know, I’m weird. Maybe it’s because that’s perfect weather for curling up under a blanket with a good book. Good weather to escape into another story and another life. That’s what I was thinking about when I posted a TBT photo on Instagram this week that my husband took of me taking a photo of Thomas Jefferson’s collection in the Library of Congress (last photo of the post). Posting that photo also reminded me of the few days we spend in DC in January, and the particularly cold wet day we spend walking around the National Mall. I’m not a patriotic American, but even I have to admit it’s an incredibly impressive area…





Anyway, hope everyone else had a great weekend too, and stay warm, fellow Melbournians!

Eat here: Market Lunch at the Eastern Market, Washington, D.C. (breakfast)

Market Lunch
at the Eastern Market, 225 7th St SE, Washington, DC

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/436/65412241/files/2015/01/img_5512.jpgOhh Friday, thank goodness… It’s been a long week! I’ve also been craving pancakes for the last 3 weeks now and haven’t had the opportunity to get and get some, so that may be this weekend’s task. In the meantime, I’m going to keep crushing on the amazing pancakes I had in Washington DC earlier this year at the Eastern Market. Market + pancakes = happy days, usually.

Unfortunately, this time, it was the market itself that was a bit of a letdown; we arrived an hour after opening time to find hardly any markets stalls actually set up.. Luckily, breakfast more than exceeded our expectations! There were a few food places open, but Market Lunch seemed to have three times the customers than the rest of the places combined, so like moths to the flame, we followed the wafting bacon smells in the air and joined the quickly moving line.

These guys have an absolutely killer breakfast menu, mostly egg variations and some pancakes, which made it a bit easier to make a selection. Husband went with “the brick” (above right), a solid (literally, solid) sandwich of egg, potato, cheese and meat of choice (bacon, duh) for a very civilised USD$4.25. It weighed about as much as a house brick, was completely delicious with the melty cheese and the gooey egg yolk, and really filled you up!

My choice was cemented as soon as I walked past the big communal dining bench in front of the counter. Pancakes. Dear God, pancakes. I’d been craving them for ages, and my stomach was just recovering from it’s latest bout of “something you’re eating is making me want to die,” so I was actually hungry. I didn’t want to over-do it though, so I just ordered the short stack of blueberry buckwheat pancakes with toasted pecans for around USD$5.00 – I figured this little short stack would satisfy the craving without making me full to the point of illness. How wrong I was… my “short stack” was compiled of two dinner-plate sized pancakes, each close to an inch thick, with a ton of pecans and a vat of help-yourself syrup. Holy wow. The pancakes themselves were beyond delicious, they were exactly what I felt like, and the toasted pecans were perfect with the blueberries. The hot syrup was both the literal and figurative icing on the cake, and I contemplated the appropriateness of hugging the pancake chef. I only got through half the stack, husband made a small dent in the remaining half, but for $10, we were both utterly stuffed.

If you happen to find yourself in DC this weekend, head to the Eastern Market, don’t bother looking around, just join the cue, order some eggs and pancakes, and you’ll understand what everyone looks so damn happy about! And for the rest of us, may we all find pancakes and eggs that delicious in our own cities (recommendations for Melbourne very welcome at this point!).



Market Lunch on Urbanspoon

Eat here: GBD Fried Chicken & Doughnuts, Washington, D.C. (donuts)

GBD Fried Chicken & Doughnuts
1323 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC


Ohh donuts… I love you! You may make me fat and put me on a sugar high which really hurts to come crashing out of, but that’s ok, I still love you!

These donuts were particularly good after a cold, rainy, miserable day in Washington DC. We went to GBD, part donuttery, part bar, party fried chicken heaven. We just wanted some donuts and a hot coffee for husband, and a hot tea for me. Two out of three ain’t bad, I guess…

Coffee they had, no worries. Donuts, too. Tea was an issue. I battled hard in America trying to get a good, hot cup of tea. Most places didn’t do it. Why, I really don’t know – boiled water with a tea bag plonked in it really isn’t that difficult. But, as we found out, plenty of places offered sweetened iced tea. This was one of those places. The face the lady behind the counter pulled when I asked for tea with soy milk was absolutely priceless – she turned around, collected a plastic cup and filled it with ice – “ummm Jess… I don’t think you’re getting hot tea…” AAAHAHAHAHA she was going to give me a cup of COLD, iced tea with SOY MILK!!! Fantastic!! We’ll just grab some donuts to go then and make the hot drinks ourselves back at the hotel. At that stage, it was something like Jess – 0, hot tea shutdowns – 27.

So we grabbed a Nutella crunch (top) and a hot vanilla glaze. What these guys lacked in hot tea making abilities, they MORE than made up for in donut skills. The Nutella one was smothered in the good stuff, with heaps of crushed and toasted hazelnuts on top. If anything, it was maybe too sweet – it tasted like they’d mixed more sugar into the Nutella! But it was delicious!

The hot vanilla glaze was the hands down favourite, though – we literally waited around for five minutes while the donut was freshly fried for us in store, and then freshly glazed. It was nestled in a little cardboard box, swimming in hot glaze goodness. They wrapped it up in foil to keep it warm, and we luckily didn’t have far to walk. It was still nice and warm and dripping in gooey glaze when we got back, and it was perfect. Not disgustingly sweet, great vanilla flavour, and the donut itself was fantastic. We’d had an OD situation with some fried chicken earlier that day at Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken, so we sadly couldn’t double up again without being insanely unwell, but I’d love to try the chicken out if I’m ever back in DC – we saw some coming out and it looked beautiful! Anyone else tried the chicken here??


GBD Fried Chicken and Doughnuts on Urbanspoon