Wednesday: we explored Broad Street and found several places from our list of things-to-do including Michael's, Babies `R' Us and Weight Watchers. Came home with our lunch from Subway and did not a lot else. In the evening we started packing but J wasn't well so we didn't finish it.
Thursday: we were up relatively early because (as on previous days) smallclanger woke up and decided it was daytime. We went online for rather a long time (I reserved a hotel room in Arlington and J went on LJ and noted down some directions) and then got together our stuff and set out towards King of Prussia. We went via Borders to look for a suitable map of Virginia, and so by the time we left the area it was almost half ten.
Went and got a stupid speeding ticket half way up the I-95 to Washington. I was being tailgated by a large lorry so, noting that lorries are not allowed in the left lane, I decided to overtake some traffic. Didn't notice the speedo creeping up to 80, and when I did I slowed down - but it was too late. A bit annoyed at (a) myself, (b) getting picked up during the 90 seconds or so all day that I was doing 80, and (c) every other idiot on the road who was speeding and didn't get a ticket - when I purposefully stuck to 65 I was the slowest driver on the road. Anyway, that was another 10-15 minutes delay (not to mention a fine which seems to work out to $129).
We successfully negotiated our way around DC and Baltimore without too much problem and got as far as Bel Air where we had to stop to change a grumpy baby's nappy. We estimated that we weren't going to make it to King of Prussia before 4 at the very earliest (and we should have been there at 2). We pressed on for a few minutes while we asked the other folks whether they would still be there. When the reply came that they had to leave at 4 we turned back to Bel-Air and took route 24 towards York. This was a fairly long and winding road (and involved a wrong turning as we crossed into Pennsylvania which took us back into Maryland for a while and then back on to the road we had just been on) but with some pretty countryside scenery.
On getting to York we stopped at a large Wallmart to phone and ask for directions, and finally arrived at my friend Marcia's house at the same time as the delivery from Domino's Pizza. smallclanger was charming as always and made friends with our hosts instantly. They were very welcoming - and they gave us apple pie for breakfast. They also told us to come back some time - so we said we would (on Tuesday).
Friday: we went to Lancaster and spent an excessive amount of money in Carters before heading back via York and the I-83, getting bogged down in the DC traffic and arriving at Potomac Mills at 2-ish. Various other people had already been there for some time, but we didn't know where. Fortunately we were in contact with the_muttster by text message, so we found him and he pointed us towards deaklet's car (so we could park next to it and give her a surprise). We ambled through the mall towards the food court as we hadn't had lunch yet.
After we ate (chili dogs and root beer), J went shopping at Carters (where else?) and while she was away she met the others. Eventually they came back so we said a brief hello and arranged to meet in the evening at deaklet's house for a pre-party party.
We then wandered around the mall a bit more before setting off to find our hotel room at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, which we had booked for £75 for two nights on Expedia. After what seemed like hours in a traffic jam we arrived and wanted to find somewhere to park. There was a public car park round the back of the hotel which charged $2 for an hour up to $9 for a day. At the front there was a sign saying `Hotel Valet Parking' with an arrow which may have been pointing to the forecourt but was actually pointing to the entrance to the underground car park which was labelled `Hotel Parking'. Only once you get down there do you see the signs which say `STOP Valet parking only' and the rates: $9 for an hour up to $20 for overnight guests. It was too late to back out so we had to get out of the car and attempt to retrieve our possessions (which by this time included a carload of shopping and a new suitcase). The attendant wasn't very helpful and we asked for a trolley but didn't get one. However, we did eventually manage to get everything up to the lobby where we checked in and went up to the room to sort things out and have a short rest. It had to be short because we were already overdue to set out to deaklet's house. There we met some of the AN folks and a large take-out order was put together.
We got back from that quite late, so we slept in the next morning. We intended to visit the Arlington cemetery, so we had a wander about to find the Metro station. Eventually we got to about the right place and found a mall with a small food court so decided to stop for lunch. The service was terribly slow and by the time we had eaten and given smallclanger his lunch we decided there wasn't time to go anywhere else so we had a brief walk round the tiny `water park' and then went back to the hotel and prepared to go out to the big party.
We met lots of nice people and their children, who were pretty well behaved. There was nice food, some delicious cheesecake apparently made by robin__, and lots of chocolate specially imported by buzzy_bee and us. Some of the menfolk took themselves off into the pool room and I sort of hung around bopeepsheep and buzzy_bee and asked them to explain who everyone was. There were no formal activities (we'd heard that deaklet is a Catan fan, for example, so we wondered whether there would be some games; we and the_muttster had also taken Tantrix sets with the possibility of combining them for a supersized game) so it was lots of chat, some of which was interesting and some went over my head since I'm not in the online community so I was a bit out of the loop. Anyway I enjoyed meeting some of the people whose online names I've sometimes seen in LJ comments - and especially some of the very lovely babies - and we stayed until quite late (though not very late) before handing our car back to the valet parking attendants back at the hotel and going to bed.