Happy Birthday George - Courtesy farm3.static.flickr.com
As I put off fond memories of the cherry blossom festival celebrated so religiously each year, I am focused on being in Washington on the last Sunday of February instead. Mount Vernon is where I will be heading. There is a different air about the place. I guess it has something to do with the current President.
February 22, birthday of the first President of United States, gets him affectionately remembered as the father of the country. This natural leader, so courageous and honest inspires the best amongst us to this day. His strength of mind appears to be keeping our democracy well on track.
While George Washington’s home and burial ground would be freely open for all, in honor of his birthday, anyone with the name George will be admitted to Mount Vernon for free. By George that just will make my day! Also on the cards is the celebratory parade replete with marching bands, floats – all of it. It’ll be just a 16 minute drive for me from downtown Washington.
Earlier on the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the Revolution, around 11 am. will have me enjoying the festive air. Later between 1 and 3 pm., the parade making its loop around Old Town and re-enacting some great times, will get me to view the Scouts, Masonic groups, patriotic displays, equestrian entries and antique cars. I can manage the long detour.
Several historic sites in Old Town, including the Lyceum, Gadsby’s Tavern Museum, Friendship Firehouse Museum, Carlyle House, Lee-Fendall House Museum and Christ Church will waive their admission fees for the day. I am going to end this special day on a cherry pie – that was this honest man’s favorite food on his birthday.
Sprawling and Airy - Capital!
Washington DC just happened by the bye. Stationed at Woodbridge, Iselin an extended weekend offered the prospect of visiting the capital of US, a proposition hard to resist. Well to be in close vicinity and not to the grab the opportunity, we decided would be foolish indeed. A quick comfortable Amtrak journey took us to the city. We had been warned that driving around in Washington was easy enough but finding parking space the more difficult of the task. So we decided to make use of the expedient subway.
As the train rolled into Union Station, the ceremonial entrance to Washington DC, the sheer elegance and grandiosity of the architecture prepares you for everything else in store. The vaulted ceiling, the arches and the classical designing in marble, granite and gold embellishment lead you out to the enormous white porticoes where you get ushered into waiting taxis in seconds. In a blink of an eye you are racing down broad avenues affording glimpses of the famed dome of Capitol Hill. You feel exhilarated. Yes you are in the National Capital.
Spreeing down one of the many bridges, the cab driver informs us that there are three natural flowing streams – the Potomac River and its tributaries – Anacostia and Rock Creek that flow across the city. It is not really as crowded as we had expected. Being summertime there is a general lull in the august circles we are told by our affable Afro-American driver. The centers of all three branches of the federal government of United States are located in the District. Perhaps the warmth of the summer tinged with the humidity drives everyone away. It really was quite warm.
DC, as it is generally called, is a fine city laid out so well that its easy to do it all. Beginning with the White House, we worked our way up to the LIncoln Memorial, and then down the National Mall to the Washington Memorial and finally Capitol Hill. The sights really are fantastic and more than impressive once you see them for real. The Needle really stood out. Afternoons were marked for checking out the museums that line up the Mall. The Natural History Museum, the American Indian Museum and the National Air and Space Museum were all really interesting and worth the visit. More so when they are all free.
It’s really a planned city where its possible to walk if you are so inclined. The skyline remains low and sprawling, in keeping with the plan to make Washington an American Paris having low and convenient buildings on light and airy streets. The Washington Monument remains the District’s tallest structure. With several national monuments and museums, there are a 172 foreign embassies. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are head quartered here. The Smithsonian Museum remains the most visited museums in the world and looks great when all lit up. Simply walking by the structures feels great.
The sparkling subway system takes you everywhere. We spent entire evenings walking the upscale neighborhoods of Dupont Circle and Logan Circle for a true Washingtonian experience. Its a beautiful area with lots of bars, restaurants and nightlife scenes.With summer in the air we were already aware of the inside scoop regarding the best experiences that could be had. DC’s summer calendar is tight with cultural festivals, free concerts and performances. As also the must-see exhibitions. There is more than just monuments and structures to Washington as we found out. The beautiful parks and recreational facilities are spread out all over and in the suburbs. It becomes quite a job to decide what to see and what to miss. Even a simple stroll along the canal or paddling down Tidal Basin appears to be part of the lure of the city.
Washington DC is an incredible place full of free cultural attractions and lively entertainment. It offers good shopping and dining too. It was a good thing that we had made reservations through Downtown Washington DC hotel site that made sure of placing us close by to the attractions that we wanted to visit. It had also been a good idea to check out what events would coincide with our visit. Our accommodation was conveniently located near the Penn Quarter allowing us lots of options to sample restaurants and experience the Washington night life. Merrymaking is in the air in the summers. Walking right up to the Mall makes you feel you are in the bang center of the universe!
Inexpensive taxis are ever around to drop you off at the nearest Metro stop. In fact it was the young Afghani cab driver who informed us of the Silk Road Celebration, an exhibition on Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul. It sure was a real treat with culinary and cultural shows thrown in. We also heard that the DC Restaurant Week was getting extended right up to September. Besides the history, architecture and the cultural centers it is the feel and atmosphere of the city that also gets to you. A relatively small city it remains abuzz with the excitement of politics and governance with the Capitol Hill, a constant metaphor for all things politique! Which is why security is a big issue here and visitors have to pass through metal detectors and bag checks everywhere. The Metro strictly enforces its rules for not allowing smoking, food and drink on trains. You learn to take it all in your stride.
A long weekend in Washington DC is not enough to do everything properly. Four days is barely enough to manage it all. We promised ourselves to plan our next trip so we can see more at a leisurely pace! Although not here very long but we did see a whole lot and enjoyed it too. Though in all honesty the time was much too short. Definitely the next visit will see us covering the historic Georgetown district and the University there. Rushing back to board the train back home, once again the marvelous Union Station reminded us of the splendor that is part and parcel of this captivating capitol city.