Wednesday, April 5, 2017

A Day Out in Cherry Blossom Season

Here in the nation's Capitol area one of the big events is the blooming of the cherry trees around the Tidal Basin. This is an event laid on for us by Mother Nature and it is always a surprise as to the timing. For 2017 we had a warm February and early March and then , just as the buds were reaching maturity, we had a March snow event. This threw all predictions of peak cherry blossom out the window.

 On Sunday we took a walk through the major cherry blossom area pausing to look at many of the major monuments of Washington DC. The cold weather in the week of March 13 had clearly had an impact on the cherry blossom buds. As you can see above it was a hit or miss result but the "hits" were as lovely as ever.
 We rode the Metro into DC and got off at Smithsonian station and headed down towards the Tidal Basin. One of our early stops afforded us this wonderful view across the Basin and up the hill on the other side with a great view of the Robert E Lee Memorial within the grounds of the Arlington National Cemetery. The area was alive with visitors intent on making the most of their visit...and wasn't it special if you could take a swan boat out onto the basin and pedal round for a time?
 The Jefferson Memorial is a major focus on any trip to the Tidal Basin area. In cherry blossom season an outing here on the weekend is as much about the people you encounter as it is about the cherry blossoms. People are everywhere enjoying the season and moments to capture the beauty of the blossoms have to be carefully sought if they are not to include people in the photographs.
 Those swan boats captured my attention because I do not recall seeing them in earlier seasons. When we walked by the are where the paddle boats for hire are lined up I was entranced by the vision of the sparkling blue boats waiting to go out on the water watched over by one lone swan.
 People watching becomes a major occupation of the day. Cameras (ranging from seriously big cameras to the more likely cellphone selfie approach) are everywhere and I always notice the people who have consciously chosen their apparel to fit the background. Much less common is those who have their hair match the cherry blossom color theme!
 Walking round the Tidal Basin affords many different views and sometimes a well known building will seemingly pop up when you least expect it. e.g. I could have walked right by this spot and not noticed the view of the Capitol if my companion, number one son, had not pointed it out to me.
On the Potomac River side of the basin the crowds seemed to be not as dense. Maybe that was because the sidewalks are much more narrow and the trees are closer to the waters edge. At one point I saw a fellow who was seemingly walking on water; as we got closer it became apparent that it must have been high tide and the water had covered over the sidewalk for a short distance.
 Almost to the end of our walk alongside the water I paused to capture this moment when the Washington Monument was reflecting in the water. But the real question is - just what is that clock tower to the left of the monument?
Turning away from the Basin we got into the serious monument zone. The FDR Memorial covers a very large area and is not much more than 15-20' high so it is hard to get a good photo when the crowds are large. But the newer Martin Luther King Jr Memorial is a massive statement and hard to miss.
 The Korean War Memorial is very poignant with the seemingly life sized portrayal of the American GI's walking through the undergrowth.
 Did you know there is an Einstein Memorial in Washington DC? It is right there on Constitution Avenue in front of the National Academy of Sciences. A major piece of bronze, Einstein measures 21' from the top of his head to the tip of his right foot. Visitors are encouraged to send their "photos with Albert" to instagram and the likes so it was difficult to catch Albert alone.
 By the time we reached this bay of Capital Bikeshare bicycles, adjacent to Albert on Constitution Ave, I was wondering if I would have been able to pedal my way round the route we had walked and felt any less tired. Clearly some people had decided to use this option. But on we walked.
We headed up hill on 23rd Street with the Foggy Bottom Station as our destination. Passing this interesting building, the Pan American Health Organization, had us pause once more to admire the architecture; a circular building with a concrete lattice facade backed up by a taller building with a mostly glazed exterior.
Finally we walked through the campus of the George Washington University on our way to the metro station to carry us back to Virginia.

A great day out!