An ode to Washington D.C.

Sunday, 19 July 2009 06:37 by The Lunatic

It was one year ago today, July 19, 2008, that I moved with my family to Washington D.C.

And in ten days from now, we’ll be leaving! We’re moving back to Europe next week.

We knew our stay in D.C. would be only a year, which was fine with me.  I really wasn’t expecting to enjoy the nations capital. Although I was born on the east coast, we moved to Spokane, Washington in 1968, when I was five years old, and I lived on the west coast for the next 38 years.  Prior to moving here, my only visit to D.C. was a quick business trip in the early 80’s – for a trade show, which meant I spent the entire time at the convention center and didn’t really get out to see anything else. About the only thing I remember from that trip was A) it was the middle of winter, and whenever the roll-up doors were opened to let a truck into the exhibit hall during setup, there was an arctic blast of horrendously cold air, and B) I had to drive to New York after the trade show, and I got lost trying to get out of Washington D.C.  All the diagonal streets are horribly confusing for a first timer.

But in the year that we’ve lived here, I’ve really come to love Washington D.C.  Besides the obvious attractions like the museums and monuments, there is an amazing amount of green space. Hundreds of acres of beautiful dense forest, where you can easily forget you’re inside a large city.  Just yesterday, in fact, we discovered that we can hike from our apartment all the way to our favorite fishing spot on the Potomac River (at Fletchers Boat House), staying in the National Forest the entire time (except for crossing a just a few streets.)  The trail cuts at least ten minutes walking time from the way we used to go! Since there is no “state” government here, all of the wilderness areas in Washington D.C. are actually “national forest” land.  How cool is that?

There are no high-rise buildings in Washington D.C. either – no building can be taller than the Capital, so it’s not nearly as overwhelming as most cities.  I’m always amused when I go over to Arlington County and see all the tall buildings there – they just seem out of place.

Not long after we moved here, some friends took us out to West Virginia, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, so we could go inner-tubing on the Shenandoah River (I had the old John Denver song Take Me Home, Country Roads going through my head the entire time!) I had no idea such a peaceful place was so close by.

On President’s Day, the same friends took us over to Mount Vernon to see George Washington’s homestead. The view of the Potomac River from the front of Washington’s house is absolutely stunning. I’ve never seen such a tranquil and picturesque setting for a private residence.

There is an interesting mix of architecture here in D.C.  Many of the government buildings are downright ugly – the Department of Agriculture building, for example (which I first saw at 3:00 in the morning as we were coming in from the airport upon our arrival from Ecuador) is downright horrendous.  But on the other side of the spectrum there are some stunningly beautiful government buildings, especially the supreme court. Some of the foreign embassies are exquisite as well.

In our year here, we’ve manage to get to most (but not all) of the Smithsonian Museums, plus the National Zoo. Having free access to the collections in the various Smithsonian Museums is wonderful beyond words. A tip for visitors – have dinner at the food court in the “American Indian” museum, next door to the popular “Air and Space” museum. It’s expensive, but there’s an incredible selection of fairly authentic native American cuisine from different regions of the country. You can get buffalo shank from the plains tribes, salmon from the pacific northwest, and a delicious selection of flatbreads, wild rice, and Indian tacos.

And of course, we have the monuments and memorials.  Most famous, of course, are the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.  Both are exquisite, fascinating for their historical significance as well as their architectural design.  The view from the top of the Washington Monument is breathtaking – it’s the tallest free-standing stone structure in the world!

The FDR Memorial, however, is my favorite.  It’s a rather lighthearted portrayal of one of the greatest leaders in American History, who led us through some of our darkest times. It’s much less intimidating and much more approachable than the larger-than-life Lincoln who sits majestically on an almost throne-like perch, gazing down the national mall.

Other things we’ve enjoyed are some of the tours of Government buildings and operations. Most notable are the new Capital Visitors Center, and the Bureau of Printing and Engraving.

It was very interesting being in D.C. in an inauguration year. Wow, what a spectacular event!  The entire month leading up to the inauguration was controlled chaos throughout the city.  We got caught in a security sweep at Union Station, and they cancelled the movie were there to see at the theater.  It was also fascinating watching the construction of the “swearing in” platform in front of the Capital, and all the bleachers along the parade route.

Of course, there was almost as much excitement about getting rid of President Bush as there was about the swearing in of Barack Obama!

Last, but not least, I have to mention Glover Park – the great neighborhood where we’ve lived for the past year. It was a perfect location for us, with easy access to DuPont Circle, Friendship Heights, and Georgetown. The Russian Embassy, which we walk past almost every day, was always fun to point out to visitors. And I need to add a plug for Rocklands on Wisconsin Ave, our favorite place to eat.  It’s D.C.’s best rib joint by far! (just not very good for our diet. Oh well!)

And so, as we pack our belongings and prepare to embark on our next adventure, I bid adieu to Washington D.C.  I will have fond memories of my time in our nation’s capital.

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Comments (3) -

July 24. 2009 08:12

As I will have fond memories of visiting you there.  I'm glad I got to see you (and it) before you crossed another ocean!

Oh, and the most moving thing I saw while there was the Viet Nam memorial.  It left me speechless, if anyone cares to believe that is possible.


July 24. 2009 08:51

Two more silly things I'll miss - fireflies (which I haven't seen since we left New Jersey in 1968) and the print version of "The Onion"

The Lunatic

November 14. 2009 19:07

Hi this is Michael .The above article is really nice. keep it up.

Vietnam Tours

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