0021 Serenading President Lincoln (USA 021—revisit, 01-021)
Washington Travel Blog› entry 21 of 28 › view all entries
Day 009: 6 hours, 11.9—total 18.7 kms
And finally, I reach Washington DC, the place where some of the world’s biggest decisions are made. I drive straight into the heart of the city and find a free place to park right along the Potomac River.
And then the memories of this city start coming back
I remember coming here as a child back in 1982 and seeing President Reagan’s entourage speed past. I remember also being intrigued by the high level of African Americans in the city—as I lived in the Northwest, this was something new to me.
I remember my second visit to this city in May of 2002.
Now I’m back again and it seems like once again I’m not going to have enough time to explore the city properly. Maybe I got a little overeager, trying to cram both Baltimore and Washington into one day.
I go directly to the Lincoln Memorial, figuring that I could take a really cool video clip strumming at the feet of President Lincoln. But a big “Silence Please” sign and not very friendly looking security guards kind of put a crimp on that plan. So I settled on nice clip with the Washington Monument obelisk and the reflecting pool in the background, the same spot where Martin Luther King made his speech and so many historical gatherings have taken plan. Gazing across the vast open area, it almost seems like Washington was especially designed to host mass gatherings and protests.
As I hike up the Mall, I can’t help but notice the diversity of folks around me—South Asians, Middle Eastern Folks, East Asians… and think about how much this city and country has evolved since it was first designated as the nation’s capital. And with all the talk of racial profiling and security overkill going on around the country, things sure seem pretty lax as here around the Capitol building, as none of the security guards seem to even blink an eye as tourists from all over the world wander around taking pictures of the building.
After I take another clip up by the Capitol, I figure I’ve still got a bit of time to head out and explore a few more neighborhoods… So I wander around to the back of the Capitol, and up to the train station.
There I find one of Washington’s hidden gems—Union Station is an absolutely fabulous structure--I’ll have to say it outshines just about any European train station that I’ve seen. Pretty impressive for a country that has very little appreciation for its rail system. The majestic columns and decorated ceiling have a sense of grandeur not often seen in American architecture.
After Union Station I head on past the Treasury Building—and can’t help but chuckle at the irony of seeing a fellow begging on its steps, of a building where trillions of dollars are managed. Oh, the contradictions of this city!
I continue on north—through the rather quiet business district (this is Sunday, after all), and then suddenly the city comes back to life…
I have just discovered Washington’s Chinatown.
It’s not quite as dense and eclectic as, say New York Chinatown, but it is quite alive and bustling in contrast with the neighborhoods around it. A fun little discovery.
I continue on, across a large plaza with rows of modern art paintings on display, and on back to The Mall area… I realize that I’ve never visited the Jefferson Memorial, and I might just have enough time to get there before dark, so I head up that way. I get there just in time to see an amazing sunset over the lake.
For some reason I don’t feel the urge to pull out my camera and start snapping pictures. I’m not quite sure why—maybe because I don’t really know what I’d do with those picture… if I’m going to show them off to people back in the Real World or if I’m just going to stash them away somewhere. One thing I know I don’t want is to have photos substitute for memories preserved in my mind.
I continue on around the lake to the sound of a rushing waterfall. I’ve reached the Roosevelt Memorial, which is more a series of monuments, waterfalls, and statues that are intended to tell the story of his life and accomplishments. It’s another of Washington’s less known monuments—not as striking as the others, but quite interesting nonetheless.
And so my 21sttown tour comes to an end. I got so caught up in re-exploring the city that I kind of forgot about my little “concert”… So I quickly pull out my guitar and play a couple of songs right there on the shore of the Potomac river.
Shortly after the New Year, I had a job interview down in Washington DC, so I took my guitar and camera with me, just in case a “window” might appear during this time. After a disappointing interview, I went back to the car, grabbed my guitar and headed down the Potomac River. I soon found a beautiful place to strum along the riverwalk, with an interesting mix of people passing by. A couple of young Saudi tourists asked if they could take my picture… I guess it will be for there collection of “odd things you might see in the capital of America…”
I continued down the river a ways and even walked across the bridge to Arlington, Virginia which technically is a new city, so it should count as a “new discovery”. But I didn’t feel I explored it well enough to make it count. But I still decided to add this as an “Adventure Day”. On my way back, wandering around Georgetown, I was quite impressed to see how what must have been a crumbling, dingy industrial area has been transformed into a trendy neighbourhood with grim old warehouses turned into funky shops and lofts. It’s nice to see that there’s more to Washington than just politics.