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Friday, April 13, 2018

WASHINGTON DC AND SPRING EQUALS CHERRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL

Spring is beautiful anywhere, but
in Washington DC, there's
The Cherry Blossoms.

Unless you live nearby, It’s probably too late to get down to Washington, DC to see this year’s cherry blossoms in full bloom.  It’s a magnificent sight made even more memorable by the history of these Cherry Blossoms.  Encircling the Tidal Basin are pink blossoms so thick that visitors use them as backdrops to their photos.  If the day is calm, the trees and monuments reflect in the water, and you are surrounded by beauty.  It’s a wonderful experience.



The history of this special DC times begins in 1912 when the Mayor of Tokyo gifted the city of Washington DC with 3,000 cherry trees.  Imagine.  The gift was to signify the closeness between our two countries.  Despite some initial setbacks, then First Lady Helen Taft and the wife of the Japanese ambassador planted the first two trees at the north end of the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park.  (https://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/about/history/)

Every year when the cherry blossoms are in bloom, there is the Cherry Blossom Festival.  The festivities this year are over this weekend when the blossoms have reached their glorious peak.  I wish we could go back.


The tidal basin is always a must-see venue in Washington DC.  The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Monument, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Monument, and the Jefferson Memorial are all located there.  Within your sight is also the Washington Monument, and, if you know, you also see the Curtis-Lee Mansion, Arlington House, across the river at Arlington Cemetery.

The beautiful Washington Monument 


A bit too early for full bloom
but gorgeous and enticing anyway

We were in Washington, DC the last weekend in March and spent a good part of a beautiful day, March 31st, walking the 2.5 miles around the Tidal Basin, admiring the not-quite-at-their-peak beauty, revisiting some monuments and seeing another for the first time.  It was a calm day, and definitely not one where you want to be rushed.  Plenty of people but plenty of smiles.

We actually lucked out and found parking along the river, right across from Arlington National Cemetery.  In the distance we could see Arlington House, the Custis-Lee Mansion high up on the hill.  Kayakers were on the river as well as tour boats.  A perfect spring day.

That's Arlington House (Custis-Lee Mansion) high up on the hill.
Those tombstones on the side are part of Arlington National Cemetery.

Taking the path that first headed toward the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, we stopped so many times to take photographs—as did almost everyone else.  It is so beautiful.  People in paddleboats were out on the water, and around us were the sounds of many languages as visitors commented to each other.


The FDR Memorial consists of many structures.  Waterfalls.
Quotations that remind us of our duty to our country and of our country to
its citizens.
Each quotation gives one pause to stop and to think.



At the southern end of the FDR Memorial stands a gift, a pagoda dating back to the 1600s and weighing 3,800 pounds!  It, as the cherry trees, was a gift from Japan, from the Mayor of Yokohama, commemorating a peace treaty between our countries signed in 1854.  It has been in place since 1957. There's a sign giving The Pagoda's history as well as an explanation of  its symbolism.  
























What I liked about it was its modest size set among the giant monuments yet demanding in a humble way, for visitors to stop, to read, and to think about the symbolism of the layers.  Apparently I was not the only one who felt this way, as I had to wait to get close to the sign.

Our next stop was the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.  We'd never seen this monument before as the last time we were up at Cherry Blossom time, this monument had not been built.  

It is magnificent.  Strong, with Dr. King's quotations on the walls.  As I stood looking upward to gaze at his profile, the Washington Monument rose in the distance, and I was struck by the importance of this place, of the importance of both men in founding something for this country and then working tirelessly to make their dreams become reality.  

This area was as crowded with people as the FDR Memorial had been.  Both men were persuasive and important speakers who inspired citizens to get through the rough times and strive to make lives better for all.  The connections, if one knows American history, were phenomenal.




Continuing our walk past groups of tourists, food trucks, and even people posing for wedding pictures, we rounded our way along the Tidal Basin until we reached what I would say is the hallmark of the monuments--The Jefferson Memorial.  There it stands, looking over the water, a noble and mighty structure beautifully designed.  The pink of the cherry trees and the curve of the path accented the whiteness of the building.  


From some angles, a visitor can look across the water and see the figure of Jefferson, tall and stalwart, looking out over the land.  Impressive.  Awesome.






If you cannot make this year's Cherry Blossom Festival, plan ahead and see if you can get down to Washington DC next year.  You’re in for a big Spring treat.

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