Monday, April 02, 2007

Washington, D.C. in Spring and Summer

It's springtime in Washington, D.C. The roller coaster of a winter has, at least according to the calendar, given way to spring. It's that glorious period of transition from this:

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to this:

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For a precious few days there'll be no shovelling snow, no scraping ice off the windshield, no salting the driveway or the sidewalks, no raking leaves and stuffing bags by the dozens, no mowing the lawn, no pruning the hedges. It's the time to order mulch, sink your hands (gloved though they may be) into the wet compost, inhale the fresh smell of damp bark (or not) and feed your plants and trees to sustain them through the hot summer. It's the time to say say goodbye to branches bereft of leaves and welcome the bright green of the first new leaves of the season. Cherry blossoms burst out of their buds and birds come back home for the rest of the season and the summer.

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Cherry Blossoms

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It's also time to prepare for the invasion of the tourists into Washington. The metro trains that are usually packed with suited and booted professionals or uniformed military personnel now have to make space for T-shirted and sandalled tourists, complete with digital cameras in fanny packs and video cameras slung on their shoulders. The monuments are the primary attraction in DC, of course. The Mall is a great place to hang out to go museum and monument hopping.

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The Washington Monument aka The Needle

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The World War II Memorial

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The Vietnam Veterans' Memorial

The metro stations are conveniently located and during the peak tourist season even offer discounted fare during non-rush hour to encourage tourists to stay off the metros during rush hour.

A very popular springtime ritual on the Mall is the Kite Festival. Area residents and tourists alike head out to the Mall with family and friends with picnic baskets, blankets, footballs and kites. If you're lucky you'll get a bright blue, clear sky as a backdrop to show off your kite-flying skills.

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An eagle-shaped kite aims for the top of the Washington monument

Springtime also heralds the Cherry Blossom festival, a period of parades, cookouts and just plain enjoying the cherry blossoms around the tidal basin near the Jefferson Monument. It pervades news coverage - television cameras and reporters camp out at the basin; the history of the trees' journey from Japan is reiterated every season; there are interviews with park personnel who predict peak blossom days and bemoan the squirrels who ravage the trees - all in one breath; and inteviews with meteorologists who predict peak pollen counts and therefore the worst days for allergy sufferers (unfortunately, of whom I am the flag bearer).

The craziness ends and life heads back to normal, somewhat, when the trees shed all the blossoms, the petals float away to settle on the water in the tidal basin and all you're left with is body of water that looks like a big bowl of strawberry smoothie.


small squirrel said...

ooooooooo now i am feeling so senti! I miss DC a lot. It really is so beautiful in the spring. and oh the invasion of the tourists.

I used to sit (or most usually stand) in my heels and suits and watch the families all pile into the metro with their matching fake FBI t-shirts and hats they bought on the Mall the day before. I would be jealous because they would be consulting their maps, and I would be on my way to work. They in shorts, me in panty hose (uuuuuuuuugh!)

I miss all the Smithsonian events, and the Taste of DC and I would really give my left big toe to go to Ben's Chili Bowl on 14th street and have a nice big half-smoke and some chili fries!!!

M (tread softly upon) said...

DC misses you too.

Sujatha Bagal said...

Sm sq I know what you mean. I remember this one metro trip back home from work in which this family with a young kid was discussing their Germany trip and speeding on the Autobahn. It was quite entertaining.

You should try to squeeze a trip in before you can't fly anymore, fulfill all your cravings in a week and come right back.

M, it's that obvious, eh?

Anonymous said...

Hi Sujatha,

Beautiful pictures. You surely do have a very sharp eye to get the subject-of-focus.


rads said...

Sujatha, If it were any other year I'd have jumped up and down in excitement - but as we speak there's a freeze warning for us [DC area] for the rest of the week. This is AFTER Cherry blossoms are out. We were bundled last weekend while enjoying the flowers!

Sujatha Bagal said...

Thanks India Tube!

Rads, that must be bad news for the blossoms and the tulips. :( It sucks when the flowers all come out and then there is a freeze. The roller coaster is still on, eh?