Wednesday, May 29, 2013

US Diaries: Washington DC

My last trip in the States was to Washington DC, the big daddy of sleepy capital cities across the world. It was different from how I'd imagined it, but familiar in a comforting way. Having lived in enough quaint capital cities, DC seemed like a natural (but important!) addition to the list. I saw lots in the three days I was there, but if I started sharing all my pictures and experiences, all my loyal readers (yes, all three of you) would quickly settle in for a snooze, dormouse style.

So I'll tell you about the first evening I was there. I'd gotten off the bus intending to just walk down the historic/touristy Mall Road. I wanted to get my bearings and properly visit it the next day, but about twelve minutes into my arrival on holy land, God decided he had other plans.

Or maybe someone just wished on a dandelion for me.

Baby dandelion, Vietnam War Memorial
As it were, the first thing I saw in DC was its most targeted celebrated building of all. Save the best for last? Psh.

Instagramming the White House, oh yeah.
With that giant tourist tickbox out of the way, I could spend the rest of the evening checking out all the other monuments I'd grown up learning about. I started with my favourite, the Lincoln Memorial. It looked absolutely stately in the setting sun.

And of course, I ran into some ducks. I always run into ducks. 

But the lighting was gorgeous, and I really enjoyed watching them from where I was: flat out on the floor and in awe. Honestly, it's the best place to watch ducks wiggle-waggle their way into the end of the day.

I spent the rest of the evening wiggle-waggling down the Mall myself. I saw war heroes on horseback, lots of people running around in the lawns opposite Chez Président, and gorgeous views of the sunset across the Potomac (puh-toh-muk, for the unitiated). 

A general, a lady and a guard, anonymised by the sun.

Did I mention it was spring? One of my four favourite seasons of the year.

The best season for soccer, especially if it's in the lawns opposite the President's.

"So where do you guys practice?" "Oh, right across from Obama's"
Fancy that.

Then there were some more monuments and important-looking things. And this cool reflecting pool where I met some fishermen who looked like they'd swum over from New Orleans. They looked happy just sitting on their ice boxes and calling out the occasional insult to that day's luckiest angler.

Capitol Hill, looking
I would be happy too, if I had this view everyday.

Or this.

Washington Monument, aka My Sister's Needle. Like Cleopatra, she was born in Egypt. And like this monolith, she has braces. Go figure.
Riding into the sun posthumously, oh yeah
Wall from the Roosevelt Memorial. Click to view in large!

But my favourite part of the day was undoubtedly watching the sun set over the Potomac River. While the monuments and memorials are fairly new, the river has been here forever. And it's the most amazing feeling to stand there and realise that in walking along its banks, you are forever joined with everyone else who has done the same. You're now part of history.

One of the many translations for the name Potomac is 'the place to which tribute is bought'. Standing there, that feels exactly right. Around you, the world turns ceaselessly and madly; bridges ferry traffic on both sides, planes take off and land, children in prams whiz by with parents out on their evening run, and the largest squirrels you'll probably ever see chase each other up and down tree trunks. But you look across the banks, and everything else melts away, all the people and their sounds and all the things you've been worrying about, so that it's just you and the water. And the ghosts of Alongquins and former US Presidents watching over you.

And that, is a powerful, beautiful feeling.

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