Monday, March 31, 2008

My Town Monday Series - Washington, DC at night

For this week's installment of Travis' My Town Monday posts, I have done a night tour of the DC monuments.

Whenever I have a friend come into town who has never been to Washington, DC, my favorite thing to do is to take them on a driving tour of the monuments. First off, I am not a big people person so the crowds during the day drive me crazy. Luckily at night, there is hardly anyone around. Secondly, the monuments are absolutely beautiful at night. Below is a picture of Pennsylvania Avenue which takes you right up to the Capitol Building. Lining the avenue are federal government buildings, from the Old Post Office to the National Archives. This is federal government worker central.

Copyright by wyntuition available from Flickr.com

Heading down to Constitution Avenue, we drive parallel the National Mall. For those of you who do not know what the National Mall is, it is not a shopping center. The Mall is the term used to describe the open national park area that starts from the steps of the Capitol building and leads all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, a distance of approximately two miles. All along the National Mall, from the Capitol to the Washington Monument, there are the Smithsonian museums. This link will take you to a map of the National Mall and show you exactly where all the museums are as well as the lovely outdoor skating rink. The museums are simply spectacular. Starting at the Capitol, past the reflecting pool, you will find the brand new National Museum of the American Indian on your left and the East wing of the National Gallery of Art to your right. And straight down on either side are The National Air and Space Museum, the Museum of Natural History, The American History Museum, the African Art Museum, the Holocaust Museum and the funny round Hirshorn Museum. You could spend days wandering the Mall and still not see everything there is to see. And these are just the museums on the National Mall. There are even more museums in DC.

Copyright by Scott Ableman available from Flickr.com

From the Capitol steps, if you look straight down the great expanse of the Mall, you will see the Washington monument. And beyond it is the Lincoln memorial. To me, seeing the Washington monument during the day does not excite me. It is a tall pointy white building that does not show itself to great advantage during the day. But at night, this funny thing becomes an architectural marvel and a thing of beauty.
Copyright by ashoe available on Flickr. com

Behind the Washington Monument, there are the war memorials. There are three very different memorials for three different wars. World War II, The Korean War and the Vietnam War. The World War II memorial is an amazing sight at night. It is really a plaza with a rainbow pool and 56 granite pillars surrounding it which represent the unification of a nation at war. There are two large pavilions that mark the north and south sides of the plaza. They symbolize the two important battle theaters of WWII, the Pacific and The Atlantic theaters. There is also a Freedom Wall with 4,000 gold stars to honor the more than 400,000 Americans who lost their lives during the conflict.

Vietnam Memorial Copyright by doclam01 available via Flickr. com

The Vietnam War is now world famous as the winning entry of at the time, a 21 year old architecture student. Two long black granite walls which grow in height into a large angle, the corner meeting at the two walls highest points. The memorial bears the names of 58,000 servicemen killed or missing during this conflict. I have been to this memorial many times since it was built in 1982. Whether I see it during the day or night, in crowds or alone, this memorial always moves me to great sadness, cocoons me in a silent peaceful mourning for those whose names grace this beautiful monument.

The war memorials seem to be situated in such a way that they point to the Lincoln memorial. Like some kind of ancient Greek temple, the large seated statue of Lincoln is surrounded by 36 columns. There is even a bookstore on the first floor.

This night time drive through the monuments would not be complete if I didn't take you by the Jefferson memorial and the tidal basin. A little domed building holds the bronzed statue of Thomas Jefferson but more importantly some of Jefferson's most famous phrases are etched into the walls. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights..."

If you are planning to come to the DC area, now is the time to come for at this particular moment in time, the cherry blossoms have begun to bloom. And all along the tidal basin where the Jefferson monument sits, the hundreds of cherry trees that line the banks of the tidal basin are beginning to wake up. Delicate snow white and pink petals are blossoming on branches that have been bare too long. Within a few days they will all burst forth to unveil a great canopy of fragrant cherry blossoms. Walking along the basin promenade, under the boughs of spectacular color, you will fall in love with our nation's capital.

21 comments:

ChristineEldin said...

Oh, the cherry blossoms!!! They're so beautiful!!!

Lana Gramlich said...

I haven't been to DC in decades, but I enjoyed it when last I was there. The Washinton monument was my favorite (although we never went inside.) My favorite museum was the Air & Space wing of the Smithsonian. I've got to get back there someday...

Precie said...

There are pics of me as a child visiting DC with my parents during cherry blossom season. :)

And I've been trying for the past few years to get there during the Cherry Blossom Festival. Just can't seem to make it. Grr.

The Writers' Group said...

WDC is oneof the best cities in the world to visit with children. Not only is it rich with history, all of the sites are free-- even the zoo. I could spend days in the Capitol, weeks along the Mall, another week at Arlington. I'm so jealous, Ello.

Amy

Charles Gramlich said...

Wow, beautiful pictures. You're right. Night time is the right time.

Travis Erwin said...

I've never been to D.C. but I'm going to make it one of these days.

Great pictures and I especially look forward to seeing the Smithsonian.

Vesper said...

Cherry blossoms... (very deep sigh)

Thanks for the tour and the beautiful pics, Ello. I've been to Washington DC many years ago but did not stay for the night. You're right, the lighting enhances the beauty of the monuments.

Patti said...

holy smokes. i have done this before and you are right, it is way better than during the day, and it stays with you for a lifetime.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

Ello,

D.C. is my absolutely favorite city, next to my beloved New York.

I cannot tell you how much I appreciate these pictures and your description.

The Jefferson Memorial is so under-rated. I have been there at night and it is stirring. It's all about the words and the water, I think.

Terrie

Josephine Damian said...

Ello: Ditto what Travis said. Never been but the Smithsonian is high on my list.... along with the cherry blossoms.

Lovely pics. The WWII memorial is a stand out.

*note to self* no need to bring the charge card when visiting National Mall.

Lisa said...

It is so beautiful at night! The one thing I do love over there during the daytime is the sculpture garden. Some great Henry Moore's and Degas and even Rodin's I think -- beautiful! Thanks for the tour!

Merry Monteleone said...

Ello,

Loveley job describing the capitol. I've never been - it's one of those places you always want to see but haven't made time for... now I think I want to make sure to get there while the kids are still young enough to want to go anywhere with us. I think it would be fabulous to see with them.

I'll make a mental note to do it in April - I definitely want to see the cherry blossoms.

I stopped at Josie's and left a note, but in case you miss it there - Janet Reid is hosting a query roulette on her blog, go check it out if you get a chance.

spyscribbler said...

I'm dying to come at this time of year. We might do a weekend thing, next week. If possible. We'll see.

spyscribbler said...

Meant to say: great pictures! I love DC like crazy!

The Anti-Wife said...

Wonderful pictures for a wonderful city. The Jefferson Memorial has always been my favorite.

WordVixen said...

I haven't been to DC since I was 12. My husband and I always talk about going for a day or weekend, but just haven't gotten around to it. I'll have to keep this time of year in mind though- I love cherry blossoms.

Ello said...

I am most pleased that you all liked the night tour! It's the best way to see the city.

Larramie said...

The city night lights make everything appear more magical and this was a terrific tour, Ello. Would you like to guest blog a Friday virtual tour for me? ;)

lyzzydee said...

Beautiful pictures of a city on my Hit List!!

Mary Witzl said...

This is nice, Ello. War memorials always break my heart. When I was younger, they didn't have quite the effect on me that they do now. But when I start reading the names and the ages on them, I am always overwhelmed by how monstrous the waste of life is.

alex keto said...

A friend from upstate New York came to visit with his brood of five kids. they plus my two kids ensured we were all thrown off the tour bus during a night tour of the monuments.