Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Long Awaited Tale of the Cherry Blossom Festival

Okay, so maybe you haven't waited that long, but I feel badly that I didn't get it done before. So, here it is.

The trees and the views and the weather were beautiful, chilly, but beautiful. MSH and I couldn't resist snapping a few of the requisite Cherry Blossoms and Monuments photos.

The Washington Monument is so iconic, so DC. We must have taken a dozen pictures of it throughout the day.

The Jefferson Memorial is usually the least crowded; it sits by itself, off the Mall, usually neglected. It's one of our favorites, and it was shown a fair amount of attention on Saturday. Many of the activities began, ended, or passed through this monument due to it's location in relation to the Cherry Trees.

We arrived in DC and parked in our usual lot and began our day-long walk, around the Jefferson, and the Tidal Basin, through the streets and twice across the mall. By the time we made it to the Smithsonian Castle, we'd been walking for about 2 hours, taken over 50 pictures, met 3 Auburn graduates (they were all together along with a Birmingham Southern graduate), and gotten one "War Eagle".

We were starving, and the entire place was packed. All the tables were occupied, along with all the benches and most of the floor; the line for the cafe was LONG. So we strategized, MSH would find us a place to sit, and I would get my lunch, then come back and maintain our position while he procured his own nourishment. He was able to get us a table before I returned from the cafe, so while he went through the line, I started my lunch. After a few minutes an obviously tired older gentleman came up and asked if he could sit at our table and eat. I told him that he was more than welcome to sit in the third chair at our table. Mr. Gene A. turned out to be a fascinating individual. Originally from Mississippi, he had lived in several states in the Southern and Eastern US. He is a retired Sociology professor who lives most of the year with his wife in Pennsylvania, but spends the colder months in Falls Church in an apartment near his children's homes. He was in DC for the day to go to the museums and was by himself. We spent almost two hours talking about many different subjects ranging from the South to the advances of medicine and science to politics and economics. It was such a great treat to have the chance to meet such and interesting and kind person who had so much to share with us.

Also, during lunch, MSH got another "War Eagle." Next, we were off to the Natural History Museum. I believe MSH could devote an entire week to this building. We made our way through some of the animal exhibits and came to the Butterfly Exhibition. We looked around and decided it was worth the ticket price and got tickets to return at 5. We spent the next hour or so plucking our way through the meteorite and minerals exhibits and the display of phenomenal nature photography, taking almost 100 more pictures. Before we knew it, it was time to see the butterflies. The enclosure is kept at 86 degrees with about 80% humidity, so it was kind of like being at home in late April. And being in the middle of over 200 butterflies floating around, landing on beautiful flowers, snacking on fruit, made me feel like I was in the middle of a childhood dream. It was great fun to watch them land on people and to try to take as many close-up shots as I could. Despite my past as a tomboy, I've always had an affinity for butterflies.

Once we had seen and photographed as many butterflies as we could, we stopped by one of the gift shops to replace the vase we gave to Nannie. We wound up with a bowl instead of another vase, and I'm still trying to figure out how that happened. But, I like the bowl more, I think. The light passes through the bowl, unlike the vase, so that's cool.

Then, we headed back to the Castle to see what else we could explore while we waited for 8 pm to roll around. To our dismay, all the other museums closed at 5:30. The Natural History Museum was open late that day, until 7:30. So we just relaxed in the garden for a little while before the Lantern Walk that I never got to do. See, we decided to walk back to the car and put the bowl away before the two hour tour, but before we got there, we passed the tent where we would have to go to prepare for the walk. I had the bright idea, after having seen people turned away from the Butterfly Exhibit due to the Sold-Out status of the tickets, to ask if we needed to sign up in advance for the Lantern Walk. I mean, I didn't think we would need to, there had been nothing on the website or events schedule about signing up. Well, disappointment still stings at 30; they were all booked for the walk that night. MSH said that it was just as well, because he knew that neither of us were really up for walking another two hours that day. I now realize that I really only wanted the pictures, so maybe we'll just go down with a lantern of our own one night (very, very soon) and take a few pictures. We don't really need a guided tour for that. Plus, I still want to go to that park near our offices, but with all the rain, they are saying that the likelihood that the blooms will survive much longer is slim.

So that was our Cherry Blossom Festival experience, beautiful, but chilly with lots of gorgeousness to behold, a little short-lived disappointment, and tiring. But, all total, MSH got 5 "War Eagles", counting the first one from the group of 3 graduates as just one. I think we got 3 on the way to the car at the end of the day.

Here is the other close-up I told you about yesterday. I still can't decide which one I like better.

It's still focusing on a small bunch of blossoms, but the background has more sky. I'm thinking, now that I've been looking at them more, that I'll make prints of 6 different close-ups and mount them on dark brown or black mats and display them on a wall together in matching frames.

To see more photos from our day, visit my flickr.com page.

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