DREAMSCAPES SPRING 2020
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A BLOOMING GOOD TIME IN WASHINGTON, DC
 
(2020 - Spring Issue)

Writer: JULIE REKAI RICKERD



In DC the excitement rises.

As I contemplate my long-weekend break there’s a dazzling array of Japanese cherry blossoms that frames all the historic landmarks in the capital city of the United States.

The very thought that winter is over and cherry blossoms are blooming in DC is thrilling to the imagination and the fleeting spectacle is truly rewarding to behold. The delicate pink and white blooms reassure one that nature has not forgotten us and that spring and its rebirth is well on its way.

Blossoms and Friendships

When the Mayor of Tokyo, Yukio Ozaki, learned that an initial purchase of 2,000 cherry trees had arrived in the United States in a contaminated state and had to be destroyed, he decided in 1912 to gift the U.S. capital with 3,020 healthy trees to enhance the growing friendship between the two nations. A great supporter of friendship with the U.S. all his life, he believed America played a significant role in ending the Russian-Japanese War. The cherry trees were so loved in Washington, DC that in 1927 the first Cherry Blossom Festival was created to celebrate their blooming.

While most of these trees were planted around the Tidal Basin, today visitors will encounter a seasonal floral extravaganza throughout the city. Back in 1965, the Government of Japan sent an additional 3,800 cherry trees to the First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson. Many of those trees were planted on the grounds of the Washington Monument, which continue to this day to serve as a seasonal backdrop and city highlight.

Across the capital city of the United States the sights and scenes of cherry blossoms are a big draw come springtime. The other big draw that took me to Washington, DC was the chance to explore some of the world’s finest treasures in cultural institutions. Plus, it helped there was a walk-run race with a finish line calling out my name.

A Historic Hotel

On a Friday, I checked into the historic Hay-Adams Hotel, a landmark luxury hotel named after John Hay and Henry Adams. Hay served the country in several portfolios among them as a personal secretary to President Abraham Lincoln; while Adams was the descendant of two presidents, as well as a noted author and Harvard professor. The hotel also occupies the original site of their residences. This property in particular is always eager to celebrate the return of cherry blossom season in DC. The hotel’s Executive Chef Nicolas Legret and Executive Pastry Chef Elenor Apolonio-Frantz are known to plan a gastronomic journey to honour Japan’s culinary arts.

On my first morning I set out to enjoy the parade, discover the city’s blooming Yoshino cherry trees, and drop into as many museums and galleries as time allowed. Not only is Washington, DC, the political capital of the United States, but over the years, it has become a worthy cultural capital. Its cultural institutions are first rate and can compete with the best in the country.

Parade and Festival Time

I head to Constitution Avenue for the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade, which marches for 10 blocks. Amid the decorated floats, entertainers and performers sing and dance atop them while other fantastical floral floats carry enormous pink, helium-filled balloons that represent gigantic cherry blossoms. The excitement culminates as the revellers say goodbye to winter and welcome the start of spring. The crowd’s excitement is palpable.

I continue my immersion into all things Japanese to celebrate the friendship between Japan and the United States byvisiting the Sakura Matsuri Street Festival. It is a pleasure to experience the friendship of Japan and North America and to witness that past enemies in conflict have once again become fast friends.

Gallery Hopping

Then I stop at the National Gallery of Art and the National Museum of African American History & Culture (NMAAHC). I spend hours wandering a network of exhibits at the NMAAHC which features topics from slavery and abolition to segregation and the American civil rights movement among other powerful subjects. It’s a must-see venue to be visited.

Before going in to marvel at the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art, I visit the Sculpture Garden to see the Spider, a piece created by the late artist Louise Bourgeois, which resembles the one outside the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa called, Maman. Founded by the wealthy industrialist Andrew Mellon, the National Gallery of Art has been supported by his descendants ever since. The original building has neoclassical, contemporary and modern sections including an addition by the late architect I.M. Pei. The gallery’s permanent collection includes masterpieces by Leonardo da Vinci, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Manet and Picasso to name a few.

It’s Time to Run-Walk

During the National Cherry Blossom Festival there are many activities to consider: the annual Cherry Blossom Freedom Walk, the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10-mile run but it is the 5K run-walk that wins me over because of the relaxed pace.

On an early morning I was ready for a floral walk through the cherry blossom-covered trees along the Potomac River with people from every fitness level. The day is magnificent as we form groups of friendships and relish the glories of the outdoors.

The Final Day

On my last day I pay my respects to memorials along the National Mall and Arlington National Cemetery. Framed by thousands of cherry trees in full bloom by Potomac Park’s Tidal Basin, I visit the Jefferson Memorial, a Pantheon-like marble structure; Martin Luther King Jr.’s Memorial; and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s multi-faceted 2.8-hectare Memorial.

On the way to the airport I felt historically, culturally, architecturally and visually stimulated, knowing I have only skimmed Washington’s many sights and sites. In three full days I am mentally and physically energized. But above all, I am ready to return in a nanosecond unlike my beloved cherry blossoms that would not be back until next year.

Travel Planner

Destination DC: washington.org

Hay-Adams Hotel: hayadams.com

National Cherry Blossom Festival: nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Cherry Blossom Watch: cherryblossomwatch.com

National Gallery of Art: nga.gov

National Museum of African American History & Culture: nmaahc.si.edu

 
 
 
 
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