Saturday, April 23, 2011

On the Road: The Elusive Spanish Steps

Our Girl and I made our annual April DC trip this past week. Late April is a wonderful time to be in Washington. One misses the cherry blossoms, but one does get to see the second round of blooming trees, the dogwoods being the stars of the show. And, truth be told, the weather is usually better than it is during cherry blossom time. Springtime in the south is every bit as spectacular as autumn in New England and DC is definitely a southern city by botanical standards.

Photo via

Our week was filled with the usual activities: swimming, sightseeing and urban strolls. The swimming highlight for Our Girl was learning to swim underwater. She had a lot of fun with that. We devoted our sightseeing time to art museums. We hit the Freer, where Grandma volunteers as a docent, the Sackler, the carousel and the National Gallery Sculpture Garden, all old family favorites. We also introduced Our Girl to the National Gallery, the East Wing and the Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden. There is only one National Mall museum I've never visited: The African Art Museum. I meant to go this time but we ran out of time. Our Girl has visited all but the African Art Museum and the American Indian Museum. We'll save those for another time.

I did go for an Embassy Row walk, following the walking tour outlined in the Lonely Planet Washington, DC City Guide, 4th Edition. The walk is shorter than in previous editions: 1 mile (1.6 km), as opposed to 2.5 km in the 3rd Edition. The walk no longer includes my three favorite stops: the Japanese embassy, the Islamic Center and the French ambassador's residence. However, it does still include the Spanish Steps, which I've never been able to find. As it turns out, Lonely Planet is one block off. They've always had the Steps on 23rd Street whereas they're actually on 22nd Street. I finally found them and dutifully climbed them.

Photo via Que sera, Sarah

Another embassy has been lost to Wisconsin Avenue. Cameroon has abandoned its digs at 2349 Mass Ave. It is sad to watch all of the old mansions fall into disrepair. Hopefully, someone with money and energy will devote some effort to restoring them and putting them to good use.

As I've previously written, I'm at a point of redefining my relationship with Washington, in theory, at least, the city I know best in the world. I hope that part of that will involve rekindling old friendships. The last several years, most of our family time in DC has been devoted to time with my parents and exploring the city in which they live. That is as it should be. But in truth, I know quite a lot of people in the DC area, people with whom I have shared some of the most meaningful friendships of my life. It has been years since I have seen some of my best friends from high school. I have not been intentionally avoiding anyone, of course. Life just gets complicated: my parents moved away from our house in Maryland making it more of an effort to see folks plus we all get involved with the goings-on of our own families.

But with my 20-year high school reunion coming up, I am reminded of the importance of old friends. My chore for the week was going through boxes of my old stuff which my parents have faithfully stored for me over the years. I unearthed quite a lot of old photos, including class pictures from elementary school which I posted on facebook. One friend, noting my presence in town, suggested we get together. She was, years ago, one of my best friends though I'd not seen her in ten years. She had, in fact, never met our daughter, though she has been very generous in sharing her Hello Kitty collection with her. She took us out to lunch and showed us around her office. Our Girl got more HK loot in the deal so she was happy. Plans to get together with another friend - Best Man at my wedding, in fact - fell through but I'm confident we'll find the time on another visit.

It's always nice to visit DC but it is doubly nice to get home. I am very grateful that we have decided to settle in a place like Vermont rather than in a big city. The fresh, if brisk, air when we got off the train was invigorating indeed. We're all happy to have the weekend together before we all head back to work and school on Monday.

Happy Passover and Easter to all.

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