Tuesday, May 14, 2013

DC in May

This past weekend, AA and I took a quick trip to Washington, D.C. (Thanks, amigo, for doing all that driving!). The main reason we went was to see the exhibition Pre-Raphaelites: Victorian Art and Design, 1848-1900 at the National Gallery (more on that in another post). I last was in DC back in December 2010 when RL and I went to the same museum to see the Pre-Raphaelite photography exhibition, as well as the Hide/Seek gay identity show at the National Portrait Gallery. On this trip, I wanted to see more of what I haven't seen in DC before, which is exactly what we got to do. We were concerned that it was going to rain all day Saturday, but we got lucky: the rain held off for most of the day, and the sun was shining brightly. After the exhibition we strolled along the National Mall, pigged out on ice cream, then queued up for the National Archive. Many of the exhibition areas there are targeted to children these days, but it was worth taking a few moments amid the crowds to peak at the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, although I later jokingly commented on Facebook that I was more excited to have seen the Magna Carta on display.

Although we stayed at the Washington Hilton, we headed to the nearby Bar Dupont at the Dupont Circle Hotel for a late lunch and had wine with shrimp beignets and mussels mariniere. For dinner we went to Casa Oaxaca for a fantastic meal: pollo with mole negro for AA, pollo with mole poblano for me (that's the picture you see here; here's more information about delicious chili-chocolate mole sauce). There were also margaritas, guacamole and chips, and yummy churros with ice cream for dessert. Brunch the next morning included mimosas, coffee, basket of pastries, and omelets at Le Diplomate. All the neighborhoods we visited were adorable, with Victorian row houses and mini-mansions. It made me realize again that DC truly is a charming city and does have a great deal to offer someone--being politically active is probably a necessity though.

On Sunday we visited some of the monuments, and would you believe it was the first time I ever saw the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial? The large-scale inscription from the Gettysburg Address on the wall at the Lincoln Memorial made me stop and read it again, and I was struck by one line in particular: "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." American history spends so much time emphasizing this short speech, but even at the time Lincoln himself recognized that it was not his words but the actions of the dead soldiers on the field that truly mattered. It really is a powerful speech. We also visited the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial as well, which I liked a great deal, with its organic approach, sculpture, stone, and water features integrated into the park that surrounds it. The picture you see here is of me between the over-life-sized bronze statues of Roosevelt and his beloved Scottish terrier, Fala.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial was quite interesting from an artistic perspective. I took this picture showing how the larger-than-life statue of the civil rights leader is hewn from the "Stone of Hope," a reference to his famous I Have a Dream speech. The way King projects from the stone conjures the image of the non-finito, the unfinished (think Michelangelo), an appropriate visual statement about how his assassination cut him down before he could fulfill his life's work. The statue is surrounded by quotations from his many speeches, and I found this one from Georgia, 1967, to be poignant: "If we are to have peace on earth, our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Our loyalties must transcend our race, our tribe, our class, and our nation; and this means we must develop a world perspective." (I wonder if any Congressmen have read and thought about this?) We also took in the National World War II Memorial, a picture of which you see at the top of this blog post. I really loved this memorial, with the outstretched colonnades reminding me of Bernini's architectural features surrounding Vatican Plaza. The fountain was lovely as well. Situated between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, the memorial to those who died in World War II is a beautiful area for contemplation and respite amid all the other memorials on the Mall. (You can read more about the DC parks on the National Park Services website.) Soon afterwards we started our long drive north, amazed at how much we had done in 24 hours, and feeling truly satisfied with our little jaunt to the nation's capital.

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