Anyone who knows me well, knows that me and morning are about as friendly as Batman and Joker. Morning is sort of like working out. I like the idea of it, but the reality is just plain ugly.
Unless it’s a photo op. Tell me there’s a once in a lifetime event that I need to experience, or a place best seen at sunrise, then no matter what the hour, I’ll be there. Happily. Mostly.
And so it’s been with DC’s cherry blossoms. For the past two years I’ve drug myself out of bed 3+ hours before sunrise so that I could get there and be standing at the Tidal Basin when the light begins to change. Me and a gazillion other photographers are the only ones crazy enough to be awake. Tourists don’t gather until hours later.
This year would be no exception. I woke up at 3:45 and left at 4:30. Normally I take the metro, but I decided to drive in. Surely, at 5:30am there would be plenty of parking. And there was. But there wasn’t.
Wide streets with limited traffic stood nearly completely empty. Hundreds of prime parking spots along Constitution Ave and along the mall sat open. Side streets looked the same. Empty spaces as far as you could see. But. ‘Cause there always seems to be a “but” on my outings…
Every spot had a sign.
“No parking until 8:30am.”
“No parking until 10am M-F”
There were several variations, many conditions, but the consensus was clear. I could not park anywhere on the streets here until at least an hour after sunrise. No, that would not work.
Enter my brilliant, tech-savvy daughter who shares my disdain for mornings and yet came along today. She found a garage extremely close to the Tidal Basin, so, for the first time in my life I got the early-bird parking rate.
Perhaps it’s the later date or closer proximity to the traditional Cherry Blossom Festival events, but the number of photographers and passers by at this stupidly early hour was just plain irritating – so much more people than last year. And… there were runners, huge overly cheerful, chanting hordes of them jumping up and down at the Jefferson Memorial. Exercise AND early morning? I just don’t get that.
For something even stranger this morning a massage table sat at the water’s edge just in front of the Jefferson Memorial. To my left jumping runners and to my right, a man on a massage table, a masseuse gently lifting the sheet to reveal a foot and then an arm, and a photographer getting within inches of said body parts at 6am, before sunrise. Oh I so don’t get this either.
But we were there for the sunrise and the blossoms, not the overly cheery morning joggers or the closeup of a foot, so we walked on and caught this, then stopped and watched the sun rise from the bridge. This is the time to see it – when you share it with ducks, photographers and few else. When crowds are sleeping in and the sun warms the sky and blossoms as it rises.
We circled slowly just over halfway, stopping to take pictures, wait for people to clear, and talk to a local fisherman. It’s beautiful here any time with the color and the reflections, but this year, perhaps because of the harsh winter, the blossoms weren’t as pink, nor as full. An increasingly overcast sky didn’t help, a whitish grey little contrast against the nearly barely pink of the trees.
We cut in just before the bridge and looped back to the Lincoln. Tiara’s never been inside the Lincoln Memorial. Last time she was here was during the shutdown when it was blocked by fences and policemen.
The reflecting pool is being fixed from winter’s damage. New caulking and pipes. So the water was low enough that I could step into it on to dry edges. I’m never sure what this will look like. Every visit is different.
From here we walked north to Einstein. He’s easily my favorite DC statue, partly for his tosseled hair and quirky personality and partly for his ample lap, perfect for sitting, reading and relaxing. Sitting in front of the National Academy of Sciences with a book of equations and a sea of stars spread out at his feet, little plaques taught me that he wasn’t hired for the first teaching job he applied for (I love good failure stories from such amazing people) and a few of his more memorable quotes like:
“The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.“
“Joy and amazement of the beauty and grandeur of this world of which man can just form a faint notion. “
Until today I had no idea that there was a Constitution Gardens. It takes all of 2 minutes to visit, but it’s such a pretty little place. On our way home from Einstein, we stopped there to see the signatures of the signers of the Constitution and the little grove of tulip trees in full bloom.
Each stone has a signature in gold, the printed name of the signer, where he was from, and what his job was. It’s a quiet, relatively unknown DC stop, but so nicely done. I’d love to stop here with a picnic and a good book.On the once a year occasions that I get up at 3:45am, 1pm seems late. This was the end of our tour. We finished our Tidal Basin loop, and had a quick lunch at Potbelly’s before heading home.
Central Parking Garage Next to the Mandarin Oriental
On the right as you exit the roundabout – Open weekdays only
1330 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20024