Short-Term Excursions

Bonding, Boy, Children, EnjoymentMost vacations fall into a pattern of summer or yearlong trips preceded by long-term planning. However, for a short break to fit into a hectic work schedule or a more limited budget, short-term trips nearby or as a add-on into a business trip can be a real tonic.
Longing for a”spring break” but not able to get away, I charted my holiday around a weekend at my home city of Washington, DC. No longer still only a government-focused nation’s capital, the town has diversified. It’s currently a culturally rich destination with numerous choices beyond just visiting the national monuments.
My break happened to coincide with one of the great spring draws: the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It first began in 1935 after a gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo. It has grown to become a three-week long celebration.
Even though the weather can be a chilly 50 degrees and raining, for 2014 it was a glorious 75-80 degree day with no humidity, perfect for a walk the length of the parade route. In addition to an estimated audience of 100,000 of audiences, 5 US Presidents were in the parade or at least their stand-in’s were in sports jersey bearing their administration’s number. Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln were the most recognizable but were also joined by Teddy Roosevelt and Taft, the latter famous for creating a permanent White House link with baseball. In keeping with the spirit of the celebration, some spectators joined in the fun wearing their own costumes, including in 1 case tee shirts together with pink tutu’s.
Underscoring the worldwide character of present-day Washington, street vendors offered a selection of cuisine from Korean Kimchi to Punjabi fare. The worldwide flavor was underscored by Chinese dances and the Japanese-American block-long street fair.
I made my way walking the full length of the Mall parade route but without getting to the Tidal Basin, itself, the beginning point for the Festival. However, the Washington Monument grounds offer a competing collection of the bright pink blossoms while multiple side roads in the residential and commercial districts have their own cherry blossom line-up. Unfortunately, the area has been steadily decreasing with the arrival of larger urban development. However, still remaining are several top restaurants featuring lunch specials in addition to a few tiny shops with authentic local flavor, such as the New Da Hsin Trading Inc.. It carries some of the same wares I saw in Beijing with prices competitive with the street vendors in China. There are tin cans of Chinese grocery items that I can only guess as to their contents and brightly colored screens with imperial dragons. I am always intrigued by the unique items they take like umbrellas with UV protection (parasols?)
Rounding out the weekend’s contrasting holiday was a really different offering on Sunday in nearby Leesburg/Northern Virginia. The popular event was the annual horserace at the Oatlands Plantation, the spring Point-to-Point, a design for the Loudoun Hunt. Oatlands, the backdrop for the race, includes on its grounds a stunning mansion started in 1803 and open to the public as a National Historic Landmark.
With this kind of action-packed weekend, I found a short-term trip, whether in our own backyards or abroad, can be a excellent filler between yearly vacations. The price was right and no long-term preparation was needed!

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