Allow me a little detour from my Caribbean series. Over a week ago, we traveled south from New York to the US capital in Washington DC for the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival. Spring is the season when Yoshino trees around the city's Tidal Basin are abloom. What a sight to behold. It may be my 3rd time to see them but I still can't get over these pink-as-ballet-shoes floral fireworks.
For something so short-lived as this natural spectacle, it has become a yearly guessing game as to when the blooms actually come out. Or when the peak bloom date is, considered prime time viewing when 70% of the trees are flowering. Problem is, mother nature is as fickle as ever, making it challenging to plan a visit until about a week before the blooms start showing.
|Washington Monument - currently being repaired after an earthquake shook the city last year|
|A blooming Yoshino cherry tree with Jefferson Memorial in the background|
|The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial gets a dash of pink|
|Part of the Cherry Blossom festivities|
So you can just imagine the headache I had planning this trip when an unexpected cold spell meant the peak bloom date had to be moved not once but 3x by the National Park Service. First they said it's gonna be between March 26-30, then they revised it between April 3-6, before finally declaring April 6-8. Guess what, they were off by a day, the peak bloom fell actually on April 9.
This multiple change led us to change hotel dates several times as well. I was looking forward to finally staying at the city's most historic hotel, the Intercontinental Willard. Rate at the time of our stay was over $400/night but we got our room for free thanks to Priority Club of which I have a Platinum membership. Each time I call (to change date of stay), I always talked to very pleasant call center agents, all of whom are actually based in the Philippines!
|The Intercontinental Willard|
Checking-in early wasn't even a problem as our room was ready. It had views of the hotel courtyard and the William Sherman Monument across the street. Just a mere two blocks away is the White House. It's not surprising therefore for the Willard to have hosted many political luminaries: from President Lincoln to Martin Luther King, Jr. (he wrote his "I Have A Dream" speech while billeted in the hotel). Even the term "lobbying" was thought to have originated here after Pres. Ulysses Grant was constantly approached for favors while sipping whiskey in the lobby.
|Looking across Pennsylvania Street towards the US Capitol|
|Early morning photographic bliss|
The next day, we went back on a windless early morning, rewarded with a gratifying stillness as the beautiful trees stood silently. We walked underneath the blossoms as if walking in a pink cloud, and looked across the Tidal Basin fringed in the same level of pink-ness. It was a calming sight, almost like we've reached a state of zen as we sat on the grass.
In 1912, these trees were brought from Japan as a gift of friendship to the United States. One big war and one hundred one years later, the magic of Sakura still live, season after season, enthralling many a generation of Americans, Japanese and other visitors. Ahh...if only North Korea's Kim Jong-un can be wowed with Sakura diplomacy. A gift of cherry trees perhaps?