Flower Power

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 FestivalSpring 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
The lobby
Room 923

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.

Not only was President Obama a neighbor. The Willard was walkable to the National Mall with its rows of great museums as well as various memorials dedicated to wars and historical figures.  But all these of course took a momentary bow to the blooming flowers which was on everyone's agenda. It took about a 20-minute trek from the hotel before we got a good close up view of the cherry trees. People swarmed the trees like bees while a scaffolded Washington Monument was being repaired.

Looking across Pennsylvania Street towards the US Capitol
Lincoln Memorial
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?


  1. this is the gift that keeps on giving, isn't it?

    i've been aching to see this for years now. i just don't know when i can finally fulfill such wish.

    1. I hear you. Destinations within continental US sometimes take forever to get off our bucket list - like Yosemite for me :)

  2. Oh, cherry blossoms. I miss seeing those blossoms. When we were living in Japan, there was a river whose riverside park was full of cherry trees, and every April, people flock to see them. I saw them for 5 years straight and haven't seen them again since!

    1. I'm not sure if you're close to this city but Hamburg has some cherry trees. They even have their own cherry blossom festival too!

  3. I always get 'envious' when you write about getting grand-looking rooms for free.:) Noticed the night shot - do you always bring a tripod with you when you travel?

    1. Not all the time but for this shot (and to get our group shots), I used a tripod.
      There's a lot of great sign-up bonuses in the US re credit card and that's how I basically got my hotel room for free.

  4. I love your shots and the weather was nice. I love cherry blossoms! Here in Washington state has a lot of cherry blossoms too but it rained a lot these couple of weeks ago and I didn't enjoy seeing them. You're right it's hard to know when they'll start to bloom. I am looking forward to see Washington DC with cherry blossoms once we move to east coast :-) I am not tired of seeing them in different places hehehe

    1. thanks Missy! A friend who lives in Seattle showed me some photos of cherry blossoms there. Luckily for her, it wasn't a rainy day. Weather really play a big part in the blossoms yearly appearance. Like you, I'd be excited seeing them anywhere, especially Japan!

  5. I lost count uttering oh my god, oh my god while reading this post and digesting all those gorgeous photos, dennis! crisp!!!

    somehow, i know how difficult it is to get that perfect timing to experience cherry blossoms. when i was in tokyo back in 2010 for 14 days, i left the city a week prior to sakura season and i missed to visit them in ueno park and other sites. nonetheless, i was lucky to had a glimpse of its first blooms in asakusa.

    while your photos of sakura almost left me in awe, those pictures of hotel lobby and your room are surreal. parang only in my dreams :)

    1. Maraming salamat Doc Gelo! It'd be the ultimate in cherry blossoms viewing for me if I can return to Japan in spring time. Wala pa nga lang budget for such an expensive country!
      The Willard is such a historic hotel it's a destination in itself so I'm even happier to stay there for free!


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