As I was looking through the photos on my camera, I realized that several dozen of them were of the Washington Monument – I’m pretty sure I just kept photographing it all day – from different angles, across the Tidal Basin, in sun, in shadow. It’s really everywhere once you’re anywhere near the Mall. So I’ve included several of them, scattered throughout our afternoon.
We left the National Portrait Gallery and headed up to Chinatown for a quick lunch. The we hopped on the Metro and took it to National Mall. It was a chilly day, but gloriously sunny. I’m glad I took some photos of the National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) in the sunshine, because the building just glows. When we visited later in the week, the day was overcast and the building was still beautiful, but very different.
Although we hadn’t initially planned to hike around the entire Tidal Basin, the weather inspired us, and we took off for a long walk. The cherry blossoms were supposed to peak the week we were there, but they were just starting to pop in sunny spots. The cold and snow in the preceding weeks had slowed down their progress. We headed towards the Jefferson Memorial first.
We would find Mr. Jefferson winding his way through the narrative of our week in many different ways, but this day in particular was really interesting. Seeing him in the Hall of Presidents, confronting the complexity of his legacy in Unseen, approaching the temple built on a hill to his honor, his words etched into marble around him – it gave us the opportunity to connect so many of the things the girls are interested in and have studied and have discussed with us (thank you Lin-Manuel) to a scattering of places in our nation’s capitol that would continue here and there throughout the week.
I don’t recall visiting FDR’s memorial as a student, and it was one of my favorites on this visit. We actually experienced it backwards, as we were moving clockwise around the Tidal Basin. So we started with Eleanor Roosevelt, and moved in reverse order through his four terms as president. (I’ve reordered them in the photos below correctly.) As a family, we all though it might benefit many of our current political leaders to take an afternoon stroll through this memorial, reading the words on the walls – many more than I even photographed here.
The main reason I liked the direction of the path we chose to walk was that we started with Jefferson’s “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” (sung in Angelica Schuyler’s voice) and moved through FDR’s words (and grappling with issues of race – notwithstanding the racist legacy of the New Deal), and onto MLK a mere week before the 50th anniversary of his assassination. If we created a Venn diagram of the words on each of these monuments, we’d find quite a bit of overlap in the center. Monuments to great leaders highlight the moral ideas of the person and the period, but we’d have to dig deeper in our visit to understand what that walk between Jefferson and King really entailed. For me it felt like the perfect start to the week’s adventures ahead.
After our walk, we headed over to Duke’s Grocery to meet up with our other STL friends who were in town for the march. Duke’s was the only place out of a dozen or so restaurants I tried where I could get a reservation for 11 with just a week’s notice. But it turned out to be a great place to meet up, and the food was delicious. Our only regret was that the portions were so generous, and no one could take home leftovers. We did order three slices of pie for the table, and the lemon chess pie might have been the most delicious pie I’ve ever eaten. Acme Pie Company supplies their pies, so I should look into them a little more. Maybe there’s a cookbook!
We all walked back to Dupont Circle in the dark, glancing inside the lit windows of all the houses along the way. It’s sort of fun to hang out with friends in a new place. It felt comfortable, and a brilliant end to a weekend of adventures. I remember when we said our goodbyes and started down the street to our hotel, it felt so luxurious to have the week stretching out in front of us. It was a good pace, with good food, and really, really comfortable beds at the end of it.