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It was thrilling to see the French Tall Ship ‘Hermione’ pass through the opened Wilson Bridge at midnight. Adding to the fun were all the people out with us who were equally impressed by, not only the Hermione but the mechanical marvel of the Wilson Bridge. As a side note, living in the Washington DC area makes me empathetic for anyone “stuck” on the bridge. Even at midnight, I could see the line of cars and trucks.

The Hermione Wilson Bridge

Night photography is a challenge for me ~ mostly because I don’t do much of it. My attempt to photograph the Hermione at midnight convinced me to practice, practice, practice. With that in mind, I’ll be up late on Friday when Hermione leaves Old Town en route to Annapolis attempting to get better shots.

Here are my attempts but for some really gorgeous photos from last night, check out Photographybykent:

The Hermione and Capitol II
If you look closely, the US Capitol can be seen on the bottom left

PS Hermione

The Hermione in the Potomac
Earlier in the day, the Hermione was anchored near Mount Vernon Estates where a Lafayette event was happening.

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The beautiful Cherry Blossoms were in full bloom and the timing coincided perfectly with the Cherry Blossom 10 miler/5K. After four years of attempting to get into the run through their lottery system, I finally got the opportunity to run the 5K yesterday. It was sunny, about 65 degrees and zero humidity ~ ideal conditions for a run through the best parts of the city. Throughout the run, I reflected how lucky I am to live so close to this beautiful and vibrant city.

Cherry Blossom 5K
Running the Cherry Blossom 5K

Wedding with the cherry blossoms
Great spot for wedding photos

Washington monument the crowds and cherry blossoms
Lots & lots of visitorsJefferson Monument blue skies

Jefferson MemorialCHerry Blossoms with the Washington Monument
Cherry Blossoms covering the view to the Washington MonumentJefferson Monument and cherry blossoms

Jefferson Monument Cherry Blossoms
Can’t get enough of the Jefferson Memorial ~ so beautiful

Memorial Bridge
Scarlet Tulips along the Memorial Bridge

Tulips
…more vibrant tulips and the Kennedy Center across the Potomac River

Washington Monument
Washington Monument and the Cherry Blossoms

Washington Monument
Washington Monument

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Little did I know, the American Horticultural Society headquarters is located just four miles south of Old Town Alexandria,VA. I love plants and beautifully blooming flowers but my mother was the green thumb of the family. It must have skipped a generation, but I try.

American Horticultural Society River Farm
Entrance to River Farm

Because I have visions of lovely gardens, I’m planning to attend the Annual Spring Garden Market at River Farm scheduled for April 10 and 11, 2015. The market will have:

  • plants for sale (including natives, specialty plants and edibles)
  • garden books
  • garden accessories
  • garden paintings for sale by local artist
  • Food from Rockland’s BBQ and Grilling Company
  • Whole Food’s Cooking demonstrations
  • Free raffle for garden prizes
  • “Pet the Alpaca”
  • Family-friendly activities for kids

Even if you’re not a gardener, a day at the beautiful River Farm’s estate is worth the visit. The views of the Potomac River are lovely.

If you want to go, the location is 7931 East Boulevard Drive, Alexandria, VA. AHS members-only morning is Friday, April 10 from 10-noon. The public sales will be Friday, April 10 from noon to 6 p.m. and Saturday, April 11 from 10 am to 6 pm. Parking is $5.00 per car. For more information go to AHS or call 703-768-5700.

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On March 27, 1912, Cherry Blossom (Sakura) trees were planted along the Tidal Basin in Washington DC. They were a gift of Friendship and Goodwill from the Japanese Government. The Japanese were thankful for the role the United States played in brokering The Treaty of Portsmouth which formally ended the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–05.

But the original idea for bringing the beautiful Sakura to Washington DC came from Eliza Scidmore. She worked as a travel writer and photographer. In 1885, she fell in love with the Cherry Blossom trees while visiting her diplomat brother in Japan and thought they would look lovely around the marshy area that had yet to be developed (later to be the National Mall and Tidal Basin). It took her almost 20 years to have her dream realized.

It wasn’t until she caught the attention of Dr. David Fairchild that the plan starting to take shape. He was a plant explorer and an official at the Department of Agriculture. In 1906, he personally imported seventy-five flowering cherry trees from Japan and planted these on his property in Chevy Chase, Maryland to test their survivability this area. By 1907, encouraged by the success of their own trees, the Fairchilds began to promote the idea of importing Cherry Blossoms for Washington DC. By 1909, First Lady Helen Taft was involved which meant the White House was on-board and it all came to fruition within a few years.

I’m not a fan of introducing plants or animals into an area where they aren’t indigenous. There have been too many destructive results from both intentional and unintentional introductions. As an example from a very long list, Fireweed (also known as Madagascar Fireweed) was discovered in the 1980s in Kohala’s cattle pastures on the Big Island (Hawaii). Many believe it was brought in via ground cover seeds from Australia where it is also invasive. The weed is toxic to cattle and is estimated to cost the Australian government and cattle industry over $2 million a year.

Even the beloved Cherry Blossom trees were not without incident. The original two thousand trees had to be burned once they arrived due to heavy bug infestations. Despite the possibility of a diplomatic disaster, the risk to the native trees, plants and crops was too high to be ignored. Thankfully, another 3,020 Cherry Blossom trees were sent and haven’t had any negative side-effects on the local environment ~ unless you count too many visiting blossom stalkers.

This is what the Tidal Basin in Washington DC looks without the blooms…
Tidal Basin Cherry Blossom Trees

Waiting for the Cherry Blossoms

but in a few weeks it will look more like this (these were taken at the end of the bloom period in 2012):

Jefferson Memorial and Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms and a pagoda

Cherry Blossoms and Washington Monument

Cherry Blossoms in Bloom

The 2015 Peak Blooms Prediction is April 11-14 which mean the blooming period will start a few days prior and can go for up to 14 days past the peak times. I’m excited I’ll be running in the Cherry Blossom 5K which is on April 12 this year ~ and hopefully the prediction is correct.

The National Park Service provides much more historic details and information about the trees as well an event list for the Cherry Blossom Festival at their website. For those unable to visit Washington DC during the Cherry Blossom season, there’s a webcam for your viewing here. The live feed isn’t active yet but will be in a couple of weeks. Enjoy!

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Yesterday, I cut through The National Gallery of Art and found myself face-to-face with the beautiful Rodin, Degas and Bartholdi sculptures. What a treat! I couldn’t resist lingering in the gallery just to gaze at the following:

Rodin's The Kiss
Rodin’s The Kiss

Rodin's The Thinker
Rodin’s The Thinker

Degas Dancer Fourth Position
Degas’s Dancer in Fourth Position

Little Dancer Degas
Looking through the glass of the Little Dancer 

Allegory of Africa Bartholdi
Bartholdi’s Allegory of Africa

The Degas Exhibition is at the Gallery until February 8, 2015. Click here for more information on the Exhibitions at the Gallery. I’m going back soon to see the El Greco paintings which are only here until 15 February, 2015. 

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The Money Factory is the official website name for the The Bureau of Engraving and Printing. And what a money factory it is.

It’s only open for tours during the weekdays which makes scheduling a visit a little harder for the working folks but for tourists, it’s another interesting and free place to explore during their stay in Washington DC. Especially on a cold & windy winter’s day.

Engraving and Printing Bureau

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing was established by President Lincoln in 1862. The original office was located in a single room in the basement of the Treasury Building. There were six employees who printed and sealed $1 & $2 notes. Today, there are over 2,500 employees working out of two sites in Washington DC and a building in Fort Worth Texas. Together, they print over a billion dollars a day. I found that an amazing amount and re-checked with the tour guide. Yes, a billion!

In the past, the Bureau has also printed currency for the following governments: Cuba (1934), the Philippines (1928), Siam (Thailand – 1945) and Korea (1947). Each government paid for all the work connected with printing their money.

The Secretary of the Treasury is responsible for all designs on paper currency including the portraits. In 1929, the size of the notes were reduced and are all the same size. This is a common complaint I’ve heard from my non-American friends. They find the same size notes to be confusing. And I won’t even get started on how they feel about our coins.

The $100 note is the highest denomination still in circulation. The portraits of well-known statesmen on the currency are as follows:
$1 = George Washington
$2 = Thomas Jefferson
$5 = Abraham Lincoln
$10 = Alexander Hamilton
$20 = Andrew Jackson
$50 = Ulysses Grant
$100 = Benjamin Franklin

The 40-minute tour begins with a short film and then takes you through the steps of the printing production. It was a lot more complicated process then I had previously thought. It’s the off-season and not a highly advertised tourist destination so I was expecting the tour to be sparsely attended but it was full. Be sure to get a ticket in advance during the summer months.

For security reasons, photography is not allowed on the tour but you can snap a few shots in the waiting area and at the gift shop (which sells uncut sheets of notes). Here are my photos:

Printing & Engraving One Million Dollars
“One MILLION dollars” (said in my best Doctor Evil voice)

Printing and Engraving display
Uncut monetary notes for sale

Jefferson Memorial
The Jefferson Memorial is within easy walking distance of the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. I would recommend a visit there before or after the Bureau tour. Also, next door to the Bureau is the Holocaust Museum.

Click here for ticket/tour times.

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When you fly into National Airport (Reagan) and you’re sitting in a window seat, be sure to have your camera ready. Here are a few photos from my most recent flight (December 2014):

Lincoln MemorialView from the sky
Lincoln Memorial

Georgetown
Georgetown University Campus

Georgetown University
Georgetown University Campus and a little of the surrounding area

Georgetown II
Georgetown, Washington DC

Watergate Complex
Watergate Complex

Jefferson Memorial
Jefferson Memorial

Washington Monument
Washington Monument

Couple of photos with the wing of the plane.

Washington Monument
Washington Monument

Jefferson Memorial
Jefferson Memorial

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It was no surprise to me when Washington DC was ranked as the top “Fit City” in the United States by the American College of Sports Medicine. The two comments we always get from first time visitors to our nation’s capital are: “It’s such a beautiful city” and “There are a lot of fit and good looking people here.” The second comment is usually said while watching runners race by along the National Mall.

DC Fitness
There are people exercising all over the city!

If you’re a runner, I highly recommend two 10mile/5k runs in the spring. First is the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile/5K on 12 April 2015. You will run through the National Mall and the Tidal basin area where all the gorgeous Cherry Blossoms will hopefully be at their peak. This race is so popular, it requires a lottery. I haven’t been lucky enough to get a number through the lottery so I volunteered last year which guarantee me a spot for 2015. The lottery is open until 12 December. Click here to enter.

If you don’t get into the Cherry Blossom race, then there’s the scenic GW Parkway Classic 10 mile/5k on 26 April 2015. I ran this for the first time this year and loved it. The crowd was friendly and festive, I wasn’t the last one in (I’m not the fastest runner) and we lucked out with beautiful spring weather.

A few more fitness photos:

Bike in DC
Biking

Roosevelt Island Runner
Running on Roosevelt Island

Kayaking
Water Sports

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Supreme Court DC

Attending a session at the Supreme Court of the United States is an impressive experience. I was thrilled to listen to the attorneys arguing their case but was especially awed by the Justices. Those men and women are wicked smart which is comforting to witness since, as one of our three branches of government, their decisions affect all citizens of the United States.

It’s not easy to get tickets for the popular cases (those highlighted in the media) but it’s worth making the attempt to get in. I recommend getting in line early for the “hot” cases. If you’re interested in attending a court session, seating is on a first-come, first-seated basis. A line forms in the morning on the plaza in front of the building.

At approximately 9:30 a.m., limited seats are given out for the entire argument. If you don’t get tickets for that day, the police officers will start a “three-minute line,” which allows visitors to observe the Court in session for a brief period of time from the back of the courtroom. To find out if the Court is in session (Oct-April), click here for the schedule.

The Supreme Court building is located at 1 First Street, NE (between East Capitol St & Maryland Ave) and is open to the public Mon-Fri from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., excluding federal holidays. If the court isn’t in session, you can still visit a Courtroom Lecture, Visitors’ Film and Exhibitions.

Supreme Court

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Washington DC is filled with beautiful parks and fountains ~ here are a few of my favorites.

DC Capitol Fountain
Fountain at the US Capitol building

DC WWII Fountain
WWII Memorial

DC Senate Park Fountain
Senate Park Fountain

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