Washington DC wrestles with its important role as the capital of our country and all the tourists that come to see what that's all about. From our experiences today, I would say they have done a good job. The subway we took today was clean, comfortable and affordable. As geezers we paid $2 to be brought right to the edge of the Mall, where much of the action is. Most of the major monuments and branches of the Smithsonian are around its perimeter. It's a two mile walk from one end to the other and we wanted to go somewhat farther to the Tidal Basin to see the cherry blossoms. You can take a hop-on, hop-off bus for a fee which many cities have, be we took the Circulator. This bus circles the Mall and the Tidal Basin s well as some other popular tourist areas for free; buses run every ten minutes. Parking regulations are so onerous, strict and so pricey that few people drive private vehicles into this popular spot, so traffic moves smoothly and easily.
As we were warned, the best of the cherry blossom bloom was over for the pale pink variety, which is the dominant plant in the Tidal Basin. But there were still enough of them on the trees, that we did not have to use our imaginations. The basin was a bit challenging to walk around in spots. The whole area is sinking and the tide is regularly at record high levels, perhaps as a result of climate change. This lovely spot is going to need some loving attention some day soon. Once the brackish water gets on the roots of the cherry trees, this famous spot will become a memory.
The Capitol is a huge tourist draw and the new visitors center is finally finished. We made a reservation for the free tour a few weeks ago and massive quantities of visitors were efficiently moved through its larger emptier spaces. We wore headsets so the guide did not have to scream to be heard and we could wander and take photographs while hanging on her every word. The Capitol dome has been recently restored and was even more impressive in person that it was when we saw Senator McCain lying in state below it recently on television. We saw camera crews and reporters hanging around waiting for something to happen. Young people very professionally dressed, scurried about looking important. You can make arrangements with your congressman to get into the House and Senate chambers, but we were glad that we didn't bother, because even with the pass systems, the wait to get inside was at least an hour. We ate lunch at the new visitor center. The restaurant was large and well-staffed and sold the type of food we would expect to see at a Panera with a much wider array of offerings. It makes us feel good when foreign visitors get a good impression of our country.