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April 20, 2008

Washington, DC: Monuments

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For a while I have been wanting to write about Washington, DC, and posts some pictures of the city. I love living here and generally feel that the city gets too much bad press! It is beautiful, it is very walkable, there is so much to do and see, and it offers many interesting jobs. So there! I want to do a series on the city, highlighting some of the things I like. I will definitely be doing some entries on rowhouses, like I did with Baltimore. One of the nicest things with living in DC is to be able to stroll and run on the National Mall, where some of the country's most famous and visited attractions are located.

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April 23, 2008

Washington, DC: Cherry Blossom Festival

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Today I will write about the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which took place the first two weeks of April. The Festival is organized each year and celebrates the gift of 3,000 Cherry Blossom trees that was given to DC by the mayor of Tokyo in 1912 as a gesture of friendship between the two cities. Another 3.500 were received in 1965. The trees line the Tidal Basin, Hains Point, and Potomac Park and provide a spectacular sight when they bloom, usually in early April. (It is impossible to predict exactly when the trees will bloom, but usually they bloom sometime during the festival.)

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April 30, 2008

Washington, DC: Fun Facts

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First of all, sorry for the delay between the last post and this one! It's not very nice to launch a new series and then take off... I went away for almost a week and only scheduled one post (which I scheduled for the day I left, not too swift). Now I am back and ready to write!

Second of all, it is ironic that I, as a foreigner, am writing "facts about DC", but bear with me. I have come to realize that many people don't know that much about DC, and that goes for people of all nationalities.
So here we go!

Fun Fact #1: DC is not a state. Many people don't realize that DC is not one of the 50 states. Which is not that weird, since it is listed with a "state acronym" just like all the states. I guess we can call it a special district, or something like that. The 2005 census stated the DC population at 582,000 people. If it were a state, it would be the smallest in area but it would have more people than Wyoming.

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May 1, 2008

Washington, DC: Free tours?

In this article from the Washington Post, you can read about two recent college graduates who are offering free, tip-based tours of the National Mall area. However, the professional tour guides are not too happy.

May 4, 2008

Washington, DC: Union Station

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I spent a lot of time walking around town today, with two goals in mind: First of all, to work on my tan, and secondly, to take pictures for my upcoming posts about DC houses and neighborhoods. However, I also ended up popping into Union Station to look for some shoes. Union Station is a very beautiful train station and fits perfectly into what I think a train station should look like: grandiose, made out of marble, and with tall ceilings. The station was opened in 1907 and serves as the train hub for AmTrak, MARC and VRE commuter trains, and the DC Metro.

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May 8, 2008

Washington, DC: Demolition

One day while walking downtown I noticed that a big building (actually I think there were two) were being torn down, on the corner of K Street and Connecticut Avenue, NW. This is a very busy street and some prime real estate, I bet. I took pictures and I have noticed many others do the same. It just looks so sad and gaping with this big building crumbling down.

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May 9, 2008

Washington, DC: The prettiest block in town

I think a lot of visitors don't visit the residential areas of the city. The museums and the monuments are mostly at the National Mall and downtown. Of the more residential areas that get visited are Dupont Circle and Georgetown, but mainly for the restaurants and the shopping, not to wander the streets and look at houses.

Pretty details and pretty flowers:
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Personally, I think the townhouses in DC are one of the best things about the city, and it saddens me that there could be even more of them left, but many were mowed down in the 1950s to make room for larger buildings. Then again, I guess there had to be more space for offices - a three story townhouse couldn't really hold that many offices! In any case, Washington, DC was spared a lot of the demolition that destroyed many American cities, leaving them with large office buildings and no night life. DC offers many great neighborhoods and lots of pretty houses.

Entrance:
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One of the prettiest blocks in the city is the 1400 block of Q Street NW (DC is on a grid so it is easy to find - it is the block of Q Street that runs between 14th and 15th Street NW.) The houses are quite varied and some are set a lot further back than most townhouses, with beautiful gardens in the front. I am a city girl but one of the best things with DC is the many beautiful gardens brightening up the streets. If you ever visit, make sure to check it out! Take the metro to Dupont Circle, exit to Q Street and walk the five blocks to see this charming street.

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May 12, 2008

Washington, DC: The layout

Washington, DC has distinctive neighborhoods, many with beautiful row houses lining the streets. As I mentioned earlier, DC is on a grid, making the city easy to navigate. The city was designed by French-born architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who drew up a basic plan in 1791. I want to post some photos from the different neighborhoods, but I wanted to put it a little history of the city’s layout first. (And one fun fact: As many of you know, Washington has many avenues named after states. Only California and Ohio do not have avenues; instead there is California Street and Ohio Drive. Washington state did not have its own avenue either, to avoid confusion, but eventually got one – however, it does not have any addresses on it.)

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Washington, DC: The neighborhood of Capitol Hill

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Now that I have covered the layout (a diamond grid with four main sections – northwest, northeast, southeast, and southwest) I can go on to talk about an actual neighborhood! A popular and beautiful neighborhood is Capitol Hill. Most of you will probably think of the area around the US Capitol as “Capitol Hill”, but in DC, it is more commonly used to describe the neighborhood east of the Capitol.

Pierre L’Enfant, the architect of the city, originally named the area Jenkins Hill or Jenkins Heights, and it is one of the oldest residential areas of the city. It became a distinct neighborhood in the early 1800s when the government was building the Capitol and the Navy Yard, and a little later the Marine Barracks, providing employment for a large number of people. A real estate boom took place between 1890 and 1910 as electricity, running water, and plumbing were installed in the area’s houses. Capitol Hill has been a Historic District since 1976, and is one of the largest ones in the US. Most of the buildings are late Victorian. As you walk towards the Capitol, the houses become grander and larger, while smaller, more modest townhouses line the streets further east. Join me for a walk from Potomac Avenue SE to Union Station!

I love the interesting roofs - I want to do a whole post on those one day!
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May 18, 2008

Cultural Saturday: Norwegian Constitution Day

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My Saturday ended up being filled with cultural activities! The day started with a breakfast at 9am at the Norwegian Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue. (Actually, it is held in the residence of the Ambassador - which I realized as we were wandering around and came upon their personal photos and books!) The celebration commemorates the signing of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814. A little background history: Norway was under Danish rule for 400 years, starting in 1397. After Denmark-Norway found itself on the losing side of the Napoleonic Wars, Denmark was forced to cede Norway to Sweden.

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May 20, 2008

Cultural Saturday: Greek Festival

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After a somewhat boring Norwegian celebration, we happily remembered that it was the weekend of the Annual Greek Festival put on by Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral. The church is on Massachusetts Avenue, just like the Norwegian embassy, so it was a quick walk. We were early but people were already lining up for the food - lots of gyros and lamb and souvlaki outside, and an enormous buffet in the basement.

The church:
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One of the menus:
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The lamb!
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May 23, 2008

Washington, DC: The Supreme Court

This will be a very quick entry before the weekend: the United States Supreme Court. Pretty, no?

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The Supreme Court building, located at 1, 1st St. N.E., Washington D.C., across the street from the U.S. Capitol, was designed by architect Cass Gilbert, and rises four stories (92 feet) above grade. The cornerstone was laid on October 13, 1932 and construction completed in 1935.

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May 29, 2008

Washington, DC: Dupont Circle townhouses

Riggs Place NW:
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I can't seem to get enough of posting pictures of the houses around here. Here are some from Dupont Circle, a great DC neighborhood. Dupont Circle is the name of a traffic circle in Northwest Washington and the surrounding neighborhood includes the area between 15th Street to the east, 22nd Street to the west, M Street to the south, and Florida Avenue to the north. There is also a busy Metro stop there. Lots of restaurants, bars, shops, and offices make it a fun area, day and night. It is also extremely convenient to almost everywhere, and for those of us lucky enough to work downtown, it is an easy walk.

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January 19, 2009

Inauguration Weekend: The We Are One Concert

It is a great time to be in DC! I am having a great time and enjoying the hustle and bustle! The two big events so far were the We Are One concert at the National Mall yesterday - and going to see the Oprah Winfrey Show which was being broadcast from the John F. Kennedy Center!! Oprah's on the road!

The concert was great - here are my favorites: Mary J. Blige, who did Lean on Me - it was fun and she has such a great voice! Plus it was fun to sing along and jump up and down. You can see a video of it here.

Garth Brooks - who would have thought? He sang American Pie and Shout! He had a great time and so did the audience, once again singing along and dancing.

Beyonce sang at the very end and wow it was awesome. A great end!

John Mellencamp was also a lot of fun!

Biggest of all for me, though: U2! I have been a fan for a loooong time and it was a dream come true. See it here

The logistics of it all also worked a lot better than I feared - getting in was not too hard, getting out took a long time but with no problems. It was chilly but bearable - even though after several hours outside you are gonna feel cold no matter what.

Walking in:
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The stage:
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Inauguration Weekend: The Oprah Winfrey Show!

After Sunday's concert, I enjoyed dinner and a small party before heading to bed - I had to get my beauty sleep for the Oprah Winfrey Show! Oprah was taping two shows at the Kennedy Center in DC and thanks to a friend of a friend I had three tickets! I have been a fan of Oprah for about 15 years and this truly was a dream come true! Looking back it almost feels surreal - did I really see her?

It was another chilly day in DC, J. and I even saw a little snow as we walked down to Foggy Bottom to meet my friend C. The information sheet had told us to get there before 11am, but no earlier than 10am. We got to the Kennedy Center around 10:10 and there were already tons of people outside! We had to line up after the color of our wristbands. It quickly became apparent that blue meant the proletariat because the blue line was loooong while the red and white lines were very short - actually they were pretty much going straight into the building. Not that I cared though - I would gladly have accepted a standing room ticket just to be there!

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January 22, 2009

Inauguration Weekend: The Big Day!

After two fantastic days, it was time for the biggest day of them all - the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States: Barack Obama! We were pretty exhausted from all the stuff going on so we decided to watch the swearing in on TV and then head out for the parade. (I almost feel guilty saying that, since so many people traveled from far away to attend and be present - but it was extremely cold and I don't deal well with the cold.)

It was fabulous to watch everything on TV and seeing all the exuberant faces. It was neat to see all the former presidents and all the other famous people arriving. The best, of course, was seeing the Obama family arrive. Sasha looked so excited! Watching Obama arrive, all by himself, clearly feeling the solemnity of the situation, was very powerful.

Shortly before 1pm we headed out to the parade route. Lots of people were walking in the opposite direction, having left the National Mall. It was relatively easy to get to the route but we were not allowed inside the security. We found a decent place to watch on 6th Street. In retrospect, we could have gone closer to the White House - since the parade was so late, lots of people left the security zone and we could have gotten in, but we had no idea of knowing that!

The day was frigid and nothing seemed to happen - little did we know that Senator Ted Kennedy's collapse had made the parade about an hour late. We started realizing that the parade was going to be just as cold as the swearing in itself! At one point we ducked into a nearby Au Bon Pain (bakery/cafe chain) for some hot soup. It felt GOOD! We went back outside and watched the parade for a while, until it got just too cold. Walking back felt great; it's the standing around that gets so cold.

Maybe we should have gone outside for the swearing in ceremony instead, but in general I was happy with the decision - hours and hours waiting on the Mall would have been soooo cold! It was a momentous and amazing day in any case and I felt honored to be here in the US capital for such an important day.

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