If you’re ever adventurous and have the energy and time, New York City offers the chance to go away to a different city for the day with very cheap fares. You can go as far north as Boston or as far south as DC. Even go on a cruise to the marshlands of Far Rockaway. Or as west as the Great Lakes. Of course, it’s a long day starting with an early morning and late night.
When I was going to college, the only option of travel (aside from expensive Amtrak, which I’ve never been able to afford or reason myself enough to use since they don’t even allow pets), had been Peter Pan bus from my hometown in Lowell to my college in New Rochelle. Those were long days of travel to go to school, only affordable during extensive school breaks. My mother was too scared to drive outside of Massachusetts, at the time, so I learned to enjoy bus rides as most people can learn to enjoy going to the dentist. At least, Peter Pan bus were clean and nice. Nowadays, buses in New York offer cheaper and faster rides. But purchasing at the last minute proved to be disastrous.
Since my sister goes to school in DC, I thought to visit her, check out the cherry blossom festival and the national mall. My friend adamantly wanted to take either Bolt Bus or Mega Bus as it’s supposed to be nicer with wifi service (I’ve never taken one before). We wanted to have the most time spent in DC versus the travel time. But the earliest ride was sold out! Even the Peter Pan Bus. I looked up Amtrak and $320 for a one day round trip for 2 people sounded ridiculous. So I went on what seemed to be a sketchy website and got tickets on the Chinatown bus for only $80, which works out to be $20 per ticket. Amtrak is for well-to-do business people who don’t have corporate money on airplanes. Bolt Bus and Mega Bus are definitely for hipsters, upper middle class used to some semblance of luxury. Peter Pan and Greyhound is a little below that. But Chinatown bus? That’s for poor, old, and often times, sketchy passengers. Some people seemed appalled that I would even consider a Chinatown bus, considering the crowd and the uncleanliness. But that’s what you get for waiting last minute.
The ride, itself, was not bad. We made it in 4 hours and 20 minutes from rainy, cold New York to sunny, slightly warmer DC.
I’ve been very spoiled with New York breadth of food variety and authenticity. There was a restaurant called Chinatown Express that boasted Zagat 2012, Foursquare users were so happy with the place, and the sign said they make their own noodles. Needless to say, the food was not that great. I had congee, which is always amazing in Flushing, but was blander than blander, the meat was too hard, as if it had been cooking for too long, and the fried dough felt like it was a day old. The rice didn’t even smell great. Disappointed and a lesson learned, never eat Chinese food outside of Flushing, NY, unless it’s China.
After a quick stop at Starbucks to recharge phone battery, we walked down 7th Street, passing several cheesy looking museums (Madam Tussards, Crime & Punishment, Spy Museum), we stopped at Pennsylvania Ave to take a shot of Capitol Hill. The walk light read 60+ second to cross! AMAZING! We could walk back and forth and still have time to walk some more.
Eventually, after oohing and aahing some art buildings and sculpture and weaving through throngs of family and children, we made it to the National Air and Space Museum.
The museum feels like a huge hanger of suspended technology from various time frames. From the Orville Brother’s rudimentary airplane to fighter jets and space shuttles, they boasts a variety of technology that the US proudly presents. In many ways, it is a very patriotic museum geared only to American success in aviation and space exploration. It is sad that we no longer seem to have that same enthusiasm and devotion to space and knowledge as we are to menial luxury items like iPads and iPhones (not that they are bad…but are they bringing us to a Roddenberry world?)
To get through to the Cherry Blossom, we walked through a small sculpture garden. It’s one of my favorite, boasting sculptures from Rodin to Maillol and even contemporary Yoko Ono’s The Wishing Tree.
There used to be this old poem, March comes in like a lion, and goes out like a lamb so it was to great delight, the National Mall was holding a Blossom Kite Festival 2012 where a swarm of kites in all shape, form, and color took to the sky. Angry Birds, Barbie, Star Wars, unimaginable creatures, plain old simple kites, and even home made took off like butterflies hovering over. At one point, my friend was even attached by an angry bird kite, causing the lot of us to laugh. This event had to be one of my favorite thing to see in the overall trip. We spent so much time walking through to see everything. Dogs, kids, and adults came out to play, food vendors were out, it was just an amazing day.
We passed through the Floral Library to get to the Tidal Basin. It must be a new addition to the location since I’d have never seen it before.
Alas, woe is me. There are no cherry blossoms left! The early spring brought on early blossom and early departure. Remnants of flowers were left hanging by thin threads to the trees and petals littered the ground and the water. The walk is not as beautiful without the whitish pink flowers lining it.
The city must have known about it and promptly planted several new cherry blossoms at different locations so you could at least get a glimpse of these beautiful flowers. They are much younger and less symbolic of the friendship which they originally meant but still offers an eye candy to tourists.
One of the latest memorial to be erected is the National World War II Memorial. It’s a combination of Roman and Grecian architect with columns and wreaths relief around a fountain. The steps around the pool gives a nice break for visitors to sit and take a breath in, looking at all the names of the country and territory involved.
The last leg around the National Mall was the Vietnam War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. They are very quiet despite the multitude of people. Everyone pays their respect while watching themselves reflected on the black stone. Names with a cross are missing and once they are found dead, a super imposed diamond is drilled in.
After the long walk, we decided to walk to the nearest Metro station at Foggy Bottom. Along the way, we passed the Albert Einstein statue. Unfortunately, it was fenced in for construction. How timely that science was being “fenced in”. It seems everyone is putting science away.
It’s too bad the Metro DC took the ticket once we finished using it. It’s rather cute. Unlike New York, the subway is station is HUGE and so clean.
I’m not a family oriented person, nor am I a big sports fan. It seemed the day I went, scores of family were at the National Mall and then scores of hockey fans trolled the downtown area. Restaurants had hour long waits, lines of people overtook the street. I come from a crazy city but I always can find a place to eat so I was glad to leave DC. It’s a nice one day trip but home…well, home will always be the city.