A trip to Washington DC and the Shenandoah National Park

With family visiting us in May 2011, when I was in the U.S. , we set out to shortlist all the ‘touristy’ locations on the East Coast to show them around.  Most itineraries of people visiting the east coast include New York, Washington DC, Niagara falls, Boston and if budget/time permits Orlando theme parks. Throw in an Atlantic city, and the US visit is complete!..rather if they don’t go for a ‘Tirth yatra’ to any of the above places, they have seen nothing at all in the US!

We were on our way!

So, as Memorial Day (the day to honor war heroes and veterans) dawned, we packed up our bags and our assortment of snacks of sandwiches, gobi parathas, pickles, ketchup, cheese, chips, laddoos, bananas, oranges,strawberries, water, frooti, ‘fast’ snacks, halwa, cake and chocolates!  Yeah, I can’t believe we actually finished all of that! It took far more time to make and buy all that than gobble it up!

I dozed off almost immediately in the car to wear out the weariness of all that food preparation and refused to wake up till lunch time at Maryland where we stopped for a picnic lunch.  That power nap did me a world of good, as I took up the wheel in the next leg of our drive to Shenandoah National Park. As we got on to the Skyline Drive of 105 miles, the cool mountain breeze and the scenic vistas greeted us all along.  Although we did not spend as much time as we would have liked to hiking and biking, I did enjoy the feel of wild grass under my feet, the bloom of the wild yellow flowers, deer peacefully chewing away in natural surroundings and the balmy breeze.
A short hike at Shenandoah
The sun peaking through the lush trees at Shenandoah
A Shenandoah wildlife sighting
The woods are lovely, dark and deep
Day two and three of our trip had been set aside for Washington, and we set forth after a heavy breakfast at the hotel.  Well, again, it being a purely touristy trip, that translates into getting off the car, taking photos and getting back to the car, we thought, we would do it in no time at all! But fortunately or unfortunately, the city had other plans for us!  Memorial Day is a big deal in USA, and I was hoping to witness something of this day in the capital city to reflect some of Americas traditional celebration.  I was not disappointed.  As we drove in, people with waving flags greeted us as we crossed overhead footwalks and bridges, several Harleys zoomed past us everywhere making us wonder what was in store.  As traffic moved to a snails pace, we pulled out and took the metro route.  Riding a city’s trains has always excited me, be it New York, Kolkata, Mumbai or Washington as it is something non-touristy, something that citizens use to go about their life everyday anywhere. The stations here were much cleaner and spacious and far less smelly than NYs stations.  Being Memorial day, well, only tourists clambered onto the train and took away the charm of the locals travelling! We got off at the station near the White House, and started our act of clicking away to glory in the usual silly poses. Barrack and Michelle must certainly be uneasy in that fortress with snipers patrolling its terraces and with all that security and tourists and even protesters constantly outside their windows. Never a moment of peace to enjoy those lush gardens outside!
The White House

The next halt was the George Washington memorial which is the tallest structure in Washington DC.  Here is the exciting part.  As we neared it, the vroom of motorcycles was heard nearby. As we recollected the many bikes we saw on the road, we hastened towards it.  It turned out to be a spectacular rally of 400,000 bikes (these huge mean machines- Harleys or look alikes) aptly known as ‘Rolling Thunder’ that was paying tribute to American war heroes in their own style.  That certainly was a super show!

George Washington Memorial


Rolling Thunder
The Capitol

For the remainder of the day we proceeded to visit the Smithsonian museums.  I went to the National Gallery of Art and tremendously enjoyed seeing master pieces of Impressionists as well as Modernists. I particularly enjoyed seeing the Chester Dale collection that included works of great masters such as Monet, Renoir, Picasso, Van Gogh among others.  I was also pleased to see special exhibits by Gauguin, who I was first fascinated by’ on reading Maugham’s ‘The Moon and the Six Pence’.  Apart from these that I admire, I also managed to find the ones I didn’t and took pleasure in rebuking Rothko’s and Barnett Newman’s modern (non!) art which I wrote about in a recent blog! I finally left the museum after it closed and dragged myself to the Air and Space museum to join the others and find out about their sojourn to the Natural History museum which I skipped seeing.  We ended the day with a meal at an Indian restaurant with a snooty manager and driving around in Washington , uh..driving around was not out of choice, but because our GPS kept taking us round in circles and all over the place!

The Air and Space museum
Our trip drew to a close the next day when we saw the lofty memorials built in honor of US Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and the Vietnam and Korea war memorials. With plenty of memorial spots dotted across town, we had to skip most of them albeit with no regrets really!
Thomas Jefferson Memorial
Abraham Lincoln in his towering seat

Well, again, for people out to visit places for the sake of the photo, Washington DC was a pleasant place to be in.  However, as always, I always believe, cities are to be experienced by living there and a couple of days’ visits will never capture the essence or the culture. However, all in all, this was a lazy fun trip that kept everyone contented for all the things they saw.

Categories: Americas, United States | Tags: , , | 22 Comments

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22 thoughts on “A trip to Washington DC and the Shenandoah National Park

  1. I have always dreamt to visit some place outside India… thanks for taking me to one today! The place is gorgeous, and with the wonderful pics and the narrative I can actually sense that I have visited the place… I loved taking this tour with you 🙂

  2. Very nice and precise travelogue and witty too. As you have rightly said, just by rushing through motions of getting out of and into the car and in between clicking the photographs, you do not get the 'feel' of the place. Enjoyed your blog as usual. Keep visiting places and give us vicarious pleasure of visiting them. Baba

  3. That was one humorous trip, especially all the goodies that were consumed 🙂 Reminded me of the times we travelled by train when we were younger. Even I like to take a city in small doses to get a 'feel'. but when you are on a short vacation, it is not possible. So it is best to pick and choose the sights.

  4. All your travelogues are a kind of guide to all those who want to take a break from the monotony of their humdrum life.I appreciate your taking note of everything you encounter in the course of your holidaying like you did in this blog by way of mentioning Memorial Day and the spectacular rally of bikes in honour of war heros , the passing mention of The moon and the six pence and the paintings of Gauguin. I kind of got a vicarious pleasure out of your enjoyment of the sights and sound you came across. I can imagine your thrill of packing odds and ends and preparing all the mouthing watering goodies for the journey.Visiting national parks and picture galleries is lot better than spending vacations in commercial resorts which only create a dent in your pocket.Last but not least you could not have chosen a better time of the year to visit these places to be away from the incessant roar of traffic and the honking of cars .

  5. that's a great post Ru! reminded me of our trip to DC and Shenandoah – exactly the same time last year!! thank you for refreshing our memory! 🙂

  6. Nice travelogueseems u have enjoyed this trip a lot i really liked the analogy to 'tirth yatra'and wonder about the smelly NY station!!!!ur were so descriptive that it felt as if i was there with u on the trip.

  7. @ Arti – I am glad you liked the blog! I love to hear about any trip you take, abroad or in India!@zephyr – I understand the 'sights' part of it, but sometimes I do feel, all cities and sights are all the same unless one actually experiences something novel rather than seeing something that feels no different than looking at a picture. So, really something, that one can do without doing!

  8. @Aai, Baba, Amruta- Glad you could 'take' this trip with me! Hopefully we will actually take real trips together in the near future!@Swe – Oh, did you visit Washington this time?! Where was I then? and why did't you meet me!!!

  9. Lovely pictures! I loved the one where the sun is sneaking in from between the trees. Seems like you had an amazing trip. 😀

  10. @Deboshree- We did have a good trip and it does make me want to revisit these places again!

  11. DC has always been in my to-go list and I am not hoping to keep it forever in the list. Nice post btw. 🙂

  12. "The woods are lovely, dark and deep"Out of all the places, I loved the image with this description. Woods and nature is much beautiful, concrete is just artificial. I am sure you enjoyed your trip 😀

  13. The museums… HowI want to visit the museums you have mentioned. Thanks for the lovely trip, Richa. One more added to my bucket list. 🙂

    • If you like Museums, Washington is a fantastic place in the U.S. to do so. Plus unlike New York, the museums in Washington are completely FREEEE! All the museums there had absolutely great collections, be in the Art gallery or the natural history museum. You would love it!

  14. Few make me read travelogues like you because few write them straight from the heart like you. I could visualise the pickle-parantha munching, photo shooting gang in the Shenandoah National Park, across the metro routes of the East Coast, in and around Washington, almost hooting Mr Obama out of that white castle! Those photographs compliment you narration greatly.

    • Thanks! This trip was a completely Indian Desi trip if you know what I mean – complete with packed parathas and visits to the most touristy places! Happy you enjoyed reading this.

  15. Here again, and absolutely loved taking my tour yet again for a second time! 🙂

    How wonderful, all those sights and I so agree with the city train part. I love travelling with the locals in their means of everyday transport – It’s fun and can show you a lot more of a city and its people than any of these touristy spots can.

    • Thanks so much to come back and comment on this blog again! Figuring out public transport and travelling like locals is an experience in itself and lends more character to the visit. That’s the best way to gauge the pulse of a city I say!

  16. Have you clicked any pictures related to 9/11 memorials? Please share

  17. A lot of memories of visit to The White House, Washington State Memorial, The Smithsonian, Air Museum,, Museum of Natural history et al flashed past as I read this lovely account Richa:)

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