Oct 17, 2012

District of Columbia

Already a couple of weeks ago, GABROEN spent a weekend with Atlanta friends Jo and Jeff in Jo's hometown of Washington D.C.  We had a great time in this very nice and walkable city. And walking we sure did. We stayed at Jo's friends Son and Richard, who live on 16th Avenue that runs straight from the backside of the White House north. So we could say we stayed in the backyard of the Obamas, albeit about a mile away. We walked that mile, plus many more, exploring the east side of the National Mall with all its museums on the first day, and the west side with all the memorials on the second day.

Jeff has discovered the exciting fish-eye view of the Mall

I always wondered where the word mall came from, either as in shopping mall or in The National Mall. Thank heavens we now have the internet  - whom did we ask all the questions in the years B.G.*? So here we go: it starts with the Italian game pallamaglia, from palla "ball" + maglia "mallet", something like croquet where you had to hit a ball with a mallet through a ring. The game made it into English as pall-mall, which was regularly played at an open alley in St. James Park in London. This alley was later turned into a broad, tree-lined promenade called The Mall, lending the meaning to the word of a "shaded walk serving as a promenade", as well as inspiring a well-known cigarette brand. I may be one of only a few that wonders about these things, but next to the origin of the Mall I also looked up why the heck this city is in the District of Columbia, but I'll save that for the second blog post about our D.C. trip - see below.

(* Before Google)

Anyway, if you could just continue walking straight down 16th Avenue through the White House, you come on the short axis of the National Mall and walk straight up to Washington Monument, the city's tallest structure by ordinance. It also serves as the central landmark of the city and National Mall, as it stands exactly on the intersection of the Mall's short and long axis.  The long axis is pretty impressive, stretching 3.0 km (1.9 miles) from the steps of the Capitol to the Lincoln Memorial. It's all open space, so there's nothing to obstruct the view of the full 3 km. What our lovely host Richard mentioned rather late is that the day we were there was the autumn equinox, meaning that if the picture below would have been taken a few hours earlier, it would have shown the sun rise exactly behind the Capitol and Washington Monument. Pretty neat, but perhaps not worth getting up at 5AM for.

Washington Monument and reflecting pool as seen from the Lincoln Memorial
Speaking of great views, the rooftop lounge on the 7th floor of Hotel W right next to the White House and Executive Office Buildings is not bad either. A great place to enjoy the sunset, good cocktails and friendship.

Hotel W's rooftop lounge

Although not exactly the Obamas' backyard, our hosts Son and Richard surely live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, with good restaurants and nightlife only a 10 minutes walk away. Such as the Pearl Dive oyster palace and Black Jack bar, an awesome seafood place we explored on Friday night. What we did Saturday night deserves a separate blog post, so stay tuned.

Thanks Son and Richard for opening up your D.C. home to us. We had a great weekend celebrating friendship, both old and newly found.
Son and Richard

1 comment:

  1. I used to live there & this made me homesick. I was there when the Hotel W was still the Hotel Washington. Nothing was better at the end of an evening that sitting there and admiring the view. Thanks for the memories!