Short-Term Excursions

Vacation Beach Relax Travel Sun Sea OceanMost vacations fall into a pattern of summer or year-end excursions preceded by long-term planning. However, for a short break to fit into a hectic work schedule or a more restricted budget, short-term trips nearby or as a add-on into a business trip can be a real tonic.
Longing for a”spring break” but not able to get away, I charted my holiday around a weekend at my home town of Washington, DC. No longer still only a government-focused country’s capital, the city has diversified. It is now a culturally rich destination with numerous options beyond simply visiting the national monuments.
My break happened to coincide with one of those great spring attractions: the National Cherry Blossom Festival. It first began in 1935 following a gift of 3,000 cherry trees from the city of Tokyo. It has grown to become a three-week long celebration. The festivities end with a parade of highly decorated floats carrying Cherry Blossoms Princesses while lively high school bands lead the way.
Even though the weather can be a chilly 50 degrees and raining, for 2014 it was a glorious 75-80 degree day with no humidity, perfect for a walk the length of the parade route. Along with an estimated audience of 100,000 of spectators, 5 US Presidents were in the parade or their stand-in’s were in sports jersey bearing their administration’s number. Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln were the most recognizable but were also joined by Teddy Roosevelt and Taft, the latter known for developing a permanent White House connection with baseball. In keeping with the spirit of this celebration, some spectators joined in the fun wearing their own outfits, such as in one case tee shirts together with pink tutu’s.
Underscoring the worldwide character of present-day Washington, street vendors provided a selection of cuisine from Korean Kimchi to Punjabi fare.
I made my way walking the full length of the Mall parade route but without getting to the Tidal Basin, itself, the beginning point for the Festival. However, the Washington Monument grounds offer a competing array of the bright pink blossoms while multiple side roads in the residential and commercial districts have their own cherry blossom line-up. Unfortunately, the area has been steadily decreasing with the coming of larger urban development. But still remaining are several top restaurants featuring lunch specials as well as a few tiny shops with authentic local flavor, like the New Da Hsin Trading Inc.. It carries some of the same wares I found in Beijing with prices competitive with the street vendors in China. There are tin cans of Chinese grocery items that I can only guess as to their contents and brightly colored screens with imperial dragons. I am always intrigued by the special items they take like umbrellas with UV protection (parasols?) And Chinese style”dresses” that fit over a wine bottle and make a terrific hostess gift.
Rounding out the weekend’s contrasting holiday was a really different offering on Sunday in neighboring Leesburg/Northern Virginia. The popular event was the annual horserace at the Oatlands Plantation, the spring Point-to-Point, a design for the Loudoun Hunt.
With such an action-packed weekend, I found that a short-term trip, whether in our own backyards or abroad, can be a excellent filler between annual vacations. The price was right and no long-term planning was needed!

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