Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Mrs. Bradshaw Goes to Washington

The Capitol Building
Once a year, the company I work for sends a small contingent of employees to Washington D.C. The group visits our federal senators and representatives to advocate on behalf of our customers. Because we serve some of the states with the highest poverty rates in the nation, this trip is very important to our company and to the region we serve.

This year, the group decided to take along a communicator to document their efforts, and I found myself on my first-ever trip to the nation's capital. What an eye-opening experience! I got to visit many of the Congressional offices, photograph a small reception in the Capitol Building, and shoot some video in the halls where our laws are made.

The National World War II Memorial
I flew into Reagan on a Tuesday night and headed straight to our orientation dinner at The Portofino Restaurant. It's a lovely, unpretentious little Italian restaurant. We had a pre-set menu, so I enjoyed a lovely salad, then a gorgeous plate of scalloppine al marsala (veal in a creamy mushroom sauce), then a creamy chocolate dessert. The food was delicious, the prices were very reasonable, and service was prompt and polite.

We were briefed during dinner, and then we trundled back to the Hampton Inn at Crystal City to rest up for the next day. The following morning, we hit the ground running. All day long, we raced from one office to another, documenting meetings and collecting content.

Our whole group convened for a quick lunch at Tortilla Coast, a little Tex-Mex spot on Capitol Hill. We snacked on guacamole and pico de gallo before our entrees arrived. I had some soft chicken tacos and a nice, tall glass of WATER. (It was HOT!) Service was cheerful and speedy, and prices were easy on the wallet.

After lunch, we raced around some more before high-tailing it to a reception in the Capitol Building. By the end of the day, we were BEAT!

The Lincoln Memorial
However, it was my first trip to D.C. And my powers of persuasion are not insignificant. So, at about 7:30 p.m., I convinced some of the members of our group to walk the mall with me before enjoying a late dinner.

We started near the Washington Monument. It wasn't as impressive as it could've been, primarily due to the amount of scaffolding on the exterior. Some of the monument's stonework was damaged in a 2011 earthquake, and scaffolding was erected this spring so that work could begin on repairs. From there, we crossed to the World War II monument, lit dramatically at night. (This monument felt special to me, as my grandfather fought in the Pacific fleet during World War II.) After that, we took a leisurely stroll by the reflecting pool down to the Lincoln Memorial. It was absolutely breathtaking, as large and impressive as you imagine from all the photographs you've seen. There's a small exhibit in the base that features famous quotes from Lincoln and information about his life and service as president.

After this, my friend really wanted to check out the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, so we headed that way. I loved this memorial. The quotes are so powerful, and the design of the memorial is very engaging.

the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial
By this time, we were getting very hungry. One of the members of our party had suggested The Chart House. We hopped a cab and were on our way. It was a little further out than we'd anticipated, in Alexandria. The restaurant is in a lovely area filled with little shops, restaurants, bars and coffee houses. It sits right on the water, offering lovely views.

We settled in, stretched our legs, and ordered mojitos. For dinner, I had the fried calamari and an order of clam chowder. My companion had a lovely plate of grilled fish. Though prices are spendy here, the food is divine. Service was impeccable. I thoroughly enjoyed my meal and would recommend this restaurant to anyone. After a few more drinks in a nearby bar, it was off to bed for us!

In the morning, I had a couple of hours before my flight left. By some miracle, the cherry trees were blooming! They were supposed to have come and gone before our trip, but the crazy weather we're having this year put them right at peak bloom for our brief visit. I decided I couldn't leave D.C. without checking it out. I took a quick cab back to the mall. I started with the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. We'd looked at this memorial the night before, but you really have to visit it in the daytime to get the full effect. It's overwhelming. I also stopped by the Korean War Veterans Memorial, which we'd missed entirely the night before.
Blooming cherry trees framing the Jefferson Memorial!
Then, I walked the opposite side of the mall, through Constitution Gardens, to get back to the tidal basin. All along the basin, the cherry trees were in riotous bloom. It was gorgeous. Even more thrilling, though, was watching the reactions of all those around to witness this natural wonder. People stopped, took tons of photos, twirled around, gasped. People smiled at each other more. It's just astonishing. I felt very special and fortunate to be there to witness it.

I spent a lot of time taking photos of other people with the blossoms in the background. A man was jogging by, and he stopped. He asked me if I'd like him to take MY photo in front of the scene. I, of course, obliged, mentioning that the blossoms were supposed to have come and gone before our trip, and that my being in town for such a spectacle was a complete fluke.

"I don't think so," he said. "I think you're right where God wants you to be today."

What a comforting affirmation!

I walked all the way down to the Jefferson Memorial to take full advantage of the views. Afterwards, it was back to hotel checkout and on to the airport. I loved my first visit to D.C., and I can't wait to go back!

No comments: