Motorcades and Monet: A week in Washington D.C.

Cherry blossom tree
Emily Denny/Staff

There’s no better feeling than handing in that final midterm of the semester, walking through the classroom doors and heading straight for the airport. And there’s definitely no better way to rid yourself of the accumulated semester stress than getting on a flight that takes you far away from campus.

Soon, I’d be walking among national monuments instead of lecture halls. And soon, I’d be wandering the great Smithsonian museums searching for Monet paintings instead of wandering around dark underground libraries searching for an empty seat. So after that final midterm, the only thing standing between me and my spring break in Washington, D.C. was an overnight flight to the other side of the country.

Although I’d been to Washington, D.C. before, I always enjoy walking through the National Mall, even if it means weaving my way through crowds of tired families and a few angry toddlers. Two ducks led me to the Lincoln Monument, floating along the same pool that reflected the Washington Monument behind me. After passing Lincoln, his marble chair and some swan boats, I walked past the soon-to-be Cherry Blossom Festival. Park rangers prepared for the busy event that was just around the corner. And even though the trees were not yet in bloom, I tried to imagine bright pink and white flowers sprouting from the trees above me, leading me to the Jefferson Monument across the water.

As I walked toward the National Gallery of Art along Pennsylvania Avenue, the city streets suddenly emptied. Police officers began to populate the streets, multiple sirens began to echo and pedestrians slowed their quick city-paced walk. A parade of motorcycles, fire trucks, ambulances and black SUVs, two painted with presidential seals, flew by me. And as quickly as the street emptied, it filled back up again — the police disappeared, traffic continued and pedestrians once again passed by.

Walking near Capitol Hill, I noticed a swarm of press and security guards. Intrigued to find out which member of Congress or senator may be behind all of the cameras and microphones, I wiggled my way into the crowd. Joe Kennedy III stood in front of an array of politicians in suits, leaning into the camera lights and many microphones, informing the press of a Democratic bill.

Away from the monuments, motorcades, and press conferences, I took my last day to enjoy the neighborhoods of D.C. After a week of navigating tourist-filled streets, pausing for traffic escorts and standing in museum lines, I could finally feel the ease of a quieter corner of D.C. as I walked along brick streets lined by 100-year-old townhouses, each painted a different color: green, yellow, grey, red. I rounded the corner and found a neighborhood park. Young kids in red uniforms chased after a soccer ball while their parents sipped coffee and chatted with one another. Groups of friends lay across picnic blankets, filling their orange juice with champagne while tail-wagging dogs proudly led their owners down dirt paths. Above the park, a few pink and white trees decorated the sky. Today the cherry blossoms decided to begin blooming.

That night, as I flew out of D.C., I looked down to the city below me. Just a few days ago, I walked among the gleaming marble monuments, grand museums and famous streets that honor people we learn about in every history class. But as I flew over the nation’s capital heading home, I only thought about the neighborhood park and I hoped that tomorrow there would be even more cherry blossoms decorating the sky.

Contact Emily Denny at [email protected].