Monday, 14 April 2008

Washington awash
We kept hearing about the cherry blossoms at Washington. Friends here in San Diego, flight attendants on the way there, taxi-drivers - they all mentioned the cherry blossoms.
We got in late at night, and it wasn't until we ventured out into the sunny morning, and walked from our hotel to the Mall (below), that we realised what all the fuss was about.The city centre is gobsmackingly, divinely beautiful to start with, with a magnificent view seemingly around every corner.
But I wasn't expecting the flowers.
These are all blooming along the sides of The Mall, which is a massive expanse of grassy parkland that starts at the Capitol and goes all the way to the Lincoln Memorial, a stretch of just over three kilometres long.
This is where The Mall cuts through the buildings of the Smithsonian Institution, any one of which could have occupied us for a day at least.
The first cherry trees were a gift to Washington and the US from Japan, and this is celebrated every year with a Cherry Blossom Festival. It was festival time while we were there, with fireworks set off at night over the Tidal Pool, which is like a billabong off the Potomac River.
Just the tiniest breeze sent petals fluttering to the ground like snow. Breathtaking.
And while I don't want or intend to bore you with an endless travelogue, I must just tell you about this very beautiful lady:She is Lady Elizabeth Linley, who became Mrs Richard Brinsley Sheridan. This Gainsborough portrait of her hangs in Washington's National Gallery of Art, directly opposite Napoleon and just round the corner from George Washington. So I bet they all have a lot to talk about when the lights are off and the tourists are gone!And she's my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother!


Anonymous said...

Well Lesley or should I say Lady Lesley and of course I am bobbing as we speak, this is really a moment when we truly wish that these walls could speak. What a fantastic trip it must have been for you. Love Shelley

Natalie said...

I am so intrigued and spellbound... what marvelous information and history, and what a beautiful g.g.g.g.g.-gran you have!
The trees look fluffy with blossoms. I know it must look even more wonderful in person, and weren't you fortunate to be there at the right time to witness it all!
Welcome home, and thanks for bringing better temperatures.

M said...

Those Blossoms! Stop! You are making me want to visit
Washington and our budget doesn't allow it.

And that portrait. If I was to have a portrait painted that is the style in which I would want it done. Lots of soft focus...

Laura Jane said...

GORGEOUS cherry blossom, much better than a month ago in Japan when we were there, and only saw a measly half-tree's worth in Yanagawa! SO THAT'S what all the fuss is about! Well worth it.

And the GGGGGGG! DO tell! I'm trying to Skype you and keep missing you!

Jennifer said...

Did you know that her portrait was there? You must have.... How fabulous!! Beauty runs in the family, I see.

Lesley said...

Jennifer: I knew in my teens that Gainsborough had painted her, and that Sir Joshua Reynolds had painted her husband (who is our ancestor), but I'd completely forgotten that she was in the US. In my mind, both pictures were in the National Portrait Gallery in London. So it was an absolute thrill to walk into that room in the National Gallery and see her hanging there!
This portrait of her has also been used on the cover of a Penguin classics edition of 'Sense and Sensibility', and in a British ad for all-terrain bicycles. She clearly likes to get around!
And even if you put purple specs on Lady E, there's no way I'd look anything like her, but thanks anyway!

Fairlie said...

What a hoot! A g-g-g-g-g-grandmother who 'gets around'!