The Tidal Basin, monuments and more
Friday, April 25
Cold waves lap at all sides of the bright blue ship. The scent of salt air fills my nostrils as I clutch the sides of the boat, wondering if I will ever make it back to shore. Along with my trusty first mate, I have been drifting aimlessly at sea for hours, unsure of my exact location. Out of the corner of my sun-scorched eye, I can see a large white mass coming closer.
“White whale off the starboard!” I yell. Captain Ahab has nothing on me.
But wait, it’s not Moby Dick. It’s the Washington Monument protruding into the spring sky. And I’m not trapped at sea, my legs just got too tired to keep paddling around the Tidal Basin. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
It was a beautiful Friday afternoon and, not having any classes, I decided I was going to do what no other GW student has ever done before. I was going to leave Foggy Bottom and become … the super tourist!
After lunch, my friend Zan and I decided to walk down to the Tidal Basin and try out our sea legs with a little paddle boating. The only problem was, I really wasn’t sure about the exact location of the Tidal Basin. In fact, I still probably couldn’t tell you how to get there. I started walking toward the Lincoln Memorial, stopped there for a moment so I could officially check that monument off on my super tourist list and then walked toward the Potomac. I didn’t see any paddleboats, but I decided walking along the water, away from the Lincoln, was probably the best way to go.
It was somewhere along the weeping willow trees that I noticed an increasing pain in my feet. I had broken the cardinal rule of tourism – I did not wear sneakers. My flip-flops were digging into my skin, and I would definitely have a few blisters by the end of the day.
I trudged on. A blister here and there could not keep the super tourist down.
Even though I later realized that the paddleboat station at the Tidal Basin is just a three-minute walk from the Washington Monument, taking the long way around the Potomac did produce one good effect. We accidentally stumbled upon the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.
The FDR Monument is a series of statues, waterfalls and walls that have inscriptions of famous words from FDR. I especially admired the statue of a cloaked FDR sitting in a chair with his small dog sitting not far from his feet. While I found it tempting to take off my demon flip-flops and wade into the shallow fountains at the monument, I decided we only had time for a quick walk so that we could make it to the Tidal Basin. There were some ominous, dark clouds on the horizon and I wanted to hurry so we could go paddle boating before the weekend rain hit. The key to being a super tourist, I found, is to rush so you can hit every thing on your list. What does it matter that you don’t really see anything? Look how much you can do in a day!
Luckily, there was no line at the paddleboat house and we were able to buy our tickets and get on a boat without waiting. Tickets for two people cost $8 and you get the boat for an hour. And believe me, one hour of paddling is enough. I put on a bright orange life jacket and walked down to the boats. The attendant was extremely helpful and didn’t even laugh at my clumsiness as I almost slipped stepping into the boat.
We each took turns steering, but I have to admit Zan probably did most of the work. If it were up to me, the boat would be traveling in circles all across the Tidal Basin. We paddled out toward the Jefferson Memorial and listened to a high school chorus performing there. Most of our hour was spent drifting aimlessly in the water, with our feet propped up on the pedals. No, we weren’t being lazy, it is just really hard to keep paddling.
I have to say that the middle of the Tidal Basin is one of the most beautiful places to relax on a mildly sunny afternoon. We had a full view of the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, the Smithsonian Castle and rows of cherry trees lining the basin. There was also a slight breeze in the air, making it very comfortable.
When I realized that our hour was coming to an end and when we felt a few drops of water falling on us from the sky, Zan and I decided it was probably best to paddle back to land. I was also extremely thirsty – the dirty Potomac water was just sitting there, mocking my parched throat. Water, water, everywhere.
Now, as any super tourist knows, you simply cannot be a tourist without paying three dollars for a bottle of water and buying one of those obnoxious yet tasty “firecracker” Popsicles.
Our lips turning purple from our Popsicles, Zan and I slowly meandered toward the Washington Monument, getting used to our land legs. On our way, we stumbled across yet another undiscovered gem – the Tulip Library.
The Tulip Library is a small garden with over 50 different types of tulips of all shapes, sizes and colors. My favorites were the red ones that had a hint of purple in the petals.
But, making sure not to waste any time, we walked up to the white phallic symbol that is our city’s most prominent monument, where we got a bit of bad news. In order to go to the top of the Washington Monument, you have to buy tickets there at 8 a.m.. Super tourist or not, I refuse to get up at 8 a.m. if I don’t have to. So we just circled the monument, savoring the last bites of our Popsicles and walked toward 15th Street.
Now, a regular tourist would be happy with her accomplishments for the day. But I am no regular tourist, and I wanted to add one more spot to put on my list. However, it was beginning to rain and I was wearing a white T-shirt.
Going back to the theme of water for the day, one last destination crossed my mind. The National Aquarium, which is conveniently located in the basement of the U.S. Department of Commerce building on 14th Street, near Constitution Avenue. The National Aquarium is small and slightly disappointing, but it only cost $3.50 and I got to see two alligators and a variety of fish, frogs and turtles – including an albino sea turtle.
I walked out of the National Aquarium and made my way back to campus, thus ending my day of super tourism. It was time to go back to the real world and get some Band-Aids for my blistered feet. The high seas will call me back another day.