Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Resident Tourist: Christmas in DC

Thanksgiving was so late this year, coming directly on the heels of Advent.  This year I wanted to explore more of the many activities DC offers at Christmas time, and revel in the beauty of this city under the limited winter light.  A majority of the new people I meet in DC are from somewhere else.  But my closest friends here claim the metro area as their own hometown.  This resident tourist series sparked from a kindling of love for this area and a desire to know it better, despite the length of my relationship with it.  Even though I have kept up with the promise to undertake in one new DC thing per month, I haven't kept with the blogging part.  So now with Christmas upon me, I figured I should get it out there before the moment has passed.

One thing that DC does well is museums.  They are excellent museums, with expertly curated collections and they are free! Since going to South Africa, zoos are pretty much ruined for me, but I still love to go.   And I had never been to the annual National Zoo event Zoolights! They just decorate the zoo's main walkway with a bunch of different light displays.  It's not particularly amazing.  Nothing like this (additionally, the first song used in this is possibly the worst Christmas song I have ever heard, followed by even more horrifically bad Christmas techno.  I can't stop laughing. I wish my little brother were here to do his impression of techno music. It's so good.  Now I'm laughing harder.)

Okay so back to Zoolights. The trick to making Zoolights good is not expecting too much, and it would probably help to be under the age of 9.  But if that's not an option for you, I would suggest thinking of it like a nice long walk with pretty things to look at, rather than a big event.  Make the event having dinner at Ardeo+Bardeo with Zoolights as your appetizer.  But I took a walk down there after work with a co-worker and we very much enjoyed it. Google has very kindly "auto-awesomed" my photos for me.

When I was driving home from Zoolights there was a particularly beautiful moon rising over the city.  I get a gorgeous vantage point of "all the lights resting in the river" and the monuments from the GW Parkway southbound just after crossing the Memorial Bridge.  There is a merge where I was in line waiting and I had just enough time to pull out my camera, and snag this photo, and the long-exposure just happened to catch a car streaking by at the bottom.  Cool!

The night after I went to Zoolights, I treated myself to the NSO and Washington Choral Society performance of Handel's Messiah at the Kennedy Center.  Nothing makes me feel more Washingtonian than a night at the Kennedy Center.  A chance to meditate on the Advent of Christ in one of the most beautiful buildings and with soaring voices, and a full orchestra to help.

 I was there in November to see a production of the ballet Sleeping Beauty which was pretty interesting.  It had vampires and a decidedly gothic feel.  I was front and center in the second row and could hear the dancers breathe.  Sometimes being so close can ruin a bit of the illusion of the story, but for me it was fun to be able to see so much and appreciate the incredible physicality of the dancers.  I also liked being able to see their facial expressions so well.

Then, the very next morning, a Friday, I was presented with what may be my favorite Christmas present of 2013.  This sunrise:

I am so fearful of the day, if it ever comes, that I have to leave Old Town and can no longer walk a short time and find a view like this awaiting me.  I had my phone with me, this isn't even taken with my nice camera.  While there is no photographic tool that could recreate the glory of that morning sky, at least this is a reminder of what it felt like to stand there, overcome with the beauty of that still winter morning.  It makes me think of one of my favorite lines from the book Cutting for Stone which starts like this: "When I wake to the gift of yet another sunrise...".  Even if they aren't all this spectacular, they are all a gift.

Hope you all had a very Merry Christmas.

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