Took the bikes for a test-ride around Washington today. Although many of the cycle lanes aren’t segregated, the roads are wide and the traffic, for the most part, is rather sedate compared to other large cities such as London. As on any major roads you need to keep your wits about you, but we had no problems with drivers. You do need to watch out for potholes though – we may moan, but the UK doesn’t have a monopoly on these it seems.
Learnt a lot about the city today in the excellent company of Kay and Paul Lewis, friends of Terry’s who live in DC. Paul is Washington correspondent for The Guardian while Kay is studying for a PhD in Ethno-Botany. Paul had attended the annual White House Presidents Correspondents Dinner at The Hilton the night before and they’d both been up late attending an after show party with the cast of the House of Cards.
It’s always great to see somewhere through the eyes of someone who lives there. I had always thought of the American Capitol as an architecturally spectacular place, but one that was perhaps a little sterile, ceremonial and lacking warmth. But the Washington we saw today was nothing of the sort. We began at DuPont Circle looking around the weekly farmers market. You don’t have to go far from the capital until you are out in open farmland, so all the produce was local with many stalls mentioning the names of the farms. Lots of fresh fruit, vegetables and flowers.
The city is remarkably green, the trees have only come into leaf in the past couple of weeks and some, like the dogwoods, are still in bloom. Had lunch with Kay and Paul at a local restaurant where we sampled the local tipple, Mimosa, made with one part champagne, one part orange juice, rather like a stronger Buck’s Fizz. Spent the afternoon wandering around the city before heading to their apartment and taking to the roof where we drank tea overlooking the city while swifts whirled overhead.
Terry and I took our first ride in the evening, heading to Union Station and then up to Capitol Hill before riding to the Lincoln Memorial, by which time it was dark. Surprised to find it packed, with hundreds of students posing for photos in front of Abe, looking down from his marble chair. Hard not to be impressed, particularly when turning to view the towering column of The Washington Monument, glittering in the Reflecting Pool. A night-time ride back to our cycle workshop, aka The five star Fairmont Hotel, where the doormen seem to be enjoying the curious sight of two Englishmen coming and going on bicycles. More used to opening car-doors for guests, they welcome us with a smile and a handshake as we scoot the bikes quickly to the lifts, away from the suits and cocktail dresses.