My kinda town, Chicago is....
01.04.2013 - 30.04.2013 81 °F
Where did April go to? The month began with Cherry Blossom fever hitting D.C. The annual pilgrimage to view the three thousand plus cherry trees around the Tidal Basin (a gift from Japan in 1912) began in earnest as local stores festooned their windows in cherry blossom merchandise and visitors poured into the nation's capitol, allergy remedies on hand, to view the famed spectacle. Only one problem-where were all the cherry blossoms? An unusually cold and dry spring had kept the buds snuggly tucked up in their waxy cocoons and they weren't coming out for anyone-visitor or resident! Even the annual "Cherry Blossom 10 Mile" race,(held 7th April, and in which John participated enthusiastically), couldn't coax the baby blossoms to push their pretty petals out into the cold...until the sun broke through! Two days after the race, a multitude of camera-laden pilgrims descended on the Tidal Basin to photograph, be photographed, pose and picnic against the backdrop of a pink canvas. It truly was an amazing sight and it was all over by the following weekend! Carpe Diem!
Think Baltimore and you think ..."Hairspray!" (as well as Edgar Allen Poe!) None of the cast of the show-stopping musical were in town when we visited for a weekend by train in April but we had plenty to look at and enjoy. Renovation work on the Inner Harbour area started in the 1980s and the location now attracts locals and visitors alike who mingle around the waterfront, home to several beautifully preserved historic ships, enjoying paddle boat rides and the Inner Harbor's many shops and restaurants. Staying at the Royal Sonesta Hotel overlooking the harbour, we were close at hand to sign up for a walking tour of the immediate area (only four participants and so it felt like a personal tour!), followed by a harbour cruise. The illuminated red neon sign of "Domino"sugar, keeps watch over the harbour at night and is a easily recognised landmark of the city.
"When you go, will you send back a letter from America?" "The Proclaimers" hit town (Alexandria VA, actually) a few days later at "The Birchmere"
a well known and loved venue for travelling musicians. Craig and Charlie gave a crowd pleasing performance, (with a passing reference to their boyhood encounter with the late Margaret Thatcher!). It's good to know that their talent has made it across the Pond and that they have a loyal and eager following.
At the Otani restaurant in Chantilly VA, there's no time for idle conversation between ordering and your meal being served-it's all done in front of your eyes: cleaver, fire, smoke and magic! I'm Cindy's guest and she's been keen to let me experience the occasion. "I'll bet they don't have restaurants like this in Scotland," she says and she'd be right (at least not in Aberdeen!) The talented and witty chef intersperses banter, humour and magic with cleaver wielding finesse that leaves you speechless! "I've never met anyone from Scotland before," he says, and so right away, I'm feeling like a cause celebre in this fun, high energy sushi cum steak Japanese restaurant. The food tastes amazing but I'm not tempted to try this at home for fear of calling out the fire brigade!
The rest of April is whittled away with attendinga National Symphony Orchestra concert at the Kennedy Centre, a Gilbert and Sullivan Society production ("Trial by Jury-very funny!) at the Georgetown Law Centre and a premier of "Twelth Night" at the Folger,
and then it's off to Chicago for the Fulbright end of program seminar!
John and I arrive the day before the seminar and make good use of our time by visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright House and Studio in Oakpark, a very leafy suburb of Chicago which has some wonderful examples of Frank Lloyd Wright homes. The following day is spent wandering aroung the Chicago Art Institute's galleries and marvelling at the wonderful collections on display.
We meet up with fellow Fulbrighters that evening and enjoy a good "catch up"! It's down to work on Saturday as we reflect on our experiences to date, and deliver our presentations. It's amazing the range of experiences that everyone has had and we know that our perspective on who we are and what we do will be changed for ever.
Late afternoon, we enjoy a very relaxing cruise on the river and then out onto Lake Michigan. Dinner is in a lively Mexican restaurant which we all enjoy.
It's time for further reflection of our experiences on Sunday morning and preparation for our return home-HOME! It's hard to believe that our year is almost over...okay, no time to stand still-got to keep moving and soak up as much as we can in the time that is left! To be continued...