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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Happy 281st, George

It's Presidents' Day today, when Abraham Lincoln's birthday on February 12, and that of George Washington on the 22nd of the same month, are combined to provide retail outlets with another opportunity to advertise sales. Back at the dawn of time, I have vague memories of the two birthdays being celebrated individually, but that hasn't been the case for eons (if it ever, in fact, was). Other than being a federal holiday, I don't recall there being any special celebrations on this occasion, by my wife heard that there was going to be an official George Washington Birthday Parade in Alexandria on the 18th (today). Seeing as Pamela was eager to visit Alexandria's Old Town area, where the parade was going to be held, our holiday plans were quickly made. It turned out to be a good choice. Though it was cold again today, the skies were clear and we scored a spot up front, next to the reviewing stand. Suffice it to say, a good time was had by all (three of us).

Old Town Alexandria is only a short drive down Leesburg Pike from our temporary home in Falls Church, but, fearing traffic jams, we traveled by Metro to the King Street station, and walked down King Street to Old Town and the parade route. But not before fortifying ourselves with some hearty brunch fare like steak and eggs (above) while en route.

Then it was time for the parade, and another introduction to a piece of Americana for my wife and daughter. For about 90 minutes we watched military units, police and firefighters, boy and girl scout troops, Legionnaires, car clubs, school marching bands, local politicians, fraternal orders and the like pass by the reviewing stand to the sometimes corny, but always enthusiastic, commentary from the parade announcer. Amber sat right at curbside, and had a great view of the proceedings, which apparently have been going on since 1923.

There were several groups in Revolutionary-era garb. The unit above stopped to fire their cannon and muskets for several extremely loud volleys, temporarily giving Taiwan and its firecracker tossers a brief run for their money in the noise-generating department.

No American small-town parade would be complete without the Shriners in their silly hats and even sillier cars. The latter were my daughter's favorite part of the parade, and considering the work the Shriners do for sick children, I say they let them have their fun.

Once the parade was over, we spent what was left of the afternoon wandering around Old Town. Alexandria's visitor center is housed in Ramsay House, the oldest in the town (1724). That's my wife and daughter on the porch, poring over maps and deciding where to go next.

"Next" turned out to be Carlyle House, built around 1753. The free admission today (it usually charges $5 to tour the interior) meant it was busy inside.

On the waterfront, with the sun in our eyes and the Potomac River behind us. The highlight in this part of town is the Torpedo Factory Arts Center, once a torpedo factory and now a three-story collection of art galleries, most of them featuring the work of white, middle-aged women.

Amber didn't let the cold or the walking get her down. Here she stands in front of Alexandria's post-Civil War City Hall.

Still 元気 on the bus ride back to Falls Church. Because of the parade, we were only able to scratch the surface of the many things to see (historical buildings, restaurants, shops etc.) in Alexandria's Old Town. We probably won't have time to go back before we're scheduled to ship out in mid-April, but I'm sure it'll still be around the next time we're back in town.

Then again, considering the struggles I'm having with Mandarin, we might have plenty of time to visit Old Town again real soon.

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