Note to self……. Always carry the number for a taxi service in your wallet. This is a basic Travel 101 rule and I forgot to follow it.
It was a beautiful morning, bright and sunny, with a little breeze and I ignored the hint of humidity that was creeping subtly into the temperature. I had the hotel call for a taxi and headed off to visit Dumbarton Oaks and the Oak Hill Cemetary. I know that sounds weird, but the day before, I had seen glimpses of the elegant tomb sculptures on the way to the cathedral and had vowed to come back to explore, I asked the taxi driver to drop me off just down the street from the cemetary at Dumbarton Oaks.
Dumbarton Oaks is a house museum which houses what I understand is a wonderful Pre-columbian and Byzantine collection and wonderful gardens. I never got to see either one on this trip. Travel 101 rule 2. Check the opening and closing hours. This simple forgetful omission left me peering through the locked gates in dismay. Marking that museum off the day’s list (it was only 11 am! I wasn’t going to hang around until 2:00 pm when it opened) I walked the few blocks to the cemetery.
The old cemetery which was opened in 1849 was peaceful and the only sounds were the rustle of the trees and buzz of a bee or two. The green landscape was laid out in terraces as the grounds dipped down and up the rolling hillside. I noticed a runner taking a break on one of the far off decorative benches and a woman replacing flowers and cleaning off a headstone. It looked from the basket she had with her that she might be having a nice long visit and maybe lunch with her loved one. Other than that, I was the only person wandering through the beautiful works of funerary art.
Wandering back toward the entrance, my curiosity satisfied, I stopped to take in a small brick chapel with pointed arch windows, tall gabled roof and a rose window. The chapel was built in the Gothic style by James Renwick and is a beautiful example of the 19th century Romantic Movement. In fact, the majority of the cemetery reflects the aesthetic taste of that era.
Later, doing some research on the internet, I learned that the cemetery was founded by philanthropist banker Mr. W.W. Corcoran (i.e. Corcoran Gallery) and that there are many notable people such as William Lincoln, President Lincoln’s son buried there, but that was not the reason I was wandering through the graves that day. I was there purely to experience the artistic beauty that can be found in these historic burial grounds. I’ll leave searching for long-dead famous people to someone else.
When the taxi arrived, I gave the driver directions to let me off at Georgetown University. It is definitely a beautiful university. Georgetown is the oldest Catholic and Jesuit University in the United States and was founded the same year as the birth of our nation 1789. The university has seen the most important school’s official colors. While I wandered, I noticed many families with their college age kids along for what I was sure was trip to scope out the university.
I finally cooled down and headed back to our hotel and the icy air-conditioning of our room.