Heels over Head: Disneyland for democracy

2014-09-21 15:00

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Carien du Plessis had a few precious hours of free time during the US-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, and, after a few Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, took a run through DC’s Disneyland for democracy

What to do when Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups stare you in the face? You run.

The US?–?home to Reese’s?–?is much nicer than anticapitalism haters would have you believe. Everything looks glam like in the movies and, more importantly, peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie dough are prominent ingredients of the national cuisine. Problem? These two dishes aren’t diet food.

Luckily running is no problem in Washington, DC. The pavements are full of fab people in running gear and iPods.

Unfortunately, the US-Africa Leaders Summit?–?the real reason I went to the US last month?–?kept us busy. But on my first day there, a Sunday morning, I had a few hours to explore DC’s Disneyland for democracy: the National Mall (the memorial park, not the shopping centre).

With jet-lagged elephant ankles, I set off in muggy but thankfully cloudy weather past Madam’s Organ (a popular hangout in the Adam’s Morgan area) past the fountain in memory of the Civil War on leafy Dupont Circle.

I passed several thousand Starbucks outlets and jay-ran across countless pedestrian crossings, always keeping in mind that the traffic could come from the “wrong” side?–?a potential hazard for tourist runners.

.?First stop was the White House, because fitness has been a feature of many US presidents and Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, is no exception. Other than the Not-So-Secret Service dudes, there wasn’t much movement around at that time.

.?Surely, Meg Ryan had some kissing scene in a romcom involving a dog and a dude on the marble steps of the Lincoln Memorial? Maybe I misremembered. In any event, even at the feet of Uncle Abe Lincoln (how did he stay so thin?) I didn’t get lucky. After scanning the goose bump-inducing presidential speeches on the walls, I made like Forrest Gump and ran on.

.?The phallic Washington Monument’s photogenic reflection in the reflective pool was good for a few thousand selfies (a sweaty face stuffed with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream the night

before made it tough to get a flattering angle).

.?Then it was off to the Potomac River for some natural scenery. Crossing Independence Avenue I encountered a traffic light saying Don’t Walk, so I looked left and right and ran instead, while some cars hooted prohibitively.

.?The Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial is disabled-friendly, in deference to the 32nd US president depicted as discreetly sitting in a wheelchair. Inspirational quotes on the walls include “The only thing to fear is fear itself.”

.?Getting to the Jefferson Memorial meant running around the Tidal Basin with its Japanese cherry blossom trees.

.?I got lost and found the colourful fish market where a customer told me he kept crayfish as pets as a child and they squeal a bit when boiled in hot water. Bon appétit.

.?The Capitol was magnificent and there were many runners training on the hill, but it was impossible to get the perfect selfie there.

.?The morning was getting late and thirsty, so I sped through magnificent Union Station (which romcom star got kissed here again?).

.?Outside The Willard Hotel, barricades were going up in anticipation of Africa’s heads of state. Sadly, these guys were probably too busy for a run in the park. I hope their wives had time for a bite of cookie dough.

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