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USATourist News Magazine

May 2002

In this issue:

Washington DC Architechture

Many of our cities in the USA have developed with no real architectural plan and little sense of aesthetic appeal. The streets and avenues of most cities are laid out in simple grid patterns, or in convoluted mazes adapted to local topography and early traffic patterns. Washington DC is an exception. It was originally founded for the specific purpose of establishing a national capital, and a young French architect named L'Enfant was commissioned to prepare the design. He created an aesthetically pleasing metropolis with wide avenues, many public plazas and spacious parks. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the USA.

Washington DC is filled with public buildings, monuments, museums and parks. Most of them are open to visitors without any admission charge. At its center, the National Mall is a two-mile long common area surrounded by the US Capitol Building, the White House, the National Archives, the many Smithsonian Museums and several major National Monuments. Adjacent parks include spacious grassy swards, groves of ornamental trees, fountains, ponds and a large tidal basin.

A gift from Japan

More than 3,700 cherry trees, in nine different varieties, grow around the Tidal Basin, at East Potomac Park, and on the grounds around the Washington Monument and the White House. In 1912, the people of Japan presented the city of Washington DC with 3,000 cherry trees as a token of friendship. Mrs. William Howard Taft, wife of our president, and Vicountess Chinda of Japan planted the first two trees.

The annual spring blossoming of these trees has initiated a "Cherry Blossom Festival" in our national capitol. This year's festival marked the 90th celebration of the gift from the people of Tokyo to the people of Washington. In addition to the gorgeous floral display numerous cultural events and garden tours were offered. This year's schedule was a mix of Japanese and American performing and fine arts. The festival usually occurs in the last week or March or the first week of April, as the exact date of full bloom may vary due to climatic conditions.

I was fortunate enough to be in Washington DC the first week of April when the cherry trees were in full bloom. It was a spectacular sight with thousands of trees covered in pink and white blossoms. Their splendor was reflected in the still waters of the Tidal Basin, and the entire area was permeated with their perfume. Many people were strolling through the parks and along the shore of the tidal basin entranced by the beauty. Photographers were clicking their shutters at every scenic viewpoint.

New Visa Security Issues

At, we receive many requests for information about visitor visas, about student visas and about temporary work visas. Publicity about the recently proposed visa changes have causes some confusion, and we are getting more questions than usual. We are not experts about visas, but here is some basic information. If you require more information, you must contact a US embassy or consulate. Here is a page that links to US Embassies and Consulates around the world.

The US government has visitor exchange treaties with 28 other countries. Any citizen of the 28 countries can come to the USA for up to 90 days without a visa and US citizens can travel to those 28 countries without visas. Those 28 countries are: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom and Uruguay. Argentina is no longer on the list.

The proposed visa changes

If you are a citizen of any other country or you wish to come for more than 90 days, you must obtain a visa. Until recently, such visitor visas were automatically valid for up to six months. Under the proposed new regulations, such visas will no longer be issued for an automatic six months. The visas will be issued for a "reasonable amount of time required for the purpose of the visit" up to six months. If a time period is not specified, the visa will be valid for only 30 days.

In the past, the US Immigration and Naturalization Service was very lax in issuing student visas. Many people obtained student visas and came to the USA, but did not attend school. We still have many thousands of these "illegal" foreign students living and working in the US. Possibly, a few criminals or terrorists are among them.

The US Immigration and Naturalization Service is now making it more difficult to obtain student visas. In the future, student visas will be issued only to students registered in an approved course of study at a legitimate school, and those that drop out of school will be required to leave the country.

Spring in the USA

Spring is a great time to visit all parts of the USA. The weather in the southern states is already getting very warm. The temperatures in Florida, in California, in Arizona and in Las Vegas are climbing. Now is a great time to visit these destinations before the summer heat becomes too oppressive.

In the northern states, the spring weather is usually very pleasant except that it rains a bit more often in most locales. The days are often sunny and warm and the nights are cool. This is a nice time to visit New York City, Boston, Washington DC or Seattle.

Northeastern Driving Tour

We added a new page to about a northeastern US driving tour. If you plan to visit the northeastern part of the USA, this page will provide you with some useful tips about visiting some interesting attractions like New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington DC. For now, the page is only in English, but we plan on translating it into the other languages very soon.

When we add new pages of information to the web site, we usually begin with the English page. We usually translate the page into other languages some weeks later. If you do not find the information you are seeking in German, French, Spanish or Japanese, check our English pages and you may find it.

Mike Leco

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