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Archive for March, 2011

In  Fodor’s newsletter they listed the top sites for viewing spring flowers, and Washington, D.C. was one of them.  Last spring  we visited Washington, D.C. to see the Cherry Blossoms, between March 31st and April 1st.  We had seen the cherry blossoms before and thought they were spectacular and felt we were really lucky to hit it at the best time.  I don’t usually like to revisit places as they are never quite the same the second time.  However, this year they were more than spectacular – it looked like every branch of every tree was in full bloom.  I just kept exclaiming how beautiful it was, an ocean of pink and white.

cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

CHERRY BLOSSOMS

The cherry trees were a gift from Japan when, in 1912, 3,020 cherry trees arrived in the U.S. as a living symbol of friendship between the two nations.  Ever since,  the beauty of the blossoming trees has enchanted visitors and heralds the beginning of spring.  In 1935 the Cherry Blossom Festival was established as an annual event, and during festival time many events take place, such as parades and lantern walks.  It is said that millions of people come to Washington, D.C. every year to see the blossoms and participate in the many events. It shows the deep appreciation people feel for the cherry blossoms. They are a real natural treasure.

JAPANESE LANTERN cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

JAPANESE LANTERN

There are different varieties of Cherry Trees. There is the Usuzumi Cherry Trees planted in 1999 as a gift of 50 from the people of Neo Mura Village in central Japan, and the Yoshino Cherry Tree is the predominant species in the park. These are the ones you see planted around the Tidal Basin making it look like fluffy white clouds.  There is also a Fugenzo Cherry Tree which is one of the oldest cultivated cherry trees in Japan.  These trees have pink double flowers with curved petal tips. Also there are some Weeping Cherry Trees, which are easy to identify with their cascades of pink flowers.   To identify the other varieties there are signs. The Akebono Cherry Trees are interesting as it is a pinker version of the Yoshino.  The flowers change color during their lifespan-pink buds open and fade to white petals, then turn pink again as they begin to wilt.

We first arrived in the evening and drove and walked around some to see the blossoms and monuments illuminated.

JEFFERSON MEMORIAL cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

JEFFERSON MEMORIAL

WASHINGTON MONUMENT cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

WASHINGTON MONUMENT

Parking can be a real challenge; you just hope you are in the right place at the right time, when someone is leaving.  After driving around a few times we did find a parking spot.  We walked over to the Tidal Basin area. Here we had great views of the Jefferson Memorial lit at night.  It was beautiful and I just couldn’t stop taking pictures. Thank goodness for digital. We returned the next day and walked around the Tidal Basin with the hundreds of other people.

TIDAL BASIN cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

TIDAL BASIN

It is just such a beautiful sight.  You can see it in pictures but it just isn’t the same as being there.  Around the FDR Memorial is another good place for viewing and also by the Washington Monument.

WASHINGTON MONUMENT cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

WASHINGTON MONUMENT

At one point we saw a newly married couple having their wedding pictures taken under the trees.  To add to the color there was a monk walking around in his saffron robe.

buddhist monk orange robe cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

MONK

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STAR MAGNOLIA

STAR MAGNOLIA

DAFFODILS

DAFFODILS

 

SPRING IN THE BACK YARD

SPRING IN THE BACK YARD

SPRING
SPRING
BARDFORD PEAR IN SPRING

BRADFORD PEAR IN SPRING

According to the calendar it is spring.  However when I woke up this morning I wasn’t sure.

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 With all the interest in the upcoming royal wedding I got to remembering our visit to Althorp last summer.  Althorp is Princess Diana’s family home.  It has been in the Spencer family for 500 years, 19 generations. It was built in 1508 by Sir John Spencer.  Diana’s younger brother Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, the 9th Earl Spencer,  lives in the house which is only open to the public in July and August.

 It is located about 1 1/2 hours driving time outside of London in the countryside. To get there we had to first take the tube to the train station.  We had booked our train tickets on line before we left.  When we got to the train station to pick up our tickets it was all very easy.  It is just like picking up your movie tickets that you booked ahead of time.  You use your credit card and out come your tickets.  Of course it took a lot of advance research to find out how to go about all this.

 You take a train to the Northampton train station and then you can take a public bus to the main gate.  We had picked our train departure time  to get us there in plenty of time to catch the bus.  However, when we got to Northampton no one knew anything about a bus or where to catch it. Then someone else said the bus had already left so we took a cab.  On the return trip we thought we would try the bus.  We found out where to catch it and the estate’s mini-bus took us to the entrance gate and pointed out where to go.  We were told you would have to flag it down because this wasn’t a normal stop.  So there we are standing on a desolate corner out in the countryside waiting for a bus.  They only run every couple hours and we didn’t want to miss it because we needed to get back to catch our scheduled train.  The bus did finally come and we made it in time to catch the train back to London. It all went well and we made it.

 Diana wasn’t a commoner by any means. The Spencer family has been at the center of social and political life in England over the centuries. Touring the house we found it to be fabulous with many priceless paintings, furnishings, porcelain, etc. We were able to tour 19 rooms in the house, including some of the Spencer Family’s private apartments. Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed inside the house. The Spencers began as sheep farmers, coming to prominence in the 15th century.  

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

The estate now covers 14,000 acres of beautiful countryside and emcompasses cottages, farms, woodlands and villages. At the time a conservation project was in progress as much needs to be done to maintain the house.  A lot of the house was covered in scaffolding

Conservation work in progress

Conservation work in progress

but there were pictures showing how the exterior looked.

ALTHORP -Spencer Family Home

ALTHORP-Spencer Family Home

 The stables are in the palladium style and far larger and fancier than most houses. 

STABLE AT ALTHORP

STABLE AT ALTHORP

 They now hold a display commemorating Diana, pictures from childhood, home movies, and best of all her wedding dress and several other dresses she wore.

 After touring the house and having lunch in the courtyard we walked to the lake to see the island

ISLAND

ISLAND

on which Diana is buried and the memorial they have to her. 

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

 

It is a very beautiful and peaceful setting.

An interesting thing is that I always thought Winston Spencer Churchill that Spencer was a middle name but it turns out it is a family name and there is some connection with Diana’s family.

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