Saturday, 7 December 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

Thanks to the wonder of Skype via our respective televisions, we were able to join Lauren and James this morning while they were decorating their tree and rooms  (Emma was getting into the spirit in her Christmas  outfit).  It is all now beautifully done and very festive - we are looking forward to seeing it when we get home.  

Shopping in Reston this afternoon we were interested to see that the seasonal plant arrangements of choice for this high-end clothes shop comprised a variety of ornamental cabbages!  Perhaps they are good at withstanding the cool weather.  

For the house we opted for the rather more conventional evergreen wreath for the door - yet to be hung up, photo to follow.  Last year the previous tenant put a wreath near the front door and left it there.  When David arrived at the beginning of May he was unable to use that door for several weeks as birds had nested in it and were raising chicks there.

In the winter light the Fountain Square looked very pleasant at the end of the afternoon but it is getting gradually colder this evening.

Tomorrow there is a weather warning for an 'ice storm'.  (We are not exactly sure what that is but no doubt we will discover).

Friday, 6 December 2013

Day 36

It has been pouring with rain today and the sumps which keep the basement level free of water have been in full swing (very efficient provided that there is no loss of electricity to run the pumps).

The birds and squirrels have been visiting the feeders between the showers.

This is, we think, a male American Goldfinch.  In the Spring, during the mating season they are a very bright yellow but at this time of year more olive green in colour.

This pair are male and female house finches and as ever the male is considerably more colourful than his mate.

The little Downy Woodpecker continues to enjoy the suet block.

The squirrels continue to try very hard to break into the feeders.

In Montreal I wandered into the grounds of McGill University in the centre of the city (tenuous link but keep reading)..

At the side of one of the paths a member of staff had put down his case and piles of student scripts to feed the squirrels.  They were very tame so I think this must have been a regular thing..

There was quite a crowd but one in particular looked as if he was usually at the front of the queue..

(It is ok, he wasn't wedged in the tree, I saw him go)

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Day 35

Before flying back to Reston today we spent a couple of hours this morning in Boston, walking to various sights in the city centre. We visited the New England Holocaust Memorial which comprises a memorial garden between two roads, the main feature if which is a series of six clear glass towers that you walk through.  In the glass of each tower are etched the numbers of all those who perished in the Holocaust and selected quotations from survivors.

The glass towers are set over dark metal grilles, from which smoke constantly rises into the towers which are lit from within at night.

The above picture is from the website for the Memorial as I did not manage to get a good photo and there is much more detailed information about the memorial on the site.

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Day 34 - Boston

We arrived quite late last night at the hotel which is close to MIT in Cambridge and across the river from the city.  The skyscrapers of Back Bay create an impressive night view.

This morning there was some blue sky and much to see:

The Massachusetts State House on Beacon Hill on which the US Capitol in Washington was modelled.

The Old State House, surrounded by the buildings of the financial district in the old town - just in front is the site of the Boston Massacre.  This building had a wonderful curved staircase.

The Faneuil Hall, an 18th Century Meeting house.

The Quincy Market.

It is certainly a diverse and fascinating place and one to visit again with a little more time.

3 December - Day 33

A grey and chilly morning - I headed for the BioDome within the Olympic Park.  Formerly the velodrome, this is now a series of managed environments from tropical rainforest to sub-polar, all under one roof.  It was interesting but I think I should have headed for the Jardin Botanique instead!

This evening we flew to Boston and have just a day to explore!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Day 32

This morning I walked the short distance to Square Victoria to catch the Metro via  this art nouveau entrance donated by the City of Paris when the Montreal system was opened.

I took a train to 'Cotes de Neige' on Mont Royal above the city to visit St Joseph's Oratory.  Whilst from the outside it reminds you of Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, it is clear when inside that this is a much more recent building - with escalators between each floor - it was started in 1924 and finally completed in 1955.

The capacity of the Basilica is 2,200 seated or 10,000 standing!

The view from the Belvedere over Montreal was a little grey..

This afternoon I revisited the facade of the Basilica of Notre Dame in the city and photographed the illuminated angels.  It was closed to visitors for a televised concert.

I then walked down to the port and the old town and took a few more pictures in the evening light.

It is snowing this evening so we will see what tomorrow brings..

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Day 31

We spent this rather grey, snowy, day exploring Montreal and noted the contrast between traditional buildings such as the Anglican church, above, and cathedral, below, and tall modern skyscrapers.

We visited the Musee des Beaux Arts which has  a series of amazing collections of art and design:

Also at the museum was an exhibition of Christmas trees, each one created by a cultural or community group in Montreal:

We walked to the old port area and visited the 'Mariners chapel' where a choral concert was taking place:

We learned afterwards that each week a different choir sings and this Sunday it was the turn of the  Police Choir of Montreal.

This old market building above the port is now the home of an extensive selling exhibition of arts and crafts.

In the port itself, everything was frozen.