Saturday, 29 March 2014

Shopping in the Rain!

We have visited Leesburg Outlet Shopping Village several times before - in the heat of Memorial Day weekend and the freezing cold for Christmas shopping.

Today was just very wet!  Consequently it was also very quiet...

Tomorrow we are flying to Mobile, Alabama where it is due to be a little warmer and sunny!

Friday, 28 March 2014

Garden Colour

After the snow, some more crocus have appeared through the brown leaves.

There is also a small blue flower which is difficult to capture as the rather delicate flower faces the ground.

Finally there are signs of flowers to come quite soon in the daffodils..

With a little more sunshine we should see some real signs of Spring quite soon.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Back down to earth!

Today has been a quiet day.  Apart from a short trip out for some much needed stretching at Pilates, I have been in the house all day, dealing with everyday chores.

The bird feeders were mostly empty after the snow but most of it has now melted away and hopefully that will be the last for the winter.  

Everyone says that this has been the coldest winter in many years and fears that the Spring will be cut short as the warmer weather gets closer.

In Washington the Cherry Blossom festival season is underway (although this photo - the only cherry blossom I have seen so far - was taken at the Palace of Arts in San Francisco).  Over the first weekend in April there will be a street fair, parade and fireworks in Washington.  The cold weather has held back the blossom itself and it is now predicted that the peak flowering time - when around 70% of the blossom will be out - is likely to be in the second week of April.

Unusually I have only taken one photo today - of this loaf of bread made in the bread-maker.  

It was good - although not quite up to the standard of the sourdough from the Boudin bakery...

I shall try and do better tomorrow!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Bread, Breakfast and a Bus from Bristol!

This morning the skies were very grey and it was soon pouring with rain.  I caught the hop on/hop off bus to Fisherman's Wharf and took refuge in San Francisco's famous Boudin bakery which is right on the sea front and I believe the only working bakery within the city.   We had seen the bakers at work through the window and sampled their sourdough bread in a restaurant but had not been inside.

In the bakery shop and cafe there was an array of different sourdough breads including one novelty shaped loaf for each month of the year, as above.   The baskets moving on a conveyor around the room brought the bread from the bakery into the cafe.

One of San Francisco's trademark dishes is clam chowder served in a bread bowl - a hard baked sourdough roll.  It was a little early in the day for that so I opted for the pepper scramble - very good but rather more substantial than I had anticipated!

Riding the bus back to Union Square I was the only passenger so had a personal guided tour from the driver/guide who was telling me how much he liked to drive the right-hand drive bus in the city.  Looking at it more closely it was not only from the UK but in its previous life had been operating pretty close to home!!  It was apparently one of a number exported to the US by someone known to the driver as 'Fred'.  I think he was a bit disappointed that I didn't know him!

This afternoon we left San Francisco under still quite cloudy skies but could just see the now more familiar outlines of the city and bay as we gained height.

It had been very clear when we flew in but today's view was of fluffy clouds and sunlight picking out the contours and physical features below, recalling geography lessons of long ago!

We had heard that the rain we had experienced had fallen as snow over the mountains and could see this when we passed back over the Sierra Nevada.

Back in Reston we have a thin covering of snow which has frozen but which should clear quickly tomorrow as some sunshine is forecast.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

California Academy of Sciences

Today dawned rather early as David was hosting a web conference from our room starting at 5.30 and had some work to do before that.  It also dawned rather wet which was a disappointment in terms of my plans to amble around the Botanical Gardens at Golden Gate Park.

Instead I visited the California Academy of Sciences, based in the park.

Within the building is a 'rainforests of the world' biome with a walkway to travel up from the forest floor to the canopy.  There are free flying birds and butterflies.  Some of the butterflies were very large but nonetheless proved to be very difficult to photograph.

The building has a 'living' roof planted with a variety of grasses and flowers.

In the basement was a large aquarium and living coral reef exhibit.

The Academy of Sciences also has the world's largest all-digital planetarium.

This evening we called in to Macy's department store to see their 'Secret Garden' exhibit - exotic and Spring flowers - some beautifully scented - growing in individual exhibits over each counter on the ground floor..

Whilst there we also went to the top floor 'Cheesecake Factory' which was very busy.  The cheesecake selection was impressive.

We only looked...

Monday, 24 March 2014

Sausalito and a Night Tour

This morning, as David joined his conference in the hotel, I used the second day of the hop on/hop off bus ticket to get me to the far side of Golden Gate Bridge where I could pick up a different bus to go to Sausalito.

It was a much chillier bus ride as the fog had rolled down over the hill and was visible around the bridge.

Arriving in Sausalito, however, it was sunny and warm and remained so for the rest of the day.

Sausalito is across the bay from San Francisco - a small city, variously described as a Mediterranean-style fishing village (although in fact it has not seen any fishing boats in a long time and during WWII was where 'Liberty ' boats were built) or the Beverly Hills of San Francisco (a reference to the size and luxury of some of the villa houses surrounding the shore and hillside behind).

It was certainly a very pleasant place to be, with great views back to San Francisco.

Returning to the city this afternoon I visited the Palace of Fine Arts.

This extraordinary building is almost a facade, with a rather plain hall behind it which is available as exhibition or entertaining space. It was originally created as a temporary structure for an international exhibition in 1915 but became a landmark and so was rebuilt in stone.

Leaving the Palace I walked to the beach where it was rather windy and looked at the views in all directions.

This evening, David and I did a night tour on the bus which was very cold indeed, but clear..

After two hours on the open-top bus, including a trip over the Bay Bridge, we were ready to have a bowl of Dungeness crab chowder to warm up!