Saturday, 5 April 2014

Short night

Shortly after we left Dulles airport last evening - around 7.30pm local time, the sun was setting.

Approximately six hours later, at around 6.30 am, on the approach to Heathrow, the sun was rising. 

It did feel like a very short night and consequently it has felt like quite a long day today.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Colour in the Garden

The poor frozen camellia of a few weeks back has managed a few flowers but they are small and many of them burned by the cold around the edges.

In the front garden the scillas are doing well and there are a few daffodils..

Those in the back garden are still in bud so we shall miss those, as well as the Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC as we are on our way home tonight.

Probably the most colourful thing in the garden this morning was this American Goldfinch, the male of the species, fully fledged for the mating season in his vibrant yellow plumage..

David also captured the red-bellied woodpecker yesterday and he is also looking very colourful..

See you soon..

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Food of the Gods?

During our stay in Mobile I encountered two rather unusual and rather loftily named marshmallow dishes.

The first one was a surprise side addition to a shrimp (prawn) salad at Bellingrath Gardens - in the pot in the above photo alongside the rather more usual broccoli. I enquired what it was and was told 'Ambrosia' and that it is a combination of marshmallow, pineapple, grated cheese, grated coconut and sour cream.  It was more palatable than you might think - and the shrimp was amazing.

The second Southern delicacy came from the Peanut Shop (established 1947) in Mobile.  This one was called Divinity and was apparently originally made for weddings.  Sold in squares like home-made marshmallow it was a cross between marshmallow, nougat and fudge and incredibly sweet!  

It is a hard job testing all these new things - but somebody has to do it!!

(I found the following photo of Divinity on the web - not quite the same but similar)

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Return of the Chipmunks

We returned to Reston this afternoon to find that a few things had changed in the warmer days that we have been away.  The daffodils that were in bud are now in flower and the little blue scillas are more numerous..

...or at least they were until we had some visitors at dusk this evening who may have polished them off..

It seems remarkable that these creatures have survived such a hard winter and they do look very thin.

The most exciting change since we left is the return of the chipmunks.   These tiny creatures - considerably smaller and quicker than the squirrels - have been in hibernation since October and hence this is the first one that I have seen in the five months since I arrived here.  David managed to capture it as it paused when darting across our neighbour's garden.

And finally, back to Mobile Bay and a few more pictures of the rather beautiful and tranquil Asian Garden at Bellingrath Gardens..

These turtles were enjoying sunning themselves at the side of the lake by the Japanese bridge and in the shallows..

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Bellingrath Gardens

When David left for his meetings this morning I took a taxi out of Mobile to the Bellingrath Gardens and Home, some twelve miles down the side of Mobile Bay towards the Gulf of Mexico.

The gardens were created from an old fishing camp on the 'bayou' and were first opened to the public in 1934.  The home built within the gardens dates from the following year.

The area was originally wooded and large, gnarled oak trees remain throughout the garden, they are swathed with a hanging lichen-type plant.

The gardens were very colourful with azaleas in full bloom and camellias and magnolia just last their best.  There is an extensive rose garden but most of the roses come out in April.

In the glasshouses were some very colorful and exotic plants including hibiscus and orchids..

Outside the greenhouses were ponds with rather interesting borders and a few water lilies.

Having spent all day in the gardens and visiting the house I have rather a large number of photos and will include some to brighten up tomorrow's blog as we are flying back to Washington via Charlotte and much of the day will be taken up with travelling.

Monday, 31 March 2014

Mobile, Alabama

We were told that it would be azalea time here and certainly everything is well ahead of the DC area - many trees are in leaf and the colours are very vibrant.  Some of the older, traditional Southern style houses have neatly trimmed azalea hedges around their front gardens, full of blooms.

The final stage of our journey here was completed easily this morning and we were pleased to find our case waiting for us at Mobile airport.  David was therefore able to change before heading to his first meeting at the University of South Alabama.

During quite a long taxi ride into the city we learned a little about the area from our very friendly driver and also how to pronounce its name (Mobile as in 'eel' not 'ill' and with the emphasis on the second syllable).  I think that this probably comes from the fact that the city, like New Orleans along the coast was originally colonised by the French - and later fought over by the French and Spanish.

Our hotel is the Battle House, an old building with modern additions, within the historical district of the city.

Mobile is a city of many faces, mid way between New Orleans and the Gulf Coast beaches.  It is a large and thriving sea water port, military and civil ships are still being built here and cruise ships visit.  There is also a fishing fleet and boats bringing in crab and oysters for which the area is famous.  The old air base here will next year become the site of the new assembly line for Airbus Americas and people here are very proud of that.

In addition to being an industrial city, there are a number of historical buildings here although sadly many are standing in isolation surrounded by parking lots or generally looking a little run down.

There is great contrast between the older buildings and newer additions to the city.

To add to the eclectic mix of architecture in the city there is an 'Egyptian revival' building of 1922, originally built as a meeting place for Freemasons.

It is now a little run down and is in use as a banqueting hall.  It was difficult to photograph today with the sun streaming down and so I found a better picture than mine on the web..

It is a massive building in contrast to its surroundings.

Mobile is famous for being the originator of the Mardi Gras carnival tradition and in many of the trees, celebratory beads and decorations from the carnival a few weeks ago are still in evidence, as well as the extraordinary ferns that grow on the shady side of the trunks of the huge, gnarled oak trees.

I had hoped to take a boat trip today to see Mobile from the water and to see some of the birds and animals in the Mobile-Tensaw delta but unfortunately we arrived too late and there isn't another before we leave, as luck would have it.  I have therefore had to resort to photographing a postcard of a view of the city from the water..

Tomorrow, weather permitting (it has been beautiful today) I am hoping to visit some gardens outside the city.