This is one of the peaks of the past nine months I’ve spent in Washington, DC. I was eager to see the famous cherry blossoms around the tidal basin, near the Jefferson Memorial. They have reached peak bloom this past weekend, and that was absolutely lovely.
So yes, my promise to write my first post in 2016 from Texas is now gone. The back and forth between Austin and DC has stopped until I go back to Austin for good, in a few weeks. More on this in a later post.
For now, let’s go back to spring in Washington, DC.
The Cherry Blossom Festival originates from a gift of 2,000 cherry trees that the city of Tokyo made to Washington, DC in 1912. On March 27, 1912, First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Japanese Viscountess Iwa Chinda, the wife of Sutemi Chinda, Japan’s newly appointed ambassador to the United States, planted the first two trees. In 1965, First Lady Lady Bird Johnson accepted an additional 3,800 trees. The first festival took place in 1927, was expanded to three days in 1934, and to two weeks in 1994.
The U.S. reciprocated the gifts, sending Japan flowering dogwood trees in 1915. In 1981, DC arborists sent cuttings from the newly American cherry trees following the destruction of Japanese trees by a flood in Japan.
The cherry blossoms are of course especially impressive around the Tidal Basin, but you can find many in the entire region. According to some figures, more than 1,000 cherry trees were planted in recent years in the region.
Horticulturists from the National Park Service monitor different stages of bud development to be able to give an estimate of when the cherry blossoms will reach peak bloom. But of course, this is not an easy job. This year, the initial forecast was for early April, but was adjusted a few weeks ago and moved forward after warmer than usual weather.
In conclusion, the region is incredibly beautiful when spring comes, and well worth a visit.
As you can see from the pictures, there were a lot of people (I read that 1.5 million people come to see the cherry blossoms each year), and the weather was not sunny, which was challenging to come up with good photographs. Hopefully though, they will still give you an idea of the beauty of the event.
Source of information & additional links:
– National Cherry Blossom Festival
– This Day in History: March 27, 1912 – Japanese cherry trees planted along the Potomac
– Cherry Blossom Watch
– Cherry Blossoms in 360°
I had planned to write a more elaborate post to end the year, but time is simply missing, so instead of rushing something, I will write what I wanted to write next year now… which actually is just in a couple of days (literally).
I’m flying back to Texas to start the New Year there :-)
I wish you all a very festive New Year’s Eve and an excellent New Year 2016, filled with happiness, health, and what your heart desires!
See you next year!
I’ll spend Christmas in Washington, DC this year, away from home. I have seen plenty of gorgeously – or outrageously – decorated houses in north Virginia, but of course the big attraction is the National Christmas Tree near the White House.
Although nice, I must say that the tree paled in comparison to the Rockefeller Center tree and its decorations in NYC, or even the decorations I could see in Texas (I’m pretty sure Austin’s Capitol’s Christmas tree last year was at least the same size).
Here are some pictures and a little bit of history behind the tradition.
Ninety-two years ago, the Ellipse, south of the White House, received its first Christmas tree.
In 1923, President Calvin Coolidge, the 30th President of the United States, lighted the National Christmas Tree on Christmas Eve in front of 6,000 visitors. The 48-foot fir tree was decorated with 2,500 red, white, and green electric bulbs.
Every year after that, in times of peace and war, Washington, DC would repeat this tradition.
This year, the National Christmas Tree is decorated in honor of the National Park Service Centennial, in sparkling gold and silvery white, the colors used for milestone celebrations.
For the 7th year in a row, it is illuminated by LED lights. There are about 600 LED net lights and icicle lights for a combined 6,000 watts. The lighting has been provided by General Electric for 53 years.
The lighting ceremony took place on December 3rd this year, and is available online if you are interested.
There were also model electric trains all around the tree.
The National Christmas Tree is surrounded by smaller Christmas trees decorated with ornaments made by “ordinary Americans, representing every U.S. state, territory and the District of Columbia.”
Here is the Christmas tree for New York, and an ornament.
And here is the Christmas tree, along with ornaments, for Texas.
Not too far, there was also a Nativity scene, and of course, the White House.
Every time the occasion presents itself to visit a new bookstore, I never miss it. Used bookstores are especially tempting, because yes, books are cheaper, but also because it’s a good way to find old books you’ve never heard of or that you couldn’t find elsewhere.
Today, I’d like to showcase a used bookstore in Virginia that I visited recently, Hole in the Wall.
Hole in the Wall Books
905 West Broad Street
Falls Church, Virginia 22046
The bookstore is a book lover’s dream (at least it was to me!): books are piling up everywhere in this little store. It feels like a treasure quest looking at all the books. From history, to sci-fi, to mystery, comics, business-related, chances are you’ll find a book or two that you’ll be interested in (of course I did find a couple of books!).
There’s parking space behind the store that you can access via the adjacent S Spring St.
This will be my fifth Christmas in the United States, as a permanent resident. I spent two of them in New York, and two of them in Austin.
Before I can post some pictures of the fifth one, which will be in Washington, DC, here are some memories from the previous ones in the U.S.
In New York in 2012…
In Austin, TX in 2013…
In Virginia in 2014…
In Texas in 2014…
Feel free to click on the links for more pictures. So many beautiful memories!
I can’t believe I let more than 5 months pass (again) without posting anything!
Seasons have come and gone from summer,
Okay, I don’t really have a winter picture because, 1) except for some cold days, it has not look much like winter in DC so far, 2) maybe because this is not winter yet officially!
The celebrations are indicative of the changing seasons though. It seems like only yesterday that I was taking pictures of Halloween and pumpkin decorations,
but Christmas is here already!
I hope you are all doing well, getting ready for the holiday season. I am not ready for the season, but I guess it would be too much to ask Santa to delay it just a little bit ;-)
So let’s go for it!
What are your plans for the holiday season?
First things first: I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads.
Now let’s concentrate on Sous-Chef: 24 Hours On The Line by Michael Gibney.
They instictively move about one another in the narrowest corners without even the subtlest brushing of hips. There are no burns or cuts, no pans dropped, no spills or messes made. Its practitioners call this performance ‘the dance’.
I have to start by saying that I was pleasantly surprised by how I enjoyed reading Gibney’s book. I expected to like it – or I wouldn’t have entered the giveaway for the book, but I enjoyed it more expected.
Gibney takes us with him for one day in his life as a sous-chef. He shows us through his very good writing every minute of the day of a sous-chef on a busy Friday with a restaurant expected to accommodate 300 guests in just a few hours.
From the moment he enters the restaurant to get everything ready to the following morning, we witness all the meticulous and essential steps that are taken by him, the head chef, the other sous-chef, the cooks, the waiters, and all the staff so that clients can enjoy a perfect evening at the restaurant. We also get a taste of what a busy life his is.
As the rhythm accelerates during the evening to accommodate an increasing number of guests, as well as food critics and journalists, we witness “the dance” and what it takes to perform it.
Anyone interested in professional cooking, being a cook or chef, or simply people who enjoy going out for dinner, should enjoy this book. It is extremely interesting to learn how the meals we order come to life in the kitchen, and what it takes to work as a sous-chef. This read is quick, simple, but well-written, original, and authentic.