Sunday, May 29, 2011

Air Show, Andrews Air Force Base

The past week has not held enough hours for me and my feet have barely touched the ground. Work has suddenly erupted which is awesome but means I've been doing 12 -15 hour days and at the same time trying to organize my move from Centreville. But I took a day off for fun on Sunday and went with Steve to see the Air Show, something I've been wanting to do for years. It was a blistering hot day with hardly a breeze, perfect for planes pirouetting in the sky and parachutists twirling to the ground but not so nice for us thousands of people on the hot tarmac below. But we were excited.
We were shuttled from the parking lot to the airfield and I was very impressed at the faultless organization. We barely waited in line before we were stood in front of a C5 Super Galaxy. I've been wanting to see one of these close up for 25 years, and I was in instant awe at the sheer size of the beast.
Steve took this photo of me and his accompanying comment was, 'When considering the purchase of a new vehicle, it is always wise to give the tires a good kick and the engine a good tap' Hilarious!
There were 2 beautifully painted Military Tribute Camaros on show painted by Mickey Harris who's been airbrush painting for 33 years. His skill was apparent.
Every single military person we met and spoke with were extremely friendly, courteous and helpful. Even their animal counterparts were happy to strike a pose.
Army boots and a wonderful little guy happy to have his picture taken.
The Marines were there to display their physical skills and encourage the public to show theirs. I loved the message on their shirts.
The E-10 Warthog, F-15E Strike Eagle and the P-51 Mustang. The F-15 was my favorite with its afterburners and loud engine.
As the afternoon wore on, the skies got cloudy and blurry looking almost like a science fiction setting. With sore feet and sunburn we were ready to go but had to watch just one more display.
This jet car did 1-60 mph in 1.5 seconds and I was thrilled to catch the fireball busting out of the back end before my eyes were filled with dust and my eardrums nearly blew out.
The highlight of the day for me though was meeting Optimus Prime and having a chat. I desperately wanted to hug him but found this impossible with all his metal bits protruding so I had to settle for holding a hand.
The crowd cheering on the Thunderbirds as they made their way down the runway to start their display. We took this opportunity to leave and get a shuttle back to our car before everyone else left. It had been an amazing day and I felt a lump in my throat as I considered how our military forces give up so much for us by putting their lives on the line every day and yet still put on an incredible weekend for FREE. There was no charge to see this spectacular show. I can't think of anyone else in our region who gives so much to the public in this way and I was both humbled and very proud of these noble men and women.
So that was last weekend and this weekend I have spent each day packing and cleaning in Centreville and on Tuesday I move down to my country retreat in Marshall. I shall not blog about this weekend but will resume the week beginning June 6 with photos of my new abode. But the daily photo blog will continue throughout.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Franciscan Monastery, DC

On Saturday after days of rain, the skies broke and promised a day of some sunshine and a respite from showers for a while so Barb, Steve and I decided to visit the Franciscan Monastery in DC. We were lucky to get there and find the place relatively empty and were amazed at the beautiful architecture and gardens that greeted us.There are monks that live here and some go to Jerusalem on missions. The monastery holds replicas of the Catacombs, Jesus' burial place and the tomb from where he ascended.One of the purposes of the Franciscan Monastery is to provide a place in the United States for people who did not have the time or could not afford to travel to the Holy Land or the Catacombs of Rome.
We thought touring the gardens would be the safest bet while it was dry and save the building for later.
The gardens were a riot of color with perennials starting to bloom but the most impressive was the roses. Every color was here and every bush was in full bloom. We walked around in silence for the most part and alternated between taking photos and sniffing the blooms. The previous rain showers had coated all the flowers with raindrops that sparkled and made each flower head look like a jewel. Here are some of the gorgeous roses.
As well as wonderful roses, the sculptures in the gardens were equally breathtaking. But I couldn't find anywhere on the internet to provide information about many of them.
Inside the monastery, my initial reaction was one of awe at the incredibly intricate artworks on the walls and the amount of gold paint used. Every where you looked there were ornate and highly detailed paintings and panels. But I did notice that I didn't feel a subduing respect that I an usually aware of when I enter a church. This felt far too touristy to be taken seriously as a place of worship, yet services are held here on a regular basis. Barb and I also noticed that the prayer candles were not real, just plastic lookalikes that illuminated at the press of a button and were on a timer. I felt no urge to light one, sad that the calming and ritualistic lighting with a taper had been denied us.
This is one of the leather padded doors that enters the church. We had also briefly visited the gift shop earlier and I was disappointed here also. I would have loved to purchase a nice item to take home but nearly everything here was cheaply made mass produced and gaudy. 
We joined a group to be shown the recreations of the roman catacombs where we saw more artwork on the walls and chapels, one of which is the Purgatory Chapel.
I loved these sculptures of St. Cecelia and St. Sebastian. I badly wanted to take the St. Sebastian as I adored it and thought it would look wonderful laying by my fireplace. Steve kindly offered to assist but we had to give up when the realization dawned that it just would not be hidden under my t-shirt.
As we headed back outside we were greeted by fine rain drizzling down. We had planned our visit perfectly as the few people trying to appreciate the gardens were looking decidedly damp. I would definitely like to return here again, maybe in the fall, to see the gardens. They sold a few plants outside and I was enchanted by the message on the water container.
This is also a great site for info on the monastery.
Of course afterwards, we had to finish our visit with the usual tradition so we drove down to U ST and found a bar. After quenching our thirst, which took some time, we then decided to have a BBQ at Barb's. So back to Centreville we headed to collect provisions, mainly steaks, more beers and chips.
Our dinners lined up ready for the heat and individually seasoned. They turned out perfectly and we finished the evening sitting under the car port chatting and watching the storms close out the day.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Irises at Walney Pond

On Sunday, I decided to go and take photos of Walney Pond in Centreville. Jeff and I had cycled past here a couple of days ago and the pond looked beautiful, something out of a Monet painting. I hiked around the trails first but couldn't concentrate on taking photos of the woodland scenery, I was in an iris mood.
Absolutely beautiful and with the rain we'd had lately, the pond was full and clean. So glad I got these photos before I move out of the area.