I've never seen such awesome blooms. The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park is bursting with flowers right now.
My friend Linda and I went to see the cherry trees and apples trees, and they are indeed beginning to blossom, pouring out clouds of delicate pinkish-white flowers.
Designed by Baron Makoto Hagiwara as a temporary exhibit for the city's 1894 Midwinter Fair, the 5-acre garden is now a much-loved part of the San Francisco landscape.
The cherry trees are dotted throughout, as delicate accent pieces to the streams, sculptures, and bridges (like the stylized Moon Bridge‚ a favorite photo spot in the garden).
But what knocked us out were the azaleas: loaded with blooms in intense colors. Splashes of port wine reds, sangria scarlets, and cabernet purples. Set against the carefully pruned dwarf trees, these vibrantly hued bushes stand out like punk rockers at a Bach recital. Bring your camera.
Details: Garden admission is $5, $3 kids. Or visit free: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9-10. Go early for a more tranquil, tourist-free garden. For more info, check the San Francisco Convention and Visitor's Bureau website.
Lunch stop: Marnee Thai, at Irving and Lincoln, 415/731-9999. It boasts of its "authentic Siamese cuisine", and sits just a few blocks outside the park. We enjoyed the samosas and curry chicken.