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Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

In  Fodor’s newsletter they listed the top sites for viewing spring flowers, and Washington, D.C. was one of them.  Last spring  we visited Washington, D.C. to see the Cherry Blossoms, between March 31st and April 1st.  We had seen the cherry blossoms before and thought they were spectacular and felt we were really lucky to hit it at the best time.  I don’t usually like to revisit places as they are never quite the same the second time.  However, this year they were more than spectacular – it looked like every branch of every tree was in full bloom.  I just kept exclaiming how beautiful it was, an ocean of pink and white.

cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

CHERRY BLOSSOMS

The cherry trees were a gift from Japan when, in 1912, 3,020 cherry trees arrived in the U.S. as a living symbol of friendship between the two nations.  Ever since,  the beauty of the blossoming trees has enchanted visitors and heralds the beginning of spring.  In 1935 the Cherry Blossom Festival was established as an annual event, and during festival time many events take place, such as parades and lantern walks.  It is said that millions of people come to Washington, D.C. every year to see the blossoms and participate in the many events. It shows the deep appreciation people feel for the cherry blossoms. They are a real natural treasure.

JAPANESE LANTERN cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

JAPANESE LANTERN

There are different varieties of Cherry Trees. There is the Usuzumi Cherry Trees planted in 1999 as a gift of 50 from the people of Neo Mura Village in central Japan, and the Yoshino Cherry Tree is the predominant species in the park. These are the ones you see planted around the Tidal Basin making it look like fluffy white clouds.  There is also a Fugenzo Cherry Tree which is one of the oldest cultivated cherry trees in Japan.  These trees have pink double flowers with curved petal tips. Also there are some Weeping Cherry Trees, which are easy to identify with their cascades of pink flowers.   To identify the other varieties there are signs. The Akebono Cherry Trees are interesting as it is a pinker version of the Yoshino.  The flowers change color during their lifespan-pink buds open and fade to white petals, then turn pink again as they begin to wilt.

We first arrived in the evening and drove and walked around some to see the blossoms and monuments illuminated.

JEFFERSON MEMORIAL cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

JEFFERSON MEMORIAL

WASHINGTON MONUMENT cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

WASHINGTON MONUMENT

Parking can be a real challenge; you just hope you are in the right place at the right time, when someone is leaving.  After driving around a few times we did find a parking spot.  We walked over to the Tidal Basin area. Here we had great views of the Jefferson Memorial lit at night.  It was beautiful and I just couldn’t stop taking pictures. Thank goodness for digital. We returned the next day and walked around the Tidal Basin with the hundreds of other people.

TIDAL BASIN cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

TIDAL BASIN

It is just such a beautiful sight.  You can see it in pictures but it just isn’t the same as being there.  Around the FDR Memorial is another good place for viewing and also by the Washington Monument.

WASHINGTON MONUMENT cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

WASHINGTON MONUMENT

At one point we saw a newly married couple having their wedding pictures taken under the trees.  To add to the color there was a monk walking around in his saffron robe.

buddhist monk orange robe cherry blossoms flower tree washington DC spring

MONK

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Henry Shaw founded the Missouri Botanical Garden in 1859 as his country house and a place to study and display collections of rare plants. It is now the oldest botanical garden in continuous operation in the United States and one of the only gardens to achieve National Historic Landmark status. It is locally known as “Shaw’s Garden” and is a much loved oasis of magnificent gardens.

Every year from February through mid-March the Garden has their orchid show.  This is the only time of the year the vast collection is available for public viewing. Today, the orchid collection is the Garden’s largest living collection, with over 8,000 plants representing some 2,500 species and named varieties.

The current display features a rotation of over 800 orchids from their world-class collection. A Mayan-inspired design was the theme for this year’s show. It is a tropical display infused with an eclectic mix of Mayan-themed accents. There are orchids from the kind I remember as the Mother’s day/Easter corsage orchid you could pick up at the grocery store to exotic hybrids and historic rarities.

Upon entering the display you are greeted by the Stone Warrior. This replicates one of numerous Toltec columns that supported the temple roof at Tula’s Pyramid of  Quetzalcoatl. Created between AD 900 and 1250, it is represented near actual size.

STONE WARRIOR

STONE WARRIOR

The Chac Mool stone replicated the one found at Chichen Itza in Yucatan Mexico. The stone is believed to have been used by Maya high priests to sacrifice their victims by way of removing their beating heart.

CHAC MOOL

CHAC MOOL

Depicted here are the Royal Scribes.  They were important assistants to the royal family. They could read, write, and draw detailed depictions, recording the ancient writing system of their people.

ROYAL SCRIBES

ROYAL SCRIBES

This display was titled girl or goddess. She wears an elaborate headdress reserved for ancient Maya elite.  Men and woman of royal blood were akin to gods and goddesses.

GIRL OR GODDESS

GIRL OR GODDESS

We went on a cold rainy day in the hopes that it wouldn’t be too crowded.  It started out that way but after a short while the crowds picked up, making it more difficult to photography overall displays.

ORCHIDS

ORCHIDS

I thought it was a beautiful show, one of their best.  All the flowers were in such pristine condition, some almost looked artificial they were so perfect. Then there was this beautiful one in a family member’s  favorite color.

'MENDENHALL'

'MENDENHALL'

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Traveling provides so many memorable moments that you can keep with you for a lifetime. You can take pictures of these moments-and I certainly do that. In fact in some places there are so many must have views that it tends to look like overkill when I cycle through my pictures at the end of the day. More than the photos, it’s the memories that create the richness of the moment.

I can look at one of my photos and think that is a really good shot. Upon looking at it more objectively I realize I think that because I am seeing more than is captured on the photo. I am seeing everything that went into that photo, everything else that surrounds that photo. Maybe it’s the many stairs I had to climb to see the view of the city, like all those spiral staircases in churches in Europe. Maybe it’s the wide vista that can never be totally captured, like being on the top of the hill at Machu Pichu.

MACHU PICCHU AT SUNSET

MACHU PICCHU AT SUNSET

 Maybe it’s having a wonderful lunch at an outdoor café in one of the little towns in Provence. All my pictures bring back so many memories.

The best memory I have, and no photo of, is our camel ride up Mt. Sinai in Egypt to see the sunrise. When trying to decide if I wanted to do this I thought, Moses went up there in sandals to get the 10 Commandments, how hard can it be.  Little did I know what a foolish statement this was.  We were awakened at two in the morning and we took a bus to where the Bedouins waited for us with camels. (This was an optional tour and we paid the money up front with our tour guide telling us the Bedouins may or may not show up, you never know.) It was pitch black and we were told not to turn on our flashlights as it might frighten the camels. Each of us had our own Bedouin guide who walked alongside and guided the camel. As we approached the camels a guide took us by the arm (actually grabbed us) and led us to his camel. Of course everyone was trying to stay with their spouse but that didn’t happen. We were all calling out to our spouses,” where are you”.  It was so dark you really couldn’t see much of anything.  We should have had some clue as what to expect when our tour guide said he wouldn’t be coming along. I had ridden a camel before on a brief ride near the pyramids and that was fun, so I didn’t think I would be uncomfortable doing this.

These were the Bactrian camels, the ones with two humps. There was a saddle between the humps, but  not real comfortable. We were in such a remote area that there were no city lights so the stars were absolutely something to behold. Just getting on the camel is frightening. They are down on all fours so you can get on.  Then they raise up their front legs first and then their back, or visce versa, I don’t remember.  They do the opposite when you get off. Anyway when their front legs go down and the back are still up, you feel like you are going to fly right over it’s head. So then we start on our journey. As I said it is pitch dark and you have no idea what kind of terrain you are on. All I knew is we were going up hill. Camels move both legs on one side at the same time, which creates a rocking motion. Then at times the camels foot would slip and sheer panic would set in. I have no idea how our guide knew where to go as you really couldn’t even see the person in front of you. Of course, you couldn’t talk to your guide as he didn’t speak any English.

There was one area of switchbacks where the group in front of me was on a higher level and were silhouetted in the moonlight. All I could think of was this is the perfect Christmas card of the Wise Men. However, I was holding on for dear life and too afraid to let go to get my camera out. But that picture is forever burned in my memory. That is why I say when I look at my pictures I am seeing all of this.

After a two hour ride we finally made it to the top. The Bedouins all laid down on the ground and covered themselves with blankets and went to sleep. As we watched shooting stars,  dancing in the sky, we got to thinking we were crazy to be doing this. What if something happened, our guide wasn’t with us and this was before cell phones, what would we do. I have never experienced such beauty and such silence. You don’t know what true silence is until you are in a situation like this. The sun came up and it was spectacular. This is also before digital cameras so I don’t have many pictures of it.

Then it was time to head back down for breakfast. That is when we found out that they can’t take the camels down hill with someone on them so we had to hike down. Our guide didn’t tell us this before we embarked on this journey. This made the experience all the more frightening. First of all, a week before I had sprained my ankle so I was all the more apprehensive about going down. Then when we saw where we came from we knew we were crazy. There was a slight path to follow but there would be big drop offs in many places. I thought I was afraid going up in the dark, if I saw where we were going I would have been completely terrified. The trip down took us three hours and to this day I don’t know how I did it. But looking back it makes for a wonderful story and something I will never forget and I am glad I did it.

P.S. I Just had to add to this story.  A couple of weeks after I published this I opened the travel section of our Sunday newspaper and there was an article about Mount Sinai.  Of course I was quite anxious to read it.  We were in Egypt maybe 15 years ago as part of a tour to Israel.  When we took the camels up to Mount Sinai there were maybe 20 people in our group and we were the only group there.  This article talks about tour buses rumbling in.  waiting to transport crowds of people to the start of the trip up the mountain. The author of the article said that before heading up the mountain he had to walk through a metal detector while soldiers checked his passport and searched his backpack.  Once on the path up, there were several huts along the trail that provided benches for resting and sold drinks, snacks and Bedouin trinkets.  He observed that once at the summit dawn revealed several hundred eager pilgrims, all vying for space.  I can’t imagine having the same frightening but wonderful , memorable experience I had in this type of environment.  Sounds like things have certainly changed. Makes me even more thankful we went years ago before it turned into a tourist attraction. I just can’t imagine enjoying the solitude and silence and wonder of it all that we experienced with so many people around.

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The Eugene Field House is a unique Historic House Museum.  Visiting it during the Christmas Season was a special treat since there was much festive décor through the house. One of the special Christmas decorations they have is a feather tree, actually 2 of them.  The large one in the living room of goose feathers

LIVING ROOM WITH GOOSE FEATHER TREE

LIVING ROOM WITH GOOSE FEATHER TREE

and a smaller one of turkey feathers in his office upstairs.

TREE  MADE OF TURKEY FEATHERS

TREE MADE OF TURKEY FEATHERS

They even allow you feel it to prove it was made from feathers.  The guide told us these trees are rare finds as they are very fragile and hard to preserve.  You will notice the wide spacing between the branches. This is because candles were attached to the branches and they needed plenty of space so the flames wouldn’t touch the branches.

The Field House is now a National Historic Landmark and a City of St. Louis Landmark. 

EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

Our guide explained why being declared a National Historic Landmark was a very good thing for them.  She said the city would like nothing more than to tear the house down and build a bar or restaurant there.  It is in an area near the Cardinal baseball Stadium, so it is prime property.  They have their own parking lot which is also very beneficial to them.  They can gain extra revenue during ballgames by charging a fee for parking.

The house was Eugene Field’s boyhood home, and during the time he lived here his father Roswell M. Field served as the Attorney who took Dred Scott’s freedom lawsuit into the Federal Courts, leading to the infamous Supreme Court decision in the Dred Scott Case. However, the house became famous not for that but because Eugene Field lived there.

Eugene Field was born in St. Louis in 1850 and became known as the “Children’s Poet”. He wrote such poems as Wynken, Blynken and Nod and Little Boy Blue.  He also worked for many newspapers and became known for his light, humorous articles. Some were reprinted in out-of-state newspapers.  Making him the first syndicated columnist.

DINING ROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

DINING ROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

BEDROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

BEDROOM OF EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

OFFICE IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

OFFICE IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

The flat screen TV, above the fireplace, is not of the time period.  It is there to show programs to school groups. 

 The Eugene Field House  is also a toy museum having toys from the 1790’s to present.  Eugene himself was a collector of toys and the home contains many of his personal possessions. Imagine a time before toys required batteries and multi page instruction manuals. The museum exhibits such beloved toys as board games and dolls from yesteryear. 

PART OF THE TOY COLLECTION

PART OF THE TOY COLLECTION

Once again I found in a Museum toys from my childhood or toys that I still have in my basement from when my children were young. It is a stroll back in time.

TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE
TOYS IN THE EUGENE FIELD HOUSE

The house was part of 12 row houses built  in 1845. Today the Eugene Field house is the only remaining house of the 12. Because of Eugene Fields popularity the house was spared when the rest of the Row was demolished in 1934. I am always  thankful that someone has the foresight to preserve these pieces of history for all of us to enjoy.

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While touring the Selby gardens I came across a few plants I found very interesting.  First was the PITCHER PLANT. I had seen some before in botanical gardens but didn’t really know much about them. I found out that they live in watery environments where the soil lacks sufficient nutrients. So they use meat as their vitamin pill. Using nectar or bright colors, these plants lure their victims into their hollow pitchers-and almost certain death. The insects fall into a pool of digestive juices that turn them into bug soup. One variety has pitchers big enough to trap birds and rats.

PITCHER PLANT

PITCHER PLANT

PITCHER PLANT

PITCHER PLANT

 Then there were the EPIPHYTES.  Epiphyte is a plant that grows upon another plant (such as a tree).  It doesn’t take water or nutrients from the hosts’ plant, and has no contact with the soil.  They obtain water from dew, moisture in the air, and rainwater, and nutrients from suspended debris and dust transported by the wind or washed off the host plant by rainwater. They are found in a temperate zone and in the tropics.  They are also called air plants.

EPIPHYTES

EPIPHYTES

BROMELIADS are an easy care, fun plant to have. They include such diverse plants as Spanish moss and pineapple.  Many are epiphytes.   Most can be recognized by their overlapping rosette of leaves which retain water; that is why they are commonly called “vase plants.” They have with a different watering technique.  You water directly into the stems where they create a cup to hold the water. Then the water is absorbed down the stem into the plant.

BROMELIAD

BROMELIAD

The ANT PLANT was something I don’t think I have seen before. Plants that are closely associated with ants are called “ant” or “myrmecophilic” plants. This is a mutualistic relationship benefiting both the plant and the ants. The plant provides a protective home to a colony of ants in its swollen leaves, stems or rhizomes in a system of corridors and chambers similar to those in an ant hill. Ants living inside protect the host plant from herbivores (organisms that are adapted to eat plants) and also provide a nutritious compost of waste materials. Seeds of these plants are often disseminated by ants.

ANT PLANT

ANT PLANT

These holes you see in the base of the plant is where the ants enter.

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Another magical thing about visiting the Disney parks during the Christmas holidays is the Osborne Family Spectacle of Dancing Lights at Hollywood Studios.  Over 5 million lights synchronized to holiday music light up the night. There are also flying angels, twirling carousels and even Santa and his reindeer. You walk down the and are just totally amazed by so many lights.  Entire buildings are blanketed in multi-colored lights.

OSBORN FAMILY LIGHTS

 These lights started out in Arkansas as a family’s annual display.  Each year the Osborne family put up their lights and over the years an elaborate collection grew and grew.  In 1995, the Osborne family decided to share their magic with the world and it has a new permanent home at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. 

OSBORNE FAMILY LIGHTS

 After a dinner at the Brown Derby we went to see the lights, not knowing quite what to expect.  It is so extensive that it is hard to comprehend.  Then as we stood looking at the lights they started blinking off and on and holiday music filled the air.  But then the best was yet to come.  Here we are in our shorts and suddenly there are snow flurries.  If that doesn’t put you in the holiday spirit nothing will.  It was just so much fun, only at Disney.

OSBORNE FAMILY LIGHTS

OSBORNE FAMILY LIGHTS

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The weather throughout our  trip was absolutely beautiful. Mostly in the 70’s, getting cooler in the evenings . However, this morning, as I looked out our bedroom window the waves were crashing harder and the sky was cloudy and gray. Shortly after we were on our way the rain started. This was not good as we had planned to stop at Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota, Florida, a couple of hours away. We drove through light rain then at times heavier and periods of dry, with a slight hit of sun.  As we approached Sarasota the sky was looking lighter and by the time we got to the gardens the sun was out. Luck was really with us.

The Selby Botanical Gardens came to be in the 1970’s when Marie Selby died, leaving the seven-acre peninsula tract containing her home and gardens to the community of Sarasota County for use as a Botanical Garden. It was decided that the garden should specialize in epiphytic plants, that is a plant that grows on another plant without taking anything from the host plant, such as Spanish Moss.

EPIPHYTE PLANT

This made it a unique garden among the more than 200 botanical gardens in the country.

EPIPHYTE PLANT

 Since the garden opened it has expanded to 13 acres. It has a tropical display house, which had a lush rain forest atmosphere,

TROPICAL DISPLAY HOUSE

a bamboo pavilion a banyan grove,

BANYAN GROVE

cactus and succulent garden, mangrove walkway, butterfly garden, Koi pond and waterfall

KOI POND AND WATERFALL

and other outdoor gardens. The garden has a collection of more than 20,000 living plants. It is like an open air museum.

As we walked through the garden my husband said this was like walking through the garden of Eden. At times we came upon an area that opened up to reveal Sarasota Bay.

SARASOTA BAY

On the bay side we walked pass a row of towering bamboo which were planted by Marie.  There was a slight breeze at the time and I think it is the first time I have ever heard the sound of the bamboo in the wind. Some of the trees were creaking others sounded like a wind chime, it was very intriguing, like small notes of summer music.

BAMBOO PAVILION

There was a giant Bo tree. A sign explained how the Hindus and Buddhists believe the Buddha meditated under a Bo tree until he attained enlightenment. The interesting thing about it was that in 2001 a hurricane uprooted the tree. However, thru love and the use of technology the arborists were able to save the tree.  They did this by pruning it back and then using a crane to get it upright again and packing soil around the root system. This way they were able to save the tree.

BO TREE

The home was a modest summer-house for the Selby’s. Although Bill Selby was a multimillionaire they lived a quiet and unostentatious life. Today the house has been turned into a café. There was also the Christy Payne Mansion on the property that currently had an exhibit of women contemporary artists.

We have been through so many gardens and each one has it own distinct character. I never seem to tire of touring them. It is very calming and relaxing for me. I particularly enjoy walking through a garden when there aren’t any other people around to break the serenity of the garden.

There were several orchids blooming, some were very diminutive and not as showy as what we picture when we say orchid. However, they still had all the same characteristics of the larger orchids.

ORCHID

What always amazes me when I am in a warm tropical area is to see the plants I have as small indoor houseplants growing outdoors and many sizes larger than my plants. There was also a larger collection of bromeliads. I had one once and managed to kill it over time. Seeing them with their colorful leaves made me want to try growing one again. My husband commented that he would hate to see what our yard and house would look like if we did live in this warm climate year round.

Also on the property was a building where they had tea sampling. I don’t know how this had anything to do with the garden but I enjoyed it, especially the Goji green tea, and came away purchasing several bags of loose tea.

 

 

 

 

 

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