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Archive for the ‘Travel’ Category

The Opryland Resort in Nashville, Tenn., was among the victims of the devastating Nashville flood in May of 2010. It wasn’t until Dec., 2010 that it reopened. There is a plaque titled RESURGENCE. It read “Flowers are our companions throughout life’s journey, our inspiring and faithfully returning friends. This exuberant creation’s infinite colors and shapes, representing a range from buds to full blossoms, paralled the unlimited resurgence and rebirth of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. LUKEK  HROCK.

Several years ago we were fortunate to be able to stay there for a few days. Our room had a balcony that overlooked the inside courtyard. There was such an abundance of foliage and a wonderful waterfall that we could view that it was hard to believe this was really all inside the hotel. Since we were driving through Nashville, in April 2011,we decided to stop and see how things have changed since the flood.

Once inside the hotel it was hard to believe it was a victim of the flood. There was no longer any evidence of it and once again it felt like you were walking through a botanical garden. We spent a few hours just walking around looking at all the plantings and waterfalls.

At dinner we asked the waiter about the flood and he said everything we saw was new except for a few large trees. He pointed to a spot on a post and said the water was up to there. It was about 6 or 7 feet high. Sitting there admiring all the plants and decorations it was hard to imagine that all of this would have been under water.

It is a hotel that I consider a tourist attraction.  There is so much to see there. Around every corner you encounter something different. There are winding rivers, rushing waterfalls, shops galore and enough variety of plants that you would think you were in some wonderful garden. All of this indoors.  In one place you can walk through a tunnel behind the waterfall and see the backside of water. (If you have ever been on the jungle cruise at Disney World you know what I am talking about.)

BACK SIDE OF WATER

BACK SIDE OF WATER

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GLASS PUMPKINS AT MIT

We were recently inCambridge, Mass and heard about the Great Glass Pumpkin Patch at MIT.  Being near Halloween we had to go check this out.  Spread out on the grass was hand-blown glass pumpkins, created by artists from the MIT Glass Lab. We were there late in the afternoon and they were getting ready to close up but it was still a bumper crop sight to behold. There were glass pumpkins in all shapes, sizes, colors and designs. Many of the works were in vivid colors, with swirls, stripes, spots and unusual stems. I saw pumpkins priced from $85 to $400.

Apparently every week or so, beginning, intermediate, and advanced students work together for a few hours in teams to produce pumpkins for the sale.  They have a goal of 1000 – 1200 pumpkins.  Proceeds from this event benefit the MIT Glass Lab, where the MIT community can learn and practice the art of glassblowing.

So if you find yourself in Cambridge, Mass in early October be sure and check out this unusual pumpkin patch

GLASS PUMPKIN SALE AT MIT

 

                                                              

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We have just returned from a trip south where we went to a practice round at the Masters Golf Tournament and then on to Savannah and stopped at sights along the way down and back home.  I will be writing about them over the next several blogs.

I always think it is interesting when you learn about the origin of a name. The name Cheekwood comes from the owner of the property, Leslie Cheek, and Mrs. Cheek’s maiden name was Wood.  It is also the house that coffee built.

Leslie Cheek’s brother Joel developed a superior blend of coffee called Cheek-Neal Coffee.  Leslie and members of the Cheek family invested in Cheek-Neal Coffee.  Joel convinced the best hotel in Nashville, the MAXWELL HOUSE, to carry his coffee exclusively, thus the new name of the coffee.  He went on to sell his brand to Postum, which is now General Foods, in 1928.  Leslie Cheek then traded his Postum shares for IBM stock.  Thereby securing his fortune.  Then he and his wife built their dream home known as Cheekwood. We should all make such good investments.

CHEEKWOOD

CHEEKWOOD

 Passing through the main gates gives the impression that this is going to be something very special.

ENTRANCE GATES TO CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

ENTRANCE GATES TO CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

  This 55-acre property and 36- room, Georgian Revival mansion, was completed in 1932.  It was surrounded by luxurious gardens and fountains. 

CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

CHEEKWOOD GARDENS

 The house and garden suffered somewhat from the ravages of time.  The home was lived in into the 1950’s when it was offered as a site for a botanical garden and art museum.  Changes were made and now it is a four season garden, with plants blooming throughout the year.

 The Museum of Art is housed in the mansion and includes world-class collections of American and contemporary paintings and sculpture, English and American decorative arts, and traveling exhibitions. You can get an idea of how graciously they must have lived by viewing some of their collections of silver and dinnerware.  Beautiful spiral staircases take you upstairs to what would have been bedrooms.

SPIRAL STAIRCASE AT CHEEKWOOD

SPIRAL STAIRCASE AT CHEEKWOOD

  What a life this family must have had. To look out one of the mansion windows and think, this is all my land.

It really felt like I had just walked into spring as we walked through the various gardens. 

SPRING FLOWERS AT CHEEKWOOD

SPRING FLOWERS AT CHEEKWOOD

Everything had that beautiful color of spring when the plants are clean and fresh.  On the grounds there were many different gardens such as the wildflower garden and the Japanese garden.

JAPANESE GARDEN

JAPANESE GARDEN

Our next stop was the Opryland Hotel in Nashville, which I will write about in the next blog.

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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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 With all the interest in the upcoming royal wedding I got to remembering our visit to Althorp last summer.  Althorp is Princess Diana’s family home.  It has been in the Spencer family for 500 years, 19 generations. It was built in 1508 by Sir John Spencer.  Diana’s younger brother Charles Edward Maurice Spencer, the 9th Earl Spencer,  lives in the house which is only open to the public in July and August.

 It is located about 1 1/2 hours driving time outside of London in the countryside. To get there we had to first take the tube to the train station.  We had booked our train tickets on line before we left.  When we got to the train station to pick up our tickets it was all very easy.  It is just like picking up your movie tickets that you booked ahead of time.  You use your credit card and out come your tickets.  Of course it took a lot of advance research to find out how to go about all this.

 You take a train to the Northampton train station and then you can take a public bus to the main gate.  We had picked our train departure time  to get us there in plenty of time to catch the bus.  However, when we got to Northampton no one knew anything about a bus or where to catch it. Then someone else said the bus had already left so we took a cab.  On the return trip we thought we would try the bus.  We found out where to catch it and the estate’s mini-bus took us to the entrance gate and pointed out where to go.  We were told you would have to flag it down because this wasn’t a normal stop.  So there we are standing on a desolate corner out in the countryside waiting for a bus.  They only run every couple hours and we didn’t want to miss it because we needed to get back to catch our scheduled train.  The bus did finally come and we made it in time to catch the train back to London. It all went well and we made it.

 Diana wasn’t a commoner by any means. The Spencer family has been at the center of social and political life in England over the centuries. Touring the house we found it to be fabulous with many priceless paintings, furnishings, porcelain, etc. We were able to tour 19 rooms in the house, including some of the Spencer Family’s private apartments. Unfortunately photography wasn’t allowed inside the house. The Spencers began as sheep farmers, coming to prominence in the 15th century.  

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

Spencer Family Sheep Farm

The estate now covers 14,000 acres of beautiful countryside and emcompasses cottages, farms, woodlands and villages. At the time a conservation project was in progress as much needs to be done to maintain the house.  A lot of the house was covered in scaffolding

Conservation work in progress

Conservation work in progress

but there were pictures showing how the exterior looked.

ALTHORP -Spencer Family Home

ALTHORP-Spencer Family Home

 The stables are in the palladium style and far larger and fancier than most houses. 

STABLE AT ALTHORP

STABLE AT ALTHORP

 They now hold a display commemorating Diana, pictures from childhood, home movies, and best of all her wedding dress and several other dresses she wore.

 After touring the house and having lunch in the courtyard we walked to the lake to see the island

ISLAND

ISLAND

on which Diana is buried and the memorial they have to her. 

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

MEMORIAL TO DIANA

 

It is a very beautiful and peaceful setting.

An interesting thing is that I always thought Winston Spencer Churchill that Spencer was a middle name but it turns out it is a family name and there is some connection with Diana’s family.

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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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Every time I visit a Botanical Garden I take pictures of the water lilies.  That adds up to a lot of pictures of water lilies.  I think they are such a beautiful and interesting  flower. I have never grown one, but I  know they need to be in still water and should be contained in a pot or else they will spread like mad, and like full sun. So when I recently came across an article about them, in a garden magazine, I took the time to read it.

From Beth Chatto's Garden-England

From Beth Chatto's Garden-England

 The article was titled “The Waterlily magician”.  It was about Joseph Bory Latour-Marliac, a botanist working in southwest France and exhibiting his plants at the 1889 ‘World Fair’ in Paris. (The Eiffel Tower was built for this event.) He sent some hardy waterlily cultivars to Paris, 11 of which he had hybridized himself, to be displayed in the water gardens in front of the Trocadero. His hybrids were among the first non-white hardy cultivars in the world.  It turns out that Claude Monet was exhibiting his paintings next door and was entranced with the waterlilies.

Bellingrath Gardens

Bellingrath Gardens

 After Monet bought the meadow below his house at Giverny, he placed his first order for waterlilies. After that he would continue to paint these lilies for much of his life. 

MONET'S WATER LILIES

MONET'S WATER LILIES

 They created a unique landscape of breathtaking beauty and originality for him. As for Latour-Marliac he spent the rest of his life breeding and introducing 110 waterlilies. The growing fame of his plants meant he shipped them all over the world. He died in 1911 and his nursery continued to flourish through his descendents into the 1980’s. In the 1990’s the nursery was saved from foreclosure and opened to the public. So today you can still order waterlilies from the same place Monet got his waterlilies.

St. Louis Botanical Garden

St. Louis Botanical Garden

In a pool of water waterlilies make a wonderful display all by themselves.  But then you could enhance them with some Chihuly glass.

Chihuly & Waterlilies

Chihuly & Waterlilies

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