Heading out of Grand Coulee took me through a town imaginatively named Electric City. I had done a little Googling before making the trip and one of the things I saw in the area was the Gehrke Windmill Garden. I had no idea whether this was worth a look but since I was going to be there, why not stop off. It was a strange little installation. Next to a park, it was set in the middle of the parking lot. Fencing surrounded the garden and within it were a wide array of wind turbines made from anything that the creator could get their hands on. Water funnel, cups, bicycle wheels – you name it. They had been roped in to action as a windmill. All this was right next to the road. Definitely not something I would make a specific visit for but a novelty to check out while passing by – I didn’t even need to take a side turning to get there!
The hotel I have used on my recent visits to Tokyo is one of a group of hotels in one location. Between each of the buildings is a garden. It is a peaceful place to hang out (even when it was as hot and humid as it was when I was first there) and it has temples, bells, a lake and lots of places to rest and contemplate. In the evening, it is subtly illuminated providing a very different feel compared to how it is during the day.
On some occasions, music was piped in. One evening there was a guy playing some sort of flute as he wandered around the garden. I assume he was hired to do so rather than just showing up and playing but you never know. He was fighting the noise of the cicadas when it was hot!
We have been watching a TV show that has aerial imagery of cities around the US for a 24 hour period (clearly not always a consecutive 24 hours but it is TV!). One of the shows had Seattle and they covered a parking garage that has a garden on the top level. I decided I needed to find this when up the Needle and it wasn’t hard. There it was beneath us just as we saw it on TV. The Airstream in the middle is apparently for the people that manage the lots. Quite a cool location.
A weekend day had us over in San Francisco having a mooch around some places we haven’t visited before. I had been reading something online about Sutro Heights and wanted to check the place out. This is an overlook up on the cliffs that had been the home of a guy called (unsurprisingly) Sutro. He had built a large house on this land and added gardens around it that included statues and artworks that were available for people to visit.
The house is long demolished but the gardens have become a city park. We stopped off to look around, enjoy the view and use the place as somewhere to have our lunch. The view down to the beach below, while rather hazy when we were there, was still rather nice. You could see plenty of people having fun down on the sands. The gardens themselves were rather relaxing. You could climb up onto the area where the house had once stood and try to imagine what it had been like. A few signs included images of how things had been laid out. Given how close we were to the Cliff House, the baths and the trails, it was a little surprising how few people were there. However, it isn’t heavily signed so maybe it is easily missed. If I hadn’t read about it, we would probably never have known either.
The Peak District is a pretty area and, if you are staying in a pretty area, you really need to have a pretty hotel. Nancy searched out a place for us and came up with the Peacock Hotel. This is obviously an old hotel but it is certainly not showing its age (unless you count trying to find power outlets where you want them – there are some things that older places do have a problem with!).
The hotel had a variety of areas that could be used. Aside from the rooms, there was a nice hall area in which you could sit and relax if you wished to. There was also a nice little bar area which you could use ahead of going to the restaurant or in which you could eat from a pretty impressive menu. There was a little nook in the bar which we adopted while we were there.
The outside had a nice garden area that would have been nice to sit out in if the weather had been a bit warmer. The garden actually extended quite a way along the river and a little exploring took you down to some farm fields that were just beyond an old rail bridge that is now disused. I had a nice time exploring some of the gardens prior to heading out for some hiking.
While other parts of Balboa Park have a very ordered look to them, the Alcazar garden is an interesting contrast. The beds are laid out in a pattern for sure but the plants that grow have a far more natural feel to them. It doesn’t have the feel of a perfectly manicured garden but instead feels a bit more like what the natural plant growth would be if things had been left to their own devices. It makes the place feel more relaxed as a result.
While it was a nice place to relax for a while, it was a bit tricky to find a way to convey the relaxed nature of things photographically. The type of plants gets a little lost when you are looking at the wider view of the garden and the detail of the plants loses the feeling of the overall space. Perhaps you will just have to take my word for it!
As we wandered around the botanic garden in Balboa Park, I was quite interested in a plant that had branches with an odd oval shape repeated across their surface. I mentioned it to Nancy and she had seen something similar in another part of the garden but that had been cut off. The cross section of the branch was more interesting than the surface apparently.
We spent a short while hunting for where she had seen this before and when we found it, she was proved correct. The outside of the branch had the same pattern as I had seen earlier. The inside was certainly unusual. Rather than try and describe it, I shall just let you take a look for yourselves.
Located in Balboa Park is the Japanese Friendship Garden. Just alongside the Spreckels auditorium (which had an event underway whose speakers were sufficiently loud to somewhat diminish the peacefulness of the garden), it drops down into a valley in the park. Work is currently underway on some new areas and, after walking through the top and seeing that building work was underway lower down, I was a bit concerned that it might prove to be a little lacking in interest.
However, once we dropped down the steps and into the valley, it became apparent that there was more to see lower down than up above. The garden was beautifully laid out with a number of different pathways to take you through the trees, around the blossoms and past the water features. A tour was underway while we were there which actually served well to keep most people together and us, therefore, with a bit more space and peace (other than the noise from next door) to enjoy the garden.
Someone had come in a kimono to have their picture take so we were moving around trying to avoid getting in their way. Some of the other visitors seemed a bit more oblivious! Our timing was good for the blossoms to be in good condition. Obviously that was not something we had planned but we were happy to take advantage.
The Botanic Garden in Balboa Park is apparently one of the most popular visitor locations in the city. It isn’t hard to see why since it is densely packed with all manner of vegetation, much of which is beautiful to look at. From tiny plants and delicate orchids to great ferns and palms, there is plenty for the visitor to see. And, there are plenty of visitors! The place has never been quiet whenever I have been there and this visit was certainly no exception.
Not only is it a popular place for people, the local wildlife also seems to like what it has to offer. Birds are flying around at the entrance all the time. I also saw a pretty cool looking caterpillar on a plant just outside the door. I don’t know whether it considered the plant life inside to be tastier and couldn’t get in or whether it was happy munching on what it had. It certainly seemed to be well fed, though.
The garden is not huge so, with everyone squeezed in, it feels pretty busy. Some people are looking at everything, others seem to be just enjoying the overall ambience. For many of the children it seemed to be a chance to see how many of the signs they could ignore by standing on things that weren’t to be stood on or touching things that were not supposed to be touched! I enjoyed the shape and style of the building as much as the plants. It calls out for playing with either a really wide angle lens or a longer lens to compress features. I had to make do with what I had with me.
An enclave away from the main botanic garden is the Redwood Amphitheater. When we arrived, a wedding was underway in this area but, by the time we had finished walking around the main garden, it was open again so we checked it out. While the redwoods in there are still young by sequoia standards, they are certainly not small. The amphitheater itself is rather nice and it does look like a good spot for a wedding. While we were there, a couple was checking it out. Our assumption was that one person was from the botanic garden explaining to them what could be done, one was their wedding planner and the couple was taking all of this in. At least she seemed to be taking it all in. I got the feeling he was along for the ride on this one but probably wasn’t quite as “in” to it as she was. Good luck fella!