Ask just about anyone in Paris how to get to the Arch, and they will quickly direct you to Arc de Triomphe, even if you specifically ask for the Arc of Defense. Visitors to the city of light focus on the iconic memorial commissioned by Napoleon in 1805 to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz* but my destination was the Arc of Defense.
When I was growing up there was American Cheese & then for something fancy there was Swiss Cheese. So many decades later in Switzerland, there is no “Swiss” cheese, but there is Tilsiter, Appenzeller, Emmentaler, Le Gruyere, and many more. The uniqueness of these flavors is attributed to the mountain meadows the Brown Swiss, Simmental, Braunvieh breeds of cattle graze on to create these flavors. Today in Murren, there was a cow parade. Some of the 270,000 which have been up in the alps for the summer came down through town. This event is a celebration of the grazing traditions and cheese making Switzerland cherishes. The dairy cattle are accompanied by herdsmen who will spend the summer: milking each cow twice a day, collecting the milk, and making it into cheese in the mountains. Doing all of this high in the Alps is quite a remarkable, physical, and logistical endeavor.
Murren, Switzerland is a village where flowers and gardening in the summer appear to be a passion equal to snow sports in the winter. Visiting here for a few days I’m staggered by the beautiful displays of flowers seen everywhere I turn.
Murren is a popular destination for travelers, so it would be easy to assume this is done just for the tourists who come. Though the visitors speak a multitude of languages, nearly everyone understands the language of beauty in the window boxes and small gardens terraced on the slopes.
Fontainebleau, home of French Royalty for over 700 years, including a series of Louie, Louie, Louie’s, Emperor Napoleon, Josephine, and more survives as an architectural and artistic history of France. There are 1500 rooms, w/ marble halls, gilded ceilings and paintings larger than a two-car garage door. I’d always heard of this place, I’ve seen the view of the grounds from the sky while watching the Tour de France. It is magnificent. The famous double staircase is a historical architectural feature built during the reign of Louis XIII (1610-43) by Androuet du Cerceau. The staircase leads to the entry of the Chapel. Since the French Kings saw themselves as God, I suppose guests who were invited to arrive at this grand stair would be expected to worship the King. The enormity overwhelms you. It helps to focus on the tiny decorative features such as these tiny carved hearts and the colors of the cape in yet another portrait of someone obviously famous but unknown to me.
2018 was a wonderful year of visiting gardens. We took three trips; a short spring trip to Atlanta, GA, a six-week road trip through the US, and a 30-day fall trip to England. Looking over my journals and photos of the past year it is full of memorable moments of the beauty in our world. I want to share a few marvels that delighted me along the way.
In my pursuit of visiting gardens, I have many people look at me with curiosity, disdain, and pity; assuming that I limit myself, seeing the same things over and over again. One man commented I “wasn’t into art” and would, therefore, miss the great works that make us human. I smile and nod politely knowing full well a garden holds so much art, architecture, and stories, I feel sorry for those who are not into visiting gardens.
England’s influence in gardening is both historic and far-reaching, so it is fitting that London has the Garden Museum. The Museum is built upon the site of the tombs of John Tradescant the Elder, gardener for Charles I, in 1630, and John Tradescant the younger, both considered the first great gardeners and plant hunters in British History. The old Victorian church, St Mary at Lambeth, was slated for demolition in the 1970’s when one woman, Rosemary Nicholson, rallied support to save this historic space. As restoration projects go it took time to redesign and finance the transformation of the oldest structure in Lambert Borough, located along the River Thames across from Parliament.
Do you remember what you were doing July 29, 1981? Perhaps you were one of 750 million people gathered around a television to witness the wedding of Diana to Prince Charles. I was watching. Fast forward to 1996 when their divorce shredded my belief in a Cinderella story. I admit to holding a grudge against Prince Charles ever since. Still, when presented with the opportunity to tour his Highgrove Garden I leaped at the chance.
One of my favorite BBC shows is “As Time Goes By” w/ Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer playing Jean and Lionel. In the show, many a dilemma is smoothed over with the quintessential British option of a Gin & Tonic. I notice that bit because my cocktail of choice is a G & T. After all what else should a gardener drink? Gin is infused w/ botanicals such as juniper berries, lemon peel, almonds, cucumber, chamomile, angelica root, apple, coriander, leaves, fruits, and flowers, it is a liquid combination of the garden. I’ve been traveling in England for a few weeks and I was surprised to discover that Gin is having its moment of fame all over the cocktail and retail scape of the country. How else can you explain the varieties of gins for sale in the market?
When someone tells you a destination is “wonderful” or “beautiful” and how they “loved” a particular city, you never quite know what it will be like for you, so it was for me as I headed to Barcelona, Spain. I had heard great things about this unique city and in just a few days of my arrival, I loved it beyond words. It is a city by the sea with a climate that draws the people, both locals and tourists out of doors to enjoy life walking tree-lined streets such as the Ramblas, enjoying the cafes, admiring the ironwork railings of balconies, and decorative doorways.