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.
In the early 14th century, a covered wooden bridge was built at an angle over the Reuss River to provide convenient passage between the town ramparts (defensive walls.) The utility of the bridge was essential, but decorative elements crept into the design over the years. There are a series of paintings in the rafters depicting the history of the town. Today they are dark, and in a brief visit, it is difficult to appreciate the historical significance. In 1993 the bridge caught fire, and the bridge was severely damaged. It was carefully rebuilt, and today it draws visitors from all over the world.
For me, it was the mass planting of the dragon wing begonias, red geraniums, Swedish ivy, and vinca major that caught my attention. This ribbon of color is the power of flowers. Flowers invite everyone from all over the world to walk through a tunnel of flowers.
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.
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.
Add a Cemetery to Your Travel Plans? Here’s the one you shouldn’t miss!
A cemetery may not be one of the first things you think of when it comes to visiting new cities, but I encourage you to reconsider. If you visit Buenos Aires, Argentina, don’t miss Recoleta Cemetery. It is one of the most famous and elaborate cemeteries in the world. Here is a walled city filled with grand architecture, riveting stories, and intricate symbols. Since 1888 an Argentinian living in a grand house in Buenos Aires knew the only place to reside in death would be in the Cementerio de la Recoleta. Recoleta is 13.5 acres crammed with mausoleums, and the residents are in their final resting place. Overlooking the view from the rooftop of our hotel, the cemetery structures fascinate both at sunrise and sundown.
Weather is an element of gardening. The sun, temperature, and moisture are alongside us as we work to create our own piece of paradise. Late snow in Spring, a dry spell in Summer, an early frost in Fall are events that can throw us off course. A weather event, yet one we can work through.
I go out early in my garden and wander through slowly, looking closely at the blooms and the leaves of the plants and trees. I like to watch the light breaking on the horizon. Some days I find things. It might be a tiny feather, a broken bird egg, or a dragonfly that will hover no more. I pick them up, and over time, create my cabinet of curiosities. I like this chance to look more closely at my garden residents.
Recently I went to Spokane, WA to speak to the Inland Empire Gardeners*, a phenomenal garden club with hundreds of members and unaffiliated with any national club organization. This club operates under a board of directors, and a three-sister management team that keeps its members educated about growing trees, shrubs, flowers, and vegetables in Spokane Valley.
I started working early in my garden today. The sky was streaked with pink, orange and blue as the sun rose between the branches of my 40 yr. Old olive tree. Mocking birds were singing, there are so many different songs from this one incredible bird. As I wander through the pathways of the garden I find the deep purple Dutch iris and pink freesias blooming, they are such a brief bit of spring color but so worth it. There is a stand of white freesias further out by the lawn, heavy with blossoms, they need a wire frame to support them.
A tour of the Rio Botanic Garden w/ Lais Tammela,
Lais is a biologist and a certified tour guide with Tours by Locals. She grew up near the garden and often visited throughout her childhood. During her years as an educator, she brought her students here, conducting research of lichen growth on the royal palm walk, comparing the lichen as the trees progressed from the street to further back into the forest. Immediately we were excited to have her guide us around the garden.