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Posts Tagged ‘travel’

2-Chute.-Tulip-Time-at-Keuk

Keukenhof

Holland and Belgium were high on our Master Bucket List, so Angelina and I combined a trip to both countries in April to coincide with “tulip time” in Holland. Since the tulip season only lasts for eight weeks, from mid-March through mid-May, we figured that the last two weeks of April would be ideal to see the best of the annual Tulipmania and we were right.

1-Chute.-Bed-of-tulipsThe absolute best way to experience Holland’s premiere flower species is a visit to Keukenhof, “kitchen garden” in Dutch, well known for its annual public tulip extravaganza. While we are not crazy about bus rides, we booked a half-day bus tour from Amsterdam that included skip-the-line admission and let someone else drive. The weather was sunny and the hour’s drive through the Dutch countryside past tulip fields in bloom was the perfect start to the visit. At 32 hectares (79 acres), Keukenhof is a huge garden featuring over 7 million early, regular and late blooming flowering bulbs — 800 varieties of tulips plus crocus and daffodils. In addition to this flower power, Keukenhof has 6 pavilions featuring elegant arrangements, changing displays of cut flowers as well as events, lectures and other activities.

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Keukenhof Pavilion Bridal Display

We picked a perfect day with perfect weather to visit this tulip paradise at peak bloom. It was spectacular! The only drawback was the crowd. The annual attendance easily tops 1 million and it felt like most of them were there that day. But we expected this and it did not diminish our enjoyment of this magnificent display of Dutch floriculture. We arrived shortly after noon and roamed on-our-own through the garden. We meandered along winding paths with bed after bed of gorgeous tulips, daffodils, and hyacinths. We stopped in several pavilions, each featuring impressive displays and arrangements. We finished in the gift shop, of course, for a souvenir to remind us of this great garden.

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While it’s not possible to absorb the entire Keukenhof experience in one day, our tour gave us three hours in the garden and that was enough. The return ride to Amsterdam was pleasant and we made it back in time for dinner. It was a very good day and a stress-free way to visit Kueukenhof.

To see more of Holland, we spent 3 days in Haarlem, a smaller city only a short distance from Amsterdam where we planned to take trains to Delft and The Hague. It was in Haarlem on a Sunday afternoon while out for a walk that we noticed a commotion a few blocks away from our hotel. When we got closer we discovered the Bloemencorso, Dutch for “flower parade,” parked in Haarlem city center.

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Dragon Float

The parade, an annual event and a very big deal in Holland, had started the day before near Keukenhof and went for 26 miles through other Dutch cities ending in Haarlem where the floats and decorated vehicles remained on display but only for one day — the day we were there. How’s that for serendipity!

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Rembrandt Float

These floats were constructed with bulb flowers only — tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and croci. Some floats even featured bulbs only in the design. These floats were amazing! The quality and imagination, not to mention the hours of tedious handwork, were a testament to the pride that the Dutch have for their famous flowers.

Bulb Float

All Bulbs

Equally amazing were the train rides we took to Delft on one day and The Hague on another. We enjoy train travel in Europe because they’re clean, fast, reliable and an inexpensive way to take side trips. The routes to both cities took us past tulip fields in bloom, row after row of  tulips — rainbows stretching to the horizon. Another unplanned bonus to our trip.

7-Chute.-Tulip-Fields

Tulip Fields

Holland and Belgium were everything we had expected them to be and combining them into one trip was fairly simple. We chose to travel within the two countries by auto and that allowed us the flexibility to wander at will, always a good thing for us. More about this to come.

Time stands still for us when we’re away and this trip was no exception. We are already reviewing the Master Bucket List, eager to start planning our next adventure in 2019.

Tulipmania only lasts for 8 weeks. If you want to experience Tulip Time next year, Keukenhof is scheduled to open on March 21 and close on May 19 in 2019.

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1-Lead

Angelina and I presented a lecture at the Maine Flower Show in Portland last week. We had been invited to speak last fall and were looking forward to the drive to Portland, one of our favorite New England cities. Fortunately, the weather cooperated and did not snow as it had on and off all month — good for the show, better for us.

Even though our program slot was for 10:30 on Saturday morning right after the show opened, the lecture room was full with mostly Mainers but also visitors “from away” as they say in Maine — New Hampshire, Connecticut, Vermont, New York and a few Canadians from New Brunswick. We thought that our “Roses for New England” program with an emphasis on cold-climate rose gardening would hit the spot and it did. The show provided a generous two-hour time slot for each program which allowed for plenty of Q and A after the PowerPoint presentation was complete. This is often the best part of  lecture and where we connect with our audience.

The flower show was staged at Thompson’s Point along the Portland waterfront. Unlike the slick convention facilities at other big New England cities, Thompson’s Point was a large older wooden structure that was transformed for four days into an oasis of spring amidst an otherwise wintry month of March in Maine. A big, heated tent connecting to the main building accommodated the overflow of vendors. The venue was rustic and absolutely perfect. Very Maine.

After our program, we walked the show and chatted with vendors and exhibitors.

2-Pick-upOne exhibitor took an old pick-up truck — a real beater, all rusty and dusty — and packed the bed with annuals that spilled out into the rest of the garden display. A wild explosion of color.

5-Water-FeatureAnother was a realistic water feature — a pond surrounded by native Maine plants and trees.

3-Stone-CourtyardMy favorite was an impressive fieldstone courtyard complete with niches, stone shelves and raised stone beds of flowers, herbs and lettuce plants. A dramatic display of Maine masonry.

Attendance was high with lots of foot traffic streaming throughout the garden area as well as among the vendors. The crowd was festive and, judging by the armfuls of merchandise, free spending — the life blood of every flower show.

Since we had a long drive home, we left early but first stopped to have lunch at Becky’s Restaurant on the waterfront — a popular Portland landmark with really good food at reasonable prices.

The state of Maine is huge, as large as the rest of New England combined, and Angelina and I have been driving up at least once a year for decades. We enjoy road trips along Downeast Maine’s jagged Atlantic coast up to Acadia National Park and beyond as well as long, long drives in rural Maine north and west into the mountains and on into Quebec.

The Maine Flower Show gave us another opportunity to visit this unique northern New England region, to enjoy a taste of spring in the middle of winter.

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4.-Mille-Miglia-Car-Race-Si

Mille Miglia – Siena Italy

Sometimes the most memorable moments of traveling are those that are unexpected and spontaneous. Even though Mike and I enjoy planning our trips and organizing our travel itinerary, we find it’s often the unanticipated and unplanned events that are most rewarding.

1.-Pizzeria-Trattoria-on-ViOne was an impulsive decision that took us into a trattoria on Via Cavour in Florence. When walking back to our hotel, we saw a small sign that said Pizzaria Trattoria on a very plain looking storefront. We decided to go in. The place was small and charming with covered tablecloths. As we stepped inside, we were greeted warmly by the owner who spoke only a little English. We spoke even less Italian but communicated enough to convey that yes, we’d have his gluten-free pizza and a carafe of wine. We watched as he poured the dark red Chianti from a wooden keg on top of the bar. We lingered over the delicious wine as we enjoyed a very tasty gluten-free pizza. We still reminisce about this Trattoria on Via Cavour especially when drinking a glass of Chianti.

When we visit different cities, we are always on the lookout for rose gardens to visit. Even if the gardens won’t be in full bloom, we go any way and manage to find some aspect of the garden to enjoy.

We set aside an entire day to visit Le Parc de Bagatelle located in Paris’ 16th Arrondissement. With no easy access by metro or bus, we took a taxi. Our goal was the Roserie de Bagatelle – a very famous rose garden we had heard so much about; but it was late September so we knew that most of the roses had “gone by.”

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Sole e Luna at Bagatelle

While we were wandering around the garden, we came across a rose bush that had clusters of fresh, bright yellow roses surrounded by red buds. It was a variety we had never heard of – Sole e Luna. The hybridizer was an Italian rose breeder named Barni and the variety, not available in the United States, is one I would never have seen had I not gone to Bagatelle. What a treasure it turned out to be. Even though this rose is not for sale here in the US, my photograph of Sole e Luna is hung where it brings back memories of our trip to Paris and Bagatelle.

Roses aren’t the only unexpected treasures we experienced while traveling. While driving from Rome to Florence through Tuscany, our driver Marco stopped in Siena. After lunch, we took a leisurely walk through this ancient Tuscan hill town and wandered into the Piazza del Campo, the historic Siena square, looking for some gelato. As we enjoyed our Italian ice cream, a parade of magnificent vintage sports cars roared into the Piazza. We were luckily in the right place at the right time to see part of the famous Mille Miglia Classic Car Race, a 1000 mile race that goes through cities in northern Italy like Siena and Florence. (See photo above.)

5.-Thatched-Cottage-Adare-IOne thing we hadn’t planned on seeing when in Ireland were the famous thatched cottages which  are rapidly disappearing. But while driving to Limerick where we were to meet up with Mike’s cousin, we made an unplanned stop for lunch in the town of Adare. As we walked about the town after a quick lunch, we spotted a few of the remaining cottages with picture-perfect thatched roofs. Definitely a bonus to our Irish adventures.

While we’ll always remember the iconic attractions we’ve seen like the Louvre, the Colisseum, the Cliffs of Moher, and the Vatican, it’s the unplanned and unstructured components of our trips that are the most vivid and memorable.

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1-Nightlight

Several years ago, Angelina was rummaging through a box of things that had belonged to her mother and discovered an old fashioned nightlight. What made this nightlight interesting was the image on the glass light diffuser, a 3”x 4” replica of a painting, a painting of friends sailing into the surf on a catboat. The artist captured the differing values of ocean blues and teals, the rolling Atlantic swells, a solitary buoy leaning towards the boat, and the young sailors peering intently into the horizon seemingly pre-occupied with some unknown thing. Both Angelina and I thought this was a compelling marine scene, something you would expect to see somewhere in coastal New England, maybe on Cape Cod.

What was this painting in the nightlight? Did it have a title? Who was the artist? Where was it painted? Since the glass image had no identification of any kind, where did it come from?  The plot thickened.

We enjoy viewing this wonderful picture every day; it’s the last thing we see when we turn on the nightlight in the bathroom before turning in.

Anyway, fast forward to last May when we packed up for a two-week road trip to  Philadelphia then on to Washington, DC. In DC we stayed near the Mall making it convenient to visit all the monuments and memorials, the Air and Space Museum, the United States Botanic Garden, and the National Gallery of Art.

4-National-Gallery-of-Art

National Gallery of Art

It was while we randomly roamed through the National Gallery of Art that we serendipitously discovered, totally by accident, the original art that inspired our glass nightlight — Edward Hopper’s “Ground Swell” — hanging in a gallery of American art. Eureka!

3-Ground-Swell-Gallery

Ground Swell by Edward Hopper

2-Ground-Swell-ID“Ground Swell” was, indeed, painted by Hopper on Cape Cod in 1939. We have since learned of Hopper’s recurrent themes of isolation and alienation and mystery. Much analysis has been made of “Ground Swell’ — just what did Hopper mean? Art critics claim it was a dark omen, a harbinger of World War Two. Really?

Angelina and I don’t know what he meant — maybe he didn’t mean anything — we just know that we like it. We bought a print in the gift shop and now that hangs in our home. Now we have two “Ground Swells” but we like the one in the small nightlight with its still unknown origin the most.

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1 Paris SlideWhile our first passion is rose gardening, our second passion is travel. There’s nothing better than visiting exciting, far-away destinations, settling in for a while, and becoming familiar with the rhythms of someplace new. After returning from our most recent European trip — a visit to Paris –we decided to broaden the topics of the programs we offer to include our travel adventures as well as our  rose themes. The result is “Armchair Travel” and the first program is all about our favorite overseas city to date —  the magnificent City of Lights, Paris France.

2 LouvreThis Power Point program titled, “Paris! City of Lights,” had its debut last month. It was attended by a diverse audience that consisted of  those who were planning an upcoming trip to Paris (some as soon as in a few weeks), those who had already been, and those who just wanted to visit Paris without leaving home. We included iconic venues like the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay and Notre Dame Cathedral, as well as some of our favorite places — Montmatre, St. Chapelle, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, rose gardens, and lots more we discovered along the way.

In our program, we discuss options of where to stay, where to eat, and what to visit. But mostly, we encourage visitors to explore not only the well-known boulevards and tourist attractions, but the back streets of Parisian neighborhoods.

5 Chez MarcelAnd since the French are known for their excellent cuisine, we share some of the intimate cafes and bistros where we had wonderful French meals while sitting among locals and other visitors from around the world.

Creating this program and sharing our passion for travel with others was very rewarding. We answered questions from members of our audience about the nuts and bolts of a Paris visit , gave tips on how to navigate around the city as well as suggesting the best way to gain admission to the busiest museums and other popular venues.

If you’re interested in learning more about “Paris! The City of Lights”, visit the Program Page on our website.

 

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1-Longwood-GardenLast spring, Angelina and I chose to skip the hassle of TSA and the rigors of a long plane flight and instead decided on a long-awaited road trip. We packed up the car and headed south on a two-week journey, first to the Brandywine area outside of Philadelphia then on to Washington, DC followed by a meandering ride back home with a stop in Gettysburg. The first leg began with a visit to Longwood Gardens located in the heart of the Brandywine Valley, 30 miles west of Philly.

12-Longwood-Garden-EntranceLongwood had its beginnings in 1906 when Pierre S. DuPont purchased a neglected farm in order to save its arboretum from lumbering and began converting it into what would become one of America’s leading horticultural display gardens.

We arrived early on a sunny Tuesday morning in mid May, got our tickets and headed for the rose garden first. This garden was one of the smaller gardens in Longwood but was well maintained with a dozen beds of bush roses, each bed featuring a single variety. Most were in bud stage with peak bloom still two weeks away. One exception was a dazzling bed of Sparkle & Shine, a bright yellow floribunda.

3-Rose-Wall

City of York – Back of Stone Wall

Just behind Sparkle & Shine was a feature that I especially liked, the unique way the Longwood rose gardeners displayed a row of climbing roses named City of York. These climbers were planted along the back side of a six-foot stone wall and then trained to grow up and over the wall and cascade down the front side. Since both sides of the wall received enough sunlight, they grew beautifully with thousands of tight buds tumbling down the front of this handsome stone wall waiting to open. The bloom must have been stunning.

4-Topiary

Topiary

As a backdrop to the rose garden was a Topiary Garden that contained over 50 specimens of yews in various shapes such as spirals, cones and animals.

We took a break here for a few minutes to enjoy the bright sunny morning then strolled over to the Conservatory, an enormous greenhouse with four acres under glass — twenty rooms of plants from around the world. The day we were there, gardeners were removing the displays of spring flowers soon to be replaced with summer annuals which in turn would be followed by fall plantings. Even though the conservatory was in seasonal transition, room after room featured showy floral displays. Very Impressive.

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Conservatory

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Conservatory

5.-Conservatory

Conservatory

9-Mummies

Mummy Pack

The conservatory even had a Rose Room – one that had several rows of rose bushes. What interested us was the IPM measures employed to control insects. No pesticides were applied but small packets of “mummies” were  scattered among the roses. Tiny wasps emerged from the mummies, looking for aphids on which to lay their eggs. The eggs hatch and the new wasplings eat the aphids which keeps them in check. While not a perfect solution, it seemed to work well enough and avoided chemical pesticides.

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Rose Room

After lunch we wandered over to a section of flower beds that were also in transition from spring to summer. One team of gardeners were digging up clumps of spring bulbs, piling them up into carts then hauling them off to the Longwood compost site. All vegetative matter was converted into compost and nothing was discarded.

Another nearby bed had already been cleared and a gardener was raking it out for planting the next day. According to the gardener, no soil amendments were added at this point but each bed would be amended with compost in the fall when spring bulbs were planted. She went on to say that each section of gardens had dedicated teams that maintained those same beds season after season.

10-Wisteria

Wisteria

Nearby was the Wisteria Garden in full bloom. What a display of Japanese wisteria in lavender, purple and white. It was a major attraction and provided visitors with a unique photo op.

By now the weather was getting very warm and we were growing weary so we started back to the car, which was when we noticed the Rose Arbor. This circular arbor surrounded an area which is often used for concerts. We were too early to see the arbors in bloom which would have been a spectacular sight of American Pillar roses chosen by Pierre du Pont himself.

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Rose Arbor

Like other great gardens we have visited throughout the United States and Europe,  Longwood Gardens had clean, modern facilities and the gardens and structures were neat and well maintained with plenty of staff. We had expected a very high degree of horticultural excellence — the ultimate hallmark of every great garden — and were not disappointed. Longwood Gardens should be on every gardeners bucket list.

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1-Crested-Moss ChuteAs I was reviewing my rose photographs during our latest snow storm, trying to envision what our garden will look like in just a few more months, I came across some photos of Crested Moss. I had taken these photos when we visited the Giardino delle Rose in Florence, Italy a few years ago and it was the first time I had ever seen a moss rose.

2-Giardino-delle-rose-FloreI recall walking through the rose garden that day and being delighted when I spotted Crested Moss (also known as Chapeau de Napoleon because the moss-covered sepals surrounding the buds are reminiscent of the tri-cornered hat Napoleon wore). Moss roses are unique because of this distinctive moss-like growth around the buds and bases of the flowers. In the photo above, you can see that the terminal bloom is encircled by at least 10 buds with pink petals peeking through what is often described as parsley-like growth. What a photo opportunity!

Moss roses are believed to have originated as sports, or mutations of centifolia roses. The mossy growth has a strong pine or balsamic fragrance most noticeable if the mossy growth is rubbed between your fingers.

2-Crested-Moss-bud-ChuteCrested Moss is a “Found Rose,” discovered in 1827. It has rich, clear pink flowers with a yellow button eye in the center, a damask, spicy fragrance and is known for its disease resistant. It clearly looked disease-free in Florence with its unblemished foliage. It  blooms once in late spring to early summer for several weeks. Our visit to Giardino delle Rose was in late May just as Crested Moss, as well as the rest of the garden, began to bloom.

We have never grown moss roses since we felt that they wouldn’t tolerate the hot, humid mid-summer Rhode Island weather. Now, after seeing the picture of Crested Moss again, I may just give it a try.

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