April 21, 2019

Easter at the Biltmore

This Easter Sunday started out cool, cloudy and a little blustery, but full sun and warmth was forecast for mid-afternoon, so we thought it would be a good day to check out the azalea garden at the Biltmore Estate.
The clouds cast interesting shadows on the newly emerging leaves and the mountains in the distance had various shades of blue and green.
 We missed the tulips by about a week and a half. This was about all that was left after the torrential rains on Friday.
But it was the azalea garden that we really came to explore, and they did not disappoint.

The orange flame azaleas are favorites of ours.

 Additionally there were some wildflowers. Here is a May Apple flower...
and some fiddleheads.

I always like to see the root bumps created by the Baldy Cypress tree.
I had trouble photographing the wisteria in the pergola,
but got this nice image in the walled garden.
After some coffee and people watching by the house, we headed to Antler Village. What looks like a lake beyond the parked cars is actually flooding from the Swannanoa River. 
And then, of course, we had to enjoy a glass of wine!
Happy Easter!

July 8, 2018


So, today I was clearing my desk of some of the things that have accumulated over the last couple months and I found all my "paperwork" from my Road Scholar Trip in May to Arkansas.

It was such a nice trip that I took with my friend, Alice... I thought it deserved to be preserved on my blog.

We flew from Asheville to Little Rock, arriving early enough in the day to have lunch at the historic Capitol Grill and do a little exploring on our own. Our room was overlooking the Arkansas River and had this spectacular view.
After lunch we walked to the Market Square and then through the sculpture garden that decorates the riverside park on the Little Rock side of the river. Here's a postcard photoshoot of another bridge:
During the first full day of the program, we stayed in Little Rock and visited the Clinton Library. Adjacent to the Library is the headquarters for Heifer International and the campus includes their urban farm. This llama seemed to want to have his/her photo taken.
We also visited the historic first capitol building, which is now an eclectic museum of all things Arkansan and not. Coincidently there was a nice display of some of the museum's collection of quilts crafted by black Arkansans. Since the docent was not too knowledgeable about quilt construction, Alice pointed out interesting aspects of the quilts on display. She did a good job!

On the second day, we visited Little Rock Central High School which is a national historic site as well as continuing to be an operating high school. We had an excellent ranger led tour giving us the background of "the Little Rock Nine," the first black students to attempt to desegregate the all white school in 1957 and the explosive political and social aftermath. TV cameras made this local issue an international news item. It was a very moving presentation.
Our travels took us to northwestern Arkansas, with several interesting stops along the way, and we had an evening in Bentonville, home of the original Walmart 5&10 store. The next day we walked through the Compton Gardens to the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, which was the highlight of this trip for most participants, us included.
The three bears accompanying me was one of the first sculptures we encountered.

Crystal Bridges has an impressive collection, including a Buckminster Fuller dome and a Frank Lloyd Wright house, but the architecture of the space was also amazing. The museum is nestled in a ravine and the galleries are literally bridges spanning the Crystal stream that the Walton children played in as children. Sam Walton's daughter started collecting American art and it seems as though she is the driving force behind the Walton Foundation which operates this facility free to the public.

This photo was taken of the architectural model on display in the lower lobby and was the starting point of our architectural tour.
It gives you an idea of how the structures span the creek and float above it. 
Here is a ground level photo of an actual part of the museum.
It was an amazing day. We were literally on the museum property from 10 AM to 9 PM.

We meandered back to Little Rock via the Ozark Craft Center where we had some time in the craft village, were treated to a wonderful evening concert, and spent the night in a very comfortable cabin. After a hearty breakfast, we were entertained by an Ozark storyteller.

We returned to Little Rock and had a tour of the current state house, as well as a docent led tour of preserved historic neighborhoods.

Our final day consisted of a stop at Garvan Woodland Gardens as well as lunch and an afternoon at Hot Springs National Park. Here is a view of bath house row.
The RS program ran from Monday afternoon through Monday morning, a full and busy week. In addition to the things I've highlighted in this blog post, there were many other places that we stopped at or learned about. Our guides were native Arkansans and were very knowledgeable about their home state, it's resources, history, politics and they had good suggestions for restaurants to eat at on the few times we were on our own for meals.

It is a popular RS program, running several times throughout the year, and it has been fine tuned. There is very little I would suggest to change and, as usual, I continue to be a fan of RS travels.

Who knew Arkansas was so interesting???

April 13, 2018

Orchids for your pleasure!

One of the annual events at the North Carolin Arboretum that I never tire of is the orchid show and sale. Of course, if you follow my blog, you have seen photos posted just about every year. Well, I took photos again, and so I'll share a few. I'm always amazed at the different colors, shapes, sizes and arrangements. They are certainly varied and it's hard to pick a favorite. 

And there were many vendors there selling all of these different varieties. Interestingly, after looking over all of the choices, I brought home a Macodes Petola, which has a very unremarkable flower stalk if I can get it to bloom. I was attracted by it's petite size and it's magnificent reticulated leaves.
Here it is!

April 11, 2018

It was a great vacation!

When Maggie asked if we wanted to go to Puerto Rico with them in mid March, I have to admit we were a bit hesitant. We already had some travel plans at the end of February and quite frankly by mid-March we are likely to have some nice spring weather here at home to enjoy. We also didn't know if Puerto Rico would be ready for visitors yet.

But then we quickly realized that sharing vacation time with family is such a special treat... how could we even think of saying "no?"

As it turned out, winter storms delayed Maggie's family's arrival by a couple of days, but that gave Russ and I time to get acclimated, fill the refrigerator, and enjoy a lovely "adult" dinner by the beach.

 As we hydrated ourselves and filled our bellies with delicious food, we were able to enjoy the beautiful sunset from our table.
Our rental  hacienda was in Rincon on the western side of the island. It was a property that we had stayed in a year and a half ago, so we were familiar with the amenities and location. It seemed to have survived quite well through Hurricane Maria and was equipped with a generator in case of power failure. We did see downed power lines and unusually leaning power poles, evidence of tree loss, and blown down signs, but in general Rincon was up and running and looking good. Everything was lush and green. In this climate, the flora regenerates quickly.
Once the twins arrived, many hours were spent in the pool and we even had a swim up bar!
Seriously, days here are very relaxing. We do expend some effort keeping well hydrated and submerged in pool water or relaxing at the beach.
There is a fair amount of nonsense with 4 year olds and we played a lot of UNO.
 One of our favorite beaches is called Steps Beach. I wonder why they call it that?
Besides the beautiful ocean, there are lots of shade trees to relax under or to climb.
 Though we do eat many meals "at home," we did also try to support the local economy by eating out often, too.
Palm trees abound, though there were more of them before the hurricane.
 Sunsets were lovely.
 And the local fauna included this iguana who regularly visited our pool.
Good bye to a wonderful vacation!
Rise up, Puerto Rico!