Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Oldest Neighborhood in California

If you want a taste of California life at the turn of the century, the place to go is the Los Rios District in San Juan Capistrano.

The area sits along a quiet, leafy street and boasts 40 historic homes, three of which are original adobe structures.  Many of them have been turned into businesses of one kind or another.

The street runs parallel to the railroad tracks which were quite busy while we were there late in the afternoon.  I think we saw at least four different trains pass through as we strolled the street.

My friend Julie and I enjoyed our quiet stroll through the neighborhood exploring some places that had gardens open to the public.

We even stopped at one place that had been turned into a cafe for a cool drink on the pretty patio.

This one had been turned into a coffee shop and a few people were enjoying coffee and conversation on the front porch.  

This place made both of us laugh and prompted us both to take a photo of the "No Photography" sign on the delivery door.  It seemed like such a strange place for such a sign that we could only surmise that it was a bit of a joke.

Almost all of the houses were surrounded be picket fences and they also had some very pretty gardens to admire.  It's a great place to see what California living was like in the pioneer era.  It gives a quite different view of sunny California!

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Glasscapes in the Garden

When I was in California last month, my friend Julie and I visited Sherman Library & Gardens, one of our favorite places to take a leisurely stroll.  We were greeted with a surprise for this visit.

The garden was having a special exhibition called "Glasscapes" featuring blown glass sculptures from Viscosity Glass Studio in Boulder Creek California.

I love the art of blown glass and have seen several fabulous Chihuly exhibitions so I was excited to see what this group of artists had to offer in such a fabulous location.

In among the flowers and succulents were some beautiful glass sculptures.

They all had natural forms that blended well with the plants around them.

These pink ones were located in the little garden pond that is watched over by my favorite otter who holds the watering hose.

These yellow roses growing tall were a perfect base for this yellow and orange sculpture.

These two pieces in their lilac and lavender colors went perfectly in this bed filled with purple leaves.

The round, dish-like sculptures looked like colorful blooms among all the ferns and greenery.

And, they were complimented by the colorful floats floating in the greenhouse pond.

All of these beautiful pieces are the work of husband and wife team Scott Graham and Cristy Aloysi of Viscosity Glass Studio.  This exhibition is on at the garden until October 29, 2017 so if you find yourself in southern California, I highly recommend a visit.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Robe Maker to Kings and Queens

When I was planning my trip to London last year, I knew that I wanted to spend some time exploring the "temple" area in London where so much of the legal profession is housed and so much history is to be found.  While doing my planning research, I stumbled on to some information about a business called Edes & Ravenscroft.  What caught my eye was the fact that they made those wigs that barristers and judges wear in the British courtrooms.

I decided that since I would be in the neighborhood anyway, a quick visit to their store might also be interesting.

I wasn't disappointed.  Edes and Ravenscroft is thought to be the oldest firm of tailors in the world.  They can trace their roots back to 1689 when they were making wigs and ceremonial robes for the royal family.  They created the coronation robes for Their Majesties William and Mary.

Today they continue the tradition, making wigs for the legal profession as well as the silk robes used in courtroom settings.  In addition, they hold 3 Royal Warrants, one form Queen Elizabeth, one from the Duke of Edinburgh and one form the Prince of Wales.

I do love learning about these little bits of English culture.  I guess that makes me a true anglophile.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Spectacular Views & Wonderful Art

Laguna Beach California offers some pretty spectacular ocean views from various places around the city.  It seems like everywhere you go there is an amazing view out over the Pacific.

The city is also a mecca for art.  There is public art all over the city and of course all summer long there are art festivals running in at least two locations.  On my recent trip, I discovered this very unique bench that was donated by the Inn at Laguna Beach and is a memorial for someone named Les Schroeder.  I loved the quote on the memorial:  "Like a fine wine he reached his prime".

Just behind the bench was this sculpture of a young woman letting her colorful scarf blow with the ocean breezes.

The Laguna Beach Fine Arts Festival goes on all summer long at their permanent space against a canyon wall.  The festival features the works of 140 top-notch artists.  This festival has a long history, it's been going on for 85 years.

This statue was located at a busy intersection near the festival grounds.

This modern sculpture blends in perfectly with the public building behind it.

On one corner where a bus stop is located I saw a set of these colorful stools that people can use while waiting for the bus.

I even found a pretty little fountain and plants at the delivery entrance to local business.  It's in a location that doesn't see much foot traffic so I'm glad I spotted it.

Laguna Beach has numerous art galleries all along the Pacific Coast Highway and the narrow streets of the business district.  Peeking in the door of this gallery I was greeted by this scary looking figure.  It was so scary that it terrorized a small child so much, his mother had to take him out.

Even if you only spend a day in Laguna Beach, there is an abundance of art to be seen when you step away from those ocean views.

Sunday, August 20, 2017


Tuzigoot National Monument is a pueblo style, ancient ruins located in central Arizona.  You might remember a post I did two years ago about Montezuma's Castle, a cliff dwelling located in northern Arizona.  It is believed that the Tuzigoot pueblo was built around the same time and by the same Sinagua peoples.  However, this structure is completely different.  Rather than being built on the side of a cliff, the pueblo was built on the top of a hill.

As you approach Tuzigoot, you can see the stone walls crowning the very top of the hill.  The location offered views in every direction which would give the people living there a sense of security.

And, the Verde River flows through the valley below providing water, the key ingredient for life.  You can see the green area below where the river has made the desert a lush green.

There are paths leading all through the ruin with lots of descriptive signs to explain the building and farming methods.
The site gets it's name from an Apache worker on the excavation team after the site was discovered.  Tuzigoot translates to "crooked water" in the Apache language and since the river makes a turn in the valley, it seemed an appropriate name.

The site was excavated in the 1930's by out of work miners and WPA workers.  The men did most of the digging and women were employed to put the pieces of pottery shards together.  It was like working a puzzle and in the end they had numerous vessels that were used to store grain and carry water.

The visitor's center for this National Monument contains a museum full of artifacts found in the area. On some days, like the day I was there, an archeologist gives talks to explain the living conditions at the site and the the cultural differences between this group of people and the people living many miles to the north of them.  I love how the visitor's center is built of the same stones found in the area so it blends in well with the historic walls just a few feet away.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

A Historic Railroad Line

Back in 1901, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad built a spur from Williams Arizona to the Grand Canyon making the 64 mile trip much easier for those pioneer travelers who wanted to see this famous canyon they were hearing about.  The railroad continued operation until 1968 when competition from the automobile finally closed the railroad to passengers.  The line continued to be used for freight up until 1974 when even that service ceased because of the speedier service on the highway.  In 1988 Max and Thelma Biegert bought the line and began restoration, opening for passenger service once again in September of 1989.

I had heard from many people that the trip via train was something to experience so I decided it was about time I climbed aboard, so to speak.

The trip is now done not so much as an efficient way to get to the canyon but, rather a historic experience to give the traveler a little sense of what traveling to the canyon must have been like at the beginning of the twentieth century.

The trip to the canyon begins at the train station in Williams Arizona where travelers are invited to see a little preview show that sets the stage for a wild west adventure.

Several cowboys plan their day's activities and discuss a few misdeeds that might happen along the way.

Then everyone boards the train we set off on the slow trip to the Grand Canyon.  And, when I say slow, I do mean slow.  It takes about 2 1/2 hours to go those 64 miles but, the owners of the train have lots of entertainment available for the passengers to help pass the time.

We were treated to singers and story tellers along the way.

The car I was riding in was fairly close to the engine so I couldn't get one of those sweeping train photos when we rounded bends in the tracks.  This little peek at the engine will have to do.

Once we arrived at the Grand Canyon station I was able to get a photo that shows most of the train as it sat on the tracks.  Many people were going to stay a night or two at the canyon but, my goal was to just experience the train so I only spent the day there before heading back.

On the trip back to Williams later in the day, we got to experience an old fashioned train robbery with these desperadoes climbing aboard to "rob" the passengers.

You can see from the photo that no one appears to be really frightened.  In fact most people took out a dollar or two and offered it up to those masked men.  

It was a fun day and a unique experience.  I can see that it would be lots of fun for families and even groups of friends.  The train offers several classes of service from very basic to luxury class.  There is even a couple of observation cars available.  You can check out the possibilities on the Grand Canyon Railway website.