Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Garden Tour

What a fantastic way to spend a summer morning!  I have wanted to do a garden tour for forever and I finally made it happen.  I went with my long time friend Ruth and we had such a good time!  This is the Arboretum’s 32nd annual garden tour and they do a great job.  There are several times and dates to choose from for several days mid-July and we chose the first one on Sunday last week.  You get on an air-conditioned luxury liner bus (complete with toilet in the back) and are driven to four gardens in the western suburbs.  You get about 20-25 minutes in each garden and the owners and/or volunteers are there to answer questions.  Then the bus captain rings the bell, we get on the bus to the next location and so on.

We saw the most amazing gardens!!  So many different landscapes, some used ponds and waterfalls and others used wash tubs and bathtubs to enhance their gardens.  Why I didn’t get a photo of the bathtub I am not sure but there was just so much going on in these gardens that it was hard to capture everything! I think I saw the tub then something else caught my attention and I turned away and forgot the tub.

The first garden contained over 100 varieties of hosta.  Hosta grows great in the shade and this garden was all shade.  This was the only garden that had labels on most plants.  Come and take a look.  Click on any photo in the gallery to see a larger image and to scroll through the gallery:

Our next stop was to a house and garden on an 8 acre pond and it boasts many native plants and flowers. Have a look:

The third garden was on a large property and just how large was not in the notes given to us.  But the driveway alone felt like several blocks long!  I think I’d put this one in second place of my favorite gardens.  Many beautiful plants and gorgeous colors.

The fourth garden was my favorite.  It was a backyard full of many plants and flowers, some I had seen before but there were so many more that I hadn’t ever seen.  It also had an interesting “fountain” (is that what you would call it?) carrying water on what appeared to be bamboo tree trunks?  And the water went into a pond. I didn’t get a chance to ask anyone about it as the bell rang and we had to get back on the bus.  Such a curious thing!

After the tour we headed back to the Arboretum for brunch.  It was held on the patio behind the Oswald Visitor Center.  And what a lovely setting that was!!  Unfortunately I didn’t get photos of any of it.  My hands were full with my plate of food, a water bottle and my jacket.  And the chair I sat in was up next to a chair from the next table and it was just difficult enough that I didn’t want to bother to get up to take photos.  There were beautiful floral arrangements on every table, including the buffet table.  They served a frittatta that apparently wasn’t very popular.  I thought it was okay but I likely wouldn’t want to have it again. It was accompanied by a cubed potato mixture, both white and sweet potatoes, roasted veggies and dip and a couple of unusual appetizers: sliced apples with “stuff” on them and lengthwise cut cucumber slices with a spicy chutney-type topping. They offered mimosas, plain orange juice, water and coffee.  There was another table with fruit and sweets.

The cost of this tour is a bit “spendy” (that’s Minnesotan for expensive) but both Ruth and I thought it was worth it and I’m hoping we go again next year.  There were other tours that we looked at but this was the only one where we got taken to the gardens.  We could also tour the Arboretum’s gardens but after 3 hours of garden tours in the morning I was too tired to do much else.  I highly recommend this tour, especially if you’re a gardener but even if you’re not.  It’s a great way to spend a summer morning.  You can find more information here:

Minnesota Landscape Arboretum

On our way home we passed Paisley Park.  I knew Prince’s complex was nearby and it was easy to spot.  It’s on the same highway as the Arboretum.  There are still many items on the fence in tribute to Prince and I saw several people there too.  People are still mourning our native, much-loved genius musician.  He apparently visited the Arb frequently.  I would too if I lived only three miles away!

Because this is part of the University of Minnesota I am able to get a discounted membership.  I get a few benefits including free admission to the Arboretum.  Since we didn’t tour the gardens that day we’ve decided to go back in a few weeks and I can’t wait!! Be on the lookout for that blog post :)

Do you have a favorite of the photos here? I absolutely love the wild salvia.  The most brilliant shade of purple I’ve ever seen!  Runner up is the close-up of the pink mystery plant.  I hope you’ve enjoyed your virtual tour!

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Weekly Photo Challenge – Look Up

I haven’t entered the challenge for a while. Summertime is just not conducive for blogging, especially here in the frozen tundra.  But I’m up early and I’m home this weekend and I have several photos to enter for this one! Click on the link to view other entries or to enter yourself and enjoy!!

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We love Barcelona!

The 4th of July holiday weekend has past and I have no more excuses for not creating another post from our trip to Spain this past March.  This time it’s all about Barcelona, a magical, beautiful city.

We had such fun in Barcelona.  We felt welcomed from the moment we arrived at the train station with a “Welcome to Barcelona!!” from a gentleman who heard us speaking English. And we chatted with him on the way to our respective taxis.  The taxi driver was jovial and talkative which had not been the norm this trip so that was nice too.  There were other friendly people as well.  The gal who heard us speaking English and commented about the view atop Las Arenas and the Bolivian waitress at our breakfast spot near our hotel(that had great tortilla española). She knew we were foreign and after asking where we were from commented on how well I spoke Spanish.  I loved her!! We had a couple of unpleasant experiences too but overall we thought the people were wonderful.  Fun waiters, one in particular suggested his favorite from that menu and it was great!  Fried potatoes with an over easy egg. Yum, yum!!

We went to the Picasso Museum, Palau de la Múscia Catalana and Sagrada Familia. I created separate posts for the Palau and Sagrada Familia so do check those out for more wonderful photos.  We ate fabulous food and generally had a great time in this amazing city.  The weather wasn’t the greatest but we didn’t let it deter us too much.  One night it was raining so we took advantage of our hotel’s “social hour”, from 5 to 7 p.m. They offered various teas, coffee and sweets to their guests.  There were a few places to sit near the treat table and we chose the one with the backgammon set and proceeded to teach Miss M backgammon.  She then proceeded to beat us both!  Beginner’s luck?  Definitely a different way to spend a couple of hours on vacation.

This post will be photo heavy with a few stories.  So with that I’ll start off with photos from our first day.  We got to Barcelona around noon and after checking into our hotel we headed off to Las Arenas, the bullring turned shopping mall.  Bullfighting has been banned in Barcelona so what a wonderful use for this structure.  We learned that there are fabulous views from atop Las Arenas so of course we headed up there. We shopped a little then had dinner at Pura Brasa which was excellent!

Next some photos in and around the Picasso Museum.  If you’re a Picasso fan then you must go to this museum! It’s the largest collection of his earlier works than anywhere else I believe.  It is fascinating to see his style from his early years.  This museum also houses the Las Meninas paintings.  I especially liked those as Las Meninas by Velazquez was a painting I studied at the Prado when I was a student in Madrid. The structure the artworks are in is also a museum.  It’s three old palaces combined to create a space for Picasso’s art. Very cool place!   This was our second visit and I’m certain we’ll go again.  One of my favorite museums, hands down. And this visit was completely different than our first.  In 2010 we happened to get there during the free hours which are typically very crowded.  We waited in line for about 30 minutes and chatted with some people from New Jersey also in line. And it was hard to see many paintings as it was just so crowded.  This time we got tickets ahead of time and arrived when it opened.  There were many times we had rooms completely to ourselves!  Pure bliss.  I definitely recommend getting tickets in advance.

Similar to my Sagrada Familia remake with Miss M and me, here are Miss M and hubby at the exact same spot in the courtyard of the Picasso Museum, 2010 and 2016:

We again visited the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar and gazed in awe of that amazing structure.  And oh, the stained glass!!  Check it out:

The remaining photos are from various days, more street scenes, some urban art, the Obama Gastropub? Yes, this pub caught my eye as we were looking for Casa Battlo.  Interesting name no?

I do have one amusing story to tell about the sandals I purchased on our last day in Barcelona.

I really wanted to buy a leather purse and/or leather sandals that were made in Spain.  I looked every chance I got and I finally found the sandals I was looking for on our last day of the trip in Barcelona.  Except that they weren’t made in Spain!  I had asked the clerk if they were made in Spain while I pointed to them in the display and she answered yes.  What made me wonder was that I could see the Italian words for “real leather” on the display sandal.  I told her my size and she had to go out of the store to get them.  I guess there is limited storage in that store? I tried them on and they were perfect!!  Cute and very comfy. She even commented (in Spanish) “they’re comfortable aren’t they?” and I agreed and then purchased them.  When I got back to the hotel and took them out of the bag I saw “made in Albania” on the box.  Made in Albania?!?!?!? That woman lied to me!!! I was so annoyed but later I thought it’s probably a good thing she did that because I’m not so sure I would have tried them on otherwise.  In the end I got the sandals I was looking for and I couldn’t be happier.  I’ve forgiven the clerk too.  I think she knew that I would love those shoes.

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this weekend’s sunset at the lake

We were fortunate enough to spend another fabulous weekend up north.  The weather was perfect and we were rewarded with yet another opportunity to photograph the sunset.  I can’t decide which I like best so I’m posting a bunch of them.  Enjoy and happy independence day!!

First, one of hubby’s silhouette before the sun set, then the sunsets:

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Córdoba, España

Back to more posts about Spain!!  This one is about our day trip to Córdoba from Málaga, one of only a few nice weather days that we had on our trip.  It started out chilly but warmed nicely by midday.  We had tickets for a table for this train ride which was something new. When searching for these tickets, it was cheaper to buy four seats at a table than three regular seats.

It’s only about an hour train ride but it travels through very scenic countryside and pretty soon you’re in Córdoba.  Such a cute and very walkable little town with ancient buildings including the big draw, La Mezquita (the mosque).  We opted to take a taxi instead of walking to the Mezquita and the driver dropped us at the front door.  The moment you walk into the mosque you can smell how old it is.  What lies in front of you are row upon row of white and red arches, 856 of them! This humongous building has been through many transformations, starting out as a church, then it became a mosque and in the 16th century King Carlos V had a cathedral built in the middle of the mosque!  It is the strangest building I’ve even seen. The king himself did not like the way the cathedral turned out and famously said “they have taken something unique in all the world and destroyed it to build something you can find in any city”.  I hope you will enjoy this gallery of the inside of the mezquita/catedral:

Afterwards we strolled along the streets near the Mezquita to view one of three remaining Jewish synagogues in Spain, the other two are in Toledo.  It is so tiny that it’s hard to imagine people worshipped in there.  We made our way to Plaza de las Tendillas where we had lunch and visited some shops.  We wandered around some more and soon it was time to catch our train back to Málaga.

I will leave you with one of my favorite photos from the trip, taken from the train on our way back to Málaga:

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a perfect weekend up north

It was picture perfect at the lake for father’s day weekend.  It was a last minute decision to go and when we checked the weather forecast there was a 90% chance of thunderstorms. That turned into a range of about 30% to 55% and then they became “scattered” thunderstorms.  The storms never materialized!! And it ended up being the absolute perfect weather day on Saturday and we got to view (and photograph) another beautiful sunset.

We did our now usual weekend trip, leaving after the rush hour traffic to subside Friday night.  This time we managed to leave just after 7 p.m., arriving in Akeley about 10:30.  We drove through many areas of fog and did not hit two deer. One was crossing the road ahead of us, the other was on the side of the road. We awakened to fog the next morning but headed off to the Rapid River Logging Camp as planned. They have a fun, family style breakfast and Miss M really wanted to go this time.  You get as many eggs as you want (we heard one person ask for six eggs!! for just that one person!! wow…big appetite I guess) either over easy or scrambled, many pancakes, ham or sausage, hash browns and logger raisins (prunes). You can also have orange juice, milk or coffee or some combination of those. We got juice and coffee.   We left feeling satisfied.

We stopped at Coborn’s grocery store in Park Rapids on our way back to the cabin to get snacks and something for dinner.  Then we didn’t leave again until it was time to go home the next day.  It was heavenly. Neither side of neighbors were there and it was very quiet on the lake.  The only sounds we heard were lake gulls, loons and our lawn mower as we took turns mowing the area by the shoreline.  Since it was full of wildflowers I gave Miss M the job of collecting most of the them to put in vases in the cabin and they looked lovely!  She made one big one and a smaller one for the bathroom.  We had a nice pork chop dinner then had a camp fire complete with smores!  And then we were rewarded with a gorgeous sunset.  Weekends like this one are why we endure winter.

Come have a look-see at some photos I took.

Here are various sunsets at different times:

Finally, the dad and his mini me.  Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!

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Palau de la Música Catalana, Barcelona

Back to Spain!! I still have a few more tales to tell from our trip in March.  This week is all about the wonderful Palau de la Música Catalana in Barcelona.  I learned of the famous and gorgeous stained glass skylight prior to our first trip to Barcelona six years ago, alas, I did not know that you could not view it on your own.  The skylight is the ceiling of the main concert hall and I wanted to be sure to see it this time.  Our choices were to get tickets to see a performance or to take the guided tour.  We were in Barcelona four nights but there wasn’t anything intriguing in the line-up on those days so we opted for the tour.  I’m so glad that we did as it was one of the highlights of the trip for me.  Barcelona is full of architectural wonders and this one is not to be missed.  One thing I learned since our last trip to Spain is to get tickets in advance.  There are many sites with tours that sell out days ahead of time and the Palau is one of them.  I heard an unfortunate exchange between a Palau employee and tourists inquiring about tours that afternoon, unfortunate because all the tours were booked.

From the moment we arrived at the Palau I was struck yet again by the beauty of the structure.  The building is covered in ornate tile-work and sculptures and is a sight to behold.  It’s truly one of a kind on that block.

The tour starts underneath the concert hall’s stage where the choir rehearses and a short video is shown.  I don’t remember too much about it but it included several artists who talked about performing there.  I was also a little distracted by a mother and son we met in line before starting our tour.  They were from Boston and were going to Madrid the next day.  We got to chatting and the mother was asking our opinion about which art museum they should visit as they had limited time in Madrid. Another question was whether to go to Toledo or Córdoba as a day trip from Madrid.  A tough choice to be sure! But, I suggested Toledo as it’s much closer to Madrid and they would have more time to view the sites.  I wonder if they took my advice.

After the video we climbed the stairs up to the main concert hall.  WOW!!  It was so much better than I expected it to be!  Beauty surrounds you and seeing the stained glass skylight in person was well worth the price of the tour.  I took many photos of it to ensure I’d get at least one good one.

The Palau was built between 1905 and 1908 by the architect Lluis Domènech i Montaner for the Orfeó Català, the Catalan choral group.  There are many musical themes throughout the hall.  A choir of 40 women surrounds the sun in the stained glass skylight.  There are also 18 muses on the stage and each are carrying a different musical instrument.  Miss M noticed something unusual about the violinist and I noticed that the flute player was holding the instrument backwards.  Or at least according to how flutes are played now.  They are stunning nonetheless.  There are many flower motifs throughout, especially roses.  Everywhere you look there is beauty.  Well, see for yourself in the gallery below.

Now that you’ve seen photos of the Palau you can probably see why it was one of my favorite sites on this trip.  When you’re next in Barcelona, do make a point to see the concert hall.  I can just about guarantee that you’ll be dazzled!  Just like I was.  I’ll finish with one of my favorites of the skylight.  Enjoy!!

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