Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Spring in Scotland #1: Scotland in Bloom

Fields at St Fillans.

     Scotland had a lovely couple of weeks around Easter (and everyone we meet tells us so), even though the weather now is like December (raining 38ºF with 20+mph winds for a wind chill of 0ºC) we are seeing some lovely blooms. I thought I would catalog the Scotland show in this post. Sorry I am, says Yoda, that I don't know the names of all the flowers, but I can at least tell you where we spied them.
The Rhoddy to the right of the 2nd green at St Fillans GC adds a splash of color.

     Branklyn Garden is a two acre garden in the city of Perth that was once a residential garden and is now in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. The garden is lovely anytime, but it's particularly fetching in the spring when the Himalayan Blue Poppies are in full show. We usually make one or two visits each trip.
Steps leading to residential garden in Perth on the walk from the parking lot to Branklyn Gardens.

Yellow Poppy


The view from the gardens down to the city of Perth.

Himalayan Blue Poppy

     Scotland has a village competition every year selecting the best flowered villages. One of perennial winners of Scotland in Bloom is the tourist village of Pitlochry. From the looks of things their chances are good again this year.

     To get to Pitlochry from where we stay in Crieff we have to climb into the Highland foothills through Sma'Glen. There we easily see signs of spring.

Roman Bridge in Glen Lyon in the Highlands above Sma'Glen.
     A pleasant short hike at the edge of the Highlands, even in showery weather, is to the Hermitage. The hike is fairly flat and only a third of a mile, but the rewards are well worth it. The falls on the River Braan are best viewed from Ossian's Hall, a view station built in the 18th C. by the Duke of Atholl.
Bramble Berry

Fiddlehead Ferns

     Another place to find Scotland in Bloom is in its cemeteries and kirkyards. The flowers are sometimes the cut kind, but often plantings absolutely blossom with life.
At Comrie cemetery.

In the cemetery at Wester Fowlis.
     There are many more places we've found Scotland in Bloom this spring even in the few days we've been here, but these don't fit in neat categories--they just are lovely all the same.

Endangered Cowslips

     And, of course, there are some things that just aren't ready to bloom.
Hedge at Elcho Castle.

NEXT: Who knows what we'll find.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Spring in the Southwest, Part 2

Abiquiu Lake in northern New Mexico

In the last post, Southwest Part 1, we had gone to Chaco Canyon for the day and then stayed overnight in Bloomfield. This post will begin with a rather weak continental breakfast at Motel 8 Bloomfield as we head back to Santa Fe. 

Georgia O’Keeffe House

At Georgia O'Keeffe's House we had time for coffee and a sweet at the Abiquiu Inn.

The trip back to Santa Fe was highlighted by a tour of Georgia O’Keeffe’s House in Abiquiu (ab-i-cue), NM. American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) is best known for her paintings of enlarged flowers, New York skyscrapers, and New Mexico landscapes. Married to New York photographer Alfred Stieglitz, Ms O’Keeffe (as our guide Frank called her) was good friends with writer D H Lawrence, and photographers Paul Strand, Edward Stiechen, and Ansel Adams. She often stayed in Taos with socialite Mabel Dodge Luhan and hobnobbed with the rich, famous, and eccentric. O’Keeffe holds the record for the highest price paid for a painting by a woman—$44.4 million for her 1932 painting Jimson Weed/White Flower #1.

The house on the left, the studio on the right, and part of the garden in the middle.

One of our tour companions was dressed for the occasion--much like what O'Keeffe herself would have worn..

Ms O’Keeffe bought the 5000 square foot Spanish-Colonial-style Abiquiu house in 1945 and lived there winter and spring until just a couple of years before her death in 1986. She spent summer and fall at her house at Ghost Ranch in the hills above Abiquiu. The Georgia O’Keeffe house is located near the start of the Old Spanish Trail to southern California and the original settlers of Abiquiu were Native Americans from Mesa Verde. The hour tour was a mix of art, history, biography, and architecture tour. The house interior is rich in character and architecture, while the exterior (the only part visitors can photograph) is rather ordinary for the region. Our guide explained very well why the tour doesn’t allow photography in the interior—the house is small and filled with treasures and it would be easy to have an accident while trying for just the right photo. Some parts of the house date back to the 1730s. 
Frank, our tour guide

Iconic New Mexican house detail

After visiting the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe a couple of times, it was a treat to get see where Ms O’Keeffe lived and worked. On our next trip we’ll plan to tour Ghost Ranch and see where she was inspired to paint her landscapes.

The only photo we were allowed to take in the house was this view from her main studio.

The Turquoise Road to Santa Fe

Mail boxes and sign in Madrid.

Because Alaska Air had cancelled our flight and rebooked us later, we didn’t have time the first day to take the Old Road to Santa Fe from Albuquerque, called the Turquoise Trail because of the special Cerrillos turquoise found only in the region. So, after returning from Chaco Canyon we took part of a day to explore a bit of the Old Road, the Turquoise Trail, only this time from Santa Fe towards Albuquerque. Los Cerrillos was the first village we came to and it was a bust. 
Los Cerrillos only restaurant.

A tree sculpture at the church in Cerrillos.

Anne buying turquoise in Cerrillos.

There was just an interesting church, a restaurant with a rude manager (coffee and a sweet wouldn’t get us toilet privileges, those came only with a full meal), and a trading post where Anne did find some nice Cerrillos turquoise jewelry at decent prices. 

Main street Madrid.

Madrid (pronounced mad’-rid) was the next village and it was full of interesting shops (art, jewelry, souvenirs). After browsing the main street we settled into Java Junction for a latte and a brownie. At least the Turquoise Trail was more interesting than the freeway from Albuquerque to Santa Fe and we’d take it again.
Typical Madrid shop.

Nice coffee stop in Madrid.

Wildhood Farms

The view along the High Road to Taos.

This church in Chimayo on the High Rad is a major tourist and pilgrim draw.

The Sanctuary has lovely buildings, sculptures, and carvings.

A shrine for offerings. The Sanctuary is noted for its history of miracles.

After eight days in Santa Fe (with a couple of days out for our visit to Chaco Canyon) we were ready to move on to Taos for a couple of special visits. We traveled the High Road from Santa Fe to Taos with a special stop near Truchas to visit the farm of Zach and Jasmine Cecelic and two year old Zea). 

Truchas at 8000 feet has lovely views of the Taos mountain scenery.

The homemade geodesic dome is home to Zach, Jas, and Zea.

The farm, which they are building from scratch, is “beyond organic” bringing back “ancient agricultural methods, developed by indigenous people.” Jas is our adopted niece—I worked at summer debate camp with her parents and we watched her grow into a fine young lady—who we have been pleased to keep in our lives. 

Cooking in the outside kitchen is pleasant in the typically nice weather, but can be a chore with 3' of winter snow.

Zach and Jas show us the foundation of the new house--hopefully to be done by fall.

Their farm lifestyle is rustic with the main building currently a home built geodesic dome, but the foundation of a cob house is already laid. It was a great adventure for us to see the farm and to be able to put a picture to their future plans. Check out the farm’s website at 
Zea warmed up nicely to Auntie Anne and Uncle Bob.

A Private Photo Tour of Taos Area

The first stop on my guided photo tour of the Taos area.

Geraint Smith testing out the lighting at San Francisco de Asia church.

  The highlight of the whole trip for me was our full day in Taos. I had signed up for a full day (eight to five) photo tour of Taos with Geraint Smith, professional photographer,  as  guide. The one-on-one tour with instruction was not cheap, but at the end of the day it was worth every penny. Geraint, born and raised in South Wales and Yorkshire, and I had much in common and were philosophically very compatible. Geraint took me to local photo spots, some new to me, and gave instruction through suggestion and questions (ie., Have you considered changing ISO? or Is there something you can do with that shadow?). 
One of my best shots at the Ranchos de Taos church.

While the church is an iconic image, some of the best photos are of the details like reflections and shadows.

I wouldn't have noticed the shadow of this cross without Geraint's help. We both then noticed the juxtaposition of the shadow cross and the handicapped parking sign. 

I love photographing this church--so many angles and textures.

Our first stop was the San Fransisco de Asis Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos. This much photographed church was a favorite of Georgia O’Keeffe and Ansel Adams. I’ve been there several times, but Geraint showed me angles and subjects I’d never noticed before. Morning light was lovely and we returned in the afternoon for clouds and different light. 

Next was a stop at Pilar for a cup of coffee and some tourist photos before driving down the Rio Grande Gorge to Lower Taos Canyon for water photos. It was here I almost ruined the day by pulling a thigh muscle by misstepping off a boulder—I limped around for a week afterwards. While we were exploring moving water photo opportunities, we got some great shots of a coyote protecting a den across the river. 

Besides the coyote we photographed three herds of big horn sheep along the walls of the gorge. 

Meadow lark at Overland Farmhouse.

The Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos.

Geraint also took me to a spot to get old car and mountain photos as well as visiting the historic Mable Dodge Luhan House before going back to the Taos de Asis church and ending up at the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. I quizzed Geraint incessantly about the processes he uses as a professional and took notes the whole trip. Geraint’s website, has links to his tours and book (Rio Grande del Norte which I highly recommend).
From our afternoon return visit to the Ranchos de Taos church.

The Rio Grande Gorge Bridge outside of Taos.

Anne stayed in Taos for the day and had lunch with our good friends, Bill and Cat Bennett, parents of Jasmine. It was a grand day for both of us.

     As I've said in previous posts, I feel a "cultural affinity" for the American southwest. And just like we keep returning to Scotland year after year, the Four corners states of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico (along with Nevada) are always on our list to visit. In fact, I'm already planning next year's trip to visit Canyon de Chelly in northeastern Arizona.
Flying into Portland after a wonderful ten day trip.

Next: Notes from Scotland (our 32nd trip since 2000)