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Architecture, Art, Cultural Attractions, Family Fun, Outdoor Activities, Outdoor Art, Pacific Northwest, Portland

Seeking Serenity at Portland’s Spectacular Japanese Garden

May 9, 2017

Gorgeous grounds, stunning views and an authentic Japanese experience have been delighting visitors to Portland’s spectacular Japanese Garden since 1963. Now, the beautiful 12-acre oasis, which includes five separate gardens with plenty of peaceful seating areas for reflection, a Japanese Tea House, tranquil ponds, and meandering paths perfect for contemplation, has even more to offer. Last month the new $33.5 million Cultural Crossing opened to visitors.

Follow the footpaths, steps and bridges that lead to each of the separate and distinctive garden spaces within Portland’s Japanese Garden.

The new $33.5 million Cultural Crossings expansion project includes new exhibition space, library, tea house and additional garden areas, all designed to enhance the authentic Japanese experience for visitors.

Designed by respected architect Kengo Kuma, the Cultural Crossing’s new buildings provide the perfect showcase for traditional Japanese arts and culture and serve as a venue for family-friendly activities and interesting demonstrations. An already popular attraction is even more appealing with the new expansion project. No wonder the lines for tickets are long. Purchase tickets online and check-in at the membership desk, exchange your voucher for a ticket there, and avoid the serpentine lines that are sure to continue for some time.

Minutes away from Portland’s busy streets, the Portland Japanese Garden is an oasis of tranquility.

Many visitors take the complimentary shuttle up to the gardens and walk back down to the parking area along the paved pathways.

Visitors can either take a complimentary shuttle bus or walk up the pathway to the open and airy Japanese Arts Learning Center–the heart of the new project with performance space, library and classroom.

Young visitors take a break on the steps inside the new Jordan Schnitzer Japanese Arts Learning Center.

The ground level Tanabe Gallery currently hosts an exhibition of ceramics, calligraphy, and sculpture by former Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro.

A delightful display of ceramics, calligraphy, and sculpture by former Japanese Prime Minister Hosokawa Morihiro are currently on exhibit in the Tanabe Gallery and Pavilion Gallery.

The expansive display, Hosokawa Morihiro: The Art of Life, a Rebirth in Clay, continues in the Pavilion Gallery, which also includes a portable teahouse.   Two additional “Art in the Garden” showcases, one featuring Kabuki costumes and the other, Noh masks and costumes, are scheduled for later in the year. The Japanese Garden will host related events and activities associated with both.

A portable tea house with the implements needed to perform a classic Japanese tea ceremony are part of the current exhibition. Noh masks and costumes and Kabuki costumes will be featured in the galleries later this year.

Now, to explore these magnificent gardens! The Strolling Pond Garden was our first stop, after a visit to the Learning Center and Gallery. Visitors can walk across the “iconic Moon Bridge” over the Upper Pond and enjoy the views.

Stroll the “Zig-Zag Bridge” over the Lower Pond which is surrounded by iris. It had not quite bloomed at the time of our visit, but was close. The aptly named Heavenly Falls provide the perfect backdrop to the Lower Pond and were a popular “selfie stop.”

The Heavenly Falls provide the perfect backdrop for contemplation or photo opps.

Follow the rough stepping stones along a lantern- lined path through the beautiful Japanese Tea Garden to the authentic Kashintei Tea House. Typically, the tea garden is a place to appreciate nature’s beauty and “the art of living in harmony” while leaving the cares of the world behind. This is certainly the case at the Portland Japanese Garden—it is so serene it’s easy to forget you are mere minutes from busy city streets.

Visitors are invited to leave their worldly cares behind when they explore the authentic tea garden and Kashintei Tea House.

The Kashintei Tea House, which is where tea demonstrations and related events are held, was brought to Portland from Japan and reassembled here.

Contact the Japanese Garden to learn when tea demonstrations and other events are scheduled for the Kashintei Tea House.

The Portland Japanese Garden has a lovely Sand and Stone Garden, created by Professor Takuma Tono, the Garden’s chief designer in the 1960s. These “dry landscape” gardens are sometimes called “Zen Gardens” because they are often found at Zen monasteries and are meant to invite quiet contemplation. The Sand and Stone Garden here illustrates an important Japanese concept—“the beauty of blank space.”

Enjoy your moments of Zen at the Sand and Stone Garden.

Recent additions to Portland’s Japanese Garden include the Natural Garden, which features local plants not typically associated with Japanese gardens and depicts seasonal change.

The cherry blossoms were in full bloom during our recent visit to Portland’s Japanese Garden.

The small courtyard garden (Tsubo-Niwa) and the Ellie M. Hill Bonsai Terrace are both new and located near the Tateuchi Courtyard in the Cultural Village.

Visitors are treated to an exquisite display of bonsai at the new Ellie M.Hill Bonsai Terrace.

The Flat Garden, which highlights each of the four seasons with specific plantings and trees is popular with visitors. The weeping cherry tree on the left represents spring while a 100- year old maple depicts autumn.

The Flat Garden is meant to be viewed from a single angle either from inside a home, where the door or window serves as a frame, or from a verandah, as these visitors are doing.

The gravel stands in for water, signifying summer in the Flat Garden.

After you’ve finished strolling around the gorgeous gardens and interesting exhibitions, stop in and sample the fare at the new Umami Café. During our visit, just a week after the April 2 reopening, the café was not yet serving food but was offering complimentary samples of four delicious teas from Tokyo-based Jugetsudo Tea Company. We were told that light snacks and sweets would be offered in the near future.

Stop in the new Umami Cafe for a restorative cup of tea and authentic Japanese sweets and snacks.

During our visit, guests were offered four different and delicious teas as part of a complimentary tea tasting.

When His Excellency Nobuo Matsunaga, the former Ambassador of Japan to the United States, visited the Portland Japanese Garden, he proclaimed it “the most beautiful and authentic Japanese garden in the world outside of Japan,” according to the organization.

Tranquil settings such as this one near the Upper Pond, have been drawing visitors since 1963.

They currently report more than 350,000 visitors annually, a number that will surely grow with the addition of the new Cultural Crossroads expansion. Be sure to add this spectacularly beautiful and serene spot to your Portland itinerary.  Visit for the most up to date information on tickets, events and hours.


California, Napa Valley, Outdoor Art, Wineries

Napa Valley Winery Visits: B Cellars

September 16, 2015

Gone are the days when it was possible to drive up and down Route 29 or the Silverado Trail and pop in to wineries for complimentary tastings. Though there are plenty of wineries that are open to all during posted hours, many are open for tours and tastings by appointment only. It is also rare to find a winery that offers complimentary tastings, though we did visit one in Sonoma on this trip—more on that in an upcoming post. Buses, and even limos, are discouraged at most wineries these days, too. We think these are all positive changes and if you’ve ever seen large, loud groups who’ve clearly been doing more drinking than “tasting” you’ll probably agree.


B Cellar’s owners preserved many of the older oak trees on the property when they built the new winery facility.

The Napa Valley has more than 400 wineries with tasting rooms so to make the most of your trip, it’s important to do some homework. Get a map of the Napa Valley and find where your favorite wineries’ tasting rooms are (sometimes tasting rooms are not where the wine is actually made) —you won’t want to waste time driving up and down the Valley backtracking, so plan your itinerary with location in mind. Our rule of thumb is no more than three winery visits a day and only two if the tours are very extensive. Do some research and contact your favorite wineries to see what they offer and reserve accordingly. Many offer a range of “experiences.” You’ll frequently get to taste special bottles and vintages when you book a visit and you’ll certainly have the chance to learn more about that particular winery and their wine maker. You’ll avoid the crowded tasting room experience too!


B Cellars open demonstration kitchen.

On our most recent visit to Napa Valley we began with a trip to B Cellars in Oakville. We had visited them once before in May 2014, when the winery was being built. Our tasting took place in a construction trailer on that visit. The wines were spectacular then too, but the setting left something to be desired. What a difference a year makes! The beautiful new facility is situated on gorgeous, expansive grounds and includes the Hospitality House with several tasting areas inside and out, a demonstration kitchen, a culinary garden, chicken coop, wine production facilities, wine cave and event space.


The grounds are populated by Seward Johnson’s lifelike sculptures of people involved in daily tasks like shopping, gardening and just relaxing.

The winery, which was founded in 2003 by Duffy Keys and Jim Borsack, with the highly respected Kirk Venge as winemaker, offers several tasting experiences. The wine tasting options range in price from $35 to $125, depending upon the wines to be tasted and food offerings. Most take about 90 minutes. Since we would be coming right after lunch, we chose the Sojourn, which included B Cellars Flagship wines and several delicious local cheeses.


Our Sojourn tasting included three local cheeses that complimented the wines perfectly.

We were greeted with a 2013 Juliana Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, which we enjoyed on the expansive terrace. We moved over to an umbrella- shaded table and began our tasting in earnest with a 2012 Dutton Ranch Chardonnay.


The Hospitality House has tasting area inside and out.

Red wines we tasted included the 2013 Manzana Vineyard Pinot Noir, a 2009 Blend 24, and 2012 Ehrlich Cabernet Sauvignon. Our delightful and knowledgeable wine host Alex also poured us several wines not typically included on the Sojourn tasting including a 2012 Blend 26.


Our knowledgeable wine host Alex.


The wine cellar has plenty of private event space.

After our tasting we elected to tour the grounds and wine cave with Alex—a lovely and memorable afternoon at B Cellars and a great place to begin our Napa Valley wine adventure.





Art, California, Museums, Napa Valley, Outdoor Art, Restaurants, Wineries

Carneros: Art, Bubbles and Fine Dining

September 14, 2015

This lovely path leads to the di Rosa Collection– one of the most extensive contemporary art collections in Northern California.

If you’re ready for a break from wine tasting and need to get off the well-trodden and always busy wine road that is Route 29, head over to the tranquil Carneros District and stop in at the di Rosa Collection This lovely property has been open to the public since 2000, when it was incorporated as a nonprofit public trust.


The Gatehouse Gallery features rotating exhibitions of contemporary art.

Rene and Veronica di Rosa’s extensive contemporary art collection includes some 2,000 works by 800 artists including Richard Shaw, Bruce Nauman, Larry Sultan, John Buck, Allan Rath, Paul Kos, Viola Frey and many others and is considered to be one of the most important collections in Northern California.


Book a tour to see the entire collection both inside the buildings and around the gorgeous grounds.

The works are displayed in three buildings and throughout the property. The modern Gatehouse Gallery is home to rotating exhibitions of modern paintings, sculpture, multi-media and interactive pieces.


A recent exhibition in the Gatehouse Gallery.



An interactive piece lets visitors…


…blow giant smoke rings!



Tongue-In-Cheek, a recent exhibition at Gatehouse.

Gallery admission allows access only to the current exhibition on view in the Gatehouse and is a self-guided proposition. To experience the entire collection, set aside 1-1/2 to two hours for the superb guided tour of the outbuildings, including the chapel, and the exquisite grounds. It is best to book the guided tour in advance to avoid disappointment.


Take a tour and experience the art outdoors.

You’ll likely see peacocks racing through the tall grass around many of the sculptures including one of my favorites, “Field Hands.” You really need to experience this for yourself.  The catalog of the permanent collection, Local Color, makes a great souvenir or a gift for an art-loving friend. Be sure to check the website for hours of operation and the tour schedule.


Outside art.



Domaine Carneros is right across the road from di Rosa.

After your tour of the di Rosa Collection, go across the street to the elegant Domaine Carneros—it’s home to Tattinger’s California sparkling wines Reservations are not required but there is a fee to taste.

Domaine Carneros-- Taittinger's California Sparkling Wine.

Domaine Carneros– Taittinger’s California Sparkling Wine.

Tours are also available by reservation via website or phone. There are numerous options for tasting from flights to single glasses. Take your glass out onto the beautiful terrace and enjoy the spectacular view across the vineyards of the Carneros District.



Enjoy a drink in this pleasant lounge area at Farm.

One of my favorite dining destinations is in the Carneros, just a short distance away—Farm at the Carneros Inn http://www.thecarnerosinn. We have celebrated many memorable meals here and the last, which happened to be an anniversary, was no exception. Start with your libation of choice and relax outside on the comfy couches that surround the open fire. Depending on the hour, you’re likely to see children running happily around the lawn—much better here than in the dining room!


The dining room is casual but elegant.

The menu at Farm changes often to reflect the restaurant’s commitment to local, seasonal and sustainable produce, fish and meat. The cuisine is contemporary Californian and the wine list draws almost entirely from California producers.


The wine list focuses on Californian bottlings. Our somm gave us terrific recommendations like this Philip Staley 2012 Viognier.

Service is impeccable and the room is spare yet elegant. The restaurant is open daily for dinner only and reservations are a must.


A complimentary amuse bouche began our dining adventure.



Even a chicken breast is elevated to new culinary heights at Farm.



The halibut was sublime.



A chocolate lover’s dream dessert.



A lovely finish to a beautiful meal.

The hotel also has a casual option called Boon Fly, which is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Reservations are only available at dinner. This is great place to stop if you want a quick and tasty lunch and are in the mood for a burger, salad or sandwich.

Mix it up a bit and add Carneros to your itinerary. You’ll be glad you did!





Art, Family Fun, Outdoor Art, Pacific Northwest, seattle

Outdoor Art at Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park

June 26, 2015

After a beautiful morning at Chihuly Garden and Glass and lunch at Seattle Central Armory’s Skillet Counter, we headed down to the Olympic Sculpture Park, part of the Seattle Art Museum or  On the way we passed a Duckload of friendly tourists.

Seattle's Duck Tour.

Seattle’s Duck Tour.

Enjoyed the view of snowcapped Mt. Ranier in the distance and the cruise ship docked nearby.

Seattle is a popular jumping off point for Alaskan cruises.

Seattle is a popular jumping off point for Alaskan cruises.

And finally reached our destination– the Olympic Sculpture Park.


All are welcome at Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park. Admission is free.


Jaume Plensa’s 46 foot Echo towers over visitors, eyes closed to the sea beyond.

This beautiful urban art park was once an industrial site. Now, less than 10 years later, the nine acres on Elliott Bay is Seattle’s largest downtown green space and home to spectacular sculpture by some of the most influential and respected artists in the world including Richard Serra, Ellsworth Kelly, Alexander Calder, and Louise Nevelson– to name just a few.


A view of Richard Serra’s Wake.


It’s an entirely different visual experience to wander among the panels of Wake.


Alexander Calder’s The Eagle provides a brilliant pop of color and a shady place to rest.


Typewriter Eraser by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen must add a touch of whimsy to the daily commute.

With views toward the Olympic Mountains and Puget Sound, thought provoking and attention getting art and its beautiful waterfront location, the award-winning Olympic Sculpture Park should be on your list of places to see in Seattle.


Cargo ships glide by Bunyon’s Chess by Mark di Suvero.

Puget Sound makes a beautiful backdrop for these sculptures.


di Suvero’s Schubert Sonata has a prime location.


The nine-acre sculpture park has lovely wooded paths to explore.

The Olympic Sculpture Park is pedestrian and bicycle friendly, handicapped accessible and admission is free.


Roy McMakin’s Love and Loss was commissioned for the Olympic Sculpture Park.


Beverly Pepper’s Perre’s Ventaglio III is right at home among the vegetation.

What a fantastic place to spend a beautiful day in Seattle! Next, dinner decisions, The Frye and we take flight to Boeing Field–a visit to the Museum of Flight.

Note: Banner image is Louise Bourgeois’s Father and Son. Each figure is in turn concealed and revealed by the water in which they stand, separated, arms outstretched.

Art, Family Fun, Museums, Outdoor Art, Pacific Northwest, Restaurants, seattle

Seattle: Whirlwind Weekend in the Emerald City

June 25, 2015

Art, food and fun highlighted our three-day weekend in the Emerald City. We started off our Saturday morning with a monorail ride from the central shopping area to the Center City area, home of the iconic Space Needle. The monorail, which was built for the 1962 World’s Fair, costs just $2.25 and is only $1 for seniors, children under 12, disabled, and active duty military.


It’s a quick but fun ride on Seattle’s monorail.

The trip takes only minutes between Westlake Center Station at 5th and Pine Streets and The Seattle Center Station. Purchase your ticket at the kiosk or from the cashier as you enter the train. The monorail runs every seven minutes or so from 8:30 a.m. on weekends (7:30 a.m. during the week) until 11 p.m.


Sonic Bloom greets visitors walking to EMP or Chihuly Garden and Glass. The “sunflowers” move and emit sound.

The monorail drops you off steps from at the Space Needle, Chihuly Garden and Glass and EMP Museum (formerly called Experience Music Project).

Seattle's iconic Space Needle was built for the 1962 World's Fair.

Seattle’s iconic Space Needle was built for the 1962 World’s Fair.


We’d been to the Space Needle on previous visits so headed right to the Chihuly Garden and Glass


There’s a reason Chihuly Garden and Glass is on everyone’s Top 10 list. Don’t miss it!

We should have bought our tickets online—the lines were long for the cashiers inside and at the outdoor kiosks, and cost $2 more than the online price. Plan ahead! Once you have your ticket and have reached the admission area, ask to have your arm stamped so that you can return in the evening (6 p.m. to 10 p.m.) to view these magnificent glass works illuminated. The sun sets quite late in Seattle during the summer months so keep that in mind when planning your return visit.


Prepare to be amazed.  Detail of Chihuly’s Sealife Tower.

The Chihuly Garden and Glass is included in Seattle’s City Pass  so if you plan to visit more than one of the included attractions—yes, the Space Needle is one of them—you may want to opt for the $69 City Pass. You’ll save money and time since you won’t wait on line.


Tabac Basket in the Northwest Room.

Once inside, be prepared to be awed. There is a reason Chihuly Garden and Glass is on everyone’s “must see” list. We heard more than a few “wows” as soon as we stepped into the first gallery. Dale Chihuly’s glass art works are beyond stunning.


Mille Fiori– A thousand flowers- delight the senses.

These photos cannot capture the splendid forms, movement, intricacy and vibrant colors in Chihuly’s work but they do give an hint of what you’ll experience at Chihuly Garden and Glass.  It is a magical place.


Persian Ceiling floods the room with color from above.

It seems as you move from gallery to gallery the works get progressively more beautiful and intricate.   The lighting, staging and even the music in the galleries combine to create a magnificent experience.


Ikebana and Float Boats capture the viewer’s imagination.

Further delight your senses with a stroll through the gorgeous gardens. The art is so beautifully integrated in the various plantings that you’ll want to linger a good long time.


A view in the garden.



Northwest timber is integrated in the glass garden.


We had the added benefit of a spectacular day—clear, blue skies and temperatures in the mid-70s.  The soothing background music being performed by a gentleman playing the Eyhu on the street just outside the garden added to our enjoyment.


Soothing music further enhanced our enjoyment of the gardens.

The works on display are included in a fairly comprehensive catalog titled, Chihuly Garden and Glass, available in the gift shop in the lobby.  It is one of many available volumes featuring Mr. Chihuly’s art. In addition to the usual museum gift shop items like books and calendars featuring the artist’s work, original pieces of Chihuly’s glass art are also on offer and priced from $5,000 to $12,000.


This is no ordinary gift shop.


A spectacular souvenir.

If you’ve worked up an appetite after your stroll through the garden, head over to the Seattle Center Armory a few steps away Originally built in 1939 to house the 146th artillery and its half-ton tanks, it was repurposed for the 1962 World’s Fair and became the city’s first vertical shopping mall, called the Food Circus.


Once home to an artillery unit and half-ton tanks, the Armory now features food and family fun.

Today, in addition to a public space that hosts more than 3,000 free family entertainment and cultural events each year, you’ll find a food court that’s got something for everyone. Though Starbuck’s and Subway do have a presence here, they share the main floor with more interesting offerings from the likes of Eltana’s Wood- Fired Bagel Café, Seattle Fudge, MOD Pizza , Kabab (Mediterranean cuisine), Cool Guys Fry Bar, Ceres Roasting Company , Bigfood BBQ , Quincy’s (burgers and seafood) , Blue Water Taco Grill , Plum Pantry (vegan and organic selections), The Confectional (cheesecakes), and Skillet Counter


The Seattle Center Armory is a busy place at lunchtime.

Mediterranean street food, beef baracoa, fish tacos, Belgian style fries, individual cheesecakes, pizza, vegan fare, and a terrific fried chicken sandwich are among the tantalizing possibilities we deliberated for lunch.


So many choices…

We chose Skillet Counter where the Fried Chicken Sammy with a fennel seed crust, kale, and jalapeno aioli on a potato roll called out to my traveling companions. I had a delicious curried carrot soup and a salad. We met Chef Mike “Mookie” who kindly shared his recipe for the soup and the aioli. Looking forward to whipping up some of that at home!


Skillet Counter’s Chef Mike aka “Mookie”

If you’ve got little ones in tow—you’re in luck—Seattle’s Children’s Museum is just downstairs. Here you’ll find interactive exhibitions, hands on, and age appropriate activities for children ages 10 months to 10 years.


Seattle Children’s Museum is lots of fun for the little ones.


After our satisfying lunch at Skillet Counter, we headed down towards Elliott Bay to the Olympic Sculpture Park, part of the Seattle Art Museum or  Next, time for a stroll and more art in a fabulous outdoor setting.