Monday, June 26, 2017

CLIFF TOP WALK, Santa Barbara, CA

View of Pacific Ocean from the Douglas Family Preserve, Santa Barbara, CA
Santa Barbara sits between the coastal mountains to the east and the great Pacific Ocean to the west and is one of California's most beautiful cities. In early May, I went on a day excursion to Santa Barbara with friends, visiting the Museum of Art on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, then lunch at the Boathouse Restaurant overlooking the beach, and ending with a nature walk along the top of the cliff above the ocean in the Douglas Family Nature Preserve.
Entrance to Preserve
The path was lined with towering eucalyptus trees, pines, oaks, some fallen and weathering and providing seats to rest.

Wild phlox, daisies and a host of other flowers bloomed along the path
Throughout there were patches of spring flowers wildly in bloom after a winter of super heavy rains. And at the end is a spectacular overlook of the ocean and beach below.
Overlook of beach and Boathouse Restaurant
On our return we stopped to read the memorial plaque placed at the intersection of the cliff top path and one of the paths going into the woods. On it is this poem honoring the Santa Barbara citizens who worked so hard to preserve this beautiful area for all to enjoy.

Here you may walk in peace.
Here you may walk in time and history.
Here you may experience an ancient beauty.
Here the community said yes,
this place is ours to preserve,
this precious wind of trails through the native plants.
Here you may lose yourself in oak and cypress
bend to wildflower and lift to the song of ocean breeze
through pine. Here you may watch the sun east down
over the horizon and at night feel the brush of owl wings.
Through the people of Santa Barbara’s generous spirit
and ability to prevail, here you may find yourself.

    by Perie Longo
Memorial Plaque
The walk is easy and not too long. It was the perfect ending to our day, before driving back home to the busy city of Los Angeles.
Depending on traffic, the drive between LA and Santa Barbara is between one and a half and two hours. For directions to and information about the Douglas Family Preserve, click HERE.

Monday, June 19, 2017

MONTREAL: Three Days in May, Day 3–Musee des Beaux-Arts, Marc Chagall

Marc Chagall, Self Portrait, Musee des Beaux Arts, Montreal
On my third and last day in Montreal I headed to the Musee des Beaux Arts (Montreal Museum of Fine Arts), about thirty minutes from my hotel, on the other side of the city center. For part of the way I walked along Boulevard de Maisonnueve, past the tall buildings that are the business center of Montreal, many with fascinating installations of large public sculptures. I then cut over to Rue Sherbrooke, passing by the McGill University campus before arriving at the museum, actually a complex of buildings on both sides of the street.
Musee des Beaux-Arts, Main Entrance
The featured exhibition was Chagall: Colour and Music, a grand display of the life work of Marc Chagall with examples of his paintings, drawings, theater sets, costumes, stained glass, sculpture, ceramics, book illustrations and more. Room after room, filled with creations by this prolific artist, dazzled the eye, beginning with a movie about his early life in Russia and participation in the Yiddish Theater.
Theater backdrop
Music played throughout the exhibit, reinforcing the interconnectedness of sound, color, light and movement that infuses the work of Chagall. On the wall above his self portrait was this quote: “Everything you say is right. So guide my hand. Take the brush and, like the leader of an orchestra, carry me off to far an unknown realms.” Marc Chagall
Village scene
Themes from village life in rural Russia appear again and again in Chagall’s paintings, often with a figure playing a violin. In a display case in one of the rooms was a beautiful klesmer violin.
Costumes for The Firebird ballet, inspired by Hopi and Zuni Katsina dolls
Several rooms displayed mannekins with costumes Chagall had designed for plays and operas. My favorites were those he created for Stravinsky's Firebird ballet, inspired by the Katsina dolls of the American Southwest.
Stained glass--colors are created in layers
Another room displayed examples of Chagall's stained glass windows, documenting the process from idea to drawing to the finished glass.
Inuit sculpture, village scene--stone and whale bone
Because I had to catch a plane later that afternoon, the only permanent exhibit I was able to view was the display of Inuit Art, a small but fascinating collection of art by contemporary Canadian Native American artists. I wished I had more time to see the many other rooms in the museum with art from various historical periods.
The Chagall exhibit was on view January 28 to June 11, 2017.
On the street outside the museum a colorful design was being installed. Mount Royal is in the distance.

Monday, June 12, 2017

MONTREAL, Three Days in May, Day 2: A Walk to the Old Port

Place Jacques Cartier, Old Montreal, Quebec, Canada
By the morning of our second day in Montreal, the rain had stopped, the skies were clearing and the sun was coming out. It was a perfect spring day and I decided to take a walk to the Old Port, now turned into a park, yacht basin, and entertainment area, and to explore Old Montreal along Rue St. Paul.
Chinatown, Montreal
To get there, about a ten minute walk from our hotel, the Hyatt on Rue Jeanne-Mance, I passed through the giant red gate into the Quartier Chinois (Chinatown), a block long shopping area with small restaurants, noodle shops, herb dispensaries, and souvenir shops.

Rue Saint Paul
For the most part, the streets of Montreal are a grid, so it is difficult to get lost. I had a map but had no need to walk around staring at my phone as many other tourists seemed to be doing. After passing the Notre Dame Basilica, I proceeded downhill to Rue Saint Paul, a narrow cobblestone street lined with historic buildings now housing boutique hotels, restaurants, art galleries, shops with designer clothing, and souvenir items. Suddenly I felt like I had dropped into a small town in Europe and time traveled to another century–except, of course, that the shops all sold present day merchandise and all the crowds on the street were modern day tourists. What was uniquely Canadian were the shops selling Inuit Art and shops selling furs, both products intertwined with Canada’s history. I browsed in one of the fur shops and although I am not in favor of wearing animal pelts, I could see how a thick fur coat could be welcome on a cold Canadian winter night. I also browsed in the Galerie Images Boreales, filled with bears, seals, birds and other subjects of the far north beautifully carved from stone, ivory and other natural materials by Inuit artists. It was like going to a museum.
The Old Clock Tower and Boat Basin
My walk continued to the large public square, Place Jacques-Cartier, where horse drawn carriages waited for passengers, and then along the river front park to the Clock Tower yacht basin in the Old Port (Vieux-Port). Once a thriving shipping area, (the active port is now up river) the docks in the Old Port are filled with various museums and entertainment opportunities such as a zip-line, where I watched a few intrepid souls almost fly (the French word "voiles" means "to sail") from a high tower to the other side of the park.
A game of giant chess
After a short rest back at my hotel, I took a walk down Rue Ste. Catherine, currently being converted to a pedestrian walkway for a number of blocks through the Quartier des Spectacles. People were out enjoying the warm day. Three giant chessboards had been set up on the walkway to the enjoyment of both players and onlookers. I then circled back to the hotel via Boulevard de Maisonnueve, taking a brief detour through the Latin Quarter, a tree lined street filled with lively restaurants, painted walls, and the Theater St. Denis. I had hoped to visit the National Library nearby, only to discover that it is closed on Monday.
Rue St. Denis, Latin Quarter
One of the joys of visiting Montreal is the wealth of French restaurants. That evening we ate at Modavie, filled with old world atmosphere and with a wonderful high embossed tin ceiling. The food was good (the friendly waitress told us their specialty was lamb) but for us, it was a bit noisy. Even so, it was a satisfying end to a full day.
Chapel of Notre Dame of Bon Secours, View from Old Port

Monday, June 5, 2017

MONTREAL, Quebec, Canada: Three Days in May, Day 1

Tulips near entrance to Botanical Garden, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
I have only just realized that the name Montreal is actually the French version of “Mount Royal” which is the wooded hill (not really a mountain) that rises in the center of the city. I also just realized that Montreal is an island, sitting in the middle of the mighty St. Lawrence River, which explains its history as a seaport and trading center and the cobblestone streets and old houses, now a thriving tourist center, adjacent to the old port.  I had never visited Montreal, so when my husband, Art, had a business trip scheduled there, I decided to tag along.
Place d'Armes in front of Notre Dame Basilica in Old Montreal
We arrived in the rain, reminding me that spring comes late to northern latitudes. Tulips were blooming, birds singing, and trees just coming into bud. So, because it was wet and cold, we set off on our first day for mostly indoor sightseeing. After a hearty breakfast, we attended mass at the Notre Dame Basilica, just a short walk from our hotel at the edge of downtown.
Intrerior of Notre Dame Basilica
 One can visit the Basilica at other times of day, but we wanted to hear the choir and pipe organ and to experience the Basilica as a living entity. While listening to the music and the service (in French) we took in the splendor of the giant blue dome, elaborate wood carvings, colorful paintings and stained glass. One can’t help feeling uplifted in such a magnificent place.
Tropical Butterflies at the Insectarium
For the afternoon, we got a ride (via Uber) to the Botanical Garden, about a twenty minute trip on the eastern part of the city, located across from the Olympic Stadium. We stopped first at the Insectarium, an amazing collection of butterflies, moths, beetles and all sorts of insects. 
Stick Insect
Among the live insects on display were various stick insects, so well camouflaged that at first it seemed that the display was just a web of leaves and branches–until the insects moved their thin stick-like limbs and bodies. The mounted insects, grouped by type, location, adaptations for survival, provided the opportunity to marvel at the enormous variety of life on earth.
Begonia Greenhouse in Botanical Garden
 From the Insectarium, we walked through the Botanical Garden to the greenhouses–each devoted to a different plant type and habitat. Some, like the desert and semi-tropical plants, reminded us of our garden at home in California, and the last one displayed bonsai trees, some more than fifty years old and still miniature.  We were particularly fascinated by the greenhouse devoted to nothing but begonias. We never knew there were so many kinds.
Begonia leaves
The greenhouses are at the main entrance to the Botanical Garden where there is also an extensive gift shop and a coffee shop.
At Bonaparte Restaurant
We finished the day with an elegant dinner at Bonaparte’s in Old Montreal.
We stayed at the Hyatt, at the edge of Montreal’s downtown and within easy walking distance of Old Montreal and most of the museums in the city.