Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mid-week at Callaway Gardens - Wednesday

Since the weather was supposed to stay mild and sunny last week we decided to visit Callaway Gardens near the town of Pine Mountain, Georgia, about 2 hours south of our home.  We had not been there since our daughters were quite small and, in addition, they advertized free entrance on week days for the months of January and February.  So we arrived at the Callaway Gardens Lodge at noon last Wednesday, 23 January, 2013.  Before entering the gardens we went to have lunch at the Country Kitchen Restaurant, down the road about a mile south.  First we stood and admired the panoramic view from the little park across the restaurant, almost on top of Pine Mountain, under the US and Georgia flags.
I took several pictures with my usual cameras, my Nikon D40 and Panasonic Lumix, but I also wanted to test a small new camera, an Olympus VG-120 that I recently acquired.  Unfortunately I forgot to remove the date stamped on the front of the pictures. (Click on collage twice to see the pictures better.)
It was a clear and lovely day - the temperature went up to 70 degrees F (21 C.) that day.  When it gets this warm tornadoes often arise if the weather cools down rapidly.  This is what happened yesterday morning, Wednesday 30th, as I was downloading these pictures.  The tornado sirens sounded and I had to go and take shelter downstairs.  The tornado touched down just north of us, a few miles away in Adairsville, did severe damage and people were hurt with one fatality.  However, a week ago last Wednesday it was nice and sunny.  Our server in the restaurant placed us at a table in front of the large window.  I selected the "Fried Green Tomato Sandwich" fried green tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, Swiss cheese, and muscadine mayonnaise served on a Texas toast ($7.95.)  My husband chose the "Pastrami Ruben" hearty sandwich grilled with sauerkraut, Swiss cheese and creamy Thousand Island dressing on a caraway rye bread and peppered pastrami ($9.50.)  The sandwiches were served with a choice of French fries, glazed apples or a side salad.
We went by the gift shop before we left.  As you can see by the empty space in the photo below I purchased a bottle of muscadine syrup.  Muscadine (Vitis rotundifolia) is a southeastern US native species of grape.
We then drove back to the gardens.  Callaway Gardens was begun in the 1930s by Cason Callaway (1894-1961.)  Cason, pictured below, was born and raised in this west central Georgia area.  His wife Virginia and he purchased 13,000 acres of depleted cotton farm land (20.31 sq miles or 53 km2) where they rebuilt the soil, planted trees and flowers.  The park also has a 2,500 acre nature preserve which can be seen via guided tours.  They built the largest man-made white-sand beach in the world and added 13 lakes, trails, cottages, tennis courts, two challenging golf courses and more to the gardens.  It took decades to make an enchanting garden out of the land that had been stripped of nutrients by intensive farming.  The gardens were opened to the public in 1952 and draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
But on that day in January, there were few visitors.  We drove around the golf course and stopped at the Pioneer Log Cabin and then walked to the smokehouse in back.
This cabin was built in the 1830s of hand hewn yellow pine.  It was occupied by a family of 15 people until the 1930s then, in 1959, it was relocated to Callaway Gardens.  We looked inside the cabin.
There are more than seven miles of nature rails and ten miles of biking trails in the park.  We did not follow Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail but walked toward the camellia trail where numerous evergreen Japanese camellias ranging from white to lush pink to bright red were in full bloom.
A camellia plant was imported to America from England in the late 18th century where they started growing them in hothouses.  Here in the South camellias grow naturally outdoors.  These plants were very popular in the antebellum south and old cultivars can be admired in many ancient plantations and houses when they flower in winter.  Some of the blooms were rose-like and some like fluffy peonies.
I stopped to look down at some compact short camellia plants and then also had to look up at others as tall as trees.
But this little white camellia with long yellow stamens stole my heart - isn't she lovely?

Winter is an excellent time to come to Callaway Gardens as most of the crowds come in spring and summer.  The park is large - for example from the entrance to the Discovery Center, our next stop, is a distance of 2.5 miles (4 kms.)  As we drove around we rarely saw any cars or bicycles.
In front of the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center is a sculpture of Virginia Callaway (1900-1995) Callaway Gardens co-founder and wife of Cason Callaway.  Virginia was passionate about connecting man and nature.  She is shown with her faithful dog, a Great Dane named Rex Muddynose.  There are not many flowers in January but Callaway Gardens show a variety of ornamental kale - some were around the center as shown below.
The Discovery Center is a large rustic but modern building in front of Mountain Creek Lake.  There is a museum/exhibit hall, a cafe (closed when we were there though,) an auditorium, a gift shop, a staffed information desk, an education wing and a theatre where a video on the story of Callaway Gardens plays continuously.  It's a beautiful building with an open-design and great views of the lake.  I liked the inviting rocking chairs.
My husband went outdoors to take a closer look at the ducks in the lake

while I stopped and took pictures of vivid red Winterberry Holly.

There are many sculptures inside and outside of the Discovery Center.  I especially like the one below called "Swept Away."
As we drove toward the exit we had to stop and take in the view of the meadows - large open space with not a soul in sight.
We parked by Lake View Golf Course and I was surprised to see a white azalea plant in bloom.  A tree nearby had pink blossoms... in January!
The sun was coming down fast - it was time to go.  But tomorrow we would be back.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Venice, Day Two - (2)

This is a continuation at my post of January 19, 2013.   After eating our gelati - chocolate for my husband and hazelnut for me, we resumed our walk in the city. Presently we arrived at a large campo and, as you can see in the photo below, it was a warm day for October and people were wearing summer clothes.
We kept walking along the canals.  In Venice a "fondamenta" is the little alley along the waterway and foundations of buildings - the larger alleys are called "riva."
Walking along the canals felt as though we were walking inside a painting, as the scenery has not changed.  Below is a painting of a canal in 1928.
Canal in Venice, 1928 - painted by Peter Mork Monsted, Danish 1859-1941

Sometimes, along a building, there would be an open entrance, just like the entrance to the building.  But it was the entrance to a narrow alley, as can be seen on the bottom right hand side of the photo below.
 It was dark at first, but suddenly the alley was open to the sky, and it was very light. I believe these are called "sottoportego" (a passageway going under a building.)
 Some of the alleys were quite narrow.  My husband is standing in the middle of the alley in the top middle photo below. (Click on any photo to enlarge, and on collages too.)
 It was strange to be in a narrow alley, then find ourselves facing the Grand Canal.
 So we stopped and looked - and for me, it was a good time to take several pictures.
Then we went back along a canal again - never sure exactly where we were.
 We walked along so many canals that, after a while, it is quite hard to distinguish them and several times, we walked back around the same canals.
 After another long walk, we ended up again at the Grand Canal.  This time we were close to a beautiful palace.  Fortunately there was a sign on it.  We had arrived at "Ca Rezzonico" named after the wealthy Rezzonico family who moved there in 1758.  Now it is a public museum dedicated to 18th century Venice.
 Later I found out that this palazzo had been rented out in the 1880s.  The poet, Robert Browning (1812-1889) died in his son's apartment there - the painter Robert Barrett Browning.  The American painter John Singer Sargent rented a studio in this palace as well.  Then each summer between 1923 and 1927 the composer and song writer Cole Porter (1891-1964) rented the palace.  His monthly rent at the time was $4,000 per month ($51,000 in today's money.)  While my husband was looking at the Grand Canal I took several pictures of the sculptures on the wall of the palazzo.
 We entered the interior courtyard of the palazzo and rested on one of the benches on the side.
 It was dark and cool there.  I could see a fountain at the other end of the courtyard and walked up to take a closer look.
From a distance, it looked like there was a ceramic turtle in the center of the fountain.
  I looked at it for quite a while.  It was life like but it did not move at all.  Then, just as I was leaving - it moved!  I saw more turtles in the water and some fish too.
We walked away along some more canals, passing several religious carvings.
We could hear music - someone singing and playing the guitar, in English.  It had to be an amateur, as he was not very good, but we saw him again after we walked crossed a large campo.  He still did not sound any better!
We went back through the confusing maze of alleys and stopped at a canal as a powerboat was passing by.  I did not take its picture but you can see its passage in the water in the photo below.
  Nowadays there are many powerboats that create small waves against the foundations of the buildings.  After a while these small waves contribute to the deterioration of the walls and they crumble.  The gondoliers don't like the powerboats either as the constant waves have reduced the life of a gondola from the traditional 40 years to more or less 10 years.
 Below is a 19th century gondola which was exhibited in the courtyard of Ca' Rezzonico.
 I wonder if the gondoliers below are talking about the difficulty to row their gondolas amongst all the powerboats, motor taxis, etc., that crowd the canals.
As we (slowly) walked around I liked to look up at the colorful windows (and laundry.)
As the centuries went by, the shapes of the windows have changed.
The gated window below looks like it has been there for ages.
I guess I could have written a post on what I saw when I looked up at the Venice buildings.

As we went across a small bridge we noticed a sign in front of a 15th century Venetian Gothic building - "Casa di Carlo Goldoni."  Later we found the entrance - a beautiful staircase, but we did not go inside as it was closing.  It is where the author, Goldoni, was born in 1707.  Now it is a small museum dedicated to him, as well as a 30,000 manuscript archive and library and a small 18th century puppet theatre.
As we walked I could not stop and take a picture of the old door below.  Just look at the imposing lock!  I wonder how long this door has been there?
Just as for the windows, there is a good variety of doors in Venice.
Somehow we found ourselves near the Grand Canal again, close to the Rialto Bridge (which is pictured on top of this post.)  It is a very busy area and must be quite crowded during the tourist season.
We stepped up to the top of the bridge and I took pictures to show what I saw, from both sides.
We stayed on top of this bridge for a while looking at the water traffic below.  But then we left and, as we passed an outside cafe, we thought about stopping but we were so tired that we felt if we stopped, we would not be able to keep walking afterwards.
We bought a piece of pizza to eat later from our own little window looking over our canal (below) and were so pleased to reach our inn.  In just a day we had seen so much - so many images and colors were in my head.  I am happy to have taken a large amount of pictures so I can revisit all the sites now.  This was our second day in Venice... and we still had three more days to go!

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