31 January 2016

Live out of your Imagination

Gateway Walk, King St., Charleston, SC   
I always pause to read the featured quote on the gate to the Unitarian Universalist Church entrance to the Gateway Walk on King St. This was struck me a funny for Charleston where we treasure history so.

Here is a complete map to the Gateway Walk which includes some of my favorite spots and more details about the Garden Club's early project.
The Garden Club’s first civic project was the dream of Mrs. C. P. McGowan, president from 1928 to 1930. The Gateway walk, after visiting a peaceful garden in Paris.   Landscape architect Loutrel Briggs designed the original walk which is named for the ten wrought iron gates along its course through the city. Entrance to the Gateway Walk. The walk begins at the gates of St. John’s Lutheran Church on Archdale Street, crosses King Street and Meeting Street, and concludes at St. Philip’s Episcopal Church. It opened in 1930 to coincide with the 250th anniversary of the founding of Charleston. The club maintains the walk with proceeds from its fundraising projects.

30 January 2016

Colonial Lake drained

Colonial Lake drained for restoration, Charleston, SC  
This isn't something we will see very often! As part of the Colonial Lake improvement project the lake is actually drained. It isn't as deep as I would have guessed. Things are progressing and I can't wait until the fences come down. It is going to be a lovely spot again.

According to the web site, the improvements will include: 

  • A new and improved flushing system so water within the Colonial Lake Basin will be more consistent with the water quality in the Ashley River. Controls within the flushing system will enable the water level to be maintained at most times to between 12 and 18 inches below the promenade level.
  • Gardens designed and maintained with the highest level of horticultural skill will be added to Colonial Lake.
  • The promenade around Colonial Lake will be enhanced with new, improved and additional pathways and shade trees.
  • Seating and gathering places will be situated in each of the four corners of the park.
  • Rutledge and Ashley avenues will be slightly narrowed to slow traffic and enhance pedestrian safety. All travel lanes and on-street parking lanes will be maintained. The resulting additional park space will be used for additional street trees, including added shade trees along Ashley Avenue.
  • Historical markers and displays will detail the lake’s history.

29 January 2016

On the road - Cuba; farmhouse lunch

Pottery fun on the farm, Cuba
We detoured for a farmhouse lunch in Matanzas while in Cuba. The food was organic, delicious and a happy surprise. As I understand it the farmer married a ceramicist so the barn included a ceramic workshop and pottery. It was called a Coincidencia Farm although I haven't discovered exactly what that means. After lunch I wandered through the farm land and discovered these statues. Someone was having some fun!
I found a thorough write up by another traveler who spent more time on the farm here

27 January 2016

Before & After - Spring St. Cannon Green

Cannon Green, 103 Spring St., Charleston, SC  
I've been wandering the streets of Charleston long enough to have watching current businesses through a series of previous reincarnations. I used to take pictures of the worn hand-painted signs of River's Auto Repair until it was painted over with a eye-catching Shepard Fairey mural.  After a complete renovation the building is now an upscale restaurant and event space called Cannon Green. I haven't had the chance to get inside yet since I tend to walk at odd times of the day but it looks very striking.

26 January 2016

On the road - Miami Art Deco

Miami Beach Art Deco District, Miami, Florida
I am still uploading travel pictures so buckle your seat belts. This series is from our brief stop in Miami before heading to Cuba. We caught the Art Deco Walking Tour which was well worth the ticket price. We are so fortunate that these great buildings have been preserved.
Miami Beach's Art Deco District is the first 20th-century neighborhood to be recognized by the National Register of Historic Places, with 800 structures of historical significance, most built between 1923 and 1943. The fanciful pastel buildings, with porthole windows, ship-like railings, sleek curves, glass blocks, shiny chrome, and gleaming terrazzo floors are prime eye candy.

25 January 2016

Plant Legends

Camellia, Middleton Place, Charleston, SC   
Plant Legends: Many centuries ago, the camellia hailed from Japan and China. In China, it was called the "Tea Flower." In Japan, it was called the "Tsubaki" and often was included in religious rituals, representing the divine. The Japanese also believed it was the flower that announced spring.
The Chinese, too, looked at the blossoms as sacred and planted camellias in the secret gardens of the Chinese emperors.
As much as the camellia was admired for its beauty, however, its early popularity was largely a matter of economics and culture.
One of the very early emperors of China had passed a decree ordering all water to be boiled as a sanitation measure. Supposedly, dried leaves from a tea camellia fell into his cup; the emperor, like millions of others who came after him, greatly enjoyed this drink, and the pleasure of "a cup of tea" was born.
Camellia sinensis (the tea camellia) was highly sought after by the Chinese, the Japanese and, soon after, by the British.
By 2737 BC, the Chinese were growing C. Sinensis. By the 17th century, tea had spread in popularity to Europe.
Although the tea camellia was highly desired for its prized leaves, its flowers are not the showstoppers of the Camellia japonica or the Camellia reticulata.
I don't know how much of that is true but someone had to drink the first cuppa tea. The Middleton Place web site has more details on how the plant came to Charleston and why they have so many.  

24 January 2016

On the road: Miami, Wynwood Walls

Wynwood Walls, Miami, Florida
I am taking you off the Charleston peninsula again for a field trip to Miami's mural district Wynwood Walls. When I travel with my daughter she usually does the background research and leads the way but I had seen friends Pamela and Brandon post so many pictures of this location that I was determined to get there. We had a stop in Miami as we made our way to Cuba and made the most of our time there.
The Wynwood Walls was conceived by the renowned community revitalizer and placemaker, the late Tony Goldman in 2009. He was looking for something big to transform the warehouse district of Wynwood, and he arrived at a simple idea: "Wynwood's large stock of warehouse buildings, all with no windows, would be my giant canvases to bring to them the greatest street art ever seen in one place." Starting with the 25th–26th Street complex of six separate buildings, his goal was to create a center where people could gravitate to and explore, and to develop the area's pedestrian potential.
Needless to say I danced around the neighborhood with my mouth open in awe and my camera clicking. I only saw a very small portion of the mural district in my limited time. What a wonderful, colorful place that now has coffee shops, art galleries and restaurants.

23 January 2016

Winter at Middleton Place

Middleton Place, Charleston, SC   
While I was exploring Cuba last week, my sister artist Grayce and hubby musician Bob came down from Canada and settled into my little Charleston home. I couldn't wait to hear what they had done in my home city as they explored it on their own and I was pleased! They wandered the peninsula, ate delicious food, went to Boone Hall and drove down to Savannah. It is fun to see visitors charmed by the lowcountry.

We crossed paths for one day with both of my children and watched the sunset from Vickery's at Shem Creek and on Monday had a great walk through blooming camellias at Middleton Place last Monday. Middleton Restaurant is always a treat and my Canadian guests got a bowl of she-crab soup before they left.

22 January 2016

On the road - making a wish on a baby's behind

Christopher Columbus Cemetery, Havana, Cuba
One of the first stops on the way into Havana from the airport was a quick tour of the Christopher Columbus Cemetery dating back to 1698. I could have spent the week there and been content but I ran around skipping the narrated tour to see as much as I could.

Now that I am home, I have been backtracking to read and learn about what I missed listening to. The guide said that wishes would be granted if you clanked the metal ring on the tomb three times, rubbed the baby's behind, walked around the tomb and clanked the ring on the opposite side. So many wishes had been granted that the space behind the tomb was filled with tokens of gratitude. Sadly I still didn't win the lottery.
City of the Dead Holds History of Havana: A much frequented spot, elevated almost to shrine status, is the burial place of Amelia Goyri de Adot, who died in childbirth in 1901. The infant, who also died, was buried at his mother's feet. Her husband commissioned a sculpture to commemorate Amelia's death, featuring her likeness leaning on a cross, holding her child.
 According to legend, when the bodies were disinterred - after two years bodies are usually removed to make room for new corpses - the infant had allegedly moved from her feet to her chest. Skeptics say the shift might have occurred as a result of settling. Believers say it was a miracle.
 Somehow, this story has come to symbolize a mother's mystical gift for intercession on behalf of children.
 Some say you will have luck if you rub the baby's bottom; other's say if you touch her skirt. Still others are trying to figure out how the death of a mother and child can be interpreted as lucky.

Camellia season

Camellia, Charleston, SC   
Sometimes I like them even more in the colorful carpet on the ground than I do in perfect bloom on the branch. I found this under a bush at Middleton Gardens.

More travel pictures to come after this blossom break! 

21 January 2016

On the road - Cuba: Fusterlandia!

Fusterlandia, Cuba
Much of Cuba was a surprise but this I was waiting for and practically pushed my way off the bus to get to. Fusterlandia is the happily chaotic and colorful work of artist Jose Fuster. We had a limited visit to this spot so I dashed around clicking my camera hoping to catch on camera what I might be missing in real life.  Isn't this grand?! Not only is his entire property covered with ceramic tiles but it has spilled over into the neighboring houses and streets in every direction and everyone seemed to be in on the fun. Enjoy!
Cuba's answer to Gaudi: Renowned Cuban artist José Fuster uses his entire barrio of Jaimanitas on the outskirts of Havana as a canvas, decorating the walls, squares and 80 houses in ornate ceramics, mosaics and bold splashes of colour. The unique work of public art has transformed this modest sleepy suburb into a dreamlike streetscape, unlike anything else in the world

19 January 2016

On the road - Havana, Cuba

Havana, Cuba
Honey, I'm home! It won't be Charleston Daily Photo for a little while because I just got back from Cuba.

It was an amazing glimpse into a quickly changing country and I felt fortunate to be there. The colors, the vintage cars, the incredible buildings were more than I could have hoped for. We made a stop at the Christopher Columbus cemetery on the trip from the airport as if the trip had been designed personally for me. The tour we joined was coordinated by Friendly Planet and billed as the Highlights of Havana and Varadero tour. Tours are still the way most US citizens visit Cuba but we fell in with a compatible crowd with a US and Cuban guide. My daughter joined me in Miami for the adventure and we soon discovered we were one of three mother/daughter groups.

Everything we saw brought up a question and every answer brought up another question. I was amazed to discover that we were to stay at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba where Frank Sinatra, Ava Gardner, Tyrone Powers, Walt Disney (I stayed in his room) and Winston Churchill stayed. We sat on the back patio looking over the water with the wind blowing through the palm trees and drank the first of many mojitos. There were black and white pictures on the wall of former visitors and quirky bits of memorabilia laying out with "please don't touch" signs next to Peter Frampton's guitar and Jake Lansky's roulette wheel.

We explored old Havana, dropped by an elementary school, medical clinic and a ration store, We had a daiquiri in Hemingway's favorite bar and peeked in the windows of his home. We toured an art studio, visited with a fashion designer and ate lunch on an organic farm. We had a cigar, coffee and rum tasting at ten o'clock one morning and kept sipping rum for the rest of the week.  We ended the tour with a drive through the countryside to Varadero at a beach resort which was an eye opening experience for me. Every time I turned around I was handed another rum beverage.

US tours to Cuba still need to have some kind of cultural or people to people theme although our guide said she could work with groups with special interests. I was stunned by how many tourists were already there. Bus after bus rolled up to the spots of interest. National Geographic, university groups, Jazz groups....when we pulled out the next bus pulled in. It was the perfect time of year to be there although it rained for a few days. Few places have air conditioning so I expect summer could be miserable. We stayed healthy, ate better than expected and handed out change to pay bathroom attendants for our scraps of toilet paper.

Here is a start on a few photos. More to come!