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Highgrove A Princes Garden

October 19th, 2013

Highgrove A Princes Garden

As we wander in Highgrove's leafy kingdom we discover hidden secrets. Tucked away among maples and larches at the end of a winding path stands a small 'Hansel and Gretel' structure looking for all the world as if it were made of gingerbread. Designed by Keith Critchlow, 'The Sanctuary', accessible to Prince Charles alone, is built of blocks fashioned from Highgrove clay and chopped straw. For a man whose life is open to all, this place of absolute solitude is vital. Stained glass windows provide jewelled light within. Above its wooden door in the script of the ancient Picts is a plea to the 'God of Gardens'. “Lighten our darkness we beseech thee O Lord” it says.


Lit by candles, this tiny space is designed on geometric principles sacred to ancient Britons. The Sanctuary comprises four semicircles around a cube. There are four knobs on the door, but no lock. Entry is only possible via a ritualistic sequence of knob turning known only to the Prince. As we prepare to move on, one of our tour group inadvertently wanders down the path towards the Sanctuary and is swiftly stopped. “Not down there Sir. That's a very private place”.

Sonnenberg Mansion And Gardens...a Magical Place

October 19th, 2013

Sonnenberg Mansion And Gardens...a Magical Place

That day at Sonnenberg Mansion and Gardens at the Finger Lakes in New York State was a day of fascinating contrasts. Starting our tour with an exploration of Sonnenberg's rabbit-warren greenhouse, we must have explored 10 or so different interlinked glass rooms. As we wandered sunlight filtered through glass panes dappled with moss. At times the greenhouse appeared to be in an advanced stage of delapidation, but then as we advanced further in the lush splendour of moss-covered terra cotta pots overflowing with rampant geraniums, deep pink coleus and brilliantly coloured bromelliads captured my imagination. There was something magical about the place. Surrounded by dense vegetation an ancient stone statue of a child standing in a shell shaped fountain overlooking a pool with golden carp performing a sinuous dance in cool waters, transported me back in time.

Grail Springs Spa And Resort

October 19th, 2013

Grail Springs Spa And Resort

As I approached Grail Springs Spa and Resort recently, golden light shining through the tall gothic windows of the Great Hall engendered a magical ambience. A lone kayaker illuminated by the setting sun skimmed effortlessy across mirrored water and in a fanciful moment the soft whinny of a horse in the Grail Springs stables conjured thoughts of King Arthur and his knights.


The resort's interior brings to mind an English country manor house with its woven tapestries, an etched glass door depicting a pre-Raphaelite image of a woman, massive couches and stone fireplaces.


Guest accommodations I discovered, range from 'country style' through to 'modern classical' and at the other end of the spectrum 'rustic' in one of the spa's recent innovations – eco-tabins.


Exploring the estate the following morning I came across an eco-tabin with a view of horses grazing in the paddock. These quaint habitations are a combination of tent and cabin. Spartan they may be, but with homey touches; pure wool Hudson Bay blankets and handmade wooden furniture, they are perfect for the guest wanting simplicity with a dash of comfort.

Important News For Flower Lovers

March 22nd, 2012

Important News For Flower Lovers

IMPORTANT NEWS FOR FLOWER LOVERS

In Holland from April 5 – October 7, 2012

FLORIADE 2012 – VENLO (A once in a decade event)

More than 100 exhibitors will together pay tribute to horticulture. The park comprises five unique worlds: themed zones connected by wooded areas. Worlds in which you will see, feel and experience nature in a constantly changing way.

Check www.floriade.com for more info about this fantastic event.

What a Wonderful World

January 7th, 2012

What a Wonderful World

UDAIPUR'S LAKE PALACE, A PLACE OF ROMANCE
Built in 1746 as a romantic tryst for Udaipur’s royal prince Maharana Jagat Singh II to entertain his paramours, the Lake Palace to this day, weaves a spell of enchantment around all who visit it.
Resembling a Venetian palace and built entirely of marble, this stark white confection of cupolas, tranquil gardens with lily ponds, fountains and sprays of crimson Bougainvillea covers every inch of a four acre rock in the middle of Lake Pichola.
Like another world, part of its charm for us was that it was cut off from the bustle of city life just a ten minute boat ride away. We were blessedly free from the roar of car and bus engines. There were no pigs foraging in garbage at the roadside, no sacred cows lying in the middle of the road disrupting the traffic.
As I sat at the window of our suite the ancient chant of a muezzin calling the faithful to prayer, and the passionate, tremulous notes of an Indian gazal drifted across the water. Close-by a grey cormorant perched on the bow of a fishing boat with wings spread wide to catch cool breezes, whilst clumps of water hyacinth splashed with blue swayed sensuously at each passing of the water taxi.
Life was not always as tranquil in the Palace, though. There was a time during the rule of the British Raj when tensions ran high between the British authorities and the head of India’s premier royal family. Called upon to enlist men for the British army during the First World War, Maharana Fateh Singh, a feisty old fellow, exerted his royal privilege and declined. To him the British rulers were upstarts. Nevertheless, after the war he was awarded a military medal which he brushed aside with a disdainful “Put it on my horse. This is the sort of thing my messengers wear”.

Photographs copyright Anne Gordon

What a Wonderful World

January 7th, 2012

What a Wonderful World

GRENADA, SPICE OF THE CARIBBEAN
Spice up the holiday season this year with a visit to Grenada, ‘The Spice of the Caribbean.’ Trade in the mittens and hot chocolate for a pinch of Caribbean spice, rum punch and warm, sunny days.
A part of the Windward Islands in the Eastern Caribbean, the Island of Grenada is a little piece of paradise and the perfect destination to ring in the New Year. Whether you’re solo, or travelling with family or friends, spending the holidays in Grenada will certainly be memorable.
 The tiny island offers a change of pace and a different way to celebrate the holidays. For those visitors looking for rest and relaxation, the island has over 40 white sand and black sand beaches, including the famed Grand Anse Beach. Grenada is also home to a tropical rainforest, perfect for hiking opportunities. For those looking to get out on the water, Grenada is a popular yachting destination and offers some of the Caribbean’s best diving. Whatever type of holiday you’re after, it can be found in Grenada, ‘The Spice of the Caribbean.’

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

What a Wonderful World

January 6th, 2012

What a Wonderful World

A MAYOR WITH MOXIE IN THE TOWN OF WILLIAMS ON ROUTE 66
He's a one man promotional machine for his town on America's historic Route 66. One of its top star tourist attractions is the Grand Canyon Railway.
This rangy 'sherif'f'' with Beau Brummel elegance – a good guy attired in white cowboy hat, long flowing black coat, red damask waistcoat and expensive looking cowboy boots, established himself as a lady's man when he gallantly kissed my hand upon introduction.
A retired police chief, John W. Moore now fills the official role of Mayor of Williams, and on the other hand in his unofficial role – all in pursuit of tourist dollars – he is a member of the Cataract gang who terrorise riders on a train ride from Williams to the Grand Canyon. He and his 'gang' re-enact a hold-up much to the delight of pseudo-shocked passengers. But that's not his only talent. He's the master-mind behind a nightly gunfight on William's Main Street.
It was like pulling teeth to get him to admit to his role in getting Williams back on its feet when Route 66 was closed. But eventually he laid claim to stopping the closing down of William's lucrative rail connection to the Grand Canyon.
Don't miss this great little town with its larger than life Mayor. If you see a tall rangy figure striding along Main Street in his everyday attire; gun on hip, long flowing coat billowing out behind him and oozing an irrepressible charm, that's him.
On my visit he took our group on a tour of Main Street; to the local Road Kill cafe, the Grand Canyon Pioneer Hotel, a shop selling cowboy paraphanalia, and to a Wild West town set-up off Main Street. We finished up at the Twisters Route 66 cafe for a Coke float' feeling, as if we'd stepped back in time.

Photographs copyright Anne Gordon

What A Wonderful World

January 5th, 2012

What A Wonderful World

COFFEE WITH A BRAHMIN FAMILY IN JAISALMER FORT
Here in Jaisalmer most of the fort’s inhabitants are of the Brahmin caste. Their homes are tucked away in the curves and hollows of the 99 bastions forming the walls of the fort.
Invited into one of the dwellings, we stepped across the threshold into a cool dark and immaculately clean room. The ceiling was low with a burnished surface of cow dung and red clay. The stone floor gleamed. Hand-crafted shelves made from sturdy branches dipped in whitewash, cradled the family’s treasured brass vessels. Stacked almost to the ceiling in one corner of the main room was the night bedding, folded into squares, each corner matching exactly the one below.
Upon leaving we were invited to linger awhile with grandma and her beautiful daughter attired in a green sari emblazoned with gold stitched symbols. Sitting companionably together on the entrance steps we sipped black coffee from small china cups.
On the walkway in front of us, piglets, striped, spotted and plain, screeched and squealed as they wallowed delightedly in puddles coated with an oily black effluent and children ran alongside anyone with a camera, hands outstretched pleading for "Rupee for a good boy" or "Pen please".

Photos copyright Anne Gordon

What A Wonderful World

January 5th, 2012

What A Wonderful World

NOTICE OF A MARRIAGE IN JAISALMER
In Jaisalmer as well as in other places in Rajasthan, I noticed painted signs that occupied a prominent place at the entrance to homes.
Featured on each of the signs, Ganesh the elephant god, one of the most popular of the Hindu gods, was depicted seated on a low stool or occasionally perched on a lotus blossom.
Endowed with an elephant head and four arms, his first hand held a flower, the second a trident, the third a basket of what appeared to be plump round bread rolls and with his fourth hand he administered a blessing. With one foot resting in his lap – toenails painted scarlet – he was an unusual sight.
Each of these signs we discovered, was an announcement of marriage. Each contained Hindu script and a date – the names of the wedded pair and the day of their marriage.

Photo copyright Anne Gordon

What a Wonderful World

January 5th, 2012

What a Wonderful World

ICE SCULPTURES AT WINNIPEG'S FESTIVAL DU VOYAGEUR
Strolling on a frigid morning among the massive winter artworks in the park, I couldn't help but admire the dedication of the ice sculptors from around the world who stood atop tall ladders putting the finishing touches on their ice sculptures. Sculptors from Mexico and Argentina had never seen snow, but that was no deterrent. Flood-lit at night, a set of leering masks and another of medieval warriors and their horses appeared like strange creatures from another world. Looming at the entrance to Voyageur Park was my favourite, a 15 metre long, 5 ½ metre high rendition of a musher on a sled pulled by a team of husky dogs.

Another of the Festival's interesting and tasty diversions was a culinary event. In a rustic log house cum restaurant, Fort Gibraltar’s wine expert, Shawn Brandson, invited our tour group to a wine tasting and lunch. Starting with three different wines; Sandhill (Pinot Blanc), Angels Gate (Riesling) and Rigby (Mead Framboise) with a selection of cheeses; Bothwell Madagascar Green Peppercorn, Oka and Riviere Rouge Cheese, and Clover, Espresso, and chocolate honey, we sipped, dipped and sampled. A green salad followed, involving the participation of a volunteer from each table whose task was to prepare a dressing under the directions of the head chef.


For me, as always, the piece de resistance was the dessert of blackberries, cherries, and strawberries with a Sabayen sauce made with egg, sugar and wine drizzled over the fruit. As the chef carefully stirred the sauce on a wood stove until just the right moment, Brandson described the thickening creamy liquid as very tricky to make, and he laughingly told us “if not done very carefully, you could end up with Sabayen ... or scrambled egg”.

Today, although St. Boniface is a neighbourhood where French is the predominant language, close to 100 other languages, from Inuktuk and Mikmaq to Icelandic and Punjabi can be heard throughout this charming Francophone locale. It is a multi-cultural success where the old culture of the voyageurs is lovingly preserved and celebrated by all.

Photos copyright Anne Gordon