Manhattan to Spain via the Bronx

I wanted to revisit Barcelona earlier this year. Had reserved a room at a hotel that’s located steps from the Ramblas. I was excited. For years since I left Barcelona, I had not felt the urge to return. My experience has so shaped me and my view about travel, I wanted to preserve the memories.

But quite unexpectedly, I started feeling that I needed to go. What would Barcelona look like since I was a student there 20 plus years ago? Would the images I’ve clutched to my heart look like anything I’d see? Would I recognize the street I used to live on?

All these questions flooded my brain as if the door behind which they had been stored had finally been opened. I was excited to find out.

Then life intervened and I returned to New York nursing my disappointment. It had been a perfect plan.

Things looked up late in May when I noticed an article in the New York Times about an exhibition that was set to open at the New York Botanical Gardens. Titled Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra, it seemed an answer to my longing for Barcelona and Spain.

The Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a palace that was built in the 14th century by the Moorish leaders who ruled Southern Spain. Its gardens are beautiful and legendary. Although I had studied the history and architecture of the Alhambra, I had not seen it during my time in Spain. An exhibition was not Barcelona, but I knew it would satisfy my longing. So last weekend, my friend and I, cameras in tow, made a trip to the New York Botanical Gardens.

Located in the Bronx, the New York Botanical Gardens spreads approximately 250 acres. An oasis of tranquility and beauty, it houses plant laboratories, gardens, plant collections, old growth forest containing oak, beeches, cherry, birch, tulip and white ash trees, some more than 200 years old, a cascade waterfall and wetland area. It’s the perfect location for an exhibition of this nature.

The focus of the Spanish Paradise is the replica of a Spanish garden that takes over 15,000 square feet of the Haupt Conservatory. With the aroma of lavender, jasmine, sour orange and lime trees, olive, fig and saffron, you are transported immediately to Southern Spain.

It’s an exhibition that appeals to the senses. Poems about nature by the Spanish poet, Frederico Garcia Lorca, line the Poetry Walk while Flamenco dancers provide entertainment on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Sangria and tapas are available in the cafe.

In the library, rare prints, 19-century photographs of some of the courtyards of the Alhambra, paintings and other artifacts can be viewed. The exhibition also pays tribute to American poet, Washington Irving, who lived at the Alhambra while he was writing his collection of essays and sketches, Tales of the Alhambra, which sparked renewed interest in the palace. The Alhambra is one of Spain’s major tourist attractions.

Spanish Paradise sated my appetite temporarily. Now, I want to see the real thing.

Spanish Paradise: Gardens of the Alhambra will run until August 21, 2011 at the New York Botanical Gardens. 2900 Southern Blvd., New York. 718-817-8777.

Hours: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. Tuesdays to Saturdays

Tickets: All Garden, $20. Grounds only, $5. The grounds are also free all day on Wednesdays and from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. on Saturdays.

The Botanical Gardens are accessible by car or public transportation. If you’re in the New York area or planning to visit, add it to your list.



Sunday in Central Park

One of the nicest things about living in New York City is Central Park. At more than 800 acres, it is an oasis of green in a sea of concrete and brick.

Running from 59th Street to 110 Street, Central Park receives approximately thirty-five million visitors annually.

It is a popular venue for skating, concerts and theatre, boating, birding, rock climbing, running, walking, bicycling, etc., and is central to the enjoyment of life in the city.

Central Park near 72nd Street
Catch and release at the Turtle Pond

Fishing is not allowed in the park but people still throw out their lines. Whatever they catch has to be returned.

King Jagiello

There are nearly 29 sculptures in Central Park. This one commemorates King Jagiello of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.

Belvedere Castle

Belvedere Castle offers spectacular views of the park and surroundings from its observation deck. There’s no charge to enter but visitors can leave a donation in boxes on the main level.

Belvedere Castle
Great Lawn from Belvedere Castle

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Spring Signs

Signs of Spring

I took these photographs last March in DC with my Blackberry. As I remember, it had warmed up a bit during the week but later turned cold, rainy and windy so most of the Cherry Blossoms I wanted to see had been blown away by the weekend.

The tulips, however, survived the bad weather and were just beautiful. All kinds of colors and color combination.

Purple Tulip

It was almost the same type of weather we had this time last year, warm one day, we had 70+ degrees last Friday, then back into the 30s and 40s the next.


Hope the spring flowers survive.


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Weekly Photo Challenge: Spring

I love amaryllis and bought several bulbs two Christmases ago. After they bloomed, I left them on the window sill, watering them occasionally.

Several days ago, I noticed something reddish-brown against the blinds. I was shocked to see that a bud was beginning to peek through. The plant hadn’t bloomed in more than a year.

Excitedly, I grabbed my camera and began documenting each day’s progress. Here’s day #4


As far as I know, amaryllis shouldn’t be blooming now, so I decided to check. According to Wikipedia, this is probably not an amaryllis at all but rather a hippeastrum, a flowering bulb that is able to bloom indoors.

But since it is blooming now, I taking it as a sure sign of Spring.

Regifting Japan’s Cherry Blossoms

I have been unable to look at the images that have been coming out of Japan since the  magnitude 8.9 earthquake and 23-foot tsunami devastated the north eastern portion of that country. They’re too surreal.

That the people I know, former co-workers, who have returned to work at headquarters in Tokyo and their loved ones are okay, have brought little consolation. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like being in Japan at the moment or being a Japanese outside of Japan. My friend, Maiko, misses her family and wishes she could go home. My co-workers are torn.

It’ll be several years before things will be “normal” again. The emotional impact will take even longer to heal.

But I know Japan will recover and rebuild – just like she did after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Instead of looking at the images of destruction, I find myself being drawn instead to photos of the cherry blossoms my cousin took last year when we met in Washington, D.C. Cherry Blossoms were given to D.C. in 1921 by the then mayor of Tokyo. Every year, they turn the area around the Tidal Basin pink, perfume the air with a sweet, clean scent and invite thousands of visitors to stroll, stop and smell the beautiful flowers. It is a sure indicator of spring’s impending arrival.

This year, the festival will be held from March 26th – April 10th. If you’ve never seen it, you owe it to yourself to do so. In an interesting twist, the National Park Service announced a few weeks ago that it would be sending cuttings from the original cherry trees back to Tokyo for propagation.

In the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear threat, this is a wonderful regifting.

You can do your part to help Japan by sending a donation to the Red Cross, the Japan Society or other relief agencies that are assisting the Japanese people in their time of need.

Tidal Basin Blossoms
Cherry Blossoms
Up close
Monument Blossoms

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Above a Cloudy Canopy

Whenever I travel, I always opt for the window seat so I can enjoy the scenery.  But for most of this flight over the U.S., thick clouds prevented me from seeing the terrain below.

Clouds and sun

So I decided to look at them instead of reading or snoozing.

Break in the clouds

Each time I looked, the pattern and thickness had changed.

Soft clouds
Cloudy canopy

Finally, it covered the land below.  And I remembered the line, I really don’t know clouds at all, from Joni Mitchell‘s song, Both Sides Now.

Catching the Vibe in Treasure Beach

Treasure Beach is small community on Jamaica’s south western coast that prides itself with being friendly and very laid back.

A fishing community with six miles of beaches, rocky coastline and private coves, it is the perfect place to get away from it all and with not much activity besides swimming, snorkeling, bicycle rides, etc., you’ve got little choice than to relax and catch the vibe.

I’ve been going to Treasure Beach for several years now, most times to attend the international literary festival, Calabash, which brings scores of lovers of the word to this far off the beaten track place to listen to world class literature.

I’ve also been when the festival is not in session. Besides the people, here are a few of the other reasons I keep returning.

Fishing boats at Treasure Beach
Pool at Jakes
Cottage at Jakes
Coconut tree
Plants grow everywhere
Pink hibiscus

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