We visited the McKee Botanical Garden in Vero Beach in February. The first thing that we noticed and loved was the huge stick structures, which you can go inside.
The gardens currently have a special exhibit, Nature Connects: Art With LEGO Bricks. These super cool Lego sculptures will be in the gardens through May 7, 2017.
Our favorite Lego sculptures are shown above. The smallest of these sculptures, the “Pileated Woodpecker,” is made of 4,424 pieces. The largest, the “Monarch Butterfly On Milkweed,” contains 60,549 pieces and has an eight-foot wingspan! These Lego sculptures were so impressive, and the beautiful gardens were the perfect setting for enjoying them.
We went camping in Colorado State Forest State Park for a weekend in early July. Almost as soon as we turned onto the dirt road that would take us to the North Michigan Reservoir camping area, we saw a tiny baby deer in the road, followed soon after by its mother. I can’t think of a better welcome to a park! As we got settled in our campsite, we had lots of hummingbird and chipmunk visitors. And when we walked down to the reservoir so the kids could throw some rocks in the water, we saw several fish jump up! The reservoir was very lovely, but swimming isn’t allowed. Maybe someday we’ll come back with a kayak or canoe to enjoy the water a little more!
As night approached, our neighbors told us that there was a fox that liked to check all of the campsites for snacks at night and in the early morning. Of course we were careful not to leave any food out overnight, and I heard some little fox-sized footsteps near our tent in the early morning. I also heard an owl, and a friend that we shared the campsite with thinks she heard a moose.
The next morning we took a nice kid-friendly hike around several beaver lodges.
We didn’t see any beavers or other people on the trail, but we saw so many beautiful wildflowers! The flowers along the trail were very fragrant as we hiked.
We had a great time, but this particular state park is well known for having lots of moose, and I hoped that by staying overnight we would have a good chance of spotting a few moose. We will just have to return another time to see some moose!
A couple of dear old friends came from the east coast to catch up and visit Colorado for a weekend in mid-March, so we visited a few places that I wouldn’t have otherwise thought to visit on a snowy weekend. It turns out that the Denver Botanic Gardens are extra beautiful with a fresh blanket of spring snow!
Of course, the tropical gardens inside the warm conservatory are lovely year-round as well. We really enjoyed having the gardens almost to ourselves.
As we prepare to leave Nova Scotia next week, I’ve been reflecting on some of the things that I will miss. It’s been a great three and a half years here!
- deer, foxes, and random cats in the yard
- fuzzy baby ducks in and around the pond during the spring
- the smell and sound of the ocean
- sunrises over the ocean
- sunsets over the lake
- twinkling lights across the harbour
- all the wildflowers in our yard
- cozy weekends with the woodstove
- the tennis court down the street
- foghorns (although I won’t miss them keeping me awake at night)
- Bulk Barn (more about my love for Bulk Barn here)
- walking to the Public Gardens from work
- the Halifax Farmers Market, especially my favorite vendor, The Kind Cookie
- loonies and toonies, and colored bills covered with cool artwork
- Mary’s Place Cafe
- Indochine’s bubble tea smoothies
- the prominence of Lebanese food
- my gastroenterologist
- considerate drivers
- the lovely painted utility boxes all over the area
We visited the sunflower maze at Dakeyne Farm last weekend. As it was rather late in the sunflower season by the time we got to visit the maze, you can see that many of the flowers were beginning to hang their heavy heads (you can’t fully appreciate just how heavy a sunflower head is until you’ve been whacked by them over and over as you push through a maze of them!). Even so, it was beautiful, and we enjoyed learning some sunflower trivia as we found our way through the maze.
While in Newfoundland, we spent a day in Gros Morne National Park. First we hiked along the base of The Tablelands, a flat-topped mountain that was pushed up from the earth’s mantle. This mantle-originating rock lacks the nutrients that support plant life, so it looks interestingly barren in an otherwise plant and tree-covered landscape.
Next we went for the “Lookout Hike,” which was a good uphill climb. Here’s the view from the lookout (I put together a panorama using Hugin, an easy-to-use free program that works on Macs):
You can see The Tablelands on the right – the reddish flat mountain. We had a wonderful day, but were a bit disappointed that we didn’t see any moose. People that we ran into on the trail mentioned that they saw moose near the lookout, but we weren’t so lucky. At least we saw quite a few pitcher plants, a carnivorous plant that is the provincial flower of Newfoundland and Labrador.
I wish we had more time to spend in Gros Morne, because there are many beautiful hikes that I would have enjoyed, and I also would have liked to take a day cruise to see the fjords along the coast. If you get a chance to visit Gros Morne National Park, go there for a few days!
We took a day trip from Paris to Giverny to visit Claude Monet’s gardens and house. We traveled from Paris to Vernon by a very crowded train, then rented bicycles from a cafe across the street from the Vernon train station and rode on to Giverny. Tour buses and taxis were also available, but we had a perfect day for a bike ride. Most of the bike ride was on a quiet bike path, where we encountered a few butterflies! We passed a bright field of rapeseed on the way to Giverny.
And once we turned onto Rue Claude Monet, we knew we were on the right track.
The line to get into Monet’s property was very long, and parts of the gardens were rather crowded, especially around the water lily pond. The gardens were lovely though, and I enjoyed trying to put myself in Monet’s place, appreciating the changing effects of light and shadow in the gardens.
When I was at the Belvedere in Vienna, I saw a painting of Monet’s gardens with his house in the background. I bought a postcard of that painting at the Belvedere gift shop, and brought it along to the gardens. The photo below shows the painting postcard in the spot depicted in the painting.
We weren’t allowed to take photos inside the house, but I liked seeing the art that Monet hung on his own walls – lots of cool Japanese prints.
Ready to escape the throngs of tourists, we hopped back on our bikes and rode back to Vernon. We stopped by the Seine in Vernon to check out the castle shown below. There was no signage about it or mention of it in any of my pre-trip research, so I guess it’s no big deal to the French, but it’s called Chateau des Tourelles and was built in 1196!
We also thought this old mill over the river was cute and picturesque.
Back in the center of Vernon, we stopped to admire the collegiate church Notre Dame, which dates back to the 11th century.
We had a late lunch in a small family-run restaurant across the street from the church, then returned our bikes and headed back to Paris.