Plants, Stone, California Landscapes


Saint Andre Gardens

Another French garden I liked was Abbaye Saint Andre Gardens in Avignon. Different from the Loire gardens, very south-of-France, very Provencal. Hot sun and dry gravel, hard shadowlines. It was scorching hot and cicadas were absolutely screaming while I was there.

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The Chateau Villandry Gardens

Villandry is the one. After 4 trips and about 10,000 kilometers of cycling in Europe, if I were asked to recommend a single European garden, to choose one garden for the most representative old-world garden experience, I’d choose Chateau Villandry in the Loire Valley. It has everything you want: elaborate formal gardens, a smaller ‘English’ garden, a silly lawn garden, ponds, fountains, allees, parterres, and a pleasant woodland area to give you a break from all the hedgy-ness. It’s great. I have a slight caveat that Quinta de Regaleira in Portugal is more fun and quirky, and the other French garden I love — Vaux les Vicomte — has a more dramatic formal garden with some unique design trickery and is ultimately more historically significant, so I’d recommend that everyone go see those gardens too (I’ll make a post for Vaux les Vicomte at some point), but for a single garden visit with everything you want from an old world garden, I would pick Villandry.

These two photos basically capture why I find it such a good representation of old world gardening. The two plantings are both excessive and contrived, and moving between them makes the experience of each one more dramatic and enjoyable.

As befits my choice as the representative garden of France or Europe, a slew of photos are below. Cheers. Read the rest of this entry »

Cap Ferrat Coastal Trail

These are my photos of the Cap Ferrat trail. It’s quite similar to the Cap d’Antibes trail, so it’s maybe not strictly necessary to hike them both, but I’m so glad I did. They’re both fantastic.

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Cap d’Antibes Coastal Trail

Last year I posted about the Ruta de Cares in Asturias and it reminded me how much I love trails as a thing in and of themselves, separate from the landscapes and scenery viewed from them. Trails are awesome, and their simplicity — a walking surface, usually made from the land and materials found right there trailside — leads to a surprising variety.
In France this summer I hiked another exceptional pair of trails, the coastal walks at Cap Antibes and Cap Ferrat. Great scenery, great hiking experience — walking along the water and swimming in the coves — but beyond that they seem distinctively ‘of their place’ and it’s hard to imagine them anywhere other than the south of France.

I’ll post Cap Ferrat separately. Cap Antibes was my favorite of the two, but they’re both exceptional. Both trails are mortared with trailside stone like front-country hardscaping. They front posh resort properties and there’s almost always a yacht somewhere in view, but the landscape feels a bit austere and savage.

On the inland side, the trail is lined by the garden walls and fences of plutocrat vacation properties, a weird aspect of the trail. I’m not sure if it made me feel mildly unwelcome or if it made me feel satisfied that I was getting a millionaire experience for free. Probably a bit of both. It’s also a feature of the trail that there’s always a yacht visible somewhere out on the water. Read the rest of this entry »

Paris to Bologna Drawings

These are my drawings from the bike trip. They start with the Palais Royale fountain — my favorite spot in Paris — then the Loire, the Atlantic coast including Noirmoutier and Ile de Re, the Dordogne, Toulouse, the Gran Massif, Nice, and then a couple of sketches of Emilia Romagna and the Langhe in Piedmont. I might return to this post to label the drawings and alternately mock France and sing its praises, but for now I just feel like posting the drawings.

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Blanc Green Wall

I did another bike trip in Europe this summer, this time riding from Paris to Bologna. I’ll probably do about a half dozen posts from that trip. This is the first one, a few photos of a green wall on the side of the Musee de Quai in Paris. It’s by Patrick Blanc, the green-haired frenchman who designed the Drew School green wall in San Francisco that I’ve posted about several times: 2011, 2013 and 2016. The Drew School wall was a lot of fun to see the first time, and remains a nice feature even though the plantings haven’t aged exceptionally well. This Paris green wall is in better shape. Most of it is lush and it’s an exuberant element in a city that needs as much vegetation as it can get.

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