Monte Bello Open Space Preserve

My visits to Monte Bello Open Space Preserve in the golden hills of the San Francisco Bay Area on two consecutive weekends couldn’t be more different. Whether walking or on a trail run like I was, both were intriguing.

The first weekend was cloud covered with low hanging fog that gave the golden grass at the preserve a unique look:

Foggy Path by jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Foggy Path by jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The rising sun was beautifully veiled.

Around the Bend by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Around the Bend by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And my favorite bench looked otherworldly.

A Place to Rest by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

A Place to Rest by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The next weekend was sunny and gave the preserve the look that everyone thinks about when they hear the word California:

Hilltop View by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Hilltop View by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The trails were cheerful and open:

On On by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

On On by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Grasses contrast nicely with the sky:

Blue Yellow by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Blue Yellow by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And my favorite bench looked spritely:

Favorite Bench by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Favorite Bench by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The critters were quite different from one weekend to the next. In the canyon, I found this 8″ to 10″ salamander in the middle of single track frequented by cyclists. He was unmoved when I let him know he was in danger from fat knobby tires:

Granddaddy Salamander by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Granddaddy Salamander by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

On the exposed hilltops I found centipedes hiding from the sun:

Centipede by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Centipede by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

In the tree covered areas, lizards raced me for short distances and usually won. This one was an extrovert and stayed long enough for me to snap a photo.

Extroverted Lizard by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Extroverted Lizard by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Here you can get high enough to clear the pollution in the valley below:

Above the Layer by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Above the Layer by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The paths are very well-marked and sometimes customized with a feather:

Feather Marks the Way by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Feather Marks the Way by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

If you’ve read this far you totally deserve to see my favorite from both weekends:

Lichen and Flowers by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Lichen and Flowers by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Monte Bello Open Space Preserve is well worth the hike (with sunscreen) to experience some of Northern California’s true beauty. Enjoy!

 

Scenes from Lake Garda Italy Part 3

Lastly, we took a drive up the Lake Garda coast. The views of the water were gorgeous. We stopped in Gargnano to take in one of the beaches where a group of gonna-be wind surfers were learning to stand up for the first time:

Gargnano Beach by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Gargnano Beach by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And we stopped in another town, quite possibly Toscolano Maderno, because of the beautiful church.

Arresting Church by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Arresting Church by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And we took a walk by another beach:

Beach Umbrellas by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Beach Umbrellas by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And the bay:

Lake Garda Bay by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Lake Garda Bay by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

…before hopping back in our blissfully air-conditioned Smart Car.

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Scenes from Lake Garda Italy Part 2

If you are a garden fan, (and I am) it is easy to spend 90 minutes even in 27C heat exploring the Heller Garden in Gardone Riviera on Lake Garda. If you are an art and garden fan it is easy to enjoy this garden for even longer.

Numbers painted in Venetian blue mark the spot for special plants. I was so charmed by the numbers that I forgot to look at the plants!

Venetian Blue Marks the Spot by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Venetian Blue Marks the Spot by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Narrow dirt and rock paths lead to a warren of semi-private spaces.  There are surprises in every nook.

Buddha at Heller Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Buddha at Heller Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Round a turn and you might find a Rodin.

Sculpture by Auguste Rodin in Heller Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Sculpture by Auguste Rodin in Heller Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Or a Keith Haring

Keith Haring in Heller Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Keith Haring in Heller Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Or a new artist. I found works in a similar style sprinkled throughout the garden but no listing on the map. These stylized human forms were throwing themselves into life with every ounce of their being. You round a corner on a narrow path and one jumps up at you.

Mariano Fuga in Heller Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Mariano Fuga in Heller Garden by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The scale varied but the energy and style of the form stayed constant.

Bamboo Striped Man by Mariano Fuga in Heller Garden, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Bamboo Striped Man by Mariano Fuga in Heller Garden, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

I wanted to know whose work this was so when we left, I asked at the lady at the front desk. She opened a drawer, sorted through some things and pulled out the card of Mariano Fuga.

Fuga is a sculptor who lives and works around Lake Garda. His studio is just north of Gardone Riviera in Gargnano. His website includes some wonderful pictures of him working in the studio with clay that give insights into his process and how these lovely beings take shape.  Sadly, I missed visiting his studio by not putting 2 and 2 together.

In case you are wondering how this marvelous garden came to be… While Italy abounds in gardens very few are like this one. It was created by Dr. Arturo Hruska, Austrian dentist to the last tsar, in 1901.  Since 1988 Austrian artist Andrè Heller has owned it.  Heller coincidentally was also “responsible for the presentation of the Germany bid for the 2006 FIFA World Cup project” (Wikipedia) Heller’s private home is on the grounds.

Next up: Scenes from Lake Garda Italy Part 3

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Scenes from Lake Garda Italy, Part 1

No visit to a city is complete without going for a run through its streets, paths and environs. Our stay in Gardone Riviera by Lake Garda was no exception. I rolled out of bed to run up to the Via Panoramico to see what delights might be in store for me. Going up was quite steep and hot in the 95F degree weather. The road had many river-smoothed stones stilled by cement but even so footing was surprisingly uneven. The slope and the uncertainty made a walk much more practical than a jog:

Via Cecelio by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Via Cecelio by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Fortunately the road up Via Cecelio was very quiet with nary a car on the up and only one coming down.  The road passed very close to some beautiful homes.

Cheerful Home by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Cheerful Home by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

I almost gave up before I reached the top. Fortunately,  I could see a guard rail far above me. That meant the via Panoramica so I kept going. Finally, I crested the top and could see the sign for the trail I had been unknowingly following.

Trail Sign by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Trail Sign by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Gratefully, I began running downhill, stopping every little bit to photograph the great view.

View of Lake Garda by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

View of Lake Garda by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Surprisingly, there were few cars and few cyclists so my run on the narrow road was quite safe. A kind young biker who was painting a t-shirt on a picnic bench shared the secret of a path bisecting the many hairpins. Alerted, I darted down this shortcut, an upside down version of via Cecelio:

Shortcut by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Shortcut by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

At the end of my run I saw a woman on a cane tap her way into a park.

Woman with Cane in a Park by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Woman with Cane in a Park by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

She was barely moving forward but she was out there. I cheered her on. All in all it was a great run. No tour to a city is complete without breathing the air, sweating in the temperature and humidity and seeing the sites while on foot.

View from Via Cecelio by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

View from Via Cecelio by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Next up: Scenes from Gardone Riviera on Lake Garda, Part 2

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Scenes from Padova, Part 2

Scenes from Padova, Part 1

 

Scenes from Padova Italy, Part 2

Our guide-book warned that visits to the Capella degli Scrovegni in Padova are by reservation only. We didn’t have one on Thursday morning but, at our guide-book’s suggestion, we showed up anyway and asked if there were any spaces left. Fortunately, we were able to get in one hour later.

At the appointed time of 12:40 we were ushered into a small glass walled room just off the Capella to watch a 15 minute video. There we learned that Enrico Scrovegni built the chapel in 1303 to atone for the usury of his father Reginaldo who was so famous that he was mentioned in the 17th canto of Dante’s “Inferno”.

Enrico commissioned Giotto, the first painter to move from flat 2D figures to 3D, to paint the chapel with frescoes. After the educational videos the doors to the Capella opened and we were able to go in for 15 minutes only. The Venetian blue was immediately stunning. Sumptuous gowns with voluminous shaded folds adorned the figures.  Three rows of panels with ~6 scenes across each panel rose to the high ceiling. The perspective was fascinating: the roof in one of the top panel scenes sloped down so that you could see the front unlike how it would seem from the 2 stories below that we were standing.

There were no signs saying that photos were not allowed and no sign in the educational videos. Planning to make the most of my 15 minutes I immediately reached for my iPhone and switched the sound off in this sacred space to shoot an HDR. I got one silent capture before the eagle-eyed guard told me to stop.  So here’s my accidentally clandestined capture. Sadly, it’s the only one. See the roof in the top panel? Three stories down, you wouldn’t see that view. The perspective makes you feel almost level with the painting so very far above you.

Capella degli Scrovegni by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Capella degli Scrovegni by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

This was the best example of Venetian blue that I saw during the week in Northern Italy. For that alone it was worth the visit.

Next up: Scenes from Lake Garda, Italy, Part 1

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Scenes from Padova Italy Part 1

Orto Botanico or the Botanic Garden of Padova is just off busy plaza Prato Della Valle. Tucked away from busy roads even in 27C heat, here it is cool in the shade.  It’s perfect for a jet-lag nod-off on one of the benches.

Focused on rare plants in the Veneto region of Italy, the garden dates from 1545 and is one of the oldest botanic gardens still in existence.

Statuary Detail Orto Botanico by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Statuary Detail Orto Botanico by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Orto Botanico is laid out in a circle divided into 4 pie slices centered around a lotus pond with fountain.

Lotus Pond at Orto Botanico by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Lotus Pond at Orto Botanico by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Eighteenth century stone hothouses flank one side of the garden.

Stone Greenhouse by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Stone Greenhouse by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The skylights in the stone roof lend a wistful air to the hothouses.

Moody Skylight by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Moody Skylight by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Inside, tender sprouts prepare for an outdoor life.

Sprouts by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Sprouts by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

While the long buildings include one octagonal hothouse more than 3 stories high that protects a 350-year-old date palm, outside the flowers that I recognize don’t look that rare or that old. Artichokes, purple coneflower, a datura, a clematis are all familiar.

Clematis by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Clematis by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

However, in the aquatic and carnivorous plants section I’m quickly out of my depth.

Carnivorous Plant by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Carnivorous Plant by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The history of things that were and are no more shows up in the architecture.

Walled Doorway by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Walled Doorway by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The things that are available now but were not in 1545 look out-of-place but covered in what looks like grime, they fit right in.

Grimy Greenhouse by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Grimy Greenhouse by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

I started photographing the garden using HDR. However, I quickly switched to the Hipstamatic  Diego (lens) and Robusta (film) because of the patina and border they added.  The borders look like the stone edging that surrounds each plant even in the hothouses. The patina shifts emphasis away from a correct rendering of a beautiful flower to the age of the garden and its focus on plants of the past.

Next up: Scenes from Padova Italy, Part 2

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Dinner at Castagna

After visiting Portland for over 15 years and driving by this vaunted restaurant on Hawthorne, we finally ate at Castagna. Chef Kevin Gibson put Castagna on the map and went on to create amazing restaurants Evoe and Davenport.  Justin Woodward, who received the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef Award in 2013, is the executive chef at Castagna now.

At least for a time, you can find the menu here.  An early seating at 6pm meant daylight spilling in the window next to us which revealed the dishes much better than an after dark seating. We started with some amuse bouche:

Dinner at Castagna, Amuse Bouche #1, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Dinner at Castagna, Amuse Bouche #1, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And there were more:

Dinner at Castagna, Amuse Bouche #2, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Dinner at Castagna, Amuse Bouche #2, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And another:

Dinner at Castagna, Amuse Bouche #3, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Dinner at Castagna, Amuse Bouche #3, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And one more:

Dinner at Castagna, Amuse Bouche #4, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Dinner at Castagna, Amuse Bouche #4 – The Terrarium, by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

They counted the bread as an Amuse Bouche but…..let’s go to the next instead:

Appetizer, Dinner at Castagna by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Appetizer, Dinner at Castagna by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The tenderest sturgeon ever….

Main, Dinner at Castagna by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Main, Dinner at Castagna by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

And let’s not forget desert:

Strawberry Dessert by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

Strawberry Dessert by Jennifer Hartnett-Henderson ©2014

The wines were incredible pairings and as different from one another as the east is from the west. This was a fantastic visual and gustatory experience. It was worth waiting 15 years!