I have visited the Google headquarters in Mountain View several times because I know some Googlers. At last, you can visit Google without a Googler guide. They have opened a new visitor center in the Googleplex at 1600 Amphitheater Parkway, Mountain View so everyone can visit. Google has also opened a cool park across the street that is closed to the public during the week (Googlers only) and open to the public on the weekends. There is also a gift shop with everything branded Google.
You may be wondering why anyone would want to visit Google Headquarters. It is fascinating and could be a model for the corporate workplace of the future. While it is not a destination in itself, it makes a fun stop for a day in Palo Alto or San Jose.
My Googler friend met us at Building 43 to sign in and get our name badges. On our way from our street parking we passed the brightly colored Google bikes. These are provided to employees so they can grab a bike and go to other buildings on campus.
We were able to see the main campus gym, swimming pool, volleyball courts, and laundry facilities. The aim is to make it easy for employees to maintain balance in their life and hence increase their productivity. There is also a lot of free food and beverages available–either from small kitchens in each building or in the dozens of restaurants.
Dogs are also welcome at work 2 days a week. They even get their own id tags!
The campus atmosphere is casual and collaborative. Of course it is wired for technology, but the most thought has been put into providing a variety of spaces for people to connect. Check it out.
My friend Sandy accompanied her young son to a summer school program at Stanford University and it gave us an opportunity to catch up. We met up in Palo Alto and drove 30 minutes north to the home and gardens at Filoli in Woodbridge.
Floli is a gracious estate. It was built by the Bourn family in the years after the great San Francisco earthquake and fire in 1906. The Bourn’s wealth came in part from the Empire Gold Mine in Grass Valley, California. The name of the estate is derived from the first two letters of the key words of the family credo: Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.
The gardens are among my favorite and this is the first time I have visited during the summer. Everything was lush and blooming. We enjoyed speaking with two volunteers shaping the miniature knot gardens.
The home is decorated in a traditional (and stuffy) style. We did love the kitchen–especially the aqua cupboards. We also loved the sculpture scattered throughout the grounds and buildings.
‘There is a gift shop with nursery plants for sale and some interesting garden furniture. We ate lunch at the Filoli Cafe. The sandwiches were fresh and delicious; however, there was entirely too much reliance on plastic containers. There are indoor and outdoor dining options.
Admission is $18 for an adult. Filoli is open Tuesday through Sunday, mid-February to late October. The hours may change and generally 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Filoli is located 86 Canada Road, Woodbridge, California.
Recently my friend Cameon invited me to join her for a preview of the Museum of Wonder and Delight in Folsom, California. UC Davis Design Professor Dolph Gotelli, an internationally renowned collector of 19th and 20th century toys, folk art and games. The Museum will showcase his collections and opens this fall in old town Folsom (at 905 Leidesdorff Street across from Karen’s Bakery facing the plaza).
A fundraiser sponsored by the UC Davis Design Department followed in a 2 acre garden in Granite Bay to benefit the museum. The garden was fun and beautiful and full of whimsey.
The mansion known as Larnach Castle and its extensive gardens are open to the public. There is an admission charge unless you are staying overnight in the lodging. It is about 20-30 minutes on a narrow, windy road from the Dunedin City Centre, South Island, New Zealand. It is worth the effort.
It was built by William Larnach,who was a bit of a scoundrel, in 1871. It took over 15 years to build, finish the interiors and furnish. Larnach was a merchant and politician who ended a bankrupt suicide. The house fell into dereliction for years and then in 1967 the Barker family bought and restored it. Margaret Barker searched high and low for the original furnishings or photos to return the home and its gardens to its former glory.
The home is impressive. I am always more interested in the gardens and they are lovely.
At the risk of making you very homesick I offer this gallery of photos from the Fellows’ Garden at Christ’s College. I thought it was interesting that after repeatedly admonishing us not to walk on the lawn, the Fellow’s “lead you round the garden path” and leave you to walk the last 100 yards across the lawn. This pigeon is larger and healthier than its American cousin but a wee bird compared to the New Zealand wood pigeon. I loved the super healthy hydrangea, the mix of succulents and hosta, and the magnificent trees (including a mulberry planted by John Milton).
Today the new archway to the Gateway Garden in the UC Davis Arboretum was dedicated. The artist, Christopher Fennell, used shovels donated from the community to create this unique entrance. The arboretum is under construction and will extend the gardens from Gateway Housing to the Davis Commons Shopping Center. If you want to walk there, you can park in the shopping center (Whole Foods and Gap) at 1st and D Street and find it at the back of the parking lot. This new archway makes a fitting entrance.
The Arboretum is just off Highway 80 (main campus exit) and provides a peaceful and beautiful place to walk or bike and enjoy diverse gardens. The University and Davis community have collaborated to create a multi-dimensional educational experience–from a teaching nursery (with great plant sales) to a native plant garden with informative interpretive signs. I especially like the oak grove with beautiful ceramic benches and a public restroom covered in amazing ceramic murals.
There are six reasons to do the Wellington Botanic Garden: 1) you can arrive by cable car to the top of the garden and walk down (brilliant!); 2) you can marvel at the long established plantings on steep hillsides; 3) you can chat with the staff in the Visitor’s Centre; 4) you can get a toastie and a coffee in the Picnic Cafe in the Begonia House; 5) you can see a lot in a short amount of time or you can meander all day; and 6) you can enter from any point in the garden–there is no admission charge!!! (Thank you City of Wellington.)
For years I have wanted to visit the New York Botanical Garden. On previous visits to New York City I have not been able to carve out enough time from my business commitments or I could not convince my friends that it was more interesting than say, the Statue of Liberty. At last, I was able to spend about 3 hours in this world class botanical garden. I could have spent all day.
I entered at the Mosholu gate and proceeded to the nearest cafe. The view of the Conservatory from the terrace was breathtaking. I was overheated from my bike ride so I opted for the air-conditioned indoor dining. The chicken waldorf salad was satisfying and I poured over the garden map while I chewed.
The challenge of NYBG is choosing how to spend your time because there is so much to see and do. In an ideal visit, I would have time to just sit and relax by the soothing lily pond. (How do they grow pineapples in large pots?) And wander through the native plant garden.
A sure sign of the level of excellence of an institution is the quality of the staff and exhibits. NYBG manages to combine the best of both. I was lucky to visit on the last weekend of “Wild Medicine” in the Conservatory. The exhibits packed a lot of fascinating information in a readable, entertaining way. I was torn between reading every word and pressing on to see more of the Garden. Then they took it to another level and offered interactive booths with very knowledgeable docents giving demonstrations on tea and chocolate with samples!
I kept moving because I had only scratched the surface of the Garden and it closes at 6 pm. I walked toward the visitor center and admired the mature plants. I have visited a number of botanical gardens and the younger gardens are at a disadvantage because a well cared for garden improves with age. NYBG has the added advantage that due to the foresight of the founders, they even have original forest from pre-development Bronx.
Plus they take advantage of existing buildings like the Stone Mill. Even the more modern buildings are designed to complement the Garden. The impressive library, the gracious visitor center, and even the modern research center are all signs that the Garden is well supported by the community.
With still so much to see, I hopped on the tram and rode it through the rest of the Garden. You can hop on and off, or stay on and get a windshield tour in about 30 minutes. I am glad I did this or I would have missed my favorite plant in the garden–the Turkey Oak.
My last stop before closing was at the Library. There are special films shown at designated times during the day along with special collections. My mouth dropped open at the beauty of the rotunda. I wished I had more time and promised myself that I would come back and spend the entire day. To think that at one point I thought I would visit both the Garden and the Bronx Zoo (nearby). Ha!
Since my visit I have been thinking about my favorite gardens. NYBG stands in a class above the rest with Kew and Missouri Botanical Garden. All the same I have enjoyed some other gardens, including:
Honorable mention: whimsical garden at Belfast Castle–lovely memories of searching for all of the “cats” and the cut flowers at the University of Portland Farmers Market.
And if I could go to any garden, real or imaginary I would go to Prince Charles’ garden at Highgrove, or the Secret Garden in Frances Hodgson Burnett’s imagination. And my wanderlust will someday take me to Versailles, Amsterdam Flower Mart/Show, the Philadelphia Flower Show, Longwood, and Victoria, British Columbia.
I love Chelsea. Mainly because I love my friend Ray and he lives in and adores Chelsea and his laugh and loves are infectious.
I have stayed in different hotels when Ray has family staying in his home already. I like the Gem Hotel but it does not always have rooms availalble. I was thrilled to discover a new (albeit more expensive alternative) in a former Seminary building. You have to love a hotel that offers bikes for loan and a view (for now) of The High Line garden walkway.
It is also just a block or so from the Chelsea Market and surrounded by great restaurants. And every morning you could roll out of bed, hit the exquisite looking coffee bar in the lobby and take a relaxing walk along the High Line.
The High Line is a wonderful reinvention of the elevated railroad. It is listed in “New York’s 50 best places to find Peace and Quiet.” Not so much on a Saturday.
At times it was packed with people making it a great place to people watch. The art along the way is thought provoking. And there is an elevator if you have a stroller or need to avoid several flights of stairs. (Although the elevator on 23rd St. was out of order on the day we were there.) The views of Chelsea also give you a different perspective on living in this part of the City.
We ate later that night at The Park named for its interior that feels like an exterior. The food was adequate and the atmosphere was perfect for our group of 8. Our reservation was for 9:30, so by the time we finished our roast chicken, salmon, octopus salad, turkey burgers, gnocchi and lamb sausage pizza the pop music was pumping and there was a line to get into the dance club and bar. We retired to “Club Ray” where conversation was easier and the drinks are free.
Chelsea is also a great access point for the Hudson River Greenway, which runs the length of Manhattan on the westside. If you need bike support, I recommend Bicycle Habitat (228 7th Avenue).