California

a taste of what’s to come

Still writing when I should be packing … we’re off on another adventure to visit gardens, this time on the east coast.

entryway to Kyoto Gardens at the Hilton DoubleTree in Los Angeles

entryway to Kyoto Gardens at the Hilton DoubleTree in Los Angeles

But I am three states and several gardens behind in posting where we have been!

So here is a little preview of what is yet to be posted. Now to that packing!

Elaine shows the donated gate at the UC-Berkeley pathway to the Japanese pond.

Elaine shows the donated gate at the UC-Berkeley pathway to the Japanese pond.

photo by Bill F. Eger

Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA
photo by Bill F. Eger

the entry to a private residential garden in Orinda, California photo by Bill F. Eger

the entry to a private residential garden in Orinda, California
photo by Bill F. Eger

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park dates back to 1894. photo by Bill F. Eger

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park dates back to 1894.
photo by Bill F. Eger

The Japanese Friendship Garden at San Diego's Balboa Park is completing expansion work to be ready for the park's centennial in 2015. photo by Bill F. Eger

The Japanese Friendship Garden at San Diego’s Balboa Park is completing expansion work to be ready for the park’s centennial in 2015.
photo by Bill F. Eger

Any photographs not otherwise credited are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. If you borrow, be nice and give credit.

Comments are welcome on this and other posts in this blog.

Categories: Berkeley, California, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco | Leave a comment

Carpentry workshop in August in California

http://hosted.verticalresponse.com/1212645/9000fefe1e/546429619/3550f8d2c0/

The North American Japanese Garden Association will present Japanese Woodworking Skills using Traditional Hand Tools in Oakland, California, August 13-16.

Lectures, 20 hours of shop time and tours are all part of this intense session.

For more information and to register see the flyer above or go to www.najga.org/events

 Due to shop space limitations, registration for the Japanese Woodworking Using Traditional Hand Tools is limited.  Registrations will be processed on a First Come, First Served basis.  NAJGA reserves the right to close registration once the limited number of spots are filled. 
For questions or more information, 
call 503-222-1194 or email info@najga.org
A visit to Hida Tool is part of a tour during this conference…a place of wonder and quality.
Here is a link to their store if you wish a virtual visit!
Hida Tool
 inside Hida Tool 2inside Hida Tool
Categories: California, Oakland | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Enthusiastic Denver garden curator tours Hilo’s Lili`uokalani Gardens

On Saturday, May 18, the board of directors of Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens welcomed Ebi Kondo, curator of Sho-Fu-En the Japanese garden at Denver Botanic Gardens and a board member of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA), to Hilo’s bayfront park along with several Hilo community leaders with long-time ties to the garden.

Ebi Kondo, curator of Sho-Fu-En at the Denver Botanic Gardens
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Kondo was enthusiastic about Lili`uokalani Gardens. “This is an old-style pleasure garden,” he said. “You have so much history here. This is a great event  to be shared with all who visit.

“There is such a good feeling to this garden, both casual and elegant. I see a welcome, peaceful, casual, approachable, carefree environment. This is a great combination of American-Japanese garden with Hilo Hawaii flavor.”

Ebi Kondo of Sho-Fu-En Japanese Garden in Denver Colorado explains the benefits of membership in a public garden organization. Nearby are Friends of Lili`uokalani members Harvey Tajiri and K.T. Cannon-Eger.

Ebi Kondo of Sho-Fu-En Japanese Garden in Denver Colorado explains the benefits of membership in NAJGA a non-profit public garden organization. Nearby are Friends of Lili`uokalani members Harvey Tajiri and K.T. Cannon-Eger.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Kondo worked on the revitalization of the Japanese garden in Denver. “It takes everybody working together,” he said.

Sho-Fu-En now features a new roji (dewy garden path) to the tea house as well as a separate ADA compliant path. The tea house in Denver is like the one in Hilo in one respect: there are two areas for practitioners and participants — one more traditional with tatami floor and one Western with folding chairs.

Della Allison Yamashiro of Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens, listens to Hiroshi Suga, president of the Japanese Community Association of Hawaii, speak of cooperation to promote and preserve Japanese culture and foster harmony and fellowship in Hawaii County.

Della Allison Yamashiro of Friends of Lili`uokalani Gardens, listens to Hiroshi Suga, president of the Japanese Community Association of Hawaii, speak of cooperation to promote and preserve Japanese culture, and foster harmony and fellowship in Hawaii County.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Russ Oda speaks of Shoroan and the history of Urasenke in Hawaii.

Russ Oda speaks of Shoroan and the history of Urasenke in Hawaii.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Kondo also was enthusiastic about the role of public gardens in communities. “To me, garden is a place to make memories. Happy people come here and are more happy. Sad people who come here are lifted.”

The casual tour wandered over to shade by the bamboo grove..

The casual tour wandered over to shade by the bamboo grove.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Dwayne Mukai, president of Kumamoto Kenjin Kai, and Rev. Jeffrey Soga, Rimban for Hawaii Island's Hongwanji join in the conversation. (photo by Bill F. Eger)

Dwayne Mukai, president of Kumamoto Kenjin Kai, and Rev. Jeffrey Soga, Rimban for Hawaii Island’s Hongwanji join in the conversation.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

KT&Ebi-Basin-5577

K.T. Cannon-Eger, Ebi Kondo and Philippe Nault ponder an ancient stone basin.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Sho-Fu-En at Denver Botanic Gardens is one of the leadership gardens in the formation of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA). Kondo took time to emphasize to the group the importance of sharing information. “There will come a time when you have a question and you need to find resources. That is the reason we have this association of public gardens…to be of help to each other with workshops on horticulture, stonescaping, pond building, fund raising, message presentation and all of the things you will face.”

NAJGA offers two regional conferences later this year. Woodworking skills and traditional hand tools will be held August 13-16 in Oakland, California with site visits to several gardens in the area. Constructing Japanese water features and selection and care of koi will be held September 20-21 at Shofuso in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Registration is open now for the woodworking conference in Oakland. More details on the regional conference in Pennsylvania will be available in July. Go to the NAJGA web site for further information. http://www.najga.org

For additional stories in this blog on Denver or NAJGA, check the category and tag lists to the right side of the screen.

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Categories: California, Colorado, Denver, Hawaii, Hilo, Oakland, Pennsylvania, Philadelphia | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

First NAJGA Journal published

The first issue of the Journal of the North American Japanese Garden Association

The first issue of the Journal of the North American Japanese Garden Association features a view of the tea deck at Sho-Fu-En in Denver Botanic Gardens.
photo by Bill F. Eger

The first issue of The Journal of the North American Japanese Garden Association arrived in our mailbox the other day and it’s gorgeous! Within heavy cover stock are more than 60 pages of well written, beautifully illustrated articles.

Topics in this inaugural edition include an extensive article by Robert Karr on The Garden of the Phoenix in Chicago — which article has been translated into Japanese. The story celebrates the 120-year history of the garden and looks toward the future with plans for mass plantings of cherry trees in the lagoon nearby.

It is followed by a detailed account of a garden now gone: Middlegate Japanese Gardens of Pass Christian, Mississippi by landscape architect Anne Legett.

As Journal editor Kendall Brown points out, “The former garden’s bright future and the latter’s forlorn state signal the fragility of gardens and the need for careful stewardship.”

Six regional gardens — Birmingham, Alabama; Huntington Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California; Kumamoto-en in San Antonio, Texas; Sho-Fu-En in Denver, Colorado, the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden on the campus of California State University Long Beach and Portland Japanese Garden in Portland, Oregon — offer comparative and contrasting views on several questions surrounding the topic of master planning. NAJGA executive director Diana Lawroe analyzed results of questions, interviews and documents, pulling together a cogent and insightful article.

A Living Friendship of Flowers details horticultural challenges in observing the centennial of the Japan-U.S. Cherry Blossom Gift. Case studies include Chicago Botanic Garden, Fort Worth Botanic Garden, and Waimea Hawaii.

An article on interpretive education offers case studies on docent tours, ephemeral and permanent signs, and new technologies such as cell phone guides.

Jill Raggett, Ph.D., is a specialist in the emergence of Japanese style gardens in the British Isles, historic garden restoration, and biographies for the Japan Society. This distinguished speaker offers her view of the first conference of NAJGA — Connections — held October 2012 in Denver, Colorado.

Finally there is a book review of a reprint of the 1940 work by America’s first Japanese garden expert Loraine E. Kuck, well known to Hawaii garden folk for her books and garden designs here. Miyuki Katahita-Manabe, Ph.D., of Osaka notes in her review: “The reprinting in 2012 of Loraine Kuck’s The Art of Japanese Gardens, first published in 1940, provides an opportunity for reassessing this important book that introduced many English-language readers to the cultural history of Japanese gardens.”

The Journal is a benefit of NAJGA membership. It was made possible through the support of The Japan Foundation Center for Global Partnership. Japanese language translation service were provided by Matsuda, Funai, Eifert & Mitchell, Ltd.

NAJGA is a professional non-profit membership organization dedicated to the advancement and sustainability of Japanese gardens throughout the United States and Canada. Founded in 2011 with input from more than 200 Japanese garden professionals, NAJGA focuses on the Horticulture, Human Culture, and Business Culture of Japanese gardens through a variety of programs and services. NAJGA membership is open to everyone.

For more information, go to http://www.najga.org

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Cover photo for The Journal by Bill F. Eger. Comments on this and other articles in this blog are welcome.

Categories: Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Texas | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America arrives on bookshelves worldwide

cover photo by David Cobb of the hexagonal yukimi style lantern at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle

cover photo by David Cobb of the hexagonal yukimi style lantern at the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle

A new look at Japanese gardens in North America — Quiet Beauty — provides the viewing public with detailed information and delightful photographs on 26 peaceful places across the continental United States and into Canada.

Author Kendall H. Brown is a professor of Asian art history at California State University Long Beach. Photographer David M. Cobb is a member of the North American Nature Photography Association, Garden Writers Association, and Professional Photographers of America.

Released by the esteemed publishing house Tuttle Publishing, this beautiful book offers history and invites thoughtfulness on how these gardens came to be and what they offer to us now. Insightful text is accompanied by more than 180 stunning color photographs and a few reproductions of antique postal cards.

In the introduction — Places to Dream — Dr. Brown notes, “Japanese gardens or, more accurately, Japanese-style gardens, in North America offer distinct pleasures. In contrast to the cacophony of cities, the anonymity of suburbs, and even the anxiety of deserts or forests, these gardens can provide beautifully controlled environments. In artful landscapes we lose ourselves in a path woven around a pond and a harmonious stone arrangement; we delight in the variegated colors of graceful koi and the bright hues of blossoming plums; and we are calmed by a stream’s gentle murmur and the dappled greens of moss. Another kind of pleasure is contextual and social rather than sensory and psychological. Japanese gardens in North America are often found where we least expect them, and in places unknown in pre-modern Japan. Thus we feel a special delight in discovering a ‘dry garden’ of stones and sand at a museum, a lush pond garden on a college campus, or a waterfall-fed stream garden in a hospital. Those familiar with gardens in Japan may also enjoy Japanese-style gardens intellectually, noting creative plant substitutions or thoughtful ways of interpreting Japanese design principles within distinctly North American spaces.”

Dr. Brown takes three eras posited by garden historian Makoto Suzuki of the Nodai Institute, professor at Tokyo University of Agriculture, and expands them to five: the age of world fairs and expositions, building bridges, innovation by adaptation, expansive visions and traditions transformed.

During the past ten years. I have read many articles by Ken Brown and have heard him speak at several conferences. I serve on the editorial board of the North American Japanese Garden Association (NAJGA) which editorial board he chairs. In person, I can verify that Dr. Brown delivers a substantial amount of information in a short amount of time — all of it masterfully accompanied by photographs, post cards, newspaper clippings and other visual aids along with a good sense of humor and split second timing. There are times I have felt he is delivering information faster than I can absorb it so I am delighted to have such a beautiful volume I can savor at leisure.

I have a special appreciation for David Cobb’s photographs. My husband and I have been to many of the places depicted and know what it takes to get the perfect image of that spot. So many of Cobb’s shots are truly breathtaking.

back cover photo by David Cobb of the Japanese garden at Fort Worth Botanic Garden in Texas

back cover photo by David Cobb of the Japanese garden at Fort Worth Botanic Garden in Texas

Gardens featured in Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America are:

the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco California 1894;

Japanese Garden at the Huntington Botanic Garden, San Marino California 1911 (also 1968, 2011);

Maymont Japanese Garden, Richmond Virginia, 1911 (1977);

Japanese Hill and Pond Garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, New York 1915;

Hakone Estate and Garden, Saratoga California 1918;

Shofuso Japanese House and Garden, Philadelphia Pennsylvania 1958;

Japanese Garden at the Washington Park Arboretum, Seattle Washington 1960;

Nitobe Memorial Garden at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver B.C. Canada 1960;

Japanese Garden at the Blodel Reserve, Bainbridge Island, Washington 1961 (1978, 1986);

Portland Japanese Garden, Portland Oregon 1963;

Japanese Garden in San Mateo Central Park, San Mateo California 1965;

Nikka-Yuko Japanese Garden, Lethbridge, Alberta 1966;

Nishinomiya Garden in Mani to Park, Spokane Washington 1974;

Japanese Garden in the Fort Worth Botanic Garden, Fort Worth Texas 1973;

Shomu’en at Cheekwood, Nashville Tennessee 1990;

Seiwa’en at the Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis Missouri 1977;

Sansho’en at Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe Illinois 1982;

Shofu’en at the Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Colorado 1979;

Suiho’en at the Donald C. Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, Van Nuys California 1984;

Seisuitei at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, Chanhassen Minnesota 1985 (1996);

Anderson Japanese Gardens, Rockford Illinois 1978;

Japanese Garden at the Montreal Botanical Garden, Montreal Quebec 1988;

Tenshin’en at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Massachusetts 1988;

Roji’en in the Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens, Delray Beach Florida 2001;

R0ho’en in Margaret T. Hance Park, Phoenix Arizona 2002; and

Garden of the Pine Wind at Garven Woodland Gardens, Hot Springs Arkansas 2001.

Marvelous additions in the appendices include garden contacts and a select bibliography including books, journals and websites plus a listing of 75 important Japanese gardens in North America, five of which are in the state of Hawaii.

The Hawaii gardens appearing in this list include:

the Cultural Gardens at Honolulu International Airport 1967;

Imin (East West) Center at the University of Hawaii-Manoa 1963 (teahouse 1972);

Byodo’in Gardens, Kaneohe Oahu 1968;

Japanese Garden and Teahouse at Kepaniwai Park, Wailuku Maui 1968 (teahouse 1972); and

Lili`uokalani Gardens, Hilo Hawai`i (1917).

December 17, 1944 from the library of the Hawaiian Historical Society

Lili`uokalani Gardens on December 17, 1944 from the library of the Hawaiian Historical Society in Honolulu

For more information on Quiet Beauty: The Japanese Gardens of North America and other books available from Tuttle Publishing, please consult the web site

http://wwwtuttlepublishing.com

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For more information on the North American Japanese Garden Association, please consult the web site:

http://www.najga.com

Categories: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Texas | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Berkeley Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple garden evolved

Continuing our journey from Atlanta to the West coast, Bill and I ended up in the Bay Area in late June. Wandering down a street in Berkeley, we came to the Higashi Honganji Buddhist temple at 1524 Oregon Street.

Berkeley Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple

Built in the 1930s, the Berkeley Higashi Honganji Buddhist Temple now serves a diverse congregation.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

A long-time member of the sangha told us Rev. Ken Yamada is the current minister and more information on the temple is available at their web site http://www.bombu.org or by phoning (510) 843-6933.

Berkeley sangha member

Dick Fujii tells K.T. Cannon-Eger about the history of the temple.(photo by Bill F. Eger) 

Established in Berkeley in 1926, the current temple was built in the late 1930s. A social hall and classroom building was added in the 1960s and was undergoing repairs the day we were there in June.

evergreen by front gate

Carefully shaped, the evergreen hugs the top of the front fence adjacent to the gate.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

“The present garden evolved from the beginning through a time when we had a lawn to the present garden which was installed on the occasion of the temple’s 60th anniversary,” said Rev. Yamada. “The pine tree inside the fence is close to 100 years old Many of our members were in the landscape gardening business.”

Berkeley Higashi Honganji

The front garden replaced a lawn on the occasion of the temple’s 60th anniversary.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

As members aged, maintenance of the trees became difficult. About 10 years ago Dennis Makishima, former president of the Golden State Bonsai Federation, got involved with the garden. His mother is a member of the sangha. Dennis got a call from the minister which resulted in the temple garden being added to the Merritt College Aesthetic Pruning Club volunteer events calendar twice a year.

pine tree

The pine tree at the left side of the yard is close to 100 years old.

Dennis Makishima started an aesthetic pruning course at Merritt College in Oakland which led to the formation of the pruning club in 1987. Members of the club also volunteer monthly at the Lake Merritt Japanese Garden and at Hakone Gardens in Saratoga.

espalier

Espaliered camellia bushes line the minister’s residence and the driveway between the home and temple. The social hall and classroom building is visible at the end of the driveway.

Higashi Honganji doorway detail

detail of the doorway

Comments on this article and other stories on this blog are welcome.

Photographs not otherwise credited are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. To view any photo full size, just click on the image.


			
Categories: Berkeley, California | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

The trip West continues

A more extensive article on Chicago’s Osaka Garden at Jackson Park will be posted soon. By 2013, the garden was re-named The Garden of the Phoenix.

Osaka Garden pond and bridge

Osaka Garden pond

Osaka Garden at Jackson Park in Chicago dates from the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. It was recently renewed due to the efforts of an active Friends group with the expertise and guidance of Sadafumi Uchiyama and the cooperation of the Chicago Parks Department.

Meanwhile, here are a few photos from the rest of the journey from Chicago to Denver to San Francisco by train.

Here, we have included images from gardens in Chicago, Denver, Grand Junction, Berkeley, Oakland, Orinda and San Francisco to give you a little taste of the articles still to come.

Denver pond

Looking in one direction, Shofu-en displays one of the inspirations for its name — “Garden of the Pines and Wind.”

Denver Shofu-en

Looking across the pond in another direction, one could feel transported to similar gardens in urban Japan. The residents of the nearby condos must enjoy a beautiful view.

Grand Junction

Entry to the Japanese garden in Grand Junction, Colorado, is through a conservatory with plants familiar to many in Hawaii and other tropical regions.

Berkeley Botanic

This is a small section of the pond in the Japanese garden at UC-Berkeley Botanical Garden. Iris were in bloom throughout our journey in June.

Higashi Hongwanji

The Higashi Hongwanji in Berkeley (www.bonbu.com) has an elegant entry garden maintained in part with the assistance of the Aesthetic Pruners Association.

Oakland

Every detail matters — and here a relatively new stone appears to have been in place for hundreds of years due to the lichen.

borrowed scenery

The living room is arranged to take full advantage of the garden in this private residence in northern California.

WF entry

A rooftop corporate garden in San Francisco, created some years ago, was completely redone recently to address engineering problems that developed over the years. This is a small detail of an area separating the entry door, which leads to the garden, from a walkway that goes around the roof.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

San Francisco
Ginkgo leaves near the 1915 pagoda at the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden

To see a full size version of any photograph in this blog, just click on the image.

Categories: Berkeley, California, Chicago, Colorado, Denver, Grand Junction, Illinois, Oakland, San Francisco | Tags: , | Leave a comment

More railroad fan photos

Old fashioned stations continued to be our delight as we traveled through Texas to St. Louis, Chicago, Denver, and Grand Junction ending at a newer station in Emeryville near San Francisco.

Fort Worth Texas makes use of portions of the old Union Station.

Inside, Fort Worth offers old style benches. (photo by Bill F. Eger)

Train for St. Louis arrives on track 3 in Fort Worth, TX.

Chicago’s old Union Station undergoing renovation

underground entry from the old station to the newer arrival and departure area across the street in Chicago, IL

I haven’t mentioned food. It was EXCELLENT and freshly prepared for every meal. We dined on BBQ ribs, breaded chicken, salmon, tilapia, steak, shrimp Benedict, lamb shank, and more and everything was delicious.

We went deeper in to the history of trains in the Chicago area with a visit to the Museum of Science and Industry before heading out back to Osaka Garden at Jackson Park, what once was known as Wooded Island at the 1893 Columbia Exposition.

Empire State Express engine 999 in the Museum of Science and Industry — as fascinating a place to me now as it was when I was a child.

poster describing the Empire Express engine 999 at the 1893 Columbian Exposition

Another spot to gain more insight into historical details was the Chicago Art Institute. We had just enough time after checking our large bags in the morning to grab a cab and spend a couple of hours wandering around another old haunt for each of us: me from my childhood and Bill from his college days at University of Chicago.

These tiles came from the Railway Exchange Building on Michigan Avenue in Chicago, also known as the Santa Fe Building.

a museum tag explains the origin of the tiles and the connection to the 1893 Columbian Exposition

In Denver, we chose The Oxford Hotel because of its proximity to Union Station only to find that the station is undergoing a three year renovation which will result in combined services being available there. Meanwhile, the temporary station is quite a few blocks away. I would stay at the Oxford Hotel again at the drop of a hat. Wonderful staff, service, accommodations and location.

Denver’s Union Station at night

Denver’s Union Station from the front door of The Oxford Hotel

Another wonderful advantage to train travel is the view through LARGE windows. It was such a difference from the somewhat dangerous escapade of trying to see something from a speeding car while maintaining safety on the highway.

huge view of the changing countryside and geology as the train moved from Denver to Grand Junction, Colorado

The new station in Grand Junction, Colorado is right next to the old one, now closed and boarded up.

old Grand Junction sign notes “elevation 4,578” and “population 28,000”

heading west from Grand Junction through Utah and Nevada

a town in California advertises itself as “above the fog, below the snow”

End of the line — at least as far as train travel on this journey is concerned — at Emeryville, California.

Unless otherwise credited, photos in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. Click on any image for a full-size view.

Categories: Amtrak, California, Chicago, Colorado, Denver, Grand Junction, Illinois | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

A little something for the railroad fans

Some of our readers have asked for a little detail on our railroad adventure: what lines we rode, what the stations were like, how was the food and who got the upper berth.

There is no way my husband and I could have made this trip from Atlanta to the San Francisco Bay area if it were not for Amtrak. The same trip by air would have been prohibitively expensive and not nearly as enjoyable.

Everywhere we went, we reveled in the anxiety-free wonder of looking out large windows at the cityscapes and countryside. It’s no wonder that the Amtrak motto is “Change the Way You See the World.”

On the wall of the Grand Junction, Colorado, station is a small sampling of Amtrak posters offering guided train tours.

On every train, we found engaging and delightful conversation with a wide range of fellow travelers from Switzerland, Canada, China, Australia, Holland, France, and so many states that I’ve lost count. Families were traveling with their children and grandchildren. Businesspeople were going to work or coming home from conferences. Young couples were honeymooning, older couples were celebrating wedding anniversaries. All in all a wonderful mix.

Our first train station in Atlanta, Georgia, still had the comfortable old style curved wooden benches with tall globe lamps.

Baggage allotment is similar to that of airplanes in size and weight of luggage to be checked — and we had to do some quick switching to get the large red suitcase lighter by moving several one-pound bags of Hilo Coffee Mill whole bean coffee to the smaller purple suitcase. Giving away omiyage as we went from garden to garden plus mailing home packages of books and gifts purchased kept us at the proper check in weight.

Our first train — #19 on The Crescent Line — arrives in Atlanta to take us to Birmingham, Alabama.

On some legs of this journey, we reserved coach seats. The ride from Atlanta, GA, to Birmingham, AL, had a delayed departure due to a live wire on the tracks somewhere in Virginia, but once underway, proceeded uneventfully. The Crescent Line begins in New York and goes to New Orleans. We quickly learned why our fellow coach passengers traveled with blankets. The AC was cranked up and it was COLD inside that car. Thank goodness for jackets and sweaters.

close-up detail of wire, rock and metal slat combination used to create benches in Railroad Park, Birmingham, AL

Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham, Alabama, a few blocks from the Amtrak station, is full of wide open spaces used by walkers, joggers, symphony performances and yoga classes, to name a few. It was a featured stop on the Birmingham Botanical Garden’s Leaf and Petal Glorious Gardens tour.

The Crescent Line continued from Birmingham, AL, to New Orleans, LA, a day-long trip for which we booked a roomette. I napped in the upper berth using both mattresses as Bill stayed seated upright in the seats below giving him a chance to wander around to the lounge and dining car. This line had some older equipment so our roomette featured a sink and toilet. Shower was down the hall. Seats were wide, roomy and comfortable. In this sleeping car, roomettes lined one side of the car with a narrow windowed aisle on the other side.

poster for the Crescent Line — loved the graphics throughout this journey

The New Orleans, Louisiana, train station features some of the most amazing frescoes I’ve seen in a long time. The New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal (NOUPT) was designed in 1949 and opened in 1954 at which time it was considered an ultra-modern facility.

Featured are 120 feet (2,166 square feet) of murals depicting New Orleans and Louisiana history painted by Conrad A. Albrizio with the assistance of James Fisher. Albrizio was a renown art professor at Louisiana State University. The murals in four parts depict the ages of exploration, colonization, conflict and the modern age. The murals were restored after Hurricane Katrina.

For more information on New Orleans’ railroad history dating back to 1831, see the Amtrak link: http://www.greatamericanstations.com/Stations/NOL/Station_view

one section of the colonization panel

one section of the exploration panel

New Orleans is served by three lines: Crescent, City of New Orleans with service to Chicago, and Sunset Limited with service to Los Angeles. Our next leg of the journey would be aboard the Sunset Limited which used to go all the way from Los Angeles to Orlando, Florida but the section of track beyond New Orleans has yet to be replaced after Hurricane Katrina. Our train left New Orleans before noon and arrived in San Antonio, Texas in the middle of the night.

one version of the Sunset Limited poster

From San Antonio to Chicago, with several stops along the way, we were aboard the Texas Eagle. Sometimes we were in coach. For the long leg from Fort Worth, TX, to St. Louis, MO, we were in another roomette, this one in newer equipment that featured roomettes on both sides of a central aisle.

K.T.’s window seat in coach with plenty of leg and elbow room, loads of space for carry-on baggage above plus beneath seats. Note the different color tags stuck in a rail indicating to the conductor that passenger’s stop.

Bill enjoys the view from the large windows in this typical roomette. The upper berth drops down to just above the top edge of the window — still plenty of headroom for the person in the lower seat, but the upper berth in some sleeping cars can be rather close to the ceiling of the car.

Categories: Alabama, Amtrak, Atlanta, Birmingham, California, Chicago, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, New Orleans, San Antonio, San Francisco, Texas | Tags: , | 6 Comments

On the road

Walking through the San Francisco airport, we noticed emblems from several Sister Cities projected on the walkway. This lotus is from Bangalore.

Categories: California, San Francisco | Tags: | Leave a comment

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