Texas

Taniguchi’s gift to the city of Austin

The Isamu Taniguchi Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden undoubtedly has the best view of Austin, Texas.

“The best view in town” according to one garden volunteer is from the Isamu Taniguchi Garden at the Zilker Botanical Garden.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Many thanks are due Marion Alsup for her hospitality during our recent visit to the Taniguchi Garden at Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas. She greeted us at the train station, hung cool scarves around our necks, pressed bottles of water into our hands, plus she organized other garden personnel to meet us on site to answer additional questions . Alsup is vice president of the Austin Area Garden Center with responsibility for education and president of the Docents of Zilker Botanical Garden. She provided running commentary as we toured the winding trails.

Marian Alsup and Donna Friedenreich explain the Sister City relationship with Oita, which gave this stone gate to the garden.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Three acres of rugged caliche hillside were transformed into a garden in the late 1960s by Isamu Taniguchi when he was 70 years old. Working for 18 months with occasional help from two parks and recreation department staffers, Taniguchi brought forth his gift to the city of Austin first in gratitude for the education that his two sons received there and second in an aspiration for peace.

lantern at top entry to the garden
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Taniguchi was born in Osaka, Japan. By the age of 16 he was raising bonsai. Migrating to Stockton, California in 1915, he farmed vegetables and fruit, returning to Japan only once to marry. During World War II, he and his family were interned in California and Texas. The family moved to the Rio Grande Valley at the end of the war to continue farming.

The Austin Area Garden Center and the Parks and Recreation Department could not turn down his generous offer of a garden. Working without a salary, a contract or a written plan, Taniguchi showed up for work, rain or shine, and created paths and streams, waterfalls and ponds, stone arrangements and plantings. The garden opened to the public in 1969. Taniguchi’s son Alan was Dean of the UT School of Architecture that year.

An essay by the elder Taniguchi – The Spirit of the Garden – describes not only the garden, but its builder:

“It has been my wish that through the construction of this visible garden, I might provide a symbol of universal peace. By observing the genuine peaceful nature of the garden, I believe that we should be able to knock on the door of our conscience, which once was obliged to be the slave of the animal nature in man rather than of the humanity which resides on the other side of his heart. It is my desire for the peace of mankind which has endowed this man of old age the physical health and stamina to pile stone upon stone without a day’s absence from the work for the last 18 months. It is my desire for peace of mankind which encouraged me in my voluntary labor to complete this long-dreamed gift for the city of Austin – this Oriental Garden. It is my wish that you have pleasant communion with the spirit of the garden.”

A small lantern and a hidden waterfall are part of the ponds that spell out “Austin.”
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Several garden ponds spell out the word “Austin.”

(photo by Bill F. Eger)

A rustic wooden log Togetsu-kyo or “Bridge to Walk Over the Moon” is nearby.

The final pond holds lotus Taniguchi raised from a seed from Japan and several varieties of water lily. There is a small central island in the shape of a boat with stepping stones through the pond in the shape of the boat’s chain and anchor.

The lowest pond features a boat-shaped island with wisteria, water lilies and lotus grown by Mr. Taniguchi. The story of the lotus seed — Journey of the Third Seed — is recounted as a children’s story by Jane Scoggins Bauld.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Taniguchi continued to be involved with the garden leading occasional tours. He died in 1992.

Terry Ward, bonsai master and garden volunteer was present for the planting of many of the older trees in the garden. “I’ve helped train several garden staff in the art of pruning the trees.” New staffer Robert “Spider” DeVictoria came to the Taniguchi garden two and a half years ago from Brooklyn where he recalled falling in love with Japanese gardens at the botanical garden there.

Terry Ward enjoys the view from one of several comfortable benches throughout the garden.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

There are some outstanding maples and 21 kinds of bamboo in this 3-acre garden.

Thirty different garden clubs such as the Austin Pond Society, Texas Bamboo Society, the Austin Bonsai Society, the Austin Ikebana Study Group and other associations were organized into the non-profit Austin Area Garden Center in 1955. The Austin Park and Recreation Department owns the land. The Garden Center built the building, organizes volunteers, trains docents and staffs the gift shop, according to Donna Friedenreich, president of AAGC.

The Heart O’Texas Orchid Society donated a Japanese teahouse with a view of the Austin skyline beyond the bamboo. It is named Ten-Wa-Jin (Heaven, Harmony, Man) to convey once more Taniguchi’s message that man exists in harmony with nature and that a “garden is the embodiment of the peaceful coexistence of all the elements of nature.”

Ten Wa Jin teahouse at the Taniguchi Garden
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

interior detail
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Local materials were used in tea house construction. The bamboo society helps every year.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

detail of roof
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

view from the teahouse
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Stone gates flanking a newer slate path were a gift from Austin’s Sister City Oita, dedicated in November 1999 to mark the lasting friendship between the two cities.

English text is on the interior of the western gate.

“Once a year, a garden festival is held, usually during the last weekend in March. In 2013, the garden festival will be held the first weekend in April due to the Easter holiday,” said Marion Alsup, Docent Club president.

new gate at the north end
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

The garden recently received a generous donation from the Orton family, which was used to reconstruct an existing path to meet ADA requirements, adding a new gate at the north end.

detail of new gate
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

In addition, the garden receives welcome support from the Japan America Society of Greater Austin.

The city books weddings to be held in the garden and retains the revenue. Other events are partnered with AAGC and the proceeds are split. According to Friedenreich, one highly successful event funded repair of leaking ponds with Dragon Coat.

Each year, the garden hosts several hundred thousand people. Thousands of school children are reached by the Zilker Botanical Garden’s educational outreach programs and many school groups come for a visit. It was a delight to see the school children enjoying the waterfall, lanterns, niche in the stone tea house for tea cups, resident snake, and trimmed bushes all with respect and deepening calm.

One group of school children enjoyed the garden while we were there.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

For more information on how those of you in the Austin area can support the Zilker Botanical Garden, e-mail info@zilkergarden.org or phone 512-477-8672.

Taniguchi garden at the Zilker Botanical Garden may be found at:

http://www.zilkergarden.org/gardens/japanese.html

Should you wish to view a very sweet video of the Taniguchi Garden, check out this one created a year ago by Austin Otaku.

http://vimeo.com/austinotaku/isamu-taniguchi-japanese-garden

Unless otherwise credited, photos in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. Click on any image in order to see it full size.

Categories: Austin, Texas | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Jingu House and the Japanese Tea Garden

The article below was published immediately after a visit to the garden in 2012. The following link leads to an October 5, 2015, article by Jack Morgan of KSTX San Antonio. The article in turn includes links leading to more information on the garden and on Japanese Gardening dot org.

http://tpr.org/post/incredible-story-behind-san-antonios-japanese-tea-garden#stream/0

In Texas, when I said, “We’ve been to a Japanese garden in San Antonio,” many people thought I was referring to the Japanese Tea Garden at Sunken Gardens, Brackenridge Park. I was referring to Kumamoto en, detailed in an earlier post about the San Antonio Botanical Garden.

But there is a story here at Sunken Gardens – another sad story of a family losing their home and livelihood due to fear during World War II and another hopeful story of better things to come.

There are many striking features about this garden – the stonework on paths, benches, structures and ponds alone is worth a visit. Initially, in 1840 the property was a quarry. In 1880, the Alamo Roman and Portland Cement Company constructed the first cement plant west of the Mississippi. A smokestack near a gazebo overlook marks the kiln that was built in 1889.

The story of the garden is told on a 1984 brass plaque adjacent to the entry gate, an unusual torii style structure in the fois bois design bearing the inscription “Chinese Tea Garden.”

The torii gate created by Dionicio Rodriguez is a national landmark. Text of the plaque at the right is reproduced below.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

The plaque reads: “The idea of a Japanese tea garden was conceived by City Parks Commissioner Ray Lambert in the early 1900s in an effort to beautify the rock quarries which had earlier been abandoned by the San Antonio Portland Cement Company. The brick and stone smokestack east of the teahouse is part of the old Portland Cement kiln.

The kiln smokestack at the extreme right of the photo is all that is left of the old cement plant. The gazebo overlook is on the list of things to be refurbished at the Japanese Tea Garden in San Antonio.

“Commissioner Lambert enlisted the aid of a Japanese artist Kimi Eizo Jingu to assist in the design of an authentic Japanese tea garden. Artist Jingu had recently arrived in San Antonio with his family, had been employed by the U.S, Army and was selling his watercolor paintings in a shop in downtown San Antonio.

“The Japanese tea garden was completed and christened in 1919 having been constructed with prison labor and with both corporate and individual donations. Commissioner Lambert had given particular effort to achieving true Japanese design and had imported numerous plants from gardens existing in Japan. A house was constructed on the site using rocks from the old quarry, and the Jingu family was moved into the house to act as overseers for the facility. In 1926, the Jingus opened a tea house in the upper level of their home. Before his death in 1936, Mr. Jingu had become nationally recognized for his knowledge of teas.

Jingu House Cafe is open Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. This view shows improvements done recently to allow for barrier-free access.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

“The Jingu family remained in their home in the garden until shortly after the December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor incident. The resulting general fear and resentment by the American public caused the Jingu family to be removed from the garden and its name was changed to Chinese Tea Garden.

old postcards framed upstairs in Jingu House Cafe
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

“It was at this time the Chinese-style entry was added, bearing the inscription ‘Chinese Tea Garden.’ This Oriental-design cement-sculptured entry was purportedly designed by Maximo Cortez and constructed by Dionicio Rodriguez. Mr. Rodrigues was a Mexican national who is credited with a number of cement sculptures in San Antonio. He kept his techniques secret working always inside a tent and using tools he made on the site from tin, wood, etc. His process consisted of a metal rod base on which he developed three-dimensional designs with layers of especially prepared cement. He did not divulge either his process of cement sculpture or coloring of the cement layers. He spoke no English and a few co-workers learned by observation only. He is credited with having created various other sculptures throughout the United States in addition to those in the San Antonio area.

“In 1983, the San Antonio City Council ordained that the original name of “Japanese Tea House” be restored to the site in consideration of the number of Japanese-Americans who had fought honorably on the side of the United States during World War II.”

It should be noted here that the youngest sons James and Kimi Jingu served in the U.S. Army. James received a Purple Heart for his actions with the 442nd in Europe and Kimi served in the Korean conflict. See one newspaper article here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/42448022@N05/3967648434/

an overview from the vantage point of the pavilion
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Toward the back of the property, bamboo leans over a section of original steps.

one of the original stone benches

Don Pylant notes current happenings in his article

http://www.japanesegardening.org/sunkengardens/index.html

“A move to restore the Japanese Tea Garden came in the 2005 bond election to repair the Pavilion. With help and guidance from San Antonio Parks Foundation and Friends of the Parks, this Phase 1 began. The original roofing was fencing wire with palm leaf thatch, harvested from the city parks, woven together to shed water. The new roof is a fantastic mimic of artificial palm thatch – all the looks without the fire hazard.

the reconstructed pavilion
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

“In 2007, former councilwoman Bonnie Conner, Parks Foundation vice chair of projects, and former Mayor Lila Cockrell, Parks Foundation president, began a $1.6 million restoration campaign to repair the lily ponds. The successful effort resulted in the restoration of the ponds, a new re-circulating filtration system, and the return of fish and lilies to the ponds. For the public re-opening on March 8, 2008, Jingu and Lambert family members were present. Mabel Yoshiko Jingu Enkoji, the sixth child of Kimi and Miyoshi Jingu, and born at the Gardens, was the senior Jingu family member at the event. Richard Lambert, grandson of Commissioner Ray Lambert was also present.

detail of interior of re-done pavilion
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

“A master plan is being created and fundraising will begin soon to continue the effort to return the Japanese Tea Gardens to its former glory as a jewel in the crown of San Antonio and South Texas.”

HUGE koi
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

A problem common to all gardens with koi ponds — birds that like to go fishing!
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Side note: for more on Dionicio Rodriguez and his Trabajo Rustico, see the book Capturing Nature: The Cement Sculpture of Dionicio Rodriguez by Patsy Pittman Light.

Unless otherwise credited, all photos in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. To see a full size image, click on the photo.

Categories: San Antonio, Texas | Tags: , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kumamoto en in San Antonio, Texas

Oribe lantern at the entrance — for more information on this type of lantern and others, check out the story on the Japanese Gardening Organization web site:
http://japanesegardening.org/lanterns/index.html

Kumamoto en, the Japanese garden at San Antonio Botanical Garden, is a small polished gem set amid 33 acres of living museum. Enclosed by four bamboo walls, the garden presents a series of scenes reminiscent of famous gardens in Japan.

Approaching the entry to Kumamoto en, we were struck by the detailed workmanship in the daimyo or shogun style bamboo fence. More information on how to construct such a fence is available here:
http://www.japanesegardening.org/reference/daimyo_fence.html
(photo by Bill F. Eger) 

The garden was a gift of Sister City Kumamoto and first opened in 1989. Landscapers and craftsmen from Kumamoto, Kyoto, Tokyo and San Antonio participated in its design and construction. A complete restoration was accomplished in 2005.

“Upon entering the garden, you enter a place apart from the everyday world, a safe and peaceful haven where all anger, prejudice, and worldly problems are left at the gate,” writes Don Pylant in an article on the garden and its Sister City relationship with the City of San Antonio in http://japanesegardening.org/kumamotoen/

Exquisite workmanship gives the Katsura style bamboo fence a subtle checkerboard pattern. More information on construction technique is available here:http://www.japanesegardening.org/reference/bamboo_fence.html
(photo by Bill F. Eger) 

“Kumamoto en was designed to demonstrate the beauty of authentic Japanese gardening and introduce visitors to many elements used in Japanese Gardens. It is designed to be enjoyed one scene at a time, like a scroll painting, unrolling as you stroll through,” Pylant said.

Pylant was our guide through Kumamoto En. And what a perfect person to have as a guide to this lovely garden! Although Don currently serves as Park Operations Supervisor in a different area of the City of San Antonio Park Development Division, he spent nearly 24 years working in the San Antonio Botanical Garden. His love of Japanese gardens goes back further to his time in Dallas where he was Director of Horticulture at Dallas Civic Garden Center in Fair Park. He would spend time at the nearby Fort Worth Botanical Gardens’ beautiful Japanese garden, which inspired what would become a deep appreciation of Japanese gardening and a life-long commitment.

In 1980, Don moved from Dallas back to San Antonio to become part of the brand new San Antonio Botanical Gardens, where he participated in the development of gardens, growing facilities, educational programs, and construction of a botanical conservatory.

In 1985, the Japan America Society of San Antonio was formed to foster increased understanding and cooperation between the citizens of San Antonio and the citizens of Japan. Among early efforts was the construction of a Japanese garden in San Antonio.

In 1989, the City of San Antonio and sister city, Kumamoto City in Japan, jointly agreed to construct an authentic Japanese garden in San Antonio’s botanical garden.  Don was involved in the planning and construction of this garden, working with architects in Kyoto and gardeners in Kumamoto, Kyoto and Tokyo.  Don studied under master Japanese gardener Katsuoki Kawahara, a respected craftsman known for his work in temple gardens as well as commercial and residential gardens in Japan and around the world.  Kawahara directed the team of professional gardeners selected from Kyoto, Tokyo and Kumamoto in the construction of Kumamoto En.  After the construction, Don was responsible for the care and maintenance of the garden, and worked with gardeners from Japan in the garden.

In 2001, Mr. Kyoshi Yasui of Yasui-moku Company and the architect for Kumamoto En invited Don to come to Kyoto to train under master Japanese gardeners, architects, and bamboo craftsmen.  He studied under Yasui, a respected architect nominated by the Emperor as a National Living Treasure of Japan. Don also studied under the master bamboo craftsmen at Otsuka Bamboo in Kyoto. The benefit of this training is evident in the four different bamboo walls surrounding Kumamoto en.

“All of this leads to a beautiful and authentic experience for our visitors,” Don said.

A suggestion of Mt. Aso-san, one of Kumamoto’s volcanoes, awaits the viewer to the right of the end of this pathway. An otsu-gaki or woven style bamboo fence is visible in the background along the back boundary of the garden.

Yasui asked Don to help sustain and manage the Kumamoto en. He also asked Don to take what he had learned and teach others about the benefits, methods, and enjoyment of Japanese Gardens.  In addition to continued study and demonstrations in Japanese gardening, the Japanese Gardening Organization was created with the mission of spreading the benefits of Japanese gardening for individuals, groups, communities, and society.  JGO provides educational resources to foster the exchange of culture, knowledge, appreciation and application of Japanese gardening, striving for the highest level of accurate information and resources for Japanese gardening.  It continues to grow, with its associated forum accumulating over 11,000 posts from Japanese gardeners worldwide.

Today, Don Pylant works for the City of San Antonio developing and managing the resources for more than 6,000 acres of Natural Area Parks and Edwards Aquifer Protection preserves.  He has continued to assist in the maintenance of Kumamoto En and is consultant for the Japanese Tea Gardens in Sunken Gardens, Brackenridge Park in San Antonio, Texas.  He designs and constructs Japanese gardens by request.

The Japan America Society of San Antonio continues to support the garden with annual co-sponsorship of Kumamoto en Day providing Japanese cultural, art, crafts and gardening demonstrations, along with tours of of the garden.

Don Pylant and K.T. Cannon-Eger listen to Candace Andrews explain the master plan for the botanical garden.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

When we met at the carriage house entry to the botanical garden, Don introduced us to Candace Andrews, Director of Community Relations and Marketing for San Antonio Botanical Society, the non-profit organization chartered in 1980.

“The mission of this organization is to support the San Antonio Botanical Garden in its role of inspiring people to connect with the world of plants, and to understand the importance of plants in our lives,” Andrews said.

She spoke of the importance of volunteers to the garden, both in maintenance and as docents. The society operates the gift shop, proceeds of which support the garden. All rental proceeds and a portion of the restaurant income go toward the garden. She explained the San Antonio Botanical Garden is in the midst of master planning. Five year target is for the Society to take over from the city, privatizing the gardens.

Opened May 3, 1980 after nearly four years of construction, the San Antonio Botanical Garden is operated under the auspices of the City of San Antonio Department of Parks & Recreation. Bob Brackman has been executive director since 2006. Before accepting this position, he served for nearly 13 years as Vice President and Director of the Botanical Garden at the 55-acre Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art in Nashville and prior to that for more than 12 years as the Director of Horticulture for the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.

Bob Brackman, executive director, explains plans for the future of the San Antonio Botanical Garden to K.T. and Don in the azumaya completed in the 2005 renovation of Kumamoto En. K.T. is busy typing on her iPad. A kennin-ji style bamboo fence lines this side of the garden. More information on making this style is available here:
http://www.japanesegardening.org/reference/kenninji_fence.html
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

Brackman joined us at the azumaya in the garden. In his six-plus years with the San Antonio Botanical Garden, Brackman has led the completion of the Master Site Plan for the Garden. This new plan will be the framework for future development at this 38-acre botanical and educational facility. In addition, while working with the City and the Board of the Botanical Society, he has seen the approval of a new management agreement between the City and the Society which will eventually transfer the operational management of the Botanical Garden to the Society.

view across the central pond toward the azumaya in the back corner

In the midst of an extended drought, San Antonio gardens have shut off many water features. One exception to the regulations is ponds in which fish are living. My particular favorite about this pond is the stepping stones that disappear into the water.
(photo by Bill F. Eger)

A little more history of the San Antonio Botanical Garden from its web site http://www.sabot.org

“Mrs. R. R. Witt and Mrs. Joseph Murphy conceived the idea of a Botanical Garden in San Antonio in the 1940s. Together with their friends and associates, they organized the San Antonio Garden Center. Their first major effort was the development and presentation of a master plan for a public botanical garden in the late 1960s. The recommended garden site became the former Brackenridge waterworks land which was being held by the city.

“Funding for ground work began in 1970, when voters approved $265,000 in bonds for the Garden. This money, along with a grant awarded five years later by the Ewing Halsell Foundation, other contributions from organizations and individuals, and a significant grant from the Economic Development Administration helped pay for the project. Ground-breaking ceremonies were held on July 21, 1976. The official opening was May 3, 1980.

“The entire site is now known as the San Antonio Botanical Center. This includes both the 33-acre San Antonio Botanical Garden and the adjacent San Antonio Garden Center. The Garden Center is operated under contract by the non-profit Garden Center, Incorporated, although the facility is still owned and maintained by the City of San Antonio.

“Charted in 1980, the San Antonio Botanical Society is the 501 (c) (3) non-profit support organization specifically established in support of the San Antonio Botanical Garden.”

Unless otherwise credited, photos in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. To see a full size image of any photo, click on it.

detail of bench in azumaya

detail of otsugaki

detail of kennin-ji

San Antonio — Kumamoto Sister City Relationship

There are two plaques commemorating the Sister City relationship between Kumamoto in Japan and San Antonio, Texas: one from the original garden dedication in 1989 and another from the renewal in 2005. Here is the English text from both.

1989

“In the spirit of this relationship, both cities hope for eternal peace and continuing friendship between our two cities and our countries as we work together to create this Japanese garden on San Antonio soil.

“It is out desire that this garden, as a symbol of our cordial relationship, will provide an introduction to one aspect of Japanese culture, and be cherished by the peoples of both cities in years to come.”

San Antonio City Council

Henry G. Cisneros, Mayor

2005

“To honor the spirit of friendship between the Sister Cities of San Antonio USA and Kumamoto Japan, we celebrate the renewal of the Kumamoto En Japanese Garden.

“The Japanese Garden was a gift to the people of our two cities and a desire to share in each other’s culture and spirit of friendship.

“The renewal of this authentic Japanese Garden is completed in cooperation with many citizens as well as the San Antonio City Council and the Kumamoto City Council. This renewal is a symbol of the continuing friendship between our two cities and the commitment that we will work together to strengthen our relationship and foster eternal peace.”

November 19, 2005

Hon. Phil Hardberger               Hon. Seishi Kohyama

Mayor, City of San Antonio     Mayor of City of Kumamoto

Underwriters

Kumamoto Gardeners Association

San Antonio International Affairs Foundation

Toyota Motor North America Inc.

Japan America Society of San Antonio

San Antonio Botanical Society

Categories: San Antonio, Texas | 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

Technical difficulties

one section of bamboo fence at Kumamoto-en

“Technical difficulties” — two words packed with so much meaning, perhaps even more than the proverbial “picture is worth a thousand words.”

We are traveling with three computers and there came a time when none of them would talk to the others let alone allow communication with the wider web.

Now, a few moments before we have to leave Telluride, Colorado to photograph a Japanese garden in Grand Junction then catch a train for the west coast, finally everything seems to be working again.

Apologies for the seeming silence. I feel eight gardens and three states behind in keeping this blog. So while I have a connection, here are a few glimpses of articles to come from San Antonio, Austin, Fort Worth, Dallas and Saint Louis.

Unless otherwise credited, photos in this blog are by K.T. Cannon-Eger. You may view a full size image by double clicking on any photo.

a rustic bridge “to walk over the moon” at the Isamu Taniguchi garden inside the Zilker Botanical Garden in Austin, Texas

school children spy a lizard in the Fort Worth Japanese garden

detail from one section of a new sculpture garden that wraps around a highrise in Dallas adjacent to the Crow Collection of Asian Art

the plum viewing area at Seiwa-en, Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis

Categories: Austin, Dallas, Fort Worth, Missouri, San Antonio, St. Louis, Texas | Tags: , , | 5 Comments

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