Tag: exploring new cities is a perk of business travel

Oh, Balls

Is there some golf event or something coming to Chicago?

Oh yeah, the Ryder Cup is here next weekend. Chicago seems to celebrating with their latest street art series, remember the cows that started it all? This year it appears to be Golf Balls along Michigan Avenue.

My Kinda town…


Mrs O’Leary’s cow and the Chicago Fire:

Golf, of course:

And others:

New York City State of Mind

Hubby and I spent a recent weekend in New York  City.  Despite all my traveling, I have only been in Manhattan one other time. While only 8 or 9 years ago, that trip seems like a lifetime ago – I was such a different person, out of shape, not likely to venture out and explore on my own. On that trip, I was in the city for a meeting, and went from hotel room, to meeting room, to bus with a large group to take us to restaurants or a show. I hadn’t yet discovered how even in a large city like New York or Chicago, biking or walking to explore a city brings it all down to scale. Makes the city more human, more accessible.

 And so on this trip we did all the touristy things, but for the most part we walked. A lot. My pedometer said I walked nearly 6 miles on Thursday, over 11 miles on Friday, another 9 on Saturday, and 7 on Sunday. The Trump SoHo hotel was our home base, putting us in a pedestrian friendly spot. On Friday morning, we ventured out with the group on Liberty/Ellis Island tour.

Rather than sticking with the group and riding the bus back to the hotel, we cut out of Ellis Island on an earlier ferry, walking through Battery Park to catch a subway uptown. A subway ride complete with entertainment.

From the subway station it was a short walk on a beautiful spring day to our destination of Central Park with a planned stop at the Boathouse. Our path to the boathouse took us past the Central park Zoo. I was surprised and fascinated by the rock outcroppings within Central Park. 
After lunch at the Boathouse, we headed to the Mall area of Central Park, and south towards Columbus Circle. 
Naturally, I was drawn to the flowers, particularly the flowering trees.
From Columbus Circle, we wandered south down Broadway past the Ed Sullivan theater (where close by Mario Lopez was filming for Entertainment Tonight), through Times Square, by Madison Square Garden to Greenwich Village.
Shed a few tears at the Tiles for America Memorial
I wish on this trip we’d had time to rent bikes and explore New York by bike. I’d really like to bike the New York City Waterfront Greenway which makes a 32 mile circle around Manhattan. All through the city, I saw bikes, and evidence of a surprisingly good bike infrastructure.  Loved the bike specific traffic lights, and was especially impressed with the re-design of Broadway with the separated bile lanes.
The Trump SoHo Hotel made a great home base for the weekend. Slick, modern lobby. Outdoor pool deck on the 7th floor. Location was great for shopping, restaurants and exploring. For New York the rooms seemed huge. Bathrooms had a separate two headed shower and water closet. But best of all, the bathtub overlooking the city, and the construction of what will be World Trade #1 was such a great touch.
Of course, all this exploring works up an appetite and makes one thirsty. And since eating and drinking is kinda what we do, I’ll cover the food and drink portions of the trip in part 2.

San Antonio Botanic Garden

I’m a huge fan of garden touring, be it private gardens, urban gardens or official Botanic gardens. I work this into my travels whenever and wherever possible. On my late March trip to San Antonio, I spent the afternoon at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. When I left Milwaukee we still had snow on the ground, so spending a few hours wandering around plants with flowers and trees with leaves was a much needed tonic for my soul.

The Botanical Garden is laid out on 38 acres with the most formal areas closest to the entrance. You enter through a carriage house, which includes an interesting looking restaurant and a nice gift shop. Restrooms are in the carriage house and in locations around the gardens.

Looking at the garden map, I decided on a clockwise circle around the garden, allowing me to explore all areas. Immediately on entering I was wowed by a stand of poppies in full bloom. I am a huge fan of poppies, but have never been successful in establishing them or growing them from seed in the masses I saw here.

Past the poppies were the formal gardens and the rose garden. Early roses were blooming, but I’d guess I was about a month early for peak spring bloom. I was quite taken with one unmarked rose with multi hued flowers (changing from a red bud through multi to yellow mature flower). Reading the label on  ‘Zephrine Drouhin’ (in bud, not flower) I was reminded of how much I loved this nearly thornless, sweet scented beauty in my old garden.

 Just past the formal garden was an area called the Watersaver Lane. An exhibit of 6 small “houses” each landscaped in a theme with notes about water and fertilizer required to maintain these. I loved the concept, but wish the wording on the waste of water and chemical need of a typical American lawn was spelled out even stronger.

Continuing around the path were more wild, natural areas planted in natives designed to mimic the East Texas piney woods and the South Texas hill country. Once past this area was the Childrens Vegetable Garden. This was one impressive teaching garden.

 The Botanical Garden has a series of conservatories which surround a sunken garden area. 

 Next up was the fountain area and the Japanese Garden. I smiled at the rubber duckies in the fountain, but was told by an employee there were only there for spring break. In fact, she was removing them while I was there.

Interesting sculpture was doted all through the gardens, the most memorable being the chair tree.

The Botanical Garden is about 4 miles from the downtown/Alamo area. Timing forced me to take a cab out to the gardens ($18), however, the garden is easily accessible via the number 7 bus which runs hourly to and from the Alamo area. I was able to take advantage of the bus ($1.50) for the ride home. So glad I made it to the garden, and hope to visit again in another season.

This is the second part of my San Antonio trip report. The first part focuses on the Riverwalk area. It can be found here.

Take me to the river………..San Antonio style

Got a break from the winter that wouldn’t end with a late March trip to San Antonio. Trip was business related but I had planned my flight home after the meeting to allow most of a day exploring. I love visiting San Antonio anytime, but the beautiful sunny days and 80 degree temperatures were a bonus. This is part one of a two part trip review, focused on the Riverwalk and Alamo. Part two will cover the Botanic Garden.

I began walking along the streets of downtown heading towards the Alamo.  As usual bike related things caught my eye. From the sign reminding drivers bikes have rights (and the unfortunately empty bikeshare rack) to the biking police.

Upon arriving at the Alamo,  I spent quite a bit of time wandering the grounds, taking in the architecture and the landscape.

Most visitors to the city are familiar with just a small area of the Riverwalk – the semi-circle restaurant and bar lined section called the Paseo del Rio.

While the Paseo del Rio may be what everyone knows, and is a great place to people watch; you’re short changing yourself if you don’t venture beyond. The riverwalk continues both north and south from this area along the main river. Leaving the Paseo del Rio provides a less crowded but still delightful place to explore.

The city has done an incredible job of providing signage all along the Riverwalk – showing both explanations and locations of points of interest, and also mileage between them. On my last trip to the city, I focused my walks south to the King Williams area, this trip I headed north towards the Art Museum, covering about 2 miles of the river.

Exploring this direction answered one question I’ve had about the San Antonio river – how the river flow and level stayed so constant. Was a tad disappointed I didn’t get to see any boats go through the locks.
This northern section was under construction when I visited 18 months ago. As with the signage, the city has done themselves proud in this area. Just beautiful. From the varied pavement textures, to the art under the street overpasses, to the unique sitting areas and landscape plantings.
I could have spent much more time exploring, but I also wanted to head to the San Antonio Botanic Garden. More on that in part two, just click here…..

I like shiny, pretty things….or Chihuly at the Fredrick Meijer Gardens

I regularly travel to Grand Rapids, MI on business. Of the cities in my usual travel rotation, it is one of my favorites. Pedestrian friendly downtown, good restaurants, nice hotel….not to mention productive business meetings (which after all are kinda the point of my being there). My first few trips I explored the downtown area in the evening, even doing this little photo essay. On a cab ride from the airport, I’d noticed a billboard for the Fredrick Meijer Sculpture Gardens. Hmmm, told myself that some trip I’ll need to work in a visit. What finally spurred me to action was  this post from Garden Faerie about a Chihuly exhibit at the Meijer Garden.


I have been a fan of Chihuly for years. Made it to several exhibits – from indoors at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum to outdoors at the Chicago Botanic Garden, and several visits to the installation at the Missouri Botanic Garden. The “someday I need to try and work in a visit”, turned to “I *must* work in a visit”. Was glad to discover they were open late on Tuesday evenings, and could take advantage of the long sunlight hours in June for my first visit.  Took hundreds of pictures, added that trip to my mental list of future blog topics…but never quite got around to putting up a post.

Another post by Monica, the Garden Faerie, mentioned the exhibit being extended through the end of October, which got me thinking about a second visit. Finding an opportunity to see the sculptures and the gardens in another season. Fate would have it on a recent trip I’d have a few late afternoon hours, between meetings and plane flight home for another quick visit. 2 hours and 300 pictures later, so glad I’ve discovered the Meijer Sculpture Gardens, and made a return trip.

Perfectly planned for strolling, on my first trip my pedometer showed I’d walked over 5 miles and over 3 on the second. Don’t worry there are also trams available to tour you around; I’d done some large loops more than once to get in some fitness mileage. The gardens include an exceptional children’s garden (love the Great Lakes shaped interactive water feature!!!), an outdoor amphitheatre, natural and man-made water features, shade/woodland garden area, glass houses/conservatories, a Michigan farm area. Nicely maintained plants – primarily woodies – both deciduous and evergreen. Not what I would call a “botanic garden”, but that’s not what they are going for. This garden is designed as a showcase for the art, a goal I would say it has met or exceeded!

The Meijer Garden is designed around the sculpture.  A few pieces stood out, really spoke to me. Some due to their interesting concept, others because I was familiar with the artists’ other work (Rodin, Calder), and a couple for sheer whimsy.

But it was the Chihuly sculptures I had come to see. His traditional glass, the neon he’s been doing the last few years, and the newer polyvitro forms:

Seeing not only the Chihuly but the entire gardens in two seasons was a treat. Often an entirely different look to the art because of the surrounding, the change in light. And in nearly every case, found the fall colors, fall foliage enhanced the art.

Two seasons of Chihuly:
Two seasons of other sculpture:

Visiting a botanic garden across the seasons is a lesson I learned while living in St. Louis. A very wise horticulturist suggested visiting Mobot (Missouri Botanic Garden….or as I wrote it up “The Garden”) monthly to help the home garden develop a full season, year round landscape. I made a point of doing this then. And suggest if you live near a public garden to do the same….break out of the habit of only visiting in the mid-summer flower power glory. See what you can see in the other seasons. It may surprise you!

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