Happy Holidays from the Coo-Donaldsons

IMG_9374-sm

Live from Toronto, a Christmas Eve selfie.

Advertisements

SF: Flowers in her hair…flowers everywhere

Despite the drought (a fact of which you are constantly reminded here) San Francisco boasts some of the most beautiful flowers and landscaping, growing effortlessly on every corner. Of course, some people have been more deliberate about pairing, pruning and replanting. But, the city must have a handsome budget for all the public spaces as well. Here’s a sampling.

SF_07_052-sm SF_07_030-sm SF_07_000-smThe lovely garden at our B&B (Misson district). We sat here in the early evenings reading.

SF_07_001-smAround the back of the B&B there was access to the steam room.

SF_07_040-sm SF_07_047-smGraeme is experiencing a bit of bougainvillea envy.

SF_07_070-smIn the “Marina” district. I would take any one of these homes, yes please.

SF_07_091-smWould I need a full-time gardener to achieve this?

SF_07_090-sm SF_07_130-smHays Valley (my favorite area)

SF_07_161-sm SF_07_166-sm(above 2) Lombard St.

SF_07_176-smI could definitely not handle parking on this slope. I could barely walk it!

SF_07_184-sm SF_07_234-sm SF_07_201-smAnd finally…the land of dahlias.

San Francisco: Street Art, July 2014

SF_07_123-sm[above] This was one of my favorite works of street art, directly across from a Blue Bottle Coffee outpost on a tiny Hays Valley alley that reminded us a lot of Tokyo.

SF_07_231-smSF_07_024-smSF_07_193-smSF_07_101-smFrom the bus

SF_07_102-smFrom the bus: colorful wall enlivens a low-income neighborhood

fence-art Mission-FamCntr

SF_07_096-smMaybe not technically street art, but architecture-art…
SF_07_132-smkiss_streetartsource: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/listen-to-this-wall
source: http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/listen-to-this-wall%5B/caption%5D

Spring in Austin & beyond (to Blanco, TX)

Spring is love-ly (hearts, love, get it??) in Texas. Commencing sometime around March, our foliage is fully developed by June. In effort to show off our Texas landscape to our Toronto family, we journeyed out to Blanco, TX after we had exhausted the Lady Bird Lake trail.

SLR_6__074-hearts

SLR_6__075-kinfolk-sm SLR_6__067-sm SLR_6_006-sm SLR_6_010-smwho can resist some lavender lemonade?

SLR_6_011-sm SLR_6_037-bee SLR_6_043-sm SLR_6_049-smNot quite Provence, but pretty close, eh?

Japan: a most serene urban garden

Let me show you one of my favorite places I’ve ever been. Without doubt, the most beautiful urban garden you could lose an afternoon within.

Nezu Museum TokyoNezu Museum Tokyo
Nezu Museum TokyoNezu Museum Tokyo
NezuCafe, where we enjoyed a delicious, leisurely lunch (2 photos directly above) 

Nezu Museum TokyoNezu Museum Tokyo Nezu Museum TokyoNezu Museum Tokyo

Nezu Museum, Tokyo Nezu Museum, Tokyo Nezu Museum, TokyoGinkgo leaf, considered a living fossil. Shall I purchase these earrings in memory?

Nezu Museum, Tokyo Nezu Museum, Tokyo Nezu Museum, TokyoAutumn persimmons offer lovely colors and subtle flavours

Nezu Museum, Tokyo Nezu Museum, Tokyo

Rikyu, tea masterPresiding over the garden is Rikyū, the tea master.

Nezu Museum, TokyoAh, what a magical place.
The museum on the grounds is a serene building completed by architect Kengo Kuma.

Founded in 1941 following Nezu’s death, the museum boasts one of Japan’s most culturally significant private collections of Asian art from the pre-modern period. Nezu was a particularly avid collector of hanging scrolls and utensils for tea ceremonies, and today the museum has over 7,000 objects, including calligraphy, paintings, sculpture, ceramics, metalwork, bamboo crafts and textiles. The collection was originally displayed in Nezu’s Aoyama residence, which stood in extensive traditional gardens studded with ponds, bridges and teahouses. In 2006 his grandson Koichi Nezu commissioned Kuma to remodel and rationalise the existing facilities and design a new building on the garden site. The revitalised complex reopened in October 2009.

Source

 

Japan: The Most Relaxing 24 Hours in Hakone

After a busy four days of shopping and running around Tokyo, Amanda had planned a relaxing 24 hours in this small resort area outside of Tokyo called Hakone. Hakone is known for their natural hot springs and the area has tons of hotels built on top of these springs with world renowned spas. Sounds good! The setting was beautiful, the service was impeccable and we have since been remarking that it was one of the best 24 hours of our lives.

Hakone train station

The station with the beautiful foliage

Kai Hakone

Lobby, with espresso machine. I came here to ponder life’s mysteries when Amanda took a lot longer in the spa.

Kai Hakone

The old mixed with the modern


Kai Hakone
Kai Hakone

Upon arrival, the concierge led us to the lobby seating in order to present us with our hot towels (for hand washing) and our welcome drink. After an appropriate amount of solitude, the concierge returned to complete our check-in, confirm our dinner and breakfast reservation times and process Amanda’s “no raw fish” request (she kept saying sesame instead of sashimi…they finally resolved the translation error).

During our stay we had to be in uniform (yukata) at all times. When we arrived they gave these robes and slippers to wear. The robes were nice, but I found the slippers to be uncomfortable, mainly because there was no real way to discern what was the left food from the right. I still don’t know if there was an answer, or if the slipper was designed to be available for either foot and comfortable to neither. Also, when you arrive at a hotel in Japan they send a little friend with you around your room for like 10 minutes showing you everything you could need. “Here is the kettle, here is the wall outlet, here is the bed, here is the toilet, here are your towels, this is the phone, this is the button you press to ask us questions should you have any after this 15 min walkthrough of your room” etc. It was kinda charming at first, but not so much after you’ve checked in to 3-4 places in the past 8 days.

JAP_11_0321-shoes

The more you look at them, the less sure you are as to which one is for which foot. A zen exercise perhaps?

JAP_11_0344-sm

The shogun assesses his kingdom.

JAP_11_0350-sm
JAP_11_0385-sm JAP_11_0322-sm JAP_11_0310-room JAP_11_0324-stool
JAP_11_0329-sm

[vimeo 82459767]

JAP_11_0353-elevator JAP_11_0392-sm
JAP_11_0380-sm

In the basement of the hotel was the reason we came here: the spa. Natural hot water, a sauna and a cold water dipping pool. The Japanese love their baths, and I am now a total convert. When Amanda and I build a house we are totally going to make a big bath in the basement. And as with everything there is a set ritual for the bath–or at least there was for the guys side. I’m sure it was similar on Amanda’s side of the spa. You come in, disrobe and go to this little shower room and sit naked on a little stool and clean yourself off with a shower-head and bucket. Once you’re clean of all of life’s dirt you are ready for the soak in the bath. And it was glorious. Half-inside, half-outside with the crisp fall air around you while you are submerged in 100 degree water, floating around with small woodland creatures looking in at you. Awesome.

JAP_11_0395-Am

My little sakura blossom


JAP_11_0355-sm
JAP_11_0358-hotspring-sm

The next day we had to leave, which was sad. This hotel had a long windy driveway, and when our hostess put us in the cab we watched with sadness as the hotel slowly wound out of our sight. But during that 45 second climb up the hill, our hostess did not cease her bowing to our cab and we rolled away. Japanese hospitality rocks!