Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Filoli House and Gardens

Filoli is a house and gardens you can tour in Woodside, California. It is located about 30 minutes South of San Francisco or 30 minutes North of San Jose. It was built by the Bourn family, who also own (and got their wealth from) the Empire Mine up in Grass Valley, in 1915. Mr. Bourn was also the President of the Spring Valley Water Company and chose this property near the Spring Valley Lake for this grand home. The name Filoli was created from the first two letters from each part of his personal credo:  “Fight for a just cause; Love your fellow man; Live a good life.”  You will learn a lot about the history of this historic site, including that it was the aerial view of the home in the tv series Dynasty and several movies like Heaven Can Wait and The Wedding Planner, but what will stay with you are the views.
 When you arrive you will see a grove of olive trees. Even in summer you will love this beautiful entrance area.
 The visitors center is your first stop, where you will pay your fees of about $20 per person (children 4 and under are free) and where you can also grab a delicious bite to eat. There is a charming cafe there and we always make it part of our tradition to eat lunch before our self-guided tour. There is an indoor seating area if the weather is a bit chilly and a beautiful outdoor patio with lovely statues, flowers and ivy if the weather is nice enough to eat alfresco.
 From the visitors center you can see the charming patio. All of Filoli is like this. They have looked at this property from every angle so that all you see is beautiful everywhere you look.
 The grand entrance always takes my breath away. In the springtime the stoop is covered in tulips and the wisteria is in full bloom over the doorway but, even in summer, the presentation is stunning.
 And, as with the rest of the property, the home has all of the details spot on. The furnishings are vintage elegance starting with the front door chandelier.
 The stairway is ornate and stately. Usually the upstairs is closed off to the public but every so often they will let you see the rooms on a guided tour. 
 But the ballroom is the place that truly holds my heart inside this home. This fireplace is big enough to stand inside if you wanted. While definitely ornate, it's elegance is what will stay with you. The mural above the fireplace is just one of many that adorn the room. They are all scenes from the Bourn's ancestral home of Ireland. 
 The gold decor is real gold and from time to time they need to come in and restore the gleaming surfaces. The chandeliers in the room are reproductions of those in the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles outside of Paris. Just so beautiful.
 From the home you enter the gardens. I have been there in every season and they are always breathtaking. Planted differently every year they are also planted so that there is something in bloom all year round.
 The centerpiece of the entry to the gardens is the clock tower. When we were there in early September they were having a sculpture art exhibit. We were a bit worried about how it would fit into the gardens but, as with everything else, it was perfection.
 There are about 10 sections of the garden to visit and if you take your time it will take you all afternoon. We usually arrive around 11am, have lunch, do a brief tour of the home and then tour the gardens and leave around 3. Looking at this photo you would think this was taken in springtime but it was summer! It's just that gorgeous!
 The reflecting pool is always one of my favorite places to try to capture. Since the beds are always planted in new ways with different flowers it is a new view every time.
This visit the water lilies were in bloom. So delicate but bright and colorful you can't help but be drawn to the water to admire their beauty!
Next to the reflecting pool is a beautiful garden house. Always a very nice place to rest for a few moments, this little house is filled with different flowers each time you visit. 
 Across from the reflecting pool, divided by a hedge and bordered on each side is the full sized pool. The whale tail isn't always there but I loved it! This is one of the many areas that has seating where you can sit and take in the gardens.
 From there you can take one of the many entrances into the main gardens. In spring the cherry, apple and pear trees are in full bloom but in summer it's all about the ground cover!
What is usually pastel in the spring is colorful and vibrant in the fall. I saw more types of flowers that I had never seen before on this trip!
 The gardens are set up on a few terraces to make the area very manageable for most of the visitors. There are areas where there are stairs but then there will also be a pathway were there are no stairs, just ramps, that gently lead you up to the top. With the exception of the green house area, which has pathways covered in small gravel and is hard for wheels to navigate, the rest of the property is very accessible.
But every where you look you are constantly reminded that it's the flowers that hold court here. 
 And the structures are the perfect backdrop for these views. With the brick pathways, ornate gates, sundials and sculptures it is really easy to lose yourself here in their beauty.
 The upper terraces have the green houses. Being September they were growing gourds and pumpkins in these gardens. We all loved that the huge pumpkins had their own parasols to shade them from the hot summer sun!

 This area is filled with all sorts of edible plants like the gourds, chard, lavender and other herbs that are used for the cafe at the entrance. 
 The masses of flowers up in the green house area are worth the trek to the top. In the springtime there is also a daffodil field in the upper terraces making this area even more worth the climb.

 Head back down the right hand side of this section and walk back towards the house. You will be rewarded with these beds and walkways (that lead to the pool) which are always fully planted and completely beautiful.
 Lavender grows in huge bushes along this walk way and the smell is divine!

 And this will all lead you back to the store. There is everything from souvenirs to collectables to paper goods to food in this store. It's very charming and I can never seem to walk away without something or other to take home.
 You can also buy the plants! This gorgeous trumpet flower was there at the beginning of our day, when I took this photo, and gone when we ended out touring! So if you see something you want then buy it and have them hold it for you!
And if you think you are not creative enough to come up with some of the beautiful planting styles they have in the gardens you can just buy it already made up for you! This lovely succulent bench had a price tag on it!
 The wonderful part of this store is that the patio is always set up to be as elegant and beautiful as the rest of the property.
 The difference here, of course, is that if you see something you love you can just buy it! I'm still regretting not picking up this teacup set!
As you leave take a few more moments to rest in the olive orchard. It is on the edge of an open space where deer roam freely with comfortable benches in the shade where you can soak in just a few more moments of this truly wonderful place before you have to go.

Filoli is closed on Mondays and some holidays but open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10am till 3:30pm. Sundays the hours are 11-3:30. As of today, November 18th, it is closed to the public as they prepare for the Christmas Holidays. It will reopen for those celebrations on November 28 and run through December 6th. There is a higher admission for some programs at this time. You can always find out what is going on here

I hope you loved this tour of Filoli. I will be taking a break until after the Thanksgiving holiday to be with my family but will return on Tuesday December 2nd with a tour of the Sonoma/Napa wine country!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hidden Monterey ~ Adventures Downtown

For the last installment of "Hidden Monterey" we'll head to Downtown Monterey. The actual "downtown" of  Monterey isn't very big and it's largely ignored by the tourists who visit here each year. But there is a lot to do downtown and a lot to see as well. We were there in the summer so there was even more going on than normal but on any average weekend there will be some sort of event happening in downtown Monterey.

 On Tuesday afternoons you will find a Farmer's Market that takes up the main street of Monterey. When we were there it was wall to wall people enjoying all of the vendors there.
 This area is filled with agricultural farms. This is THE place for fresh fruits and vegetables. Even if you are staying in a hotel this is still a great place to pick up a snack or make up a picnic full of these amazing foods.
 Not everything is grown right here. We saw these berries which were from a farm located more inland. Vendors drive for hours to display here at this market.
 Anyone who loves Farmer's Markets knows that the flowers are one of the highlights of going to one. These sunflowers just took our breath away. 
 What we didn't expect was the "Fair Food" there too! The Potato Tornado was quite the hit. It was fun to watch them spiral these onto their sticks and then fry them as much as it was  to actually eat this treat!
 There were even birds to visit! One corner was like a mini domestic zoo. One of the local shelters was there and I just fell in love with this pretty girl.
 One of the great surprises is the architecture downtown. Monterey was the capital for both Spain and Mexico when it was "Alta California" and the only port for taxable goods in California. In 1846 the US flag was finally posted on the Customs house after the Mexican-American War. So these buildings have been here a LONG time!
 At one point in our walk through the Market I looked to my right and lost my heart to this building! My friends wanted to see the shoe store located in this entrance but I wanted to check out the ornate design of the building.
 There are several of these buildings along with lots of gorgeous Adobe homes in these few blocks so spend some time while you are downtown to explore all of the streets, not just the main drag.
 You can even go into the businesses...and I highly recommend it...to see how beautiful they are inside too!
 Back on the main street of the Farmer's Market we found this little cinema. There are the "big" guy movie theaters in town as well but this one shows "Indie" and Foreign films. 
 Walk out of the Market towards the water and you will find a very pretty two block stroll to Fisherman's Wharf. Murals are common here and change often. This is also the area where they hold many different events all year round with convenient parking.
 In the middle of your walk you will find this lovely little succulent garden. 
 We saw plants we had never seen before. So if you love flowers or are a gardener then take a few moments to explore before continuing onto the wharf.
 Fisherman's Wharf is a really fun place to explore. It's very popular so if you are able to go on a weekday then you will find it a bit less crowded than on the weekends. You will find a few different things here but mainly it's filled with restaurants, souvenir shops and whale watching tour shacks.
 We have been to several of the restaurants and this one is definitely a favorite. Especially if you are looking for a romantic dinner. The inside of Old Fisherman's Grotto is very elegant.
 And the food is simply amazing. The pricing is what you would expect for a nice restaurant in a touristy area so this would be considered a splurge but it's SO worth it. They do have a full bar and the menu is filled with really wonderful fare.
 Once you are done with dinner there is a good chance you will need to go walk it off. Walk to the end of the wharf for beautiful views of the bay and the boats in the Marina.
 You will also be treated to the local wildlife too! Pelicans, seals, sea lions and sea otters swim by and camp out near the boats. There is even a rooftop deck on the last building on the wharf so you can get an even better view!
 But here is where you get a "hidden" view. As you walk back from the end of the pier you will see the restrooms on your right and a whale watching shack on your left. Turn left onto the pier walk right past the shack. You can walk down to the end and turn left and walk down for another gorgeous view of the marina or turn right and get a secret view. This is where the pelicans hang out.
 And the sea lions too! We found a whole raft of them there huddled up together for the impending evening, goofing off, yelling at each other and basically being sea lions.
 We also found a sea otter playing in the water there very close to the decks. 
We grabbed a coffee on our way out of the area and looked back on the wharf as the sun set. Heavy marine layer sometimes hides the color but the feeling is the same every day. The boats gently rock in their moorings, the otters and seals swim in the waters between the rows and it's a very peaceful way to end your day there. 

I hope you enjoyed your tour of Monterey. Next time we'll head out to another secret treasure called Filoli which is located further up the coast towards San Francisco!