Sunday, April 17, 2011

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.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

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.....

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Day with Kiddo.....1st ride of the Spring

This has felt like the winter that wouldn't end. Combine that with some unusually busy weekends, and a focus on training for a half marathon, and I just haven't been out riding. Kiddo and I were home alone this weekend, while Hubby was down at the Masters. As we planned our weekend, Kiddo suggested we go mountain biking. When I explained the trails were closed because they were too wet, we discussed riding Milwaukee's lakefront trail. We'd done this last year, this same weekend, and I'd written it up here. I knew the South Shore Half Marathon was Sunday, and was worried the lakefront trail would be too crowded due to the race. I've been wanting to try the Lake Country Recreational trail, so this is where we decided to ride.

The 13 mile Lake Country trail runs along the southern end of Pewaukee Lake and Lake Nagawicka from just west of Hwy T in Pewaukee (the trailhead is close to Country Springs Hotel on Golf Road) through Delafield and on to Oconomowoc. This is a good map of the trail.

After airing up the tires, and giving both our bikes the once over, my first challenge was loading the bikes. I've never put the hitch rack on my car, and didn't feel comfortable attempting without a demo - the vision of rack and 2 bikes falling off on the highway was a bit too scary. Throwing my road bike in the back of the car is easy. But my hybrid is bigger, heavier, more unwieldy, and a second bike adds to the difficulty. I can never remember front wheel first or back wheel, but somehow I got them both in, using an old yoga mat to protect the paint and drivetrain of my bike.

The trail runs along a right of way under Wisconsin Electric lines. The first 3 or so miles are paved, a bit further down the trail changed to crushed gravel.

Views ranged from golf courses to marsh to lake views. Though suspect once the trees leaf out, lake views will be limited.

 Kiddo and I enjoyed our time out on the trail. Being the 1st ride of the season we realized we could use a bit of work on our endurance. Nonetheless this ride whetted our appetite for more. We're both excited to hit other trails, make a family ride a weekly event.