How to Enjoy the Ballarat Botanical Gardens

If you go to Victoria, you HAVE to take the hour and a half train from Melbourne and visit the City of Ballarat Botanical Gardens across the street from Lake Wendouree.

Rated 2 Out of 73 Places to Visit in Ballarat

Australia trip #17 Jo’s Monday Walks, Cee’s Which Way Challenge

If you go to Victoria, you HAVE to take the hour and a half train from Melbourne and visit Ballarat.  Ballarat Botanical Gardens

The hurried bustle of Melbourne changed in minutes once we left the station.

Ballarat Botanical GardensSoon the brown landscape reminded me of the Central Valley of California, where I live. Not much changed during the hour trip, and it sped by so quickly you would not have enjoyed the picture.

Ballarat or Bust

Yes, the 1850 Australian Gold Rush happened in Ballarat. We approached the golden gates at lunch time so our hostesses, Carol’s sister-in-law and niece, took us to lunch at Pipers by the Lake.

Ballarat Botanical GardensManny, my traveling bear, always says, “I’m never hungry, but I can always eat.”

Notice he liked pasta. I chose pumpkin soup. Australian pumpkin anything is fabulous, and Pipers did not disappoint. In retrospect, I probably should not have opted for the hot soup. The afternoon temperatures soared into the late nineties.

After lunch, I was ready for a nap, but these energetic, climate-time-adjusted women got Manny and me up and on our feet. Weather of almost any kind melts me, but the beauty surrounding the restaurant spurred me on.

Ballarat Botanical GardensAfter some quick photo ops on the Lily Bridge decorating Lake Wendouree, donned in my Stabilisation Shoes (spelled the Australia way, pronounced stable-I-ZA-shun), I was primed for a long walk.

I longed for air conditioning. Instead, we walked down the block a bit and along Lake Wendouree. There really are black swans, so, in spite of the heat, I began to catch their enthusiasm.

Ballarat Botanical GardensSoon we crossed the western side of the street to the City of Ballarat Botanical Gardens. Rated #2 of 73 things to do by Trip Advisor, my guides Mandy, Katie, and Carol could not have made a better choice of introduction to Ballarat for me.

It’s only a few minutes’ drive from the Central Business District of Ballarat, abbreviated as CBD, to find Pipers and the Gardens. BTW, when you visit Australia, realize that you also have to know all the acronyms and nicknames for common words.

The Gardens are divided into three zones. We spent most of our time in the central Botanical Gardens, which you will see when you scroll down. One Australian website referred to the central area as a Victorian pleasure garden.

Ballarat Botanical GardensOn either side of the park entrance, there are open parkland buffers known as the North and South Gardens. On this summer day, families and lovers lounged on the cool grass under the shade trees.

The pair of marble lions situated just inside the gates began guarding the entrance to the garden in 1893.

The Gardens celebrated its sesquicentenary (150 years old) in 2007.

The South Gardens

Practically every Australian park I toured honored their soldiers in some way. The Ballarat Gardens feature Australia’s Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial, designed by local artist Peter Blizzard. Opened in 2004, the 130-meter long granite wall has the names of 35,000 Australian Prisoners of War etched into it, 8,600 of whom died and are buried on foreign soil.

Ballarat Botanical GardensTeacher, Carol determined that I would LEARN everything about Australia during this trip. She took it easy on me right after lunch as we strolled along the moving POW memorial. I guess she hadn’t learned about all 35,000 names either.

However, when we marched down Prime Minister Lane, it was a different story. Carol told me about the first, the best, and the worst Prime Ministers.

Here are some Wiki-facts to test your memory for the quiz at the end of this post.  Prime Ministers Avenue is set within Horse Chestnut Avenue. Alfred Deakin founded the Federation of Australia Deakin and served as the first Federal Member for Ballarat and the second Prime Minister.

I tried as hard as I could to memorize all the names, faces and fun facts as she enthusiastically told me about each one. TC History Gal should be good at this, right?

Ballarat Botanical GardensThe flat pathway through the shade of beautiful trees on a quiet afternoon caused me to zone out.  I enjoyed the experience of being in a new place with hospitable people. Conversations buzzed around me like busy mosquitoes. Speaking of mosquitoes, the tiny insects may have had their way with this Prime Minister.

Ouch!

Ballarat Botanical GardensMaybe it was because their names were etched in gold, too light to read. It certainly was not the hot pumpkin soup. Needless to say, Carol may have struck out on this teaching venture. The good news is that if you want to know the Australian Prime Ministers, they are listed here.

The Center Zone

Opened in 1995, Bob Clark donated two million dollars to build the Conservatory to honor his Grandfather Robert Clark – co-founder of The Courier newspaper.

To the north of the roundabout stood the heritage statuary pavilion. This historic-looking building housed the Stoddart Statue collection. The group of statues consists of 12 white marble figures from Italy donated by Thomas Stoddart in 1884.
Vandals exist even in Australia, and they damaged the statues. So after nearly 120 years of roaming free in the 99-acre park, the figures crowded into to this pavilion home in 2002.
Ballarat Botanical GardensRebekah flirted with us while trying to keep fresh in her hot summer garb. I sympathized. It felt warm enough to me to wear different clothes. Maybe not that open, though!
Ballarat Botanical Gardens Modesty stood serenely behind her glazed window. She allowed us to glimpse her beauty beneath her sheer drapes. Judging by her straight, slim toes, she was pretty foxy in her day. But she did not look like she had much of a sense of humor.

The Conservatory

North Gardens

I read that the remains of a zoo dot the North Gardens. Either we did not visit that, or I fell asleep under a tree, and a lion ate me.

Link to This Post!

If you have been to Ballarat and have written a post about it, feel free to link an article in the comment section. I don’t know about other readers, but I’ll check it out!

Ballarat Botanical Gardens
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Quiz

Who was Australia’s second Prime Minister?

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How to Visit Yosemite National Park Like an Artist

The Sequoia Tourism Council encourages tourists visit the Scenic Mountain Loop, Yosemite and Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, for a long three-day weekend. Each park has its own interest. Those who love huge granite cliffs, and many water features might start with Yosemite. Tree lovers should start in Tulare County at Sequoia Park, the home of the biggest trees in the world.

How to Avoid the Crowds at Yosemite

The short answer is that during a great year like 2017, you probably can’t avoid crowds completely. To beat hoards of people, this last week of May is about the perfect time you will find to visit Yosemite until school is out.

HURRY!

Sign up for my Traveling and Blogging Mailing List by June 1 to enter sweepstakes to win a free travel book.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
Linda is an artist and Bob is a farmer.

Meet Linda Hengst and her husband Bob. Linda paints with oil, water-color, acrylics, using brushes, knives, on canvas and buildings. You name it. She just finished a new mural in Exeter, CA, famous for its beautiful murals.

Bob told me at one of her art shows, “If you love to paint, you have to paint. You can’t help yourself.” Bob is her life-long admirer and supporter.

Linda gets her ideas from nature, primarily from photographs.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
Bridal Veil Falls Scenic Lookout

When Linda invited me to go along with her on a photo shoot to find pictures to paint in Yosemite, I jumped at the chance. Getting to photograph a beautiful place is incentive enough, but to get inside the thinking of an artist – better still!

Native Californians, Linda and Bob, wanted to visit Yosemite on a weekday before school let out to take photographs. Does this make her an introverted artist like many are? Nah! She knew how few parking spaces there were in Yosemite! Poor Bob!

Having near record rainfalls this spring promises great pictures of the many falls in Yosemite. Crowds will follow. Below you can see the record rains of 1997.

The day we went it was about 75 degrees and sunny. Bob couldn’t find a parking spot in the scenic parking areas on either side of the road as we emerged from the long tunnel into our first view of Bridal Veil Falls.

The car was barely stopped when Linda popped out, confident that Bob would find a spot to park or pick her up. She began taking pictures immediately. At first, I waited in the back seat as Bob patiently pulled as far off the road as he could. As we sat waiting for a parking place, I shot pictures from the car. I loved the frame it created. It almost seemed that I was watching the scene on TV.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
Great photographers are advised to get out of the car to take their shots. They might miss this!

Settling into the Yosemite Valley Floor

Five minutes into our arrival Linda wanted to hike up to photograph Bridal Veil Falls with frigid water pounding over the granite cliffs misting her jacket, face and perfect hair. Bob did not want to do that. Linda brought extra clothes, a heavy raincoat, and pairs of shoes. She packed like a grandma, but had the enthusiasm of a second-grader.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
It looked like fun. I hope this guy packed like Linda.

Umm, getting to the trail meant wading. I don’t want all of you think I am a naysayer, but there is not a good way look like the heroine of this story. Without a willing partner, Linda opted regretfully out of hiking up for a Bridal Veil shower.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
“Stand here, Marsha,” Linda insisted “This is the best shot.”

Instead we took lots of shots of the falls from along the road. I tended to get caught up in details like a tree buds.

Yosemite National Park May 2017 Linda looked for the bigger picture. When I followed her advice, I got some exquisite shots.

Yosemite National Park May 2017
Wasn’t that worth it?

Trees made the perfect frame for the engorged falls. I would have been happier with a bluer sky, but as a painter, Linda could change that.

In Search of Dogwood Trees

Linda got very excited to see the dogwoods blooming. She wanted Bob to pull the car over every time she saw one. Bob pulled safely off the road often so she could take a picture.We probably saw 500 dogwood trees, not counting reflections.

Yosemite National Park May 2017She wanted me to stand up while the car was moving and take pictures of dogwood trees out of the sun roof. She stuck her miniature digital camera through the hole in the roof and clicked. Some of her pictures came out. I stayed securely imprisoned in my backseat seatbelt during the trip, Highway Patrol Person and Carol Sherritt.

Dogwood Trees Frame the Majestic Yosemite Hotel

Yosemite National Park May 2017

After about two hours of photo snapping, Bob calmly announced he could eat something. We headed towards the Ahwahnee Hotel, temporarily renamed the Majestic Yosemite. Bob checked out the dining room while we checked the ladies’ rest rooms for signs on the insides of the doors. Unlike in Australia, the doors had no signs. Very boring.

The hour and forty minute wait to order lunch did not appeal to any of us. So we ate outside to enjoy this view of the 1927 historic hotel. I took about an hour and forty minutes to get our tomato-basil soup and grilled cheese sandwich, but the wait could not have been more pleasant. We rated the food and service at about a B-.

Ahwahnee Hotel History

Yosemite National Park May 2017Beginning in 1925, the designer of the Bryce and Zion Canyon lodges, Gilbert Stanley Underwood, designed the massive 150,000 square foot hotel. Created entirely from materials not found in the protected park, trucks hauled in 1,000 tons of steel, 5,000 tons of stone, and 30,000 board feet of timber. Although James L. McLaughlin quoted the park a cost of $525,000 to build the first-class hotel, the last price tag came in at $1,250,000 in 1927 dollars or $17,050,282 today.

The hotel served as a Navy rest and relaxation hospital for naval personnel during World War II. Three hundred fifty men slept in the Great Lounge. Nearly 7,000 patients with over 90,000 service men and women coming to rest and relax.

After lunch, we followed the river on a short path to admire all the dogwood trees in bloom.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

Hiking Along the Merced River

While Bob may have napped in the car after lunch, Linda wanted to do one more hike to a bridge she remembered that had a perfect view of Yosemite Falls. We started off in that direction, her walking sticks clicking on the rocks against the clamor of the Merced River racing along in the opposite direction. We both stopped often to listen and take pictures. No one dared to photo bomb us and chance falling into the icy creek that rushed away on its watery journey.

Some hikers coming the opposite direction informed us that the bridge from which Linda wanted to take pictures of Yosemite Falls was not as close as she had hoped. They suggested we go forward another few minutes and look backward.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

I took a picture every few feet to make sure I did not miss the perfect shot.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

After we were sure we had the best pictures we could capture, we headed back to Bob. Linda made him walk the next trail, which was a short one with views of three falls, if you aimed correctly. Can you find them all?

Yosemite National Park May 2017

Linda, the most creative of the three of us, found a playmate.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

I thought Pock Mark was cute too, and I found him an extra eye that Linda did not like. Pock looked like he was eating a snake or maybe a giant rat.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

I wasn’t going to try to get it away from him!

The meadows retained some of the January rains. I wanted a reflection of the mountains. If you look carefully you can see the reflection of the falls on the lower left right by my name.

Yosemite National Park May 2017Some of the views defied my ability to come up with enough words to describe them. Grandeur and awe-inspiring sound trite, but what words would you use? Some people do not like to get people in their photographs, but my dad, a professional photographer in his retirement years, gave advice I try to always follow at least in one photo.

“When you take landscapes, you need something to show perspective. Always take a picture of someone wearing red.” Dad told me.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

Wherever the falls plummeted from the mountains we heard the intense power of the water crashing down the rocks even from a great distance.

Yosemite National Park May 2017

In places it looked like the water forced its way out of the tiny holes in the rocks.

Summary

Yosemite National Park May 2017

By the end of the day Linda was still revved. She did not want to leave.

“Oh look at the cute cap on Half Dome.”

I turned from heading toward the car where Bob waited to find her taking this shot. I hurried to take it, too, before the cap decided to move on.

At some point, Linda will create amazing paintings. As she clicked and chatted, I appreciated her enthusiastic search for the perfect photo spots, playfulness, inquisitiveness, and her eye for great photos.

If you don’t go to Yosemite with a Linda in your group, don’t despair. Great art awaits you at every turn. Just point and shoot.

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A Drive to Sequoia National Park Views on the way to the park

Art Studios Come in All Shapes and Sizes See where Linda does her work.

Local Artist Renews Some of Linda’s artwork

What Can You Do On a Saturday Night in Woodlake? Views of the Woodlake Botanical Gardens, famous world-wide. The spring event, the Berry Festival, is scheduled May 27, 2017.

A Must See Oddball Shop Sightseeing along the way to Sequoia National Park

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We needed these to get to the trail! This would be handy, girls! It’s a best seller!

Water Filtration system – another best seller for hikers This backpack includes a rain cover!
Better Nature Photography Equipment This is cool. The secret is the top that unscrews to reveal a threaded head-a perfect home to steady your camera while you get that award-winning nature shot. I’d probably stay in the car, but a great photographer would not. This is for the greats! Be ready for wet weather.

How Cruz-TA-Welding Kept Us Law Abiding in 2017

Thanks, Cruz-TA-Welding!

Early on April 29th, Vince opened the gate to mow the back yard. A routine event for a Saturday morning, but the hinge on the 100-pound rebar iron gate broke. The gate crashed to the ground. BAM!

Luckily neither the cats nor Puppy Girl was going through the posts of the gate at that time. Vince stepped back in time, too.

Well, not literally in time. It was still 2017.

Now We’re Breaking the Law!

The weather in California has been up and down this spring. One day it’s 100 degrees and two days later it’s 65 degrees. Nonetheless, kids had already texted us to come swimming. Our gate is locked because that’s the law, and besides, we don’t want kids swimming unsupervised.

The back yard 1Vince panicked. Who would come to fix it? He remembered a sign for a business down the street. Cruz-Ta-Welding, so he drove down to the shop. Juan Cruz greeted him, and Vince shared his sad story.

Juan said, “Sit down. I’ll finish my breakfast, and follow you back to your house.”

Cruz-TA-Welding
Within 15 minutes they arrived.

Minutes later he and another welder drove up, and within 1/2 hour they finished. Amazing service, wouldn’t you say?

Cruz-TA-Welding
Juan Cruz, owner

Juan Cruz loves the United States. He came to California from Mexico thirty years ago. He’s been in business in Woodlake for sixteen years and has six employees.

Cruz-TA-Welding
ZAP!

“I love it here,” he told us. “I love the system. If you work hard, you will grow. I don’t believe people can’t find a job. I’ve worked hard. Picking pears is the hardest. They are so heavy. Picking grapes is hard too.”

Cruz-TA-WeldingWhat’s the hardest job he’s ever had as a welder?

“We moved an entire factory from Visalia to Iowa. We had to dismantle all the equipment and put it back together in Iowa.”

Cruz-TA-Welding did a great job for us, and he serves the community as well. We opened the Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum a year ago. Cruz-TA-Welding donated all the labor to fence the building.

Cruz-TA-Welding
Woodlake Valley Cultural Museum, opened February 2016

Thanks for all you do for Woodlake, California, Cruz-TA-Welding.

If you live in this area and need a welder, we recommend him, and so does the Woodlake Chamber of Commerce.

Woodlake Related Posts

What’s So Great About Woodlake, CA?

Woodlake, located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, only 40 minutes from the Sequoia National Park, takes pride in its little town. Founded in 1912, today it is the smallest incorporated town in Tulare County. Residents primarily work in agriculture where the average annual income is $32,559, half of California’s median. Even so, a few years ago Woodlake High School Foundation was recognized as giving out more in scholarships than any community its size in the United States.

More data on Woodlake.

You Can Help Woodlake Thrive

  1. Support the Woodlake High School Foundation with the purchase of Images of America Woodlake. You can buy it directly from the high school and 50% of the purchase price go to the Foundation (100% of the profits).
    Click to order. 
  2. You can support the business community and join the Woodlake Valley Chamber of Commerce.
  3. Support this website, Traveling and Blogging Near and Far and Always Write. I have started a Blogging and Virtual Assistant Training Program at the High School. At the end of the 20 hours, I either need to hire the students or let them go. So far my blogs have not produced any income. But with the help of my student assistants, I’m hoping we will. I’m going to use 100% of the income to invest in their future.
  4. Enter the Traveling and Blogging Near and Far sweepstakes to get a free book.

A Bevy of Bambino Book Reviews

Great Bambino Books

What I learned from a writer’s class is that children’s picture books are harder to write than it seems like they should be!

The Kissing Hand

bambino books
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn


The classic, A Kissing Hand, was the most touching of the books I found when I researched prize-winning picture books for a class assignment. It is a classic, published in 1993 about Chester Raccoon who did not want to start school. His mother gave him the most unusual going away memento that any loving mother could give.

Continue reading “A Bevy of Bambino Book Reviews”

Where Can You Find Amaryllis Blooming in May?

Amaryllis-Blooming Beauties at Running P Ranch

Woodlake, CA is the land within the magic circle, a protected valley surrounded by the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. Running P Ranch in Elderwood hosts weddings in a setting of flowering amaryllis.

According to experts, amaryllis is the easiest of flowering bulbs to make bloom.  Indoors or out, and they flower from late December until the end of June. In early May amaryllis plants flaunt their beauty.

Amaryllis BloomingMy friend Katherine Traugar respects people who know the name of plants, so this tidbit is for you, my friend. The amaryllis bears the botanical name Hippeastrum.  These flowers make showy Christmas gifts, but outside in a natural setting, they stand out among other spring beauties.

Amaryllis BloomingNestled against the western fence in this wedding setting, they rival the bride’s glowing beauty. The flamboyant blooms make amaryllis popular and in demand worldwide.  Besides various shades of red and salmon as seen in Elderwood, they also come in white, pink, and orange as well as striped and multicolored varieties.

Amaryllis Blooming

Prepare to Plant

If you want to plant these South American flowers, first place the base and roots of the bulb in lukewarm water for a few hours.  To store them keep the bulbs at a temperature between 40-50 degrees F if you can’t plant them right away. But keep them away from apples.

Plant

Plant the bulb up to its neck in a nutritious potting compost, taking care not to damage the roots.  Firmly tamp down the soil after planting.

Blooming Period

Amaryllis plants flower seven to ten weeks after planting. Plant bulbs every two weeks to achieve continuous bloom.

For more beautiful flowers visit May Dreams Gardens

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