Friday, November 25, 2016

Butterflies delight at Victoria's enchanting Butterfly Garden

This pretty inhabitant is a  contented resident at Victoria's Butterfly Gardens in Brentwood Bay, B.C.  
Favorite fruits of the butterflies and moths are placed where they'll enjoy.

THE IRISH believe that butterflies are the souls of the dead waiting to pass through purgatory.
These delicate little jewels have a revered place in myths, legends and folklore stories from many cultures.
The symbolic meaning of the butterfly is part of the draw of Victoria Butterfly Gardens, which attracts thousands of visitors each year to study and appreciate these magnificent inhabitants of the planet.
We strolled around the beautifully laid out exhibit north of Victoria, B.C., not far from the famed Butchart Gardens.

Victoria's enchanting Butterfly Gardens offers an opportunity
to stroll among dozens of beautiful rain forest inhabitants.
FOR US, it was a rare opportunity to experience a tropical jungle in the northern hemisphere. The gardens are home to nearly 70 species of butterfly and moth, as well as crazily bold colored dart frogs, well fed tortoises, a handsome iguana, talkative parrots and macaws, gorgeous flamingos, preening ducks and enormous koi.
We spent a lovely day here, then just five minutes away, at Butchart Gardens, another must-see in B.C.
Click to explore the beauty of Butchart Gardens
A restful pond at Butterfly Gardens is home to enormous koi and  jungle plants.
Calming sounds from the waterfalls enchanrted as we wandered past pretty ponds and serene pools. Our stroll was accented by the cheery chirps of tropical birds.
In preparation for our visit, we'd studied the butterfly folklore of native tribes, finding that butterflies to many represent change and balance. The butterfly has also become a symbol of ephemeral beauty, even vanity and frivolous behavior. But most cultures consider butterflies to be symbols of good luck.  Some, including my grandmother's Irish clan, have strict taboos against killing these graceful and important creatures.
WE STROLLED into the pleasantly  humid, climate controlled environment and the warmth and moisture reminded of my visits to the rain forests of Brazil and Peru.
Cookie is happy to be immersed in the glories of Victoria's Butterfly Gardens.

A content sulcata tortoise hails from Northern Africa and is
a full-time resident, with a dozen others, at Victoria Butterfly Gardens.
As an unexpected and delightful bonus, the gardens also offers dozens of beautiful plants of the jungle and rainforest, from the purplish-blue sky clock vine of southeast Asia to the vibrant bleeding heart vine of West Africa, the open-mouthed tropical pitcher plant of Asia, which looks like an extra from "Little Shop of Horrors," and the lantanas, angel trumpet and bromeliads of Central and South America and the Philippines, plants which have also made their way to southern California for us to enjoy in our San Diego environment.

On this same trip, we had seen Orcas mating -- rare, indeed -- and at the Victoria Butterfly Gardens we saw tortoises from Northern Africa mating.  We also met and visited with Rosie, a stunning red eclectus parrot from Papua, New Guinea.  Flamingos Houdini and Mango posed for us, and several poisonous dart frogs in the colors of the rainbow hopped about in their cleverly designed cases.
THERE APPEAR to be no unhappy campers at the tranquil Victoria place, including the rest of the audience who joined us in an enriching and leisurely celebration of the glorious wonders of nature.

The Majestic Hotel, formerly the Ahwahnee, is a glorious old fashioned national park hotel.
Its name was changed in Yosemite National Park during a trademark dispute.

COMING UP: The Majestic Hotel, for decades known as the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park, is a venerable and much loved landmark of this national park. We take you there, to enjoy a leisurely stay below the granite cliffs and waterfalls of Yosemite.  Remember to explore, learn and live and check us out weekends for a fresh spin on nature- and arts-driven travel, always beautifully illustrated. Please tell your savvy friends about us.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Bridge over calming waters at Vancouver's Capilano Bridge Park

Cookie and Keller enjoy the view from high atop the trees on "Cliffwalk," one of several adventures at
Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in Vancouver, B.C. The bridge has attracted crowds for a century plus.

Tourists from around the world visit Vancouver's Capilano Suspension
Bridge Park to commune with nature via bridges, trails, tree houses.

The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park offers a full day
of adventures, climbs, walks, totems, history and birds.
WHEN A CLEVER Scottish engineer conceived of the idea of a bridge across the Capilano River in West Vancouver, B.C., people laughed. He'd admired the river, had fished for trout and salmon in it, watched raptors swoop down to take their dinner from it.  He wanted to share its wonders with his friends, so devised a bridge of hemp ropes and cedar planks.  People loved it!
The bridge was originally built in 1889 by Mackay, an enterprising developer and park commissioner in Vancouver. His hemp and cedar creation was replaced with a sturdier wire cable bridge in 1903. In 1910 Edward Mahon purchased the Capilano Suspension Bridge, which has been reinforced and updated through the decades and is now visited by nearly 900,000 adventure seekers a year.
A great horned owl is one of the stars of "Raptor's Ridge." 
WE WERE among hundreds to spend a lovely autumn day on the 450-foot long bridge, finding it indeed "reassuringly wobbly" as  the brochure promises.  We also got up close and Climb with us in Sydney, Auckland
personal with legendary birds of prey, listening to a fascinating naturalist-trainer describe his devotion to the great horned owl and Harris hawk in a delightful sanctuary for rescued birds, "Raptor's Ridge."  We even took the scary "Cliffwalk," a suspended walkway along sheer granite cliff faces several hundred feet above the river.
The gorgeous site was first admired by developer Mackay in 1888, when he purchased 24 square kilometres of old growth forest on both sides of the Capilano River just north of the city. Enchanted by the views, he was also an early-day environmentalist. He was 65 when he built a simple cabin at the southern edge of the canyon, hoping to stem the trend of logging which he saw all around him.
Determined to protect his beloved recreational property on the river's north shore, he took up residency and became a constant presence.
THE BRIDGE idea was his way of consolidating the two halves of his property. Vintage photos show the ladies hitching up their skirts to make the rickety walk. I was in jeans, but still found the experience daunting. The bridge sways and moves and kids jumped on it to frighten one another -- and me! "Heart-stopping," the guide predicted.  Not quite, but for this newly converted climber, now with six bridges under my climber's belt, I  admit it made my palms and forehead sweat.
Keller peeks out from behind a First Nations totem at the park.
It is one of several intricately carved totems telling native people stories.
The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a wonderful place for an outing by anyone who is moderately fit. It is much loved by locals and tourists alike and is, by many accounts, the most visited site in British Columbia, Canada. The well designed experience begins with a look at First Nations totems, then a wonderfully curated display of photos and memorabilia to bring to life the stories of the bridge and park's invention.  
Visitors commune with nature, high
atop the trees on various walkways
and bridges into the rain forest.

Butterflies delight tourists from around the world, in Canada's 
appealing Victoria Butterfly Gardens in British Columbia.

UP  NEXT: Butterflies enchant
Cookie wherever she travels, since one landed on her nose when she was three, on a visit to her great aunt Lilian's farm in Kansas. But we're not in Kansas anymore -- we're at Victoria, B.C.'s Butterfly Gardens, with more than two dozen types of wondrous butterflies, plus some carnivorous plants, gorgeous moths, noisy parrots, well fed tortoises and flamingos. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us weekends when we post another story about our nature- and arts-driven globe trotting

Friday, November 11, 2016

Tony Bennett charms again, back on tour at 90, with spectacular concerts in southern California

Still packing concert halls and receiving standing ovations, Tony Bennett gives a gracious nod to his music director
and accompanist, pianist Billy Stritch. The sold-out concert kicked off Bennett's latest tour at Harrah's Southern California.
Born in Queens, of a grocer mother
and seamstress father, Benedetto
changed his name decades ago.
Tony Bennett has been performing for nearly seven decades,
and still has the chops as he proved last weekend at Harrah's.


Tony Bennett is known for  inventive
interpretations of pop and jazz tunes.


Anthony Dominick  Benedetto, is still cookin' on 90th birthday tour

              Some day, when I'm awfully low
When the world is cold
I will feel a glow just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight......
Tony Bennett is performing a busy concert schedule, this time solo. We've
seen him several times with Lady Gaga, here at Planet Hollywood in Vegas.

Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett at a sell-out we caught, at the 
Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve, 2014.
and archival shots

AS HE HEADS TOWARD 91, Tony Bennett is not letting any grass grow under his entertainer's feet.
Tony Bennett keeps a studio in his New York apartment, 
and has given painting lessons to Lady Gaga. 
His art hangs in many galleries and private collections.
Cookie and Nora enjoy Tony Bennett's heart
in San Francisco on the famed Union Square.
The veteran crooner has spent nearly 70 years in show business. Just  days ago, he performed two back-to-back concerts, an energetic 90-minute show near San Diego, to kick off his 90th Birthday Tour, then another sell-out in San Jose. The pair of venues were Harrah's Southern California, and City National Civic, where Bennett introduced his world-class quartet to a pair of packed houses, and gave generous shows that seemed as much love songs, as concerts.  They were love songs to the audience -- several generations of fans who have enjoyed his music through the years.
HE  SANG many of his hits -- "Just the 
Way You Look Tonight," "Watch What Happens," "Our Love Is Here to Stay," "They All Laughed," "Teach Me Tonight," and more.
Bennett was in fine form on stage, as we saw in the tour opener, at Harrah's Rincon in southern California.
He effortlessly crooned classics like “The Good Life,” “Sophisticated Lady,” “Sing You Sinners” and his signature "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."
Tony Bennett and wife Susan Crow cavort
 on a bit of rare R&R. He and the former
school teacher were married nine years ago.

EARLIER CONCERTS we'd enjoyed with him and
Lady Gaga featured standards including “Bang Bang,” and Billy Strayhorn's beautiful “Lush Life.” and a bouncy “Firefly,” which Bennett joined. He steered clear of those classics this time, perhaps saving them for another tour with his friend Gaga, who considers him a mentor and father figure. (We can only hope for a reunion for their collaboration is genius.)  When a fan shouted, " "When are you touring with Gaga again?" he said, "Who knows?" Then he added with a wink, "I've heard she needs the money!"
He played several elegant tunes with Gray Sargent on guitar, and introduced him along with Count Basie's favorite drummer, Harold Jones, and gifted bass player Marshall Wood. All seemed to be relishing their time on stage with the master. His arranger, music director and pianist Billy Stritch was in his element, proving why he is one of the most sought after pianists in the business.
NEAR THE SHOW's finale, Bennett did a touching version of Charlie Chaplin's "Smile," blowing kisses as he left the stage -- and returned for a couple more encore pieces. He blew a final farewell kiss and waved  to the audience when a fan shouted, "You know we love you, Tony."



Nov 16New YorkNY
Nov 18MorristownNJ
Nov 19Staten IslandNY
Nov 28NashvilleTN
Nov 29NashvilleTN
Dec 04San AntonioTX
Dec 06McallenTX
Dec 07New OrleansLA

Coming: A bridge too far? Vancouver's the place
 as Cookie continues to challenge her vertigo 
with her fifth international bridge climb, 
 Capilano Suspension Bridge in Vancouver, B.C.

UP NEXT: We've climbed bridges on several continents,
 but never our own. That changed on a recent trip to Vancouver. We climbed several beautifully designed cliff walks and a famous suspension bridge, taking a hypnotizing tour of Capilano Suspension Bridge Park. This British Columbia landmark offers nature walks and talks, eco tours, rainforests, a treehouse like no other and the challenging bridge, much loved by tourists and locals alike. Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us weekends when we post anew our reflections on lively travel, arts and nature-driven adventure.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Rock 'n' roll greats come knockin' on southern California's door

Elton groupies?  Cookie and Keller saw the magnificent Elton John and his fabulous band for the third time at Caesar's.
The Colosseum seats over 4,000, and the two were invited on stage with a few others near concert's end.  

Crowds packed the Coachella Festival near Indio, California,
for two weekends of rock 'n' roll with a gangbuster's list of rock legends.

A MONTH OF MUSICAL MAMMOTHS: McCartney, Dylan, Rolling Stones,       Neil Young, Jimmy Buffett, Elton John and Tony Bennett -- glut of riches as legends pack venues in Vegas, southern California  

Paul McCartney gave a generous nearly three-hour show.


DYLAN AND McCARTNEY in the same line-up.  The Rolling Stones with Mick in rare form. Neil Young and The Who joining the list of award-winners in a historic, blow-out concert.  Who of our vintage -- aging and appreciative fans -- could pass up this historic October rock 'n' roll event near Indio, California?
Call Cookie a "Partial Parrot Head," at least a "Parrot Ear".
The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival was the show not to miss. McCartney played a generous nearly three-hour set.  Dylan was, well, Click here for Tony Bennett, Lady Gaga concert
Dylan -- mesmerizing even when aloof. The legendary songwriter had just become a Nobel Prize winner for his contributions to literature. He had yet to acknowledge the honor. No one minded.
IT'S BEEN a month of fabulous communion with rock 'n' roll, jazz and country greats -- capped recently in Las Vegas with shows by Jimmy Buffett and Elton John, in separate sold-out venues. Willie Nelson, not exactly a rocker, but certainly a veteran of country music and cross-over, also packed a recent house here in the land of palms, margaritas and birdies.

Jimmy Buffett packed the house at Humphreys on the Bay in San Diego.
WE FOLLOWED the Parrot Heads from Las Vegas back to our San Diego base for a Buffett encore at Humphrey's Concerts By the Bay. It's a much smaller venue than the Colosseum, which packed the house at Caesar's three days earlier for an Elton John concert we were fortunate to have booked months ago. That was smart.  It was a jam-packed house with Sir Elton entering in his signature cape to give a thrilling two and one-half hour concert.
Cookie's in reverie, going back to the late 1960s at
the Beatles "Love," by Cirque du Soleil in Las Vegas.

Elton just ended his run, Playing the Colosseum now is Celine Dion, for whom the elegant house was designed.  Elton will be back in the spring to the gorgeous stage and acoustically brilliant house where we've also enjoyed Bette Midler, Seinfeld and Cher.
PARROT-HEADS have endured through the ups and downs of many careers.  They're still here -- like the venerable "oldies" we're relishing, sporting feathers, flowers and island finery to cover grey hair and '60s ponytails.  Together, they celebrated Jimmy Buffett's island themed concert at Humphrey's by the Bay in San Diego.  We were barely home seeing him in Vegas -- just a shower and quick change -- then we headed to Humphrey's on San Diego's waterfront.
Buffett, too, gave a long two-plus hour concert, never leaving the stage, in the popular southern California outdoor arena. He began the show by strumming a few notes of "On the Road Again," joking, "Oh, right, that's tomorrow night," a reference to Willie Nelson, who packed the house the day after Buffett, also giving a long, well received show including the signature song Buffett had teased the audience with.
Willie Nelson still has what it takes to get the crowd
up, dancing and standing -- recently in San Diego.
THE OLD-TIMERS give us our money's worth! The popularity of our icons continues to amaze and thrill.  The Beatles' Cirque du Soleil show, "Love," in Vegas, proves the continuing popularity through the generations.  We sat with 20-somethings and 80-somethings, all enjoying the stunning, ear popping, eye indulging show at the Mirage.  It so mesmerizes us that we've seen it twice.
Buffet commented on the San Diego attire -- Hawaiian shirts and parrot hats.  That's how the nickname came about.  Years ago, he mentioned that his fans were "like Deadheads, only more colorful." Timothy B. Schmit, then a member of the Coral Reefer Band, coined the term "Parrot Head" to describe Buffett's fans. The name stuck.

Tony Bennett receives a standing ovation, with a nod to his brilliant
accompanist and music director Billy Stritch, Friday at Harrah's SoCal.
 NEXT: The amazing Tony Bennett, a star jazz vocalist for nearly 70 years, played to a packed house at Harrah's Southern California last night (Friday, Nov. 4.) He plays another sell-out concert tonight (Nov. 5) in San Jose.  Then he takes a break and is back on tour Nov. 18 in New Jersey, Nov. 19 in New York, then on to Nashville and San Antonio, all music loving cities. The endearing entertainer is still in top form, playing all the beloved favorites from his songbook. We go backstage with him next week.
 Remember to explore, learn and live, and catch us weekends when we post anew our reflections on the lively arts and world travel.