Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Flowers Along the Parisian Streets

Last week I went on a wonderful art and architecture tour of Paris with Professor Michael Farrell through Art House Tours. We were a group of 40 from the Windsor-Detroit area and I was lucky to have three good friends with me. The art and architecture of course were the main event but, to me, a breathtaking vision was the array of flowers and plants displayed along the Parisian streets. Masses of primroses announced that this was spring in Paris.

This floral display at Aquarelle was astounding - rows of arrangements tied with raffia in plastic wrap "vases" filled with water. The prices were reasonable.....20 euros each (about $30. Canadian).

Muscari (grape hyacinth) bulbs in small pots at Bourgeon - Catherine Muller's new floral shop and school.....more about that in a subsequent post.

Multicoloured roses were the theme for this innovative shop....could this work in Windsor?

And these parrot tulips ready to burst....

I was wishing that I had a better camera by the end of the week. I'll leave you today with a photo I snapped while walking back to the hotel on our last evening. Ah Paris....is there a better city on the planet?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Las Balsas Hotel, Patagonia Argentina

Las Balsas is a hotel near Bariloche which is part of the Relais and Chateaux group. You can depend on great attention paid to decor, food, and service at any Relais and Chateaux property worldwide. This is the spa and workout area.

Our room featured this unique chandelier. I apolgize for the photo not looking as wonderful as this piece actually is. It's made of driftwood adorned with crystals - such a clever combination of rugged and highbrow materials. The receptionist's sister is the artist and she also made all the lamps in the room in a similar fashion.

My favourite piece of art in the hotel is this beautiful oil painting of a fisherman hanging on their dining room wall.This artist really knows how to make every brushstroke count.

Just for fun today, I'll add one of my own paintings (completed with a lot of help from my extremely talented art teacher, Garfield Purdie from Amherstburg, Ontario) that evokes thoughts of the tango in Argentina with it's ruffled skirt design.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Flowers at the Alvear Palace Hotel

I've always admired the flowers at hotels and being an amateur floral arranger myself, I tend to study them closely. The florist for the elegant Buenos Aires hotel, the Alvear Palace, chose a brilliant red orange colour as the predominant theme in the lobby spaces.

The combination of the red hypericum berry with the roses was carried through on the lobby bar.

Even our room had roses in the sitting area and at breakfast there was a posey bouquet based on the same theme.

This last arrangement is my own inspired by the beautiful bouquets at the Alvear using a rose with more yellow in it. My hypericum berries didn't look as fresh as the ones at the hotel after a couple of days.....maybe Argentina has a better source for them?

Monday, March 8, 2010

El Pedral Lodge

Vince meets you at the Trelow airport and you load into his pickup truck for the hour and a half ride through the most unattractive scrubland along a dirt road. I could read my travel companions' minds....."where in the world are we going and wherever it is, it better be good." The drive ends at the El Pedral Lodge - a working ranch turned guest lodge in 2004 on the coast of the Peninsula Valdes region. Your opinion starts to change once you are warmly greeted and told that your first excursion starts in 15 minutes....an ATV ride on the deserted beach to see their new colony of Magellan penguins.

Other wildlife viewing adventures await. You don't have to organize anything and two nights is the perfect amount of time to spend here. A trip the next day in the zodiac allowed us to get up close and personal with a large community of sea lions.

Going with another couple would be my recommendation since you are miles from anywhere and there is no entertainment (ie. no television or movies) after dinner. Accommodations and dining are comfortable, although not luxurious. This is the living room of the main house.

Clothing is ultra casual - jeans and yoga wear, a windbreaker, running shoes for hiking and boating. For the boat rides, a toque that covers your ears is perferrable instead of a visor. Sunscreen and lip protector are musts.

Would I go back? In a heartbeat.....I'd try to fly into Puerto Madryn because it would knock off 45 minutes of the drive from the airport (but flights only go Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays into Puerto Madryn while they fly everyday into Trelow)and I would definitely go during whale watching season - between July and November. You would see the magnificent whales in your private zodiac boat as well as more elephant seals. Instead of the 42 we saw, there would be 36,000 and you would see the two ton males, not just the "teenagers".

We ended the visit with a leisurely horseback ride and dinner with a glass or two of the chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon from the Tupungato Winelands winery in Mendoza.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Should You Go To Argentina?

Did you know that more North Americans travel to Europe than to South America?....probably you do, and there's nothing wrong that, but we're missing out on some once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Just having returned from Argentina, our first exposure to South America, I would definitely return again and might follow this itinerary next time: Buenos Aires, Trelew or Puerto Madryn, El Calafete, San Carlos De Bariloche, and then back to Buenos Aires. Spend 2 nights in each place and one night in Buenos Aires before your flight home (ie. 9 days). The rationale for this is the in-country flight schedules. There isn't a way to get from one place to the other without first returning to Buenos Aires except for this itinerary which takes you around the southern triangle of Argentina. You will be missing out on some regions like the Mendoza wine region and the Iguazu Falls, but you will just have to return for a second trip.

Some things to do or stop and think about along the way:
Buenos Aires - Consider the Alvear Hotel which is reminiscent of the George V in Paris with lots of marble and floral arrangements.

I love this photo of a marble staircase in the hotel....more about the floral arrangements in a subsequent post since fresh flowers are one of my passions and I think the attention given to them is a mark of a truly grand hotel.

Eat at La Bourgogne - superb French cuisine - located inside the Alvear Hotel...a good idea if you have an early morning flight. I would make reservations beforehand since we were fortunate to get in on a cancellation. And if you want the best tuna sandwich you've ever tasted (slabs of tuna steak with roasted red peppers) enjoy it at the Lobby Bar.

Visit the Recoleta Cementary. I know that sounds like a weird attraction to see, but it's absolutely fascinating. It's like a mini city of architecturally elegant monuments and tombs. Best to have a guide take you around.

This is the door on Evita's black marble grave inscribed with the words of the song that keep running through your head "Don't cry for me, Argentina. I remain quite near to you."

Also don't miss perusing the famous bookstore that was a former Opera Hall.What a great way to repurpose a building!

One last picture - somewhat of an climactic oddity - after a late lunch on our first day we were drinking the rest of a good Malbec in a restaurant watching a tremendous downpour. The streets were flooded in a matter of minutes. It was the second time that week that Buenos Aires had a deluge of rain, very atypical......and then a week later, Chile experienced a horrific earthquake in Concepcion - a city situated parallel with Buenos Aires. While not associated with each other, it does make you think about the power of nature and how we need to interact with it as gently as possible.

I'll take you to the El Pedro Lodge near Puerto Madryn in my next post.