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California dreaming…

The blog is back and so am I from a trip to North America. I have returned to the pleasure of part time working at the practice and a new way living which suits me very well.

The holiday started in Vancouver; two words describe this city – civic pride.  It does have the benefit of a stunning natural setting by the sea against a backdrop of mountains but the quality of the public realm is very high, people care about their environment and yes I could live there.  It also has Stanley Park; I have decided that to create a public park is truly a gift to humankind.


It was then a train down to Portland in Oregon, pioneer city of Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)!  Wasn’t my husband lucky to spend a morning photographing drainage examples across the city? Fortunately there were some in Director’s Park just outside the hotel.  I liked the approach to risk in the park; the sign by the water feature said ‘Do not drink the water’ with an explanation about how water gets polluted. At a rest area on the Freeway a sign under a tree asked people to be aware that rattlesnakes slept under the tree and that they should be left alone: ‘Reasonable awareness will avoid snake bites.’ Quite.

The next stop was with friends in south west Oregon. Both are river engineering specialists and committed environmentalists fighting to make Oregon a GM (genetically modified) free state and opposed to the sale of public forests to the logging companies. Wholesale NFL Jerseys They took us out into the wilderness to see flowering azaleas in their natural habitat.  One person’s native plant is our prized ornamental.

After traveling through the gigantic redwoods we followed the north west coast of California down to San Francisco.  Big Sur, further south, is known as one of the most scenic routes in the world but the north west coast deserves its own accolades.  More rugged and less busy it is not an easy drive  to get to it but it is worth it for the scenery and the views.


It is obvious why San Francisco is a popular tourist destination: quirky, friendly and buzzy the topography gives it so much character as the steep roads reveal unexpected views across the cityscape at every turn. There is another new park there worth visiting – Yerba Buena Gardens (but no discernible SuDS).

The drive down the coast to Los Angeles did not disappoint. What I had not anticipated were the pretty seaside towns and the engaging sea life: I am a pelican fan.  Hearst Castle was quite bonkers but worth the visit. The most appealing aspect of Los Angeles was visiting our family there. Overwhelmed by the city, I was glad to leave.  However I can recommend the Getty Center (architecture by Richard Meier and landscape design by Laurie Olin) and the most stupendous bookshop in Santa Monica and Hollywood, Hennessey & Ingalls, with books from across the world on all aspects of art and architecture including more books on landscape architecture than I have ever seen anywhere.

The trip ended in La Jolla just north west of San Diego.  We caught ‘Open Gardens’ day and, although I have mostly worked in the public realm, I do like a good look round other people’s gardens. This could take a blog on its own and in fact you can see where this is headed: the trip brought a lot of food for thought and reflection.  I shall enjoy sharing these thoughts with you.