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Urban Adventure

Great activities in cities around the world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

San Antonio Week—Strolling Through San Antonio Botanical Garden

It reached 90 degrees yesterday in San Antonio, but I kept nice and cool for part of the afternoon on the East Texas Pineywoods path at the San Antonio Botanical Garden. Shaded by tall sycamores and cedars, you loop around a pond, staring on the opposite shores at a circa-1850 log cabin straight out of East Texas. The 38-acre botanical garden is a placid retreat anytime of year, but it’s hard to top the springtime when roses in the Rose Garden, cactus flowers in the Cactus and Succulent Garden and the wine cup, a purple wildflower, on the Hill Country trail are all in bloom. And don’t get even get me started on the sweet-smelling jasmine at Watersaver Lane. I took a big whiff and had a natural high for the rest of the afternoon. A Japanese maple’s leaves were a tad crimson inside the bamboo walls of Japanese Garden. What got my attention, however, was a turtle sunbathing atop a rock formation that resembled a turtle. An architectural highlight was the glass-coned conservatory rooms that house rare palm trees, like the prickly bark of the Zambia palm, lush ferns, desert cacti, even an indoor waterfall. San Antonio offers a slew of intriguing sites, from the Alamo and other missions to the San Antonio Museum of Art, but don’t make the mistake of missing the botanical garden. It’s a gem.  


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/25/12 at 12:00 PM
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Monday, April 23, 2012

San Antonio Week—It’s Fiesta Time

In 1891, the city of San Antonio held a single parade to honor Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and the other heroes of the Alamo and the battle of San Jacinto. Fiesta has since grown to an 11-day event in late April that features live music, art fairs, and a slew of parades including The Texas Cavaliers River Parade, which I’m headed to tonight. As soon as my flight landed yesterday in San Antonio, I took a taxi to Market Square, the largest mercado north of Mexico to take in the festivities with the crowds. There were bands playing, churros and funnel cakes cooking, and a frenzied crowd dancing and drinking margaritas and cervezas under the hot sun. I made my way to Mi Tierra, a beloved Mexican restaurant on the square since 1941. The line was an hour long, but since I was traveling solo, the woman at the desk told me to try and get a seat at the back counter. I found the last seat next to the mariachi band on break and ordered enchiladas with a sweet and spicy mole sauce. One bite and I was happy to be back in town. 

 
I’ll be blogging, tweeting, YouTubing, and Facebooking all week from San Antonio, introducing readers to everything happening in the city. So stick around and we’ll have a fiesta together! 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/23/12 at 12:00 PM
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Thursday, April 19, 2012

May is the Month to Visit Ottawa

If you never had the chance to visit Canada’s capital city of Ottawa, then you’ve missed out on seeing North America’s only version of the Changing of the Guard ceremony, the morning ritual where dozens of red-coated soldiers with bearskin hats parade down city streets to the lawn of Parliament Hill. The best month to visit the city is in May during the Canadian Tulip Festival. From May 4-21, over three million tulips bloom in Ottawa. Visitors can sample food and entertainment from around the world at the International Pavilion, located near Commissioners Park, where 300,000 tulips bloom alone. Later in the month, Dutch tulips give way to a Dutch painter named Vincent Van Gogh. From May 25 to September 3, the National Gallery of Canada will present Van Gogh: Up Close, which explores the artist’s representation of nature. Visitors can marvel at 45 of Van Gogh’s paintings, including The Iris. Afterwards, reenergize with a BeaverTail. This wholewheat pastry, cooked in canola oil, and topped with a variety of savory toppings like chocolate, jam, pie filling, or cinnamon, is available year-round in Ottawa’s ByWard Market neighborhood. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/19/12 at 12:00 PM
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Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Louisville’s Remarkable Amount of Parkland

I was in Louisville several weeks ago researching and writing a story for The Washington Post on the emerging neighborhood on East Market Street called NuLu. I dined on tasty southern fare like fried chicken livers doused in a bourbon sauce at Harvest, recently named one of the best new restaurants in America by the James Beard Foundation. I also spent at least three hours looking at old television footage at the Muhammad Ali Center and saw an intense drama at the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Yet, what really impressed me was the all the rolling green parkland and rivers Louisville is blessed with. Louisville has more parkland than Chicago or Denver. In fact the city has more green space than Baltimore, Boston, and
 Pittsburgh combined. And not just any ole park, but 18 parks and 6 parkways designed by the developer of New York’s Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted. With such an abundant wealth of parkland, it didn’t surprise me that so many residents were out biking and jogging on the parkways. 

 
Well, it looks like the rich are only going to get richer, because Louisville is in the midst of adding 4,000 acres of park in the southern and eastern part of the city, along Floyd Fort Creek. Called the Parklands, the city aims to add 100 miles of new trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding, and a 19-mile canoe trail in the creek. The Parklands will open in phases, beginning in 2013, with the entire system scheduled to be complete by 2015. The Parklands will be part of the Louisville Loop, a 100-mile shared-use path that will encircle the entire city. So far, 25 miles of the loop have been completed. When it’s done, I’ll be due for a return trip. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 04/04/12 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Introducing Manhattan’s Low Line Park

One of my favorite topics to write about the last couple years is how urban designers and landscape architects have recently created parks from contaminated settings, landfills, abandoned manufacturing plants, and no longer viable space such as an elevated train track on the lower West Side of Manhattan, now the popular High Line Park. Former brownfields like a 9-acre parcel of land on Puget Sound, once dotted with UNOCAL’s oil tanks, is now home to Seattle’s Olympic Sculpture Park. Landschaftspark in Duisburg-Nord, Germany, is a former coal and steel plant that now features a high ropes course. 

 
Time to add the Delancey Underground project, nicknamed the Low Line, into the mix. James Ramsey and Dan Barasch have already garnered public and political support to take a vacated trolley terminal in the Lower East Side of Manhattan and create a subterranean park. The rectangular space, about three blocks long, was the site where trolleys would turn around to cross the Williamsburg Bridge. Since 1948, it has laid dormant. Ramsey and Barasch not only want to take advantage of this wasted space, but use fiber optics to stimulate natural light and photosynthesis, where trees and plants can thrive. The pair has already started collecting funds on Kick Starter, if you’d like to support the project. 
 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/20/12 at 01:00 PM
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Monday, January 30, 2012

Berlin Unveils New Airport and New Airport Park

The big news out of Berlin this year is the opening of the $3.4 billion Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport, set to make its debut on June 3rd. However, I’m more excited at what Berlin did with its former airport, Tempelhof, which is now the vast Tempelhofer Freiheit public park. Families come to bike and roller blade on the old runways and picnic on the grounds. Germany has always been at the forefront of reclaiming former industrial spaces and transforming them into parks. Landschaftspark in Duisburg-Nord is a former coal and steel plant that now features a high ropes course. It’s wonderful to see urban designers blurring the line between civilization and nature to create parks from former contaminated sites, landfills, abandoned manufacturing plants, and older airports.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 01/30/12 at 02:00 PM
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Monday, March 21, 2011

New York City Unveils $3.3 Billion Plan to Improve Waterfront

On a bike trip around Manhattan last summer, I was delighted to witness the improvements New York was making along its shoreline. Like many American cities, New York has reconnected with its waterfront setting over the past decade, converting dilapidated docks and toxic marsh along the rivers into manicured parkland. Biking near 170th Street under the steel arch High Bridge, we spotted recent additions to the Harlem River shoreline, most noticeably a new boathouse at Swindler Cove Park and an adjoining children’s garden. Now Mayor Bloomberg has announced a $3.3 billion plan for new parks and environmental improvements to its 578 miles of shoreline to help boost recreation and real estate. I look forward to experiencing the new parks and shoreline walks in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Staten Island.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/21/11 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, November 09, 2010

What’s Doing in Nairobi

First-time visitors to the Kenya have misconceptions that Nairobi will be some dusty backwater where narrow streets are filled with destitute people ready to pounce on your wallet.  Much of this stems from an outbreak of thievery that occurred in the late 90s, earning the city the nickname, “Nairobbery.” Today, especially now that the post-election violence of January 2007 is in the rear view mirror, Nairobi is a relatively safe and cosmopolitan hub of 3.5 million people in East Africa. The poor, who flood out of their shanties every morning to walk to nearby factories, merge with a growing middle and upper class, whose gated estates in the western suburbs of Karen and Langata have far more in common with Boca Raton than Bogota. Travelers are starting to realize that Nairobi is worthy of more than a one-night stopover on the way to safari. At the David Sheldrick Elephant Orphanage, west of the city centre in Langata, baby elephants whose parents have been killed by poachers are raised by workers who actually sleep in their stalls to comfort the young. When they’re old enough, they’ll be brought back to the wild. The suburb of Karen was named after Out of Africa author Karen Blixen, who wrote under the pen name Isak Dineson. Visit the estate she lived in from 1913 to 1931, now home to the Karen Blixen Museum. The grounds, dotted with the prehistoric looking candelabra cacti, overlook the Ngong Hills, and are worth the price of admission alone.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 11/09/10 at 02:00 PM
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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Strolling Hampstead Heath

There’s an excellent exhibition currently on display at the Morgan Library in New York on the Romantic Movement’s influence on landscape design. One of the mottos of the movement came from a line in a 1731 Alexander Pope poem, “Consult the genius of the place.” Translation: Preserve the wild, unadulterated beauty of the grounds and don’t overmanicure. I though about that line while walking last week in London’s Hampstead Heath with my family, friend Claire, and her adorable daughter, Evie. The rolling hillside is rich with old growth forest, shaded trails, long stretches of lawn, and streams, where we wound up feeding ducks and coots. After a week of fighting crowds at the National Gallery, Covent Garden, and the Tower of London, it was wonderful to spend the afternoon at arguably London’s best attraction, one of its many exquisite parks. On a weekday, Hampstead Heath was relatively quiet and off the beaten track enough to savor the serenity with locals. Only a few miles north of the city hubbub, it’s the perfect oasis.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/10/10 at 01:00 PM
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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Miami’s Den of Tranquility

While we’re on the subject of Miami, I drove the family over to my favorite hideaway in the area last week, the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Coral Gables. This lush oasis is a mix of ponds, palms, ferns, big birds, and whimsical sculpture. One step inside the serene environs and I’m staring at an anhinga drying its wings in the sun next to giant polka dotted pumpkins created by Japan’s Yayoi Kusama. One of Dale Chihuly’s colorful works of glass perfectly blends in with the orchids and big-leaf ferns in the conservatory. But it’s the serpentine trails that take you into a waterfall-laden rainforest shaded by vanilla trees, under the Spanish moss hanging from a southern live oak, and past the massive roots of a 70-year old baobab tree that keeps me coming back to this 83-acre gem. Add the large collection of herons and warblers that are fortunate to call the Fairchild home and you have the perfect rendezvous.
 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/09/10 at 02:00 PM
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Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk.

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