September 29, 2017

Sights to See: Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Chengdu, China


Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding  1375 Panda Rd., just outside of town, 028-83510033.  Daily 7:30am-6pm.  58yuen/US$8/person; parking 10yuen.  Pandas are solitary animals and their remote habitat in bamboo forests high in the Szechwan mountains has been destroyed.  Operated by panda conservation specialists, this immaculate zoo-like center displays pandas in a near-perfect replication of their natural habitat, including rivers, lakes, wild bamboo forests, and plant pits.  Founded in 1987 with just six pandas, it is now home to approximately 50 pandas and has earned a reputation as the best place in the world to see, interact with, and learn about these endangered animals.

entry gate to Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China
entry gate to Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China


bamboo-lined road at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China


It has the largest captive collection of Giant Pandas in the world.  Babies are born between July and September.  Today, fewer than 2,000 pandas are found in the wild and only approximately 300 are in zoos and breeding centers.  Fortunately, China’s giant panda population was recently downgraded from endangered to vulnerable.  Though still at risk, their numbers in the wild continue to grow.

people watch pandas at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China
people watch pandas at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China





Red pandas (or Lesser Pandas) have enclosures here, too, but are also allowed to freely roam the center’s forest floor.  This is the largest collection of captive-born red pandas in the world.

children watch red pandas at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China
children watch red pandas at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China




Begin a visit here by taking a shuttle to the top, then walk down, visiting the various exhibits as you go.  Take time to map out your plan.  There is a nursery, kitchen, and hospital, but each is not always open.  People do get a little crazy to see the babies, and you might have to elbow your way into a viewing spot.  Be patient.

I enjoyed visiting Swan Lake, where there is a population of black swans and hungry koi to feed, and where the outdoor Bamboo Restaurant dispenses simple inexpensive pleasures such as noodles and ice cream and provides umbrella-sheltered communal picnic tables.  The Rose Garden Restaurant is more formal and surrounded by a large rose garden.

Swan Lake at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China
Swan Lake at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China


A museum near the entrance includes an exhibit of China’s butterflies that is in dire need of refreshing.

butterfly exhibit at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China
butterfly exhibit at Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China


My favorite souvenir was a pandemonium (the group noun for pandas) of tiny unstuffed soft pandas with magnets in their paws--perfect for hanging together or separately--perhaps from a refrigerator or on the top of a computer (that’s where mine reclines).  Note that in the U.S., pandas are housed at zoos in Atlanta, Memphis, San Diego, and Washington, D.C.  

panda souvenir from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China
panda souvenir from Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding in Chengdu, China

More panda videos:
pandas eating bamboo
pandas doing what pandas do best
 

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images and videos ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers


September 26, 2017

Sights to See: Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace national historic site, NYC


Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace national historic site  28 East 20th S., in Greenwich Village, by Gramercy Park, (212) 260-1616.  Tu-Sat.  Free.  Guided tours only; at 10 & 11am & 1, 2, 3, $ 4 pm; maximum 18/tour.  No reservations.  No pets.  Plan to arrive 30 minutes before your intended tour of this 4-story, narrow Dutch brownstone townhouse, so that you can spend time perusing the displays on the ground floor--among them a sweet teddy bear exhibit and another of antique political cartoons--and view a short film on the life of Theodore Roosevelt.  The 40-minute ranger-led tour will take you through the five recreated period rooms (the house was completely recreated in the 1920s) on two floors of this house where Roosevelt lived until he was 14 (the fourth floor is now used as offices).  Rooms are dark and cool, which is especially nice on a warm NYC summer day.  About 60% of the furnishings are original to the house, but most of the interior is recreated from descriptions.  Though the house has large rooms and high ceilings, it is modest in size.  The public entry now was originally the servants’ quarters.  It is interesting to know that this house is the same era as the Merchant’s House Museum.  


sign in the 23rd Street subway station, for Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC
sign in the 23rd Street subway station, for Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC



entrance to Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC
entrance to Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC



teddy bear display at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC
teddy bear display at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC



display at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC
display at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC



desk at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC
desk at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC



bedroom at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC
bedroom at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC



wallpaper detail at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC
wallpaper detail at Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace in NYC


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

September 21, 2017

Sights to See: mid-century modern architecture with the Palm Springs Mod Squad, Palm Springs, California


The Palm Springs Mod Squad specializes in architecture and design tours.  The 90-minute Essential Palm Springs Tour shows you prime examples of mid-century modern architecture (it is limited to just five participants because of private car size).  In addition, it is a good opportunity to see the town’s neighborhoods and learn some movie star history, and you’ll learn more than you can possibly absorb about desert post-modernism in Palm Springs.  If you want to get good pictures, do sit on the right side--which is the right side of the car. 
exterior of Palm Springs Visitors Center, Palm Springs, California
exterior of Palm Springs Visitors Center, Palm Springs, California


Buildings seen on The Essential Palm Springs Tour:

Mirage house  At end of East Racquet Club Rd., past the guard house.  
guard house in Palm Springs, California
guard house in Palm Springs, California

The site-specific Mirage house art installation by Doug Aitken is in the form of a ranch-style house but composed of reflective mirrored surfaces.  Minus doors and windows, it reflects and disappears into the desert landscape.  It is part of the “Desert X” art exhibition but will remain on exhibition after that closes on October 31, 2017.
exterior of Mirage house in Palm Springs, California
exterior of Mirage house in Palm Springs, California

exterior of Mirage house in Palm Springs, California
exterior of Mirage house in Palm Springs, California


Robo Lights  1077 E Granvia Valmonte, in Movie Colony District, (760) 200-4143.  Open seasonally in December, daily 4-9:30pm.  By donation, $5.  Owned and designed by Kenny Irwin Jr., this colorful display of recycled “junque art” is in a neighborhood known for good Christmas lights.

Robo Lights house in Palm Springs, California
Robo Lights house in Palm Springs, California


Kaufmann House  470 West Vista Chino Drive, in Old Las Palmas neighborhood.  Located in the neighborhood that is the Beverly Hills of the desert--where the Rat Pack once lived--this is one of the most famous homes in Palm Springs.  It was designed by Richard Neutra in 1946, was once owned by Barry Manilow, and now you can rent it for $8,000 per month. 
exterior of Kaufmann house in Palm Springs, California
exterior of Kaufmann house in Palm Springs, California



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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 


September 19, 2017

Great Sleeps: Holiday House, Palm Springs, California


Holiday House  200 W. Arenas Rd., downtown, (760) 320-8866.  28 rooms.  Age 21+.  Pool; hot tub.  Restaurant; breakfast included.  No phones or TVs.  Pets ok.  Free parking.  Resort fee $15/night, includes Wi-Fi, continental breakfast, and use of bikes.  This two-story boutique hotel is well situated in a long-established neighborhood and is just one block from downtown central Palm Springs and just a few blocks from the base of the San Jacinto mountains.  It has a beach-house-in-the-desert vibe that includes a beachy color scheme of blue and white.  At check in, we were welcomed with a “love beads” necklace to wear during our stay and offered a complimentary glass of rose to enjoy at our convenience (we picked it up later from the open-air bar, in a plastic cup to sip in the hot tub).  A large pool and hot tub dominate the center courtyard, and a shuffle board and several fire pits are adjacent.  Refreshing misters are used throughout to cool things down.  The property features midcentury-inspired elements and displays artwork that includes pieces by David Hockney, Roy Liechtenstein, and Mr. Brainwash.  Most rooms have either a balcony or patio with charming but hard-to-get-in-and-out-of butterfly chairs, and six patios have a private outdoor shower.  It is possible to turn off the AC for the night and open windows to the cool desert air, which also admits the sound of chirping birds in the morning.  The simple continental breakfast buffet includes hard-boiled eggs, fresh fruit, yogurt, granola, and housemade bread that makes delicious toast.  Holiday House’s sister property--Sparrows Lodge--is nearby.  It is similar but with a ranch decor.   

central courtyard at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California
central courtyard at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California



love beads at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California
love beads at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California



guest room at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California
guest room at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California



guest bathroom at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California
guest bathroom at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California



buffet breakfast at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California
buffet breakfast at Holiday House in Palm Springs, California



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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers 

September 15, 2017

Things to Do: Jinli Old Street, Chengdu, China


Jinli Old Street  One of the oldest shopping streets in Sichuan Province, this street was also one of the busiest commercial areas during the Shu Kingdom (221-263).  Recently restored and re-opened to the public in 2004, it is now visited by throngs of people who come to stroll its lively streets, relax amid the traditional-style buildings, and sample local cuisine.  Shops, local crafts, and street performers add to the fun.

entrance gate to Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China
entrance gate to Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China

Starbucks on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China
Starbucks on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China

art brush seller on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China
art brush seller on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China

bored barker on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China
bored barker on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China

street performers on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China
street performers on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China

rickshaw ride on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China
rickshaw ride on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China






passion fruit snack on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China
passion fruit snack on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China

octopus and fish snack on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China
octopus and fish snack on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China


fruit popcicles on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China
fruit popcicles on Jinli Old Street in Chengdu, China


Located adjacent, the Wuhou Temple (Memorial Temple of Marquis Wu) is dedicated to Zhuge Liang, the Marquis Wu (Wuhou) of the Kingdom of Shu in the Three Kingdoms Period (220-280).  Surrounded by old cypresses and classical red walls, it displays clay sculptures of Emperor Shu and his ministers standing together.  The most valuable cultural relic is a huge 144-inch high by 37-inch wide stone slab monument (a stele) set up in 809.

entrance to Wuhou Temple in Chengdu, China
entrance to Wuhou Temple in Chengdu, China


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

September 12, 2017

Sights to See: Chengdu, China


WHO KNEW ABOUT CHENGDU?

Located just a 2 ½-hour flight inland from Shanghai, Chengdu--the 2,000-plus-year-old capital of Sichuan--is the province’s second-largest city and the country’s fourth-largest.  With a population of 14 million, it is larger than--and perhaps glitzier than--NYC, yet it is considered only a second-tier city.  It is clean and prosperous, with leafy wide boulevards and a Kimpenski Hotel, Ferrari dealership, and huge Louis Vuitton boutique.  It is concrete and steel and high-rises as far as the eye can see.

highrise in downtown Chengdu, China
highrise in downtown Chengdu, China

Louis Vuitton in downtown Chengdu, China
Louis Vuitton in downtown Chengdu, China

The New Century Global Centre opened here in 2013.  It is the largest free-standing building in the world (in terms of floor area), and the claim is that 20 Sydney Opera Houses would fit inside.  Designed to be a self-contained city, under the dome inside it holds a Mediterranean “village,” a beach and water park, a pirate ship, an ice skating rink, a 14-screen IMAX cinema, and many hotels, not to mention plenty of shops.  An artificial sun provides light and heat.

New Century Global Centre at night in Chengdu, China
New Century Global Centre at night in Chengdu, China

Yet it remains best known for being the home of the rare giant panda.  Manufacturing is big in the surrounding area--70% of the world’s iPads are manufactured here.  But the pace is slower than in Beijing and Shanghai.  It is also a center for the silk brocade industry and known for hibiscus.

panda bear at research base in Chengdu, China
panda bear at research base in Chengdu, China

Located in a basin surrounded by mountains keeps the weather generally mild and comfortable, but in summer stifling humidity and rain storms can make it uncomfortable.  There is not much sunshine and rainfall can be heavy but that is how everything stays so very green.  September and October are the perfect months to visit the "Land of Heaven."


Asia’s first UNESCO-designated City of Gastronomy, Chengdu serves up refined Sichuan cuisine.  Be aware that if you come across some odd little things that look like they might be an exotic vegetable, they are most probably actually duck tongues--a local delicacy.  And you’ll know you’re getting real Sichuan peppercorns when your tongue feels the distinctive numbness. 

restaurant in Chengdu, China
restaurant in Chengdu, China


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

September 7, 2017

Great Sleeps: Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou; Wenzhou, China


Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou  1 Xiangyuan Road, Lucheng District, (86 577) 8998 8888.  5 stars.  409 rooms.  Indoor pool, hot tub; fitness center; full-service spa; lighted tennis court.  Located away from city center in the business district near local government offices, this luxury 5-star hotel built in 2009 overlooks the Ou River/Oujiang River.  It is a popular business hotel, but there is no night life or restaurants in the area.  The staff is especially accommodating and friendly, and many employees speak good English.  

view from guest room at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China
view from guest room at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China
 
guest room at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China
guest room at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China

The large lobby bar is furnished with upholstered chairs and couches and has a grand piano in the center as well as high ceilings, a long, drapey crystal chandelier, and floor-to-ceiling wall of windows looking out to a garden. 

lobby bar at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China
lobby bar at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China

O Cafe features various specialty food stations and is open all day,

O Cafe at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China
O Cafe at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China

happy noodle maker
 


while the Shang Palace Restaurant serves an all-you-can-eat dim sum.
Shang Palace Restaurant at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China
Shang Palace Restaurant at Shangri-La Hotel, Wenzhou in Wenzhou, China

spectacular foggy dessert pudding




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images and videos ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

September 5, 2017

Things to Do: Annenberg Community Beach House, Santa Monica, California


Annenberg Community Beach House  415 Pacific Coast Highway, (310) 458-4904.  Parking $3/hr., $8-$12/day.  No pets.  No alcohol or glass bottles.  Located north of the Santa Monica Pier and south of Will Rogers State Beach, this spectacular community center replaced the mansion where actress Marion Davies once held lavish parties attended by stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Greta Garbo, and Clark Gable.  Built as a summer place for Davies in the 1920s by William Randolph Hearst, and designed by architect Julia Morgan, the original 100-room mansion in this compound was used for parties and good times every summer until World War II, when blackouts began.  They closed the house in 1942 and never came back.  Everything was auctioned off.  Though the mansion is gone, the guest house remains for day use and tours.  Originally situated ocean front, the shoreline has moved out, and now the deep, sandy Santa Monica State Beach stretches out in front.

exterior of Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
exterior of Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Marion Davies Guest House  Docent tours F-M at 11am, 12pm, & 1pm.  Free. 
Historic photos of Marion and her glamorous guests line the walls, but unfortunately the interior has been painted white and features nondescript furniture and wall-to-wall carpeting.  No furniture remains from the heyday, but fortunately two bathrooms do remain with original tiles and decor.  Docents have many stories to tell on the 30-minute tour.  Among the tantalizing tidbits I learned:
     ●The Alfred Hitchcock-directed movie “Shadow of a Doubt” with Joseph Cotton was filmed in the guest house in 1943 and shows the original woodwork, wallpaper, and furniture. 
     ●Orson Wells wrote “Citizen Kane” while staying in the guest house.  The character Susan Alexander was modeled after Davies.
          If you want to learn more, an hour-long background video plays continuously upstairs.  You can also visit the guest house on your own without a tour and use tables in the rooms for card games and more.
historic photos of Marion Davies at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
historic photos of Marion Davies at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
 


fireplace designed by Julia Morgan at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
fireplace designed by Julia Morgan at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

grand staircase at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
grand staircase at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

original tiled bathroom at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
original tiled bathroom at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

beach view from porch at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
beach view from porch at Marion Davies Guest House at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

Pool (open summer only)  $10, 60+ $5, 1-17 $4, family of 4 (2 youth & 2 adults) $24; half-price on M.  This is the property’s original pool.  Look closely and you’ll see some Julia Morgan-designed tiles.  Pool day passes go on sale at 9am and can sell out quickly.
pool at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
pool at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

A splash pad for kids is adjacent.
splash pad at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
splash pad at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

●kid's playground
kid's playground at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
kid's playground at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

Gallery  Small art exhibits are regularly scheduled.
art gallery at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
art gallery at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

paved walkway to beach  This paved path saves you the effort of plodding through the hot sand to the shoreline.
beach at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
beach at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

Snowy Plover dune restoration area  Located a short walk to the north along the Santa Monica beach path (also known as The Strand), this fenced-off portion of beach protects the habitat of the endangered Snowy Plover.  The birds are seen mostly in winter.
Santa Monica beach path at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Santa Monica beach path at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California

Snowy Plover dune restoration area at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Snowy Plover dune restoration area at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California


Back on the Beach Cafe  445 Pacific Coast Hwy., (310) 393-8282.  B-L daily; $$+.  Reservations for 6+, indoor tables only.  Situated adjacent to the community center, this beach cafe offers fantastic outdoor seating right on the sand.  It is the epitome of casual, with most diners in beach covers and flip flops.  If you can pull them away from their electronic devices, kids can build sand castles while you chill with some iced tea or wine.  It doesn’t get better than this--sitting under a sheltering umbrella on a sandy patio open to the sea breeze and with a view of the ocean in the distance.  Indeed, I wish I were back on the beach right now.  The menu features more choices than you would expect.  Breakfast items and sandwiches are prime, but many people opt for the famous “Fred’s Salad” with grilled potatoes, bleu cheese, and chicken.  My choice of the house burger and my partner’s choice of blueberry pancakes turned out to be perfect.  Political Correctness is big in Santa Monica, and so you get paper straws with your drinks.  But paper straws fell out of use long ago for a reason--they break down from sucking and have an unpleasant taste and texture--they are inferior to plastic straws.  I do hope we can come up with a better way to recycle plastic straws and save those poor turtles
Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California


family at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
family at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California


burger at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
burger at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California


blueberry pancakes at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
blueberry pancakes at Back on the Beach Cafe at Annenberg Community Beach House in Santa Monica, California
Back on the Beach Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato


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images ©2017 Carole Terwilliger Meyers