My great-aunt was once a great traveler. With her husband, her children, her friends or alone, she has been all over the world. Now that she is widowed with children long grown and an illness that prevents her from going very far from home, she entertains herself by “re-taking” her trips in her mind. She recounts every action and impression from arrival to departure, and it seems to me that her memories of her travels are a sustaining force for her.
I think about traveling nearly all the time–not only planning and scheduling work-related trips, but also dreaming about and researching the places, specifically gardens, that I would like to visit. While it is educational and inspiring to look at photographs of gardens in books, walking through an exceptional garden is enlightening. So much is revealed: the relationship of the garden to its building, the visual and physical connections between the garden rooms, the proportions of the spaces and even the greater historical and cultural context of the garden to its country and time.
Les Quatre Vents
Les Quatre Vents is in La Malbaie, about two hours north of Quebec City, Quebec. Francis Cabot owned and developed the garden, and he is also the founder of the Garden Conservancy, an amazing organization that promotes and preserves American gardens and sponsors the Open Days program of which I have written in prior posts. Les Quatre Vents possesses a sense of mystery for me. There is a book about it, The Greater Perfection, but it is out of print and sells for hundreds of dollars. Further fostering its unattainable quality, the garden is only open to the public twice a year. I had tickets for the tour this past June (which were bought in November of 2009), but I was not able to make the trip. I have regretted it since.
La Chevre d’Or
Admittedly, my reason for wanting to visit this garden arises somewhat irrationally from a single compelling image of the garden. I just love the way the hedges embrace those little statues and the contrast between the clipped formality of the space and the wild Mediterranean setting beyond.
From my research, it seems as though the garden is part of a hotel, the Chateau de la Chevre d’Or in the Cote d’Azur region of France. Of course, I may be staying at the cheap place down the hill and visiting the garden for the day.
Not the most original of my garden travel dreams, but from what I have heard and read, Villa Lante is awe-inspiring in its design and execution and the best of the Renaissance gardens. As with looking at paintings from five- and six-hundred years ago, I imagine I would be stunned by the beauty and craftsmanship of the statues, water features and parterres.
With planning and determination, I should be able to take these trips and others in the near future. And if I am fortunate to be as sharp as my great-aunt (and I do not consume too much wine in my travels), I should be able to “re-take” them for many years to come.