Gardens and Castles of California

October 8-12, 2007

Come join us on our tour of fabulous Gardens and Castles of California. The climate of the San Francisco Bay area is ideal for lush gardens and we will savor some of their best.

Your garden menu will include a wide range of experiences – from the serenity of Japanese gardens to the mystery of Egyptian gardens to the tropical habitat in beautiful conservatories. Delight at the whimsical circus trees grafted into fanciful designs. Enjoy the elaborate gardens around two of America’s castles, with some of the best West Coast Gardens.

Round out the trip with remarkable historical sites and museums, great food, and great company.

DAY 1 Monday

  • You read the magazine and buy the books – now see Sunset Magazine’s Headquarters Garden representing the west in  trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers.
  • Stroll in the serene atmosphere of one of the top ranked Japanese Tea Gardens of North America. San Mateo’s Japanese Tea Gardenis intriguing – an excellent place to explore and reflect. The chief landscape architect at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo designed these authentic gardens.

DAY 2 Tuesday

  • You’ll be amazed at the vast variety of plants from around the world in The San Francisco Botanical Garden collections. The Bay area climate supports more types of plants than anywhere else in the country. Special displays include demonstration gardens, plants from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Asian cloud forests and the cathedral-like redwood grove.
  • Bask in the timeless elegance of the Conservatory of Flowers modeled after the one at England’s Kew Gardens. The largest redwood greenhouse in the world, it features lavish displays of tropicals, highland and lowland plants, aquatics and special displays.
  • Take a peaceful stroll through Golden Gate Park’s 113-year-old Japanese Tea Garden. Through the years gifts from Japanese cities have enhanced its beauties. Enjoy a tea house, a statue of Buddha, and the streams, ponds, and waterfalls of this famous garden.
  • After free time at famous Fisherman’s Wharf, we will board a ferry for a nighttime tour of Alcatraz Island. See the mystique of San Francisco as dusk falls across the bay on our way to this historic island.
  • Alcatraz was the prison home of some of America’s most notorious criminals including Al "Scarface” Capone and the "Birdman" Robert Stroud. See the cells of what was America’s most secure prison on our narrated tour. Bring your National Park passport if you are collecting these stamps.

DAY 3 Wednesday

  • Enjoy the fall display at the San Jose Heritage Rose Garden. 5000 plants represent 3500 rose species in this delightful garden.
  • You’ll think you’ve gone to Egypt at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Gardens. Stroll the Egyptian Peace Garden with its temple, arbor, plants and reflecting pond. See Egyptian artifacts – funerary boats, textiles, sculptures and more. Explore the Egyptian Rock Tomb replica and find Sumerian and Assyrian artifacts.
  • It’s a circus – of trees! We’ve arranged a private tour of Gilroy gardens, (formerly Bonfante). The circus trees are different than any others on earth. This horticulture artwork is the mature product of one man’s lifelong endeavor to graft trees into fanciful shapes. On our private visit we will tour these exquisite and colorful gardens.
  • See Goldsmith Seed’s gardens. Goldsmith isone of the world’s largest flower breeders. 

DAY 4 Thursday

  • We know you will enjoy lavish Hearst Castle, California home of media magnate, William Randolph Hearst. He referred to his mountaintop citadel as “The Ranch,” but workmen labored 28 years hauling in millions of tons of topsoil to create the 127 acres of gardens, terraces, pools, and walkways that surround his 165-room abode.
  • Scores of persimmons, pomegranates and citrus plants were imported with 1500 oleanders to line the roadways. Hearst imported mature exotic trees, from around world to dot the landscapes of this vast estate and provide habitat for the exotic animals in his private zoo.
  • The mansion and guest houses are filled with priceless art works and architecture from all over the globe. It also includes swimming pools, a movie theater, six-foot high fireplaces and lavish décor. The view of the Pacific Ocean from the mountaintop is an unforgettable sight.
  • Hearst and his mansion inspired the story and the sets Orson Wells created for his movie, Citizen Kane – recently voted the greatest film of all time by the American Film Institute.
  • The California missions played an important role in molding the culture of California. See California’s most lavish mission alter at Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo (Carmel Mission). Beams are still lashed together with rawhide at this working church.

DAY 5 Friday

  • Even if you’ve never been here you have probably seen magnificent Filoli, backdrop for Heaven Can Wait, Dynasty and other movies.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Bourn, prominent San Franciscans, whose chief source of wealth was the Empire Gold Mine, commissioned a stained-glass window maker to design their fabulous gardens. The gardens are balanced and complimentary and in some ways resemble stained glass designs. Experts consider Filoli the best designed garden in the Western Hemisphere, and it is one of our favorites.
  • The gardens are splendid with lavish displays of fall flowers, shrubs and trees, and perennials that grace 16 acres of woodland, rose sunken and walled gardens and others surrounding the mansion.
  • You will be thrilled by this beautiful estate.