I recently took a business trip to Saratoga, California for the day. While there, it turned out to be a lovely day and I had some extra time to poke around and explore. I visited two great sites, the Montalvo Arts Center and the Hakone Japanese Gardens.
The Montalvo property is comprised of 175 acres of land on which the former vacation villa of Senator James Duval Phelan stands. He donated the property and the villa to the state for the purpose of fostering both local and international arts and culture. The property has expanded and now houses the oldest artist-in-residency program in the country as well as two theaters, an art gallery, a culinary residency program, and vast gardens and grounds. According to Wikipedia (not the finest source I know), “Phelan named Villa Montalvo in honor of the popular 16th century Spanish writer Garci Ordonez de Montalvo. Montalvo coined the name “California” in one of his fables. In it he described an island rich with gold and jewels, peopled by Amazons ruled by a queen named Calafia. The Amazons in the fable rode griffins, mythical winged guardians of precious treasure. Griffins can be found throughout the arts center grounds, standing guard over Phelan’s precious gift.”
The Hakone Gardens were really amazing as well. They are the oldest Japanese and Asian Estate gardens in the Western Hemisphere. After viewing the Pan Pacific Exposition of 1915, Isabel Stine, wife of philanthropist Oliver Stine, traveled abroad to Japan to research Japanese garden retreats. With the information she gathered, she returned to Saratoga to establish a family retreat in the Santa Cruz hills for her family and for entertaining guests and friends. From 1932 until the mid 60’s, the estate passed in and out of the hands of family members and wealthy buyers until it was sold to the City of Saratoga in 1966. Kyoto-trained landscape professional Tanso Ishihara took charge of the estates restoration. However, again in 1999 the future of the gardens became cloudy. High maintenance and operating costs threatened the survival of the property. A charitable donation from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation established a fund for the continual preservation of the gardens. Since then, several large-scale events have been held on the grounds. Hakone also served as one of the primary filming locations for the movie Memoirs of a Geisha.
The City of Saratoga is well worth the trip is you are looking for something easy to do within a short driving distance. Here’s to hoping business will take me back there soon!
*I apologize in advance for the poor quality of these photos (iPhone cam). As previously mentioned, my free time was unexpected and I didn’t bring my usual camera.