A few weeks ago, the staff of The Place
and I met for lunch in Cardiff-by-the-Sea
, known by locals for good, hand-crafted foods and organic selections. Afterward, we toured two gardens in the area which offered completely different, yet serene experiences. We hope that you can take a few hours to check out one, or both, of these stunning places of beauty and solace.
Self-Realization Fellowship Temple Meditation Gardens
A botanical sanctuary by the sea, erected in 1937
Turn at the Golden Lotus tower on Highway 101 and enter the two-acre Self-Realization Fellowship Temple Meditation Gardens
. This was our first destination after lunch and it was great to walk around and stretch the legs for a bit in a place that is absolutely free, but leaves you feeling richer than when you arrived.
You can watch crashing waves at the famous surf break called Swami’s
, which in Sanskrit means Enlightened. Swami’s was named in honor of Paramahansa Yogananda
, who established the temple and gardens in 1937.
The gardens are enhanced with meandering pathways, koi ponds, and meditation areas shaded by gnarled trees and thousands of native and exotic plants. Koi
, also known as brocaded carp, are Japanese symbols of love and friendship. Some of the koi are nearly three feet long! The curious fishes resemble ancient Asian paintings with splashes of vibrant colors, such as cobalt blue, mustard yellow, and sunset orange. The creative director of the magazine remarked that if she were a mermaid
, she’d want to take a koi for an underwater walk. I can see what she means.
We heard a woman burst into spontaneous song at the edge of the former Golden Lotus Temple that fell to the sea in 1942, due to erosion. She traced her fingers along the wrought-iron rails of the cliff-side pool and sang as if no one were there. We also saw bowed heads in reverence for this oasis, and people meditating and doing Yoga
Of this garden, I am most impressed by the gentle signage. It seems that in our litigious society, signs are often rude and directive. Rather than follow the conventional “Keep Off” approach, the garden signage echoes the peaceful messages that flowed from Yogananda’s writings
, for example: “Cliff areas are fragile. We appeal to all to keep away from the cliff edge...”
The Meditation Gardens
are free, and are open Tuesday through Saturday from 9am - 5pm, and Sunday from 11am - 5pm in Encinitas. Park along K Street, west of Highway 101. For more information, check out www.yogananda-srf.org/temples/encinitas/
San Diego Botanic Garden
36 acres of rare plants and serenity, celebrating 10 years
Next, we followed the fragrance of orchids and whispers of butterflies to a world-class botanic garden just up the road in Encinitas
. Located on 36 acres, San Diego Botanic Garden
(formerly Quail Botanical
) is an urban oasis, a place to connect with nature on full display.
We wandered through awe-inspiring gardens representing desert
, and tropical
regions. Imagine the scents from more than 3,500 types of plants, such as native California pines to exotic ferns of the rainforest, combining in one place. Paths weave among the various gardens, through bamboo groves, an undersea garden of coral-resembling cactuses, and from sun-dappled rare collections to the shade of the Victorian Gazebo near the waterfall.
We were enjoying an afternoon unlike any other. As contributors and staffers of a magazine, it’s important that we know our cultural places. Does it get any better, than to spend an afternoon soaking in all that the gardens of Encinitas offers?
I enjoyed running my fingers over the spongy bark of the cork oak
and smelling the blooming natal plums
—over and over again—like calling up a memory from long ago that’s coming into fragrant focus.
Adult are big kids too, so some of us (actually, just the women, we lost the men at the entrance) explored the new Hamilton Children’s Garden
, a fun zone where kids explore nature through the senses in hands-on experiences that include climbing trees, rock hopping, sketching, and telling time by sundial. It’s hard to imagine a bustling world exists outside the groves and twisted vines of this lush paradise. A visit here is well worth the attitude adjustment, at only $12.
San Diego Botanic Garden is open 9am - 5pm daily in Encinitas at 230 Quail Gardens Drive
. Admission is $12 adults and $6 children (ages 3 - 12). Visit www.sdbgarden.org
for more information or call 760-436-3036.
Our “gardens” afternoon took only a few hours. I am grateful we experienced both, because it was fun to compare the highlights afterward.