My New Year Urban Respite: Houston’s Centennial Gardens
Happy New Year! For me, the beginning of a new year is the most exciting time. I make it a definite ending point for all the crap I’ve endured over the last year, but more importantly, it’s a beginning point, and a fresh new start to making your life exactly what you want it to be. 2016 marks an even more significant renewal point for me personally, as I start my first year in Houston after 15 long years in Los Angeles. I’m so thrilled to be in such a vibrant city with so much opportunity and with so many facets to explore. Each day I’m introduced to yet another interesting person who teaches me about the diversity, the rich artistic culture, and the old school traditions of a town like Houston. Much like Los Angeles, it is a town that can really be as much as you want it to be and you never really know what possibility is waiting for you around the corner.
I was excited yesterday to step out (into the finally chilly weather) and visit the McGovern Centennial Gardens on the Northeast portion of Hermann Park. Eight years and $31 Million in the making, the gardens just opened to the public in late December. Modeled after the exquisite Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, this really was the perfect place to take some time to quietly reflect in gratitude on how each of my actions and inactions in the last few years had led me to this great new city and exciting new company. Sitting on 15 acres, you can meander through different garden pathways that surround a great lawn. The great lawn leads you to a 30 foot lookout perch with a cascading contemporary waterfall. Once you reach the top of the spiraling path, you are met with a panoramic view of Houston’s famous medical center and museum district, as well as an eagle-eye view of the garden-goers who are enjoying picnics on the great lawn, taking engagement photos, or enjoying a nice book in the sunshine. Very fitting for such a place of contemplation, the limestone benches at the top of the lookout are engraved with the Confucius quote: “If you think of a year, plant a seed. If you think of ten years, plant a tree. If you think of one hundred years, teach the people.” Deep thoughts…oh my.
Perhaps my favorite part of my visit to Centennial Gardens was the interactive family garden that flanks the great lawn. I was lucky enough to have a tour guide who is a noted Houston chef specializing in farm-to-table dishes at some pretty popular restaurants in town. As we walked through the vegetable and herb gardens, he explained what each beautiful plant was and how it could best be incorporated into a delicious dish. I almost wanted to take out a fork and a nice vinaigrette right there and dig into all the healthy goodness…Kale, sugar peas, eggplants, loofah gourds, cardones, fruit trees…you name it. Sponsored by HEB to teach kids about healthy eating and gardening, it was explained to me that it was a nearly miraculous feat to be growing this much varied produce in Houston’s unpredictable climate.
What a great day and great start to 2016 in Houston. If you haven’t already, take the time to go check it out. It’s a perfect green respite right in the heart of the city and a great place to steal an afternoon alone or take a stroll on a date with someone special.