Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, Part III

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle is the only American sculpture garden, and the last major international project created by Niki de Saint Phalle.

In part II, I told you I’d be focusing on de Saint Phalle’s shades of blue. Under the giant eagle that supports Queen Califia, there’s a domed temple adorned with celestial symbols in gorgeous blue tiles….





I almost had to tone these photos down, the blues were so vivid.





In addition, there are these plaques from another sculpture garden by de Saint Phalle, the Tarot Garden in Tuscany.


A mosaic bench outside the dome.


The artist worked on this creation right up until her death in 2002, at age 71. She developed severe lung problems after years of inhaling fumes from the polystyrene that she used. De Saint Phalle also had rheumatoid arthritis, which made it hard for her to walk. A move to San Diego helped with the lung problems, but de Saint Phalle died of emphysema on May 21.


On our way out, we walked outside the garden where I took one last shot of Califia. De Saint Phalle began work on Queen Califia in 2000. After her death, completion was supervised by Niki’s granddaughter, Bloum Cardenas, and her assistants.

Great weekend, everyone!


Posted in photography | Tagged , , , , , , | 5 Comments


Even though the weather was a bit foggy and damp, the water in the Eidfjord was so calm we could see this nice reflection:


Great weekend, everyone!


Posted in photography | Tagged , | 10 Comments

Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, Part I

About a year ago, we went to see a sculpture garden created by artist Niki de Saint Phalle. It’s located in Kit Carson Park in Escondido. Unfortunately, the garden was closed and wouldn’t open for another year due to vandalism and deterioration from the elements.

Then, back in April, I took a look at the website to see when it was due to open. By sheer luck it was actually open that day (Sunday). Ordinarily the garden is only open the second Saturday of each month, with visits supervised by city volunteers. So we hopped in the car and drove over. I took a lot of photos because there’s so much detail in every sculpture. Hopefully your eyes won’t glaze over when you look at all these tiles.😉 I’m going to show mercy and break this into three parts.


Queen Califia’s Magical Circle opened in October 2003. “New Realist” sculptor and painter Niki de Saint Phalle designed and self-financed the garden. The photo above shows Queen Califia and the entrance plus a small maze.


The garden, like the state, takes its name from the legendary black Amazon queen, Califia, who was believed to rule an island paradise of gold and riches “on the right hand of the Indies.” The legend was introduced in the sixteenth-century romance novel, Las Sergas de Esplandián, which was popular in Spain. Geologist John McPhee mentions the tale in his book Assembling California, which Saint Phalle read and was inspired by for her initial ideas.


Queen Califia is standing on the back of a 13-foot eagle with five legs, and raising a bird above her head. You can get an idea of the scale looking at the people nearby.


From this angle, the eagle looks like yet another creature with giant eyes.

Here are some more views and details.




The sculptures are made of polystyrene encased in a polyurethane skin, with applied fiberglass coating over a steel armature. The designs were based on Saint Phalle’s models, with the aid of computer modeling.




De Saint Phalle hand-picked pieces of glass in differing shapes, color, translucency and degrees of reflection. This was the first time she used stones like agate, travertine, quartz and turquoise. Unfortunately, de Saint Phalle used mirrors which have not held up to the outdoor elements. Those are being replaced, according to our guide. She also told us crows are drawn to things that glitter, like Mother of Pearl. Who knew?


Sorry, I went a little nuts with this one. But doesn’t the blue sky just make the best backdrop? I’m also liking the dose of surrealism which is present in most of the de Saint Phalle’s work.


The garden’s 400-foot “snake” wall is composed of Mexican pebble stones, and the snakes and other sculptures are covered with thousands of hand-cut glass, ceramic and stone mosaic tiles.




I’m not a fan of snakes, but I think this is amazing. The colors really are this intense.

More to come!


Posted in photography | Tagged , , , | 16 Comments

Found Some Bikes in Amsterdam

For years I’ve been seeing photos of bikes in Amsterdam with one of the many canals in the background. So of course I was hoping to capture my own. No worries, bikes are everywhere. Not as many as in Copenhagen, but close. We even saw a parking garage for bicycles:


Had to watch really closely when crossing streets because bikers would come out of nowhere and nearly run us down. If you go, pay attention to the reddish-brown lanes–they’re for bikes–and look both ways, more than once.


Found my canal with bike shot.

And one more.


Would you believe the place with the awnings is the Hansel and Gretel Cafe? So cute.

I could have taken so many photos of bikes and canals, but we only had a day and a half and really wanted to see the Van Gogh Museum, the Riiksmuseum, Anne Frank house, etc. It was a bit of a challenge, but we hit them all.

Hope your week’s going well so far.


Posted in photography | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Norwegian Blue


A blue door in the old town of Stavanger, Norway. It was raining when we first walked around, but stopped long enough so I could take some photos. A really lovely area.

Thanks so much for the kind words, emails, cards and flowers. They help, they really do.


Posted in photography | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

A Pause

Hi everyone,

I’m back from our trip to Amsterdam and Norway, but my brother passed away on Sunday and it’s left me flattened. He was ill for a long time, but this was still an unexpected surprise. I hope to be back reading your blogs and commenting sometime soon, but not this week.

I’ll leave you with a photo taken 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle in Norway where the sun never really set. This was shot at 11:30 p.m.!


Hope your week’s going well so far.


Posted in photography | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Happy Friday


A ranunculus for you this fine summer Friday. After May Gray and June Gloom, we are having perfectly gorgeous weather. It’s so nice to be able to eat outside again.

We are going on a trip next week and won’t be back until August. I’m trying to get everything done without going crazy.🙂 Having back problems really put a monkey wrench in my schedule. It’s all good, though.

Great weekend, everyone…see you in August!


Posted in photography | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Travel Scan: Dream Garage in Aix

We spent only two days in Aix-en-Provence, France, but it was long enough for me to realize this was one of my favorite cities in the world. Dreamy, golden light everywhere with soft breezes blowing through plane trees. Not to mention gorgeous architecture all over.

So I shouldn’t have been astonished to see a car pull into these beautiful doors guarded by carved stone cherubs beneath a wrought-iron balcony with red geraniums:


Best garage ever.

Great weekend, everyone, and Happy Fourth of July to my American readers! Monday is a holiday, so I’ll be back in a week.


Posted in photography | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

St. Isaac’s from the Bridge


Somehow I overlooked this shot of St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg in my original post. I don’t know what the building is next to it, but I think it’s beautiful. There were so many structures like this along the Neva. We were lucky enough to take a cruise on the river and I’ll share those photos in the future.

Hope your week’s going well so far.


Posted in photography | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments