Who: Lap and Yee Wong, of Lodi; Yau and Yuk Kong, of Stockton.
The trip: Amtrak to Reno and Saratoga’s Hakone Garden.
Highlights: Hop aboard the Amtrak leaving from Sacramento to Reno. As the train chugs along, mull over the cottony snowflakes drifting slowly to the ground. If, like snowflakes, we join together and do our share, we could brighten the world with love. With freshly fallen white snow, it is tough for everyone to resist snowball fun. The sun casts a rosy gleam over pristine powder. Enliven your senses that frolic in the mountain resorts and ski areas. Gawk at Donner Lake, the wonder of the West, at an elevation of 5,500 feet.
Peek into Hakone Garden, the oldest Japanese authenticity in the Western hemisphere — 18 acres of magnificent simplicity cloistered on a steep hillside at Big Basin Way above Saratoga.
Meander past the stone paths and unfurl the sculptures shrubs, black pine trees and bamboo. Camellia, azaleas, Japanese maples, redwoods and other native flora that are pleasant to behold. Sitting under a wisteria-covered trellis, the pond pavilion looks overloaded with colorful koi fish, turtles and ducks taking in a reflective outlook on the garden.
Revel in the 1991 Cultural Exchange Center, an authentic reproduction of a 19th century Kyoto tea merchant’s house and shop. In 2005, Hakone was one of the major film sites for “Memoirs of a Geisha” that won three Academy Awards.
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