Garden Party at an Italian Villa, Atherton

Our CEO and CTO are the founders of our company. They happened to be married. Can you guess it? The CEO is the “she”. This afternoon after work, they gave us a garden party at their house in Atherton. I was curious to see how it is different from their Villa Felice on the 17-mile drive at Carmel.

I couldn’t believe my eyes as the gate opened. I walked in a dream, a movie set, or Italy Riviera, or a coffee table book. It can’t be real. In front of me was a large garden that was blooming with roses, lavender, mysterious flowers were giving out quiet fragrance. Renaissance style sculptures and bronze fountains were casually but gracefully decorating the garden. The drive way wound up to an ivy-clad Italian Villa style two store affair. It was rather subdued looking. It was quiet. We followed the pebbled garden path, walked under stoned arch, and walked around the main house. My senses were saturated with the greenary, the bloom and the leisurely statues laying about admist the vine, the flower bush, and little stone fountains here and there.

But wait, there is more, my eyes were lighted up by the expansive backyard that were covered with green lawn, shaded by three narly ancient oak trees. It looked the size of half a football field. There was a swimming pool, besides which a guest house, same style as the main villa, slightly smaller. Through the open doors, i could see the a 16 century style tapestry, hanging on the wall. Similar size to the Lady and the Unicorn series I had seen at Museum Cluny, Paris. At the same time, i could see a huge screen TV in the front of that room. It was playing scenes from the Original Matrix.

Sunlight, streamed through the dense crown of the oaks, was dancing on the surface of the pool. Next to the pool there was a black wecker daybed standing in the shade of the flower bush, which held another stone fountain in its bosom. I was half-expecting Liv Taylor would walked out the Stealing Beauty set and lay down on the chare…

At the far end of the lawn was a wall of tall hedges. I thought that was the end of the back yard. But our hostess(i.e. our CEO) led us through a few semi-circular Chinese wisteria archways to the side of the tall hedges. Next to the arches, there were herb gardens and fruit trees growing happily and heavy with fruits. Behind these was a tennis court and a children playground. There were a good sized changing room next to the tennis court, and another storage room behind the fences of the court.

Walking back to the oak tree shades, people had set up picnic tables next to a large stone table, spread of middle eastern food were served. Our CTO host was administering a wine tasting contest next to that flat panel screen tv plus 16 centure tapestry room. Everyone was going for the an expensive Chardonnay from Napa valley. 🙂

I went on with my snooping mission, next stop is the main villa. By then the awe strucking moment ignited by the incredible estate has calmed down, i was able to talk normally again. But not for long. The villa’s interior quietly held the final and the biggest surprise for me. It was Gothic style, off-white walls polished to have the aged look of any mideval church in west Europe, large bare wooden beams, high ceilings, narrow spiral stair cases leading to mysterious places, elaborate iron work chandelier, complete modern kitchen that could hold its own facing any chef from a 5 star restaurant was using dark green marble tops. There were corridors filled with sunlight, opening windows welcomed the sweet jasmin fragrance in the breeze, vaulted ceilings painted with imitations of Michelangelo’s masterpiece from the Sistine Chapel, and courtyard that was drunk with the misty sunlight of late Spring. The furnitures (there were not many of them) were Louis XIV style i believe.

I was overwhelmed with delight. My hands were shaking and my heart was beating fast. I took off the lense cover, but I had absolutely no idea what to photograph. I need wide angle lense, I need a video camera, I need color and black and white films. I need to capture the details, i need to capture the grand scale of the place. I need to capture the awe that everyone of us felt when we stood at the threashhold of the “boardroom”, which sported a large fireplace that had a mantle piece held up by two status that slightly resembled Michelangelo’s slaves i’ve seen in the Louve. I could picture our CTO stood up, the ancient Roman Senator style, wearing that simple robe or that white piece of cloth the ancient Greeks liked to wear, what was it called again? the one resembled a bed-sheet? Oh, well, it is not important. I could picture our CTO stood up like Plato and gave a speech and said how it must be so, how web service needed to be incorporated, how xml is needed for event representation, how the future lies within grasp… And now i believe everyone who sat in this room would believe him. That’s how powerful this room is. Yet it is so simple and sparse, but, B E A U T I F U L.

I was dazed.

I don’t think i’m recovered yet, not even now.

So some day when i have a spare $12 million and wondering how i should spend it. I would know the answer.

I guess one could see a place similar to this on a tv program reporting the life styles of a hollywood star. But it’s different when you walk in a place on your own. To experience it, however short the time maybe, was intoxicating.

I would have been able to share some pictures with you right now if i had brought my digital camera with me. But then again, I’m rather glad i didn’t. I don’t believe any picture will do its justice. You have to see it to smell it to feel the breeze, the sunlight flowing through the windows, to know what i’m babbling about.

All the while, i was thinking, what was the price they had to pay to be here? Would I be willing to pay that price? My immidiate answer is no. How about yours? 🙂