Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, October 2018

A few weeks ago, we took a trip to New York City for the weekend.  New York, while incredibly urban, does have some amazing gardens to visit.  One of those is the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. (This a link to a fellow bloggers page which shows the gardens in summer.)

The outside area is several acres in the corner of Prospect Park and contains many wonderful greenhouses and outdoor spaces.  There are several large interconnected greenhouses which are partially below ground- each is entered from a central gathering area.  The rooms are separated into different climate zones which contain plants from all over the world.

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the tropical room
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the sub-tropical room

There are various tropical, temperate and desert rooms, all with amazing plants.

Outside, there is a spectacular rose garden built in 1927.  There seemingly hundreds of varieties of roses from all over the world.  Many of the varieties are decades old.

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I have seen some wonderful roses in England, but this garden is truly an equal to anything I saw over there.  The range and variety was stunning.  (I will also point out that it was October, and several bushes had finished blooming for the year, but even so, it was totally stunning.)

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If you are in the area, this is a can’t miss experience.

Happy Travels!

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“Trained” fruit tree
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A sample of the Bonsai Collection

 

Chatsworth Gardens, July 2018

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On the day we went to Chatsworth, I spent some time exploring the gardens.  They are world famous- the fountain (above) is one of the most interesting features, but there are many….

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Surprisingly, unlike many other gardens we have visited in England, there were no flowers which were apparent.  (It seems that they were in another part of the garden which I missed) but I did get the chance to see the spectacular water features everywhere..

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As well as an odd collection of Yew bushes…IMG_9283 (1)

The Serpentine walk (one of symbols of the Devonshire family is the serpent.)

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And my favorite part- the Tree of Brass which spouts water from its branches!

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Finally, there was some lovely park land with gravel roads to walk along.  I even came across this beautiful Elephant sculpture.

I throughly enjoyed the Chatsworth Gardens.  *It is worth noting that when in England this summer, it was clear that they were experiencing a massive drought… everywhere which would normally be green was brown, and the fountains at Chatsworth were at perhaps 40% the normal capacity.

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The Orangery

And finally, an homage to the great Joseph Paxton Green house of the 19th century- which was sadly pulled down due to the exorbitant  expense of coal heating it required.  It still does, however, maintain the famous Lily pads!

If you have any more interest in Chatsworth, as I did, I highly recommend this documentary:

http://www.pbs.org/program/secrets-chatsworth/

Chartres Cathedral, France May 2018

During our recent visit to France, we spent an afternoon at Chartres Cathedral.  This sleepy little village was our first taste of the French countryside and it did not disappoint!

The village surrounds the cathedral and is very quaint and has a medieval feel to it.  The streets are narrow and crooked and are built onto the steep hillside, at the top of which is the cathedral.  It felt very quiet as we walked to the top of the hill. Once there, we had, in my mind, one of the best lunches of the entire trip.  I had a sandwich made entirely of Camembert and French bread.  I will remember it for the rest of my life.  It was surreal.  (Sadly, I did not take a picture of the sandwich or the restaurant.  Worth noting, is that the restaurant featured an interesting collection of teapots. It was full of them.)

The interior of the Cathedral was breathtaking. The soaring ceilings and stained glass windows were spectacular.  The exterior of the cathedral looked like it was due for a cleaning, as some of the more elaborate details were masked by a layer of black…IMG_8967

(Please excuse the dorky picture, it was the only one I had close enough to see the covered in black soot.)

The front of the cathedral was also surrounded by beautiful flowers and gardens…

Finally, the highlight (apart from the excellent sandwich) was the French cat we discovered enjoying the flower garden behind the cathedral.

IMG_8418 On a rainy weekday, remembering this visit has been fantastic.  I wish you all a happy day and safe travels (hopefully with frequent cat sightings!)

Luton Hoo, England 2016

Hello travelers! I hope you had a nice weekend.  I thought I would share with you my visit to Luton Hoo Hotel from June 2016.  It is a spectacular luxury hotel in what was a grand country estate.

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Above is my mom standing at the side entrance.  I learned about Luton Hoo after seeing the same stairwell in several films.  It was so spectacular that I kept noticing it- and I am sure it will look familiar to many of you as it has been in everything from Eyes Wide Shut to various James Bond films to War Horse.

 

While this was mildly interesting to me, the building itself and especially the gardens were what I found fascinating.  During our explorations of the grounds we came across a grass tennis court…

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We also found a Japanese inspired garden – which I wish I had more photos of because it was so lovely and picturesque.  It had many cute water features and stone walk ways. Below is unfortunately the best picture I took.IMG_3958

At the end of our ramble we encountered one of the great features of the English county estate: The haha! This clever design element allows for an uninterrupted view of the landscape and fields without running the risk of any cattle or sheep to come too close to the main building.  Thee can be seen all over England.  We also saw them at Rousham.

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I am not sure if the picture does it justice- it is quite formidable and if one should foolishly decide to jump into it, (as I may or may not have done) it is really hard to get back out again!

I would highly recommend Luton Hoo- if you like expensive hotels and feel like a splurge, this would be the place to do it! (I should also note that the hotel is now surrounded by a golf course which seems to draw many people here. Also weddings. Lots and lots of weddings!

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Lake Waban, Wellesley, Massachusetts

Lake Waban is not a long journey from my home, but it is a very special place.  I grew up nearby and learned to swim in this lake.  My mom sent me this spectacular picture of the sunset last night and it looked so tranquil I had to share.  If you are ever in the Boston area and looking for a beautiful place to take a walk, I highly recommend it.  There is also a beautiful topiary garden which I will write about more in another post. Happy Thursday!

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Knebworth, England June 2016

Last night, I was watching one of my (embarrassingly) favorite shows, Midsomer Murders.  The episode featured a house I visited in June 2016.  I thought this was serendipitous, as I have been thinking of writing a post about Knebworth already.

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I chose to visit Knebworth after I had seen many British TV shows and movies which had been filmed there. (Once again- extensive and scholarly research was done).  The house itself is strange: looking very much like a Victorian idea of what a castle should be. (It is described as, confusingly, “Tudor Gothic”).

The most famous resident of Knebworth is Edward Bulwer-Lytton.  He is was a Victorian novelist: he notably coined the term “the pen is mightier than the sword”, “the great unwashed” and “it was a dark and stormy night…” among other literary pearls.  The interior, which sadly I do not have pictures of, is a museum of sorts, paying homage to his life and literary accomplishments.

The gardens are spectacular.  Full of interesting pathways and breathtaking roses.  My favorite aspect of the garden was the pollarded lime tree walk.  I like (pollarded trees.)

There were some other interesting things to see in the grounds- a dead tree which had the former trunks carved into whimsical woodland women.

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We also stumbled across a very cute bamboo bower…

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and several artistic fountains and boxed hedges.  We also discovered that the garden contained a giant Sequoia tree, which was quite unexpected as this was England- not northern California.

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Overall, our visit to Knebworth was fantastic! I would encourage everyone to see it for themselves.  (But be sure to do plenty of British TV watching before hand so you can become an “expert” like me 😉 )

 

Villandry, France May 2018

While in the Loire Valley, we decided, rather late in the afternoon, to visit Villandry. It was such an unexpected joy to find this to be another gem in the Loire. Similar to Azay -le- Rideau , we had not planned on visiting here and therefore I had no historical context- which is challenging for me as I like to imagine the what has happened before my time at the places we visit. However, this experience was profound.  The Surreal gardens were so evocative of Alice in Wonderland – felt otherworldy.

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As we arrived late in the day, we only had a little time to rush through the Chateau itself which was spectacular.  It was again, a palace which one (or at least I) could envision living in. Large elegant rooms with painted wood paneling and high ceilings.   It was surrounded by channeled water which was home to many and overfed catfish who responded to shadows of tourists overhead by opening their mouths in anticipation of food.

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We did have a chance to climb up to the tower however, (the turret in the back of the chateau pictured above) which commanded an unbelievable view of the gardens.

IMG_8624 These boxed hedges contained lettuces which have been historically grown by monks. It is worth noting that from every window of the chateau the view is of these gardens, which actually has a great influence on the feel interior spaces as well.  It brings a great deal of elegance and distance.

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The gardens were broken up into rooms, similar to those in the English garden we visited, Rousham, but on a totally different scale and were created to have a very different feel.  The French Renaissance style seems to be all about conquering and dominating nature, while the English style was about working with the natural landscape.  (what Capability Brown was famous for.)

Even the trees had been tampered with- they were pollarded which is a process in which the new branches are continuously trimmed back and shaped every year.

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The lake was majestic- there was even a perfect pair of white swans floating in it.

This garden was truly a testament to human’s ability to shape and form the natural landscape to its will. While I loved it and was so glad to visit, I am not sure I would be so presumptuous to assume that nature could be so easily tamed as this garden appears to do.  There is always rain…

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