Chatsworth Gardens, July 2018

IMG_9298

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….

IMG_9305

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..

IMG_9300

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.)

IMG_9289

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

IMG_9602

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.

IMG_9280 (1)

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.

IMG_3970

IMG_3944

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…

IMG_3952

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.

IMG_3956

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!

IMG_3936

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!

IMG_0065

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.

IMG_3874

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.

IMG_3893

We also stumbled across a very cute bamboo bower…

IMG_3905

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.

IMG_3879

IMG_3894

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.

IMG_8622

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.

IMG_8637

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.

IMG_8620

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.

IMG_8629

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…

IMG_8634

Rousham, Oxfordshire, June 2016

My favorite Garden of all time

During our trip to England in June 2016 we spent one day visiting Rousham.  This is a lesser known estate just outside of Oxford.  I first learned about it via the famous Monty Don and a show about it on Youtube. (again, quite extensive research on my part.) I was struck with the elegant simplicity of William Kent’s garden design and wanted to see for myself.  I was not disappointed.  For the true lover of English gardens, this one is absolute perfection.  It mixes expansive green lawns, wooded pathways and various garden “rooms.”

 

IMG_3782 (1)

The day we visited was a bit muggy, so sadly my pictures are slightly hazy.  The lawns above overlook the river.  The design is simple and elegant and the differences in the shades of green is remarkable- I think Kent was interested in the contrasting greens as it is very noticeable.

IMG_3805

The wooded pathways lead to small follies, this one being a imitation ruined Roman temple.  (These small shelters can be found in most English gardens- smart given that there is a great deal of rain and it is easy to get caught out in a storm far from the house. Also, it seems they were perfect for assignations as well as picnics.)

IMG_3796

After an ill-fated attempt to reach the river below the folly in which I had my first encounter with Nettles (they are awful and sting like nothing else. Very glad I never had to contend with nasty little plants before) we decided to visit the walled garden adjacent to the house. It was spectacular.  Above is me standing in one of the immaculately maintained box hedges.

IMG_3785

One of the interesting features of this garden were the trained fruit trees- these are trees which are carefully pruned each year so that they grow in a particular shape.

IMG_3787

This garden is full of lovely little pathways with over hanging flowers and small fountains.  One of these even had a tiny walkway for newts to climb in and out. (Sadly I don’t have a picture of this.) The roses were unlike anything I have seen before. The air full of the fragrance.

IMG_3788

IMG_3789

Finally, we visited the Dovecote.  This round building was designed to house doves and the interior was filled with small little nooks where doves made their nests.  (As you can see, it is mostly pigeons living there right now.) It added to the overall perfection of the garden.

IMG_3800

IMG_3801

Roushham was spectacular.  We were free to wander around the garden uninterrupted for as long as we liked.  It was serene and natural.  The entire place felt calm and far away from everything. This is truly one of the most spectacular places I have ever visited.