Garden Tour to Southern Italy’s Amalfi Coast and Sicily

Garden Tour to Southern Italy and Sicily

 

OVERVIEW

Aside from the spectacular views from most of the gardens in the area of Italy from Rome south to the Amalfi Coast, there is a surprising range of plants from sub-tropical species to all sorts of plants that thrive in temperate regions. Add in the rather hedonistic culture of the locals for the evening hours, and you have all the ingredients for a very memorable trip.

The Amalfi Coast is an area of coastline a couple of hundred kilometres south of Rome. The largest city is Naples (Napoli) whose landscape is dominated by the famous volcano, Mt Vesuvius, and of course Pompeii is a ‘must see’ attraction nearby. For gardeners the area to the south of Naples is the real attraction, with smaller towns such as Sorrento, being the places to spend your long lunches around visits to landmark gardens.

There are a couple of ‘must see’ gardens that showcase perfectly the borrowed landscape of the plunging cliffs and slopes that border the spectacular sea views. We visit Villa Cimbrone, the picturesque village of Ravello, the volcanic island Ischia filled with beautiful villas and gardens and home to a botanically themed garden called La Mortella. This tour offers a rich and inspiring window into the art of Mediterranean gardening.

 

TOUR ITINERARY

Day 1 Mon 17 April Australia-Rome
Fly from your capital city to Rome. Overnight in flight.

Day 2 Tue 18 April Arrive Rome
Arrive in Rome. You will be met and transferred to your hotel. Welcome dinner at hotel. (Dinner)

Day 3 Wed 19 April Rome-Tivoli-Rome
Today we visit the historic vacation homes of the Roman elite on a Rome to Tivoli day trip. We will admire the stunning gardens of Villa d’Este and see the famous Fountain of Neptune. Explore the archaeological ruins of Villa Adriana before returning to Rome for overnight. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 4 Thu 20 April Rome
This morning we will take a stroll to the Vatican Museums, experience Michelangelo’s famous frescoed ceiling with your own eyes as you explore the Sistine Chapel, enter St. Peter’s Basilica with a guided Vatican walking tour and see the famous La Pieta sculpture. In the afternoon, visit the Circus Maximus, the ancient Roman chariot racing stadium, the Colosseum, one of the symbols of ancient Rome and stroll along cobbled laneways, stopping to visit famous attractions like the Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 5 Fri 21 April Rome-Villa Lante-Roseto Vacunae Rosae-Rome
Your journey today brings you to Villa Lante, a sophisticated and flawlessly manicured garden influenced by the Mannerist. Afterwards, be enchanted by the array of colour and pleasant aromas at Roseto Vacunae Rosae. Return to Rome for overnight. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 6 Sat 22 April Rome-Castel Gandolfo-Ninfa-Sorrento
Today we travel to Castel Gandolfo for a guided visit of the magnificent gardens surrounding the papal summer residence. Continue to the ancient city of Ninfa, now is a tranquil garden framed by the city’s classical ruins. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 7 Sun 23 April Sorrento
Enjoy a day at your leisure. (Breakfast)

Day 8 Mon 24 April Sorrento
After breakfast, we depart for a tour to explore the ruins of the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Travel back in time and stroll the haunting ruins of former Roman towns, with panoramic views of the brooding volcano of Mount Vesuvius that destroyed them. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 9 Tue 25 April Sorrento-Isle of Capri-Sorrento
Today we take a short ferry trip across the Bay of Naples to the fable Island of Capri to visit the magical place Villa San Michele, a living example of the dream that became reality. Take a chairlift to Monte Solaro and take in the most beautiful panorama. (Breakfast)

Day 10 Wed 26 April Sorrento-Amalfi Coast-Sorrento
This morning we travel along the great Amalfi coastal road up into the hills to the delightful village of Ravello. We will visit the Villa Rufolo with its beautiful garden overlooking the sea. Also visit the Villa Cimbrone, a beautiful garden in the classical style, which contains historic statues and temples. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 11 Thu 27 April Sorrento-Ischia Island-Sorrento
Today we take a ferry to Ischia, an island famous for its beautiful beaches, wonderfully warm water and gorgeous gardens. We will visit the Garden La Mortella and the mysterious Aragonese Castle, which stands out of the sea, detached from the rest of the island. (Breakfast)

Day 12 Fri 28 April Sorrento-Catania-Taormina
We transfer to Naples airport for flight to Catania. Upon arrival, transfer to Taormina and check in to your hotel. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 13 Sat 29 April Taormina
During a morning tour, we will see the splendid Greek Theatre, the Roman ‘Naumachiae’, the 13th century Cathedral of Saint Nicola, the 14th century Palazzo Corvaja, and discover the indigenous Mt. Etna broom. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 14 Sun 30 April Taormina
Today we visit Florence Trevelyan’s Gardens. A panoramic walkway lined with benches faces the view over the sea and Etna, while flower-beds, lawns, hedges, trees and bushes spread over the large terrace. Afternoon is at your leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 15 Mon 01 May Taormina-Siracusa
Depart Taormina for Siracusa, a treat with some exceptional private gardens. On the way visit Villa San Giuliano. The whole area was cultivated with citrus orchards until 1974 when four hectares were given over to the garden, and the present owner began to plant ornamental trees and shrubs. Check in at Grand Hotel. Enjoy dinner at Hotel Terrace Restaurant. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 16 Tue 02 May Siracusa
After breakfast, enjoy a walking tour and discover the enchanting island of Ortigia, the old town centre of Siracusa. There’s a staggering number of well-preserved Greek and Roman ruins in Siracusa. We will visit the Greek Theatre dates back to the 5th C. BC, and the Roman amphitheatre before returning to hotel for a free afternoon. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 17 Wed 03 May Siracusa
This morning we leave to visit the gardens of the Princess Maria Carla Borghese: Il Biviere, at Lentini was created after the nearby lake was drained to combat malaria. Afternoon is at your leisure. Enjoy your farewell dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 18 Thu 04 May Siracusa-Catania-Australia
Transfer to Catania airport for flight to Rome and connect with Emirates flight home. (Breakfast)

Day 19 Fri 05 May Arrival in Australia

 

To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

Gardens of the Atlantic – Portugal and Madeira

Gardens of the Atlantic – a garden tour Portugal and Madeira with Julie Kinney

 

After typically cool and wet winters, springtime in Portugal arrives with a burst of colour and greenery. On this tour, prepare for a sensory feast as you explore the grand historic gardens and palaces of the Portuguese mainland cities of Lisbon and Porto, and the verdant sub-tropical Atlantic island of Madeira. Gain exclusive access to some of the most charming and lush private gardens and estates in all of Europe, and enjoy the history, culture and cuisine of this captivating country in an unspoiled corner of Western Europe.

 

AT A GLANCE…

Marvel at the grand palaces of Lisbon and atmospheric Sintra and admire the sweeping Villar d’Allen, Aveleda and Palheiro estates (‘quintas’)
Enjoy exclusive, locally-guided visits to a number of private gardens and estates
Leisurely explore the charming cities of Lisbon, Porto and Funchal
Attend Madeira’s famous annual flower festival and discover the island’s quaint mountain villages and farmers’ markets
Savour local Portuguese wines and unique regional cuisines

 

ITINERARY

MONDAY 24 APRIL 2017 / DEPARTURE FROM AUSTRALIA
Suggested departure from Australia on Qantas/Emirates flights (via Dubai) to Lisbon. Renaissance Tours can assist you with these travel arrangements.

 

TUESDAY 25 APR / ARRIVE LISBON
Early afternoon arrival in Lisbon and check-in to your hotel.

This evening, join Julie and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner. (D)

 

WED 26 APR / LISBON
Begin your exploration of Lisbon with an orientation walking tour of the Baixa area, the commercial heart of Lisbon. Totally rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755 the Baixa is one of Europe’s first examples of town planning. The area contains magnificent plazas, connected by wide avenues lined with grand 18th-century buildings.

Visit the Alfama neighbourhood, Lisbon’s oldest district and Bairro Alto, the city’s bohemian haunt of artists and writers.

Travel to Belém, at the mouth of the Tagus River. After lunch, visit the Torre de Belém (1515-21), the ornately decorated fortress, from which many of the great Portuguese explorers embarked on their voyages of discovery.

Finish with a visit to the National Coach Museum which has one of the world’s finest collections of historical carriages. (BLD)

 

THU 27 APR / LISBON
This morning, enjoy a guided tour of the celebrated Calouste Gulbenkian Museum with its impressive art collections spanning Egyptian and classical antiquities, European old and modern masters, as well as Oriental and Islamic treasures.

Afternoon at leisure. (B)

 

FRI 28 APR / LISBON
Enjoy a full-day tour to Sintra, the summer residence of the Portuguese royal family for several centuries due to its temperate ‘hill-town’ climate and ambience. In addition to its royal residents, Sintra has attracted the aristocracy and the wealthy from Portugal and abroad who in the 19th century built grand mansions, villas and gardens.

Begin with a visit to Monserrate, built in 1858 in the eclectic Romantic-Orientalist spirit. The English-inspired park gardens contain waterfalls and plants ranging from roses and conifers to tropical tree ferns, and at least 24 species of palms.

Continue to Quinta da Regaleira, built in the early 1900s. Regaleira consists of a palace and chapel in a mixture of Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline architectural styles, surrounded by a luxurious park featuring lakes, tunnels, grottoes, wells, and fountains.

In the afternoon, visit Quinta dos Lagos a private home and garden, rarely opened to visitors. The estate boasts a woodland garden, which includes traditional Portuguese features such as azulejos (painted tiles), a glasshouse fernery, terraces and the lakes for which it is named. (subject to confirmation) (BL)

 

SAT 29 APR / LISBON
Today, visit two palaces and their gardens in the environs of Lisbon.

Begin with a visit to the privately owned Palacio Fronteira. Built in 1640, it is still one of the most beautiful residences in Lisbon, containing splendid rooms with 17th and 18th century decorative tiles, frescoed panels and oil paintings. However, it is most famous for its formal gardens with some of the country’s finest tiles, depicting hunting, battles and religious scenes.

Continue to the National Palace of Queluz for lunch followed by a tour of the grounds. Built as a royal palace in the 1750s, it is one of the last great Rococo buildings to be designed in Europe and is often referred to as the ‘Versailles of Portugal’. The gardens feature a large topiary parterre, canals, a grotto and cascade, formal terraces, statuary, fountains and avenues of magnolias and mulberry trees.
(BL)

 

SUN 30 APR / LISBON – PORTO
Depart Lisbon for a full day’s drive to Porto.

En route visit Quinta Santo Antonio, a private 17th century country estate, set on 22 hectares with a variety of garden rooms, woodlands, olive orchards and an olive oil factory. Enjoy a guided tour of the estate and museum by the owner followed by lunch.

Late afternoon arrival in Porto. Dinner is at the hotel. (BLD)

 

MON 01 MAY / PORTO (MAY DAY)
Located on a magnificent site near the mouth of the Douro River. Porto is an ancient port city steeped in history and tradition.

Begin with a walking tour of the historic centre, a feature of which is the buildings whose interiors and exteriors are magnificently decorated in tiles. Visit the São Bento station, whose atrium consists of around 20,000 tiles alluding to the history of transport and of Portugal.

In the afternoon visit Quinta de Villar d’Allen, one of the few surviving leisure manors that surrounded the city of Porto in the 18th and 19th centuries. Enjoy a guided tour by the owner, followed by afternoon tea in the gardens. (B a/t)

 

TUE 02 MAY / PORTO
Drive out of Porto to the Quinta da Aleveda wine estate. The gardens of Aveleda are a fine example of the romantic garden created in Portugal at the end of the 19th century and feature a woodland of oak trees sheltering large rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, eucalyptus and sequoias, a lake, numerous pavilions and fountains and wonderful vistas across the 300-year old wine estate.

Enjoy lunch followed by a tasting of the estate’s much-prized wines. Return to Porto in the mid-afternoon. (BL)

 

WED 03 MAY / PORTO – FUNCHAL (MADEIRA)
Transfer to Porto airport for a flight to Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira.

On arrival in Funchal, transfer to your hotel located at the top of sea cliff providing superb views over the Atlantic Ocean.

Dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

THU 04 MAY / FUNCHAL
Begin with a cable car ride up into the hills to Monte Palace Gardens, renowned for its exotic plant collection from all over the world. One of the highlights is the large collection of tile panels placed along the walkways.

In the afternoon continue to the gardens of Quinta do Palheiro Ferreiro, also known as the Blandy’s garden. The gardens boast magnificent trees, sunken topiary gardens and exotic flower borders.

Dinner tonight at the hotel. (BD)

 

FRI 05 MAY / FUNCHAL
Today, travel to the north of the island, stopping at Pico do Ariero, the third highest summit on the island with commanding views over the surrounding mountains and valleys.

Continue to Ribeiro Frio and enjoy a walk following the levada’s (mini canals) to ‘Balcoes’ (1 hour return walk).

Conclude with a visit to the Boa Vista orchid garden and nursery. This family-run garden is dedicated to the preservation of many species of plants and flowers, some which are close to extinction. (BL)

 

SAT 06 MAY / FUNCHAL
This morning, begin with an early visit to the ‘Mercado dos Lavradores’ the city’s lively Saturday morning farmers market. Enjoy the celebrations, as the streets of Funchal make way for the morning Children’s Parade, made up of hundreds of children with colourful allegorical floats covered with natural flowers.

Later, enjoy old-world charm with afternoon tea at Belmond Reid’s Palace, followed by a guided tour of its renowned sub-tropical gardens.
(B a/t)

 

SUN 07 MAY / FUNCHAL
Today, attend the colourful annual Madeira Flower Festival. The splendid parade with floats adorned with blooms fill the streets with music, colour and soft floral aromas.

Tonight celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner. (BD)

 

MON 08 MAY / DEPART FUNCHAL
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. If you are returning to Australia today, we recommend you fly with TAP airlines to Lisbon, connecting with Emirates/Qantas flights via Dubai. Arrival in Australia on Tuesday 09 May or Wednesday 10 May (depending on connecting flights). Renaissance Tours can assist you with all tour travel arrangements. (B)

 

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History & Birdlife Cruise

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History & Birdlife Cruise – Scotland, Ireland, Wales & England

 

Itinerary

Day 1. Arrive Edinburgh and Embark Ship
On arrival in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to the port of Leith. Board the MS Hebridean Sky after 4.00pm, your home for the next 10 nights. After settling in to your suite, enjoy a Welcome Dinner this evening.
Ten Nights: the MS Hebridean Sky (D)

Day 2. Aberdeen and Crathes Castle
Cruising along Scotland’s east coast, over the waters of the North Sea, today you’ll arrive at Aberdeen. Disembark and travel by coach through Royal Deeside, the picturesque valley of the River Dee. Absorb the lovely scenery as you head to Crathes Castle, a 16th-century castle that’s famous for its splendid landscaped grounds and gardens. Return to your ship for lunch before enjoying an afternoon visit to Pitmedden Garden. (BLD)

Day 3. Inverewe Gardens
Today your ship will drop anchor and you’ll enjoy a Zodiac ride to one of Scotland’s premier gardens, Inverewe. This botanical garden in the north-west Highlands, presents an amazing collection of exotic trees and shrubs that are sheltered by well-positioned windbreaks of native pine. After a tour, return by Zodiac to your ship and set off during lunch across The Minch and past the Isle of Skye. (BLD)

Day 4. Isle of Mull, Duart Castle, Isle of Iona, Freedom of Choice
After breakfast, set off to the Isle of Mull where you have two touring options. The first option is to visit a quaint private garden and the second option is Duart Castle, a 13th century clifftop castle set in the Millennium Wood and home to the MacLean clan. Later cruise to the Isle of Iona, a place of tranquility where more than 40 Scottish Kings, as well as Kings from Ireland, France and Norway are buried. (BLD)

Day 5. Isle of Gigha, Isle of Jura and Whiskey Distillery
This morning visit the beautiful Isle of Gigha. Privately owned by its 120 inhabitants, the landscape consists of heather-covered hills, deserted sandy beaches, clear green seas and just the one single-lane road, which meanders between quaint cottages and farms. Here, you’ll enjoy time to wander the gardens of Achamore House. Laid out by Sir James Horlick from 1944, this stunning garden boasts a wonderful collection of azaleas, rhododendrons and exotic plants. Returning to your ship for lunch, you’ll then cruise to the Isle of Jura, where you’ll enjoy the opportunity to visit the 200 year-old single malt Scotch whisky distillery. (BLD)

Day 6. Belfast and Mount Stewart, Freedom of Choice.
This morning enjoy a sightseeing tour of Belfast. This afternoon you can choose from two options, either the Titanic Exhibition or Mount Stewart, an 18th century house and garden in County Down. Planted in the 1920s by Lady Londonderry, the gardens today are owned by The National Trust and are of significant international importance. Here, a series of outdoor ‘rooms’ and vibrant parterres contain many rare plants that thrive in the mild climate of the Ards Peninsula. Enjoy time to explore the gardens as well as the opulent house, which boasts a fascinating heritage and contains world-famous artefacts and artwork. (BLD)

Day 7. Portmeirion and Bodnant Garden, Freedom of Choice
This morning you’ll cruise into Holyhead to spend a full day exploring this spectacular part of Wales. Visit Portmeirion, an extraordinary Mediterranean-style village designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. Choose from a tour of the village and its gardens or the gardens of nearby Plas Brondanw, the family home of Williams-Ellis. Afterwards drive through the famous Snowdonia region to Bodnant Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the United Kingdom. Spanning some 80 acres, the garden is set above the River Conwy and offers views to the Snowdonia range. Stroll through the Upper Garden, with its terraces and informal lawns, then continue into the Dell, the wild garden of the lower section formed by the valley of the River Hiraethlyn. (BLD)

Day 8. Dublin, Freedom of Choice
Your ship will arrive in Dublin Bay this morning and enter the mouth of the River Liffey. From here, you have a choice of three activities. First option is to travel by coach into the Wicklow Mountains and visit the gardens of Powerscourt, with its charming walled garden, striking terraces, fine statuary, varied trees, carefully designed walking paths and more. The second option is to travel to Mount Usher, a lovely romantic garden on the banks of the River Vartry. The third option is to visit the private garden of botanical author, Helen Dillon. Enjoy a lecture with BBC Presenter Monty Don and free time in Dublin. (BLD)

Day 9. Waterford, Freedom of Choice
Your ship will arrive in Waterford on Ireland’s south eastern coast. From here, you will have the choice of two full day tours. The first option is to travel to Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s most historic and attractive cities, and visit Kilkenny Castle and the design centre followed by a tour of the world-famous Waterford Crystal Factory. The second option is to travel to Mount Congreve Gardens, a vast and visually inspiring woodland garden set on the banks of the River Suir and later return to County Waterford for a visit to Lismore Castle, which features the oldest continually cultivated gardens in Ireland. (BD)

Day 10. Isles of Scilly and Tresco
Today will see you cruising amid the beautiful Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off Great Britain’s south western tip. Disembark on the island of Tresco, considered by many to be the most attractive of the islands. It is leased by the Dorrien-Smith family, who have created a wonderful 40 acre sub-tropical garden near their Tresco Abbey home. You’ll have the opportunity to go for a relaxing stroll along the traffic-free lanes and wander along one of the lovely white-sand beaches where the sea colour has more in common with the Aegean than the North Atlantic. Back on board for lunch and afternoon tea before a special Farewell Dinner. (BLD)

Day 11. Portsmouth and Arrive London
After breakfast this morning, you’ll disembark the MS Hebridean Sky in the English waterfront city of Portsmouth. From here, you’ll be transferred by coach to London, arriving at Heathrow Airport at around 12.30pm or the St James Court Hotel which is in Central London at around 1.30pm. (B)

 

Birdlife of the British Isles

While taking in the spectacular coastal scenery of the British Isles, you’ll be joined by an ornithologist, who will share their expertise on the many species of birds that call the British Isles home. This is the season when they are at their most prolific.

 

Small Ship (100 guest) Cruising with Botanica

As you uncover the delights of the British Isles, you’ll enjoy a truly intimate and unique small ship cruising experience with only 100 guests aboard the MS Hebridean Sky, with a décor like a grand English country hotel. Experience great hospitality from the moment you step on board and relax, knowing you only have to unpack once before unwinding in your spacious home-away-from-home. While taking in the spectacular coastal and other remote scenery of the British Isles, you’ll be joined by expert onboard lecturers, including a dedicated ornithologist, who will share their expertise on the many species of birds that call the British Isles home, as well as history and garden lectures.

 

Highlights

• Enjoy onboard lectures about the history of the British Isles and learn of the castles and gardens you are visiting
• Wander the grounds and landscaped gardens of 16th-century Crathes Castle
• Visit one of Scotland’s premier gardens, Inverewe, in the Scottish Highlands
• Experience the 13th century Duart Castle on the Isle of Mull
• Marvel at Bodnant Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the UK
• Explore the Isle of Iona and the Isle of Gigha, plus Tobermory
• Visit Mount Stewart, a famous 18th-century house and garden in Northern Ireland
• Cruise around the Isles of Scilly and explore the picturesque Tresco Garden
• Visit Plas Brondanw and Portmeirion
• Try some whisky on the Isle of Jura
• Arrive at some gardens by Zodiac
• Learn about the local birdlife from the onboard ornithologist
• Explore Helen Dillon’s private garden in Dublin
• Explore Belfast and the Titanic museum

 

Included

• Services of a Cruise Director, Expedition Team and Botanical Guide
• Airport transfers on first and last day, as well as tipping and port taxes
• 28 Meals – 10 Breakfasts (B), 8 Lunches (L) and 10 Dinners (D)
• Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board
• Ten nights on the small ship, the MS Hebridean Sky, which holds
a maximum of 100 passengers
• Onboard lectures by the Botanical Guide, Historian and Ornithologist
• Freedom of Choice touring some days included in the price

 

Experiences: History, Gardens, Music, Birdlife

 

To book call 1300 305 202 in Australia or 0800 525 300 in New Zealand

Southport Flower Show

Southport Flower Show

 

Victoria Park, Southport, UK

 

Visit beautiful seaside Southport for the biggest independent garden show in the UK, now in its 88th year.

 

Southport Flower Show Display Gardens:

The Southport Flower Show has loads of inspirational display gardens (17 gardens in 2016), featuring from classical design to the latest trends, and designed by local landscape designers and landscape companies.

 

Southport Flower Show Plant Societies

Get all the best expert advice from a wide range of plant societies, including regulars like the Cottage Garden Society, British Fuchsia Society, Alpine Garden Society, National Dahlia Society and the Hardy Plant Society North West Group.

 

Southport Flower Show Garden Roadshow

Hear your favourite local garden experts giving advice and answering questions.

 

Southport Flower Show Amateur Growers

Every year, the Southport Flower Show hosts the biggest Amateur Grower’s Competition in the UK, with entries displayed in our 100m long competition marquee. Enter your best efforts in a wide range of categories, from floral design to baking and preserves. There’s 22 different classes of individual flower and plants to enter, with a central theme announced for each year.

 

Southport Flower Show Grand Floral Marquee

See the best of the North West’s growers showing all the latest varieties in stunning floral displays

 

Southport Flower Show Ladies Day

Each year there is also a special event Ladies Day on the Friday of the show, with an all-inclusive ticket for show entry, lunch and entertainment.

Gardens in Spanish Culture with Professor Tim Entwisle

Gardens in Spanish Culture with Professor Tim Entwisle

 

18 days in Spain

Overnight Seville (3 nights) • Córdoba (2 nights) • Ronda (1 night) • Granada (3 nights) • Toledo (2 nights) • Jarandilla de la Vera (2 nights) • Segovia (1 night) • Madrid (3 nights).

 

Tour Highlights

Travel with Professor Tim Entwisle, Director and Chief Executive of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria and Anneli Bojstad, author of Great Gardens of Spain.
Meet Spanish garden designer Eduardo Mencos, author of Hidden Gardens of Spain. Eduardo and his wife Anneli will show us their family country farm ‘La Lancha’, a landscaped working farm near Jarandilla de la Vera.
Study the work of award-winning landscape architect Fernando Caruncho at the private gardens of the Rosales, and the ‘Terraza de los Laureles’ at Madrid’s Royal Botanical Gardens.
Visit a selection of private gardens hosted by their owners including: La Zarcilla, a rose garden in Madrid; Carlos Mayans’ garden, created by his late mother in Trujillo; the palace gardens of Marquès de Salvatierra in Ronda; the gardens of Marquesa of Casa Valdés, author of the acclaimed book Spanish Gardens; the garden of San Segundo in Ávila, owned by Juan Martínez de las Rivas; and Jardín de El Romeral de San Marcos, owned by Julia Casaravila Silva, widow of pioneering landscape designer Leandro Silva.
Meet Álvaro de la Rosa, an award-winning sculptor and landscape designer who will show us examples of his inspirational work.
Visit Córdoba’s delightful, hidden, Islamic-style courtyard gardens during the Festival de los Patios.
Tour the historic La Concepción garden in Málaga.
With a naturalist visit Monfragüe National Park, an outstanding site for the Eurasian Black and Griffon vultures, as well as the Spanish Imperial, Golden and Bonelli eagles.
Visit a number of the country’s greatest monuments: Granada’s Alhambra, Córdoba’s Great Mosque, Seville’s Alcázar and Cathedral, Trujillo’s castle and grand church of St Martín and Segovia’s Roman aqueduct
View the work of 17th-century masters like Velázquez and Goya, as well as German and Italian masterpieces, in the Museo del Prado.
Stay at several heritage hotels including the paradors of Ronda, Jarandilla de la Vera, and the Hotel San Juan de los Reyes.
Dine at paradors and local restaurants to feast on regional specialities; and conclude with a memorable evening dinner at the private home of art collector Sofía Barosso in Madrid.

 

Itinerary

The following itinerary describes a range of museums, patios, carmenes, cigarrales and gardens which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2017. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meals.

 

Seville – 3 nights

Day 1: Monday 8 May, Arrive Seville

Arrival transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
On arrival at Seville’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach to our hotel, ideally located just 250 metres from Seville Cathedral. If you are travelling independently please meet the group at the Inglaterra Hotel.

Seville gained great importance and prosperity in the 12th century when the Almohad dynasty of North African Berbers made it the capital of Muslim Spain (al Andalus); and again in the 16th century, when it became the Spanish entrepôt for silver and tobacco from the Americas. Its major monuments and most important works of art date from these periods and from the 13th and 14th centuries, when Ferdinand III of Castile wrested the province from the Muslims in 1248. Seville therefore boasts fine Muslim, Gothic, Mudéjar and Baroque monuments (‘Mudéjar’ is the term which denotes buildings built for Christians by Muslim craftsmen). In the 17th century it vied with Madrid as the centre of Spanish sculpture and painting. Zurbarán, Velázquez and Murillo all worked in Seville and the city produced a fine school of polychrome wood sculpture, examples of which are still used in processions for Holy Week (Semana Santa). In the 19th century, Seville became a picturesque setting for Northern European Romantic novels, artworks and operas, because of the popularity of Murillo’s paintings of street urchins, Seville’s famous bullfights, and the magnificence of its celebrations during Holy Week. Just after Semana Santa, the city celebrates the colourful Feria de Abril, a popular festival begun in the 19th century, in which wealthy landowners ride through the feria grounds decked out in resplendent costumes, and people dance the ‘Sevillana‘ and ‘Seguidilla‘ in special pavilions set up by the wealthy. (Overnight Seville) B

Day 2: Tuesday 9 May, Seville

Introductory Meeting
Cathedral and Giralda of Seville
Alcázar
Santa Cruz Quarter
Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes
Welcome Evening Meal
This morning after an introductory meeting we visit Seville’s Cathedral. This huge building, which is the largest Gothic structure of its type in Europe, was built upon the foundations of the Almohad Friday Mosque by the Christian conquerors of the city. It retains the general plan and dimensions of the mosque and its courtyard that was used by the Islamic population for ritual ablutions. The courtyard, as its name – Patio de los Naranjos – suggests, is now dominated by a veritable forest of orange trees. Although now used primarily as a thoroughfare, the courtyard would once have provided Islamic students with a quiet shady place for the study of the Qur’an; plantings would have been more diverse at that time. The cathedral boasts what is arguably Spain’s greatest retablo mayore, a massive gilt and painted wood retable occupying the whole of the chancel wall. It also contains a number of major medieval, Renaissance and Baroque artworks and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

The cathedral’s bell tower, originally the minaret of the Almohad Friday mosque, is in the same style as those at Rabat and Marrakesh in Morocco. It is a monumental, square tower that houses seven superimposed rooms. Access is provided by a ramp up which the Imam once rode a donkey five times a day to call the faithful to prayer. The exquisite brick patterns on its four façades assured its survival when Seville fell to the Christians. Upon it they placed a belfry (bells are anathema to Islam) and a weather vane, or Giraldillo, which gives the tower its modern name, ‘Giralda’.

Following some time at leisure for lunch, we visit Seville’s Alcázar, a fine Muslim palace built, not by the Islamic city’s Almohad dynasty, but by the Christian king, Pedro the Cruel, in the 14th century. This palace, its courtyards lined with fine stucco reliefs and coloured tiles, speaks of the cultural ambivalence of the Christian invaders who emulated the tastes of the vanquished Islamic princes. The Alcázar echoes the Alhambra (Granada) in its richness, and was, in fact, built in conscious imitation of that great group of mansions. Pedro saw in the architecture of the Alhambra a reflection of the sophistication of the autocratic Nasrid state of Granada, and by inserting his own emblem within a decorative scheme inspired by it was asserting his own status, authority and power. The complex grew beyond Pedro’s original palace and eventually included, for example, the Oratory of the Catholic Monarchs, with splendid early 16th-century polychrome tiles, a fine garden with a subterranean bath, and rooms in which expeditions to South America were planned. Appended to the palace is one of Spain’s greatest and most interesting gardens. These began as a typical Almohad ‘paradise’ garden, and although little remains of the original because of successive plantings by Christian monarchs (especially in the 19th and 20th centuries), much of the Mudéjar architecture (pavilions), the lovely discrete walled gardens near the palace, the ubiquitous pools and gently bubbling fountains, all reflect Spain’s cultural debt to the Muslims. Magnolia grandiflora, pittorosporum, palms, peaches, roses and bitter oranges share this garden with fascinating Central- and South American species brought back to Spain when Seville prospered as the country’s gateway to its colonies.

We next walk through the Santa Cruz quarter, Seville’s medieval ghetto. Despite its narrow winding streets, this precinct grew in popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Aristocrats built small palaces here, without disturbing its original, picturesque street plan. A walk through this quarter, therefore, will provide us with a unique opportunity to discover the shape of old Seville.

We also visit the 17th century Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes. Originally one of Seville’s many charitable institutions, this is now a cultural centre. Of particular interest is its sunken courtyard, which is a fascinating fusion of a convent-cloister and a patio, a central court so characteristic of Spanish secular architecture. Arcaded galleries supporting the upper levels of the house surround this courtyard. Its design is a pleasant interplay of spaces of square and curved plan.

This evening we enjoy a welcome meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Seville) BD

Day 3: Wednesday 10 May, Seville

Casa de Pilatos
Museum of Fine Arts (Museo de las Bellas Artes)
Unlike their Parisian counterparts in that city’s aristocratic district, the Marais, Seville’s noble palaces are usually found, not in exclusive suburbs, but in the narrow streets of the city that in the past would have been inhabited by vendors, craftsmen, beggars, and Murillo’s street urchins. Their often bland façades, however, give on to lovely patios and gardens which, following Islamic tradition, are enclosed, secret paradises embedded in, but contrasting dramatically to, the noisy, dirty, smelly city outside the walls. Today we visit a Sevillian mansion of the late-15th and 16th centuries, the Casa de Pilatos. Built by Fabrique de Ribera in 1519, it owes its name to a legend that it was modelled upon Pilate’s house in Jerusalem. Processions during Holy Week used to leave this building, winding their way out of the city to the Cruz del Campo, the distance believed to be exactly that from Pilate’s Jerusalem Praetorium to Golgotha, where Christ was crucified. The house, organised around a great patio, is a fascinating mix of Mudéjar, Flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance elements. An antique sculpture collection, adorning the main patio and the Jardín Chico (small garden), reflects the humanist tastes of its original owners. This garden also has a delightful pool, which was the water tank of the original house. This, and the Jardín Grande, have a marvellous variety of plants, including clusters of citrus and banana trees that thrive in Seville’s warm climate, and myriad flowers. The walls that enclose the gardens and their loggias are covered with brilliantly coloured bougainvillea and wisteria. Paths with yellow sand, also used in the bullrings of southern Spain, add yet more colour. Mature palms and figs give the gardens ample shade.

After some time at leisure for lunch, we visit the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, a large museum of Andalucian art which was refurbished for Expo ’92. The museum is located in the former convent of the Merced Calzada whose architecture exemplifies Andalucian 17th-century mannerism, designed around three patios and a large stairway. It opened its doors to the public in 1841 with the works from closed down convents and monasteries. Today it is one of the best fine arts museums in Spain, whose impressive collection extends from the medieval to the modern, focusing on the work of Seville School artists such as Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan de Valdés Leal and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. (Overnight Seville) B

 

Córdoba – 2 nights

Day 4: Thursday 11 May, Seville – Córdoba

Gardens of the Palace of Moratalla
Lunch at ‘Restaurante Monasterio de San Francisco’
Walking tour of the Patios of the Zona Alcazar Viejo, San Basilio District of Córdoba
Today we drive from Seville to Córdoba, capital of the great Caliphate of Córdoba, the earliest Muslim State in Spain (712-1031). Our first visit between, Seville and Córdoba, is to the Gardens of Moratalla (‘the Moor’s Lookout’), near the Sierra Morena, the mountain range that separates the Guadalquivir Valley and Andalucia from the vast plain of La Mancha in New Castile. This was originally a 19th-century English landscape garden but has been transformed over the last 150 years, not least by the great French garden designer Jean-Claude Nicholas Forestier, who fused a French grand vista with Neo-Arab elements, such as patios with brickwork, tiles and low fountains. Cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens and Cupressus arizonica), oleanders and mimosas contribute to the (French) perspective that these Arab elements inflect. This garden, like the Casa de Pilatos, was a property of the famous Medinacelli family and the present proprietor, the Duke of Segorbe, takes a very dynamic approach, constantly transforming it. He believes the garden to be a living world and therefore a place where constant transformations may be made. He was a friend of Salvador Dalí, with whom he shared an interest in philosophy. The fruits of this friendship are seen in garden details like the spiral pool; the spiral is an age-old image of unity and infinity.

After visiting this lovely garden, we take lunch at the nearby Restaurante Monasterio de San Francisco, a religious foundation founded by the seventh Lord of Palma in the late 15th century. The monks from this monastery are purported to have founded settlements in California that have grown to be cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles!

We next drive to Córdoba and spend the early evening exploring its patios. This tour has been timetabled to visit Córdoba during the recently inaugurated festival of the patios. This city has some of the loveliest small urban gardens in Spain, located in the courtyards of old Córdoban houses. Some of these houses are very, very old; everywhere in the ancient city core are to be found the fragments of Muslim dwellings built before the end of the 11th century. Even if houses were constructed later, they follow earlier plans because their foundations (and many of their cellars) are the walls of older houses. Once a year, Córdoba opens its patios in an Andalucian version of our open garden scheme; prizes are given to the best exhibits. Many of the previous prize-winners are in the San Basilio district of the city near our hotel. (Overnight Córdoba) BL

Day 5: Friday 12 May, Córdoba

Synagogue, Córdoba
Great Mosque, Córdoba
Alcázar Gardens
Afternoon at leisure
Palacio de Viana and Córdoba Patios
After breakfast at our Córdoba hotel, which is in the Jewish Quarter (Judería) of the city, we visit Córdoba’s delightful small synagogue. The Jews arrived in Córdoba before the Muslims and almost immediately made it a centre of learning. They established the Jewish Quarter after the city had become the capital of Muslim Spain. Its 14th-century synagogue is one of three surviving medieval synagogues in Spain. It has a women’s gallery, and the upper reaches of its walls are in the Mudéjar stucco style, with Hebrew inscriptions. These stuccoes, like those of many mosques, alternate geometrical and vegetal motifs.

We continue our morning program with a visit to the great mosque of Córdoba. The mosque (c.786-986), one of the earliest and finest still standing, was constructed by successive members of the Ummayad dynasty. Its outer façades boast exquisite geometrical and floral patterns set in the tympana of horseshoe arches and in panels above them. Within the prayer hall is a forest of columns supporting superimposed tiers of polychrome arches thought to have been modelled upon the Roman aqueduct at Merida. The mihrab (prayer niche) is adorned with exquisite abstract designs in mosaic executed by a school of Byzantine mosaicists from Constantinople. These mosaics, and those of the domes above the mihrab, give meaning to Allah’s prescription to the prophet concerning images: that they should be act as a simile to nature, not an abstraction of it; and that they should convey by their delicacy the notion that nothing material has meaning or permanence. The mosque is punctured by a huge cathedral; its minaret became the cathedral bell tower.

Our tour also takes in the Alcázar Gardens. The latter have been planted in the old castle and administrative centre of the Islamic city; typically, the Alcázar was close to the Friday Mosque (Great Mosque) where the whole male community gathered each Friday to pray and to hear the Friday sermon. The Alcázar gardens stand on the oldest garden site in Spain (9th century) and, although the present gardens are from the 19th- and 20th centuries, they are sensitively designed to evoke the feel, if not the exact form, of the original. They constitute a fine orchestration of hedges and clipped orange trees, roses and gentle pools.

Following an afternoon at leisure, we remeet in the early evening and continue to explore the patios of Córdoba. Our tour includes a visit to the Palacio de Viana. Located on the northern edge of the old town, this traditional Andalusian mansion features twelve patios covering the Renaissance and Baroque periods with fountains, formal parterres, citrus trees, date palms and roses with a profusion of pots, pebbled floors and elegant arches. (Overnight Córdoba) B

 

Ronda – 1 night

Day 6: Saturday 13 May, Córdoba – Ronda

Puente Nuevo, Ronda
Bullring, Ronda
Casa del Rey Moro, Ronda
This morning we depart early for the magnificent Andalusian ‘white town’ of Ronda, dramatically sited on sheer cliffs above a deep ravine, with grand panoramic views framed by mountains. The early 19th century artists David Roberts and J.F. Lewis both painted the picturesque view of the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which spans the deep ravine, ‘El Tajo‘, separating the two parts of Ronda, the old Muslim town and the Christian district, the Mercadillo. The Guadelvin River cut this ravine, and the high bridge which spans it was built in the late eighteenth century. Of Roman origin, Ronda became an almost impregnable Muslim fortress city until the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella took it in 1485. It retains another Roman bridge that those who wish may cross to visit the Muslim baths, a reminder of its Islamic history.

In 1493, eight years after the Christian capture of the city, the Maestranza, a Company of Knights, was formed here for the supervision of bullfighting. Ronda’s bullring, the second oldest in Spain after that of Seville, was built here in 1794. In the 18th century Ronda’s greatest matador was Pedro Romero, who is believed to have developed the classical bull-fighting style of the School of Ronda. We shall visit the bullring in the Mercedillo.

The old town preserves its Muslim street plan. Here we visit the Casa del Rey Moro, the Moorish King’s House. The present 18th-century palace purportedly occupies the site of a palace of one of the petty Muslim kings of Ronda, and has a fine garden with steps leading down to the river below. The splendid small Hispano-Moresque garden (hortus conclusus) was originally designed by the great 19th-century gardener Jean-Claude Nicholas Forestier for the house’s owner, the Duchess of Parcent. Forestier (1861-1930), a botanical and forestry expert, town planner and garden designer, was extremely influential in Spain, Cuba and Central America. He became conservateur of the promenades of Paris and developed an arboretum at Vincennes and the gardens of the Champ-de-Mars below the Eiffel Tower. He also influenced the layout of Havana and Buenos Aires. He is renowned for his innovations, including the ‘Neo-Arab’ or ‘Neo-Sevillian’ garden. His own gardens and those inspired by his innovations are to be found throughout Spain, amongst them are the Park of María Luisa in Seville and Montjuïc in Barcelona. His gardens in Ronda combine Islamic features like ceramic tiles with the formality of a European garden. A wide variety of carefully combined trees such as palms, laurel, cedar, oleander and myrtle form a verdant canopy under which a profusion of flowers gives colour and fragrance.

Tonight we sample Andalusian cuisine together in the restaurant of the Parador de Ronda. (Overnight Ronda) BD

 

Granada – 3 nights

Day 7: Sunday 14 May, Ronda – Málaga – Granada

Garden of Palacio de Marqués de Salvatierra, Ronda (by private appointment)
Lunch at El Carambuco
Historical-Botanical Garden La Concepción, Málaga
This morning we visit the Palacio of Marqués de Salvatierra, an 18th-century renovation of an earlier 16th-century building, gifted to the family by the Reyes Catolicos. Its impressive Baroque entrance displays sculpted figures believed to represent natives of South America. The current Marqués of Salvatierra, Rafael Atienza, has kindly agreed to give us a tour of his garden which includes a rare, 200-year-old pinsapo (evergreen fir). Abies pinsapo is a species of fir native to southern Spain and northern Morocco. Related to other species of Mediterranean firs, it is considered the Andalusian National Tree. In Spain, it appears at altitudes of 900–1,800 metres in the Sierra de Grazalema in the province of Cádiz and the Sierra de las Nieves and Sierra Bermeja, both near Ronda in the province of Málaga.

We next drive through the hills above the Mediterranean coast to Finca Carambuco, a cortijo (Andalusian country estate) located south of Málaga. Owned by the Baroja family (Pío Baroja is one of the most important Spanish authors of the 20th century) the estate features a subtropical garden with an outstanding Phytolacca dioica tree and an alley of Peacan trees. Here we enjoy lunch, tour the garden and learn about the estate’s literary history.

Nearby we visit Málaga’s La Concepción garden, begun in 1889 by Thomas Livermore, who was British consul in this city. La Concepción, which at one point commands views down over the city, is an important example of a Mediterranean coastal garden, and affords interesting comparisons to gardens on the Catalan coast north of Barcelona.

We continue our drive through the Sierra Nevada, which acted as a barrier protecting the Spain’s last Muslim kingdom, Granada, from Christian incursions. You will gain a strong feel for the way the mountains isolated Granada from the grand views you will encounter along this road. We arrive in the late afternoon at the great capital of this Muslim kingdom and check into our hotel in the centre of town. (Overnight Granada) BL

Day 8: Monday 15 May, Granada

Alhambra and Generalife
Dinner at ‘El Huerto de Juan Ranas’
This morning we visit the Alhambra (1354-1391) and Generalife (summer palace and villa of the Nasrid rulers) to study the architecture and garden design of Nasrid Granada. We visit palaces and villas in the complex that centre upon the Court of the Myrtles and the Court of the Lions, and the Generalife. The first complex – comprising the Patio de Machuca, the Mexuar, the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, and the Patio de Comares (Court of the Myrtles) – gives a sense of the disposition of an Islamic palace, the discrete, hermetic spaces of which bespeak Islam’s emphasis on privacy. This complex combines areas where the ruler sat in court or received ambassadors with a harem designed to isolate the royal household from the outside world. In essence the palace is introverted, its main façade secreted within the Patio del Cuarto Dorado, rather than turning outwards to announce to the outside world the palaces within, in the way of a Western façade. The Hall of the Ambassadors is an example of the spatial rhetoric of power, while the Patio de Comares used a great pool and trees (later replaced by hedges of myrtle) to create a paradisal, secluded core to the complex. Next to this group is the villa of the Nasrids, built about the Court of the Lions, whose fine stucco arches and slender columns are, some scholars argue, the architectural evocation of an oasis. Here we find rooms decorated with exquisite detailing, such as the Abencerrajes Gallery, the Sala de los Reyes, and the Sala de las Dos Hermanas, two of which have extraordinary stucco domes reproducing star bursts in the desert sky. Beneath this villa there is yet another villa, to which are attached the Royal Baths.

We then walk out across the pine-forested hills of the Alhambra Mountain to the Generalife, an exquisite villa retreat and hunting lodge of the Nasrids. Here we see gardens to rival the Villa d’Este, outside Rome, with fine fountains whose sounds were intended to provide a poetic counterpoint to the architectural aesthetics of the Arab palace or villa.

Lastly, we shall visit the Alcazaba, the fortress of the Alhambra, which has a broad panorama of the Sierra Nevada. The Alhambra and Generalife complexes sit within what could almost be termed a ‘forest’ that covers their hills. Watered by conduits from the Sierra Nevada, this lush environment enabled not only the inimitable orchestration of buildings and plants in the main complex, but also a proliferation of carmenes around it.

Tonight we shall dine together at the restaurant ‘El Huerto de Juan Ranas’, which enjoys one of the best views of the Alhambra from the Albaicín and serves delicate Arabic influenced dishes. (Overnight Granada) BD

Day 9: Tuesday 16 May, Granada

Corral del Carbón
Capilla Real
Cathedral
Muslim Baths
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we shall visit Muslim and Christian sites in the centre of Granada. We shall start our tour at the market centre of Islamic Granada where we shall visit the Corral del Carbón, a 14th century warehouse and inn (caravanserai) for merchants, which is the only one of its type to have survived in Spain. Despite recent restoration, the ground plan, the central water trough for animals, and the delicately carved brick and plaster gateway date to the Middle Ages. From here we shall make our way through the Alcaicería, an area of narrow gridded streets which were once part of the covered market (Arabic, al-Qaysariyya) of the Muslim rulers of Granada.

Nearby we visit the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel), built in flamboyant late Gothic style, which houses the magnificent Renaissance tombs of Ferdinand and Isabella, their daughter Joan ‘the Mad’ and her husband Philip ‘the Handsome’. In the adjacent Sacristy is a dazzling collection of royal regalia and Flemish paintings. We then walk to the cathedral, one of Spain’s last, which was envisaged by its founder, Charles V, as a model of the heavenly Jerusalem.

After visiting the centre of Granada we shall explore its most important residential quarter, the Albaicín, which nestles below the Alhambra. The Albaicín was the last refuge of the Muslims of Granada and traces of its Islamic heritage remain to be discovered, including a beautiful and tranquil bathhouse, and fragments of minarets converted into church towers. The afternoon will be at leisure. (Overnight Granada) B

 

Toledo – 2 nights

Day 10: Wednesday 17 May, Granada – Toledo

Toledo Cathedral
Santo Tomé Church
Museo El Greco
Today we drive north, through the Siera Morena, into the vast, arid plain of La Mancha, famed for its association with Don Quixote, and for its dry wine and Manchego cheese. Toledo, located on a promontory created by a bend in the River Tagus or Tajo, is another Spanish city with a multi-layered past. Inhabited at least from Roman times onwards, Toledo (Toletum) was a provincial town until the Visigothic period when it became an important ecclesiastical centre, and in the mid-6th century AD, the Visigothic capital. Visigothic Toledo was dominated by its castle, and although it is long gone, the Alcázar, its successor, stands on its original site.

Toledo was conquered by Arabo-Berber armies in 712 AD and became part of the Umayyad state of Córdoba. The inhabitants of the city regularly revolted against their Umayyad masters and in the early 11th century when the Umayyad Caliphate collapsed Toledo, like many other cities, became the seat of a Ta’ifa (petty) kingdom. During this period, Toledo became the centre of the Mozarabic Church, whose Visigothic rituals and liturgy were deeply influenced by Muslim culture. It also played an important cultural role in transmitting the rich syncretic literary and scientific heritage of al-Andalus to the Christian north of the Iberian peninsula and on to northern Europe. Toledo was captured by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085 and was thus one of the first major Muslim cities to fall to the Christians.

Culturally, however, Toledo remained ‘Islamic’ for centuries after the imposition of Christian rule. Large Muslim and Jewish subject communities remained, and they were employed by their new Castilian rulers to emulate earlier Muslim art and architecture, creating a distinctively Toledan Mudéjar style. This style is a blend of Roman, Visigothic, Umayyad and later Almohad styles characterised by decorative screenwork realised in brick on the exteriors of churches and bell towers. Toledan Mudéjar can also be found in the former synagogues of the Judería (ghetto), Santa Maria la Blanca and El Tránsito, which contain stuccowork decoration that mimics Almohad and Nasrid styles respectively. The cathedral, built on the site of the great mosque, also bears many traces of Toledo’s multi-cultural character, whilst the narrow twisting streets of the old city and its absence of open squares and public spaces perpetuate Muslim urban-planning. Despite Toledo’s strong tradition of cultural eclecticism, the growth in Castilian Catholic militancy in the 15th and 16th centuries changed the city’s form and culture forever. After the unification of Aragón and Castile to form the nucleus of modern Spain in the 15th century, and the fall of Granada in 1492, the monarchs of Spain became less tolerant towards Jewish, Muslim and Mozarab culture. The Counter-Reformation and its Inquisition, a tool to root out Crypto-Jews and Muslims, confirmed Spain’s close association with Catholicism, a change most dramatically stated in Toledo in the cathedral, the most richly decorated of all Spain’s Gothic edifices and a trenchant architectural expression of Christianity triumphant. When Toledo lost commercial status to Seville, the hub of New World commerce, and political status to Madrid, Philip II’s capital from 1561, parochial conservatism replaced her old cosmopolitan style. In the 16th and 17th centuries a pious aristocracy emerged in the city numbering many mystics in its ranks. Many aristocrats, influenced by the Counter-Reformation’s emphasis on good works, spent vast amounts of money adding monastic foundations to the urban fabric, creating an imposing ecclesiastical cordon around the medieval core of Toledo.

This afternoon, we begin our tour of this splendid city with a visit of Toledo’s Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral modelled upon Bourges Cathedral in France. The construction of the cathedral began two centuries after Toledo’s capture by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085, and until its construction the Christians worshipped in the re-dedicated great mosque of the city. In the 14th century the great mosque was finally torn down and a Gothic cathedral constructed on its foundations implicitly celebrating the Catholic triumph not only over Muslim culture but also over the syncretic culture of the Mozarabs of Toledo, upholders of an Arabised Visigothic church tradition rejected by northern Iberian Catholics. However, even this self-consciously Gothic Catholic cathedral has distinguishable Mudéjar elements, and is still one of the few places where the Visigothic liturgy is on occasion recited. Later monarchs and state dignitaries embellished the cathedral by the addition of a rich choir, decorated with reliefs recounting the conquest of Granada, and sumptuous chapels. We shall look at both the exterior and interior of the cathedral, noting in particular the opulent retablo mayor, the choir and the lateral chapels.

We shall also visit the Cathedral Museum which holds a range of works by El Greco, Titian, Zurbarán, and Ribera, and the Almohad banners captured by the Castilians at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. In the treasury we shall see an illuminated manuscript given by St Louis of France to Alfonso X and a massive Gothic gold monstrance in the shape of the intricate flèche of a cathedral. We also visit the El Greco museum, which displays a great collection of the painter’s works, and the Church of Santo Tomé, which houses El Greco’s famous The Burial of Count Orgaz. (Overnight Toledo) B

Day 11: Thursday 18 May, Toledo

El Tránsito
Santa Maria la Blanca
San Juan de los Reyes Monastery
Palacio de Galiana: visit and drinks
Cigarral de los Menores
This morning we continue our guided tour of Toledo with visits to the two former Mudéjar synagogues of Santa Maria la Blanca and El Tránsito. Santa Maria la Blanca is a 13th century building which bears a strong similarity to contemporary Almohad architecture further south, whilst El Tránsito is a 14th century structure with stucco panels of a similar style to those in the Alcázar of Seville and the Alhambra. El Tránsito also houses a small museum dealing with the history of the Jews in Iberia.

We also visit San Juan de los Reyes, a Franciscan monastery originally intended, before the capture of Granada, as the mausoleum of Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castile. The monastery has a beautiful two-storey cloister, a typically Spanish form, with exquisite flamboyant tracery. The mausoleum church itself will remind you of the Capilla Real in Granada. On the walls are intricate Gothic reliefs with the coats-of-arms of the Christian monarchs. One façade of this chapel is hung with the chains of Christian galley slaves bought from the Muslims by charitable individuals and organisations; a charitable act among both Christians and Muslims was to buy the freedom of co-religionists enslaved by the devotees of the other faith.

We will then travel just outside Toledo to visit a lovely garden as a guest of its owners. It is known as the Galiana Palace, but its owners prefer to call it Galiana Castle. The hills surrounding Toledo on the opposite banks of the River Tagus command stunning views of the medieval walled city and are dotted with private estates called cigarrales, the Toledan equivalent of the carmenes of Granada. Some believe that these country houses owe their name to singing cicadas (cigarras in Spanish) found here in summertime. Each cigarral consists of a large, several-storey home with garden and orchard. The style of the house is usually quite humble and somewhat rustic. Many have white walls and are surrounded by terraces and patios that cascade down the steep hillsides. Often planted with lilacs, lilies and irises, these gardens and the houses they surrounded were the equivalent of Italian villas, affording citizens and minor clergy relief in summer from the hot, narrow, smelly, crowded streets of the old city. They were often used as places in which to recuperate from illness. They invariably commandmagnificent views of the great city. The forty-year-old garden of Galiana Castle was created round the ruins of a Mudéjar villa built by Alfonso X, ‘the Wise’. He was a great patron of culture, and it is during his reign that Muslim, Jewish and Christian scholars in Toledo translated many Islamic classics into Romance languages. Alfonso’s palace occupied the site of an earlier Muslim establishment called the ‘Pavilion of the Water Wheel’; a water wheel, used by the Muslims to lift water from the Tajo, has been reconstructed nearby. Such medieval inventions, brought by Muslims from the Middle East, introduced vital irrigation technology to Spain. Carmen Marañón and her husband Alejandro Fernández Araoz reconstructed the ruined palace sensitively in the late 1950s and 1960s. In order to avoid compromising the original structure, they built a home for themselves elsewhere. The garden, which is a masterpiece, was inspired by the Alhambra and Generalife in Granada. For example, as in the Generalife, Cypresses are used as a sculptural element; the garden has a strict formality that gives it an ascetic feel.

We next meet Maria Marañón, who will accompany us to visit her own family home, the Cigarral de Menores. Dating from 1617, the Cigarral de Menores has been in the ownership of the Marañón family since the Toledan writer Dr. Gregorio Marañón acquired it in 1922. We shall explore its charming garden, surrounded by olive groves and orchards, and featuring little beds edged in box and myrtle hedging, fountains, a pool and a glasshouse.

Tonight we will enjoy a meal in a local restaurant. (Overnight Toledo) BLD

 

Jarandilla de la Vera – 2 nights

Day 12: Friday 19 May, Toledo – Trujillo – Jarandilla de la Vera

Visit of olive grove and olive oil production workshop
Private garden of the late Olga Mayans & buffet lunch, Trujillo
Exploring Trujillo’s rich heritage
This morning we are joined by leading Spanish landscape designer, filmmaker and photographer Eduardo Mencos, who will accompany us to Jarandilla de la Vera. From Toledo in Castile, we head to the western frontier region of Extremadura, famous for its conquistadors like Francisco Pizarro, who conquered much of South America. We travel through an area of undulating hills where traditionally the noble Trujillanos had their olive groves and vines producing oil and wine for their own consumption. Today the region of Extremadura produces approximately 3.3% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. The types of olives that are cultivated in this region for the production of oil include Cornicabra, Carrasqueña and Morisca. Eduardo will take us to visit a local olive grove and oil production workshop.

In the very centre of Trujillo, Pizarro’s home town, Eduardo Mencos’ close friend Carlos Mayans will welcome us to his late mother’s beautiful garden built around the ruins of the medieval city’s old castle. Our visit will include a light tapas lunch hosted by Carlos.

This afternoon we explore the rich heritage of Trujillo. Among the most important monuments are the Castle (Alcazaba), the church of Santiago, the church of Santa María la Mayor, the church of San Francisco, the Church of San Martín, the Plaza Mayor, and beautiful palaces like the palace of the Marquis of the Conquest, the palace of the Orellana-Pizarro family, the palace of the Duques de San Carlos, Marquesado de Piedras Albas, the house of the strong Altamirano, Palace Chaves (Luis Chaves Old)..

Tonight we stay at the nearby countryside Parador of Jarandilla de la Vera. Housed in a 14th-century castle, this parador retains many historic features including Gothic galleries, a fireplace specially built for Emperor Charles V, and an ancient garden featuring a fountain famous for bringing good fortune. We shall dine at the Parador’s restaurant, which offers a delightful selection of Extremaduran cuisine. (Overnight Jarandilla de la Vera) BLD

Day 13: Saturday 20 May, Jarandilla de la Vera – Monfragüe National Park – Jarandilla de la Vera

Monfragüe National Park
Visit and lunch at ‘La Lancha’ – private farm of Eduardo Mencos & Anneli Bojstad, Jarandilla de la Vera
We spend the morning exploring Monfragüe National Park, a UNESCO listed Biosphere Reserve. Accompanied by Eduardo and a local naturalist, we shall study the many species of Mediterranean plants and trees, and visit a number of observation blinds located along the course of the river Tagus in order to view (with the aid of telescopes) the park’s magnificent variety of birds of prey. Monfragüe is an outstanding site for raptors, with more than 15 regular breeding species, including the world’s largest breeding concentration of the Eurasian Black Vulture, a large population of Griffon Vultures, and several pairs of Spanish Imperial Eagle, Golden Eagle and Bonelli’s Eagle. During our tour we shall also view a number of the park’s geological and cultural landmarks including the ‘Bridge of the Cardinal’ the ruined Castle of Monfragüe; and the Penafalcon, an impressive rock face carved by the river Tagus.

Over the past 10 years Eduardo and Anneli have shown much generosity in opening their family’s gardens to our group members, including their 30-hectare country farm ‘La Lancha’ that we visit this afternoon. On the grounds of ‘La Lancha’, Eduardo has produced his version of an 18th-century ‘ornamental farm’ – a landscaped working farm with decorative features such as arbours, antique wells, water reservoirs, ruins. You won’t see a single wire or a water deposit (they are hidden underground). Here Anneli and Eduardo grow organic olives and raspberries and breed Merino sheep which roam free around the property. Their free range hens supply fresh eggs and solar panels produce the electricity. We shall explore the farm and enjoy a light lunch as guests of Eduardo and Anneli.

In the late afternoon we return to Jarandilla de la Vera to enjoy another meal at the Parador’s restaurant. (Overnight Jarandilla de la Vera) BLD

 

Segovia – 1 night

Day 14: Sunday 20 May, Jarandilla de la Vera – Ávila – Segovia

Ávila’s city walls
Garden of San Segundo, Villa Winthuysen
Early this morning we depart for Ávila, one of the many Spanish towns which began life as a Christian frontier post located in the medieval marches between al-Andalus and the tiny northern Christian kingdoms. The architecture of Ávila reflects the martial and entrepreneurial spirit of its early inhabitants (soldiers of fortune, aristocrats of modest means and peasants) who were prepared to risk everything to profit from the freedom and opportunities afforded by life on the frontier. The town is encircled by strikingly complete late 11th-century walls, whilst inside, the small fortified palaces of its late medieval inhabitants reflect the same desire for a good life as the late medieval houses of the Italian urban classes. Ávila also possesses several fine Romanesque churches and later monasteries, including the Convento de la Encarnación, where Teresa Sánchez de Cepeda y Ahumada (Teresa of Ávila), the co-patron saint of Spain, lived for 27 years in the 16th century. It was here that she experienced the spiritual ecstasies that she described in a language so vivid that it has influenced Spanish literature ever since. On arrival, there will be some time at leisure for lunch and to explore a section of Ávila’s city walls. Declared a National Monument in 1884, in addition to its obvious defensive function, the wall controlled the entrance of provisions and merchandise, guarded it against the potential outbreak of a plague or epidemic elsewhere. Its plan is an irregular rectangle, defended by crenellated towers and round turrets. Nine gates provided access to the city, of which the most spectacular is Puerta del Alcázar (Gate of the Fortress). A walk along the top of the walls provides spectacular views of the town and countryside.

We then visit the Garden of San Segundo, owned by good friend of Eduardo Mencos, Juan Martínez de las Rivas, Spanish Grandee Marqués del Salar. In Eduardo Mencos’ important book Hidden Gardens of Spain the garden is described as “a miracle of colour, fragrance and joy protected from the outside world by the longest city wall in Europe, like the walled fortress of the Alhambra in Andalucia”. In 1920, the Viscount of Güell bought a number of houses and an adjacent vegetable garden and commissioned the Spanish master Javier de Winthuysen (also a painter and a writer on gardens) to design him this garden. Winthuysen had an international reputation, and is known for his contribution to the world famous garden of Villandry in the Loire Valley. San Segundo’s garden has kept Winthuysen’s legacy. His design drew inspiration from secluded monastery and Islamic gardens; the lovely small house acts as an adjunct to the garden rather than dominating it, as in the Islamic style. The present owner, who is a gardener, author, and published scholar on garden history, will show us his garden and discuss its design with you.

In the late afternoon we drive to Segovia, where we shall dine at the Parador’s restaurant. (Overnight Segovia) BD

 

Madrid – 3 nights

Day 15: Monday 22 May, Segovia – Madrid

Segovia’s Old Town
Lunch at Mesón de Cándido restaurant
Romeral of San Marcos, Segovia
Evening reception at the private home of art collector Sofía Barroso
Evening lecture by sculptor and landscape designer Álvaro de la Rosa ‘Water Features in Contemporary Spanish Gardens’
We spend the morning exploring Segovia, a city settled since Roman times. During the early Islamic period, Segovia stood in the marches between the Kingdom of the Asturias and Umayyad Córdoba and may have been temporarily deserted. In the 10th century, the Umayyad caliphs constructed a frontier fortress here. Segovia subsequently became part of the Ta’ifa kingdom of Toledo. Segovia became Castilian after the fall of Toledo. In the 14th and 15th centuries the Muslim fortress was rebuilt as a Christian castle and in the 16th century, a Gothic cathedral with unusual Classical domes was constructed. Segovia’s Roman aqueduct, a remarkable dry-stone structure, was partially destroyed in the Middle Ages and rebuilt by Isabella of Castile in the 15th century.

Midday we dine at Mesón de Cándido to feast on the town’s local speciality, roast suckling pig.

Before departing the city, we visit the beautiful Romeral de San Marcos, situated below limestone shelves on the Eresma river at the foot of Segovia’s great castle. The famous landscape architect, Leandro Silva, created this, his intimate half-acre garden to echo the paradisal feel an old Segovian huerta (orchard or market garden). Its sheltered position creates a microclimate that protects a wide variety of plants that would not normally prosper in the tough Segovian climate. At times, this small garden bursts into colour provided by a feast of different flowers. After exploring this beautiful garden we drive to Madrid.

This evening we are hosted by Sofía Barroso who will show us her Madrid-based office, which houses an impressive private art collection. Sofía Barroso was born in London, the daughter of Spanish diplomats, and has a degree in art history from Madrid Universidad Complutense. She is an art collector and has been involved in the Spanish art and museum scene as well as with historic gardens and the new Spanish school of landscape design. Tonight, we meet the award-winning sculptor and landscape designer Álvaro de la Rosa, who will deliver a talk on ‘Water Features in Contemporary Spanish Gardens’. (Overnight Madrid) BLD

Day 16: Tuesday 23 May, Madrid – Guadalajara – Madrid

‘Terraza de los Laureles’, Royal Botanical Gardens, by Fernando Caruncho
Landscape Design Projects by Álvaro de la Rosa
La Zarcilla, private garden and lunch
Jardin Rosales designed by Fernando Caruncho
Today, Álvaro de la Rosa will show us examples of his work (Álvaro’s projects include designs for patios, terraces and urban houses). He will also accompany us to the Royal Botanical Gardens, where in 2005 a modern addition designed by well-known Spanish landscape architect Fernando Caruncho, with architect Pablo Carvajal, was commissioned to house the extensive bonsai collection of former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González. The new garden called the ‘Terraza de los Laureles’ consists of an elevated avenue, a central square with a pond and a small greenhouse, and provides a grand panorama of the historic gardens below.

La Zarcilla, located in the residential quarter of La Florida, is a landscaped rose garden owned by Blanca De Rueda. Considered a ‘rose expert’ and an exceptional cook, Blanca specialises in painting botanical motifs on ceramics and porcelain. We shall tour the rose beds and enjoy lunch in the gardens.

Our final visit for today allows us to view another design by Fernando Caruncho. The garden is featured in Mirrors of Paradise: The Gardens of Fernando Caruncho, edited by Monacelli Press: “Renowned internationally for serene compositions based on timeless principles of natural forms and geometry, Caruncho has recently completed two landscapes in the United States, one in the rolling farmland of New Jersey and the other in Florida. Caruncho draws inspiration from a wide spectrum of precedents –the garden-academies of ancient Greek philosophers as well as important historic gardens in Spain, Italy, France, and Japan …. Caruncho’s gardens range from small urban spaces to grand country estates, and his design trademarks include geometric grids, rolling waves of the shrub escallonia, refined and playful pavilions and gazebos, calm reflecting pools, and vistas that capitalize on the contrasts inherent in his plant palette. In their inventive and evocative fusion of the historic and contemporary, Caruncho’s garden designs are masterful compositions that exemplify the formal garden for the new millennium”. Jardin Rosales was one of Caruncho’s first projects, designed for his parents-in-law, Mr & Mrs Rosales in the 1980s. Also located in the residential quarter of La Florida, this beautiful garden is minimalistic and features waves of escallonia. (Overnight Madrid) BL

Day 17: Wednesday 24 May, Madrid – Guadalajara – Madrid

Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Garden, CaixaForum, Madrid
Prado Museum
Private gardens and Farewell lunch hosted by Eduardo Mencos’ family
We begin today with a brief visit to Madrid’s CaixaForum where we may view an example of Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens. This is not only the first to be installed in Spain but also the largest implemented to date on a façade without gaps, as it has a planted surface area of 460 m2. The result is a surprising, multicoloured ‘living painting’ that, in addition to being visually attractive, also acts as an effective environmental agent. The vertical garden forms an impressive natural tapestry made up of 15,000 plants of 250 different species that have transformed one of the buildings adjoining the developed area of the CaixaForum Madrid into a surprising garden.

We spend the remainder of the morning visiting the Prado. One of the gallery’s key collections comprises the works of Hieronymus Bosch and the Flemish School from the collections of Philip II. The extraordinary apocalyptic visions of Bosch were once housed at the Escorial in the Philip II’s private apartments, but were stored away during the Enlightenment because they were considered too extreme. It was Goya who revived interest in them. We shall also look at the collections of Dürer, Titian and Rubens before moving on to the works of the Spanish Baroque. Our encounter with works by Velázquez and Zurbarán, El Greco and Goya will explore the strange mix of realism and fantastic distortion which distinguishes the Spanish tradition. We shall study the grand portrait tradition, works by Velázquez, such as Las Meninas, and the extraordinary mystical visions of El Greco. We also trace Goya’s development from the early tapestry cartoons through the royal portraits, and horrific visions of the war with the French, to the so-called ‘Black Paintings’ of his old age.

This afternoon we enjoy a very special highlight of our tour with visits to the private gardens of one of Spain’s great gardening families. Here we explore how they have changed the arid meseta near the nation’s capital with their distinctive gardens. We first drive across the empty plains of Guadalajara province and through the sun-baked olive-covered hills of La Alcarría, to reach the garden created by the Marquesa de Casa Valdés, Eduardo Mencos’ grandmother and author of the seminal book Jardines de España (Gardens of Spain), which has had a profound influence on modern Spanish gardening. Against the advice of many, the Marquesa de Casa Valdés created her garden in 1945 in a particularly arid terrain subject to extreme temperatures. It became a triumph in tempering the environment and a landmark in the development of modern Spanish gardens. The garden now belongs to Beatriz Valdés Ozores (Condesa de Bornos), one of the author’s daughters. The Condesa, along with her sisters María and Micaela (Eduardo’s mother), who also welcome us to visit their own gardens nearby, will kindly host our Farewell Lunch. (Overnight Madrid) BL

Day 18: Thursday 25 May, tour ends, Madrid

Departure transfer to Madrid’s Airport for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in Madrid. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in Spain. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Chatsworth Flower Show

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2017

 

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show location

Chatsworth House, home of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The extensive grounds surrounding Chatsworth House were landscaped by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown and also Joseph Paxton.

Chatsworth House
Bakewell
Derbyshire
DE45 1PP

 

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show dates and times:

Wednesday – Saturday 10am to 6.30pm

Sunday 10am to 5pm.

 

Chatsworth Flower Show highlights

With a theme of ‘Design Revolutionaries’, the new Chatsworth Flower Show will celebrate the many landscape designers who broke the mould and developed new ideas about gardens and garden design. But it’s not all about the past, as the show will also be a place for new and innovative designers to bring their ideas to the gardening public.

A new garden show category, called ‘FreeForm’ will encourage designers to stretch their imagination and create exciting conceptual gardens without conventional design constraints.

There is also a new competition for students and new and emerging designers called ‘Gardening in a Changing World’ which will highlight the new RHS ‘Science Strategy’. Winning designs will be developed as 3D models for display.

The Great Conservatory will recreate Paxton’s Great Conservatory which was in the grounds of Chatsworth from 1840 to its demolition in 1920. Nursery displays inside will feature everything from jungle to Mediterranean, and trees to bonsai.

Unlike most RHS shows, the Chatsworth Flower Show will be spread out around the beautiful Chatsworth grounds, taking advantage of the shape of the landscape and its wonderful views.

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show

 

Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London SW3 4SL

The first two days of the Chelsea Flower Show are reserved for RHS members so if you’re planning a visit, it’s well-worth joining the RHS to widen your choice of days. And all tickets sell out very quickly! There are also reduced price late-afternoon entry tickets.

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Show Gardens

See a wondrous selection of around 15 large landscape show gardens designed by the world’s best designers. Chelsea Flower Show regularly features such designers as Andy Sturgeon (Winner 2016 Best in Show), Cleve West, Jo Thomson, James Basson and Diarmuid Gavin.

Many of these gardens are designed to explain or highlight a cause or a charity, from animal welfare to the plight of those stranded in war-torn countries, to habitat lost and environmental degradation, and those suffering from debilitating diseases and coping with long-term disabilities.

From a design point of view Chelsea’s gardens are at the forefront of coming trends, whether it’s a new popular flower or a colour scheme, or greater themes like formal versus informal design, plant shaping and management, mass versus intermingled planting and gardens versus outdoor entertaining areas.

Chelsea’s show garden judging is very plant-centric so you can be sure to see some wonderful and innovative plantscapes using a wide range of ornamental and edible plants.

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Artisan Garden

Chelsea’s smaller Artisan gardens are smaller display gardens but no less exciting. Popular regulars in this category include renown Japanese designer Kazuyuki Ishihara of the Kazuyuki Design Laboratory but many others are new-comers, looking for their first taste of Chelsea fame.

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Fresh Gardens

The Fresh Garden category displays what are often conceptual and experimental gardens. It’s a great place to see our next generation of up-and-coming young designers.

 

The Great Pavilion Floral Marquee

Nobody can forget the wonder of first entering this immense marquee, filled with luscious displays of flowers. Every year the UK’s top nurseries vie for the top prizes. See spring bulbs and perennials, clematis, bonsai, elegant specimen trees, cacti and succulents, bromeliads, flowering shrubs, orchids, alpine plants and roses.

 

Garden products

Every year Chelsea features brand new products and art for you to discover for your garden, including furniture, sculpture, pavers, pavilions, garden wear and lots more.

Each year the RHS awards a Chelsea Garden Product of the Year.

Malvern Autumn Show

Malvern Autumn Show 2016

 

Open 9am-6pm each day

 

Malvern Autumn Show main attractions

There will be plenty to do and experience for people of all ages at this year’s Malvern Autumn Show
As a show celebrating everything rural, there are plenty of attractions encompassing every type and element of country life and the land based industries.

 

Grow it in the Good Life Pavilion – There are few things more satisfying and rewarding than growing your own fruit and vegetables and you can be inspired by the feature gardens, talks in The Good Life Pavilion, the growing competitions and the produce available at the show. Hear celebrity gardeners, plus see the impressive UK National Giant Vegetable Competition and also a range of flowers that featured at RHS shows for sale.

 

Orchard Pavilion and Hopyard – all the help you need to grow your own fruit, make and brew drinks, plus preserving.

 

Harvest Pavilion – meet all the experts from more than 30 National Plant Societies and hear talks by plant experts on a wide range of topics including growing vegetables, carnivorous plants, succulents and growing tender plants.

 

RHS Flower Show – featuring a huge range of nurseries all vying for the coveted RHS Gold Medal. Includes new exhibitors like Wack’s Wicked Plants. See Reg Moule at The Potting Bench and visit the RHS team for all your gardening questions.

 

Vintage Village – head back in time for a bit of sentimentality and to recapture the past! Go ahead and while away some time in the Vintage Village, harking back to days gone by, with vintage vehicles from steam engines to lawn mowers, ride the vintage carousel, and also take the chance to look at historic skills and industries such as forestry and wood turning. There’s even a 1940s-50s dance hall!

 

Gourmet food and drink – The show’s expansive food and drink areas will tantalise your taste buds. From cheeses to pastries, there will be the best of local and regional produce on offer as well as incredible ingredients that are available to take home from the market. Visit the Westons Cider Garden, There will also be a range of demonstrations from knowledgeable experts and celebrity chefs like Mark Diacono, Tom Kerridge and Seren Evans Charrington.

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

 

Oxford – 5 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 17 May, London Heathrow – Oxford

•   Arrive London Heathrow and transfer to Oxford
•   Introduction & Welcome Evening Meal
On arrival at London Heathrow airport, those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private coach to Oxford, home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the MacDonald Randolph Hotel. This evening there will be a short introductory meeting before dining at a local restaurant. (Overnight Oxford) D

 

Day 2: Thursday 18 May, The Cotswolds

•   Private visit of Sezincote House and Gardens
•   Market town of Moreton-in-Marsh
•   Guided tour of Bourton House Gardens with the Head Gardener, Paul Nicholls
•   Stow-on-the-Wold
Today we drive into the Cotswolds to visit two magnificent gardens located near the village of Moreton-in-Marsh. Our first visit is to Sezincote Manor, where an exotic oriental garden was created to complement the architect S.P. Cockerell’s fascinating 19th-century Regency house, which he designed in an Indian, Mogul style; Sezincote served as the inspiration for George IV’s Brighton Pavilion. Sezincote’s extraordinary eccentricities include a temple, not to any Grecian deity, but to the Hindu goddess Souriya; garden sculptures include a bronze serpent and Brahmin bulls, whilst minarets top the conservatory.

Midday we travel to the northern Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-Marsh where there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore high street which has many elegant eighteenth-century inns and houses including the Redesdale Market Hall.

In the afternoon we continue to the nearby award-winning three-acre gardens of Bourton House. The gardens had become over grown and neglected when Richard and Monique Paice acquired them in 1983. Over the past 25 years the ornamental garden with its 18th-century raised walk overlooking the rolling Cotswold Hills, the original kitchen garden, and Bourton’s orchard have been transformed. The Paice’s achievement was recognized when Bourton House Garden was honoured with the prestigious HHA/Christie’s ‘Garden of the Year’ award in 2006.

Our day concludes with a drive through the picturesque Cotswolds, including a short stop at the village of Stow-on-the-Wold. Stow-on-the-Wold was an important medieval market town and is now a centre for English antiques. As well as the large market square, the town has some very early coaching inns, including the Royalist Hotel that has timbers that have been carbon-dated to 987; it is believed to be the oldest inn in England. (Overnight Oxford) B

 

Day 3: Friday 19 May, Oxford – Througham Court – Highgrove – Oxford

•   Private Guided tour of Througham Court Gardens with Dr Christine Facer Hoffman
•   Highgrove House: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens (subject to confirmation in 2017)
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 77kms south to the county of Gloucestershire. Here, Througham Court, a 17th century Jacobean house with 6 acres of formal/informal landscape overlooks a peaceful Cotswold valley. Christine Facer Hoffman, scientist and landscape architect, describes her private garden as “a personal ‘laboratory’ to experiment with new ideas, materials and planting combinations.” Developed since 2000, contemporary areas have been artfully embedded in the Cotswold architect Norman Jewson’s 1930’s Arts and Crafts masterpiece, which features magnificent yew topiary and dry stone wall terracing. Hoffman has stated that her contemporary ‘fragments’ are inspired by scientific discoveries and theories. She uses mathematical number sequences found in nature to create a symbolic and metaphorical narrative so that the gardens may be ‘read’ by the visitor. They recently featured in the RHS publication The Garden magazine and in Alan Titchmarsh’s Gardens Secrets on BBC 2.

Mid-morning we make the short drive to Doughton village, where Highgrove House, the country home of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall is located. The Prince purchased Highgrove in 1980, and has spent 30 years transforming its grounds into what have been acknowledged as some of the most brilliant and inventive gardens in the United Kingdom. “A series of interlinked areas, each with their own character and purpose, weave magically around the garden, with the house always visible in the distance. For the last 25 years the gardens and surrounding land have been managed to the organic and sustainable principles that His Royal Highness has for so long championed.” After lunch and our 2-hour guided tour of the gardens, we return to Oxford where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Oxford) BL

 

Day 4: Saturday 20 May, The Cotswolds

•   Hidcote Manor
•   Kiftsgate Court Gardens
•   Village of Bibury
Today we travel first to Chipping Campden and the delightful National Trust property, Hidcote Manor. Hidcote is significant for its influential garden, designed in the English Arts and Craft style by Major Laurence Johnston as a series of rooms of different character and theme, separated from each other by walls and hedges.

At midday we continue to Kiftsgate Court Gardens, which tell the story of three generations of women gardeners: Heather Muir, Diany Binny and Anne Chambers. Heather Muir created the gardens in the 1920s. From the mid-fifties Diany added the semi-circular pool in the lower garden and redesigned the white sunk garden. One of the finest accomplishments of its current owner, Anne Chambers, is the new water garden whose composition is ‘abstract modern’.

Our day concludes with another drive through the Cotswolds visiting the village of Bibury, described by William Morris as ‘the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds’. (Overnight Oxford) BL

 

Day 5: Sunday 21 May, Oxford & Steeple Ashton

•   Rousham House and Gardens
•   Guided tour of the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens with Dr Alison Foster, Senior Curator
•   Magdalen College and its award-winning gardens
This morning we drive north of Oxford to Steeple Ashton to visit another stately home of very different aspect. Rousham House has remained the property of the Dormer family since its construction in 1635. The house retains much of its original paneling, staircases, furniture and art works. Several alterations were made in 1876 when the north side of the house was added, but for the most part Rousham remains a stunning example of 17th-century architecture and decoration. The gardens are of particular importance as they represent the first phase of English landscape design and have undergone few changes since laid out by William Kent.

Following some time at leisure for lunch, we shall enjoy a walking tour of the magnificent University of Oxford Botanic Gardens with senior curator, Dr Alison Foster. Finally we shall visit the award-winning gardens of 15th century Magdalen College. Magdalen’s extensive grounds include its own deer park, wildflower meadow and a riverside walk. For Oscar Wilde, who matriculated at Magdalen in October 1874, ‘The Magdalen walks and cloisters’ were the ideal backdrop for reading Romantic poetry! (Overnight Oxford) B

 

 

Royal Tunbridge Wells – 1 night

Day 6: Monday 22 May, Oxford – West Green House Gardens – Sevenoaks – Royal Tunbridge Wells

•   West Green House Gardens: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens
•   Ightham Mote, Sevenoaks
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 60kms south to the Hart District of Northern Hampshire to visit West Green House Gardens that surround a lovely 18th-century house. These are the creation of an Australian, Marylyn Abbott. One could possibly call this a ‘biographical garden’ in the sense that it is a very personal creation based upon Marylyn’s early love of gardens, inculcated by her mother and grand mother when she was growing up in Australia (Marylyn masterminded the famous Australian garden, ‘Kennerton Green’). At West Green House she has reconciled her Australian gardening heritage, dominated by brilliant light, with England’s softer, more muted atmosphere. Marylyn is a prolific writer; her latest book The Resilient Garden, in keeping with her experience reconciling very different gardening environments, discusses a collection of plants that will acclimatize to both Mediterranean and cool temperate gardens. Her gardens appear in many publications, in one of which (The Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden Finder 2007) Charles Quest-Ritson has stated:

West Green House Gardens has many original features. A grand water staircase provides the focal point to the Nymphaeum fountain designed by Quinlan Terry. By the house is a charming small topiary garden where water lilies flourish in small water tanks sunk in the ground. It runs up to a handsome aviary with unusual breeds of bantams and chickens. Beyond, are a dramatic new Persian water garden in a woodland glade, a newly restored lake, more follies and fancies, new walks and massive plantings of snowdrops, daffodils and fritillaries.

Lavishness is a hallmark of the Abbott style – 10,000 tulip bulbs are planted every year – but Marylyn also emphasizes the importance of drama, colour, innovation and humour in her garden.

Following a light lunch we continue our journey east to Ightham Mote, a wonderful example of a small medieval moated manor house, perfectly located within a peaceful garden surrounded by woodland. Dating from the 14th century, this house has seen many changes but each subsequent section has been preserved in extraordinary condition. Medieval knights, courtiers to Henry VIII and high-society Victorians have all contributed sections to Ightham Mote. Highlights include the picturesque courtyard, Great Hall, crypt, Tudor painted ceiling, Grade I listed dog kennel and the private apartments of Charles Henry Robinson, who gave Ightham Mote to the National Trust in 1985. We shall walk to the house, enjoying its rural setting, before exploring its beautiful interior. Of special note is the chapel with its perfectly preserved interior, pulpit and tester. We shall also enjoy the gardens, with an orchard, water features, lakes and woodland walks.

In the late afternoon we travel a short distance to Royal Tunbridge Wells, a town that rose to prominence when it became a spa in the late 17th century. Tonight we shall dine together at the hotel’s restaurant. (Overnight Royal Tunbridge Wells) BLD

 

 

London – 3 nights

Day 7: Tuesday 23 May, Royal Tunbridge Wells – Great Dixter – Sissinghurst – London

•   Great Dixter House & Gardens
•   Sissinghurst Castle Gardens
Today is a day of superb gardens. The Lloyd family developed Great Dixter early in the 20th century from an original design by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Today it is more famous for the plantings established by Christopher Lloyd documented in his many classic gardening books. The residence comprises a mid-15th century hall house, typical of the Weald of Kent, to the south side of which a second, early 16th century yeoman’s house was grafted. Lutyens enjoyed using local materials and retained farm buildings like oast houses, cowsheds, barns and outbuildings. Around these he designed his garden, featuring a sunken garden, topiary and yew hedges. Christopher Lloyd managed Great Dixter from the 1950s and was noted for his innovative approach and introduction of concepts like the mixed border and meadow garden, and his replacement of the rose garden with schemes using less fashionable plants like cannas and dahlias. We will investigate his full range of planting schemes. Although Lloyd is no longer present in the garden his gardener Fergus has achieved what some consider even better results in recent years.

We next drive to Sissinghurst Castle Garden, one of England’s greatest garden delights. Sissinghurst was the garden of poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, journalist, MP and diplomat, and is possibly the most influential of all 20th century gardens. Built around the remnants of an Elizabethan castle, of which the tower remains a central garden feature, the garden is divided into distinct spaces where a formality established by Nicolson is clothed by a romantic planting style pursued by Sackville-West. Thgarden retains its original charm and romance with such delights as its parterre, white garden, cottage garden, nut walk and orchard. We shall explore Sissinghurst’s many hidden corners, sumptuous planting combinations and the view from the top of the tower, always a good starting point for those who wish to understand the garden’s lay-out.

In the late afternoon we travel to London where we shall spend the next there nights at St Martins Lane Hotel, a 5-star design hotel located near Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square in the heart of the city. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 8: Wednesday 24 May, Chelsea Flower Show

•   The Chelsea Flower Show (Members Day)
•   The Chelsea Physic Gardens
Today is dedicated to the Chelsea Flower Show, the world’s best-known flower show. Located in the grounds of Sir Christopher Wren’s Royal Hospital (1689), the Show is held annually in May and attracts more tourists to London than the Wimbledon Championships! We will therefore arrive early in order to enjoy the remarkable displays before they become too crowded. All of the gardens on display are constructed in the two weeks prior to the show and, following the event, are dismantled and the grounds reinstated. Around the periphery of the grounds are display gardens, sponsored by newspapers and magazines, major stores and insurance companies, whilst inside the giant marquee are exhibits by plant growers. Here you will see perfect displays of everything horticultural from bonsai to bulbs, rhododendrons to roses. This visit has been designed so that you are free to wander through the event at your leisure, not forgetting the botanical art and floral displays. This is a visual feast that all gardeners will want to enjoy at least once in their lives!

In the late afternoon we visit the nearby Chelsea Physic Gardens, a charming retreat from the crowded Chelsea Showground. Leased by the Society of Apothecaries in 1673 as a centre for medicinal learning, it was later handed over to them by Sir Hans Sloane on condition that they keep it “for the manifestation of the glory, power, and wisdom of God, in the works of creation”. There is a statue of Sir Hans Sloane by Rysbrack (1737). Today it is home to a garden design school. It also continues its traditional purpose of growing plants of medicinal value, with more than 5,000 taxa cultivated within the small garden area. The rock garden is made from unusual masonry debris from the Tower of London and Icelandic lava brought to the garden by Sir Joseph Banks. With an extraordinary micro-climate due to its location in central London both olives and grapefruit crop regularly, Chilean Wine Palms prosper and we will note many Australian plants, including Banksias and Callistemons. (Overnight London) B

 

Day 9: Thursday 25 May, London

•   Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – with Richard Barley, Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture
•   Farewell lunch at the Orangery Restaurant
•   Afternoon at leisure
Today is a unique opportunity to explore the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with your leader, Richard Barley, who was appointed Director of Kew Gardens’ Horticulture in April 2013. With his knowledge based on the day-to-day management of the site, Richard will give deep insights into these world-renowned gardens. The original gardens were created for Augusta, Princess of Wales around her home, Kew Palace. Today it contains the largest collection of plants in the world with tropical and sub-tropical plants being kept in appropriate conditions in magnificent Victorian glasshouses. The variety of plants is overwhelming but Kew has a magic far above the ordinary run of Victorian plant collections, perhaps because of its size and the underlying but unobtrusive formality of its structure. The Queen’s Garden is a faithful copy of a 17th century garden with parterres, sunken garden and pleached alleys. A new treetop walk by Marks Barfield Architects (who designed the London Eye) opened in May 2008.

Our day concludes with a farewell lunch at the grand Orangery Restaurant, housed in a magnificent eighteenth-century Grade 1 listed building with stunning views over the gardens. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore London at your leisure. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 10: Friday 26 May, London, Tour Ends

•   Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in London. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in London. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

 

Each July, the grounds of the historic Tudor-built Hampton Court Palace in East Molesley, Surrey, become a showpiece of the latest in garden design and innovative landscaping.

Over 30 gardens in a range of sizes and categories: show gardens, summer gardens, water gardens and conceptual gardens feature lush planting, new products, and an abundance summer flowers.

Visit the majestic floral pavilion, enjoy a wide range of presentations and workshops, buy garden products and latest plant releases, and indulge your tastebuds at the Market Deli.

Local retailers along nearby Bridge Rd get into the Hampton Court spirit with wonderful garden and window displays.

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

 

A show for all the family, RHS Flower Show Tatton Park brings you the best of high summer’s flowers, fabulous display gardens, loads of gardening products, plants and spectacular floral displays in the Floral Marquee.

If you want to see the latest in contemporary and conceptual garden design, you will be wowed with our new Evolution Gardens. Our popular Water Gardens return as does the perfect ideas hub for everyone with a small garden – the Back To Back garden category with its tiny 6m x 4m plots.

In 2017, for all those starting out in the industry, there’s the prestigious RHS Young Designer of the Year Competition, RHS Young Landscaper of the Year, RHS Young Plantsperson of the Year and the RHS Future Florist competition.

 

Other special features include:

•  Blooming Beds

•  Garden Hideaways

•  children’s activities

•  The Vineyard, dedicated to English wine

•  entertainment in the Bandstand

 

RHS Tatton Park Opening times

Thursday-Saturday – 10am to 6,30pm

Sunday – 10am – 5pm

 

 

Piet Oudolf & The Dutch Wave

Piet Oudolf & The Dutch Wave

 

NOW 15% off special offer – BOOK TODAY!

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

August 16, Tuesday – Arrive in The Netherlands at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
August 17, Wednesday – Jac. P. Thijssepark, Vlinderhof
August 18, Thursday – Kasteel Geldrop, Van Nature, Private Garden designed by Noel van Mierlo
August 19, Friday – Oudolf/Hummelo, Peter Janke’s Hortvs
August 20, Saturday – Het Loo Palace & Garden, Kröller-Müller Museum
August 21, Sunday – Priona Garden, Mien Ruys Gardens, Cruydt Hoeck
August 22, Monday – Lianne’s Siergrassen, Jakobstuin, Dewit Garden Tools
August 23, Tuesday – Village of Zaanse Schans, Boon Garden, Tuin aan het Weeltje
August 24, Wednesday – Depart or continue travels on your own

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, August 16, Tuesday – ARRIVE IN THE NETHERLANDS

•   Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Saturday.

 

Day 2, August 17, Wednesday – TOUR STARTS, JAC P. THIJSSEPARK, VLINDERHOF

•   What’s more appropriate than starting our Dutch Wave tour in a town renowned for its use of Dutch wildflowers? Just around the corner from Schiphol Airport is the suburb of Amstelveen with plantings that have been described as “intensified nature.”

•   We’ll visit Jac. P. Thysse Park, named for a biologist who was an ardent devotee of native plants and birds. Designed by the late Christian P. Broerse, the park is home to just about every Dutch habitat imaginable and loaded with wild and semi-wild plantings. Read blogger Michael King’s enthusiastic post after a recent visit.

•   The Vlinderhof, or Butterfly Garden, is nestled in Maxima Park in Utrecht, and the garden plan is by acclaimed designer Piet Oudolf. Residents in the area asked Oudolf to design a garden within the park, to be maintained by volunteers. Now, over 15,000 plants of 97 different varieties in a naturalistic setting attract not only butterflies, but also bees and many other beneficial insects.

 

Day 3, August 18, Thursday – KASTEEL GELDROP, VAN NATURE, NOEL VAN MIERLO

•   We’ll start the day by visiting Kasteel Geldrop, a 14th century castle, to see the work of planting designer John Schoolmeesters. He came to this garden in 2005 to turn the walled fruit and vegetable garden into a contemporary naturalistic perennial and grass garden. The end result is a prime example of a post Dutch Wave garden with an emphasis on color, texture, and shape. Schoolmeesters is also a very good photographer and chronicles the development of this garden daily on Facebook.

•   Van Nature is a post Dutch wave display garden and nursery, started in 2013, bylandscaper Frank van der Linden, nursery woman Caroline van Heeswijk, and garden designer Frank Heijligers. Here we’ll see ornamental grasses and perennials that are difficult to find but are low maintenance & good in all seasons. That’s a tall order but it will be fascinating to see what combinations they recommend.

•   Our final garden for the day will be a private garden by Noel van Mierlo. Known for his naturalistic style, Van Mierlo is a three-time winner of the National Garden of the Year Award plus the Most Sustainable Garden, Netherlands and the Most Natural Pool. Getting a chance to see a garden by such an accomplished designer is a treat we’ll long remember.

 

Day 4, August 19, Friday – OUDOLF/HUMMELO, HORTVS

•   Piet Oudolf’s private garden at Hummelo has become a place of pilgrimage for thousands of followers from around the world. As the master designer of the New Perennials style of naturalistic planting (which, of course, started as Dutch Wave), Oudolf’s garden is a place of experimentation and testing and therefore, constant change. Enclosed by typical Dutch hedges, the interior garden explodes with familiar and new plants in an exuberant, unconventional display. Oudolf has said, “What I try to do is build an image of nature.” Here we’ll see his current image of nature and draw inspiration from Oudolf’s own innovations. This will be a garden experience we’ll never forget.

•   Our only garden in Germany is Hortvs, the private garden of designer and author Peter Janke, considered a rising star in the German landscape design world. The design is inspired by the work of British designer, Beth Chatto, with whom Janke studied in England. We’ll see meadows, a gravel garden, a woodland garden with simple mulched paths, and a wild, abundant herb garden. It’s geometric and organic, a beautiful mixture of classic and modern styles.

 

Day 5, August 20, Saturday – HET LOO, KRÖLLER-MÜLLER

(Today we take a break from Dutch Wave gardens and visit two places that are important to Dutch culture. One is historical and the other is modern.)

•   At Het Loo Palace, we’ll see an example of 17th century formal Dutch garden design, heavily influenced by the French – about as far away as one could get from Dutch Wave. The Great Garden in the back of the palace was designed by a nephew of André Le Nôtre and has a symmetrical axial layout with radiating gravel walks, parterres, statuary, fountains, and raised walks. In the 18th century, the original Baroque garden was destroyed to make way for a landscape park but it was restored for the palace’s 300th anniversary in 1984. There continue to be renovations. Recently the boxwood in the parterres were pulled out due to boxwood blight and replaced with a cultivar of Ilex crenata.

•   The Kröller-Müller Museum is an art museum and sculpture garden set in a national park. We’ll spend some time here at the museum itself, seeing the second-largest collection of paintings by Vincent Van Gogh (after the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam) and works by Picasso, Gauguin, Mondrian, and Seurat among many other artists. We’ll also want to see the sculpture garden, which has an equally renowned collection of modern sculptures in a beautiful park setting. Then, if there’s time, we’ll walk along the Ecological Walking Route or perhaps take advantage of the free bikes and cycle around the 75 acre national park.

 

Day 6, August 21, Sunday – PRIONA, MIEN RUYS, CRUYDT HOECK

•   We begin our day at Priona, the home garden of the late Henk Gerritsen, one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave. Gerritson is credited with developing the main principles of Dutch Wave design and it shows throughout the garden. Wild and cultivated plants grow next to each other. Weeds and pests are tolerated in the name of naturalism. Gerritson said his design principle is simple: “What is straight should be curved, what is curved should be straight.” We’ll discuss what that means after our visit to this garden which author Noel Kingsbury has described as “magical and entertaining … wild and zany.”

•   Our second garden of the day is the important Tuinen Mien Ruys. Here we’ll pay homage to the woman many call the “Mother of Modernism,” landscape architect Mien Ruys (1904-1999). She made these gardens over 70 years and they’re a reflection of her amazing creativity. Her style is distinctly architectural but the plantings are loose and naturalistic. There are 28 gardens in all, incorporating old and new styles while using unusual materials and perennial introductions from her father’s internationally renowned nursery. Above all, Ruys was experimental. Never afraid to try new things, her garden was an inspiration to the founders of Dutch Wave as it has been to designers from all over the world from many years.

•   Our final stop of the day is Cruyd-Hoeck, the seed nursery started by the late Rob Leopold, a specialist in wildflower seeds and one of the founding members of the Dutch Wave movement. Leopold established the nursery in 1978 to preserve the biodiversity of wild plants, bees, butterflies, and other animals, offering seed mixtures for native wildflower plantings and flower meadows. His influence continues today. A connection with Leopold’s work can be made to the much acclaimed landscaping done with seed mixtures at the recent London Olympics.Since Leopold’s death in 2005, the nursery continues under the leadership of Jasper Helwinkel and Jojanneke Bijkere, designers who are experts in Dutch Wave principles.

 

Day 7, August 22, Monday – LIANNE’S SIERGRASSEN, JAKOBSTUIN, DEWIT GARDEN TOOLS

•   The theme of today’s first garden could be summarized simply as “Plants, Plants, Plants!” Lianne’s Siergrassen is a well respected Dutch nursery that specializes in Dutch Wave ornamental grasses and perennials. Not only has the owner, Lianne Pot, indulged her passion and brought together a virtual living encyclopedia of grasses, she has also created a demonstration Prairie Style Garden arranged in curving beds with over 12,000 dynamic plants. There’s probably not one moment in the year that this garden isn’t beautiful.

•   We continue our tour at Jakobstuin, a garden that falls somewhere between Oudolf’s current style and Prairie Style. The owner and designer, Jaap de Vries, calls Jakobstuin an “Ode to the Dutch Wave.” In addition to warm season grasses typical of the North American Prairie, de Vries also uses many perennial selections favored in the New Perennial movement and arranges plants in the currently popular matrix pattern. Look carefully and you’ll notice that he pays particular attention to texture, form, and light, which is probably the reason his daily photo posts on Facebook are loved by hundreds of followers.

•   The Dutch are known for making some of the finest garden tools in the world so we’re very fortunate that DeWit Garden Tools has invited us to visit their factory and maybe even get a chance to make our own tools! The company was started by Willem de Wit in 1898, and today, the 4th generation of the family is running the forging operation. You’ll note the old-fashioned, top-notch quality, along with innovative designs.

 

Day 8, August 23, Tuesday – ZAANSE SCHANS, BOON, TUIN AAN HET WEELTJE

•   On our final tour day we’ll start with a visit to the village of Zaanse Schans. This is where you’ll get to explore traditional wooden windmills in a working community dating from the 18th & 19th centuries. Have your cameras ready because this is a photo op to text to your friends back home.

•   On our final tour day, we’ll start with the Boon Garden, a private garden near Amsterdam designed by Piet Oudolf in 2000. It combines all the advantages of an urban location but displays the harmony and tranquility of nature. The bold, modern house is open to the landscape and seamlessly transitions to lush outdoor plantings. In the back, we’ll see the iconic infinity edged pool surrounded by a beautiful mass planting of the native Dutch grass, Deschampsia cespitosa.

•   The final garden of our tour is Tuin aan het Weeltje, another private garden designed by Piet Oudolf. Large groups of grasses are combined with delicately colored perennials making a rich, waving tapestry. Here will be our chance to see how Oudolf’s ideas fit into a home garden with typical Dutch landscape elements of water, reed, and ancient willow trees. Maybe we’ll pick up some tips to apply to our own gardens when we get home.

 

Day 9, August 24, Wednesday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

•   Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to airport in the morning. Or you can take the train or taxi from Central Station to the airport.

Bordeaux Gardens, Chateaux, History and Wine

Bordeaux Gardens, Chateaux, History and Wine

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1. Arrive Bordeaux, Embark Ship
On arrival, transfer to your river ship, docked on the Garonne River. This evening, enjoy a Welcome Dinner.
Seven Nights: an APT Aria River Ship (D)

Day 2. Cadillac, Sauternes or Water Lillies. Freedom of Choice
Enjoy a morning sail through French villages and landscapes. From Cadiallac travel to Le Temple-sur-Lot to see a unique water lily garden where Claude Monet discovered his obsession with water lilies and painting them. Founded in 1280, the walled village of Cadillac offers a wealth of historic treasures and sights. Others may choose to visit Château de La Brède in Sauternes for a tour with its English Gardens. This well-preserved castle was once the home of the great philosopher, Montesquieu. Afterwards, head to Château Smith Haut Lafitte for a tour which includes a tasting of Sauternes’ world-famous dessert wines. (BLD)

Day 3. Pauillac
Today, you will enjoy a tour of the lovely village town on the Left Bank of the Gironde estuary known as Pauillac. Situated in the famed Médoc AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée, a government controlled designation of origin which signifies where grapes are grown), Pauillac’s gravelly soils are renowned for producing some of the world’s finest Bordeaux wines – especially those made from the Merlot grape variety. You’ll be able to dabble in local blends this afternoon at an authentic Médoc wine tasting and learn the art of barrel manufacture as a family cooperage. (BLD)

Day 4. Blaye, Cognac and Chateau Gardens. Freedom of Choice
Today you can choose to spend a full day visiting Chateau gardens in the Charente-Maritime region including the well known Chateau La Roche Courbon also known as ‘Sleeping Beauty’s Castle’ and its magnificent French formal gardens that pre-date those at Versailles.
Alternatively step ashore to discover the town of Blaye, including a walk along its 17th century citadel, and World Heritage-listed fortress and tunnels. In the afternoon, perhaps journey to Cognac for a tour and a tasting at Château de Cognac, a French cognac house founded in 1795. Or, sail to the town of Bourg and discover the town centre, medieval ramparts and harbor on a tour. (BLD)

Day 5. Bergerac, Libourne and Saint-Émilion. Freedom of Choice
Enjoy a relaxing morning cruising then explore the picturesque and historic village of Bergerac on the northern bank of the Dordogne River with a visit to nearby Les Jardins de Sardy, one of the best gardens in the Dordogne area with its Italian style yet English garden feel. Alternatively alight in Libourne and travel to World Heritage-listed Saint-Émilion. Explore its remarkable network of cellars and tunnels that stretch for three kilometres under Saint-Émilion. The owners, Les Cordeliers, have been using these underground passages to make and age their exclusive sparkling wines since the 19th century. After a guided tour, enjoy a glass of sparkling wine and a selection of Saint-Émilion’s traditional macarons. (BLD)

Day 6. Libourne, Caviar and Gardens. Freedom of Chocie
Enjoy a guided tour of Libourne, during which you’ll visit a caviar estate for a tour and a tasting. Alternatively you can spend a full day discovering Les Jardins de L’Imaginaire ‘The Gardens of the Imagination’ that displays in 13 different areas the myths and legends of the history of gardens and another delightful French Chateau with its formal style offering stunning views over the Vezere river. We sail to Bordeaux this evening where we will dock and indulge in a spectacular Farewell Dinner with your Captain. Later on, take in the brightly-lit sights on an illuminations cruise of this magical city. (BLD)

Day 7. Bordeaux. Freedom of Choice
You will see the elegant port city of Bordeaux on foot. The breathtaking capital of the wine world is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and, with over 360 historic monuments within its borders, it is also classified as a “City of Art and History.” An optional tour will also be available for those that wish to see Bordeaux and the Botanical Gardens that have being recognized as one of the most progressive projects of landscape architecture. Enjoy a free afternoon in Bordeaux. (BLD)

Day 8. Disembark Ship, Depart Bordeaux
Disembark your ship for the final time after breakfast and transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

 

Highlights

• Enjoy strolling the grounds & gardens of beautiful French Chateaux with your botanical guide
• Explore Les Jardins de L’Imaginaire with 13 display gardens
• Sample French tasting experiences with your Gourmet Guide
• Experience the rich history & culture of Bordeaux on a walking tour
• Sightseeing tour in Pauillac with a Medoc wine tasting
• Admire the view of the impressive Gironde estuary from the 17th century citadel
• Visit the wine making region of Libourne and enjoy a tasting in a cave in St Emilion
• Bergerac village and Caviar tour and tasting
• Macaroon, Cognac & Sauternes tastings

 

Included

• Services of a Cruise Director and Botanical Guide
• Airport transfers on first and last day, as well as tipping and port taxes
• 20 Meals – 7 Breakfasts (B), 6 Lunches (L) and 7 Dinners (D)
• Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board
• Seven nights on a luxury APT Aria river ship, which holds
a maximum of 120 guests
• Onboard lectures by the Botanical Guide
• Freedom of Choice touring most days included in the price.

Mediterranean Wildflowers, History, Gardens and Architecture of the Gods Cruise

Mediterranean Wildflowers, History, Gardens and Architecture of the Gods Cruise

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1. Embark Ship, Athens
Embark the small boutique ship, Island Sky at 4pm at Piraeus Harbour and sail this evening towards the island of Crete. Enjoy a Welcome Dinner on board.
Eleven Nights: aboard MS Island Sky (D)

Day 2. Heraklion, Crete, Wildflowers
Step ashore this morning on the fascinating island of Crete and journey to Knossos, the ancient capital of the great king Minos. Discover the fantastic ruins of the ancient palace complex and then journey through the charming countryside of Crete and picturesque villages to one of the three great mountain ranges, Mt. Dikti where we hunt for spring flowering plants including wild tulips and anemones.
(BLD)

Day 3. Rethmynon, Crete Freedom of Choice
We visit the ancient Fortezza and enjoy a scenic drive to Gaios Kambos which is renowned for endemic Cretan plants and again we seek out the crown anemones, turban buttercups, narcissus tazetta, orchids, irises and Bulbocodium species, before a visit to the Monoan Cemetery at Armenoi. After lunch on board, you can enjoy a free afternoon to explore on your own or choose to take a scenic drive to a botanical park with 20 hectares of fruit trees, herbs, medicinal and ornamental plants to explore. (BLD)

Day 4. Peloponnese, Greece Freedom of Choice
Enjoy a scenic drive through the beautiful and fertile Peloponnese countryside to Agios Nilona where there is a riot of springtime Euphorbia and wildflowers. At Areopoli, one of the most attractive traditional villages in Greece, we stroll the cobbled lanes that wind through the village. Alternatively choose to visit the ancient Greek site of Sparta where the warrior society ruled in the Achiac and Classical periods. (BLD)

Day 5. Kefalonia
Made famous by the filming of Captain Corelli’s Mandolin this Ionian Island has great charm. See the capital, Argostoli including the famous lighthouse and then drive to the nearby Botanical Gardens. We continue to Mt Ainos National Park renowned for its dense forest of Kefalonian Fir trees and endemic flowers including orchids. This afternoon you can enjoy a free afternoon in Argostoli, soaking up the atmosphere of this interesting place. (BLD)

Day 6. Corfu. Freedom of Choice
A half day visit to the historical village of Gastouri and the Achilleion Palace, the former residence of Empress Elizabeth of Austria and later Kaiser Wilhelm the second. Explore the museum with its royal treasures and enjoy the splendor of the landscaped gardens. Then return to historic Corfu Town which is on the World Heritage List (UNESCO) for a tour and some free time before returning to the ship for lunch. Alternatively take a full day trip taking in Mon Repos, the birthplace of Prince Philip, enjoy the scenic beauty of Corfu Island including Mouse Island and have an authentic Greek lunch at Agios Yannis and explore the old town of Corfu. (BLD)

Day 7. Lecce, Italy
Often referred to as the ‘Florence of Southern Italy’ Lecce’s Roman heritage is evident in the Amphitheatre built to accommodate 20,000 spectators. Our tour will include the Santa Croce Basilica and the Piazza Duomo. Later, a visit to Palazzo Tamborino-Cezzi, a privately owned 15th century palace has been arranged. This afternoon we cruise to Sicily. (BLD)

Day 8. Catania, Sicily, Private Garden
After a relaxing morning at sea, we arrive at Catania in Sicily for an exclusive private garden visit at the invitation of Princess Borghese, who will personally take us around her beautiful garden and extend her welcome hospitality to us. (BLD)

Day 9. Syracuse, Sicily, Private Garden
Our tour will begin in the Archaeological Zone and include the well preserved Greek theatre. Paradise Quarry is now a garden and orange grove and is famous for the curious ‘Dionysus Ear’, a vast grotto with an amplifying resonance. After lunch we enjoy a private visit to the gardens of the Marquess of San Giulliano. See the Mediterranean, Arabian and Tropical Gardens which owes much to the head gardener, Rachel Lamb. (BLD)

Day 10. Taormina and Stromboli
We visit Taormina, a walled town lying in the shadow of Mt. Etna, Europe’s highest volcano. The town has been a popular tourist destination since the 19th century and our guided tour will include walking the characteristic alleys before visiting the 15th century Palazzo Corvaja and the impressive Greek Theatre, from where there are marvellous views over the town and coast. This afternoon we sail towards Stromboli, one of the most active volcanoes in the world, in time to see it lit up in the evening light. (BLD)

Day 11. Naples, Ischia, Herculaneum Freedom of Choice
Arrive this morning in Naples to the sight of the Norman castle that protects the port and the backdrop of Vesuvius in the distance. You may choose to spend the afternoon on the island of Ischia to see La Mortella, a wonderful garden designed by architect Russell Page for Lord and Lady William Walton. Alternatively, enjoy an afternoon visiting the ancient Roman town of Herculaneum or enjoy a free afternoon in Naples. (BLD)

Day 12. Naples, Ninfa, Rome
Disembark this morning. A transfer from Naples to Rome is available with a visit to the romantic garden of Ninfa, arriving in Rome by 5.00pm. (BL)

 

M.S. Island Sky

Enjoy the intimate and personalized atmosphere of this small boutique ship with just 100 guests on board.
The décor resembles a grand English style country hotel with two lounges where a traditional afternoon tea is served, plus a bar. There are two restaurants for you to choose from including a fine dining room complete with white table clothes or the more informal on deck, Lido Restaurant where you can enjoy the passing coastal scenery and the fresh sea air. There is a Beauty & Massage Parlor, plus a lift to all floors. The large suites with wood paneling and brass features are spread over four decks and all have outside facing views, en-suite bathrooms, a sitting area and television. The 70 crew will attend to your every need in a friendly and efficient way making your Botanica cruise very special.

 

Highlights

• Learn about the history of the regions from local guides
• Enjoy the comfort of small ship cruising – unpack once
• See historical sights & villages on Crete, Peloponnese & Sicily
• Visit the Greek Islands of Crete, Kefalonia and Corfu
• See the Botanical Gardens of Crete
• Learn about ancient civilization and architecture
• See the birthplace of Prince Philip
• Explore Paradise Quarry in Syracuse
• Private garden visit to Marquess of San Giulliano’s garden
• Private garden visit to Princess Borghese garden
• Visit the beautiful Sicilian walled-town of Taormina
• Explore the Island of Ischia & La Mortella garden
• Discover the fascinating volcanic ruins Herculaneum
• Have a choice of touring options in selected locations
• Learn about the plants and gardens from your Botanical Guide, Dr. Toby Musgrave

 

Included

• Services of a Cruise Director and Botanical Guide, Dr. Toby Musgrave
• Airport transfers on first and last day, tipping and port taxes
• Meals – 11 Breakfasts (B) 11 Lunches (L) and 11 Dinners (D)
• Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board the ship
• Eleven nights on the boutique small ship, the MS Island Sky, with just 100 guests
• Learn about the Mediterranean plants with onboard lectures by the Botanical Guide
• Freedom of Choice Touring on some days at no extra cost

 

Experiences: Wildflowers, Private Gardens, History & Ancient Architecture

 

This tour can be combined with:

• Italian & French Gardens tour (BTIF9)
• Italian & French Gardens & Bordeaux Cruise (BTBIF16)

 

Chelsea Fringe – the alternative garden festival

Chelsea Fringe

 

Chelsea Fringe begin on Saturday 20 May and runs until 4 June 2017, at a host of different venues and settings across England and Scotland plus events in various locations around the world.

Building on the success of the previous Chelsea Fringe festivals, it will feature a wonderful mixture of public spectacles, horticultural happenings and community celebrations.

The Fringe is all about harnessing and spreading some of the excitement and energy that fizzes around gardens and gardening. The idea is to give people the freedom and opportunity to express themselves through the medium of plants and gardens, to open up possibilities and to allow full participation.

Entirely independent of the RHS Chelsea Flower Show (though acting with its support), the Fringe explodes out of the showground geographically, demographically and conceptually. Its events encompass everything from grassroots community garden projects to avant-garde art installations. Our open-access principle means that just about anything goes – as long as it’s interesting and legal, and on the subject of gardens, flowers, veg-growing or landscape.

Paris and Normandy Gardens in Summer

Paris and Normandy Gardens in Summer 2016

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

July 19, Tuesday –  Arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle)
July 20, Wednesday – Jardins d’Angélique, Château du Champ-de-Bataille
July 21, Thursday – Le Bois des Moutiers, Château de Miromesnil, Les Jardins Agapanthe
July 22, Friday – Visits to Honfleur, Calvados Distillery, and Omaha Beach
July 23, Saturday – Jardin de Valérianes, Le Jardin Plume
July 24, Sunday – Giverny Monet’s Garden, Versailles
July 25, Monday – Château de Sceaux, Parc André Citroën, Musée Rodin, Afternoon Free
July 26, Tuesday – Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Garden, Musée du quai Branly, Promenade Plantée, Afternoon Free
July 27, Wednesday – Depart or continue travels on your own

CarexTours strives to operate according to our published itinerary. However, in the event of unforeseen circumstances beyond our control or opportunities that would enhance the itinerary, adjustments may be necessary.

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, July 19, Tuesday  – ARRIVE IN PARIS
  • Tour participants will independently arrange travel to the Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (Aéroport de Paris-Charles-de-Gaulle) and have the opportunity to get settled into the designated hotel before the garden tour starts on Wednesday.

 

Day 2, July 20, Wednesday  – TOUR STARTS, JARDINS D’ANGÉLIQUE, CHÂTEAU DU CHAMP-DE-BATAILLE
  • Jardins d’Angélique was designed by the owners and features two distinct gardens. The North garden is a dreamy, informal, and flowing English-style garden with winding paths. The South garden is a serene, formal, and geometric Italianate garden featuring parterres filled to overflowing with masses of roses, perennials, and ornamental grasses. The gardens are home to a collection of over 2,000 rose varieties that create a visually rich and remarkable aromatic experience.
  • Château du Champ-de-Bataille is certain to delight anyone with a passion for formal design. Jacques Garcia, the French architect, interior designer, and garden designer, spent two decades restoring the château and its acres of gardens and waterworks to an opulence said to rival Versailles.

 

Day 3, July 21, Thursday  – Le BOIS des MOUTIERS, CHÂTEAU DE MIROMESNIL, LES JARDINS AGAPANTHE
  • The gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers offer a bit of England in France. This magical landscape reflects the successful collaboration between the owner, the English architect Sir Edwin Lutyens, and the highly influential English horticulturalist Gertrude Jekyll. This 116-year-old property is an example of a superbly maintained and mature landscape. As it slopes down to meet the sea, it features formal gardens, awe-inspiring 30-foot-tall rhododendrons, and blooming hydrangeas. Lutyens’ attention to detail is evident in the brick-built seating areas, paths of brick and stone, and exceptional clipped yew hedges.
  • Château de Miromesnil is a historic monument featuring a castle, chapel, and a 100-year-old beech grove. A treasure here is most certainly the classic potager (kitchen garden) surrounded by an old brick wall. It includes a floriferous cutting garden, which illustrates its use for pleasure as well as eating.
  • At the Les Jardins Agapanthe the possibilities of a small landscape infused with big ideas will inspire. Created over the last 30 years, the owner and landscape designer Alexandre Thomas has thoughtfully chosen a planting combination that highlights the cool colors of Agapanthus, Hydrangea and Wisteria in the older section, and a more Mediterranean plant palette in the newer garden.

 

Day 4, July 22, Friday  – HONFLEUR, CALVADOS DISTILLERY, and OMAHA BEACH
  • We’ll depart briefly from garden paths to savor the food, art galleries, and historic charm of the famous and picturesque Honfleur. Located where the Seine river meets the English Channel, Honfleur has been skillfully painted by Monet and other artists and is widely celebrated as the birthplace of Impressionism. Next we’ll visit a distillery and enjoy the chance to sip Calvados, the famous Norman apple brandy. And, lastly, we’ll experience the crisp air of the Norman coast and pay our respects as we visit the beach where the Allied invasion of German-occupied France took place during World War II.

 

Day 5, July 23, Saturday – JARDIN DE VALÉRIANES, LE JARDIN PLUME
  • A visit to the heart of the countryside will lead us to the the Jardin de Valérianes, where the owners’ passion for English cottage gardens is showcased through two unique gardens.The original and historic garden exudes a romantic and formal combination of roses and perennials while the newer garden offers a woodland paradise.
  • Le Jardin Plume is an exciting contemporary garden that skillfully combines French formality with strong linear structural elements alongside naturalistic planting schemes to create a stunning effect. Designed by owners Patrick and Sylvie Quibell, it is thought by many to be the finest modern private garden in France.

 

Day 6, July 24, Sunday  – GIVERNY MONET’S GARDEN,  VERSAILLES
  • Many of Monet’s most famous works were painted in his garden in Giverny. Here we’ll see the walled garden, the archways with climbing plants, the Japanese bridge, and the waterlily pond where the artist transformed his view into a series of world-renowned paintings that have been embraced by art lovers from around the globe.
  • At Versailles, we’ll be treated to one of the world’s most treasured gardens and the marvelous achievement of French landscape architect André Le Nôtre . Considered the crown jewel of formal French design, the landscape features iconic intricate parterres, long avenues of trees, a grand canal, and impressive fountains.

 

Day 7,  July 25, Monday  –CHÂTEAU DE SCEAUX, PARC ANDRÉ CITROËN, MUSEÉ  RODIN, AFTERNOON FREE
  • The Château de Sceaux is a country house situated in a park not far from Paris. It was designed by André Le Nôtre , the French landscape architect who first dazzled the world with his designs for Versailles. Here we will be awed by the expansive lawns that lead to the chateau, the grand canals, waterfalls, fountains, and the symmetrical structure that defines the traditional French design aesthetic.
  • The Parc André Citroën is a contemporary green space with a beautiful view of the Seine, a collection of exotic trees, many rare plants and impressive hothouses. We’ll visit the three themed areas: the Jardin Blanc, the Jardin Noir and the big central park area.
  • Musée  Rodin – Late in his life, the world-famous sculptor Auguste Rodin lived and worked from his studio in the Hôtel Biron. Newly restored, the 18th-century hotel houses a marvelous museum that includes 18 rooms and a spectacular sculpture garden dedicated to his works. Many of his bronze and marble sculptures, including his best-known masterpieces, are on display in the gardens. The Thinker and The Gates of Hell are situated in the museum’s rose garden, which is a highlight in its own right.
  • Afternoon Free – Enjoy an afternoon of unscheduled time to explore Paris as you choose.

 

Day 8,  July 26, Tuesday  – PATRICK BLANC’S VERTICAL GARDEN, MUSEÉ  DU QUAI BRANLY, PROMENADE PLANTÉE, AFTERNOON FREE
  • Around the world, majestic walls of plants are cropping up in urban settings and providing a welcome green oasis thanks to Patrick Blanc, the botanist and designer credited with popularizing the vertical garden trend. We’ll see the artistry of Patrick Blanc exemplified by a 40’ x 650’ green wall at the Musée du quai Branly(nicknamed MQB). We’ll also experience the work of Gilles Clément who designed the gardens at MQB to be the exact opposite of a traditional French formal garden. Instead of lawns, gates, and monumental stairways, Clément composed a masterpiece using small gardens, streams, hills, pools, groves, and a stunning combination of native French plants.
  • Our final destination will take us to the Promenade Plantée, where we will experience the marvelous transformation of a 19th-century railway viaduct into the world’s first elevated park. Plant combinations include fragrant cherry trees, maples, rose trellises, bamboo corridors and lavender. Situated three storys above ground, the Promenade provides a unique and impressive view of the surrounding architecture.
  • Afternoon Free – Enjoy an afternoon of unscheduled time to explore Paris as you choose.

 

Day 9,  July 27, Wednesday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS
  • Our time together will come to an end, but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Coach transfer to the airport is included in the trip price and will depart in the morning. Participants can arrange an individual or shared taxi for approximately $50 or continue travels independently to your next destination.

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens

Chelsea Flower Show, London & Country Gardens

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

May 18, Wednesday – Arrive in London at Heathrow Airport
May 19, Thursday – Broughton Grange, Broughton Castle, Pettifers
May 20, Friday – Hidcote, Kiftsgate
May 21, Saturday – RHS Garden Wisley, Highgrove
May 22, Sunday – Folly Farm, Waltham Place
May 23, Monday – Sissinghurst, Gravetye Manor, Great Dixter
May 24, Tuesday – Hampton Court Palace, Olympic Park, Afternoon & Evening free
May 25, Wednesday – Chelsea Flower Show, Farewell Dinner
May 26, Thursday – Depart or continue travels on your own

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, May 18, Wedesday – ARRIVE IN ENGLAND

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Heathrow airport in London and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Friday.

Day 2, May 19, Thursday – BROUGHTON GRANGE, BROUGHTON CASTLE, PETTIFERS

We’ll start our tour by seeing a captivating garden at Broughton Grange by a designer many think to be the best working in England today, Tom Stuart-Smith. Part of a larger 19th century garden, this new 21st century addition transformed a paddock into an ambitious six-acre walled garden. Three themed terraces traverse a slope and open to the surrounding rural landscape. We’ll see masses of perennials and grasses punctuated with topiary, a modern boxwood parterre based on leaves, beech tunnels, pleached lime squares, and a rill carrying water into a large stone tank. The scale of Stuart-Smith’s design is a bold step away from the typical English garden room.
Broughton Castle is a medieval, moated manor house, home of the Fiennes family. Among the garden highlights are the Ladies’ Garden, a walled enclosure on the South side of the castle created in the 1890’s. The crisp fleur-de-lys parterres are planted with ‘Heritage’ and “Gruss an Aachen’ roses. On the perimeter are beds with colorful shrubs, old roses, and herbaceous perennials. This will be our introduction to the classic, pretty English border.

Our third stop is Pettifers a stylish townhouse garden designed by the owner Gina Price. With little experience in design, Price started in the early 1990’s with a conventional, old fashioned garden. Gradually through visiting other gardens and asking for criticism from knowledgeable friends, Price began editing. Today, Pettifers is known for its innovative plant choices, remarkable plant combinations, and vivid color blends, all within a confident structure. Price admits to being influenced by the New Perennials movement but says she couldn’t have a garden without English prettiness. This is a pairing that’s sure to please.

Day 3, May 20, Friday – HIDCOTE, KIFTSGATE

From 1907, Lawrence Johnston, a talented plantsman with a strong sense of design, created Hidcote, considered by many to be an early 20th century masterpiece. A series of hedged, intimate, outdoor rooms, each with its own individual character, are linked by narrow passageways and eventually lead to views of the countryside beyond. Throughout, Johnston used a vast variety of plants, many found on his plant collecting trips. It’s interesting to note the number of plants still used today that were introduced in this garden.

A visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens is not complete without an understanding of how three generations of women have shaped this garden into a beloved treasure. The garden was started in the 1920’s by Heather Muir, who boldly employed an intuitive approach to creating gardens instead of using a more formalized plan. In the 1950’s, Muir’s daughter, Diany Binny, continued the evolution of the garden and introduced a semi-circular pool in the lower garden, commissioned sculptural features, and opened Kiftsgate for public enjoyment for the first time. Today, Anne Chambers, daughter of Binny and granddaughter of Muir, continues to shape the landscape. Her new Water Garden is a contemporary oasis and evidence of her desire to bring the garden into the 21st century. At Kiftsgate, we’ll stroll leisurely along the Wide Border packed with perennials, and, with any luck, view the enormous blooms of the tree peony collection.

Day 4, May 21, Saturday – WISLEY, HIGHGROVE

We’ll first enjoy the famous Royal Horticultural Society Garden, Wisley. This flagship garden spans 240 acres and features a diversity of garden types from model gardens to rock gardens to stunning borders. We can expect to see colorful May flowers such as rhododendrons and azaleas, tulips, allium, camassia, iris & peony in bloom. We’ll explore the Glasshouse, a recent addition to Wisley, and the nearby perennial borders created by influential planting designers Piet Oudolf and Tom Stuart-Smith. There will be time to pause and reflect over afternoon tea or buy a memento in the shop.

Our second stop of the day is Highgrove. The Prince of Wales bought his estate in 1980 and has devoted great energy to establishing lush, organic gardens. He’s had the help of notable designers including Rosemary Verey and Julian and Isabel Bannerman. The results are thought by many to be enchanting. Just a few of the gardens we’ll see are dancing wildflower meadows, a fragrant Thyme Walk flanked by witty Yew Topiaries, and a fabulous, sculptural Stumpery in the woods.

Day 5, May 22, Sunday – FOLLY FARM, WALTHAM PLACE

We’ll begin the day at Folly Farm an outstanding example of the collaboration between celebrated 20th century garden designer Gertrude Jekyll and the great British architect Edward Lutyens. The best known areas are the canal garden and the sunken rose garden. Originally designed in 1912, the current owners have led a recent restoration and replanting with assistance from the influential contemporary English garden designer Dan Pearson. Not to be missed is Pearson’s bold, new planting in the Lutyens’ Sunken Pool Garden.

We continue on to Waltham Place where we will explore naturalistic plantings by the late Dutch designer Henk Gerritsen. Along with Piet Oudolf, Gerritsen is credited as a founder of the Dutch Wave movement. At Waltham Place, he transformed a square walled garden that dates back to the 17th century by using plantings that seem wild and unplanned. A cloud pruned caterpillar hedge snakes through the space, playfully contrasting with the looseness of the other plants. We’ll see other gardens here and have time to consider the contribution of Gerritsen to modern planting design.

Day 6, May 23, Monday – SISSINGHURST, GRAVETYE MANOR, GREAT DIXTER

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens are treasures today thanks to the commitment, imagination and marriage of writer Vita Sackville-West and diplomat Harold Nicholson. He laid out the gardens’ architecture and she filled it with lush, romantic plantings. Besides exploring the series of intimate garden rooms, make sure you climb the tower and take in the panoramic views from the top. You can learn more about Sissinghurst right now by checking out its blog.

The gardens of Gravetye Manor, with their lovely views to the surrounding countryside, were created a century ago by writer, designer, and owner, William Robinson. Here he showcased his ideas about naturalism & wild gardening by dramatically contrasting untamed gardens with more structured areas close to the house. Today, Gravetye Manor is a country house hotel and the gardens have had an extensive restoration. But don’t expect to see a historic set piece. The current head gardener, having done a stint at Great Dixter, is adding experimental plantings, giving the garden a 21st century twist.

We end the day at Great Dixter perhaps the best known and most loved of all English gardens. It exists as a living testament to the life and passions of the late owner, plantsman, and writer, Christopher Lloyd. Today, Fergus Garrett, who worked for Lloyd during the last years of his life, carries on the tradition of experimentation. He welcomes visitors with horticultural interests from all over the world.

Day 7, May 24, Tuesday – HAMPTON COURT PALACE & GARDEN, OLYMPIC PARK, AFTERNOON & EVENING FREE

Hampton Court Palace sits on the banks of the Thames River and has 60 acres of formal gardens. You’ll want to search out the achingly beautiful Wisteria tunnel, get lost in the maze of a thousand yews, and be awed by the Victorian kitchen garden with its brilliant display of vibrantly colored tulips. Make sure you bring a camera because the gardens also have a grape vine planted in 1769 that is the largest in the world.

The gardens at London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park were created for the 2012 Olympic Games to celebrate the participating countries by featuring plants from around the world. Praised for their intricate floriferous plantings that have the look of colorful meadows, the gardens have continued to draw much interest. This new park is an example of how urban plantings can help to make cities healthy and livable.

Afternoon & Evening Free – Enjoy an afternoon & evening of unscheduled time to explore London as you choose.

Day 8, May 25, Wednesday – Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show attracts garden designers and garden enthusiasts from every corner of the world. Held at London’s Royal Hospital Chelsea, the Chelsea Flower Show consistently displays design and horticultural excellence. There will be 17 show gardens along Main Avenue this year and the competition will be fierce. Last year’s Best of Show winner was Dan Pearson’s poetic interpretation of wildflower garden with a trout stream– a naturalistic tour de force. There will also be plenty of time at the show to explore the Great Pavilion where nurseries and plant societies exhibit the best & newest plants from around the world.

Day 9, May 26, Thursday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

Our time together will come to an end, but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Coach transfer to the airport is included in the trip price and will depart in the morning. You may also choose to take the Heathrow Express train or a taxi.

Festival des Architectures Vives

Festival des Architectures Vives (the Lively Architecture)

 

To face today’s economic mutations and technical, technological and societal changes, it is not enough to adapt – today we must innovate.

 

The Festival des Architectures Vives is an architectural path for the general public, who can discover or rediscover the historical landmarks of the city of Montpellier since 2006 and the city of La Grande Motte since 2013. The event invites visitors to go in contact this rich heritage by offering installations scattered around the city. In Montpellier, it takes place in the historic town and offers a path connecting mansions and courtyards, mostly private, that are usually not visible to visitors.

Then in La Grande Motte, the festival invites the visitor to discover a revisited contemporary architectural heritage, and sometimes rewritten by young architects. Thus, the city of La Grande Motte and specifically the architecture of Jean Balladur, recognized as the “Heritage of the twentieth century” is put into perspective by these ephemeral works.

Each installation created by architects teams allows to highlight the work of a younger generation which is inventing, experimenting and exploring new design of our environment fields. Thus, the festival offers them the opportunity to make a submission through an installation in the heart of the prestigious and remarkable setting offered courses and mansions and to confront qualitative urban spaces open to the great landscape in La Grande Motte. Each one opens a dialogue between heritage and contemporary architecture installations.

Since 2006, the FAV is organized annually by the association Champ Libre, chaired by Jacques Brion and Elodie NOURRIGAT, architects in Montpellier.

The access is completely free and open to all.

 

Royal Châteaux & Gardens in the Ile de France

Royal Châteaux & Gardens in the Ile de France

 

If you dream of exploring some of the world’s most enchanting gardens and castles in the countryside surrounding Paris, join the Académie des Arts de Vivre (AAV) in this unique 5-day tour designed for lovers of natural beauty.  For an authentic experience of the French garden style, we open the doors to award-winning private gardens where the owners take the time to explain their plant choices over afternoon tea or drinks.

 

Retrace the evolution of French garden design while visiting the royal castles and parks surrounding the City of Light with your specialist guide. Take advantage of your base in a legendary hotel in the heart of Paris to make daily excursions into the surrounding countryside.

Begin at the royal Château de Fontainebleau, a monumental palace built in a vast hunting forest and surrounded by a richly landscaped park. Its architectural decor spans over 400 years and bears the stamp of both Renaissance King François I and the Emperor Napoleon I. Strolling through its courtyards, you will discover a landscape of stylistic contrasts between the secluded Renaissance-style Garden of Diane – goddess of the hunt, the English Garden, and the terraces around the Bassin du Tibre.

At the nearby Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte, discover the breathtaking gardens designed by André Le Notre who intended them to be a harmonious extension of the castle. These monumental jardins à la française constitute one of the earliest examples of this new classical garden style and was the precursor to Versailles. Vaux-le Vicomte was built in 1661 for Nicholas Fouquet, Louis XIV’s finance minister. The young king had him arrested on charges of embezzlement shortly after attending its lavish inauguration and then ordered its designers, including Le Nôtre, to enlarge the hunting lodge he had just inherited from his father at Versailles.

Explore the celebrated interiors and gardens of the Château de Versailles, the epitome of French classical design and the blueprint for royal castles throughout Europe for nearly two hundred years. Observe to what extent André Le Notre’s masterly garden design transforms nature to create a perfect harmony with Le Vau and Hardouin-Mansart’s architectural design. The gods and goddesses of his richly sculpted fountain groups in the bosquets, closest to the palace, echo those in Le Brun’s magnificent painted ceiling in the Hall of Mirrors.

Tour the romantic Trianons and the bucolic Hamlet of Marie-Antoinette, where the naturalistic gardens are a poignant reminder of 18th century anglomania and a clear reaction to Le Nôtre’s formal jardins à la française. Visit the impressive Potager du Roi, the king’s vegetable garden, to better understand the importance the court attached to a royal menu composed of homegrown fruits and vegetables.

Make an excursion to the Château de St.-Germain-en-Laye to stroll along Le Nôtre’s monumental terraced walk high above the river Seine. Then, by appointment, stop to admire the exotic Desert de Retz, a pre-revolutionary example of a jardin anglo-chinois hidden in the forest of St. Germain-en-Laye and normally closed to the public. Discover the Château de Malmaison, where the Empress Josephine created a rose collection immortalized by the botanist Redouté, and admire its original Empire-style furnishings.

Then wander through the enchanting gardens of the Château de Chantilly comparing its 17th century formal water gardens designed by Le Nôtre with its 18th century natural landscape gardens adorned with rustic cottages. Inside the neo-Renaissance castle, a superb pastiche rebuilt by the Duc d’Aumale in the 19th century, take the time to admire its exceptional French painting collection, second in importance only to the Louvre.

This bespoke 5-day tour of the Royal Châteaux and Gardens in the Ile de France offers you a survey of the finest French châteaux and gardens with privileged access, luxury accommodation and transportation, a specialist historian/guide, the assistance of our Académie Hostess, and all reservations, entrance fees and taxes.

The exclusive AAV tour can be customized to meet your interests and requirements. Available all year, through April through October are best for optimal garden conditions. Price upon request.

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark

Natural Landscapes & Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey, Guernsey, Herm, Burhou & Sark

 

St Helier, Jersey – 7 nights

Day 1: Friday 26 May, Arrive Jersey

Welcome Meeting
Short Orientation Walk (time-permitting)
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer from the airport to the hotel in St Helier on the island of Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Pomme d’Or Hotel.

St. Helier stands in St Aubin’s Bay on the southern side of the island and is named after Jersey’s first and most famous saint, a 6th century ascetic hermit who was martyred on the island in c. AD 555. The town is the capital of Jersey and has a population of about 28,000 – roughly one third of Jersey’s total population. While St Helier has a distinctive British atmosphere, the town retains numerous French influences as attested by the many streets that carry old French names and numerous shop fronts still displaying the names of their island founders. Depending on arrival times, a short orientation walk of the town will be conducted before time at leisure for dinner. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 2: Saturday 27 May, Jersey

Walk around St Helier – Royal Square, Central Market & Church of St Helier
Le Clos du Chemin, St Peter
The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust with introduction by Lee McGeorge Durrell
Eric Young Orchid Foundation
Welcome Talk: An introduction to the unique ecology of the Channel Islands
Welcome Evening Meal
Today we begin with a short orientation walk around the cosmopolitan harbour town of St Helier. Our walk includes a visit to the Central Market where we may purchase ingredients for our picnic lunch. This Victorian covered market includes a stunning array of overflowing flower stalls, fresh fruit and vegetables, cakes, wines and chocolates, dairy products made from the famous Jersey cow, and local specialties including des mèrvelles (small doughnuts), de nièr beurre (apple preserve) and cabbage loaf (bread baked wrapped in cabbage leaves). We also visit the Royal Square, where at its centre a stone commemorates the Battle of Jersey, which took place in 1781. We also visit the pink granite Church of St Helier, the largest of the parish churches. The seafront used to come right up to the church, and the square tower served as a useful observation post. The stretch of land between here and the sea was reclaimed from the end of the 18th century for town housing and warehouses.

Mid-morning we travel to St Peter to visit Le Clos du Chemin, the private garden of Mrs Susan Lea. Colour and texture reign in this garden, set on a hillside overlooking the bay. It features a glorious herbaceous border; a bed filled with plants in shades of silver; around twenty different types of magnolias, and an extraordinary ‘foxglove tree’ that sports vivid violet flowers in the spring.

We next visit the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, formerly the Jersey Zoo. Located in a 16th-century manor house and surrounded by 32 acres of park and farmland, Jersey Zoo was the realisation of a dream by naturalist and author Gerald Durrell (1925-1995) to create a safe place for his animals. From the outset the Jersey Zoo was dedicated to breeding endangered species to ensure their survival. Many zoologists denounced Gerald’s early efforts at captive breeding but they are now universally acknowledged as an important weapon in the fight to save animals from extinction.

In 1963, Gerald turned his ‘zoo’ into a charitable trust, the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which has established breeding groups of many species of endangered mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians and has pioneered the return of their progeny to the wild. In Jersey, in the 50 plus years of the Zoo/Trust’s operation, Durrell’s has achieved many major breeding firsts. These include: Alaotran gentle lemurs, Rodrigues and Livingstone’s fruit bats, Rodrigues fodys, Madagascan flat-tailed tortoises, Round Island boas and Montserrat mountain chicken frogs. While most of us think of Gerald Durrell in connection with his best-selling book, My Family and Other Animals, which documented his earliest animal adventures and the antics of his family on the island of Corfu, Durrell’s greatest legacy has undoubtedly been in the field of animal conservation and the Trust he created on Jersey.

Durrell met his second wife, Lee McGeorge Durrell, in 1977 when he lectured at Duke University where she was studying for a PhD in animal communication. They married in 1979. She co-authored a number of books with him, including The Amateur Naturalist, and became the Honorary Director of the Trust after his death. Lee will talk about her late husband and his life’s work.

We end our day with a visit to the Eric Young Orchid Foundation. Nestled in the heart of the beautiful parish of Trinity and sitting within its own wonderful landscaped garden, this nursery and display complex houses one of the world’s finest collections of orchids. Jersey orchid breeders are considered amongst the best and this collection has won many awards.

This evening we will have a special evening lecture that introduces the unique ecology of the Channel Islands. This will be followed by a welcome dinner at the hotel, where we will enjoy a taste of Jersey’s marvellous local produce. (Overnight St Helier) BD

 

Day 3: Sunday 28 May, Jersey

Wildlife walk with Mike Stentiford: Le Noir Pré Orchid Field
National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre, St Ouen’s Pond
Lunch at Restaurant Corbière Phare, St Brelade
Tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens with brother of Seigneur
The favourable climate of the islands, warmed all year around by the Gulf Stream, ensures that the Channel Islands have dynamic ecosystems, and each provides a sanctuary for a rich variety of flora and fauna. This morning we take an environmental wildlife walk with the ‘Birdman of Jersey’, naturalist Mike Stentiford who will introduce you to some of Jersey’s abundant flora and fauna. Mike was awarded an MBE in 2000 in recognition of the work he has done in promoting and introducing Jersey’s natural heritage to visitors to the island.

We begin early this morning with a visit to Le Noir Pré Orchid Field, whose meadows fringing St Ouen’s Pond, burst into colour at the end of May with over 40,000 blooming orchids. Often known simply as ‘the Orchid Field’, this unique site is one of the last remaining strongholds of the Jersey or loose-flowered Orchid (Orchis laxiflora), which also occurs in Guernsey, but is absent from the rest of the British Isles. In addition, three other species, the southern marsh (Dactylorhiza praetermissa), common spotted and heath spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata), occur at the site. The meadows also contain a wide variety of other plant species, many of which have become increasingly uncommon in Jersey. During May and June, the meadows are a riot of colour, with the stunning deep purple of the Jersey Orchids contrasting with the various shades of pink, through to white, of the remaining species. Other notable wildflowers include the ragged robin, yellow bartsia, parsley water-dropwort, common knapweed, square-stalked St. John’s-wort and tufted vetch. A wide range of insects can also be seen in the meadows, especially butterflies of various species, including the orange tip, whose caterpillars feed on cuckooflower, and dragonflies, including the spectacular emperor dragonfly. Small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews attract predatory birds, including the kestrel and the barn owl, and the rare marsh harrier can sometimes be observed hunting over the site.

We also make a visit to the new National Trust for Jersey Wetland Centre. Overlooking La Mare au Seigneur (St Ouen’s Pond), the centre acts as both a state-of-the-art bird hide and a wetland interpretation centre. The nature reserve contains an incredible mosaic of wetland habitats including reedbed, fen, wet meadow, dune grassland and the largest area of natural open water in Jersey. In addition to wildflowers, small mammals and green lizards, almost 200 bird species have been recorded at the site. It is one of the best places to view the majestic marsh harrier. Normally quite shy birds, at St Ouen they come very close to the viewing areas, and while they are present at the pond throughout the year, spring is a particularly good time to view their dazzling courtship ritual.

Midday we enjoy lunch at Restaurant Corbière Phare, known for its tasty food using fresh local produce, and magnificent sea views overlooking La Corbière Lighthouse.

After lunch we take a guided tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens. The traditional home of the Seigneur of St Ouen, and the ancestral home of the de Carteret family since the 11th century, the garden features an ancient Colombier (traditional dovecote) and walled garden. The walled garden and landscaped gardens are surrounded by a moat and stream flowing down to a wooded valley. The dramatic entrance arch next to the lodge leads to an avenue of majestic trees with huge trunks of ash, beach and oak above green verges. (Overnight St Helier) BL

 

Day 4: Monday 29 May, Jersey

Introduction to Jersey’s Prehistoric Sites by archaeologist Olga Finch
La Hougue Bie: prehistoric mound and dolmen
La Hougue Bie Museum & the ‘Jersey Hoard’
Mont Orgueil Castle, Grouville
Jersey became an island at the end of the second Ice Age as the land that once linked it to France was flooded. Neolithic people from the Mediterranean started to move north through France up to the coast of Brittany and eventually settlements appeared around the coast of Jersey. These early settlers brought with them a megalithic tradition of erecting stone monuments, known as dolmens or menhirs. They also introduced ‘passage’ graves where a narrow entrance and passageway led to a burial chamber providing a focus for spiritual beliefs. This morning archaeologist Olga Finch joins us to explain what the various Neolithic sites on Jersey signified to the indigenous population.

We begin by visiting the 6000 year-old burial site at La Hougue Bie. This prehistoric mound and dolmen is one of Europe’s finest Neolithic passage graves. Particularly significant at La Hougue Bie is the placement of its entrance; it points directly east and during the Equinox sunlight penetrates the passageway illuminating the chamber deep in the mound. The discovery of the Equinox alignment signified how important this time of year was to this past farming community and how critical cycles of nature were to its survival.

Nearby we will have the special opportunity to visit the La Hougue Bie Museum with one of the conservators who has been working on one of the newest and most important discoveries to be made in the Channel Islands – the Grouville Hoard. More commonly known as the ‘Jersey hoard’, this is a collection of over 10,000 Celtic and Roman coins that was found in 2012 by two metal detectorists. Work on the find is ongoing, but at this stage it is believed that the hoard belonged to the Curiosolitae tribe from Brittany who came to Jersey fleeing the armies of Julius Caesar in approximately 50 BC.

From megalith structures we next turn our attention to a medieval site, Mont Orgueil Castle. This iconic landmark commands a prime position overlooking the picturesque harbour at Gorey and the Royal Bay of Grouville. Blue Badge Guide Sue Hardy will guide our visit here, explaining how construction of the castle was begun in the 13th century after King John lost control of Normandy and how for 600 years Mont Orgueil Castle protected the island against French invasion. Although Elizabeth Castle replaced Mont Orgueil as the island’s premier defence station when it was decided an inland setting was safer to protect, Mont Orgueil remained the island’s secondary defence until it was decommissioned in 1907. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 5: Tuesday 30 May, Jersey

St Matthew’s Church, (Glass Church), Millbrook
Creux Baillot Cottage Gardens, Leovill, St Ouen
Grey Gables, St Brelade
We begin today with a visit to St Mathew’s Church at Millbrook. While the exterior of this church scarcely merits a second look, its interior is a work of such beauty that even the Germans took care not to damage it during their occupation of the island. Often referred to as the Glass Church, St Matthew’s has wonderful Art Deco glass fixtures and fittings designed in 1934 by René Lalique (1860-1945). The work was commissioned by Florence Boot, Lady Trent, Lalique’s neighbour in the South of France. Lady Trent’s principle residence, however, was in Millbrook on the island of Jersey and the work was commissioned to honour her late husband Jesse Boot, founder of Boots the Chemist. Opalescent panels, a magnificent altar cross, a glass font – perhaps the only one to be found anywhere – the Jersey lily motif, and Art Deco angels make the church one of the Island’s treasures and arguably some of the finest work Lalique ever produced.

Mid-morning we visit the private garden of Judith Quérée at Creux Baillot Cottage. Judith and her husband Nigel bought the traditional stone house over 30 years ago. They’ve gradually created a glorious garden, crammed with unusual species of plants that thrive in the mild local climate. There are strange flowers that drip nectar, roses the colour of clotted cream, a burgundy-coloured buddleia and a mysterious mandrake: ‘Folklore says you should only pull it up at night when the spirit of the plant is asleep,’ says Judith. Her garden is divided into different ‘rooms’, with a cool boggy area complete with a rowing boat, and a hot, dry border that attracts scores of butterflies. Hanging from a mature tree are some ropes – a playground for the local red squirrels, which still thrive on the island. This garden is featured in both Hidden Gardens of the Channel Islands and 1001 Gardens You Must See Before You Die.

This afternoon we visit the extensive gardens of Grey Gables, located in a peaceful, elevated position above La Haule Hill in St Brelade. Developed by the late Mrs Celia Skinner, the garden consists of a mixture of terraced and formal gardens with large areas of natural wood banks featuring many mature indigenous and specie trees including Australian tree ferns. There is also a well-stocked greenhouse, a herb garden and a vegetable area with fruit trees.

In the late afternoon we return to St Helier for an evening at leisure. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 6: Wednesday 31 May, Jersey

Jersey War Tunnels, St Lawrence
Batterie Lothringen, Noirment Headland
Paris Church and Fishermen’s Chapel of St Brelade’s Bay
Le Coin, St Brelade (to be confirmed in 2017)
This morning we visit some of the German fortifications built on Jersey during World War II. The five years of German Occupation of the Channel Islands during World War II has had a significant impact on islander psyche. This, along with the material legacies left by the German Occupation, is now reflected in tourism on the islands. During their occupation the Germans built hundreds of reinforced concrete bunkers and gun emplacements, anti-tank walls and tunnels – all constructed for an invasion that never came. Such was Hitler’s belief that England would try to regain the islands, he sent to the Channel Islands over 20 percent of the material allocated to the so-called ‘Atlantic Wall’ – a line of massive defence works which stretched from the Baltic to the Spanish frontier – to turn them into ‘impregnable fortresses’. Following Germany’s defeat, islanders began the job of decommissioning and destroying this legacy, but now they are recognised as important heritage sites and considerable energy and money has been expended on conserving and interpreting them.

The Jersey War Tunnels were originally constructed as an ammunition store and artillery barracks, but were converted into a casualty clearing station known as Hohlgangsanlage 8 (often abbreviated to Ho8) or the German Underground Hospital. A huge workforce was needed to build the 1km network of tunnels and this was supplied by the Organisation Todt. More than 5,000 slave labourers were brought over to Jersey – Russians, Poles, Frenchmen and Spaniards. Conditions were terrible, although Russian and Ukrainian POWs were treated the worst, with cases of malnutrition, death by exhaustion and disease among them becoming common. Today the site is a museum, which through interactive displays tells the story of the Occupation.

Next, we head to the coast to Noirmont headland, the site of Batterie Lothringen, one of four naval artillery batteries installed by the Germans in the Channel Islands and bought by the States of Jersey after World War II as a permanent war memorial.

Following some time at leisure for lunch at St Brelade’s Bay, we visit the Parish Church and La Chapelle es Pecheurs (locally known as the Fishermen’s Chapel), which occupy the site of an original wooden church built by St Brelade in the 6th century. In the early centuries of Christianity it was common for a community, or a wealthy local family, to fund a chantry chapel. Here a priest could be paid to say prayers to keep the devil at bay and guarantee a path to heaven for the righteous. Originally it was thought that the name derived from the fishing guilds of the island, although it is also possible that pecheurs (‘fishermen’ in French) is a corruption of péchés (‘sinners’). A wooden structure may have existed on this site as the first church, however these churches were often burned down by pagan invaders. While the chapel appears older than the adjacent church, recent archaeological work suggests that it was constructed afterwards, probably during the 12th century. The chapel is built from the same material as was used in the parish church. Limpet shells from the bay were crushed and dissolved with boiling seawater. Until the 19th century, when the military fortifications were built in Jersey, it housed cannon for the local militia. It therefore survived the destruction of chapels at the time of the Reformation.

We end the day with a visit to the private gardens of Le Coin. Over the years Le Coin has been in the care of a number of notable owners including the Countess de Bretoy, who later bequeathed the property to Prince George Chasdervadzy. More recently it has been the home of the distinguished artist and collector Sir Francis Cook and his wife Lady Brenda. The grounds, which are entered via a magnolia tree lined driveway, extend over 5 acres and are based on the gardens of Monserrate in Portugal. They are also featured in Lynne Mary Jenner’s book Hidden Gardens of the Channel Islands: Jersey. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

Day 7: Thursday 1 June, Jersey

The Grove, St Lawrence (to be confirmed in 2017)
La Maison des Pres, St Peter
We spend today visiting two more private gardens. A unique and imposing mansion, The Grove, commands spectacular views down across its formal gardens to St Aubin and Les Minquiers Reef. Pathways and terraces lead to Mediterranean, Magnolia, Chinese and Japanese water gardens. With mature parkland trees, banks of rhododendrons and subtle planting, this is a truly remarkable garden to visit.

La Maison des Pres is the private garden of Lord and Lady Brownlow. Its fine selection of trees includes a tulip tree, Liriodendron tulipifera, and a Metasequoia (dawn redwood). A walk through the wildflower meadow allows us to note the lime trees around the border and the different windbreaks. After the informality of the meadow and orchard, there is a complete change as you enter the more formal garden. Here we find a giant Romneya coulteri (Californian tree poppy) and a delightful semi-circular summerhouse leading into Lady Brownlow’s ‘secret garden’, guarded by two actual-size reproductions of the celebrated terracotta warriors which were excavated in Xian, China. (Overnight St Helier) B

 

St Peter Port, Guernsey – 7 nights

Day 8: Friday 2 June, Jersey – Guernsey

Fly from Jersey to Guernsey
Hauteville House, home of Victor Hugo / time at leisure in St Peter Port
This morning we depart Jersey and fly across to Guernsey, where we will be based for the next six days. From 933AD Guernsey was part of Normandy, forging a link between Britain and France that survives locally on the island in Norman Law, surnames and D’gernésiais, the local language. When in 1066 William of Normandy (‘William the Conqueror’) became King of England, Guernsey was linked to the English Crown. Guernsey remained an English possession after King Philippe Augustus of France took back the mainland of Normandy from King John in 1204. Guernsey prospered particularly from the 18th century when its port became free from British import duties. Wine and brandy were stockpiled here and taken to Britain in small quantities when prices were good. Referred to as ‘Free Trade’, the practice legitimated what was in effect little more than smuggling.

Our first visit this afternoon in St Peter Port is to Hauteville House, Victor Hugo’s home when he lived in self-imposed exile on Guernsey between 1856 and 1870 and again in 1872-73. Hugo arrived in Guernsey after he was evicted from Jersey, where he had lived for three years, because of his loudly expressed Republican opinions. While the poet produced some of his best work on Guernsey, as a Frenchman who brought his mistress into exile, installing her in a house at 20 Hauteville St, while he lived with his wife in the nearby Hauteville House, Hugo did not really fit into Guernsey society. While living here, Hugo saw his most famous work, Les Misérables, published in 1862. His novel, Toilers Of The Sea, written during the author’s stay on the island, is set in the ancient parish churchyard around St Sampsons Harbour. Note: access to Hauteville House is limited to very small groups. For this reason our group will be sub-divided with half the group visiting the house today, and the other half tomorrow morning. (Overnight Guernsey) B

 

Day 9: Saturday 3 June, Guernsey

Hauteville House, home of Victor Hugo / time at leisure in St Peter Port
Sausmarez Manor Saturday Farmers Market, St Martins (time-permitting)
Sausmarez Manor Sub-tropical Gardens, St Martins
For those who visited Hauteville House yesterday afternoon, we begin today with some time at leisure to explore the lively atmosphere of Guernsey’s capital, St Peter Port. With its cobbled streets, and picturesque seafront, this is considered one of Europe’s prettiest harbour towns.

Mid-morning we journey to the parish of St Martins, hopefully in time to visit Sausmarez Manor’s Farmers Market, which takes place on Saturday mornings. Here, fresh vegetables, free range eggs, chutneys, honey, hams, exotic plants and shrubs, vegetable plants, bric-a-braque, bedding plants, homemade cakes, antiques, books and health foods can all be found.

Following a picnic lunch, David Richards (to be confirmed in 2017) will give us a guided tour of the Sausmarez Manor Sub-tropical Garden. Rich in subtropical and Mediterranean plants, it also features over 300 camellias in an ancient woodland and a sculpture trail. Much discussed in the media, the camellias range from old to new varieties, including a cutting grown from the first ever imported into Europe and one that flowers right on into August. (Overnight St Peter Port, Guernsey) B

 

Day 10: Sunday 4 June, Excursion to Alderney/Burhou

Boat to Alderney
Boat cruise of the Alderney Ramsar Site: including Burhou Island for puffin watching & viewing of gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac
Today we cross to Alderney, the third largest of the Channel Islands, situated at the mouth of the Channel, 11 kilometres due west of Cap de la Hague in Normandy. From Alderney a boat trip takes us on a tour of the Alderney Ramsar Site (1500 hectares of important wetlands, accredited under the Ramsar convention in 2005) to view the Puffins on Burhou, as well as the impressive gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac and the Atlantic seal colony near Burhou Reef.

Burhou Island is just 2.25 kilometres northwest of Alderney. Despite being only about one kilometre long and half a kilometre wide, Burhou is a bird sanctuary which is home to 11 species of breeding birds. The island is best known for its colony of Atlantic puffins which may be viewed between March and July. The Atlantic puffin is one of four species of puffin and the only one found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a member of the auks (Alcidae) family of sea birds which includes guillemots, the razorbill and auklets. Today there are 143 pairs of Burhou puffins, having declined from a total of many thousand birds in the last twenty years. The puffins spend most of the year out in the Atlantic Ocean. They only return to land at the end of March to breed and raise their young. On Burhou the puffins build their nests in old rabbit burrows or on the side of the cliffs. Once they have made a nest the male and female return to the same nest every year. Eggs are laid in the burrows in late spring/early summer. Incubation usually takes between 36 and 45 days. Then, after the egg has hatched the parents will take turns leaving the burrow in search of food for the puffling chick. The puffling chicks spend between 34 and 60 days in the nest before they fledge and swim out to sea to join the puffin colony. Other nesting birds on Burhou include the oystercatcher, storm petrel, shag, greater and lesser black-backed gull and herring gull.

Les Etacs and Ortac rocks support more than 2% of the world’s gannet population. These colonies are the most southerly within the gannet’s range, with over 6,000 breeding pairs recorded. Gannets feed primarily on fish such as mackerel, sand eels and herring, which they find by diving to depths of up to 20 metres or scavenging along the surface of the sea. In the late afternoon we return to Guernsey, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 11: Monday 5 June, Day Excursion to Sark

Ferry to and from Sark
Guest talk by Dr Richard Axton on Sark’s prehistoric finds and Sark in the 16th century
Guest talk by the Seneschal of Sark (subject to confirmation in 2017)
La Seigneurie Garden and lobster lunch at Hathaways Brasserie
Tour of island by horse and carriage
This morning we take a 45-minute ferry ride to Sark. The island is only 5 kilometres long and a little over 1.5 kilometres wide, but boasts 64 kilometres of picturesque coastline. Although it has a population of just 600, Sark is a self-governing Crown Dependency and was the last European territory to abolish feudalism in 2008. The Head of Government is the Seigneur, an hereditary position dating back to 1565 and currently held by John Michael Beaumont.

Sark consists of two main parts, Greater Sark and Little Sark to the south: they are connected by a narrow, razor-edged isthmus called La Coupée, which is 90 metres long and has a drop of 100 metres on each side. Two bays flank the isthmus: La Grand Grêve to the west and Convanche Bay, part of Baleine Bay, to the east.

We will be given a talk on two periods of Sark’s history – the Prehistoric era and the 16th century – by Dr Richard Axton. Subject to confirmation, we will also be joined by the Seneschal of Sark (President of Chief Pleas and Chief Judge), who will explain the history and politics of the island.

We will then visit the gardens of La Seigneurie, the home of the Seigneurs of Sark. With its colourful borders and stone walls, this is one of the finest gardens in the Channel Islands. There is also a potager, a pond, a restored Victorian greenhouse and a recently extended fruit and vegetable garden. The walled garden dates to the mid-19th century, complete with some of its original Victorian lay out. The high walls give protection from the wind and the island’s almost frost-free climate allows many tender and half hardy plants to thrive.

Sark is renowned for its local lobster, and we will partake of this delicacy at a special lunch in the beautiful surrounds of the gardens. We will spend the remainder of our time in Sark visiting sites on Greater Sark. As there are no cars on Sark, our tour of the island will be made the old-fashioned way – by horse and carriage. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 12: Tuesday 6 June, Excursion to Herm

Ferry to and from Herm
Guided tour of Herm’s Award-winning Gardens with chief gardener, Brett Moore
Crab sandwich lunch at The Captain’s Hotel, Guernsey
La Petite Vallee, St Peter Port
Cliff Path Walk of the South Coast
The Island of Herm is a 20-minute ferry ride from St Peter Port. Like Sark it has no cars, and visitors tour the island on foot. This tiny island, covering just 550 acres, is a subtropical paradise supporting beautiful gardens laden with native and exotic plants. From spring onwards wildflowers take over the island with violets, red campion, primroses and daffodils lining the coastal cliff paths and carpeting the woodland. The fragrance of Burnet rose drifts across the heathland by June whilst the southern cliffs are sprinkled with sea pinks, rock samphire and heather.

The island rarely suffers from frost and has few native trees, having been cleared for sheep grazing. After the First World War, Sir Compton Mackenzie took over the lease of Herm and set about restoring the gardens. Trees were then introduced by the next resident, Sir Percival Perry, chairman of the Ford Motor Company, who realised that Monterey pines, holm oaks and Monterey cypresses would offer shelter from the prevailing sea winds and allow subtropical plants to flourish. Today, all the displays and gardens on the island are successfully looked after by a head gardener with an assistant, who have won numerous awards for their efforts. This morning we join Herm’s head gardener, Brett Moore, for a private tour during which we will learn about the unique plant life and challenges associated with gardening on Herm.

Late morning we return to Guernsey for a crab sandwich lunch at The Captains, a traditional, so-called ‘gastro pub’ frequented by locals from all over Guernsey.

In St Peter Port we visit the collection of gardens at La Petite Vallee, with a wide range of exotic and traditional planting on terraces and slopes leading down to the sea. Here we will have the chance to explore the seasonal cloisters, herbaceous borders, woodland walk and a tropical area with a number of unusual plants and water flows.

We end our day with a cliff path walk along Guernsey’s south coast. The cliff paths of the south coast are splashed with colour and fragrance, right through to late summer, with sea campions, wild thyme, ox-eye daisies, seapinks and coconut-scented gorse. (Overnight St Peter Port) B

 

Day 13: Wednesday 7 June, Guernsey

Grange Court, St Peter Port
Small private garden, St Peter Port
Candie Gardens and afternoon at leisure
Evening Farewell Dinner
Today begins with a visit to Grange Court, the private gardens of Mr and Mrs Pat Johnson, which featured in the April 2013 edition of The English Garden magazine. Set in the heart of town, Grange Court is a 2-acre garden with a mix of formal and informal styles, containing many exotic and rare plants. A mature private town garden of approximately 2 acres with both formal & informal areas, it is shaded by majestic old trees, including a magnificent copper beech. Features of the garden include the remains of an elegant old stone orangery which forms the backdrop to the rose gardens, and an impressive Victorian ‘cactus’ greenhouse. Mixed shrub and perennial borders provide colour all year round in this immaculately maintained garden. Our morning’s program also includes a visit to a neighbouring small private garden.

Today’s program concludes with a visit to the award-winning, restored Victorian Candie Gardens that offer the best view across St Peter Port harbour and over to the sister islands of Herm, Sark and Jethou, along with a rare example of a late 19th century public flower garden. They are home to the oldest known heated glasshouses in the British Isles, which date back to the late 18th century. Inside the gardens, aside from the beautiful flowers, lawns, and fish ponds, you will find a museum, art gallery, and a café housed in a Victorian bandstand. There will be time to return to the hotel before we head out to a local restaurant to share a farewell evening meal. (Overnight St Peter Port) BD

 

Day 14: Thursday 8 June, Depart Guernsey

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour concludes in St Peter Port today. After breakfast, group members taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to Guernsey Airport. Alternatively you may wish to extend your stay in the Channel Islands. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Great Castles, Country Houses & Gardens of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales – 2017

Great Castles, Country Houses & Gardens of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales

 

York, Yorkshire – 6 nights

Day 1: Tuesday 6 June, Manchester Airport – Adel – York

Arrive Manchester Airport and transfer to Leeds
York Gate: Guided tour of gardens and afternoon tea
Light (2-course) evening meal
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Manchester Airport around midday. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to York where we spend the next six nights. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Manchester Airport Arrivals Hall – please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time.

En route to York we visit the highly innovative ‘paradise’ garden of York Gate, a one-acre garden tucked away behind the ancient church in Adel, on the northern outskirts of Leeds. Created by the Spencer family during the second half of the 20th century, and in 1994 bequeathed to Perennial, the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society (founded 1839), it is a garden of extraordinary style and craftsmanship, widely recognised as one of the most innovative small gardens of the period. The garden is divided by yew and beech hedges into a series of smaller gardens, each with its own theme and style. From the formality of the herb garden with its topiary, to the dell with its half-hidden pathways and stream, every area has an intimacy and charm of its own. Traditional materials are used with creativity and invention. From pretty paths to pergolas, detailing throughout is exquisite. Evergreens, clipped into strong architectural shapes, are used to spectacular effect throughout the garden.

Tonight we enjoy a light (2-course) evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight York) D

 

Day 2: Wednesday 7 June, York – Harewood – Harrogate – York

Harewood House: Private tour of Thomas Chippendale and the Watercolours Collection
Spa Town of Harrogate
Evening Welcome Reception at Fairfax House
This morning we travel to West Yorkshire to Harewood House. There we embark on a private tour of one of England’s greatest country houses, boasting architecture by John Carr (1772) and Charles Barry (1843), magnificent interiors by Adam, furniture by Thomas Chippendale, and a park designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. A particular focus of our tour will be the highly regarded watercolour painting collection.

We next visit the old spa town of Harrogate. Prior to the discovery of its iron and sulphur rich waters, Harrogate comprised two minor villages (High Harrogate and Low Harrogate) situated close to the historic town of Knaresborough. Harrogate’s first mineral spring was discovered in 1571 by William Slingsby, who found that water from the Tewitt Well possessed similar properties to that of the springs of the Belgian town of Spa (which gave its name to spa towns). The medicinal properties of Harrogate’s waters were widely publicised by one Edmund Deane, whose book Spadacrene Anglica, or The English Spa Fountain, was published in 1626 and Harrogate consequently developed considerable fame as a spa town.

This evening we walk from our hotel to Fairfax House, one of the finest Georgian Houses in England. Here we first take an exclusive tour of the house, then enjoy the ambience of the house with beverages and canapés in a private reception. (Overnight York) B

 

Day 3: Thursday 8 June, York

Orientation Walking tour of York, including York Minster
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we will take a walking tour of the historic centre of York. This vibrant city was founded by the Romans in 71AD. As Eboracum it was an important town in the Empire’s north and in 208 the entire Roman world was governed from here. After being virtually abandoned following the fall of the Roman Empire and the withdrawal of the army, the town saw a period of population by the Anglo Saxons. York was first invaded by the Viking army on 1 November 866 and a new era began. After a short period of invasion and conquest, the Vikings chose to settle in York (which they called Jorvik) rather than return to Scandinavia. Archaeological excavations have revealed a wealth of evidence of the successful metal-based industries that were developed here as well as the city’s role in trade. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, York was second only to London in size and prosperity.

The next chapter in the city’s history is Norman, when William the Conqueror marched on York intent on making this wealthy town part of his kingdom. He established a garrison here and built two castles to control access to the town from the River Ouse. There was considerable resistance to the Norman occupation of the town with attempts to overthrow the new power. This was brutally suppressed in what is known as the ‘Harrying of the North’ when William extracted his vengeance on the population and many thousands died in a period of violence and famine, whilst the lively Viking city was systematically destroyed. The Normans rebuilt York and it is to this period a number of the city’s churches belong.

The medieval period was a Golden Age for York, when the town was a centre of trade and religion. However, following the War of the Roses and the defeat of Richard III to Henry Tudor, the city underwent another period of decline. The Reformation had a tremendous impact on York and its many churches and important religious houses which operated schools, hospitals, hospices and employed local citizens. The Dissolution of the Monasteries left a large hole in the finances of the city, and many religious buildings fell into disrepair. Elizabethan York saw a return to prosperity which continued until the Civil War when the city was used as a Royalist stronghold and was besieged by the Parliamentarian army. Once again the religious and business focus of the town allowed it to rise again to regional prominence, and the Industrial Revolution brought new business opportunities to the region.

The Georgian period coincided with a building boom and York now boasts many fine Georgian mansions. Our guide will point out the many layers of the city’s rich history that can be seen in the buildings, roads, walls and churches.

Our walking tour includes a visit to York Minster, one of England’s greatest cathedrals, which has a long intricate history. The present building, which has the finest medieval stained glass in England, had a number of precursors. In 1069, for example, the Normans destroyed the Anglo-Saxon cathedral and so in 1080 its Archbishop, Thomas, began a new cathedral that was completed in 1100. But in 1137 its east end was destroyed by fire. A new Romanesque choir was built in 1175, a south transept added in 1220, and the north transept completed in 1253. In 1394 the present choir was begun, and the foundations of the Lady Chapel laid in 1361. In 1338, the Great West Window was completed. The Great East Window followed in 1405, and the Minster, now completed, was consecrated in 1472. Meanwhile, the Minster’s original west towers had collapsed. The Minster became caught up in the Reformation – Thomas Wolsey was archbishop here – and in the Civil War, York remained a centre of Catholicism in England. Eighteenth-century damage by fire and nineteenth-century restoration further modified this great building. Major restoration occurred again after another fire in 1984; in consequence York University has become one of England’s most important architectural conservation centres.

After the conclusion of our visit to York Minster the remainder of the day is free to explore York further, at leisure. (Overnight York) B

 

Day 4: Friday 9 June, York – Fountains Abbey – Newby Hall – York

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden: Tour of Cistercian Abbey & Georgian Water Garden
Church of St Mary
Church of Christ the Consoler
Newby Hall & Gardens
Today we visit England’s largest ruined monastery, Fountains Abbey, situated in the beautiful Skell river valley, in which the 18th-century water garden of Studley Royal is also located. The view of the Abbey from the cliff above Studley Royal became a definitive instance of the ‘Picturesque’: a ruined Gothic abbey, evoking an ancient, pious culture, seen from a ‘modern’ 18th-century site. Flanked by two vast lawns set against awe-inspiring cliff faces, with the Skell running under its buildings, the Abbey is a masterpiece of 12th-century building ingenuity. Our tour of the site will take in spaces like the cellarium in which the lay brothers ate and slept; it retains much of its sophisticated vaulting.

In 1132 Fountains was founded in its isolated valley by Thurston, Archbishop of York, for a community that wished to return to a strict form of Benedictine rule; isolation being an ideal of medieval monasticism. The valley was sheltered from the weather and had clean water, plentiful wood, and building stone of high quality. The Abbey subsequently came under reforming Cistercian rule. The Cistercians followed a rigorous daily regime, committed to long periods of silence and a subsistence diet. They wore habits of coarse un-dyed sheep’s wool that earned them the name ‘White Monks’. After Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries (1536-40), glass and lead from Fountains found their way to Ripon and York. Its buildings and parts of its estate were sold to Sir Richard Gresham, whose family subsequently sold them to Stephen Proctor, the builder of Fountains Hall. In 1767 the ruins were sold for £18,000 to William Aislabie, creator of Studley Royal.

The Aislabie family created Studley Royal Water Garden in a wild and well-wooded part of the valley. Its formal, geometric design and its extraordinary vistas constitute a very imaginative, free and individualistic interpretation of French formal garden tradition. Ground level views emphasise its sweeping horizontality, relieved by fabriques and the kind of statues favoured by Grand Tourists to Rome; from higher up the garden’s complex structure reveals itself. Fabriques include the Neo-Classical Temple of Piety (dedicated to Hercules), a rusticated Banqueting House, a Gothic octagon tower and a Temple of Fame, and a rotunda with wonderful views across the garden where 18th-century visitors picnicked. Other garden features include the Rustic Bridge, Hermit’s Grotto, Half Moon Pond, Cascades, Canal, Fishing Tabernacles, Drum Fall and the Seven Bridges Valley in the Deer Park. Our garden tour climaxes at the end of the High Ride at ‘The Surprise View’, also called ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat’, because of a headless statue to be seen there! It gives a magnificent panorama of the distant Abbey ruins.

Returning from the end of the water gardens we climb a path through the fields to William Burges’ St Mary’s Church, one of Britain’s finest Gothic Revival churches. From outside its chancel you can see all the way to Ripon Cathedral.

We next tour the house and gardens at Newby Hall, one of England’s renowned Adam houses; its exceptional interior decoration and fine Neoclassical sculpture collection represent the epitome of 18th-century taste. Built in the 1690s in the style of Sir Christopher Wren, it was later enlarged and transformed by John Carr and subsequently by Robert Adam. It was the home of the Compton family and much of its superb collection was acquired on a Grand Tour by a Compton ancestor, William Weddell. The collection includes tapestries in the magnificent Gobelins Tapestry Room, a renowned gallery of classical statuary, and some of Chippendale’s finest furniture. Its glorious garden was designed in the 1920s by Major Edward Compton, who was strongly influenced by the garden of Hidcote. Newby Hall’s garden has many rare plants, including the National Collection of Cornus (Dogwood). It is famed for its main axis of double herbaceous borders, amongst the longest in Europe. Flanking this axis are numerous formal, compartmented gardens including a Rose Garden, a Water Garden, Autumn Garden and even a Tropical Garden. (Overnight York) BL

 

Day 5: Saturday 10 June, York – Castle Howard – Thirsk – Markenfield Hall – York

Castle Howard: Private Guided tour of house & morning tea
Market Town of Thirsk, the Darrowby of the late James Herriot
Markenfield Hall
This morning we will have a private tour of a masterpiece of the Baroque, one of England’s greatest country houses, Castle Howard, the setting for the BBC series Brideshead Revisited. The 3rd Earl of Carlisle commissioned the ‘castle’ (a term often used for country mansions with no military purpose) from the gentleman-dilettante Sir John Vanbrugh, a fellow member of the famous Whig Kit-Cat Club. Nicholas Hawksmoor, architect of a number of Oxford colleges, assisted Vanbrugh here and at Blenheim. Vanbrugh designed a Baroque structure with two wings projecting symmetrically on either side of a north-south axis.

Castle Howard’s crowning central dome over the Great Hall, where we have a morning tea of Danish pastries, was added as an afterthought. The East Wing and the east end of the Garden Front, the Central Block (including the dome), and the west end of the Garden Front all received exuberant Baroque decoration of coronets, cherubs and urns. Doric pilasters are on the north front and Corinthian on the south. Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, the Venetian Rococo painter, designed many of the house’s interiors when he was living in England between 1708 and 1713. Much of his painting was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1940. The house remained incomplete on the death of the 3rd Earl in 1738, and Vanbrugh’s design was never completed. The West Wing was designed in a Palladian style for the 4th Earl by Sir Thomas Robinson and was not completed until 1811. Much the house, including the central dome, was destroyed by fire in 1940. Most of the devastated rooms were restored and the house was opened to the public in 1952.

Castle Howard has extensive and diverse gardens, including a large formal garden immediately behind the house. The house, flanked by two lakes, is prominently situated on a ridge, which was exploited to create a landscape garden that lies beyond the formal garden and merges with the surrounding park. Occupying this landscape are the Temple of the Four Winds at the end of the garden and the Mausoleum in the park. Castle Howard also has an arboretum called Ray Wood, and a walled garden that contains decorative rose and flower gardens. The garden architecture at Castle Howard also includes the ruined Pyramid, an Obelisk and several follies and other motifs in the form of fortifications. Another huge arboretum, called Kew, at Castle Howard was established in 1975 as a joint venture between Castle Howard and Kew Gardens. Managed by the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, it has one of the most important collections of specimen trees in the United Kingdom.

Many of us grew up watching the television series All Creatures Great and Small and late this morning we travel to the bustling market town of Thirsk, where the stories originated. James Alfred Wight (James Herriot) moved to Thirsk to work as a country vet with Donald Sinclair in July 1940. Here there will be some time at leisure for lunch and to explore the town on a Saturday, which is Market Day.

Our day’s program concludes with a private tour of Markenfield Hall, a charming medieval moated manor house. The privately owned home is tucked away down a mile-long winding drive and is the most complete surviving example of a medium-sized 14th-century country house in England. The earliest part of the house dates to c.1230, while the main sections were built 1310-1325 for John de Markenfield, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Edward II, with further additions and alterations in the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. The history of the home has always been deeply intertwined with the fortunes of Fountains Abbey and it was one of the most important centres of the 1569 ‘Rising of the North’. The house has been lovingly restored and in 2008 it was the first recipient of the Sotheby’s/Historic Houses Association Restoration Award, a prize that recognises the finest restoration of a historic house in Britain in a way which respects and is in sympathy with the age and quality of the building. (Overnight York) B

 

Day 6: Sunday 11 June, York – Scampston Estate – Hunmanby Grange Gardens – Burton Agnes Hall – York

The Walled Garden of Scampston Hall
Mansion Cottage
Burton Agnes Hall
We begin this morning by driving to Scampston Hall, situated in peaceful North Yorkshire, to visit its famous Walled Garden. Sir Charles and Lady Legard’s stunningly beautiful contemporary garden is quite unlike any other. Opened to the public for the first time in 2004, it has been received with great acclaim by visitors from all over the world. Set within the 18th-century walls of Scampston’s original kitchen garden, today the Walled Garden has an exciting and unashamedly modern feel to it and complements the adjacent 18th-century ‘Capability’ Brown park. The garden had been derelict for nearly fifty years before Sir Charles and Lady Legard undertook the huge task of renovating. Having adopted a traditional approach to the restoration of the house and park, they here produced a stunning garden with a contemporary feel with the help of leading garden designer, Piet Oudolf.

We next visit the small, private garden of Chris and Polly Myers’ Mansion Cottage. With vibrant perennial planting highlighted with grasses, this hidden garden offers beautiful views and a tranquil atmosphere. Features include a globe garden, mini hosta walk, 100-foot border, summerhouse, vegetable plot, cuttery, bee and butterfly border, bog garden and ponds, decking areas and lawns.

Having visited two contemporary gardens we now travel back in time to visit Burton Agnes Hall, an exquisite Elizabethan house filled with fine art, furniture, porcelain and impressionist and modern paintings. Fifteen generations have filled the Hall with treasures over five centuries, from magnificent carvings commissioned when the Hall was built to French Impressionist paintings, contemporary furniture, tapestries and other modern artwork. Lawns and topiary bushes surround the Hall and its gardens contain a maze, giant games, a jungle garden, and more than four thousand plant species. Burton Agnes Hall’s walled garden won the Historic Houses Association and Christies’ Garden of the Year Award 2005. We shall be given a guided tour of this beautiful property before returning to York. (Overnight York) BL

 

Buxton, Derbyshire – 4 nights

Day 7: Monday 12 June, York – Renishaw Hall – Haddon Hall – Buxton

Renishaw Hall: Private literary tour of the home of the Sitwell family, gardens and ‘Renishaw cream tea’
Bakewell
Haddon Hall
We depart York early this morning, and travel south to Renishaw Hall, a country house in Derbyshire where the Sitwell family has lived in this ancestral home for nearly four centuries. On arrival we will take a tour of Renishaw’s beautiful Italianate garden, park and lake, that were created by Sir George Sitwell, father of Osbert, Edith and Sacheverall. Sir George spent much of his life in Italy, where he had bought the huge former palace-villa of the Florentine Acciaiuoli family, Montegufoni. In England, he wanted to create an Italian garden in contrast to Gertrude Jekyll’s ‘colourful’ designs. The use of water, fountains, temples, cave and avenues adds effect and shelter for tender specimen plants. Following a morning tea of cucumber sandwiches, freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and fresh doublecream, served in the Georgian stables, we shall visit Renishaw Hall.

The interior, which features an antechamber designed by Edwin Lutyens, is graced with many Italian artworks and pieces of furniture collected by Sir George. The painting collection includes Salvator Rosa’s Belisarius in Disgrace, a painting that was once much appreciated by Benjamin Franklin. Our tour will have a literary focus, as Renishaw Hall is a house ‘built on books’, with a wide range of literary interests and connections over a period of almost 400 years. Each Sitwell generation has made its unique contribution to the literary legacy of the house and the family, particularly the famous ‘literary trio’ – Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell. Our tour will follow the fortunes of the Sitwell family as wealthy book collectors in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and will include a special visit to the Renishaw Hall Library.

After free time for lunch in the small market town of Bakewell (famous for its pudding) we continue our tour of Derbyshire with a visit to Haddon Hall, arguably the finest example of a fortified medieval manor house in existence, and dating mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries. Originally owned by the descendants of William the Conqueror’s illegitimate son, Peverel, it was passed through marriage to the Manners family, later to become Dukes of Rutland, in whose possession it has remained. Haddon Hall affords a wonderful glimpse of English Early Modern country house design, because it remained closed and empty for two hundred years after the Dukes of Rutland moved to Belvoir Castle in the 17th century. The 9th Duke of Rutland reopened it in the 1920s. Because the grounds had escaped transformation into a landscape garden it influenced Edwardian gardeners deeply; its series of 17th-century terraces were particularly important. It embodies a vision of ‘old England’ symbolised by the rambling roses growing over its old stone walls. These roses are quite superb (some are 80 years old), and also impressive are the delphinium beds. There are recreations of 17th century box-edged parterres or knots, and below there are wonderful river meadows with a small and large stone bridge, which feature prominently in the 2006 BBC TV dramatisation of Jane Eyre. The approach to the house has a wonderful topiary garden.

The house itself has sections from a number of periods from the late 12th century to c.1620. The Banqueting Hall is medieval, but the house is predominantly Elizabethan, its pride being the oak panelled Long Gallery; the diamond panes of the gallery’s many windows are set at different angles to facilitate the entry of daylight. It also has a magnificent collection of English, Flemish and French tapestries, remains of a larger collection lost in a 1925 fire. Most important are five early 17th century English tapestries that may have belonged to King Charles I. The chapel has medieval frescoes, and the house also has a fine painting by Rex Whistler (1933), the artist of Plas Newydd.

Next we continue our journey to the elegant spa town of Buxton which will be our base for the next four nights. Our hotel, built in 1550 by the Earl of Shrewsbury, the 4th husband of formidable Bess of Hardwick, is reputedly the oldest in England and has hosted during its long history such luminaries as Mary, Queen of Scots and Daniel Defoe. It is located in the centre of the town opposite one of the most exquisite Edwardian opera houses in the British Isles, which we will visit during our stay. (Overnight Buxton) B

 

Day 8: Tuesday 13 June, Buxton – Peak District – Castleton – Lyme Park – Buxton

White Peak District
Castleton Village, Peak District National Park
Lyme Park, House & Garden
Lecture by Sir Richard FitzHerbert: ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’
This morning we enjoy the stunning and diverse scenery of Britain’s first designated national park, the Peak District National Park (1951). The Peak District is situated at the southern end of the Pennines in Central England and covers most of northern Derbyshire as well as parts of Cheshire, Yorkshire and Staffordshire. It has been prominent in numerous movies and TV dramas, including the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. A local guide will point out some of the locations used during filming whilst introducing Derbyshire’s bustling market towns, villages, and showing us its hills, dales and rivers.

Following lunch in Castleton, one of the most beautiful villages in the Peak District, we visit Lyme Park, the largest house in Cheshire. A Tudor house transformed into an Italianate palace, it is famous for its role as ‘Pemberley’, Darcy’s home, in the BBC’s 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. Aficionados of the series will recall the scene of Lizzy meeting the dripping figure of Mr Darcy following his dip in the lake! Thomas Legh, an intrepid explorer and collector who made a pioneering journey through Egypt and up the Nile in 1816, saved Lyme Park from ruin. An extremely wealthy young man, he set Lewis Wyatt the huge task of reviving this vast, outdated family home. Wyatt’s remodelling, although extremely thorough, in no way compromised the 17th-century character of Lyme Park. The saloon, with its magnificent rococo ceiling and Grinling Gibbons-carved wood decorations, speaks amply of his sensitive approach.

This evening we are joined by Sir Richard FitzHerbert, who inherited Tissington Hall and the Estate from his uncle, the late Sir John FitzHerbert at the age of 24 in 1989. Sir Richard will provide an illustrated lecture entitled ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’. (Overnight Buxton) BL

 

Day 9: Wednesday 14 June, Buxton – Tissington Hall – Chatsworth House – Buxton

Tissington Hall & Gardens
Tissington Village & Norman Church of St Mary’s
Chatsworth House: one of the grandest Whig country houses (to be confirmed)
This morning we journey into Derbyshire to Tissington Hall, a beautiful Jacobean mansion where eight generations of the FitzHerbert family have lived. Tissington presides over a quintessentially English village, complete with duck pond and village green. This is one of the few remaining privately owned villages left in Britain. As it has no road markings or street lighting it is often used for filming period pieces, such as the BBC’s Jane Eyre (2006) and The Duchess (2007). We will take a guided tour of the hall and its gardens, as well as the village and the Norman Church of St Mary’s.

This afternoon we visit Chatsworth House, one of the grandest Whig country houses, situated in a spectacular landscape in the heart of the Peak District. It is the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, of the Cavendish family. The dowager Duchess, born Deborah Mitford (Debo), the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters, revived the economy of the estate after it had been almost destroyed by death duties following the death of the 10th Duke in 1950 (the Chatsworth Settlement). The core of the house is from 1552, but its great days date from the 1690s, after the 4th Earl of Devonshire was created 1st Duke in 1694 for his part in the Glorious Revolution (1688). Generations of prominent Whigs followed and so Chatsworth represents the first phase of the great Whig country house (Stowe represents the second). The 1st Duke rebuilt the old house in stages, adding its fine Baroque façades, and it was substantially complete by 1707. The Painted Hall, whose ceilings and walls carry scenes of the life of Julius Caesar (1692-94) by Louis Laguerre, leads to a grand staircase. The State Apartments are the most important late Baroque presentation rooms in England, with ceilings by Laguerre and Mortlake tapestries made from Raphael’s tapestry cartoons now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The chapel, designed by Cibber, is equally impressive, with illusionistic paintings by Laguerre and woodcarvings by Grinling Gibbons.

Chatsworth’s late Baroque gardens, like almost all great English Baroque gardens, were swept away when the 4th Duke commissioned Capability Brown to replace them (1760s). One survival is an Italianate cascade designed in 1696 by Grillet, a pupil of Le Nôtre. Thomas Archer, arguably the English architect who best understood the Italian Baroque, added the Temple or Cascade House above it in 1703. In the 19th century Joseph Paxton, the 6th Duke’s gardener, created a great glasshouse for exotic specimens; its revolutionary design led to his architectural triumph, London’s Crystal Palace. Paxton also built the Emperor fountain, whose jet rises 280 feet, and a vast rock garden. Newer additions to the garden include a serpentine hedge. (Overnight Buxton) BL

 

Day 10: Thursday 15 June, Buxton – Quarry Bank – Buxton

Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Estate
Afternoon at leisure in Buxton
Group Evening Meal at Fischer’s, Baslow Hall
This morning we drive to Quarry Bank Mill, a rare Georgian cotton mill that is both one of Britain’s most important industrial heritage sites as well as a working mill that produces over 9,000m (10,000 yards) of cloth each year. Founded in 1784 by a young textile merchant, Samuel Greg, Quarry Bank Mill was one of the first generation of water-powered cotton spinning mills. By the 1830s Samuel Greg & Co. was one of the largest cotton manufacturing businesses in Britain with four other mills as well as Quarry Bank.

This mill reflects the earliest phase of the industrialisation of England, when manufacturing had not yet moved to great industrial cities, but rather occurred where water was plentiful. Such early industrial complexes often are built in a fine, simple architectural style not unlike some of the earliest colonial architecture in Australia. Our visit here offers a unique opportunity to see the two major sources of power available during the Industrial Revolution. The most powerful working waterwheel in Britain illustrates how power can be harnessed to drive machinery. A Boulton and Watt type beam engine (c.1830) and an 1880s Horizontal Engine powered by steam bring the past to life. Chief Engineer Barry Cook will be on hand to explain how everything operates. Time permitting, we also visit the three-hectare (8-acre) ‘Secret Garden’, the Greg family’s lovely, picturesque valley retreat adjoining the mill. Recently restored, it has now been opened to the public for the first time.

We return to Buxton for an afternoon at leisure to explore the town. Tonight we dine at Fischer’s Restaurant at Baslow Hall. The Michelin-starred dining room serves classical dishes created with balance and finesse, using the very best of fresh local and regional produce. The setting within a charming manor house further enhances this very special dining experience. (Overnight Buxton) BD

 

Chester, Cheshire – 3 nights

Day 11: Friday 16 June, Buxton – Little Moreton – Biddulph Grange Garden – Chester

Little Moreton Hall
Biddulph Grange Garden: Private guided tour of this amazing Victorian Garden
Evening meal at Macdonald New Blossoms Hotel
This morning we drive to Little Moreton Hall for a guided tour of one of Britain’s finest timber-framed, moated Tudor manor houses, which featured in David Dimbleby’s How we built Britain documentary (2007). Of particular importance is its magnificent Long Gallery that has unusual plasterwork. Its grounds feature a delightful knot garden.

This afternoon we take a private tour of Biddulph Grange Gardens. Biddulph is a treasure trove of 19th-century eccentricities and a rare surviving example of a High Victorian garden. Our private guided tour of the garden, to be opened specially for our group, leads us down tunnels and pathways taking us on a miniature tour of the world, with rare and exotic plantings and picturesque garden architecture, such as an Egyptian court and elegant Italian terraces. There is a unique Chinese garden with a temple enclosed within its own Great Wall of China. Some of the more eccentric features of the garden are an upside-down tree and strange stone sculpture. Biddulph also has an unusual geological gallery where the garden’s creator, James Bateman, showed his fossil and geological collection. It was arranged to correspond with the seven days of creation in the Genesis story and is contemporaneous with the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859), a seminal work in scientific literature and a pivotal work in evolutionary biology.

We next drive a short distance to the city of Chester, lying on the River Dee, close to the border of Wales. Tonight we dine together at our hotel. (Overnight Chester) BD

 

Day 12: Saturday 17 June, Chester

Orientation Tour of Chester incl. Chester Cathedral
Afternoon at leisure
A Roman legion founded Chester on the Dee River in the 1st century A.D. It reached its pinnacle as a bustling port in the 13th and 14th centuries but declined following the gradual silting up of the river. While other walls of medieval cities of England were either torn down or badly fragmented, Chester still has 3km of fortified city walls intact. The main entrance into Chester is Eastgate, which dates only from the 18th century. Within the walls are half-timbered houses and shops, though not all of them date from Tudor days. Chester is unusual in that some of its builders used black-and-white timbered facades even during the Georgian and Victorian eras.

This morning we take an orientation tour of this interesting medieval city including a visit to Chester Cathedral. The present building, founded in 1092 as a Benedictine abbey, was made an Anglican cathedral church in 1541. Many architectural restorations were carried out in the 19th century, but older parts have been preserved. Notable features include the fine range of monastic buildings, particularly the cloisters and refectory, the chapter house, and the superb medieval woodcarving in the choir (especially the misericords). Also worth seeing are the long south transept with its various chapels, the consistory court, and the medieval roof bosses in the Lady Chapel.

The afternoon is free for you to further explore Chester at leisure. (Overnight Chester) B

 

Day 13: Sunday 18 June, Chester – Liverpool – Chester

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Time at leisure at Liverpool’s refurbished Albert Dock
Tate Liverpool: home of the National Collection of Modern Art in the North
The Beatles: Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road (exteriors only)
Liverpool, with its famous waterfront on the River Mersey, is a great shipping port and industrial center and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. King John launched Liverpool on its road to glory when he granted it a charter in 1207. Before that, it had been a tiny 12th-century fishing village, but it quickly became a port for shipping men and materials to Ireland. In the 18th century, it grew to prominence because of the sugar, spice, and tobacco trade with the Americans. By the time Victoria came to the throne, Liverpool had become Britain’s biggest commercial seaport.

This morning we drive to Liverpool to visit the Walker Art Gallery, opened in 1877. Here, we focus on its Pre-Raphaelite collection and its Victorian sculpture. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in London in 1848, consisted of seven young artists dedicated to the revival of styles that preceded the High Renaissance: John Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Collinson, F G Stephens, Thomas Woolmer and William Michael Rossetti. Liverpool was the only provincial city with its own Pre-Raphaelite school (The Liverpool Academy). The Walker Art Gallery collection includes Rossetti’s Dante’s Dream (1871), Millais’ Isabella, Holman Hunt’s Triumph of the Innocents and one of the world’s finest corpuses of Victorian sculpture.

We take a short walk to Liverpool’s recently refurbished Albert Dock, where there will be time at leisure to explore this precinct. Albert Dock features a number of museums, including the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the award-winning ‘Beatle Story’ and numerous restaurants and cafés.

This afternoon we visit the Tate Liverpool, which displays much of the National Collection of 20th-century art, complemented by changing art exhibitions of international standing such as the prints of Joan Miró or the sculptures of the iconoclastic British sculptress Rachel Whiteread. Before returning to Chester we make a short tour to view a number of the sites associated with the Beatles including Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and the childhood homes of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. (Overnight Chester) B

Portmeirion, Wales – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Monday 19 June, Chester – Erddig House – Powis Castle – Portmeirion

Erddig: private tour of house
Powis Castle and Garden
Early this morning we depart Chester and cross into Wales for a private tour of Erddig House. Located on the outskirts of Wrexham, Erddig is one of the finest and evocative country houses in Britain, reflecting the upstairs downstairs life of a gentry family over 250 years. Mainly of the 18th century, it has fine furniture, textiles and wallpaper. The servants’ quarters are particularly well preserved.

We continue south to Powis Castle and have lunch on arrival. Powis, a 13th-century border castle, features the rare 17th-century Baroque garden of William Herbert, first Marquess of Powis. Herbert, a Roman Catholic, went into exile with James II after the Glorious Revolution (1688). In 1703 the Herberts returned from exile, their taste shaped by great French gardens such as St Germain-en-Laye, where the Stuart court was located. This put them out of step with new directions in Whig landscape gardening. Their grand Baroque terraces survive, with an extraordinary yew hedge, planted in 1720, that is now old and irregular in a way never intended when it was first established. Powis did not escape change entirely. A Dutch-style water garden laid out in 1705 in the flat meadows below the castle was swept away in the 1770s, and in part of this area an Edwardian formal garden was laid out in 1912. The Baroque terraces enjoy magnificent views. Against them are spectacular herbaceous borders by Graham Stuart Thomas and Jimmy Handcock. There are rich flower displays in vases on the edges of the terraces and in its niches. They are lined with lead statues by John van Nost, examples of the early 18th-century taste for picturesque Italianate rustic garden figures. In the castle courtyard stands a lead statue of Pegasus bearing aloft the personification of Fame, original centrepiece of the lost Dutch water garden. Van Nost’s pupil, Andries Carpentiére, based it on Antoine Coysevox’s group of Fame at Louis XIV’s palace at Marly. South and east of the castle is a Wilderness with a fine collection of trees and shrubs planted in the 20th century.

A Herbert family member married into the Clive family in the 18th century and their descendants own Powis today. Powis’ Clive Museum displays superb Indian treasures collected by family members, including Robert, ‘Clive of India’. The castle interior has a fine Baroque staircase (1674-1685) with a ceiling by Verrio, its walls painted in 1705 by his pupil Gerard Landscroon, who also painted the library. G.F. Bodley’s dining room with fine panelled walls and Jacobean plasterwork and his Oak Drawing Room are fine examples of Edwardian taste. A grand Baroque state bedroom (1665-1685) is the only one in Britain with a bed railed with a balustrade in the manner of Louis XIV’s Versailles. A superb T-shaped Elizabethan Long Gallery (1587-1595) has original plasterwork and chimneypieces. The castle’s sculpture collection includes marble busts of Roman emperors and a Roman statue of a cat playing with a snake that Robert Clive acquired in Rome. An interesting painting collection includes a fine view of Verona by Bernardo Bellotto.

From Powis Castle we cross the mountains, rising above the treeline, before descending into Gwynedd, an area in north-west Wales. We make our way to the resort village of Portmeirion, our base for the next three nights. Portmeirion is the creation of the flamboyant Arts and Crafts architect and garden designer Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978), a dedicated sailor who loved the Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre (especially Portofino) and decided to create his own version of them in Wales. In 1925 he bought a spectacular Snowdonian peninsula site not far from his family house at Plas Brondanw, overlooking an estuary that forms a vast sandy beach at low tide. On the cliffs above Portmeirion’s only pre-existing structure (now Hotel Portmeirion) he built a range of picturesque buildings and towers as a kind of village-hotel. Many writers, including Evelyn Waugh, lived and wrote here in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. These village houses surround a garden, forming a colourful, seaside version of Arts and Crafts taste. Many are tiny and are built using parts of demolished buildings. Clough later espoused a Romantic version of the Dutch 17th and 18th-century style. He was not afraid to create buildings in painted sheet metal, sometimes painted illusionistically to give a sense of relief, or to create buildings that had no other function than to look interesting: he built a domed building because he felt an Italianate coastal village should have one. Portmeiron also has interesting woodland walks, one of which takes you past a pet cemetery and ‘lighthouses’.

Williams-Ellis wanted to demonstrate that architecture could be both beautiful and fun but he was also a serious conservationist and town planner. He argued against uncontrolled suburban development (England and the Octopus), founded the Council for the Protection of Rural England, saved Stowe, and contributed to the planning of New Towns in post WWII Britain. His daughter created the Portmeirion pottery works, which is still run by the family. Tonight we enjoy a group evening meal at Hotel Portmeirion. (Overnight Portmeirion) BLD

 

Day 15: Tuesday 20 June, Portmeirion – Caernarfon – Snowdonia National Park – Portmeirion

Caernarfon Castle: the greatest of the Edwardian Castles
Lamberis Village
Dolbardarn Castle (exterior only)
Snowdon Mountain Railway – excursion by diesel engine to summit
Evening Meal at Castell Deudraeth
This morning we head further north along the coast to reach Caernarfon, located at the southern end of the Menai Strait between north Wales and Anglesey. Caernarfon was considered a strategically excellent place to build a castle during Edward I’s invasions of Wales. Completed in 1330, the castle was built on a site that had once been a Roman fort and then a Norman motte and bailey; it was to become a symbol of English dominance in a region strong in Welsh tradition and anti-English feeling. To stamp his supremacy even further on the native population, Edward ensured that the birth of his son, the first English Prince of Wales, took place in the castle (1284) and the castle continues to be the setting for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales, the last being Prince Charles in 1969.

Following lunchtime at leisure in Lamberis we view Dolbadarn Castle. Built for Llywelyn the Great in the 1230s, it features a massive round-towered keep. We then take the cogwheel railway train to the summit of Snowdon to enjoy the breathtaking views over the area. In the late afternoon we return to Portmeirion.

Tonight we will dine at Castell Deudraeth, a Victorian castellated mansion Williams-Ellis bought from his uncle in 1931 with the intention of incorporating it into the Portmeirion hotel complex. The intervening war and subsequent building restrictions delayed its incorporation until 2001 when it was finally opened. Portmeirion is now owned by a charitable trust. (Overnight Portmeirion) BD

 

Day 16: Wednesday 21 June, Portmeirion – Harlech – Plas Brondanw – Portmeirion

Harlech Castle
Plas Brondanw Gardens
Afternoon at leisure in the village of Portmeirion
This morning we make a brief visit to Harlech Castle. Men of Harlech or The March of the Men of Harlech is a song and military march which is traditionally said to describe events during the longest siege in British history (1461-1468) which took place here during the War of the Roses. Edward’s tried and tested ‘walls within walls’ model was put together in super-fast time between 1283 and 1295 by an army of nearly a thousand skilled craftsmen and labourers. The structure boasts two rings of walls and towers, with an immensely strong east gatehouse. It was impregnable from almost every angle. Its secret weapon was a 200-foot (61m) long stairway which still leads from the castle to the cliff base. Access via the stairway to the sea and crucial supplies kept the castle’s besieged inhabitants fed and watered. When it was first built, a channel would have connected the castle and the sea. You could have sailed a boat up to the moat. Seven hundred years later, the sea has receded and you could say the castle appears almost stranded, waiting for the tide to turn once more.

Next we visit Plas Brondanw, the home of Clough Williams-Ellis between 1902 and 1960. It has one of the great Arts and Crafts gardens, noted for its structure of yew-hedged compartments. Inspired by stunning views of the mountains of Snowdonia, Clough cleverly ‘borrowed’ the peaks of the Snowdon and Cnight mountains visually by using the former to establish the chief axis of the garden, and revealing the latter through a window-opening cut in a hedge. Within the grounds of Plas Brondanw is Folly Castle, described on a plaque as ‘a wedding present from the Welsh Guards to Clough Williams-Ellis and Amabel Strachey in 1915′. Located on a small hill, the folly affords good views of the surrounding landscape. It has featured in the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness and the Doctor Who film, The Five Doctors. We enjoy a light buffet-style lunch at Plas Brondanw before retuning to Portmeirion, where we have the afternoon and evening at leisure to explore the village and its beautiful gardens. (Overnight Portmeirion) BL

 

Bodysgallen Hall, Conwy, Wales – 3 nights

Day 17: Thursday 22 June, Portmeirion – Gwydir Castle – Bodnant Garden – Bodysgallen Hall

Gwydir Castle
Bodnant Garden
Gardens of Bodysgallen Hall
This morning we drive to Gwydir Castle beneath Carreg y Gwalch (Rock of the Falcon), the ancestral home of the powerful Wynn Family, descendants of the kings of Gwynedd, and one of the most significant families of North Wales during the Tudor and Stuart periods. The Castle is being sympathetically restored by the present owners, who will introduce us to their house and garden.

Following our tour of Gwydir Castle we travel to Bodnant Garden. Bodnant Garden occupies an 80-acre westward sloping site above the River Conwy that looks across the valley towards the Snowdonia range. Its spectacular garden was the inspired work of the second Lord Aberconway who in 1902, with his mother’s encouragement, conceived and constructed its great terraces and organised the mass planting of Chinese rhododendrons. Appointed in 1920, Bodnant’s head gardener Frederick Puddle undertook an extensive and successful rhododendron hybridising programme, a project continued until today by three generations of Aberconways and Puddles. It is the archetypal plantperson’s garden, where exotic species brought from China or the Himalayas were first cultivated in Britain.

The garden has two parts. The upper part surrounding the house consists of five Italianate terraces on which herbaceous borders surround informal shady lawns. Its most famous feature is the laburnum walk, a fifty-five metre long tunnel that becomes a mass of yellow blooms from late May to early June. Lower down is the Pin-Mill, a reconstructed garden folly. From here the ground drops away to a deep, damp valley, known as The Dell, along which rushes the river Hiraethlyn. Here, in the Pinetum and Wild Garden, grow Britain’s earliest plantings of the Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood), discovered only in the 1940s.

From Bodnant Garden we continue north to Bodysgallen Hall which will be our base for the next 3 nights. Bodysgallen is a manor house in Conwy county borough, north Wales, near the village of Llanrhos. Since 2008 the house has been owned by The National Trust. We plan to arrive at the hall in time for you to enjoy a walk through the hall’s magnificent 200 acres of gardens before dinner. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BD

 

Day 18: Friday 23 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Penrhyn Castle – Conwy – Bodysgallen Hall

Penrhyn Castle: private guided tour of the Castle
Plas Mawr
Conwy Castle
This morning we journey along the coast to visit the enormous Penrhyn Castle, which sits beween Snowdonia and the Menai Strait. Built in 1820-35 in neo-Norman style, this is one of the most sumptuous country houses of its time. It features a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria, elaborate carvings, plasterwork and mock-Norman furniture. It also has an outstanding collection of paintings. The stable block houses a fascinating railway museum.

Midday we travel to Conwy, and following some time at leisure for lunch we visit Plas Mawr, possibly the best preserved Elizabethan town house in Great Britain. It was built by Robert Wynn between 1576 and 1585 and its interior has elaborately decorated plaster ceilings and fine wooden screens.

Castle Conwy, which, like Caernarfon, was constructed by Edward I between 1283 and 1289 as one of the key fortresses in his ‘iron ring’ of castles to contain the Welsh, dominates the town. A World Heritage site, Conwy has no concentric ‘walls within walls’ because they were not needed. Its massive military strength springs from the rock on which it stands and seems to grow naturally. Soaring curtain walls and eight huge round towers give the castle an intimidating presence undimmed by the passage of time. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BD

 

Day 19: Saturday 24 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Anglesey Island – Bodysgallen Hall

Plas Newydd House & Gardens
Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber
Evening Farewell Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall
This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall for an excursion to the Isle of Anglesey. Here we visit the house and gardens at Plas Newydd. James Wyatt redesigned this elegant old home in the 18th century in a Gothic style and its 1930s interior is famous for its association with Rex Whistler. Like Williams-Ellis, Whistler belonged to that underrated strand of mid 20th-century British culture that looked to the past with gusto. Uninhibited by modernist theory, they did not hesitate to revive the great traditions of the past. In the dining room, Whistler created his masterpiece, a vast mural for the sixth Marquess of Anglesey. This mural, eighteen metres wide, was executed on one enormous piece of canvas that Whistler had made on a special French loom. Within an Arcadian and Romantic coastal landscape are romantic allusions to Whistler’s unrequited love for Lady Caroline, the beautiful eldest married daughter. On the painting’s left side is a depiction of Romeo and Juliet in which the young Whistler (Romeo) languishes beneath the balcony of Lady Caroline (Juliet).

The mild climate of the coastal setting of the gardens at Plas Newydd is ideal for many woody plants from warmer temperate regions of the world. While the bones of the garden were set out in the late 18th century by leading landscape gardener Humphrey Repton, much has changed in the intervening centuries. A long and broad sweep of lawn fringed and broken by trees to the west of the house is known as ‘the West Indies’, and at the end of the Long Walk you arrive at an arboretum known as ‘Australasia’ that features, among other things, a collection of eucalyptus, added in the 20th century. A wild and exotic wood of rhododendrons was established in the 1930s by the sixth Marquess and added to by the ‘thinnings’ sent from Lord Aberconway of Bodnant as a wedding present to Lord Anglesey in 1948. For three seasons, lorry-loads of rhododendrons arrived with two gardeners to plant them.

Following a light lunch at Plas Newydd’s café, we visit the prehistoric site of Bryn Celli Ddu, meaning ‘the mound in the dark grove’. This is an impressive Neolithic chambered tomb with partially restored entrance passage and mound, on the site of a former henge monument.

In the late afternoon we return to Conwy where we shall enjoy a group evening farewell meal at Bodysgallen Hall. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BLD

 

Day 20: Sunday 25 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Manchester Airport

Departure transfer to Manchester Airport
This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall and travel to Manchester Airport for our return flight to Australia. Our arrival time is planned for check-in for the ASA ‘designated’ flight which is currently scheduled to depart in the early afternoon. B

Gardens, Villages & Châteaux of North Western France

Gardens, Villages & Châteaux of North Western France

 

Itinerary

 

Rouen – 5 nights

Day 1: Saturday 10 June, Paris CDG – Lyons-La-Forêt – Rouen

Lyons-la-Forêt village & welcome lunch at Hôtel du Grand Cerf & Spa
Introduction
Short Evening Orientation walking tour of Rouen
This morning we set out from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to the magnificent regional city of Rouen, to begin our journey through the gardens, great houses, villages and historic monuments of Northern France.

En route we visit Lyons-la-Forêt, one of France’s most picturesque villages. Most of its houses, many of which have façades featuring intricate wooden frames, are from the seventeenth century, but Lyons was once a Roman settlement and afterwards site of a castle built by Henry I of England, son of William the Conqueror. Kings were attracted to the region by its magnificent hunting grounds in the nearby beech forest. Lyons also has an excellent covered market from the eighteenth century which was used in both Jean Renoir’s and Claude Chabrol’s films of Madame Bovary. We shall also pass the house of one of France’s greatest musicians, Ravel. Ravel, Debussy and Erik Satie all derived inspiration from Normandy’s beautiful landscapes.

After lunching in Lyons-la-Forêt we continue our journey to Rouen, arriving at approximately 2.30pm. After checking into our hotel, and some time at leisure, we shall have a brief introductory meeting, followed by an orientation walk of Rouen within the vicinity of our hotel. (Overnight Rouen) L

Day 2: Sunday 11 June, Rouen – St-Georges de Boscherville – St-Pierre de Manneville – Montmain – Rouen

Romanesque Abbey of St-Georges de Boscherville
Manoir et Parc de Villers, St-Pierre de Manneville
Le Jardin d’Angélique, Montmain
Our excursion from Rouen takes us first to the Abbey St-Georges de Boscherville. A Celtic shrine existed here for several centuries until in the seventh century a chapel dedicated to St George was built over it. In the eleventh century the great chamberlain Raoul de Tancarville founded here a college for canons that was transformed into a magnificent Bénédictine abbey. We shall visit the abbey with its fine Romanesque carvings and explore its garden, dedicated to plants believed by the monks to cure souls.

The remainder of the day is devoted to visiting some magnificent country manor houses in Normandy. Our first visit is to the nearby Manoir de Villers, a beautiful half-timbered manor house begun in the time of Charles VII (1403-1461) and added to for three centuries. A special delight will be a guided tour of the manor’s interior in which the owners M. and Mme Robert Mery de Bellegarde will show you the magnificent family furniture collection. It is surrounded by themed gardens where we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by our hosts.

Next, we travel to Montmain where the Jardins d’Angélique, owned by Mme Le Bellegard, are located. These gardens were created approximately thirteen years ago. In this splendid place paths meander through several hundred varieties of roses. Beautiful hydrangeas enhance the summer flower display. There is a second garden in the Italian style nestled behind the manor house. It is designed to complement not only the rear elevations of the house, but to provide marvellous panoramas of the surrounding countryside. In the late afternoon we return to Rouen, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) BL

Day 3: Monday 12 June, Rouen – Buchy – Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy – Beaumont-le-Hareng – Rouen

Buchy village market
Le Jardin de Valérianes, Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy
Le Jardin de Bellevue, Beaumont-le-Hareng
Evening meal at Restaurant La Couronne
A second day trip from Rouen takes us first to the small village of Buchy where we shall shop for our lunch in the Monday market. Like so many local markets in Normandy, Buchy’s Monday market features exclusively local producers. Many of these farmers specialise in organic products. The medieval covered market hall has fixed wooden tables that were originally butchers’ blocks.

Three kilometres outside Buchy, Le Jardin de Valérianes, tucked away in a corner of the countryside, was created by a couple of passionate gardeners, Michel and Maryline Tissait, who named the garden after their two daughters. This English-style garden of over 4000 square metres offers much visual pleasure with its combination of perennials, roses, trees and bushes.

We then drive on to Beaumont-le-Hareng where we shall visit Le Jardin de Bellevue. Le Jardin de Bellevue was created by the purist Martine Lemonnier in the 1980s and is famous for its collection of Hellebores (winter and Lenten roses). We shall not see these in bloom, but the garden also has an extremely important collection of Meconopsis, rare Himalayan blue poppies, which bloom in June. They are accompanied by over forty varieties of Asiatic primulas, whose white, orangeish, yellow and purple flowers are borne in tiered whorls. The Lemonniers have also planted a wide variety of Hydrangeas, many of them very interesting, in this garden which is arranged along the lines of a potager.

Tonight we dine together at Restaurant La Couronne. Housed in a superbly preserved half-timbered home, it is considered the “oldest inn in France,” dating from 1345. (Overnight Rouen) BD

Day 4: Tuesday 13 June, Rouen – Giverny – Auzouville-sur-Ry – Rouen

Monet’s House and Gardens, Giverny
Le Jardin Plume, Auzouville-sur-Ry
This morning we depart Rouen for Giverny, in the heart of Normandy, where the great Impressionist Claude Monet lived for forty-three years. We shall visit the artist’s beautiful home and garden, a dominant theme of of his later paintings, when as an old man he was unable to travel. The water-lily pond and wisteria-covered Japanese bridge were of his own design and his favourite motifs. Monet’s house, Le Pressoir, and its gardens, have been faithfully restored and opened to the public. Your visit to his house will include a stroll through the garden with its thousands of flowers, including the Nympheas. You cross the Japanese bridge hung with wisteria to a dreamy setting of weeping willows and rhododendrons. Monet’s studio barge floated on the pond.

After lunch at leisure in Giverny, we drive to Auzouville-sur-Ry to visit Le Jardin Plume where owners Sylvie and Patrick Quibel have converted their orchard into a parterre. There is also a spring garden, summer garden and autumn garden. The summer garden is a kind of modern knot garden with a very formal layout of clipped box in a square edged pattern. Each ‘box’ is then filled with a very natural planting of grasses and perennials but the colours are superb. Lots of golden yellow, deep red, burning oranges. The overall mix of formal and informal, the sombre green of the box and the jewel-like colours of the flowers are really superb. Favourite plants here are dahlias, crocosmias, heleniums, kniphofias and of course grasses – giving the plumes the garden is named for. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 5: Wednesday 14 June, Rouen

Guided walking tour of Rouen
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we meet our guide for a walking tour of this beautiful and very historic city. The city grew up as an important centre of Roman Gaul, called Rotomagus, a derivation of the Celtic name Ratuma. It became an important ecclesiastical centre from the third century and part of the Duchy of Normandy and then the Norman kingdom (1066), until lost to the French by King John in 1204. Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England in 1419 after a protracted siege, but was reclaimed by France in 1449. By the end of the fifteenth century it had become a centre of the French Renaissance.

Rouen has some of the finest Gothic architecture in France. The façade of its cathedral fascinated Monet, who painted it at different times of the day. Other churches include the fifteenth-century church of St Ouen and the church of St Maclou (1437), both notable examples of French flamboyant architecture. The Gros-Horloge is a Renaissance pavilion containing a fifteenth-century clock, and the Tour Jeanne d’Arc is where the Saint was imprisoned before her execution. The Hôtel de Bourgheroulde (1501-37) is the best example of the city’s medieval domestic architecture.

The remainder of the day is free for you to explore Rouen further, at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 6: Thursday 15 June, Rouen – Tourville-sur-Arques – Doudeville – Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit

Château de Miromesnil, Tourville-sur-Arques
Parc et Château de Galleville, Doudeville
This morning we drive north to the Château de Miromesnil at Tourville-sur-Arques (near Dieppe), a splendid seventeenth-century (Louis XIII) château, where Guy de Maupassant was born. It is located within a large plantation dominated by a two hundred-year-old cedar of Lebanon, and contains a very fine kitchen garden. Its vegetable plots are surrounded by a bewildering variety of flowers. The park is enclosed by old brick walls and features fruit trees, rose trees, magnolias, arborescent peonies and a magnificent variety of clematis.

Following a light lunch at the Château de Miromesnil we continue to Doudeville. Here we visit the Château de Galleville, residence of M. et Mme. Gillet. The château, constructed as the residence of Marshall de Villars, follows the very unusual design of a late seventeenth-century manor. Its gardens are exceptional, highlighted by a wonderful pleasure garden that has incorporated scent into the design, as well as a floral orchard that has been cleverly conceived with exceptional under plantings. The treasure here is the kitchen garden, which has taken on the designation ‘gourmet’ owing to the wonderful collection of herbs and spices grown here.

Late afternoon we travel to the short distance to Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit where we stay for two nights in an 18th-century château set in twenty-eight acres of parkland looking on to the sea. Here the Austrian Empress Sissi lived during the summer of 1875. We shall eat in the château’s private dining room. (Overnight Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit) BLD

Day 7: Friday 16 June, Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit – Sainte Marguerite-sur-Mer – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit

Le Jardin du Vasterival, Sainte Marguerite-sur-Mer
Le Bois des Moutiers, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Varengeville-sur-Mer Church & Sailor’s cemetery
This morning, we drive to Marguerite-sur-Mer to visit the gardens of Vasterival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza. Vasterival is acclaimed to contain one of the finest plant collections in all of France. The gardens are strictly informal, consisting of some twenty acres surrounded by a natural woodland. Cleverly designed paths wander throughout the garden, through the rich underplantings of the woodlands, and issue into glades with countless surprises. The garden is world famous for its collections of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, maples, birches, viburnums and camellias.

Following lunch at a restaurant located in the grounds of the Château de Varengeville, we visit the house, park and gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The residence and garden have been in the possession of the Mallet family since 1898. At that time, a young English architect, Edwin Luytens, who was to become famous for his houses and for the layout and architecture of imperial New Dehli, was asked to modify both the residence and the garden. Luytens designed Munstead Wood for Gertrude Jekyll, and the influence of both of these great English designers is evident in the gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The influence of Gertrude Jekyll is seen everywhere, including the design and plantings of the front garden which slopes toward the sea.

From the Bois des Moutiers, we drive a short distance to the Varengeville-sur-Mer Church and sailors’ cemetery. Varengeville is an astonishing commune perched atop white limestone cliffs. It has attracted many artists, including Claude Monet, and is famous for its church, with its stained-glass windows by Georges Braque. From the sailors’ cemetery, where Georges Braque, Albert Roussel and Porto-Riche are buried, there is a superb view of Dieppe and the cliffs towards Le Tréport. (Overnight Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit) BLD

Bayeaux – 4 nights

Day 8: Saturday 17 June, Sassetôt-le-Mauconduit – Étretat – Le Havre – Honfleur – Bayeux

La Côte d’Albâtre & Étretat
Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre
Time at leisure: Old Port of Honfleur
If you plot the landscapes painted by the Impressionists on a map of France, their locations correspond to the railway lines that led out from Paris along such corridors as the valley of the Seine, for the Impressionists were creatures of the bourgeoisie’s discovery of rural and coastal France, made available to it for the first time by steam trains. The landscapes of middle-class recreation were also reached by the new railways. One aspect of the bourgeois discovery of France was the development of seaside resorts and one of the greatest painters of the beach was Eugène Boudin.

A ubiquitous motif in painting of the period that owes its popularity to the development of seaside recreation is the famous cliffs at Étretat, painted regularly by such artists as Monet. We drive along the famous Côte d’Albâtre to Étretat where we shall enjoy a walk along the seaside promenade and explore the old village centre.

After a pause for coffee we continue to Le Havre, situated on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine, on the English Channel. Here we visit the André Malraux Modern Art Museum which contains the second-most extensive collection of Impressionist paintings in France. There are paintings by Claude Monet and other artists who lived and worked in Normandy including Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin (with the largest collection of his works in the world), Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Sérusier and Édouard Vuillard. Modern art is also well represented with works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Raoul Dufy, Kees van Dongen, Fernand Léger, Alexej von Jawlensky and Nicolas de Staël.

At approximately 1.00pm we continue to Honfleur, where many Parisians spent their holidays. There will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the old, picturesque port, characterised by its houses with slate-covered frontages, painted by many artists including Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. The Sainte Catherine church, which has a bell tower separate from the principal building, is the largest church made out of timber in France. Honfleur’s other attractions include its Saturday markets and the town is also famous for its chocolates.

In the late afternoon we continue our drive to Bayeux, our next base in Normandy, which is famous above all for its tapestry. (Overnight Bayeux) B

Day 9: Sunday 18 June, Bayeux – Juno Beach & Omaha Beach – Arromanches – Castillon – Bayeux

Cathedral Notre-Dame & historic centre of Bayeux
Juno Beach
The Mulberry Harbour at Arromanches
Omaha Beach US Sector
Jardins de Plantbessin, Castillon
Today’s program begins with a walking tour of Bayeux’s historic centre and fine Cathedral of Notre-Dame. This gem of Norman architecture was consecrated on 14 July 1077 by Bishop Odo of Conteville, in the presence of his illustrious brother, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.

Mid-morning, accompanied by our local expert, we tour the coast and beaches that were the sites of the Normandy Invasion landings of World War II. We visit Juno Beach, one of the five designated landing areas of the Normandy Invasion, which was assaulted and taken from defending German troops on 6 June 1944, and Omaha Beach, where thousands of Americans were killed during the invasion’s first day.

We also drive to Arromanches, where the remnants of the prefabricated ‘Mulberry’ harbour, a remarkable feat of engineering and ingenuity, can still be seen.

By 1943, the Germans were retreating on all fronts. In the early months of 1944 the war had reached stalemate: the Russians were waiting for spring to resume their offensive, while the British and Americans were advancing painfully slowly in Italy, encountering huge difficulties at every turn. The only way to change the course of the war and make a swift and decisive victory possible was to invade the northern coast of Europe – precisely where the enemy had its strongest defences. Hitler had ordered massive defensive structures to be built along the entire coastline, forming the ‘Atlantic Wall’. The Allies had had a foretaste of its effectiveness during the disastrous failed landing attempt at Dieppe in August 1942. The terrible losses they sustained made them realise that the Channel ports were too heavily fortified to be captured, although this was the sine qua non if they were to keep a larger landing force properly supplied. The strategists outlined an ambitious plan codenamed Overlord, which was accepted by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt in August 1943. Thirty divisions would be landed in Normandy. The cornerstone of this plan was the construction of two so-called Mulberry Harbours – artificial ports that would guarantee supplies for the troops once they had landed. The Mulberries comprised floating roadways and pierheads which went up and down with the tide. In order to avoid rough seas, huge hollow concrete blocks and old hulks were sunk in order to form a breakwater.

Just beyond Omaha Beach, we stop to enjoy a catered picnic lunch at the Château d’Englesqueville, which was home to the 600 men of the 147th Engineer Combat Battalion during the days after D-day. The current owners, M. and Mme Lebrec, are producers of cider and calvados and we will have the opportunity to sample their produce.

Our day ends with a drive to Castillon to visit the Jardins de Plantbessin, created by Colette Sainte Beuve as a water garden to complement her plant nursery. Here you will find a marvellous treasure trove of plants that includes beautiful samples of Japanese plants as well as herbs and heather, situated on a site which measures less than a quarter of an acre. (Overnight Bayeux) BL

Day 10: Monday 19 June, Bayeux – Caen – Saint-Gabriel-Brécy – Bayeux

Abbaye-aux-Hommes & its abbatial church Saint-Étienne, Caen
Le Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen
Château de Brécy, Saint-Gabriel-Brécy
This morning we drive to Caen to visit the excellent small art museum (with works by Van der Weyden, Perugino, Poussin and Veronese), which is built within the ruined walls of William the Conqueror’s castle, and the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, and its church Saint-Étienne. This masterpiece of Romanesque church architecture, which survived the 1944 Allied bombardment, was begun by William the Conqueror as his mausoleum. One reason for the finesse of this building, which influenced many later Romanesque churches, was the abundance of good building stone in the region.

After some time at leisure in Caen for lunch, we return to Bayeux via the gardens of Château de Brécy, residence of M. and Mme Didier Wirth. This will be a perfect introduction to the formal French garden; intimate in scale and exquisite in detail. Set in a wooded hamlet, the château would resemble a Norman farmhouse were it not for the pedimented entrance. The house dates from the seventeenth century, when it belonged to the Le Bas family, friends and associates of the great French architect after whom the distinctive pitched roof is named, François Mansart. The house bears many hallmarks of Mansart’s architecture. The garden, which is immediately behind the house, consists of five terraces, fine stone work, elegant parterres, pools, topiary and wrought-iron gates that provide views into Normandy’s countryside. (Overnight Bayeux) B

Day 11: Tuesday 20 June, Bayeux – Cambremer – Mézidon-Canon – Bayeux

Bayeux Tapestry Museum
Les Jardins de Pays d’Auge
Parc & Jardins du Château de Canon, Mézidon-Canon
This morning we visit the special museum dedicated to the Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde (Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror), which chronicles the Norman invasion of England. This Anglo-Saxon work, presented by the Queen to Bishop Odo in c.1080, was inspired by manuscript scrolls and the continuous narratives of the antique columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome. It chronicles events from the promise of Harold Godwin to bequeath his kingdom to William to the death of the Saxon king on the field at Hastings; it is fascinating for its detailed depictions of arms and the eleventh-century methods and machinery of warfare.

Next, we travel east of Caen to discover the heart of the Pays d’Auge, with its stunning half-timbered farms, manors and châteaux and lovely agricultural landscape dominated by such elements as orchards and hedgerows. The Pays d’Auge is best known as the heart of production for some of Normandy’s best food products including the rich and aromatic cheeses of Camembert, Pont l’Évêque, and Livarot. It is also famous for its alcoholic cider and for its calvados, an apple brandy created from cider in the same manner that cognac is made from wine; through double distillation in copper stills. The brandy, which is 70 percent alcohol, is aged from 3 to 25 years in oak casks and then bottled.

We follow the designated ‘Route du Cidre’ to Les Jardins de Pays d’Auge, located outside the village of Cambremer. This series of themed gardens is situated around a seventeenth-century farmhouse and other half-timbered buildings, typical of Norman architecture. Listed as one of the ‘Jardin Remarquable’ in the Calvados region, this verdant 3-hectare estate lies adjacent to the Calvados Huet distillery.

Our final visit for the day is to the gardens of the Château de Canon, residence of M. Alain de Mezerac. Here, an eighteenth-century house is surrounded by contemporary gardens and a park, created by Jean-Baptise-Jacques Elie de Beaumont and his wife Anne-Louise. The family has owned this property since the Middle Ages. Their alterations of the house to the Neoclassical style, which brought on a lawsuit, resulted in a splendid two-storied structure, while pavilions and statuary in the garden landscape are English in style. (Overnight Bayeux) BL

Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – 2 nights

Day 12: Wednesday 21 June, Bayeux – Le Mont Saint-Michel – Bagnoles-de-L’Orne

Mont Saint-Michel
Spa village of Bagnoles-de-L’Orne
One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, which perches upon a great, isolated granite cone rising from the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, the sands of which are bared at low tide. There are quicksands here from which, according to a depiction in the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold Godwin saved some Norman soldiers. Believed by the Celts to be a resting place to which the departed were ferried on an invisible boat, it became the site of a hermitage after an apparition of St Michael to St Aubert, Bishop of Avranches (708). A Carolingian church was built in the tenth century, followed by a Romanesque basilica in the eleventh. Count Richard I of Normandy established a Benedictine Abbey here in 966 and it became a major seat of learning in the eleventh century. It was progressively fortified in the Middle Ages. We shall visit the small village below the Mount and then participate in a tour of the Abbey, visiting its church, refectory, ancient scriptorium, and cloister.

After visiting Mont Saint-Michel we shall pass a short time in the spa village of Bagnoles-de-L’Orne. The “Belle Époque” Quarter in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne constitutes a rather well-preserved example of what could be classed as a typical early twentieth-century French bourgeoise residential area. Built between 1886 and 1914 and located in the southern part of the town, it is filled with superb villas with polychrome façades, bow windows and unique roofing.

We stay for the next two nights in a lovely small heritage hotel, Le Manoir du Lys, at Bagnoles-de-L’Orne owned by a family noted for their fine cuisine, which we shall sample at our evening meals. The hotel is set in a pretty garden on the edge of the Andaine Forest. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-L’Orne) BD

Day 13: Thursday 22 June, Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet – Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei – Bagnoles-de-L’Orne

Jardins et Terrasses du Château de Sassy, Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet
Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei village & lunch at the Auberge des Peintres
Les Jardins de La Mansonière, Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei
A day trip today takes us to yet more lovely Norman villages and gardens. We begin with the gardens and terraces of the Château de Sassy at Saint- Christophe-Le-Jajolet. This is a spectacular formal garden, a benchmark of the French formal style, featuring clipped yews. It was designed in the first decades of the 20th century by the famous Achille Duchêne for Etienne d’Audriffet. The designer took his inspiration from the great Le Nôtre, who was responsible for the gardens of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. The garden, which rolls out like a great carpet below an 18th-century château, is located in the Pays d’Argentan between hedged farmlands and the vast plains of the north. Its strict formality beautifully counterpoints a pastoral landscape of hedges and clumps of fruit trees where thoroughbred horses graze. A deep perspective of terraces with intricate broderies (‘boxwood embroideries’) planted in the shapes of Arabesques passes tiers of moats and features a round pool. A lovely small pavilion flanked by two monumental fastigiate yews and rows of shaped lindens forms the perspective’s centrepiece.

We next drive through the majestic Forêt d’Écouves to the village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei. In the 6th century an Italian anchorite, Céneri, established a hermitage here and this grew into the village of Saint-Céneri which is now considered one of the most beautiful villages of France. In the 19th century, its stone houses, Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries and its small stone bridge attracted many artists, including Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Eugène Boudin. We shall have lunch at the charming Auberge des Peintres and take a guided tour of the village before making our way to the Jardins de la Mansonière.

Overlooking the river Sarthe, the Jardins de la Mansonière are composed of a sequence of discrete chambers which have as their theme the enchantment of nature. There are the Rose Garden; the Garden of the Moon; the Garden of Calm; the Garden of Perfume; the Garden of Contrasts; the Garden of Nut Trees and the Gothic (vegetable) Garden. These creations use the distinct colours of a great variety of flowers to create a poetic sequence of delightfully different moods. We shall also spend some time in the village, whose medieval past has inspired elements of the gardens like the Gothic vegetable garden. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-L’Orne) BLD

Le Mans – 1 night

Day 14: Friday 23 June, Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – Ballon – Le Mans

Jardins du Donjon de Ballon
Le Mans: Guided tour of Old Plantagenet City incl. Cathedral Saint-Julien and private gardens
Today we drive out of Normandy toward the Loire Valley. Our first visit is to the gardens of the Donjon de Ballon, an important frontier fortress built by Guillaume Ier de Bellême in 1005, the first to be encountered by the Normans in their attempts to expand their territory. It was seized by William the Conqueror in 1064, two years before he invaded England; and in the eleventh century it changed hands twenty-five times! In the twelfth century the family of Chources, allies of the Kings of England, established control of the fortress which was to endure three centuries. During the Hundred Years’ War the castle was controlled by armed bands and contested by the English and French until the companions of Joan of Arc, Olivier de Prez, châtelain of Ballon, and his nephew Ambroise de Loré finally subdued it and its territory. The development of artillery rendered this type of fortress, composed of a high keep and prominent towers, outmoded.

The gardens of Ballon have been curated since 1960 by the a’Weng-Guéroult family. They are made up of a number of parts. The Alley of the Linden Trees, with large rectangular beds, leads to the Court of the Lions named for the lions which guard the donjon’s drawbridge. The Jardin Clos sits within the ramparts and is in the transitional Medieval/Renaissance style. It is made up of three sections: the geometrical Jardin du Puits which surrounds the forty-five metre well which supplied the castle with water; Le Jardin du Milieu, inspired by Renaissance gardens, with ancient standard roses, aromatic plants such as hyssop, kitchen and medicinal herbs, and plants for dyes such as rose madder; La Motte Féodale (the feudal moat) which leads to the location of the very first wooden fortress, precursor to the stone donjon. There are beech groves here and the moats themselves are planted with fruit trees from around the world. This garden section, high on the castle crag, commands stunning panoramas of the forests of Normandy and Maine. Below this is the rose garden and surrounding the whole complex is a beautiful wood.

Following a light lunch in the Donjon du Ballon, we next drive a short distance to the city of Le Mans, which lies on the banks of the River Sarthe. We are now in the region of Maine, of which Le Mans is the old capital. Surrounded by the modern city, the historic centre is dominated by the magnificent cathedral of Saint-Julien. This building has a Romanesque nave and west end and a marvelously light Gothic east end with some of the most magnificent flying buttresses in France. The cathedral also has excellent stained glass from the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is surrounded by a lovely precinct of timbered houses whose façades boast intricate patterns and some excellent carving. At points along the Sarthe are to be seen remnants of the city’s Gallo-Roman walls, Le Mans having been an important Celtic town before Julius Caesar invaded, and Augustus pacified Gaul. A local specialty is the famous ‘Rillettes du Mans’, made with pork meat cooked in its fat and best served simply with a farmhouse loaf. (Overnight Le Mans) BL

Day 15: Saturday 24 June, Le Mans – Louplande – Angers – Chissay-en-Touraine

Gardens of the Château de Villaines, Louplande
Château d’Angers, Apocalypse Tapestry
This morning we drive to the Château de Villaines, built on the ruins of a twelfth-century feudal castle, of which all that remains is part of the defensive moat on the southern side. The present buildings date from the mid seventeenth century and the Château de Villaines is typical of châteaux from that period, oriented with the main facades facing precisely north and south, and being long and slim to allow light to penetrate from windows on both sides, making it very light and airy. The main buildings comprise the Château itself, the orangery in the northwest corner of the garden, and a large dovecote to the southwest.

Marc and Marie-José Forissier have been the owners since 1997 and are responsible for developing the garden as it appears today. Before they began work there was an English landscape garden in front of the house; this has been replaced by a formal French garden with clipped box topiary and lawns. To the right of the house is a recently planted orchard, to the south the remains of a large moat and many newly planted trees. However, its main feature is an extraordinary potager en carrés, a highly formalised and decorative fruit and vegetable garden divided into dozens of raised square beds and surrounded by a high wall. This garden covering 2.5 acres was restored by the present owners and includes a fine array of peonies, espaliered pear trees and apple trees trained in cordons. An attractive collection of Old Climbing Roses trail across arches giving the garden height. In 2005 it was awarded the prize for best potager garden in France by the French Horticultural Society (Société Nationale d’Horticulture de France).

Following a light lunch at the Château de Villaines, hosted by the owners, we drive to the ancient city of Angers, the historical capital of Anjou and for centuries an important stronghold in northwestern France. The old medieval centre is still dominated by the massive castle (c.1238), which boasts a magnificent Tapestry Museum, the focus of which is the important Apocalypse Tapestries, a series of seventy scenes completed in 1380 by Nicholas Bataille for Louis d’Anjou, brother of Charles V. This comprehensive cycle, based upon St John’s Book of the Apocalypse, is one of the masterpieces of the International Gothic style. In contrast to terrifying visions of the Apocalypse on the tympana of pilgrim churches like Saint-Lazare, Autun, these works display an opulent, exquisite, courtly grace. Their magnificent reds and blues rival the colourism of the Unicorn Tapestries in the Musée de Cluny, Paris.

In the Loire valley we stay for three nights in the Château de Chissay. Chissay, an archetypal Touraine château of an aspect similar to the marvellous palace-fortresses depicted in International Gothic manuscripts, including the Très Riches Heures du Duc de Berry. Like many continuously lived-in houses, however, it has changed over six centuries in which at times its fortunes have been intimately linked with those of France. It was built by Pierre Bernard, chancellor to Charles VII (1435-61), at a time when the monarchy, recent victor over the English in the Hundred Years’ War, was beginning to transform feudal France into a modern state with a professional administration and permanent army. This assertion of monarchical power found its eventual expression in the great royal châteaux of this region. Both Charles and his successor, Louis XI, stayed here. Chissay was then owned by a succession of seigneurial families and it was here that a number of crucial French government meetings took place in 1940, as Nazi Germany was invading France. In 1986 Chissay was transformed in order to provide luxury accommodation. It has a number of lovely public rooms such as a ‘guard room’ and ‘Gothic room’, and its bedrooms, with nineteenth-century furnishings, look out on the surrounding 25-acre park. (Overnight Chissay-en-Touraine) BLD

Day 16: Sunday 25 June, Chissay-en-Touraine – Amboise – Sasnières – Cheverny – Chissay-en-Touraine

Sunday market in Amboise
Jardin du Plessis-Sasnières
Château de Cheverny
This morning, we drive to the nearby town of Amboise on the banks of the Loire, where Leonardo da Vinci spent his last years. Dominating the town is the fifteenth-century Château d’Amboise, which combines Gothic and Renaissance architectural styles. But the main purpose of our visit this morning is to attend its Sunday market, one of the largest in the region. We shall explore the market stalls set up along the river bank and sample some of the local specialties for our picnic lunch today.

Nearby we visit the Jardin du Plessis-Sasnières, created in 1975 by Rosamée Henrion. Nestled in a small, discrete valley, this eleven-hectare English landscape garden centres on a pond. A section of the park abutting the pool contrasts to the parkland. It consists of an earlier potager (vegetable garden) that has been transformed into an enclosed garden of roses, annuals and vivacious flowers planted to create a symphony of different colours. Following our visit of the gardens we shall enjoy our picnic lunch in these beautiful surroundings.

We then travel to the early seventeenth-century castle of Cheverny, distinguished by its extraordinary symmetrical architecture and beautiful interior designed by Jean Monier. Unlike many châteaux in the Loire, Cheverny is still occupied by its owners, who open some of their sumptuous rooms for the public including the dining room and King’s Chamber. Thirty-four painted wood panels around the walls of the dining room depict the story of Don Quixote (the hero of the Cervantes novel). On the first floor, the King’s Chamber displays a particularly sumptuous design; the coffered ceiling shows scenes from the myth of Perseus and Andromeda and the panels depict the legend of Theagenes and Chariclea.The park holds an interesting collection of trees including cedars, redwoods and lindens. A pleasure garden has been created between the château and the orangery. (Overnight Chissay-en-Touraine) BD

Day 17: Monday 26 June, Chissay-en-Touraine – Chenonceaux – Villandry – Chissay-en-Touraine

Château de Chenonceau
Château de Villandry
Our morning is dedicated to visiting the Château of Chenonceau, one of the most picturesque of all great houses; it literally bridges the Cher River. Built by Thomas Bohier on the site of a mill between 1513 and 1523, it was given by Henry II to Diane de Poitiers, who commissioned Philibert de l’Orme to construct the section which spans the river, but was then forced to surrender it to Catherine de Medici. Chenonceau became the locus of an important salon in the eighteenth century. It has beautiful gardens and fine interiors with some excellent furnishings.

We next drive to the Château de Villandry, whose 16th-century style gardens (actually developed in the twentieth century) rival those of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. On arrival, we shall enjoy a picnic-style lunch set up for us in the garden. We then visit the gardens, modelled by Villandry’s twentieth-century owner, Dr Joachim Cavallo, on images of gardens by the great seventeenth-century print-maker and illustrator of châteaux, Androuet du Cerceau. A visit to these gardens will give us the best possible understanding of what a vast formal garden was like, with its discrete flower and vegetable gardens set against perspectives which remind us of theatrical stage sets. (Overnight Chissay-en-Touraine) BLD

Augerville-la-Rivière – 3 nights

Day 18: Tuesday 27 June, Chissay-en-Touraine – Chaumont-sur-Loire – Augerville-la-Rivière

International Garden Festival, Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire
This morning we visit the International Garden Festival held at the Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire. This is also home to a landscaped park designed by Henri Duchêne. Founded in 1992, the International Garden Festival has been providing an astonishing panorama of the state of landscape creativity all over the world. Each year, international teams of artists, landscape architects and designers create around 30 ephemeral gardens on a single theme. The aim is to surprise, entertain and enchant you and offer ideas for your own garden. Next to the Festival, the ‘Valley of the Mists’ (Vallon des Brumes), the ‘organic vegetable garden’, the ‘wild iron pathway’ (Sentier des Fers Sauvages) and certain banks show permanent experimental gardens that change throughout the seasons.

At the conclusion of this visit we continue our journey north to the elegant Château-Hotel d’Augerville, where we spend the next three nights. This evening, we shall dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Augerville-la-Rivière) BLD

Day 19: Wednesday 28 June, Augerville-la-Rivière – Fontainebleau – Lardy – Augerville-la-Rivière

Château de Fontainebleau
Le Jardin d’Anne-Marie, Lardy
We begin today with a visit to the great royal Château of Fontainebleau, a monumental ensemble of buildings constructed between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries, set in a seemingly endless royal forest. Of medieval origin – the Capetian kings hunted its forest – the present complex was constantly enlarged, enriched and inhabited by François I, Henri II and Catherine de Medici, Henri IV, Louis XIII, Louis XV, Louis XVI, Napoleon and Louis-Philippe. Even Louis XIV, who of course preferred Versailles, commissioned Le Nôtre to improve its gardens. During the late Renaissance, the château saw the translation of the Italian Mannerist style to France through the School of Fontainebleau.

We shall visit the extensive, sumptuous apartments like the Gallerie François Ier which was decorated by the great Italian Mannerist Rosso Fiorentino. These give an unsurpassed overview of the development of French panelling, wall painting, tapestry, and furniture. We shall also stroll through the different courtyards of the complex, observing the varied architecture of façades and visit gardens such as the secluded Jardin de Diane, the Jardin Anglais, and the vast parterre with canals, and the Basin du Tibre. Following our visit of the castle, we shall have some time at leisure for lunch in the animated town of Fontainebleau.

After lunch we continue to Lardy and Le Jardin d’Anne-Marie. Anne-Marie and Yvon Grivaz bought this beautiful place beside the river in 1976. Five years later planting began and a French style cottage garden was created. Mellow gravel paths wind through lawns and borders, which are a glorious mix of shrubs and perennials in soft colours. Pergolas support a profusion of roses, and there are bridges, terraces and summerhouses. In 2007, the garden was awarded the prestigious Prix de Jardinier d’Île-de-France. (Overnight Augerville-la-Rivière) BD

Day 20: Thursday 29 June, Augerville-la-Rivière – Château Vaux-le-Vicomte – Courances – Augerville-la-Rivière

Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte
Domaine de Courances
This morning we shall explore the unsurpassed seventeenth-century château, Vaux-le-Vicomte which was the precursor to Louis XIV’s Versailles. Vaux-le-Vicomte was built in 1658-61 for Nicholas Fouquet, the finance minister of Louis XIV by the architects were Louis Le Vau (1612-1670) and Jules Hardouin-Mansart; the gardens were designed by the great André Le Nôtre (1613-1700) and Charles Le Brun (1619-1690) painted the interior. Fouquet was arrested shortly after the opening celebrations of the château, and Louis XIV afterwards employed its designers for his palace and gardens at Versailles. The house has pronounced corner pavilions as well as a projecting oval central pavilion that is crowned by an ovoid, domed roof. The interiors were elaborately decorated under the supervision of Le Brun. Set within a huge green space which extends around one-and-a-half kilometres from the entrance gate to the furthest statue of Hercules, (and measures a sixth of this in width), the château dominates from whatever distance it is seen. Such a ‘reigning’ position over this large area symbolises the power of the master of the house.

Le Nôtre and Le Vau created from forty hectares of countryside a perfect harmony between architecture and its environment for the first time in the seventeenth century. Le Nôtre’s first masterpiece, the vast garden perspective is divided into a sequence of terraces, forming an orderly composition of sculpted box gardens patterned after motifs from Turkish carpets. There are bordered flower beds, shrubberies, grottos, lawns, lakes and fountains. If no other garden of the period were to have survived, Vaux-le-Vicomte’s gardens would suffice to illustrate the principles of landscape gardening in this age of elegance.

This afternoon we visit Courances, where General Montgomery resided following the Liberation of France. This is a charming garden also designed by Le Nôtre, with elegant canals edged by avenues of plane trees and beautiful lawns. The components of its landscape are simple in the extreme, but the result is a setting of superb verdure and refinement, one that will be appreciated by travellers who enjoy simple, beautifully proportioned gardens.

We return to our château, where there will be some time at leisure before concluding our tour with a farewell meal. (Augerville-la-Rivière) BD

Day 21: Friday 30 June, Augerville-la-Rivière – Paris (CDG)

Our tour ends. You may continue your travels in Europe or join the coach transfer to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport for your flight back home to Australia. B

Gardens of Italy: The Italian Lakes, the Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria & Rome

Gardens of Italy: The Italian Lakes, the Piedmont, Tuscany, Umbria & Rome

 

Moltrasio – 2 nights

Day 1: Monday 1 May, Arrive Milan – Transfer to Moltrasio

Afternoon at Leisure
Introductory Meeting
Welcome Evening Meal at Gourmet Restaurant Imperialino
On arrival at Milan’s Malpensa airport, those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private coach to Moltrasio. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Grand Hotel Imperiale. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information.

The afternoon is at leisure to relax on the shores of Lake Como with panoramic views of the Grigne Mountains. In the evening we will have a short introductory meeting before dining at the hotel’s restaurant. (Overnight Moltrasio) D

 

Day 2: Tuesday 2 May, Moltrasio – Tremezzo – Bellagio – Moltrasio

Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo
Villa Melzi, Bellagio (optional)
Villa del Balbianello, Bellagio
This morning we cruise across Lake Como to 18th century Villa Carlotta, a garden with a huge botanical collection and a traditional Italian formal design, unlike most lake gardens that were heavily influenced by the more fluid layouts of English landscape gardening; it thus has a wide variety of architectural features – parterres, stairways, ponds, fountains, etc. In April and May Villa Carlotta offers a sea of multi-coloured azaleas shaped in high rounded cushions alongside the garden paths.

During the lunch break you will have some time at leisure to visit Villa Melzi (optional).

Afternoon visit to Villa del Balbianello, an exquisite villa set in woods of pine, soaring cypress and oak with pollarded plane trees and manicured lawns and flowerbeds. Facing the promontory of Serbelloni, from the Lavedo point it boasts unparalleled views down the three branches of the lake. The first villa was built in 1540, but was later moved to a new site inland to protect it from flooding. Cardinal Durini erected a casino with a loggia in 1790, open to the sun and breezes; today it is trellised with Ficus pumila (creeping fig) and flanked by a library and music room. (Overnight Moltrasio) B

 

Stresa – 2 nights

Day 3: Wednesday 3 May, Moltrasio – Bisuschio – Casalzuigno – Stresa

Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, Bisuschio
Villa della Porta Bozzolo, Casalzuigno
Depart Moltrasio to visit Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, located on a steep hillside in the village of Bisuschio. Its garden looks out upon sweeping views, with a glimpse of Lake Lugano. Founded in the 15th century, the villa took its present form in the 16th century. The Cicogna family, who inherited it in 1580, still owns this lovely villa. The formal gardens rise on 7 narrow terraces and adjacent to them is a small sunken garden with formal box parterres and patches of lawn. We tour the villa residence that houses a fine antique collection. Above the villa is a great terrace with Renaissance grottoes offering shade in summer, and a magnificent water stair. Flowing water was an essential feature of Italian formal gardens, offering a cooling spectacle and a lively, burbling sound.

After lunchtime at leisure we visit Villa della Porta Bozzolo, which is unusual for Lombardy because its measured stately design is laid out upon a steep slope. Parterres, terraces with stone balustrades and grand stairways flanking fountains rise to an octagonal clearing, or theatre, surrounded by a thick ring of cypresses and woods. The perspective rises further to the villa, set to one side in order not to interrupt the silvan view. We continue to our hotel located on the shores of Lake Maggiore. (Overnight Stresa) B

 

Day 4: Thursday 4 May, Stresa – Lake Maggiore – Lake Orta – Stresa

Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
Isola Madre, Lake Maggiore
Orta San Giulio & Isola San Giulio, Lake Orta
We take the ferry across Lake Maggiore to Count Carlo Borromeo’s Isola Bella (1632), one of Italy’s most extraordinary Baroque gardens. Located on an island off Stresa, it appears to float like a palatial barge, with 10 terraces rising like a ship’s prow from the reflecting waters. It shares the island with the Borromeo palace and its adjacent village.

We also visit Isola Madre, with semi-tropical plantings amongst which white peacocks roam. In 1845, Flaubert wrote that ‘Isola Madre is the most sensual place that I have ever seen in the world’. It has a fine swamp cypress, citrus fruit trees, crape myrtle, hibiscus, leptospermum and acacias. The landscape woods have groves of native trees – aromatic cypress, bay and pine – interplanted with camphor, pepper trees and styrax. Its pathways are lined with magnolias, camellias, rhododendrons and azaleas.

Afternoon visit to Lake Orta to the west of Lake Maggiore, a tiny jewel surrounded by hills and mountains acting as a great natural theatre enveloping local towns and villages. The most beautiful of these is Orta San Giulio, whose town hall has a frescoed façade. Its narrow streets are lined with Rococo houses. We take a ferry to San Giulio Island to visit the 12th century Romanesque church whose pulpit is one of the outstanding masterpieces of medieval sculpture in Northern Italy. (Overnight Stresa) B

 

Turin – 4 nights

Day 5: Friday 5 May, Stresa – Caravino – Turin

Castello di Masino including lunch and ‘The Cloud Garden’ by Paolo Pejrone, Caravino
We drive south from Stresa to the Castello di Masino to tour the castle and its monumental park. This great Savoyard property ‘sets the scene’ for your exploration of Piedmont, one of Italy’s lesser known, yet extremely important regions. Nestling at the foot of the Alps, this ‘gateway to Western Europe’ absorbed many foreign garden influences, particularly from nearby France, and from the United Kingdom. In 1860 the venerable House of Savoy, founded in the 11th century, gave a newly unified Italy its royal family. From the 17th century the Dukes of Savoy had built grand palaces and vast gardens often influenced by those of the French Ancien Régime. Our tour of the interior of Castello di Masino and then of its grand park introduces not only Savoyard culture but also contemporary developments in Italian gardening. A captivating aspect of the park is the Giardino delle Nuvole (the Cloud Garden) designed by one of Italy’s foremost garden designers, the internationally renowned Paolo Pejrone, founder of the Piedmontese Garden Academy. Inspired by Russell Page and Roberto Burle Marx, Pejrone has designed gardens in Germany, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Austria, France and the United Kingdom. Pejrone is a committee member of FAI (Fondazione Ambiente Italiana), dedicated to the restoration and conservation of Savoyard castles and palaces; it is headquartered at Castello di Masino. The Castle also hosts an extremely important garden festival in May. After lunch we will make our way to Turin, Italy’s first capital city after unification and home to the House of Savoy. (Overnight Turin) BL

 

Day 6: Saturday 6 May, Turin

Orientation walk of Turin, including guided visits to the Palazzo Reale (Royal Palace) and Palazzo Madama
Afternoon and evening at leisure
This morning we will enjoy a guided orientation walk of the city’s centre with a local guide. Our walk will include a visit to Turin’s Royal Palace, seat of the House of Savoy (1646-1859) and of Vittorio Emanuele II, King of Italy (1860-1865). This grand palace, a major essay in Italian Baroque and Rococo, has sumptuous decorations and furniture from all periods. We will also visit Turin’s Palazzo Madama, a medieval castle behind a Baroque façade, with a major art collection that includes Antonello da Messina’s Portrait of a Man. The afternoon and evening we will be at leisure to explore Turin in greater depth. (Overnight Turin) B

 

Day 7: Sunday 7 May, Turin – Moncalieri – Turin

Villa Silvio Pellico – including lunch (exclusive private visit)
Private Garden Visit (to be confirmed)
Today we visit Villa Silvio Pellico, a fine Neo-Gothic mansion (1870) with a Russell Page garden, arguably one of his three masterpieces. Page had gained an understanding of the Italian and French formal tradition of gardening from Edith Wharton and Geoffrey Jellicoe. On an ill-kempt hillside in the 1950s he created a fine terraced garden on two axes divided by pools; Page was particularly sensitive to the use of water in gardens. Symmetrical hedges create a series of ‘rooms’ of different designs, using diverse vegetation and ground patterns, as well as sculptures. The present owner, Raimonda Lanza di Trabia, daughter of the last Prince of Trabia (Sicily), and her husband Emanuele Gamna, will host us for lunch. You can read more about this garden in Marina Schinz & Gabrielle van Zuylen’s book The Gardens of Russell Page.

We continue our afternoon with another private garden visit (details to be confirmed). (Overnight Turin) BL

 

Day 8: Monday 8 May, Turin – Villar Perosa – Revello – Moncalieri – Turin

Program hosted by Paolo Pejrone
Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa (exclusive private visit)
Bramafam, Paolo Pejrone’s Private Experimental Garden (exclusive private visit)
Private Garden of Silvana and Alberto Peyrani (exclusive private visit to be confirmed in 2017)
We are particularly privileged today to accompany Paolo Pejrone on a visit to his own, very private garden, designed not so much for its aesthetics as a laboratory in which the master is constantly experimenting with new plantings. Set on a steep escarpment near a ruined medieval rampart from which ‘Bramafam’ takes its name, the garden and its owner’s discussions with you will give precious, unique insights into his ideas and practice.

Paolo Pejrone will also accompany us to the exquisite gardens of Casa Agnelli, set on a private estate which has been home to the Agnelli family since the early 1800s. The grounds offer a range of styles: Italianate formal gardens; a water garden with interconnecting lakes; an English-style woodland walk, a romantic garden, sculpture gardens and more. We are particularly fortunate to have been granted a visit to this most extraordinary of gardens.

Today Paolo Pejrone will also introduce the private garden he designed for Silvana and Alberto Peyrani. Pejrone surrounded their villa with extensive new gardens, including decorative orchards and a fine potager. We are very grateful that the Peyranis have graciously consented to allow us to explore their private domain with its creator. (Overnight Turin) B

 

Lucca – 2 nights

Day 9: Tuesday 9 May, Turin – Santa Margherita Ligure – La Cervara – Lucca

The Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino (La Cervara)
Group Evening meal at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant
We drive southeast along the grand Ligurian coast to the magnificent Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino. Located in a strategic position atop a rocky headland that overlooks the Tigullio Gulf, it was founded as a Benedictine Monastery (1361). The monks’ former vegetable garden was transformed into what is now the only monumental Italian formal garden in the Liguria region. It extends over two levels connected by arbors and steps. On the lower level, hedges of boxwood (buxus sempervirens) are trimmed into ornate stepped cones, an important example of topiary art. The hedges surround a 17th-century marble fountain in the form of a putto, whose underlying basin is tinged with pink water lilies in summer.

After visiting this grand garden, we continue to Lucca and check in to the Hotel Ilaria, which occupies the restored stables of the Villa Bottini inside the city walls. In the evening we dine together at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant located near the hotel. (Overnight Lucca) BD

 

Day 10: Wednesday 10 May, Lucca

Orientation tour of Lucca incl. Cathedral of San Martino, San Michele, San Frediano and the Piazza del Mercato
Palazzo Pfanner
Afternoon at leisure: Optional Walk along Lucca’s City Walls
Evening Puccini Concert, Church of San Giovanni
Lucca is one of the most beautiful of all Italian cities, with city walls graced by grand plantations of trees and one of the finest sets of Romanesque churches in Italy. We visit the Cathedral of St. Martin, with a lovely Jacopo della Quercia tomb. The Church of San Michele has a spectacular façade made up of complex blind galleries with capricious sculptures of beasts. It was built in the ancient forum of the city; Lucca’s medieval street plan follows the original Roman plan. The oval Piazza del Mercato’s medieval palaces were built into the structure of Lucca’s Roman amphitheatre. San Frediano, meanwhile, has a distinctive façade mosaic and a unique baptismal font that was once a medieval fountain.

After lunch we visit the privately owned 17th century Palazzo Pfanner where parts of Portrait of a Lady were filmed (1996). The palace’s owner, Dario Pfanner, will introduce his palace and its Baroque garden, a fine example of an urban garden that includes various statues of Olympian deities and a fountain pond. Its elegant lemon house (limonaia) inflects a space defined by boxwood and laurel hedges. Bushes of peonies and hortensias, roses and potted geraniums gain shade from yews, pines, magnolias and an old camellia. Inside, the palace’s piano nobile (main reception room) features Pietro Paolo Scorsini frescoes (c.1720).

The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. You may wish to walk a section of Lucca’s 17th-century city walls, the best preserved in Italy. The Lucchesi planted trees atop these walls to form a promenade enlivened by small gardens and lawns. We attend an evening concert with a selection from operas (e.g. La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly and Turandot) by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) a native of Lucca, in the Church of San Giovanni. (Overnight Lucca) B

 

Florence – 4 nights

Day 11: Thursday 11 May, Lucca – Camigliano – Capannori – San Piero a Sieve – Florence

Villa Torrigiani, Camigliano
Lunch at a typical Tuscan osteria
Medici Castello del Trebbio, San Piero a Sieve
During the Renaissance, the wealthy merchant families of Tuscany built grand villas on the plains of Lucca. We visit 17th-century Villa Torrigiani, named after the camellia that was introduced to the gardens in the early 18th century. The garden’s Baroque layout, attributed to André Le Nôtre, features symmetrical reflecting pools in front of the villa. Most outstanding is the secret garden (Giardino di Flora), with regular beds, topiary and pools. The garden features 19th-century trees, magnificent magnolias, cypresses and umbrella pines. The 18th-century avenue of cypresses leading to the villa from the village of Borgonuova reflects the past grandeur of estates in this region.

We eat a traditional Tuscan lunch at a nearby osteria before continuing our journey westward toward Castello il Trebbio in San Piero a Sieve.

“Set on a hilltop in the Apennines north of Florence, a few kilometres west of San Piero a Sieve, Castello del Trebbio is one of the oldest villas built by the Medici, who came from the Mugello and chose their native region for their first villas. The head of the Medici clan, Giovanni di Bicci, owned the property from the late 14th century, and upon his death in 1428, the villa was inherited by Cosimo the Elder, who commissioned Michelozzzo di Bartolomeo to rebuild the original castle.

“Set in an excellent strategic position, dominating the Sieve Valley below and near a cross roads (Trebbio derives from the Latin trivium), the castle was surrounded by woods and a huge estate which bordered on the Cafaggiolo property. Although Vasari suggests otherwise, Trebbio was the first of the Mugello castles to be rebuilt by Michelozzo. Immediately after 1428, the building work began, incorporating the existing watchtower into a solid, compact defensive construction surrounded by a moat and drawbridge. The defensive role was necessary on account of the castle’s position, however novel features were also introduced to satisfy the requirements of the patron.

The walled garden set on two terraces to the right is noteworthy as it was among the first of its kind to be designed for a villa. The upper terrace of the well-preserved garden, a veritable hortus conclusus, is decorated with a long pergola made up of a double row of columns and sandstone capitals in various styles (ionic and decorated with foliage motifs), which support a thick covering of vines. As can be seen in the lunette painted by Giusto Utens between 1599 and 1602, there was a second pergola (now lost) on the lower terrace, which retains the original layout of a vegetable garden with a pond, as well as planting designed by Michelozzo to satisfy not only defensive requirements, but also Cosimo’s spiritual desire for a contemplative life.” (The Medici Villas: Complete Guide by Isabella Lapi Ballerini & Mario Scalini).

In the late afternoon we arrive at our hotel in central Florence. (Overnight Florence) BL

 

Day 12: Friday 12 May, Florence – Fiesole – Florence

Villa Medici in Fiesole
Guided Tour, Villa di Maiano
Lunch at Fattoria di Maiano
Villa Capponi
Unlike the grand villa gardens we have visited near Lucca, Florence and its vicinity have a number of small intimate urban gardens that we visit today. Many of these offer glimpses of the city, a counterpart to the spectacular views afforded by their grander Florentine counterparts. Such views offer a reminder that Florentine villas were seen as retreats from this metropolitan powerhouse. We make an early morning visit to elegant Fiesole in the hills overlooking Florence where Boccaccio set his Decameron, model for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Boccaccio’s protagonists told stories to while away their days in a Fiesole villa in which they had escaped from the plague ravaging Florence.

We first visit the garden of 16th-century Villa Medici in Fiesole. The garden, showing Cecil Pinsent’s influence, is divided into three terraces with a limonaia. We shall then transfer by coach to nearby Villa di Maiano.

Among Villa di Maiano’s past owners are members of the famous Sforza and Pazzi families. However, it was wealthy Englishman Sir John Temple Leader who, after acquiring the property in 1844, renovated the villa, its gardens and the surrounding structures. Architect Felice Francolini, while in some respects keeping with the villa’s 15th century appearance, made some radical changes, such as the addition of a Gothic-style keep with a loggia. The garden in front of the villa features a well, a gazebo, and the Neo-Gothic loggetta with a swimming pool. The lower terrace’s large garden is bordered by boxwood hedges and the north side below the upper terrace has a limonaia. The northern part of the garden is a landscaped park designed by Giuseppe Francelli and Alessandro Papini, an expert in hydraulics and landscape architect.

After Temple Leader’s death, Villa di Maiano and the surrounding property was bought, in 1917, by Florentine surgeon Teodoro Stori, who was married to a member of the noble Principi Corsini family. Their adopted daughter Lucrezia Corsini, with her husband Count Giacomo Miari Fulcis, continued restorations and work on the Villa and the Fattoria. Countess Lucrezia Corsini, the Villa’s present owner, has specialised the Fattoria di Maiano in the organic cultivation of olives. We will take a guided tour of the Villa and Gardens, as well making a brief visit to the as the Olive Mill. We shall then enjoy lunch together at the Fattoria di Maiano’s restaurant.

The Villa di Maiano can count Queen Victoria among its guests; it has also provided the set for numerous films, including James Ivory’s A Room with a View and Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea with Musssolini.

In Florence in the afternoon we visit the 16th-century Villa Capponi and its secret gardens where the late Queen Mother spent holidays as a girl. Cecil Pinsent’s influence is evident; he added a library and created a hidden swimming pool area. (Overnight Florence) B

 

Day 13: Saturday 13 May, Florence – Greve in Chianti – Florence

Giardino Corsini al Prato
Villa Vignamaggio, Greve in Chianti – including wine-tasting and lunch
We begin with a visit to the Giardini Corsini al Prato, a Florentine urban garden that illustrates the deep connection between nature, science and beauty in the Renaissance sensibility. Alessandro Acciaioli, a passionate 16th-century botanist, conceived the garden. Unable to finish his residence, he was forced to sell the property to Filippo di Lorenzo Corsini who completed the Italian garden that remains unchanged to this day. Completely concealed from the street by the façade of the palazzo, this urban garden reveals pink and red rock roses, peonies, cherry trees and lavender along with elegant lemon urns and a central axis of solemn marble statues. After our tour of the gardens Princess Georgiana Corsini has kindly arranged for us a tour of her palace, followed by refreshments.

We next drive out of Florence for a delicious lunch at a beautiful Renaissance villa, Vignamaggio, Greve in Chianti. The 15th-16th-century house has important artistic associations, for Leonardo da Vinci is thought to have stayed here, and painted the owner’s young wife, Lisa del Giacondo, Mona Lisa. Vignamaggio is also famed for its wines, for it is the official supplier to the Italian parliament at the Quirinale Palace, Rome; its wines are first mentioned in documents dating from the 15th century. It also was the setting of Kenneth Branagh’s film Much Ado About Nothing, starring Emma Thompson. The restored garden, aligned to a row of 100-year-old cypress, features simple topiary and box hedging amid lawns. Areas like the sunken fountain garden inflect this exquisite orchestration of trees, hedges, lawns and old statues that look out upon the estate’s famous vineyards.

In the afternoon we return to Florence, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Florence) BL

 

Day 14: Sunday 14 May, Florence

San Lorenzo: Medici Chapel
Palazzo Medici Riccardi: The Chapel of the Magi
Afternoon at leisure
On a visit to San Lorenzo and the Medici Chapel we explore Michelangelo’s Medici tombs, masterpieces of 16th-century sculpture showing a transition from classical High Renaissance values to a Mannerist mode.

Near San Lorenzo we visit the Palazzo Medici Riccardi to view Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes of the Procession of the Magi in the small Magi Chapel. The sumptuous procession, which includes Medici family members, is set in an ideal Tuscan landscape, which forms a fascinating comparison to the gardens we visit and countryside through which we drive. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Florence’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Florence) B

 

Siena – 2 nights

Day 15: Monday 15 May, Florence – Settignano – Pianella – Siena

Villa Gamberaia, Settignano – including interiors of the villa
Villa di Geggiano, Pianella – including buffet lunch (exclusive private visit)
Optional evening excursion to Siena’s town centre
We drive to Siena via two famous Tuscan villas. At Settignano we visit the Villa Gamberaia, with arguably the most famous of Florentine villa gardens. The Capponi family initiated the present garden in 1718. In 1896, Princess Ghika of Serbia created the main water parterres in front of the villa. The Marchi family has recently restored the garden. It features magnificent topiary, two fine grottoes, and wonderful old cypresses and pines. By special arrangement, we also tour the interiors of the villa which combines interesting architectural features of both an urban palazzo and suburban villa.

Midday we cross to the opposite side of the Sienese hills to the enchanting Villa Geggiano. Here, centuries-old cypress, potted lemons and clipped box hedges adorn a garden boasting a unique ‘greenery theatre’, late Baroque sculptures, a kitchen garden with topiary art and a semi-circular fishpond that forms an elegant terrace overlooking Siena. The villa itself contains original 13th-century furnishings. A small chapel faces the garden. Lunch features crostini with porcini mushrooms and truffles, pasta, various locally cured meats and Pecorino cheeses, followed by plum jam tart, all washed down with Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico, mineral water and coffee.

In the afternoon we continue to our hotel on the outskirts of Siena, a villa surrounded by gardens. For those wishing to dine in Siena, there will be an optional evening excursion into the city centre. (Overnight Siena) BL

 

Day 16: Tuesday 16 May, Siena

Orientation tour of Siena including: Palazzo Pubblico, Cathedral & Museum
Afternoon at leisure
Siena is the quintessential medieval city. We explore Lorenzetti’s fascinating paintings of Good and Bad Government in the Palazzo Pubblico and Duccio’s masterpiece, the Maestà in the Cathedral Museum. We examine Nicola and Giovanni Pisano’s great pulpit in Siena Cathedral. We also visit medieval quarters (contrade) dominated by palaces still occupied by the families who built them. The contrade compete in the famous palio horse race twice a year. Protected by the Virgin Mary, Siena is a city of Trinitarian symbolism. Built on three ridges, it has three major sectors (terzi) that each elected three members of the city council, and interpreted its very architectural fabric in such symbolic terms. The afternoon is at leisure to explore Siena’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Siena) B

 

Perugia – 1 night

Day 17: Wednesday 17 May, Siena – Chianciano Terme – Castel del Piano Umbro – Perugia

Villa La Foce, Chianciano Terme (by special appointment to be confirmed in 2017)
Private gardens of Villa Aureli, Castel del Piano Umbro – including lunch
Perugia Orientation Walk: Cathedral & Fontana Maggiore
We drive south to the Renaissance Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato. Origo’s two autobiographies, Images and Shadows and War in Val d’Orcia, vividly describe life on the estate in the mid-20th century. La Foce overlooks the Orcia valley and Amiata Mountains, maintaining a distinctive harmony between its spectacular landscape setting and the formal style of surrounding gardens. Terraces with cherries, pines, cypress and wild herbs gently climb its hillside setting. Now a centre for cultural and artistic activities, it hosts the distinguished Incontri chamber annual summer music festival in the Castelluccio, a medieval castle on the property.

Count Sperello di Serego Alighieri, a descendent of Dante, will host us for a light lunch and show us his lovely Villa Aureli. Shaded by lime trees and oaks and decorated with many late antique vases containing citrus trees, the villa dates to the middle of the 18th century, when a Perugian nobleman and artist, Count Sperello Aureli, transformed a 16th-century tower into his country residence. Of particular note is the orangery, whose high roof is remeniscent of the hull of an upturned ship.

We continue to Perugia for a gentle orientation walk to include its Cathedral and Fontana Maggiore. We spend two nights in the luxury Hotel Brufani Palace, located on a hilltop within Perugia’s historic core. (Overnight Perugia) BL

 

Viterbo – 1 night

Day 18: Thursday 18 May, Perugia – Bagnaia – Viterbo

Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria
Villa Lante, Bagnaia
We begin by viewing masterpieces, including works by Perugino, in the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria before departing Perugia to visit the great Villa Lante and its garden.Villa Lante is the consummate example of Italian Mannerist garden design. Giacomo Barozzi da Vignola’s exemplary essay in fine scale and proportion centres on a fountain and water parterre. Vignola was influenced by the Vatican gardens, the Villa d’Este, Hadrian’s marine theatre and the Boboli Gardens (Florence). Its theme, humanity’s descent from the Golden Age is based upon Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Water flows from the Grotto of the Deluge at the summit down a stepped cascade and through a channel at the centre of a vast stone table used for banquets, inspired by Pliny’s description of an imperial garden table using water to cool wine and fruit. In the late afternoon drive a short distance to our hotel located in the countryside outside Viterbo. (Overnight Viterbo) BD

 

Rome – 4 nights

Day 19: Friday 19 May, Viterbo – Vignanello – Calcata – Rome

Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello – including lunch at Cantina degli Artisti
Gardens of Paolo Portoghesi at Calcata
Castello Ruspoli occupies the site of a mid-9th century Benedictine convent later converted to a military stronghold. Ortensia Baglioni transformed it into a villa, designed by the great architects Sangallo and Vignola, and succeeding generations created one of Italy’s most beautiful parterres, composed of hedges of bay, laurel and box, which articulate a vast rectangular space. The Princess Ruspoli today maintains the gardens. Our visit will be complemented by lunch in the wine-cellars near the palazzo, which specialise in the cuisine of Vignanello.

This afternoon we visit the gardens of distinguished architect and scholar Paolo Portoghesi. The gardens reinterpret Baroque elements and Borrominian forms, and fuse geometry with nature to produce a garden which is both spectacularly modern and at the same time, reverent toward the traditions upon which it draws. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 20: Saturday 20 May, Rome – Ninfa – Cisterna – Rome

Giardini di Ninfa
Private Gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia
We depart this morning at approximately 8.00 am for the Giardini di Ninfa. The magnificent gardens of Ninfa, south of Rome, are some of the most remarkable in all of Italy. Today, their gates will open for a special private visit for our group. The town of Ninfa is but a memory of a once prosperous medieval commune owned by the Caetani family since the mid-13th century. In the early 20th century the family began to regenerate its ruins, taking advantage of a microclimate greened by rich spring water. Thousands of species were introduced from all over the world under the guidance of botanical experts. Lelia Caetani, the last of her ancient family, died in 1977 and bequeathed her property to the Foundation Caetani that maintains the wonderfully atmospheric gardens. Today plants weave themselves over ruined towers, ancient archways and churches, while ducks and swans glide on the castle’s moat. Highlights include a walled garden, small orchard and diverse plantings in which roses, banana trees and maples thrive together in this unique and beautiful landscape.

Nearby, we enjoy a picnic lunch and visit the dreamy gardens of Torrecchia, one of Italy’s most beautiful private gardens. Nestled against the crumbling ruins of a medieval village and castle, perched on a volcanic hilltop just south of Rome, they command spectacular views of the unspoilt 1500-acre estate’. Owned by Carlo Caracciolo (the late owner of the Italian newspaper L’Espresso) and Violante Visconti, the gardens were originally designed by Lauro Marchetti, the current curator of the Giardini di Ninfa, and further developed by the English garden designer Dan Pearson and later by Stuart Barfoot. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 21: Sunday 21 May, Rome – Tivoli – Rome

Villa d’Este, Tivoli
Lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, Tivoli
Time at leisure in Rome
Set among the hanging cliffs of the Valle Gaudente, the Villa d’Este and its surrounding gardens and waterworks has undergone a series of innovative extensions in layout and decoration, including those of Bernini in the late 17th century. This UNESCO world heritage site boasts an impressive concentration of nymphaea, grottoes and fountains, including the famous hydraulic Organ Fountain that still operates. The Villa d’Este’s use of water and music became the definitive model for Mannerist and Baroque gardens across Europe.

We remain in the town of Tivoli for lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, a famous restaurant specialising in regional dishes. Marble plaques on the walls list the members of royalty and other famous people who have come here to dine for more than 250 years. After lunch, we return to Rome to enjoy time at leisure. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 22: Monday 22 May, Rome – Castel Giuliano – Bracciano – Rome

Palazzo Patrizi, Castel Giuliano (exclusive private visit to be confirmed in 2017)
Visit to the village of Bracciano, overlooking Lake Bracciano
San Liberato Giardini Botanici, Bracciano (exclusive private visit to be confirmed in 2017)
Farewell Group Meal
The estate of Castel Giuliano, surrounded by a beautiful century-old park, occupies the site of an Etruscan and Roman settlement at the foot of the Tolfa Mountains. The Patrizi family has owned it since 1546 and its present owners have restored its ancient buildings and park to their former splendour. On its wide, gently sloping turf terraces, pines, cluster oaks, and century-old Lebanon cedars tower above sweet-scented herbs and flower-laden bushes, contrasting unruly nature with human interventions. The park has numerous Etruscan tombs and ruins of Roman walls covered in ferns and lichen. Truly unique, is one of Italy’s most important private rose gardens; in May it hosts the famous ‘Feast of the Roses’. Climbing roses soften the austere lines of the ancient castle walls, which are surrounded by combinations of shrubbery and foxglove, myrtle and pale blue ceanothus.

Nearby, we visit the gardens of San Liberato, overlooking Lake Bracciano, designed by the famous English landscape designer Russell Page. Page assisted the Count and Countess Sanminiatelli to create San Liberato between 1965 and 1975. With panoramic views of the lake and surrounding countryside, chestnut woods, a formal rose garden, informal flower beds like small islands dotting the green lawns, and borders of silver and grey plants, the garden also has a modern version of the ‘Orto dei Semplici’, a late medieval physic garden of monastery pharmacies – situated next to the extraordinary church of San Liberato (c.1000 AD). (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 23: Tuesday 23 May, Depart Rome

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
The tour ends in Rome. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in Italy. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Floralies Flower Show, Art, Tulips and the Seine River Cruise

Floralies Flower Show, Art, Tulips and the Seine River Cruise

Itinerary

 

Day 1. Arrive Amsterdam
Be met on arrival and transferred to your river ship for a Welcome Dinner at 6.30pm.
Seven Nights: aboard the luxurious river ship MS AmaStella (D)

Day 2. Amsterdam and Edam, Freedom of Choice
Today you have a choice of two touring options. Cruise through Amsterdam’s canals, then rejoin your ship and cruise to Volendam, a maze of fishermen’s houses built on poles with a unique open harbour. Others may choose to visit the gardens of Kasteel de Haar, a stunning late medieval castle and garden. After lunch enjoy a tour of Volendam Harbour before continuing to Edam for a walking tour of the Old Quarter. This evening there will be a very special lecture by Anna Pavord, author of The Tulip. (BLD)

Day 3. Arnhem, Freedom of Choice
This morning after breakfast, you will arrive into Arnhem where you will have a choice of two sightseeing activities. Your first option is to see the monument commemorating the Battle of Arnhem Bridge, made famous by the classic film A Bridge Too Far. You’ll also visit the Airborne Museum and learn more about the Battle of Arnhem, one of the major campaigns of World War II. Your second choice is a tour of the most stunning royal residence in Holland, Het Loo Palace, with lavishly furnished rooms and meticulously sculpted gardens. After your tour, return to the ship for lunch and cruise to Nijmegen where you can enjoy some free time. Enjoy scenic cruising this evening as you sail through the Netherlands en route to Belgium. (BLD)

Day 4. Antwerp, Freedom of Choice
On arrival in Antwerp, choose from a guided city tour or a tour taking you to sites associated with the famous Flemish Baroque artist, Peter Paul Rubens. You will also visit the Antwerp Cathedral, which houses two of Rubens’ most important works, The Elevation of the Cross and The Descent from the Cross. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure to relax or take a Culinary Delights tour to sample waffles and chocolate. Alternatively, perhaps join an excursion to the beautiful city of Bruges with its stunning system of canals. During dinner, your ship will set out for the charming medieval city of Ghent. (BLD)

Day 5. Ghent, Freedom of Choice
Today you will have a choice of two touring options. The first option is to spend a full day to explore Floralies in Ghent. Floralies is the largest inside garden in the world with a surface area of 450,000 m² and exhibits more than 500,000 varieties of plants and flowers. Alternatively spend a half day at Floralies and then enjoy a visit to a beautiful private garden designed by Chris Gheyslen in the afternoon. (BD)

Day 6. Willemstad and Kinderdjik, Freedom of Choice
Cruise back to the Netherlands. This morning you may choose to visit the charming 400-year old town of Willemstad for a walking tour and private organ recital at the oldest Protestant church in the Netherlands. This afternoon, the touring options include a visit to Kinderdijk, a lovely region renowned for having the greatest concentration of windmills in the entire country. Another option is to take a day tour to Rotterdam and The Hague, visiting Westbroekpark with its superb rhododendrons and Delft’s Botanic Gardens. A third option is to visit the exhibition of the world-famous artist MC Escher, housed in the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands, and option four is to visit Mauritshaus, home of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Tonight, enjoy a special onboard musical performance as the ship cruises to Schoonhoven. (BLD)

Day 7. Utrecht and Keukenhof Gardens
Cruise along the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal to Utretcht. Disembark and travel to Keukenhof Gardens, which encompasses over 70 acres of parkland. Relish the chance to admire the spectacular display of bulb flowers in bloom during a morning sightseeing excursion. Keukenhof also features several ponds, sculpture gardens, greenhouses and a windmill. Return to your ship for lunch. In the afternoon, enjoy an excursion to delightful Zaanse Schans, a small historic village just outside of Amsterdam. This evening enjoy a special Farewell Dinner whilst moored in Amsterdam. (BLD)

Day 8. Amsterdam Sightseeing
Disembark your ship early this morning to visit the world famous Aalsmeer Flower Markets. Afterwards we will visit a cut flower nursery to see some of the millions of flowers being grown for sale and export around the world. For lunch we will dine at De Kas, with its own greenhouses and garden near the restaurant, where they grow Mediterranean vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. This afternoon is free to explore Amsterdam, perhaps visit the newly renovated Rijksmusuem.
Stay: Amsterdam, Marriott Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 9. Amsterdam to Paris
Depart Amsterdam after breakfast and travel through the Dutch, Belgium and French countryside to Paris. Board our river ship for a Welcome Dinner.
Seven Nights: aboard the MS AmaLegro (BD)

Day 10. Vernon, Freedom of Choice
Spend the morning enjoying the scenery along the Seine as you cruise to the provincial town of Vernon. You will have free time to explore the town, and later, we visit Giverny and the home and gardens of Claude Monet. The artist lived here for more than four decades and immortalised his ponds and flower gardens in some of his most iconic paintings. Alternatively, you may choose to tour the palace and gardens of Chateau de Bizy. Inspired by Versailles, Chateau de Bizy was constructed as a royal chateau and is home to descendents of Emperor Napoleon. (BLD)

Day 11. Caudebec, Freedom of Choice
After a scenic morning cruise on the Seine, arrive in the old fishing village of Caudebec. You will have a choice of two tours. The first option is to visit Honfleur, a historic and picturesque port with pastel-coloured houses that was a favourite subject of artists such as Courbet, Boudin and Monet. As an alternative, choose the ‘Routes des Abbayes’ excursion spotlighting Normandy’s famous abbeys, more than 100 of which once covered this region. You will visit the ruined abbey in Jumièges as well as St. Wandrille, which is still a working monastery. Or you may wish to visit two gardens of major importance at Varengeville-sur-Mer, which is near Dieppe, Le Vasterival and Les Bois des Moutiers. (BLD)

Day 12. Normandy, Freedom of Choice
Today you may choose to visit the D-Day beaches and learn about the historic events of June 6, 1944. Another option is to visit Bayeaux, for a gardens and culture tour including a visit to the Bayeaux tapestry and visit Brecy garden, considered the most beautiful garden in Lower Normandy. A further option is to visit rural Normandy, which includes a visit to the Pays d’Auge famed for its apple orchards and the ‘Routes du Cidre’ the Cider Road. (BLD)

Day 13. Rouen Sightseeing
Enjoy a morning walk through this medieval city and see the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral, painted numerous times by Monet, and the square where Joan of Arc was martyred. Afterwards, you will have free time to explore Rouen, perhaps sampling some delicious cheeses. This afternoon you will have the opportunity to visit the spectacular garden Le Jardin Plume, just outside of Rouen, or Jane Webster’s Chateau Bosgouet. Afterwards enjoy scenic cruising on the Seine to Les Andelys. (BLD)

Day 14. Les Andelys
A stroll along the river in Les Andelys offers beautiful views of the Seine Valley’s dramatic white cliffs, centuries-old half-timbered houses, and the hilltop ruins of Château Gaillard. This former stronghold of Richard the Lionheart changed hands a number of times during the Hundred Years’ War. Athletically-inclined guests may enjoy hiking up to visit the ruins of this historic castle before we continue our cruise to Conflans. (BLD)

Day 15. Malmaison, Freedom of Choice
Today you have a choice of two excursions. Visit Château Malmaison, former home of Napoleon and Josephine, including the Château’s interior, gardens and museum. Alternatively, travel to Auvers-sur-Oise, a town famous for the Impressionist painters who lived there in the 19th century, such as Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro. Your Artists’ Walk tour will include many sites associated with their work, including the Auberge Ravoux, former home of Vincent van Gogh. The ship departs this afternoon for Paris, arriving in the early evening. (BLD)

Day 16. Paris, Disembark Ship
Depart the ship after breakfast this morning. (B)

Botanical Experts
Julie Prent and Dr Toby Musgrave, garden author and historian is your Botanical Guide. Special Guest Lecturer is Anna Pavord, Author of The Tulip.

This tour can be combined with:

· Mediterranean Landscapes Cruise (BTIN15)
· Morocco Art & Gardens (BTMOR10)

Landscapes, Art and Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence and the Cévennes National Park

Landscapes, Art and Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence and the Cévennes National Park

 

Menton – 4 nights

Day 1: Sunday 8 May, Arrive Nice – Transfer to Menton
•Introductory Meeting
•Welcome Evening Meal

On arrival at Nice’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach and travel west along an awesome coastline where the pre-Alps plunge almost sheer into the sea, to the port town of Menton. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Hotel Napoléon, Menton. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information. For the next 5 nights we stay at the 4-star Hotel Napoléon, located just across the road from the beach and only a ten-minute slow walk to the old town of Menton. In the hotel’s private off-street courtyard, an exotic garden designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières hides a small paved area. For Ossart and Maurières, hotel gardens “must be able to satisfy each client’s need for privacy and yet welcome people in groups. As much as the interior decoration, the gardens participate in the overall feel of the place and must be designed around an original idea or theme. Finally, they must be attractive in all seasons, whether as places to relax in or simply to be seen from windows”. This evening we enjoy a welcome meal at a local restaurant overlooking Menton’s Garavan Bay. (Overnight Menton) D

Day 2: Monday 9 May, Menton
•Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh
•Guided tour of Menton including the Salle des Mariages
•Jean Cocteau Museum, Menton

We start the day with a visit to the sub-tropical botanical garden of Val Rahmeh, laid out in 1905 for Lord Radcliffe, Governor of Malta. In 1957 Miss May Sherwood Campbell acquired the property and a second garden, now accessed by a bridge, and created a pond with water hyacinths, water lilies, and papyrus. In 1966 she donated her property to the nation, and today it is owned by The French Museum of Natural History. A guided tour will reveal a wonderful array of lush plantings. Menton occupies a natural amphitheatre dominated by Mount Agel and the Gorbio and St. Agnes Heights. Ruined fortresses clinging to its surrounding cliffs testify to the town’s deep, turbulent history. Here we shall study the work of one of the coast’s greatest creators, the famous artist and film-maker Jean Cocteau. Cocteau first came upon Menton in 1955 while vacationing at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. He fell in love with its high-cliffed coastal charms and began the next year, at the request of the mayor, to redecorate the town hall’s Salle des mariages with frescoes and furnishings all with a theme of ‘Love’. Nearby we also visit the new Jean Cocteau Museum which includes 990 works by Cocteau. All of the artist’s key periods are represented, from the first self-portraits of the 1910s up to the “Mediterranean” period towards the end of his life. There are drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics, tapestries, jewellery, books and manuscripts and 172 photographs relating to Cocteau. There are also works by fellow artists Picasso, Modigliani, Di Chirico and others. (Overnight Menton) B

Day 3: Tuesday 10 May, Menton – Villefranche-sur-Mer – Beaulieu-sur-Mer – Menton
•Villa Santo Sospir, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat (exclusive private visit)
•Villa Les Cyprès, Villefranche-sur-Mer – SCAPE DESIGN garden by James Basson (private garden by special appointment)
•Villa La Papaline, Beaulieu-sur-Mer – SCAPE DESIGN garden by James Basson (private garden by special appointment)

This morning we travel to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat to visit the private Villa Santo Sospir, a charming home decorated by Jean Cocteau during his stay in 1950. The villa was at that time owned by Cocteau’s friend, Francine Weisweiller, who had asked him to stay in the Côte d’Azur. Cocteau made a lasting impression of the villa, taking his paintbrush to various walls around Ms Weisweiller’s home. Cocteau returned frequently to the villa to make films, paint and write up until his death in 1963. We will be able to tour both the house and the gardens. After lunchtime at leisure in Villefranche-sur-Mer we meet with James and Helen Basson who have kindly arranged to show us two examples of their work. James Basson has worked in the South of France for over 14 years. With his company Scape Design, he has established a reputation for creating low maintenance, dry gardens that mix contemporary design with traditional skills. They create timeless sustainable landscapes that are sympathetic to the natural environment, using young plants that are compatible with the native climate and soil, requiring little if any, irrigation. In 2013 Scape Design was awarded Gold medal and Best garden in the ‘Fresh Garden Category’ at the Chelsea Flower show; and it received two major awards at the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show for its most innovative and unique design. Our first visit is the garden of Villa Les Cyprès, a ‘dry-garden’ in Villefranche-sur-Mer. ‘Designed for this prestigious villa, the brief was to have no irrigation and low maintenance. We had to find a solution that would create a unified approach to the 3 individual properties whilst maintaining privacy for the interconnected spaces. The planting consisted of over 500 species that were laid out in bands of grey and green foliage with specific heights depending on the band, relevant to shade or sun. The idea was to create as quick a ground cover as possible, planting closer than normal, accepting that some plants will be out grown by others but that maintenance would be reduced due to the fact that the ground cover is established in the first year. The clean-cut simplicity of the pool, and crisp edging of the paving contrasts with the complexity of the planting.’ In Beaulieu-sur-Mer we are able to view the garden of Villa La Papaline, another private, traditional garden. ‘The brief was to create a traditional garden using lawn, beds, proportions and sight-lines. Old materials were desired to create a garden that felt as if it had been there for centuries. There are a series of fountains and bassins that bring water from the top of the garden to the pool. A temple at the summit of the garden, formal box parterres and lines of lavender, Iris and agapanthus add to this formal effect.’ (Overnight Menton) B

Day 4: Wednesday 11 May, Menton
•Clos du Peyronnet, Menton
•Serre de la Madone, Menton
•Dinner at Restaurant Mirazur, Menton

This morning we visit one of the garden highlights of the region, the Clos du Peyronnet. Created by Mr and Mrs Derick Waterfield (and still tended by their son’s nephew), the Clos du Peyronnet was established around a Belle Époque Italianate villa in the Garavan (gardé du vent: ‘sheltered from the wind’), on terraces between vertical cliffs and the sea. The villa façade has been engulfed by a wisteria sinensus (Chinese Wisteria). Oreopanax, catalpa and jacaranda give way to a wet grotto, terraces of heat-loving plants such as hibiscus and solanum, architectural cypresses, and a water garden designed to afford glimpses of the Mediterranean below. This afternoon we visit Serre de la Madone, designed in the 1920s by Lawrence Johnston, creator of the world-famous Hidcote Garden in the Cotswolds, England. Johnston was interested in acclimatising a large variety of exotic species to this inimitable environment. La Serre de la Madone is a secluded paradise with double curving steps, fountains, pools, classical statuary, green garden rooms, a Moorish patio and orangeries for tender exotic plants. Johnstone employed 12 gardeners to tend his 7 hectares of terraces that boast an almost bewildering variety of plants from throughout the world. This evening we dine at the Restaurant Mirazur, which enjoys spectacular views of Menton’s old town and harbour. Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco excels in original Mediterranean-style dishes, using wild herbs, edible flowers and the freshest vegetables obtained from the restaurant’s garden. (Overnight Menton) BD

Nice – 4 nights

Day 5: Thursday 12 May, Menton – Villefranche-sur-Mer – Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – Beaulieu-sur-Mer – Nice
•Chapelle Saint-Pierre by Jean Cocteau, Villefranche-sur-Mer
•Villa Ephrussi, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
•Villa Grecque Kérylos, Beaulieu-sur-Mer

This morning we drive out to Cap-Ferrat, a narrow peninsula extending far out to sea. Our first visit is to the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, painted by Jean Cocteau at Villefranche. The ornamentation of the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, a jewel of the modern symbolist art, was a dream cherished for a long time by Cocteau that he finally realized in 1957. He superintended the ceramicists and stonecutters who worked on his project. The chapel evinces a simple, humble fervor reminiscent of small Romanesque churches. It simultaneously represents St. Peter’s life, the village dear to Cocteau’s childhood, and the artist’s friendship for the fishermen to whom the chapel was dedicated. The road to Cap-Ferrat offers wonderful views of the Mediterranean. The Cap itself was one of the most fashionable resorts of the twentieth century and is associated with such luminaries and eccentrics as Somerset Maughan, who lived in the Villa Mauresque, and Léopold II of the Belgians, who established the world’s most important private botanical gardens there. In 1926, Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild chose a site here for her enormous villa and garden – Villa Île de France. The eclecticism of her garden, named after the famous ship and tended during her residence by gardeners in sailors’ uniforms, reflects the syncretic mix of styles that made the Riviera an important avant-garde centre in the early twentieth century. We shall take a guided tour of the villa’s first floor that includes terracotta sculptures by Clodion, a Meissen China Room and a Tapestry Room whose furniture by Jacob is upholstered with Beauvais tapestries. We shall then tour the villa’s seven exquisite gardens which include patios, waterfalls, ponds, floral borders, shady walks and rare species of trees. The garden ensemble comprises Florentine, Spanish, formal French and exotic gardens, as well as rose and rock gardens. After lunch in the villa’s tearoom, we visit the Grecian Villa Kérylos, one of the most extraordinary sites on the French Riviera. It was built in the early 1900s, in the Belle Époque era, and is a unique and extremely luxurious re-creation of an ancient Grecian dwelling, complete with wall decorations and furniture. It was built as the tribute to Greek civilization by two great Hellenophiles, Théodore Reinach, an archaeologist and patron of the arts, and the architect Emmanuel Pontremoli who based the design on the remains of noble houses from the 2nd century BC on the Island of Delos. Everything inside, from the arrangement of rooms to the details of the décor, was designed to recreate the atmosphere of a luxurious Grecian villa. From the garden around the villa there are fine views of the Cap-Ferrat peninsula, dotted with magnificent mansions. The garden contains a pleasing mixture of typically Greek plants: olive trees and vines, pomegranate and carob trees, acanthus and myrtle, oleanders and irises, pine and cypress trees, palm trees and papyrus which all help create a Grecian look and feel in the bright Mediterranean sunshine. We then head for Nice where the evening will be at leisure. (Overnight Nice) BL

Day 6: Friday 13 May, Nice – Opio – Châteauneuf-Grasse – Nice
•La Casella, Opio (private garden by special appointment)
•Lunch at Restaurant Le Mas des Géraniums, Opio
•Jardin de la Villa Fort France, Châteauneuf-Grasse (private garden by special appointment)

Our first visit is to the garden of La Casella, a stylish pavilion located on the site of an old Jasmine farm. The garden was created by Tom Parr and his partner Claus Scheinert, and is a wonderful example of a late 20th-century garden combining Provençal, English and Italian styles. Here, Parr created a series of flower-filled rooms that became a benchmark of simple grandeur. The gardens themselves, under Scheinert’s astute direction, have become more structurally ambitious, lusher, and more romantic with every season. It is a garden of parallel, raised terraces with each terrace more perfect than the last. Laurus nobilis has been sculpted into rows of obelisks, walls clipped from Italian cypress and yew. Old-fashioned roses form one terrace in a planting framed by lavender. The house, integrated with the garden, is colored terra-cotta and planted with white wisteria. Tom Parr, who died aged 81, was one of England’s leading postwar decorators (a term he proudly preferred to “interior designer”), working first with David Hicks and then for 35 years at Colefax and Fowler, of which he became chairman. Parr decorated for a legion of worldwide clients, from Dame Vivien Duffield to members of the Ford dynasty and Château Latour. Many of his clients became lifelong friends, among them the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort at Badminton, where Parr was to achieve some of his finest work. It was at this house that for a decade Tom Parr endured the debilitating effects of Parkinson’s disease. He died on 29 July 2012, and is survived by Claus Scheinert, who will welcome us and show us the garden. We lunch among olive, fig and lime trees at Le Mas des Géraniums, a typical Provençal farm located on Opio’s hill. In this peaceful and beautiful setting, we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by the owners Colette and Michel Creusot. Just a short drive away is the garden of Villa Fort France. The original owners, Lady Winnifred Fortescue and her husband Sir John, an archivist and military historian, bought it in 1935. Lady Fortescue wrote a best-selling account of her struggles to create her home there entitled Perfume from Provence, which was illustrated by A.A. Milne. She followed this success with two further books written when she moved to Opio: Sunset House and Trampled Lilies (which recounts her time during the war years). The rose garden she created was expanded to form the current garden by Jeanne Gruniaux, who continued to advise the present owners Pierre and Valérie de Courcels until her death. The de Courcels have added their own deft and artistic touches to create a lovely garden full of colour, much of which comes from a superb use of annuals (poppies, larkspur, love-in-the-mist and aquilegia plus a sweet pea hedge). (Overnight Nice) BL

Day 7: Saturday 14 May, Nice – Tourrettes-sur-Loup – Saint-Paul de Vence – Vence – Nice
•Domaine du Prieuré, Tourrettes-sur-Loup (private garden by special appointment)
•The Maeght Foundation, Saint-Paul-de-Vence
•Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence

Today we drive through some of the finest scenery in the south of France. We first travel up to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, where we visit the private garden of Joanna Millar, recently acclaimed as ‘the grand dame’ of Riviera gardening. Joanna’s roses will be in full flower, as will the irises that she grows in serried ranks among a fine collection of other native and exotic plants.

Then we drive to Saint-Paul de Vence, built on a rocky outcrop and surrounded by ramparts overlooking the coast. Fortified in the sixteenth century, it remained beautifully intact and began to attract artists such as Russian painter Marc Chagall who moved here in 1966. A host of famous artists and writers were drawn to the beauty of the surrounding area and its exceptional light. Later it also became a favorite ‘hang-out’ of film directors and French and international stars such as Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.

After some time at leisure for lunch and to walk around the narrow and picturesque streets of Saint-Paul de Vence, we visit the Marguerite and Aimé Maeght Foundation, which hosts an exceptional collection of twentieth-century works. André Malraux, then Minister of Cultural Affairs, inaugurated the Foundation on July 28th 1964. It is a unique example of a private European art foundation. This architectural ensemble was entirely conceived and financed by the Parisian art dealers Aimé and Marguerite Maeght to display modern and contemporary art in all media. Painters and sculptors collaborated closely in the realization of the complex with Catalan architect Lluis Sert by creating works, many of them monumental, that were integrated into the building and its gardens: the Giacometti courtyard; the Miró labyrinth with sculptures and ceramics; mural mosaics by Chagall and Tal-Coat; a pool and stained glass window by Braque, and a Bury fountain. We shall enjoy its collection of paintings, sculptures, drawings and graphic works by artists such as Bonnard, Braque, Calder, Chagall, Giacometti, Léger, and Miró.

We return to Nice via the town of Vence, noted for its Chapelle du Rosaire, conceived and created by Henri Matisse. From 1943 to 1949, an ailing Matisse settled in Vence and employed a young nurse, Monique Bourgeois, who became his confidante and model. In 1946, the young woman entered the religious Order of the Dominicans and was ordained Sister Jacques-Marie and shortly after persuaded Matisse to design the chapel for her community. The result is a unique masterpiece, which Matisse worked on for 4 years (1948-1951) to elaborate the plans of the building and all the details for its decoration, stained glass windows, ceramics, stalls, stoup, cult objects and priestly ornaments. For Matisse this work was ‘the fruit of [my] whole working life. In spite of all its imperfections [I] consider it as [my] masterpiece’. (Overnight Nice) B

Day 8: Sunday 15 May, Nice – Cap d’Antibes – Antibes – Nice
•Scenic drive Cap d’Antibes
•Château Grimaldi – Musée Picasso, Antibes
•Provençal Food Market, Cours Masséna, Antibes
•Matisse Museum, Nice

This morning we tour the Cap d’Antibes, a beautiful peninsula with a winding road that reveals stunning views around every corner; we shall take in the grand panorama at the highest point of the cape, the Plateau de la Garoupe. We visit the port town of Antibes, which attracted many writers, such as Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald as well as artists like Picasso. Our walking tour includes a visit to Antibes’ Provençal food market on the Cours Masséna. We also visit the Château Grimaldi, a mix of twelfth and sixteenth-century architecture, which houses the Musée Picasso. Picasso used the castle as his studio for a time in 1946. In addition to his paintings, there’s a fine collection of the master’s ceramics. After lunchtime at leisure in Antibes we drive just out of Nice to Cimiez, site of a small Roman city. It is more famous, however, for its museum devoted to France’s greatest modern painter, Henri Matisse, who lived in Nice from 1917 to his death in 1954. We shall view the paintings in the museum that span his career, from the very early Still Life with Books (1890) to his Rococo Armchair (1947) and Blue Nude (1952). (Nice) B

Aix-en-Provence – 3 nights

Day 9: Monday 16 May, Nice – Fréjus – Bouc-Bel-Air – Aix-en-Provence
•Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre, Fréjus (private garden by special appointment)
•Les Jardins d’Albertas, Bouc-Bel-Air (private garden by special appointment)

This morning we drive to Fréjus, built upon the remains of an ancient harbour where Octavian (Augustus) moored ships captured from Cleopatra’s fleet at the Battle of Actium. Our main interest is not Fréjus’ Roman remains, however, but the Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre of Madame Nicole Arboireau, chief exponent of the Provençal cottage garden. Nicole Arboireau’s garden contrasts vividly with the foreigners’ gardens you have hitherto encountered. She has set herself the task of nurturing the Provençal tradition of the small garden in which local plants are propagated. We will explore this lovely small domain, learning much about the traditions of gardening in this region, and enjoy a delicious Provençal buffet, prepared by Nicole herself. Nicole’s delightful book Jardins de Grands-Mères describes the gardens of grandmothers, with their special secrets revealed. Following our visit, we continue to Aix-en-Provence where we shall be based for the next three nights. En-route we shall visit Les Jardins d’Albertas at Bouc-Bel-Air. The city of Aix-en-Provence occupies a site previously inhabited by Celts, Greeks and Romans. It rose to prominence as capital of the County of Provence and then the royal city of the House of Anjou. Under René of Anjou it was a centre of Italian and French culture. Absorbed by the French monarchy at the end of the fifteenth century, it became the home of the Parlement de Provence, a status it lost during the French Revolution. The Marquis Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas, first president of the Provence Audit Office, decided in 1751 to create a garden to the south of the city at Bouc-Bel-Air. The craze for gardening in mid-eightenth century France meant that the domain was laid out before the house. In fact, this country retreat never gained its house. The garden, which includes a kitchen garden, is laid out somewhat like Villandry in the Loire. Its formal parterres have a profusion of sculpture set against powerful vistas. It has been maintained since the eighteenth century by the Albertas family, which has taken great pains to maintain its original state. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

Day 10: Tuesday 17 May, Aix-en-Provence – Valensole – Aix-en-Provence
•Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole (private garden by special appointment)
•Atelier Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence
•Orientation walk of Aix-en-Provence

This morning we drive north of Aix to the Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole. This bastide was constructed in the first half of the eighteenth century. Jean-Baptiste de Villeneuve, seigneur of Esclapon, who was descended from an ancient Provençal family, laid out its basic form. His garden still occupies three terraces with seven basins and fountains from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The present owner André de Villeneuve, has, over the last 30 years, created the present garden on the original terraces, around the early basins. Parterres planted in the tradition of the French formal garden, an alley of 100-year-old chestnut trees, a huge basin on the lowest terrace, and a view beyond to purple lavender plantations, form a magnificent ensemble, along with colourful roses and richly aromatic sage, thyme and other Provençal herbs. There are fruit and olive trees at every level, and remarkable walls constructed of round stones from the Valensole Plateau. Monsieur André will show us his garden and host us for lunch. In the afternoon we drive back to Aix to the Atelier Cézanne, which was the base from which this most careful and methodical of artists made excursions to paint in the countryside. When the weather was bad he worked in the atelier, painting his famous still lifes. One of the most interesting aspects of this museum is that it still has many of the objects Cézanne collected and used as subjects for these still lifes: a table, a short ladder, a high easel, a potbellied stove, a sofa, a few chairs, the items seen here were the only furniture present in the closed world of Cézanne. A few locally decorated vases, a ginger jar and an olive pot, a fruit bowl, a plate, a glass, a bottle of rum, three skulls, and a little plaster cupid by François Duquesnoy are among the smaller objects made so famous in his works that are in the atelier’s collection. Dickens visited Aix, Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral went to school and Marcel Pagnol attended university there, and it was Émile Zola’s home town. As a boy he became friendly with Cézanne, and the two enjoyed long excursions where Paul would paint and Émile would write. Our day ends with a guided orientation walk of Aix. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

Day 11: Wednesday 18 May, Aix-en-Provence – Cucuron – Aix-en-Provence
•Pavillon de Galon, Cucuron (private garden by special appointment)
•Lunch at La Petite Maison de Cucuron, Cucuron
•Afternoon at leisure

This morning we travel north of Aix-en-Provence to the Pavillon de Galon, a restored eighteenth-century hunting pavilion, surrounded by vines, orchards, cherry and olive trees. At the foot of the Luberon mountains and facing south, its grounds are secluded yet have stunning views all around. Its gardens, which boast a colourful mix of lavender and clipped hedges, have been awarded the status ‘remarkable garden’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment. We next drive to the preserved medieval village of Cucuron in the heart of the Luberon National Park, home to La Petite Maison de Cucuron, a delightful restaurant run by Michelin-star Chef Eric Sapet, which has a reputation as one of the finest restaurants in Provence. Located on the central square in the shade of hundred-year old plane trees, the Petite Maison serves traditional Provençal dishes made with fresh market produce. After lunch, we return to Aix where the remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

Avignon – 6 nights

Day 12: Thursday 19 May, Aix-en-Provence – Bonnieux – Ménerbes – Avignon
•Le Jardin de La Louve (She-Wolf), Bonnieux (private garden by special appointment)
•Le Clos Pascal, Ménerbes (private garden by special appointment)
•La Carméjane, Ménerbes (private garden by special appointment)

This morning we cross the Luberon mountain range to the picturesque village of Bonnieux, set atop craggy cliffs, where we shall visit the garden La Louve (She-Wolf). Nicole de Vésian began restoring her Provençal terrace garden on the lower fringe of this medieval town in 1987. Here the former fashion stylist designed house and garden in harmony with the natural surroundings, producing a result with the concision, beauty and elegance of a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie house. Since Nicole’s death in 1996, this tiny spot has become one of the most photographed gardens in the world. While La Louve was already dearly loved, the publication of Louisa Jones’ book, Modern Design in Provence (2011), only fanned the flames. Nicole also created several other gardens which are less well-known. In the Luberon hills, beneath the perched village of Ménerbes, we visit Clos Pascal, a little-known work by the famous Nicole de Vésian. Long, gentle terraces, cloud-clipped shrubs lead up to a potager garden and a small vineyard. La Carméjane, owned by Mr & Mrs Coxe, is located on the edge of the village. The rose-covered terrace reached from the house has amazing views of the rural landscape. The lower terrace has cherry orchards, a potager for the family and a new restored area planted with olive trees. In the late afternoon we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon (the name given to the western end of the range) to Avignon. (Overnight Avignon) B

Day 13: Friday 20 May, Avignon – Sorgues – Avignon
•Papal Palace, Avignon
•Pont Saint-Benezet, Avignon
•Afternoon at leisure in Avignon
•Château de Brantes, Sorgues: garden tour, Provençal dinner and classical music concert

Avignon, one of Europe’s most interesting and beautiful medieval cities, is sited majestically on the banks of the Rhône. Its historical importance and great monuments are due to its status as a papal city between the fourteenth and the eighteenth centuries; it reverted to the French crown in 1761. This morning we will visit the castle that served as a palace fortress for the seven popes whose sojourn in France between 1309 and 1377 came to be called by opponents ‘the Babylonian Captivity’. For the following 400 years it was the residence of the papal legate. This massive complex has some rooms that are masterpieces in their own right, such as the grand hall, the great kitchen, with its single huge chimney spanning the whole interior, and the papal bedroom with its painted walls depicting a great vine set against a blue background. Near the Papal Palace is the Pont Saint-Benezet, the famous bridge described in the popular children’s song, Sur le pont d’Avignon. Bridges were vital to medieval pilgrimage and Saint-Benezet, who built the bridge between 1177 and 1185, founded a company of bridge-builders to serve this purpose. Now missing a number of spans, the original 900 metre-long wooden structure was repaired and reconstructed – in stone – many times before half the bridge collapsed into the Rhône in the mid-1600s. Following an afternoon at leisure in Avignon we shall make our way to the Château de Brantes, located just outside the village of Sorgues, for a special evening tour and reception. The garden, which has the oldest magnolia tree in France (1780), was designed by the Danish landscape architect Mogens Tvede in 1956. The château, listed as a historic monument in 1987, is surrounded by an extensive plane-tree wood, and features a series of basins through which flows the river Sorgues. After a guided tour through the park and garden, we enjoy an al fresco Provençal buffet dinner, followed by delightful classical music concert given under the magnolia tree by a duo of professional harp and flute musicians. (Overnight Avignon) BD

Day 14: Saturday 21 May, Avignon – Eygalières – Noves – Avignon
•Mas Benoît, Eygalières (private garden by special appointment)
•Atelier and garden of Marc Nucera, Noves (private garden by special appointment)
•Les Confines – designed by Dominique Lafourcade, Noves (private garden by special appointment)

Today we are privileged to meet with Marc Nucera, renowned tree sculptor and ‘shaper’. Marc started his career as the student and disciple of the professor, sculptor and then garden designer and Land Art practitioner Alain-David Idoux. Although Idoux died tragically young, he left behind a legacy of ground-breaking design. Our day begins with a visit to the private gardens of Mas Benoît, located close to Eygalières, in the foothills of the Alpilles. The garden surrounding this traditional Provençal farmhouse or mas lies on a low hill with the magnificent backdrop of the Alpilles in the distance. It is considered a leading example of contemporary Mediterranean landscape art by Alain-David Idoux, with lavender wedge, almond spiral, rock river and oak groves sculpted by Marc Nucera. We next travel to Noves, just south of Avignon, to meet Marc Nucera at his atelier and experimental garden ‘Le Terrain’. Son of a furniture maker, Marc Nucera trained as a tree pruner, commencing with the rehabilitation of old olive orchards. In the 1990s, working with land artist, Alain-David Idoux, Marc began to evolve his own style. Local garden designers, including the legendary Nicole de Vésian, creator of La Louve (She-Wolf) garden in Bonnieux, gave help and encouragement. Nucera’s love of trees is reflected in the way he brings out the existing character of each individual plant, highlighting their best features so that they both enhance and give coherence to the surrounding landscape. He sculpts living trees, favoring natives such as almonds, green and white oaks, and the remnants of cypress hedging often found on old farmsteads. He also gives new life to dead trees by turning them into furniture and sculptures, either still in the ground or positioned near their place of origin.

“A garden is first and foremost a work of art, with the gardener playing the roles of architect, sculptor, musician and painter in turn. A garden should move visitors, setting all their senses aquiver” – Dominique Lafoucade.

This afternoon is dedicated to visiting Les Confines, one of Provence’s most famous gardens. This is Dominique Lafourcade’s own garden, which she and her architect husband have restored over the last twenty years. Seeing the garden as an extension of the house, Dominique sets out to tell “a story with plants, trees and flowers … and the wind as the backdrop”. She transformed a wheat field with a few plane trees and ancient oaks into an exuberant Italianate garden, where the five senses are constantly stimulated. Doted with cypress pillars, clipped topiary hedges, arches and squares, her famous garden lay-out and perspective are supported by a long rill flanked by olive trees planted in huge Medici terracotta pots flowing into a water-lily pond. (Overnight Avignon) BL

Day 15: Sunday 22 May, Avignon – L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – Gordes – Apt – Avignon
•Sunday Market, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
•Scenic drive to Gordes
•La Chabaude (private garden by special appointment)

We depart early this morning, and travel 30kms west of Avignon to visit the Sunday market of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This large market is a food market, flea market, and antique market where you can buy everything from olives to Fine Art. The town itself stretches across the Sorgue River, earning it the nickname “Venice of Provence”, and makes a very lovely backdrop to this large market with its shade-providing plane tress, babbling river, historic waterwheels, and flower-filled riverside cafés and restaurants. The town is famous for being a big hub for antique dealers and is the second largest antique centre in France (after Paris). Having collected some ingredients for a picnic lunch we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon. This scenic drive takes us to the village of Gordes, perhaps the most picturesque of the perched villages. The houses of Gordes rise in picturesque tiers above the Imergue valley on the edge of the Vaucluse plateau. The stone buildings built in tight against the base of the cliffs and those perched on the rocks above, including the 12th century castle, are made of a beige stone that glow orange in the morning sun. A short drive across the valley takes us past Rousillon, a village that stands on the highest hill between the Coulon valley and the Vaucluse plateau. These striking hills, composed of ochre rock of 16 or 17 different shades featured in the local houses, enhance the beauty of the village and the surrounding countryside. Continuing 10kms west through the Luberon mountain range we reach La Chabaude, a beautiful stone manor sitting on twenty acres near the market town of Apt. The gardens designed by owner and landscape architect Philippe Cottet are an emerald masterpiece which include sculptural boxwoods, sycamore trees, towering topiaries and fragrant rosemary and lavender. In the late afternoon we return to Avignon where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Avignon) B

Day 16: Monday 23 May, Avignon – Pont du Gard – Arles – Avignon
•Pont du Gard
•Museum of Antiquities (Musée de L’Arles Antique), Arles
•Theatre and Amphitheatre, Arles
•Saint-Trophime and its cloister, Arles

Today we travel a short distance to visit the Pont du Gard, one of the best preserved of all Roman aqueducts. Its survival testifies to the building skill of the Romans, for the massive blocks of which it is fabricated have remained in place despite the fact it is a dry stone construction (without mortar or cement). Then we continue our travel to visit Arles and experience the fascinating history of this Provençal town with its Roman monuments. Our first visit is to the splendid Musée de l’Arles Antique. Inaugurated in 1995 the museum features a wonderful head of Caesar and a 31m long Roman boat which was discovered beneath the Rhône in 2011. Provence takes its name from the fact that it was the oldest non-Italic ‘province’ (provincia) of the Roman Empire outside Italy. Arleate (now Arles), a major Roman city, was built to protect the vital estuary of the Rhône. This colonia was given a typical gridded street plan that can still be traced in the centre of the city. It had an important amphitheatre, which in the Middle Ages became a castle but is now used for bullfights, and a theatre, now used for festivals. Arleate was a major centre of early Christianity and produced a number of very important martyrs who were buried in its great cemetery, Alyscamps. Among these was Saint-Trophime, whose Romanesque basilica has one of the finest porticoes in Provence, with a porch modeled on a Roman triumphal arch. (Overnight Avignon) B

Day 17: Tuesday 24 May, Avignon – Saint Etienne du Grès – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence – Villeneuve-lès-Avignon – Avignon
•Le Petit Fontanille, Saint Etienne du Grès (private garden by special appointment)
•Mas Theo, the Provençal garden of Pierre Bergé at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (private garden by special appointment)
•Abbey of Saint-André, Villeneuve-lès-Avignon: Royal Abbey and garden

This morning we visit Le Petit Fontanille, the private garden of Mrs. Anne Cox Chambers near Saint Etienne du Grès. Le Petit Fontanille is the work of several English garden designers, Peter Coates, Rosemary Verey, and more recently Tim Rees. The garden merges perfectly into the hills, the woods and olive groves of the surrounding countryside and its success lies in its combination of a profusion of native plants with exotics that are compatible with the climate. Here the design is all about lines; olive trees form a horizontal mass against the verticality of the Italian cypresses. A highlight of our tour is a visit to Saint-Rémy where we visit Mas Theo, the town courtyards of fashion magnate Pierre Bergé, lifelong companion of Yves Saint Laurent. Named after the brother of Vincent Van Gogh (the artist lived for a year at the nearby asylum), the gardens were created in 1992 by Michel Semini, a sought-after landscape architect whose clients included many Parisian fashion and film people. We then drive to Villeneuve-lès-Avignon to visit the royal Benedictine Abbey of Saint-André and its magnificient terraced garden. Restored at the end of the seventeenth century by the King’s architect Pierre Mignard, the abbatial palace has retained its elegantly vaulted rooms, grand entry doors and monumental staircase. The terraced gardens offer stunning views of the Popes’ Palace in Avignon across the Rhone River. They are covered with old roses, Mediterranean natives, and century-old olive and pine trees planted among the remains of Romanesque style churches and tombs dating as far back as the sixth century. At the entrance of the abbatial palace lies a parterre garden in sixteenth-century Tuscan style, decorated with ponds, vases and sculptures, and bordered by a pergola covered with wisteria and roses. (Overnight Avignon) B

Florac – 3 nights

Day 18: Wednesday 25 May, Avignon – Uzès – St Quentin la Poterie – Florac
•Wednesday market of Medieval village of Uzès
•Jardin de la Noria, St Quentin la Poterie

Our journey continues 15kms north-west of Avignon to the pretty village of Uzès, home to one of the most colourful markets in the south of France. The Wednesday morning market, located on the Place aux Herbes, specializes in produits du terroirs (regional products and specialties) where you can find creamy goat cheese, garlic olives, fragrant herbs, pots of thyme-flavoured honey, bread and even small jars of snail and shallot spread! Here we shall buy fresh produce before continuing to the Jardin de la Noria where we shall enjoy our picnic lunch. Inspired by the remains of an ancient water wheel (noria) and the theme of the paradise garden, this contemporary garden was conceived by Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart, whose work we have already encountered at the Hotel Napoléon. The creators wanted to reconcile tradition and modernity, respecting the rural site of Mas de Licon and the traces of the surrounding ancient agricultural landscape, whilst adopting a resolutely modern vocabulary. Since 2007, this garden has become an artistic dialogue between brutalist concrete (béton) and landscape, with concrete sculpture, furniture and other ‘folies’ placed in grasslands. We then drive to our friendly family hotel in the picturesque village of Florac at the very centre of the Cévennes National Park, where we shall stay for the next three nights. We dine in the hotel restaurant L’Adonis, whose owner and chef Martial Paulet will serve dishes with the best local seasonal produce. The hotel is situated on the escarpments of the Causse Méjean close to the awesome Gorges du Tarn, Mont Lozère et du Mont Aigoual. Robert-Louis Stevenson became enamored of this awesome region and spent much wandered through it. (Overnight Florac) BLD

Day 19: Thursday 26 May, Florac – Mont Lozère – Finiels – Pont de Montvert – Florac
•Orientation walk in Florac
•Mont Lozère scenic drive
•Pont de Montvert

We spend the next two days exploring the Cévennes National Park in the company of local expert mountain guide Anne Nourry, Vice-President of the Association Sur Le Chemin de Robert Louis Stevenson. The Cévennes, now a UNESCO-listed National Park, was and still is one of the wildest areas of France, with mountains and deep gorges. Ninenteenth-century travellers like Robert Louis Stevenson visited isolated villages that seemed locked in the past, with a tradition-bound, conservative culture. Many peasants of the Cévennes, like much of the population of southern France, had converted to Protestantism in the sixteenth century. When Louis XIV revoked the Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes (1685), which had assured Protestants the right of free worship, the Cévenne Huguenot Camisards revolted (1704-1712); their revolt is called the Camisard Revolt. When Stevenson trekked through the area, Protestantism was again tolerated, but the deeply conservative people of each Cévenne village adhered universally either to the Protestant or Catholic cause. Intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants was strictly forbidden and offenders would be cast out of both villages. Stevenson, a Scot, was himself a Protestant, and both the geography of the Cévennes with its barren rocky heather-filled hillsides, and the history of religious strife that lay over the land, were familiar to him. Today’s program will combine coach touring with easy rambles through the countryside and to small, medieval villages. We shall be able to imagine the area as Robert-Louis Stevenson saw it, with its wilderness scenery of rugged escarpments, deep valleys, small streams and a host of pretty wildflowers. After an orientation walk in Florac, we take a scenic drive to the summit of Mont Lozère which is the highest peak in the Cévennes National Park. It offers some stunning natural scenery and is covered by coniferous plantations and ‘broom’ scrub moorland. A short walk will enable us to view the Pic de Finiels which rises at 1699m. The distinct geological zones that make up the Cévennes National Park sustain different types of landscape, which have all been shaped by human activity. Mont Lozère is a granite massif scattered with typical reliefs called felsenmeer (block fields). Water is omnipresent in springs, peat bogs and rivers. The bare crests are summer pastures for great flocks of sheep. Mont Lozère bears the signs of ancient human occupation: menhirs, Gallo-Roman vestiges, etc. Following our lunch in the small village of Finiels, we drive to the Pont de Montvert (870m altitude), located at the base of the south-facing slopes of Mont Lozère. Le Pont de Montvert is a pretty granite village that is named for its hump-backed bridge (en dos d’âne) that spans in a single arch the swift-flowing Tarn. The bridge is guarded by a defensive tower at the village end, now with a less bellicose function: it holds the village clock. Medieval in aspect, the bridge and tower date to the seventeeth century. The bridge is well known as one of the places that Robert Louis Stevenson stopped during his famous Travels with a Donkey and now forms one of the stopping points along the popular trail that follows his original route. (Overnight Florac) BLD

Day 20: Friday 27 May, Florac – Gorges du Tarn – Gorges de la Jonte – Florac
•Boat excursion, Gorges du Tarn
•Belvédère des Vautours (Vulture Lookout), Gorges de la Jonte
•Farewell Evening Meal

This morning we focus on the great Gorges du Tarn, an impressive canyon cut by the Tarn through the harsh limestone plateaux (causses) south of the Massif Central. We shall drive along the gorges and then take a boat excursion down the Tarn as it winds through the most spectacular section of the valley. Starting from La Malène, we board small flat-bottomed boats and make our way down the river in the crisp morning light through Les Détroits, the most beautiful and narrowest section of the canyon, between towering vertical cliffs of up to 400 metres, and end at the Cirque des Baumes (baume meaning cave), where the gorge widens forming a magnificent amphitheatre. Following a picnic lunch we travel to the western edge of the park, where the Gorges du Tarn meets the Gorges de la Jonte. Here we visit the Belvédère des Vautours, an interpretive centre and viewing point for the many vultures that nest in the gorge, mostly Griffon Vultures, but now also Black Vulture. With the aid of national park officers, we may view their nests, and watch individuals and groups perched on the dramatic gorge walls. Two decades or so ago these giant airborne scavengers were almost extinct in the Cévennes. Now, thanks to a successful reintroduction program, some 75 pairs breed in the national park. Following a majestic aerial ballet performed by 30 or so vultures we return to our hotel and enjoy a farewell meal together. (Overnight Florac) BLD

Day 21: Saturday 28 May, Florac – Nîmes TGV Station
•Dinosaur footprints, St-Laurent-de-Trèves
•Corniche des Cévennes

This morning we drive out of the Cévennes National Park. Our journey takes us past the little hamlet of St-Laurent-de-Trèves, situated on a rocky outcrop with magnificent views. Dinosaur footprints have been discovered here, dating back 200,000 years when the region was a limestone swamp. A short walk around the site reveals a number of footprints, which are amazingly clear. From here we continue our journey south along the scenic Corniche des Cévennes, past the village of Saint-Jean-du-Gard and on to Nîmes’ TGV station, where you will be able to take a train to your airport or next French destination. B

Sicily and Malta

Sicily and Malta with Sandy Pratten

 

In the heart of the Mediterranean, between Europe and Africa, the islands of Sicily and Malta offer a long and fascinating history, a wealth of art, architecture and culture, and a unique botanical and gardening environment.

On this tour circumnavigate Sicily before crossing by ferry to finish in Malta. On the way, discover spectacular rugged landscapes, charming Baroque cities, ancient sites and a vibrant lifestyle. Throughout visit a selection of botanic gardens and private palaces and villas where you will learn about the art of Mediterranean gardening – so appropriate to much of Australia.

Sandy’s tours are renowned for their stimulating itineraries, great food and wine, and fun and friendship. This tour promises more of the same!

AT A GLANCE …
• Enjoy a comprehensive tour of Sicily with stays in Catania, Taormina, Palermo, Agrigento and Syracuse
• Discover ancient Neolithic, Greek and Roman sites and ruins
• Climb Mt Etna, swim in the Mediterranean and enjoy springtime in Europe
• Marvel at the Baroque cities, art and architecture of both Sicily and Malta
• Visit botanic gardens, private palaces and villas throughout
• Finish with a three-day stay in Malta, with the option to extend

ITINERARY

Mon 02 May 2016 / Depart Australia
Suggested departure from Australia on Emirates / Qantas flights to Catania via Rome. Overnight in flight.

Tue 03 May 2016 / Arrive Catania
Early evening arrival in Catania and transfer to your hotel for check-in.

A city with the formidable Mount Etna looming over it, Catania has been destroyed nine times in the course of its history, and every time it has been rebuilt on the same spot.

This evening join Sandy and fellow travellers for a welcome reception. (R)

Wed 04 May / Catania
Begin your exploration of Catania with an orientation tour taking in the Piazza Duomo and the Cathedral of Saint Agatha, built in the unique local Baroque style, with contrasting lava and limestone. See Piazza Amenano and its famous Fountain of the Elephant, the symbol of the city, and Via Etnea where, on a clear day you can see Mt Etna rising at the end of it.
This afternoon visit the Orto Botanico di Catania. Established in 1858, the garden is divided into a general and the Sicilian garden, which is dedicated to the cultivation of indigenous Sicilian species including the cultivation of native mountain plants from Mt Etna.

Continue to the Villa Bellini, the city’s largest park, from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of Catania and whose major attraction is the Botanical Clock – a date display of flowers, which is updated and replanted daily.

This evening enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

Thu 05 May / Catania
To the north of the city is Le Stanze di Fiore di Canalicchio. Set in seven acres this garden surrounds a neo-classical country villa built in the 1800s. The project began in 2000 by Rossella Pezzino de Geronimo with the aim of creating a contemporary flower garden combining well-known Mediterranean flower species with rare tropical and subtropical plants. Enjoy a local lunch in the gardens.

Continue to Casa Pennisi. The garden of Villa Pennisi is one of the few Italian gardens that has maintained its original structure and dimension, where it was planted at the end of the XIX Century. Designed by Mariano Falcini, who characterised it with a classical structure, with paths delimitated by high box hedges and impressive flower beds. Tropical plants were inserted together with Mediterranean essences creating an incredibly fascinating and attractive ensemble.

Possible optional evening performance (opera, concert) at the Teatro Massimo Bellini (subject to performance schedules, not included in tour cost). (BL)

Fri 06 May / Taormina
Leaving Catania head to the hill town of Taormina via the imposing Mt Etna (subject to volcano activity). Mt Etna is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and the highest point on the island. The lower slopes of the volcano are extremely fertile with groves of oranges, lemons and other Mediterranean flora and of course vines which produce Sicily’s best wines.

Located on these slopes is Villa Trinità, an agricultural and farm estate that has been home to the Bonajuto family for at least eight generations. The garden that was born on lava, full of native and exotic species. Enjoy lunch in the garden.

The drive up the mountain slopes takes you through picturesque villages and an ever changing landscape. During your tour of Mount Etna visit the Sylvester Craters located at an altitude of 1800m and travel to 3000m by cable car and 4WD.

Continue to Taormina, arriving late afternoon. (BLD)

Sat 07 May / Taormina
Dramatically perched on the side of Monte Tauro, with wonderful views of the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Etna, Taormina was first publicised by the German poet, Goethe, in the late 18th century. Since the opening of the first hotel in 1874, it has been one of the world’s most favoured and exclusive resort destinations.

During a morning tour, see the splendid Greek Theatre, the Roman ‘Naumachiae’, the 13th century Cathedral of Saint Nicolà, the 14th century Palazzo Corvaja, the 16th century Palace of the Dukes of Saint Stefano, and the Botanic Gardens also known as the Giardino di Duca di Cesaró.

Continue to Casa Cuseni, a garden built by the British painter Robert Kitson, now an Italian National Monument, B&B and living museum. Suspended in time, a rare Frank Brangwyn mural decorates the dining room, while the living room and library are filled with fascinating curios. Steep pathways lead through the villa’s Italianate terraced gardens, which offer views of Mount Etna’s perfect cone; they are a remarkable feat of design, filled with exotic trees, fountains, wisteria-draped pergolas and secret nooks. (BL)

Sun 08 May / Taormina – Palermo
Depart Taormina for a full day’s journey to Palermo via Messina and Cefalù. Visit the Regional Museum of Messina whose highlights include the Polyptych of San Gregorio (1473) by Antonello da Messina, two late works by Caravaggio, the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Resurrection of Lazarus, and a rare and exquisite bust of Isabella of Aragon by Francesco Laurana (1490).

Continue to Cefalù, a small fishing village along the northern coast. Walk down the main street, Corso Ruggero, to the splendid Romanesque cathedral boasting a stunning array of mosaics. Time at leisure for lunch before continuing to Palermo.

Palermo is Sicily’s capital and lies on the north coast along a bay known as the Conca D’Oro (the golden shell) because of its glittering citrus groves. The Arabs, a people who knew the joy of a green oasis were the ones who introduced gardens to Palermo; the Normans extended the idea by creating parklands and summer palaces to escape the heat.

Dinner in a local restaurant. (BD)

Mon 09 May / Palermo
Morning orientation walk of the historic centre of Palermo. Walk through the colourful Mercato della Vucciria and visit the Palazzo Abatellis, a Spanish-Gothic palace with the Regional Gallery of Sicily which houses Antonello da Messina’s Annunciation.

Continue to the Orto Botanico of Palermo, one of the top Italian academic institutions and a centre of scientific research in conservation of the environment. The Neoclassical Gymnasium, the Tepidarium and the Caldarium were designed by the Frenchman Léon Dufourny in 1789. The oldest section of the garden, known as the Linneian section, is a rectangular layout divided into quadrangles, within which the species are categorised according to Carolus Linnaeus’ system of classification.

After time for lunch visit the extravagant Norman Cathedral, the Palazzo dei Normanni and the Capella Palatina founded in 1132 by Roger II, and one of the richest Norman monuments in Sicily with a major series of mosaics. (B)

Tue 10 May / Palermo
This morning visit the Italian garden of the quirky Palazzina Cinese, before heading to
Villa Malfitano. Constructed in 1886 by Joseph Whitaker, the grandson of a famous English wine merchant, who moved to Sicily in 1806 and made a fortune producing Marsala wine. Whitaker had trees shipped to Palermo from all over the world to plant around his villa, including a rare species of Dragon’s Blood – an enormous banyan tree and the only one found in Europe at the time.

Afternoon at leisure. This evening wander to the Palazzo Gangi, a 15th century ancestral palace where Wagner composed the opening bars of Parsifal and in 1963, Visconti filmed the magnificent ballroom scene of The Leopard. (B)

Wed 11 May / Palermo
Morning visit to Monreale, a hilltop town close to Palermo with one of the greatest cathedrals in all of Italy, the Monreale Duomo. Arab-Norman art and architecture reached the pinnacle of beauty in this cathedral, launched by William II in 1174.
Afternoon at leisure.

Before dinner at a local restaurant, attend the opera dei pupi (marionette theatre) which has a long tradition in Southern Italy. The repertoire usually includes the lives of bandits and saints, historical events and Shakespearean dramas (subject to performance schedules). (BD)

Thu 12 May / Palermo – Agrigento
Depart Palermo and tour across the bare, brown hills of the centre of Sicily to Agrigento, stopping along the way to visit Corleone made famous by the film The Godfather, now the centre of study on the history of the Mafia. On arrival in Agrigento visit the Valley of the Temples, an impressive complex of Greek temples, one of the greatest sights left of the ancient world. (BD)

Fri 13 May / Agrigento – Syracuse
This morning visit the Garden of Kolymbethra, abandoned until 1990. Possibly built by the Greeks, it was certainly worked by the Arabs who introduced their irrigation system into this five acre garden where an 800 year old olive tree bears witness to the garden’s antiquity.

Depart Agrigento for Syracuse stopping at Piazza Armerina to visit the Villa Romana del Casale. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Roman villa built in the first quarter of the 4th century contains the richest, largest and most complex collection of Roman mosaics in the world.

Late afternoon arrival in Syracuse (BD)

Sat 14 May / Syracuse
After breakfast walk around the island of Ortigia, the historic centre of Syracuse.
Highlights include the famed theatre of Syracuse, the altar of Hieron II, and the ancient quarries. Continue to the Galleria Regionale del Palazzo Bellomo housed in a beautiful 13C palace. The art gallery is home to The Burial of St Lucy by Caravaggio.

Afternoon at leisure. (B)

Sun 15 May / Syracuse
Spend the day visiting a couple of private gardens. Heading south to the Giardino Il Beviere. Situated on a small lake, the property has a history of Greek legends and Borghese ownership dating back to 1392. Resurrected from a state of ruin to a truly unique Mediterranean garden with lush palms, blue Jacaranda, old roses and a remarkable collection of succulents. The tranquil garden has an inviting array of structure, colour and fragrance a perfect place to enjoy lunch in the tranquil setting.

Continue to the Estate of San Giuliano at Villasmundo. The whole area was cultivated with citrus orchards until 1974 when four hectares were given over to the garden, and the present owner began to plant ornamental trees and shrubs. In the 1990s they created the Giardinetto. The four compositions limited by dry stone walls consist of a fruit garden and use the so called “saie”, small traditional irrigation canals of Arab origin, an Arab garden with water basins and water lilies.

Evening at leisure (BL)

Mon 16 May / Syracuse – Valletta
Morning at leisure. Early afternoon departure from Syracuse for the nearby town of Noto. The current town was rebuilt after the earthquake of 1693 and is famous for its fine buildings of the early 18th century, considered masterpieces of the richly decorated Sicilian Baroque style.

Continue to Pozzallo for dinner before embarking on an evening express ferry for Malta.
(departure at 09.30pm, arrival at 11.00pm). On arrival in Valletta transfer to your hotel. (BD)

Valletta is inextricably linked to the history of the military and charitable Order of St John of Jerusalem. It was ruled successively by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Carthaginians, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and the Order of the Knights of St John.

Tue 17 May / Valletta
Begin your exploration of Malta with a walking tour of Valletta. Visit the Upper Barracca Gardens, admire the Auberge de Castille and Leon and visit St John’s Co-Cathedral, where Caravaggio’s masterpiece The Beheading of St John is displayed in the Oratory. Also visit the Church Museum adorned with Flemish tapestries and the Knights Armoury located in the 16th-century Grandmaster’s Palace.

This afternoon visit the temples of Hagar Qim and Mnajdra which are unique architectural masterpieces, given the limited resources available to their builders. These temples represent a unique architectural tradition that flourished on the Maltese Islands between 3600 and 2500BC. Dinner in a local restaurant.

This evening (subject to performance schedule) possible performance of the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra. (BD)

Wed 18 May / Valletta
This morning enjoy a tour to Rabat and the ancient capital of Mdina. The Maltese Islanders are among the oldest Christian peoples in the world. St Paul, shipwrecked as a captive on route to Rome in AD 60, brought Christianity to Malta. His steps can be retraced in the shrines, grottos and catacombs of Rabat. Walk into the ancient citadel of Mdina, the former capital Malta. Visit the main cathedral of Malta, dedicated to St Paul, patron Saint of Malta, and walk to the imposing bastions commanding a magnificent.

Following a special farewell lunch at Mdina, visit the 18th century Palazzo Parisio, home of the noble Scicluna family and a treasure trove of delightful artefacts in the heart of picturesque Naxxar. Enjoy Afternoon Tea. (BL)

Thu 19 May / Depart Valletta
Morning at leisure before a transfer to the airport for afternoon departure on Qantas/Emirates flight via Dubai (B)

Fri 20 May / in flight

Sat 21 May / Arrive Australia

Grand Gardens of Europe 2016

Grand Gardens of Europe with Sandra Ross

 

DAY 1 – Tuesday 10 May 2016
Sydney – Amsterdam
Your Ross Garden Tours leader, Sandra Ross will meet you at the departure gate at Sydney International Airport for the Emirates flight to Amsterdam.

DAY 2 – Wednesday 11 May 2016
Amsterdam (B)
Arrive in Amsterdam and check in for four nights at the luxurious Renaissance Hotel situated in the historic city centre. This afternoon is free. Relax in the hotel with a sauna and spa, or take a canal cruise and discover the real Amsterdam. Meet up for a welcome dinner at the hotel.
Accommodation: Renaissance Hotel, Amsterdam

DAY 3 – Thursday 12 May 2016
Amsterdam (B/L)
For 66 years the world’s most beautiful flowering bulbs have been showcased in the gardens at Keukenhof. We will spend most of the day there admiring tulips, daffodils and hyacinths beneath canopies of flowering cherries and beech in vibrant new leaf. The gardens are completely remade every year and open for 2 months.
Accommodation: Renaissance Hotel, Amsterdam

DAY 4 – Friday 13 May 2016
Amsterdam (B)
We’re up early this morning to get to Aalsmeer Flower Market in time to catch the action of the auction! From an elevated walkway we can watch the world’s biggest flower market at work as flowers are sold and shipped around the world. Hortus Bulborum is next, a museum of antique bulb varieties. Free afternoon in Amsterdam.
Accommodation: Renaissance Hotel, Amsterdam

DAY 5 – Saturday 14 May 2016
Amsterdam (B)
Het Loo Palace, built William III and Mary II, is known as the Versailles of Holland for its formal design. The gardens were restored for the 300th anniversary of the palace in 1984 and are really impressive.
We head into the gardens, which were fully restored for the 300th anniversary of the palace in 1984, then we’ll explore the sumptuously furnished interiors of the palace. From upper windows you can glimpse the enclosed and highly decorative privy gardens on either side of the palace. From the gloriette at the bottom of the formal garden there are beautiful views of the intricate patterns of the parterres and the façade of the Palace.
A special dinner tonight at De Kas restaurant – where the chef creates one fixed menu based on the daily harvest grown mainly in the greenhouses and gardens at the restaurant.
Accommodation: Renaissance Hotel, Amsterdam

DAY 6 – Sunday 15 May 2016
Amsterdam – Paris (B)
Travel across Belgium to Paris with a lunch stop (own arrangements) in mediaeval Ghent.
In Paris we head for the left bank and Saint-Germain-des-Près to check into Pont Royal Hotel. This hotel is a little gem just five minutes walk from the River Seine, the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay. Make time for a cocktail in the bar. This is where F. Scot Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda held court for the American literati and introduced Parisians to the joys of mixed alcohol.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 7 – Monday 16 May 2016
Paris (B)
Morning free.
It’s the beautiful potager this afternoon at Domaine de Saint-Jean de Beauregard, which is attached to a 17th century chateau. There are lots of lessons here in fruit and vegetable gardening. But it’s not all about produce; there are peonies, iris, and roses in wide flower borders and walled gardens.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 8 – Tuesday 17 May 2016
Paris (B)
The fabulous Jardin Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne in the heart of Paris with its mini chateau set in an English-style park. See the Chinese pavilion, grotto, waterfall and orangerie. There’s the Rose Garden, the Iris garden, the potager and the lake. Free afternoon.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 9
Wednesday 18 May 2016
Paris (B)
Andre Le Notre designed the gardens at Versailles, but first he made them at Chateau Vaux le Vicomte, and that’s where we’re headed this morning. The chateau with outbuildings makes an exquisite ensemble with gardens sweeping to the horizon. This garden marks the beginning of the Baroque tradition in garden design. Gardens sweep along a grand perspective, almost three kilometres long. We won’t need to walk though, will hire electric buggies. Free afternoon.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 10 – Thursday 19 May 2016
Giverney (B/L)
Giverny, the garden of painter Claude Monet, might just be the most famous in all France. Monet’s garden was a part of his art – the garden and the paintings reflected each other. We’ll arrive early to experience the serenity of the Water Garden with its much-imitated, wisteria-draped Japanese bridge. Then there’s the thrill of the flower garden with roses growing over arches and flowers jostling for space. Lunch included in Giverney.
Accommodation: Hotel Scribe, Paris

DAY 11 – Friday 20 May 2016
Paris – London (B)
We’ll take the morning Eurostar (train) in First Class from Paris Gare du Nord to London St Pancras. We’ll have a sightseeing tour of London before we check in to The Royal Garden Hotel in the heart of Kensington, close to many London attractions.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 12 – Saturday 21 May 2016
London (B)
Wisley is our destination this morning, the headquarters of the Royal Horticultural Society with a suite of gardens that will make your heart leap. Free afternoon.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 13 – Sunday 22 May 2016
West Green (B/L)
Expat Marylyn Abbott’s West Green in Hampshire is a special treat for Australian visitors. Marylyn is an exuberant personality and wonderful gardener. You might remember her garden Kennerton Green, in Mittagong, NSW Southern Highlands. While the garden pays homage to its 18th-century origins, Marylyn’s sense of fun is given plenty of room to play. The Alice in Wonderland walled garden is a frivolous delight; the ornamental potager is beautiful; and there’s a classic water staircase and exquisite Persian water garden to contrast with the romantic lake garden. Lunch is included at West Green.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 14 – Monday 23 May 2016
Sissinghurst and Great Dixter(B)
If there ever was a hierarchy of Best British gardens, Sissinghurst would be at the top of the list. Surely 200,000 visitors a year can’t be wrong! Loved for its beautiful balance, garden rooms and inspired planting combinations, this is garden is the result of a special partnership between the Bloomsbury couple Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson. We’ll climb the tower for a fabulous view, explore each compartment of the garden, pop our heads into Vita’s writing room and walk down to the Moat, herb garden and through to the new Kitchen Gardens where produce is grown for the restaurant. The standard of horticulture here will astound and inspire you in your own garden. There’s time for lunch (own arrangement) before we travel on to Great Dixter.
Exuberant and full of joy, Great Dixter is a masterpiece of planting that just makes you want to smile. Its garden philosophy has been much copied around the world. Head gardener Fergus Garret took on the reins from the masterful Christopher Lloyd and now teaches horticultural students from around the world. The longest perennial border, subtropical plantings and a stunning orchard revolve around the heart of the gardens, a 14th century Tudor building full of charm.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 15 – Tuesday 24 May 2016
Chelsea Flower Show (B)
It’s our finale – ‘Opening Day’ at the Chelsea Flower Show, the most prestigious event in the horticultural calendar. Special tickets have been organised for us on RHS Members Day so we can avoid the crowded public days.
Accommodation: Royal Garden Hotel, London

DAY 16 – Wednesday 25 May 2016
London – Home (B)
Those returning home today have a free day in London. We transfer to Heathrow in the afternoon.

DAY 17 – Thursday 26 May 2016
Inflight

DAY 18 – Friday 27 May 2016
Arrive Home

The Great Gardens of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

The Great Gardens of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

 

DAY 1 : FRI 13 MAY HOME TO LONDON
Meet Colin Barlow, your Ross Tour Leader, at Sydney Airport for the flight to London (or meet us in Bath on Day 2).

DAY 2 : SAT 14 MAY LONDON – BATH
Arrive London, travel to Bath, with welcome lunch at hotel to meet new friends. Check into the MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel for the next three nights. Early afternoon walking tour to acquaint ourselves with Bath. Accommodation: MacDonald Bath Spa Hotel

DAY 3 : SUN 15 MAY STOURHEAD
After breakfast, this elegant example of picturesque English Landscape Style combines classical architecture, lake reflections and a fine 18th bridge with copses of mature trees, rhododendrons and just burst Beech trees overhead. Lunch included at Stourhead café, then back to Bath to relax or soak in the hotel spa. Dinner in the hotel.

DAY 4 : MON 16 MAY STONEHENGE
We drop into a pretty English Nursery for some window shopping, we’ll see their display at Chelsea next week so we can enjoy a little behind the scenes Chelsea action. Stroll through their display gardens, lunch in the restaurant. Wander back in time at Stonehenge this afternoon!

DAY 5 : TUE 17 MAY BATH – OXFORD
The prettiest village in England this morning with private gardens, village walk and morning tea in their church hall! We’ll see Arlington Row and walk along the banks of the River Coln. Pop into the late Rosemary Verey’s Barnsley House with afternoon tea included. On to Oxford where we’re staying in The Randolph, a 19th century hotel for the next four nights, perfectly located opposite the Ashmolean Museum. The Randolph is famous as the home of the Morse Bar, where the great TV Inspector’s sidekick Lewis invariably paid for the pints! Dinner tonight is included at a local restaurant.

DAY 6 : WED 18 MAY BLENHEIM PALACE
A trip to the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill today, Winston’s grandfather was the 7th Duke of Marlborough. We’ll discover extravagant Blenheim Palace, England’s answer to Versailles at Woodstock and its splendid ‘Capability’ Brown landscape, various gardens and palace additions added by different generations of Marlborough dukes. We’ll take guided tour through the Baroque palace and gardens to help us fully appreciate the sheer grandeur of the site.

DAY 7 : THU 19 MAY HIGHGROVE
Morning visit to the much anticipated Highgrove House, a truly unique garden full of HRH’s flair, personality and surprising sense of humour. A no camera policy today allows us the perfect opportunity to appreciate the ambience and deafening birdsong, a tribute to His Royal Highness’s organic and sustainability principles. Highlights include his potted tulips, decorative yew hedges, wildflower meadows, breathtaking walled kitchen garden, quirky sculptures, and most of experience the magic of a woodland ‘stumpery’.

Highgrove House visit subject to the Prince’s schedule and opening times of the garden. The alternative is a private garden in Worcestershire, Historic house Coughton Court stands in 25 acres of grounds containing some of the most breathtaking gardens in the country. Created over the last 17 years, the gardens include Walled Garden, two sunken gardens and Early Summer Garden, formal lawns, lake and Bog Garden, riverside walks, a formal courtyard garden, vegetable garden, orchard and fruit garden. Gardens are now mature and are solely managed by the Throckmorton family.

DAY 8 : FRI 20 MAY HIDCOTE
Today we’ll journey across one of the most rolling-green romantic landscapes in Britain – the Cotswolds. Then, at the intricately maintained Hidcote Manor, that shelter beneath the arches of an ancient Cedar of Lebanon tree. We’ll discover why this Arts and Crafts garden has been so influential whilst reveling in wisteria, tulips and rhododendrons. Philadelphis, virburnum and magnolia; we get lost in this delightful scratch and sniff garden full of fragrance at this time of year.

DAY 9 : SAT 21 MAY OXFORD – LONDON
Hatfield House in Hertfordshire is our highlight today. The garden dates back to the first earl of Salisbury in the early 17th century and is still maintained by Lady Salisbury and her small team of gardeners. It’s one of the most attractive historic gardens in Britain. We’ll walk the knot garden adjoining the old palace where Elizabeth 1st spent much of her childhood, enjoy Lady Salisbury’s private garden and wander through the covered Lime Walk, kitchen garden and admire the mass of bulbs flowering in the woodland. Spend time in the children’s clothing shop, lolly shop, bookshop in the estate’s outbuildings before lunching in leisure in the cafe.

Travel to central London and check in to Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington for the next four nights. Kensington gardens and Palace are just a stone’s throw away.

DAY 10 : SUN 22 MAY WEST GREEN HOUSE
Marylyn Abbott is an exuberant personality and wonderful gardener. You might remember her garden Kennerton Green, at Mittagong in the Southern Highlands. Marylyn has since moved to England and taken on the re-creation of West Green in Hampshire. While the garden pays homage to its 18th-century origins, Marylyn’s sense of fun is given plenty of room to play. The Alice in Wonderland walled garden is a frivolous delight; the ornamental potager is beautiful; and there’s a classic water staircase and exquisite Persian water garden to contrast with the romantic lake garden. Lovely lunch in the conservatory.

DAY 11 : MON 23 MAY SISSINGHURST and GREAT DIXTER
The very best of English garden design today. If there ever was a hierarchy of Best British gardens, Sissinghurst would be at the top of the list. 200,000 visitors a year can’t be wrong! Loved for its beautiful balance, garden rooms and inspired planting combinations, this is one of England’s best and admired gardens; the result of the special partnership between infamous Bloomsbury couple Vita Sackville-West and Sir Harold Nicolson – it’s a living time capsule.

We’ll climb the tower for a fabulous view, explore each compartment of the garden, pop our heads into Vita’s writing room and walk down to the Moat, herb garden and through to the new Kitchen Gardens where they grow all the produce for the restaurant. The standard of horticulture here will astound and inspire you in your own garden. Lunch here in the restaurant where they serve food locally grown in their kitchen gardens.

We head to Great Dixter – exuberant and full of joy, we visit a living masterpiece of planting that just makes you want to smile. Its garden philosophy has been much copied around the world with the head gardener Fergus Garret taking on the reins from the master the late Christopher Lloyd and teaching batches of horticultural students from around the world. The longest perennial border, subtropical plantings and stunning orchard revolve around the heart of the gardens, a fourteenth century Tudor building full of charm.

DAY 12 : TUE 24 MAY CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW
It’s a bucket list day today! ‘Opening Day’ at the Chelsea Flower Show is reserved for VIPs and members of the Royal Horticultural Society only, but we have arranged tickets so that you can enjoy it without dealing with the maddening crowds that flock on public days. It’s a buzz; we’ll have the chance to meet our favourite exhibitors. Enjoy multimillion dollar show gardens, smaller artisan gardens, plenty of time for browsing, picnicking near the grandstand, a glass of Pimm’s in the shade, and just inhaling the floral extravaganza in the Great Pavilion. See fragrant sweet peas floor to ceiling, roses to die for and the very best of international horticulture on a mind boggling scale. We’ll spend the whole day at Chelsea and head back to the hotel late in the afternoon.

Tonight we’ll share stories and favourite moments during the farewell dinner at the hotel.

DAY 13 : WED 25 MAY LONDON – HOME
Those returning home today have a free day in London. We transfer to Heathrow in the afternoon.

DAY 14 : THU 26 MAY INFLIGHT

DAY 15 : FRI 27 MAY WELCOME HOME

2016 Garden Tour of France & Germany with Danube Cruise, hosted by Helen Young

Garden Tour of France & Germany with Danube Cruise 2016, hosted by Helen Young

 

DAY 1 Thursday May 26, 2016 Departure
We depart Australia on our flight to Paris.

DAY 2 Friday May 27, 2016 Paris
On arrival in Paris we are met by private coach and transferred to our hotel, where we’ll have time to freshen up, before enjoying a sightseeing tour of the romantic city of Paris with a local guide. Highlights include the Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Tuileries and a drive along the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. Those wishing to dine together can meet in the lobby, where the tour manager will suggest good-value restaurants for dinner.

DAY 3 Saturday May 28, 2016 Paris
This morning we visit Claude Monet’s famous house and garden at Giverny. The garden, with its ponds and water lilies and Japanese bridge, appears in many of the artist’s paintings. Another section of the garden has a more formal layout, featuring espaliered apples and pears and abundant plantings of roses, irises, spring bulbs, poppies and more. It has been magnificently restored and gives a vivid impression of Monet’s inspiration. Helen will make sure that we get the most out of this garden. This evening we will enjoy a welcome dinner to formally meet Helen and other tour members.

DAY 4 Sunday May 29, 2016 Paris
This morning we visit the Chateau de Bagatelle on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. In addition to the noted rose garden with its climbing roses, there is a water lily pool, grotto, potager and iris garden. We will have free time to explore Paris in the afternoon.

DAY 5 Monday May 30, 2016 Beaune
Today we head to the Burgundy region of France and visit Jardins de l’Abbey de Fontenay. The abbey was founded in 1118 by St Bernard of Clairvaux. It is the oldest preserved Cistercian Abbey in the world and was included in the World Heritage Sites register by UNESCO in 1981. Surrounding the abbey is a wonderful landscaped park, nestled in the hollow of a valley that stretches over 1,200 hectares. The park was transformed by landscape architect Peter Holms in 1977. We will see a wide variety of roses, viburnums and hydrangeas as well as many ancient trees and a trout pond. It was classified as a remarkable garden in 2004. We continue on to Beaune, for a two-night stay. The tour manager will give recommendations of local restaurants for dinner.

DAY 6 Tuesday May 31, 2016 Beaune
This morning, we enjoy a sightseeing tour of the charming small town of Beaune with a local guide. The tour will include a visit to the famous Hotel-Dieu, founded as a hospital by Rolin in 1443, and a great example of Burgundian-Flemish art. We then travel with our local guide through the famous Cote de Nuits wine-producing area to the village of Nuits St Georges to enjoy a wine tasting at one of the famous Burgundy wine chateaux. On our drive north of Beaune, through the vineyards and west towards the mountains, we will see some of France’s most beautiful countryside. This evening, join us for an included dinner at our hotel.

DAY 7 Wednesday June 1, 2016 Strasbourg
We travel north of Beaune for a visit to the gardens of the Chateau de Barbirey. This park-like garden is set on 8ha in the l’Ouche Valley. A superb potager garden, orchard and natural prairie area are highlights of our visit. We continue to beautiful Strasbourg, where we will stay for the next three nights. Known as the “Venice of the north”, the city grew up around its first cathedral, established in the 7th century, later replaced by the Romanesque cathedral seen today. Strasbourg remained a free city within the Holy Roman Empire until eventually submitting to annexation by Louis XIV in 1681. The historic centre of Strasbourg was classified as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1988.

DAY 8 Thursday June 2, 2016 Strasbourg
A sightseeing tour of Strasbourg this morning includes the cathedral and a walk through the Old City, with its timber-framed houses and traditional features, such as wooden galleries and loggias. We see Place Kleber, the city’s most famous square. This afternoon will be free to explore the city individually – perhaps visit one of the many museums or shop in the historic centre of this charming town.

DAY 9 Friday June 3, 2016 Strasbourg
This morning we visit the Chateau de Kolbsheim and its garden. The chateau has two wings, the oldest built in 1703, with lovely views over the Alsatian plains. The upper part of the garden is a formal French garden, decorated with ponds, fountains, hedges and topiaries. The lower part is an English park, with many venerable trees. Much of the garden was destroyed in the First World War, but has been restored by the current owners, the Grunelius family. We continue our journey for a visit to Saverne’s historic rose garden, which contains more than 8,500 rose bushes with a total of 550 different varieties. With its attractive pools and fountains, this is a gorgeous garden, full of fragrance and colour. The remainder of the afternoon and evening will be free for your own exploration.

DAY 10 Saturday June 4, 2016 Regensburg
Today we travel east, across the European plain into Bavaria, continuing to Regensburg. On the southern side of Stuttgart, we visit the private garden of Waltraud and Hans Fahrion. The garden has been established for 20 years and features many box plants pruned into different shapes and used to divide the garden into garden rooms. A hint of the baroque is added by sculptures, stone shapes and furniture. We continue our journey to Regensburg.

DAY 11 Sunday June 5, 2016 Regensburg
Regensburg was originally a Roman garrison town, guarding the northernmost part of the Danube. It was a centre of religious life in the Middle Ages and became a trading hub. We will have a guided tour of this captivating town this morning. We will see the eight-storied Old Town Hall built in the 13th century and the Haidplatz, a square surrounded by historic buildings with the Fountain of Justice at its centre. We will see the green belt surrounding the historic centre. In the afternoon we visit the Palace and Gardens of Thurn and Taxis. The present palace was converted from an abbey and given to the prince, as compensation for his loss of the Bavarian postal monopoly in 1812. We visit the Max Buchhauser Garden, which is located on the north side of the Danube. This sculpture garden is impressive because of Max’s bizarre and whimsical character.

DAY 12 Monday June 6, 2016 Passau
This morning we drive to Passau, where we board our four-star river boat for our seven night cruise. Passau is known as the “town of three rivers” as it lies at the junction of the Inn, the Danube and the small River Ilz. The old town, with its baroque churches and patrician houses, lies crowded onto the narrow tongue of land separating the rivers. The rest of the day will be free to explore the boat and the charming town of Passau.

DAY 13 Tuesday June 7, 2016 Melk/Vienna
This morning we stop at the town of Melk for a visit to the Benedictine Abbey on a rocky outcrop above the town. The abbey was founded in 1089 when Leopold II gave one of his castles to the Benedictine monks. The monastic school was founded in the 12th century and the baroque abbey in the early 18th century. We continue to Vienna, where we arrive early evening and are moored overnight.

DAY 14 Wednesday June 8, 2016 Vienna
This morning we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of this grand city. We will see the Hofburg Palace, the former winter residence of the Hapsburgs, the Parliament, St Stephens Cathedral, which is known for its vast roof of glittering tiles, and the wide boulevards befitting an imperial city. In the afternoon we will visit the Schonbrunn Palace and Gardens now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is the former summer residence of the imperial family. It takes its name from a beautiful spring that was found on the site. Leopold 1 started building the grand baroque residence here in 1695. Half a century later, Maria Theresa transformed it into a glittering focus of court life. It remains the premier architectural, cultural and historic monument in Austria. The extensive gardens feature fountains and statues framed by trees and alleyways. There are follies, an orangerie, a French garden with a maze and a magnificent tropical greenhouse erected in 1882.

DAY 15 Thursday June 9, 2016 Budapest
We arrive in Budapest late morning. After mooring, we will enjoy a sightseeing tour of Buda, the hilly area around the castle. We see the ornamental gateway leading to the Hapsburg Steps and the royal palace and visit Matyas Church built between the 13th and 15th centuries. It was rebuilt in the baroque style by Franciscan friars in the 16th century. From Gellert Hill, we will get a stunning view of Budapest. We cross the Danube to Pest via the Chain Bridge, the city’s first permanent bridge. It was built in 1839 and led to an expansion of Pest in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Other sights on our tour around Pest include the Hungarian National Museum, the Parliament Building designed by Imre Steindl, the winner of a competition, and many Secession buildings. In the afternoon, we visit the Fuveszkert Botanical Garden located in the grounds of a villa in Pest. There are approximately 6,000 species of plants in the collection and a 150-yearold ginkgo tree, as well as a palm house with tropical and sub-tropical plants.

DAY 16 Friday June 10, 2016 Esztergom
This morning is free to explore Budapest. We depart on our cruise to Esztergom at lunch time. Esztergom is Hungary’s most sacred town, the seat of the Archbishop of Hungary. We have free time in the hour we are docked to explore this attractive town.

DAY 17 Saturday June 11, 2016 Bratislava
After docking in Bratislava, we travel to visit Buchlovice Castle. This Italian-designed summer house was built at the end of the 17th century for an Italian, Agnese Carlonna. During the 18th century the Berchtold family transformed the land around the villa into an elegant landscape of 65 hectares crossed by winding paths and dropping to a bridge over a stream. There is an outstanding collection of well-grown trees, now in their maturity. We return to the boat mid-afternoon.

DAY 18 Sunday June 12, 2016 Durnstein
Today we wake in the charming baroque village of Durnstein. We will have a sightseeing tour of the town and see the ruined castle where Richard the Lionheart was incarcerated. We then travel to a winery in the Wachau Valley for a tasting of wines typical of this region. We return to the boat at lunch time and sail to Passau.

DAY 19 Monday June 13, 2016 Passau/in flight
We travel to Munich airport to board our flight to Australia.

DAY 20 Tuesday June 14, 2016 Australia
We arrive in Australia this morning and tour arrangements conclude.

Gardens, Villages and Châteaux of Normandy and Brittany

Gardens, Villages and Châteaux of Normandy and Brittany

Tour Itinerary

 

Day 1: Saturday 3 September, Paris CDG – Lyons-La-Forêt – Rouen
• Lyons-la-Forêt village & welcome lunch at Hôtel du Grand Cerf & Spa
• Introduction
• Short Evening Orientation walking tour of Rouen
This morning we set out from Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport to the magnificent regional city of Rouen beginning our journey through the gardens, great houses, villages and historic monuments of Northern France.

En route we visit Lyons-la-Forêt, one of France’s most picturesque villages. Most of its houses, many of which have façades featuring intricate wooden frames, are from the seventeenth century, but Lyons was once a Roman settlement and afterwards site of a castle built by Henry I of England, son of William the Conqueror. Kings were attracted to the region by its magnificent hunting grounds in the nearby beech forest. Lyons also has an excellent covered market from the eighteenth century which was used in both Jean Renoir’s and Claude Chabrol’s films of ‘Madame Bovary’. We shall also pass the house of one of France’s greatest musicians, Ravel. Ravel, Debussy and Erik Satie all derived inspiration from Normandy’s beautiful landscapes.

After lunching in Lyons-la-Forêt we continue our journey to Rouen, arriving at approximately 2.30pm. After checking into our hotel, and some time at leisure, we shall have a brief introductory meeting followed by an orientation walk of Rouen within the vicinity of our hotel. (Overnight Rouen) L

Day 2: Sunday 4 September, Rouen – St-Georges de Boscherville – St-Pierre de Manneville – Montmain – Rouen
• Romanesque Abbey of St-Georges de Boscherville
• Manoir et Parc de Villers, St-Pierre de Manneville
• Le Jardin d’Angélique, Montmain
Our excursion from Rouen takes us first to the Abbey St-Georges de Boscherville. A Celtic shrine existed here for several centuries until in the seventh century a chapel dedicated to St George was built over it. In the eleventh century the great chamberlain Raoul de Tancarville founded here a college for canons which was transformed into a magnificent Bénédictine abbey. We shall visit the abbey with its fine Romanesque carvings and explore its garden, dedicated to plants believed by the monks to cure souls.

The remainder of the day is devoted to visiting some magnificent country manor houses in Normandy. Our first visit is to the nearby Manoir de Villers, a beautiful half-timbered manor house begun in the time of Charles VII (1403-1461) and added to for three centuries. A special delight will be a guided tour of the manor’s interior in which the owners M. and Mme Robert Mery de Bellegarde will show you the magnificent family furniture collection. It is surrounded by themed gardens where we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by our hosts.

Next, we travel to Montmain to visit the Jardins d’Angélique, which comprise two wonderful gardens. Originally created by Gloria and Yves Le Bellegard in memory of their daughter Angelica, the two separate gardens are very distinct in character. South of the manor house is a formal garden with walkways and clipped hedges, Italianate in style with box-edged beds of perennials and ornamental grasses, punctuated by yew topiary and a central fountain. It is designed to complement not only the rear elevations of the house, but to provide marvellous panoramas of the surrounding countryside. To the north is a flowing “English-style” garden, dreamy, romantic, with grassy paths winding between hundreds of shrubs, plants and trees. In the late afternoon we return to Rouen, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) BL

Day 3: Monday 5 June, Rouen – Buchy – Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy – Beaumont-le-Hareng – Rouen
• Buchy village market
• Le Jardin de Valérianes, Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy
• Le Jardin de Bellevue, Beaumont-le-Hareng
• Evening meal at Restaurant La Couronne
A second day trip from Rouen takes us first to the small village of Buchy where we shop for our lunch in the Monday market. Like so many local markets in Normandy, Buchy’s Monday market features exclusively local producers. Many of these farmers specialise in organic products. The medieval covered market hall has fixed wooden tables that were originally butchers’ blocks.

Three kilometres outside Buchy, Le Jardin de Valérianes, tucked away in a corner of the countryside, was created by a couple of passionate gardeners, Michel and Maryline Tissait, who named the garden after their two daughters. This English-style garden of over 4000 square metres offers much visual pleasure with its combination of perennials, roses, trees and bushes.

We then drive on to Beaumont-le-Hareng, where we visit Le Jardin de Bellevue. Le Jardin de Bellevue was created by the purist Martine Lemonnier in the 1980s and is famous for its collection of Hellebores (winter and Lenten roses). The gardens have been laid out in a very natural style with a walk through various styles of garden including a golden garden, a summer garden, a hydrangea garden and an alley of yews. A lot of thought has been given to making the gardens interesting throughout the year and there is something to see no matter when you choose to visit. Some of the highlights are the hellebores in winter, the magnolias and rhododendrons in spring, the hydrangeas in summer and the wonderful berries and leaf colour in the autumn.

Tonight we dine together at Restaurant La Couronne. Housed in a superbly preserved half-timbered home, it is considered the “oldest inn in France,” dating from 1345. (Overnight Rouen) BD

Day 4: Tuesday 6 September, Rouen – Ste Marguerite-sur-Mer – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Rouen
• Le Jardin du Vastérival, Ste Marguerite-sur-Mer
• L’Etang du Launay, Varengeville-sur-Mer
• Church & Sailor’s cemetery, Varengeville-sur-Mer
This morning, we drive to Marguerite-sur-Mer to visit the gardens of Vastérival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza. Vastérival is acclaimed to contain one of the finest plant collections in all of France. The gardens are strictly informal, consisting of some twenty acres surrounded by a natural woodland. Cleverly designed paths wander throughout the garden, through the rich under plantings of the woodlands, and issue into glades with countless surprises. The garden is world-famous for its collections of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, maples, birches, viburnums and camellias.

Following lunch at a restaurant located in the grounds of the Château de Varengeville, we visit L’Etang du Launay, the recently created private gardens of Jean-Louis Dantec, with its highly-pruned specimen trees leading to a lake and ponds, with extensive woodland planting beyond. Only 20 years in the making, this very private garden, created by owner Jean Louis Dantec, has already gained a reputation as one of the finest woodland gardens in Europe.

Next, we drive a short distance to the Varengeville-sur-Mer Church and sailors’ cemetery. Varengeville is an astonishing commune perched atop white limestone cliffs. It has attracted many artists including Claude Monet, and is famous for its church, with its stained-glass windows by Georges Braque. From the sailors’ cemetery, where Georges Braque, Albert Roussel and Porto-Riche are buried, there is a superb view of Dieppe and the cliffs towards Le Tréport. (Overnight Rouen) BL

Day 5: Wednesday 7 September, Rouen – Le Neubourg – Rouen
• Château Champ de Bataille, Le Neubourg
• Guided walking tour of Rouen
This morning we depart Rouen and travel south to Le Neubourg to visit Château Champ de Bataille, belonging to interior decorator Jacques Garcia. Garcia has completely renovated the eighteenth-century castle and gardens over the past 20 years. The château boasts a magnificent garden based in part on the classic French style and heavily influenced by drawings by the French designer Le Nôtre – hence its inclusion in Monty Don‘s first programme of his new BBC2 series, “French Gardens”, which aired on 1 February 2013. Monty was exploring “Gardens of Power and Passion” in and around Paris, with emphasis on those designed by André Le Nôtre, the son of Louis XVIII’s gardener at les Tuileries. The original gardens at Champ de Bataille fell into disrepair and had virtually disappeared when the present owner, Jacques Garcia, took it upon himself to recreate a garden in the grounds of the château. An outline plan of the former gardens had survived, which revealed the basic outline and terraces of the missing garden. This was used only as a general guideline, rather than copied slavishly. The resulting garden (which was begun in 1993 and took 12 years to complete) is a masterful blend of classical French and Italian design and inspiration, with modern influences. Parterres, follies, classical temples, fountains, lakes – 43 hectares of park and garden in all, crowned by a stunning view that stretches over a mile down the garden from the main terrace of the château du Champ de Bataille.

In the late morning we return to Rouen. Following some time at leisure for lunch we meet our guide for a walking tour of this beautiful and very historic city. The city grew up as an important centre of Roman Gaul, called ‘Rotomagus’, a derivation of the Celtic name ‘Ratuma’. It became an important ecclesiastical centre from the third century and part of the Duchy of Normandy and then the Norman kingdom (1066), until lost to the French by King John in 1204. Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England in 1419 after a protracted siege, but was reclaimed by France in 1449. By the end of the fifteenth century it had become a centre of the French Renaissance.

Rouen has some of the finest Gothic architecture in France. The façade of its cathedral fascinated Monet, who painted it at different times of the day. Other churches include the fifteenth-century church of St Ouen and the church of St Maclou (1437), both notable examples of French flamboyant architecture. The Gros-Horloge is a Renaissance pavilion containing a fifteenth-century clock, and the Tour Jeanne d’Arc is where the Saint was imprisoned before her execution. The Hôtel de Bourgheroulde (1501-37) is the best example of the city’s medieval domestic architecture. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore Rouen at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 6: Thursday 8 September, Rouen – Auzouville-sur-Ry – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Tourville-sur-Arques – Rouen
• Le Jardin Plume, Auzouville-sur-Ry
• Le Bois des Moutiers, Varengeville-sur-Mer
• Château de Miromesnil, Tourville-sur-Arques
This morning we drive to Auzouville-sur-Ry to visit Le Jardin Plume where owners Sylvie and Patrick Quibel have converted their orchard into a parterre. There is also a spring garden, summer garden and autumn garden. The summer garden is a kind of modern knot garden with a very formal layout of clipped box in a square edged pattern. Each ‘box’ is then filled with a very natural planting of grasses and perennials but the colours are superb – lots of golden yellow, deep red and burning oranges. The overall mix of formal and informal, the sombre green of the box and the jewel-like colours of the flowers are really superb. In September the box hedges are typically filled with vibrantly coloured flowers, interspersed with grasses. Favourite plants here are dahlias, crocosmias, heleniums, kniphofias and of course grasses – giving the plumes the garden is named for.

Further north, we visit the house, park and gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The residence and garden have been in the possession of the Mallet family since 1898. At that time, a young English architect, Edwin Luytens, who was to become famous for his houses and for the layout and architecture of imperial New Dehli, was asked to modify both the residence and the garden. Luytens designed Munstead Wood for Gertrude Jekyll, and the influence of both of these great English designers is evident in the gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The influence of Gertrude Jekyll is seen everywhere, including the design and plantings of the front garden which slopes toward the sea.
In the late afternoon we continue to the Château de Miromesnil at Tourville-sur-Arques, a splendid seventeenth-century (Louis XIII) château, where Guy de Maupassant was born. It is located within a large plantation dominated by a two hundred-year-old cedar of Lebanon, and contains a very fine kitchen garden. Its vegetable plots are surrounded by a bewildering variety of flowers. The park is enclosed by old brick walls and features fruit trees, rose trees, magnolias, arborescent peonies and a magnificent variety of clematis. Following a light buffet dinner at the Château de Miromesnil we return to Rouen for the night. (Overnight Rouen) BD

Day 7: Friday 9 September, Rouen – Giverny – Grigneuseville – Rouen
• Monet’s House and Gardens, Giverny
• Les Jardins Agapanthe, Grigneuseville
This morning we depart Rouen for Giverny, in the heart of Normandy, where the great Impressionist Claude Monet, lived for forty-three years. We visit the artist’s beautiful home and garden, a dominant theme of his later paintings, created when as an old man he was unable to travel. The water-lily pond and wisteria-covered Japanese bridge were of his own design and his favourite motifs. Monet’s house, ‘Le Pressoir’, and its gardens, have been faithfully restored and opened to the public. Your visit to his house will include a stroll through the garden with its thousands of flowers, including the Nympheas. You cross the Japanese bridge hung with wisteria to a dreamy setting of weeping willows and rhododendrons. Monet’s studio barge floated on the pond. In September the lawns are typically full of pink colchicums. The dahlias are eye-catching, and there are usually roses and nasturtiums in bloom at the house garden. No wisteria flowers, but the vine covers the bridge, and the pond is surrounded by greenery and impatiens.

This afternoon we journey to Grigneuseville to visit les Jardins d’Agapanthe, created and owned by landscape architect Alexandre Thomas. These gardens are an imaginative blend of traditional and experimental design with surprises at every turn, and are described by Vivian Russell in her article ‘Secret gardens of Normandy’: “The tone of this stylish garden is set from the moment you pass through the gate in the boundary hedge and step into the garden pavilion, the walls of which are covered with red Toile de Jouy fabric. A labyrinth of narrow paths flanked by lush vegetation weaves its way around corners, over bridges, up and down steps, through a long pergola, opening out here and there into clearings of what can best be described as imaginative garden tableaux. You might suddenly find yourself stepping into a Mediterranean garden with beach pebbles and dwarf pines, or peering into a pond so swampy that a pair of glinting crocodile eyes wouldn’t be out of place, or stepping down into the sunken lavender theatre ornamented with stone portals and a fountain, set against a raised backdrop of clipped yews of various heights and shapes”. (Overnight Rouen) B

Day 8: Saturday 10 September, Rouen – Le Havre – Honfleur – Bayeux
• Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre
• Time at leisure: Old Port of Honfleur
If you plot the landscapes painted by the Impressionists on a map of France, their locations correspond to the railway lines that led out from Paris along such corridors as the valley of the Seine, for the Impressionists were creatures of the bourgeoisie’s discovery of rural and coastal France, made available to it for the first time by steam trains. The landscapes of middle-class recreation were also reached by the new railways. One aspect of the bourgeois discovery of France was the development of seaside resorts, and one of the greatest painters of the beach was Eugène Boudin.

This morning we depart Rouen for Le Havre situated on the right bank of the estuary of the river Seine on the English Channel. Here we visit the André Malraux Modern Art Museum, which contains the second most extensive collection of Impressionist paintings in France. There are paintings by Claude Monet and other artists who lived and worked in Normandy including Camille Corot, Eugène Boudin (with the largest collection of his works in the world), Eugène Delacroix, Gustave Courbet, Edgar Degas, Édouard Manet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Gauguin, Alfred Sisley, Camille Pissarro, Paul Sérusier and Édouard Vuillard. Modern art is also well represented with works by artists such as Henri Matisse, Albert Marquet, Raoul Dufy, Kees van Dongen, Fernand Léger, Alexej von Jawlensky and Nicolas de Staël.

At approximately 1.00pm we continue to Honfleur where many Parisians spent their holidays. There will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the old, picturesque port, characterised by its houses with slate-covered frontages, painted by many artists including Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. The Sainte Catherine church, which has a bell tower separate from the principal building, is the largest church made out of timber in France. Honfleur’s attractions include its Saturday markets and the town is also famous for its chocolates.

In the late afternoon we continue our drive to Bayeux, our next base in Normandy, which is famous above all for its tapestry. (Overnight Bayeux) B

Day 9: Sunday 11 September, Bayeux – Castillon – Bayeux
• Cathedral Notre-Dame & historic centre of Bayeux
• Bayeux Tapestry Museum
• Time at leisure in Bayeux
• Jardins de Plantbessin, Castillon
Our program begins today with a walking tour of Bayeux’s historic centre and fine Cathedral of Notre-Dame. This gem of Normand architecture was consecrated on 14 July 1077 by Bishop Odo of Conteville, in the presence of his illustrious brother, William the Conqueror, duke of Normandy and King of England.

Mid-morning, we visit the special museum dedicated to the Tapisserie de la Reine Mathilde (Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror), which chronicles the Norman invasion of England. This Anglo-Saxon work, presented by the Queen to Bishop Odo in c.1080, was inspired by manuscript scrolls and the continuous narratives of the antique columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome. It chronicles events from the promise of Harold Godwin to bequeath his kingdom to William to the death of the Saxon king on the field at Hastings; it is fascinating for its detailed depictions of arms and the eleventh-century methods and machinery of warfare.

Following some time at leisure, our day ends with a drive to Castillon to visit the Jardins de Plantbessin, created by Colette Sainte Beuve as a water garden to complement her plant nursery. Here you will find a marvellous treasure trove of plants that includes beautiful samples of Japanese plants as well as herbs and heather, situated on a site which measures less than a quarter of an acre. (Overnight Bayeux) BL

Day 10: Monday 12 September, Bayeux – Caen – St-Gabriel-Brécy – Bayeux
• Abbaye-aux-Hommes & its abbatial church St Étienne, Caen
• Le Musée des Beaux-Arts, Caen
• Château de Brécy, St-Gabriel-Brécy
This morning we drive to Caen to visit the excellent small art museum (with works by Van der Weyden, Perugino, Poussin and Veronese), which is built within the ruined walls of William the Conqueror’s castle, and the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, and its church St Étienne. This masterpiece of Romanesque church architecture, which survived the 1944 Allied bombardment, was begun by William the Conqueror as his mausoleum. One reason for the finesse of this building, which influenced many later Romanesque churches, was the abundance of good building stone in the region.

After some time at leisure in Caen for lunch, we return to Bayeux via the gardens of Château de Brécy, residence of M. and Mme Didier Wirth. This will be a perfect introduction to the formal French garden; intimate in scale and exquisite in detail. Set in a wooded hamlet, the château would resemble a Norman farmhouse were it not for the pedimented entrance. The house dates from the seventeenth century, when it belonged to the Le Bas family, friends and associates of the great French architect after whom the distinctive pitched roof is named, François Mansart. The house bears many hallmarks of Mansart’s architecture. The garden, which is immediately behind the house, consists of five terraces, fine stone work, elegant parterres, pools, topiary and wrought-iron gates that provide views into Normandy’s countryside. (Overnight Bayeux) B

Day 11: Tuesday 13 September, Bayeux – Cambremer – Mézidon-Canon – Bagnoles-de-L’Orne
• Les Jardins de Pays d’Auge, Cambremer
• Parc & Jardins du Château de Canon, Mézidon-Canon
Today we travel east of Caen to discover the heart of the Pays d’Auge, with its stunning half-timbered farms, manors and châteaux and lovely agricultural landscape dominated by such elements as orchards and hedgerows. The Pays d’Auge is best known as the heart of production for some of Normandy’s best food products including the rich and aromatic cheeses of Camembert, Pont l’Évêque, and Livarot. It is also famous for its alcoholic cider and for its calvados, an apple brandy created from cider in the same manner that cognac is made from wine; through double distillation in copper stills. The brandy, which is 70 percent alcohol, is aged from 3 to 25 years in oak casks and then bottled.

We follow the designated ‘Route du Cidre’ to Les Jardins de Pays d’Auge, located outside the village of Cambremer. This series of themed gardens is situated around a seventeenth-century farmhouse and other half-timbered buildings, typical of Norman architecture. Listed as one of the ‘Jardin Remarquable’ in the Calvados region, this verdant 3-hectare estate lies adjacent to the Calvados Huet distillery.

Our final visit for the day is to the gardens of the Château de Canon, residence of M. Alain de Mezerac. Here, an eighteenth-century house is surrounded by contemporary gardens and a park, created by Jean-Baptise-Jacques Elie de Beaumont and his wife Anne-Louise. The family has owned this property since the Middle Ages. Their alterations of the house to the Neoclassical style, which brought on a lawsuit, resulted in a splendid two-storied structure, while pavilions and statuary in the garden landscape are English in style.

We stay for the next two nights in a lovely small heritage hotel, Le Manoir du Lys, at Bagnoles-de-L’Orne owned by a family noted for their fine cuisine, which we shall sample at our evening meals. The hotel is set in a pretty garden on the edge of the Andaine Forest. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-L’Orne) BLD

Day 12: Wednesday 14 September, Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet – St-Céneri-le-Gérei – Bagnoles-de-L’Orne
• Jardins et Terrasses du Château de Sassy, Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet
• Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei village & lunch at the Auberge des Peintres
• Free time in Bagnoles-de-L’Orne
A day trip today takes us to yet more lovely Norman villages and another garden. We begin with the gardens and terraces of the Château de Sassy at Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet. This is a spectacular formal garden, a benchmark of the French formal style, featuring clipped yews. It was designed in the first decades of the twentieth century by the famous Achille Duchêne for Etienne d’Audriffet. The designer took his inspiration from the great Le Nôtre, who was responsible for the gardens of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. The garden, which rolls out like a great carpet below an 18th-century château, is located in the Pays d’Argentan between hedged farmlands and the vast plains of the north. Its strict formality beautifully counterpoints a pastoral landscape of hedges and clumps of fruit trees where thoroughbred horses graze. A deep perspective of terraces with intricate broderies (‘boxwood embroideries’) planted in the shapes of Arabesques passes tiers of moats and features a round pool. A lovely small pavilion flanked by two monumental fastigiate yews and rows of shaped lindens forms the perspective’s centrepiece.

We next drive through the majestic Forêt d’Écouves to the village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei. In the sixth century an Italian anchorite, Céneri, established a hermitage here and this grew into the village of Saint-Céneri which is now considered one of the most beautiful villages of France. In the nineteenth century, its stone houses, Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes of the twelfth and fourteenth centuries and its small stone bridge attracted many artists, including Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Eugène Boudin.

We shall have lunch at the charming Auberge des Peintres and take a leisurely walk through the village before making our way to the spa town of Bagnoles-de-L’Orne for some time at leisure. The “Belle Époque” Quarter in Bagnoles-de-l’Orne constitutes a rather well-preserved example of what could be classed as a typical early twentieth-century French bourgeoise residential area. Built between 1886 and 1914 and located in the southern part of the town, it is filled with superb villas with polychrome façades, bow windows and unique roofing. (Overnight Bagnoles-de-L’Orne) BLD

Day 13: Thursday 15 September, Bagnoles-de-L’Orne – Ballon – Le Mans
• Jardins du Donjon de Ballon
• Le Mans: Guided tour of Old Plantagenet City incl. Saint Julien Cathedral
Today we drive out of Normandy toward the Loire Valley. Our first visit is to the gardens of the Donjon de Ballon, an important frontier fortress built by Guillaume Ier de Bellême in 1005, the first to be encountered by the Normans in their attempts to expand their territory. It was seized by William the Conqueror in 1064, two years before he invaded England; and in the eleventh century it changed hands twenty-five times! In the twelfth century the family of Chources, allies of the Kings of England, established control of the fortress which was to endure three centuries. During the Hundred Years’ War the castle was controlled by armed bands and contested by the English and French until the companions of Joan of Arc, Olivier de Prez, châtelain of Ballon, and his nephew Ambroise de Loré finally subdued it and its territory. The development of artillery rendered this type of fortress, composed of a high keep and prominent towers, outmoded.

The gardens of Ballon have been created since 1960 by the a’Weng-Guéroult family. They are made up of a number of parts. The Alley of the Linden Trees, with large rectangular beds, leads to the Court of the Lions named for the lions which guard the donjon’s drawbridge. The Jardin Clos sits within the ramparts and is in the transitional Medieval/Renaissance style. It is made up of three sections: the geometrical Jardin du Puits which surrounds the forty-five metre well which supplied the castle with water; Le Jardin du Milieu, inspired by Renaissance gardens, with ancient standard roses, aromatic plants such as hyssop, kitchen and medicinal herbs, and plants for dyes such as rose madder; La Motte Féodale (the feudal moat) which leads to the location of the very first wooden fortress, precursor to the stone donjon. There are beech groves here and the moats themselves are planted with fruit trees from around the world. This garden section, high on the castle crag, commands stunning panoramas of the forests of Normandy and Maine. Below this is the rose garden and surrounding the whole complex is a beautiful wood.

Following a light lunch in the Donjon du Ballon, we next drive a short distance to the city of Le Mans which lies on the banks of the River Sarthe. We are now in the region of Maine, of which Le Mans is the old capital. Surrounded by the modern city, the historic centre is dominated by the magnificent cathedral of Saint Julien. This building has a Romanesque nave and west end and a marvellously light Gothic east end with some of the most magnificent flying buttresses in France. The cathedral also has excellent stained glass from the thirteenth, fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. It is surrounded by a lovely precinct of timbered houses whose façades boast intricate patterns and some excellent carving. At points along the Sarthe are to be seen remnants of the city’s Gallo-Roman walls, Le Mans having been an important Celtic town before Julius Caesar invaded, and Augustus pacified Gaul. A local specialty is the famous “Rillettes du Mans”, made with pork meat cooked in its fat and best served simply with a farmhouse loaf. (Overnight Le Mans) BL

Day 14: Friday 16 September, Le Mans – Louplande – Saint-Biez-en-Berlin – Le Mans
• Gardens of the Château de Villaines, Louplande
• Le Jardin d’Atmosphere du Petit Bordeaux, Saint-Biez-en-Berlin
This morning we drive to the Château de Villaines, built on the ruins of a twelfth-century feudal castle, of which all that remains is part of the defensive moat on the southern side. The present buildings date from the mid seventeenth century and the Château de Villaines is typical of châteaux from that period, oriented with the main facades facing precisely north and south, and being long and slim to allow light to penetrate from windows on both sides, making it very light and airy. The main buildings comprise the château itself, the orangery in the northwest corner of the garden, and a large dovecote to the southwest.

Marc and Marie-José Forissier have been the owners since 1997 and are responsible for developing the garden as it appears today. Before they began work there was an English landscape garden in front of the house; this has been replaced by a formal French garden with clipped box topiary and lawns. To the right of the house is a recently planted orchard, to the south the remains of a large moat and many newly planted trees. However, its main feature is an extraordinary ‘potager en carrés’, a highly formalised and decorative fruit and vegetable garden divided into dozens of raised square beds and surrounded by a high wall. This garden, covering 2.5 acres, was restored by the present owners and includes a fine array of peonies, espaliered pear trees and apple trees trained in cordons. An attractive collection of Old Climbing Roses trail across arches giving the garden height. In 2005 it was awarded the prize for best potager garden in France by the French Horticultural Society (Société Nationale d’Horticulture de France).

Following a light lunch at the Château de Villaines, hosted by the owners, we continue to the town of Saint-Biez-en-Berlin to visit Le Jardin d’Atmosphere du Petit Bordeaux. This delightful garden was voted the “Preferred garden of the French” in the Pays-de-Loire region in 2014 by viewers of the France2 television channel. It was also awarded the ‘Jardin Remarquable’ label in 2007 by the French Minister of Culture. This private garden, which covers 1.5 hectares, has been created since 1987 by its owners. A wonderfully mature garden, it is full of trees under planted with hydrangeas, day lillies, hostas, ancient roses, acers and dogwood. Every season has its own interest and two large ponds provide focal points in the garden. There are more than 4000 different plants including collections of Acers, Hydrangeas, Cornus (including the beautiful Cornus kousa ‘Salomi’), roses and grasses. (Overnight Le Mans) BL

Day 15: Saturday 17 September, Le Mans – Vannes – Larmor Baden – Auray – Carnac
• Guided tour of the walled town of Vannes incl. Saint-Pierre Cathedral
• Boat tour from Larmor Baden for a visit to the Cairn de Gavrinis (weather permitting)
• Evening meal in the town of Auray
We depart early this morning and travel west to the south coast of Brittany. Nestled in the Gulf of Morbihan, in one of the world’s most beautiful bays, Vannes boasts all the discreet charm of a fortified town with two thousand years of history.

Following some time at leisure for lunch we take a guided tour of its remarkable old quarter, home to the impressive Saint-Pierre cathedral. We also take a walk along the town’s ramparts. These thirteenth-century fortifications which were remodelled until the seventeenth century provide wonderful views of the city’s formal gardens and the cathedral.

Mid-afternoon (and weather permitting) we continue our journey around the coast to the port of Larmor Baden for a short and pleasant crossing to the island of Gavrinis. Here we take a guided tour of the Cairn de Gavrinis, one of the most interesting megalithic monuments in Brittany. Built around 3500 BC, it is made of stones piled on a hillock and is 6m high and 50m in diameter. A fourteen metre-long covered gallery, made of nine cap stones resting on twenty-three carved supports, leads to a small funeral chamber (2.5m x 2.5m) which is roofed in by a single granite slab resting on supports covered with carvings. The magnificent carvings, while difficult to interpret, are typical of Neolithic art and include axes, sticks and deities etc.
In the late afternoon we continue around the coast to the pretty town of Auray which features the picture-postcard ancient quarter of St-Goustan, with its delightful fifteenth and sixteenth-century houses. The bend in the River Loch was a natural setting for the town and it soon became one of the busiest ports in Brittany. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin landed here on his way to seek the help of Louis XVI in the American War of Independence. We shall take a short walk through the village and dine together at a local restaurant before continuing to Carnac for the night. (Overnight Carnac) BD

Day 16: Sunday 18 September, Carnac – Mûr-de-Bretagne – Perros-Guirec
• Carnac: stone alignments and circles
• Les Jardins du Botrain, Manoir de Botrain, Mûr-de-Bretagne
We spend the morning in Carnac examining the largest Neolithic alignment in the world (3500-3000 BC), with almost three thousand upright stones arranged in eleven almost parallel lines over several kilometres, and consider the various explanations which have been offered for their purpose and function.

After lunch we depart for Les Jardins du Botrain located outside the small town of Mûr-de-Bretagne. Inspired by English garden design, this romantic garden in the centre of Brittany is a place of relaxation and contemplation. Surrounding an eighteenth-century manor house with its unique apiary, the gardens consist of many rooms including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, an iris garden, an area of hostas, acers, a pond and even a small lake.

In the late afternoon we continue to our hotel located outside the town of Perros-Guirec, on the northern coast of Brittany at the centre of the ‘Coast of Pink Granite’. The combination of pink rocks, blue sea and a few islands on the horizon make this area very picturesque. While based in Perros-Guirec we shall visit a number of private gardens as we journey through the area’s rocky coastline, deep-cut inlets and inland wooded valleys. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BD

Day 17: Monday 19 September, Perros-Guirec – Trédarzec – Tréguier – Penvénan – Perros-Guirec
• Les Jardins de Kerdalo, Trédarzec
• Tréguier
• Jardins de Pellinec, Penvénan
We begin this morning with a visit to the gardens of Kerdalo. The garden, in a valley near the Brittany coast, was the subject of a book by its owner-designer, Prince Peter Wolkonsky: “Kerdalo: Un Jardin d’Exception” (Paris, 1995). He began to create the garden in 1965. Originally a manor farm in its enclosed valley with natural springs, the formal garden develops into the wooded valley with a lake, pools and grotto with a rich collection of trees and shrubs. Since his death in 1997, his daughter Isabelle and her husband Timothy have restored the garden. They both trained as horticulturalists at RHS Garden Wisley.

Midday there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the old town of Tréguier, which dates from the sixth century. The port and harbour are picturesque, containing many pretty waterfront restaurants and crêperies. There are dramatic views of the quayside.

We end our day with a visit to the private manor house garden, Le Jardin du Pellinec. Inspired by the gardens at Kerdalo, the seven-acre garden on the Pellinec estuary with good soil was started in 1997. The microclimate has encouraged Monsieur Jean to grow a huge diversity of plants laid out in visual harmony. This superb garden was awarded 1st prize “Bonpland” in 2008. In the late afternoon we return to the hotel and enjoy dinner together. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BD

Day 18: Tuesday 20 September, Perros-Guirec – Ploëzal – Lanrivain – Perros-Guirec
• Château de la Roche-Jagu, Ploëzal
• Guingamp
• Le Grand Launay, Lanrivain
This morning we travel to Ploëzal to visit Le Chateau La Roche Jagu, which is surrounded by a contemporary garden in a magnificent setting overlooking the River Trieux. Inspired by medieval gardens, it features a kitchen garden, a medicinal garden and a flower garden. There are wonderful walks in the woodlands, where you can find areas of palms and camellias and water features.

Following some time at leisure for lunch in the market town of Guingamp we continue our journey inland to Le Grand Launay, a remarkable garden located in Lanrivain featuring a unique design, perfectly shaped topiary and beautiful hedging. The garden was designed by its owners, Jean and Jacqueline Shalit, in collaboration with the landscape designer Gael Boedec. Their work resulted in a beautiful, modern garden with mostly green plants and some white climbing hydrangea here and there. The garden itself is built around an old castle which gives it a specific charm. One of the most fascinating parts of the garden is the so-called “garden of temptation” where boxwood snakes climb the apple as in the garden of Eden. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) B

Day 19: Wednesday 21 September, Perros-Guirec – Saint-Malo – Bazouges-la-Pérouse – Dinan
• Time at leisure in Saint-Malo
• Château de la Ballue, Bazouges-la-Pérouse
We depart Perros-Guirec early this morning and travel along the north coast of Brittany to the port city of Saint-Malo. Encircled by its strong granite ramparts, this corsair city was destroyed in August 1944, but has been so well restored that its centre exudes an austere yet characterful harmony. Here we shall have some time at leisure for lunch and to explore the city’s ramparts.

In the afternoon we continue to the Château de la Ballue, located between Brittany and Normandy, in a unique rural setting with mild hills and woods. This seventeenth-century château, which once welcomed guests such as Balzac and Victor Hugo, is surrounded by dramatic theatrical gardens. When the castle was built in 1620, it was surrounded by Italian-style gardens. They were abandoned in 1942 and could have remained fields of potatoes if the editor Claude Arthaud had not bought the property in the 1970s. Thanks to his inspiration the architects Paul Maymont and François-Hébert-Stevens created a classic garden and a mannerist garden before the gardens were discovered again by Marie-France Barrière and Alain Schrotter. The new owners have redesigned and reinterpreted the gardens with a modern twist. There are neat traditional geometric terraces, a lush fernery and scented groves.

In the late afternoon we continue to Dinan. Once a fortified stronghold of the Dukes of Brittany, Dinan is one of the prettiest and best-preserved towns in the region. It’s noted for its ‘maisons à piliers’, medieval half-timbered houses built on stilts over the sidewalks. For centuries the town has served as a hub of cultural and commercial activity, from the original merchants and traders to today’s artists and craftspeople. (Overnight Dinan) B

Day 20: Thursday 22 September, Dinan – Mont Saint-Michel – Dinan
• Mont Saint-Michel
• Time at leisure to explore the medieval town of Dinan
• Farewell Evening Meal
One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, which perches upon a great, isolated granite cone rising from the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, the sands of which are bared at low tide. There are quicksands here from which, according to a depiction in the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold Godwin saved some Norman soldiers. Believed by the Celts to be a resting place to which the departed were ferried on an invisible boat, it became the site of a hermitage after an apparition of St Michael to St Aubert, Bishop of Avranches (708). A Carolingian church was built in the tenth century, followed by a Romanesque basilica in the eleventh. Count Richard I of Normandy established a Benedictine Abbey here in 966 and it became a major seat of learning in the eleventh century. It was progressively fortified in the Middle Ages. We shall visit the small village below the Mount and then participate in a tour of the Abbey, visiting its church, refectory, ancient scriptorium, and cloister.

We return to Dinan in the early afternoon, for some time at leisure. The centre of town, with its medieval half-timbered houses, is dominated by an impressive castle, and surrounded by ramparts. The 2700m of ramparts once protected the medieval citadel, which spread over thirty hectares. The ramparts were built in the thirteenth century when Dinan became a duchy and were continually improved until the Wars of Religion of the sixteenth century, after which they lost their defensive role. You may wish to take a lovely circular walk along the ramparts starting from the castle. Tonight we enjoy an evening farewell meal in a local restaurant. (Overnight Dinan) BD

Day 21: Friday 23 September, Dinan – Rennes (tour ends)
• Transfer to Rennes’ TGV Station
This morning we drive from Dinan to Rennes’ TGV station, where you will be able to take a train to the Paris Charles de Gaulle airport or other French destination. B

2016 Britain and Ireland Garden Cruise with Sue McDougall

2016 Britain and Ireland Garden Cruise, hosted by Sue McDougall

 

DAY 1 Saturday June 11, 2016 Depart Australia
Today we depart Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth on our flight to London.

DAY 2 Sunday June 12, 2016 London, England
This morning we arrive at London’s Heathrow Airport. After clearing customs, we will be met by our private coach and transferred to our well-located hotel before travelling on a sightseeing tour with a local Blue Badge guide. Some of the great sights included on our tour are Buckingham Palace, Whitehall, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, the Palace of Westminster, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. The Tour Manager will meet those wishing to dine as a group in the lobby to suggest restaurants for dinner.

DAY 3 Monday June 13, 2016 Southampton, England
In the morning we are transferred to Southampton to board the Caribbean Princess for our voyage around the British Isles. Southampton served as Britain’s historic ocean liner gateway for the British Empire and the intense North Atlantic passenger trade to the U.S. and Canada. Today it is the U.K.’s leading cruise port.

Day 4 Tuesday June 14 2016 St Peter Port, Guernsey
This morning we arrive at St Peter Port, Guernsey’s main town, built in a steep valley leading down to the harbour, with spectacular views across to Alderney and the other islands. The granite buildings now occupied by shops were once the homes of the town’s wealthy and the High Street still has its original cobbles. The town was put on the map in 1855 when Victor Hugo, exiled from France, made his home at Hauteville House and where he wrote Les Miserables. We visit the Victorian era Candie Gardens, where we see spectacular antique greenhouses. The view from the gardens over St Peter Port is stunning.

Day 5 Wednesday June 15, 2016 Cobh, Eire
This morning we arrive at the port city of Cork, the third largest city in Ireland after Dublin and Belfast. On our tour today we first visit the privately-owned 1.2 hectare Glenview garden. This gorgeous garden features a white sunken garden, a Mediterranean and Japanese garden, as well as a beautiful wildflower meadow. In the afternoon we visit The Cobh Queenstown Story Visitor Centre. We will explore the conditions on board the early immigrant vessels, including the “coffin ships”, experience life on board a convict ship bound for Australia in 1801 and discover the connection of Cobh with the Titanic.

Day 6 Thursday June 16, 2016 Dublin, Eire
Today we arrive in Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland and well-known as being a place of friendliness and ‘craic’, and a city well over 1000 years-old. Ireland’s famous capital is located on the River Liffey and looks seawards to its port and the waters of Dublin Bay. In the morning we visit Helen Dillon’s acclaimed garden often featured in lists of top ten world gardens. Within a walled rectangular garden, typical of Dublin’s Georgian town houses she has created one of the best town gardens in Ireland. Set around a newly created canal, the mixed borders of shrubs and herbaceous perennials change every season revealing unusual plants and exciting colour combinations. During our sightseeing tour in the afternoon we see elegant Georgian squares and streets including Merrion Square laid out in 1762. We see Trinity College founded in 1592 by Elizabeth 1. It developed according to the traditions of Oxford and Cambridge. Many buildings were added to the university in the 18th and 19th century. We visit Grafton Street, Dublin’s finest pedestrian shopping street. We see Leinster House, converted to house the Republican parliament in 1922, and St Stephen’s Green, formally common land, enclosed in 1663. They are now beautifully landscaped gardens.

Day 7 Friday June 17, 2016 Belfast, Northern Ireland
We dock in Belfast this morning. Belfast is one of the great industrial and commercial cities of the Victorian era. We see Donegall Square the hub of Belfast. Bordering the Square are Yorkshire House and the Linden Hall Library two grand buildings. We see City Hall, the Grand Opera House and St Anne’s Cathedral and learn about the troubles that blighted the cities growth for 30 years. This afternoon we travel to visit Mount Stewart House and Garden. The magnificent formal gardens extensive parklands and the palatial mansion were home to one of the most eminent and influential families in the Unionist cause. Sir Edward Lutyens and his garden designer Gertrude Jekyll were employed to design a garden that linked the garden to the house. The Italian garden grows a superb array of herbaceous borders. There is a Spanish Garden and a Sunk Garden which displays yellow, blue and orange flowering plants, Jekyll’s favourite colours.

Day 8 Saturday June 18, 2016 Liverpool, England
This morning we dock in Liverpool and travel to Cheshire to visit the vast Tatton Park Estate, home of the Egerton family for nearly 400 years. There are historic parterres around the house, a palm house, a conservatory, an impressive Japanese garden and a sunken rose garden. We will visit the garden and house. On our return to Liverpool we have free time to explore Liverpool’s restored city centre.

Day 9 Sunday June 19, 2016 Glasgow, Scotland
Today we arrive at Glasgow, a city full of style, energy, and its own gritty history. From its humble beginnings, Glasgow reaped the wealth of the industrial revolution, as we will see on our tour when you pass Glasgow Cathedral and travel through the Merchant City. From Glasgow Cross we move into the medieval part of town and Glasgow Green. Here we see the People’s Palace and the Victoria Fountain, the world’s largest terracotta fountain. We travel to Fintry to visit two stunning privately-owned gardens. At Dun Ard we see an exceptionally well-planned organic garden, incorporating many of the elements of contemporary horticultural design. We will see a potager, a rose parterre and more.

Day 10 Monday June 20, 2016 At sea
A day at sea to enjoy the facilities of the ship. Late morning, come and test your knowledge with a fun game of Garden Trivial Pursuit organised by Sue McDougall. The group will be divided into teams with prizes awarded to the winners.

Day 11 Tuesday June 21, 2016 Invergordon, Scotland
This morning we dock at Invergordon. We travel along beautiful Cromarty Firth to Cawdor Castle, which dates from the late 14th century, and explore the various gardens within the castle grounds. The Walled Garden is the oldest garden, dating from 1620, and cultivated with soft fruit, flowers, vegetables and orchards growing closely together. The Flower Garden was laid out circa 1710 by the Thane of Cawdor’s brother, Sir Archibald Campbell. The Thane as a young man was sent to Blois and Paris to study law and fencing, which may be the reason behind the French influence in the formal design of this garden.

Day 12 Wednesday June 22, 2016 Edinburgh, Scotland
Today we visit Edinburgh, the Royal and ancient capital of Scotland, one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. On our panoramic sight-seeing tour we see the ancient Royal Mile with its cobbled streets that form the backbone of the medieval Old Town and lead from the Palace of Holyroodhouse (HM The Queen’s official residence in Scotland) all the way to Edinburgh Castle. This impressive fortress is home to the Scottish Crown Jewels and the historic Stone of Destiny. During the afternoon we will visit Greywalls. The house was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens as a golfing holiday home in 1901. The 2.5 hectare formal gardens were designed by Gertrude Jekyll and the main gardens, lying to the south, has recently been re-designed by Laura McKenzie using many of Jekyll’s favourite plants. There is a single herbaceous border, a lavender border and a charming parterre of box.

Day 13 Thursday June 23, 2016 At sea
A day at sea to enjoy the facilities of the ship. Perhaps enjoy a little pampering or a massage in the Day Spa. Late morning join us for an interesting talk by Sue about her life involved with gardening.

Day 14 Friday June 24, 2016 Le Havre, France
We dock in Le Havre this morning. We visit Claude Monet’s famous house and beautiful garden at Giverny. This garden, with its ponds and water lilies and its Japanese bridge, appears in many of the artist’s paintings. Another section of the garden has a more formal layout, featuring espaliered apples and pears and abundant plantings of roses, irises, poppies and more. It has been magnificently restored and gives a vivid impression of Monet’s inspiration. On our return journey we visit Honfleur, which overlooks the Seine estuary. It is a very picturesque port with streets and quayside full of character. The old harbour shelters a fishing fleet as well as yachts and pleasure craft.

Day 15 Saturday June 25, 2016 Canterbury, England
Early this morning we arrive back in Southampton. After breakfast and clearing customs we travel to the county of Kent. Known for its apple orchards and hop oast houses the county is very lush. We visit the house and gardens at Great Dixter. One of the best-known gardens in Britain surrounds a thatched 15th-century manor house. The sunken garden was designed and constructed by Christopher Lloyd, a noted plantsman, gardener and writer who lived and gardened here all his life, composing a series of gardens, including fine topiary and a magnificent mixed long border. This garden is a true gem. We continue to bustling Canterbury where we check in to our hotel and the remainder of the afternoon will be free for individual activity.

Day 16 Sunday June 26, 2016 Canterbury, England
This morning is free to explore Canterbury. It was an important town in Roman times. With the building of the cathedral and the martyrdom of Thomas Becket in 1170 AD it became more famous. This afternoon we visit Goodnestone Park Gardens, a haven of beautiful tranquillity. The gardens, with centuries of history, have been lovingly created by generations of the Fitzwalter family who have lived here since they built the house. The Walled Garden has climbers and wall plants such as clematis and jasmine hanging from its wall, some of which are older than
the house itself.

Day 17 Monday June 27, 2016 Canterbury, England
Today we visit two of the finest gardens in England. We first visit Scotney Castle Garden. The formal garden overlooks a quarry garden while the grounds of the old castle enclose a rose garden. The lakeside planting adds an air of informality. Evergreens and deciduous trees provide structure while many shrubs and flowering plants ensure something is in bloom at every season. This afternoon we visit the renowned garden at Sissinghurst Castle, created by Vita Sackville West and her husband Harold Nicholson. This romantic garden is one of the outstanding gardens of the world. Sue will make sure that you get the most out of this inspiring garden. The Tour Manager will meet those wishing to dine as a group in the lobby.

Day 18 Tuesday June 28, 2016 London, England
This morning we drive to London. On the journey we will visit the Royal Horticultural Garden, Wisley. The RHS was given Wisley Estate in trust by Sir Thomas Hanbury in 1903. The garden will capture the imagination with richly planted borders and luscious rose gardens and amazing glasshouses which recreate tropical, moist temperate and dry temperate habitats. Trials of flowers, vegetables and fruit were expanded at Wisley and they continue to be some of the principal features of the garden. Several Chelsea Flower Show prize winning gardens are displayed in the grounds. We continue to check into our London hotel. The remainder of the afternoon will be free. The Tour Manager will meet those wishing to dine as a group in the lobby to go to a nearby restaurant for dinner, or you might like to catch one of the many splendid London shows.

Day 19 Wednesday June 29, 2016 London, England
We visit Capel Manor Gardens, with over 12 hectares and more than 60 gardens and landscapes to explore, surrounding a Georgian manor house this morning. It contains some previous gold-medal winning show gardens from Chelsea, including The Australian Garden from 2011, as well as a 17th-century walled garden, Italianate maze, vegetable plots and plant collections of scented pelargoniums and salvias. Capel Manor College is an esteemed horticultural college. We continue to with a visit to the private garden of Mr and Mrs Raworth in West London. This is a true collectors’ garden with some rare and unusual plants. Among its many features are impressive hedges of privet yew. We will enjoy afternoon tea during our tour of the garden. We will have a farewell dinner this evening to say good-bye to our new friends. D

Day 20 Thursday June 30, 2016 Departure
This morning is free for individual exploration. We continue our day with a visit Mr and Mrs Whittington’s garden, Southwood Lodge in north London. An imaginatively designed garden created in 1963 from a much larger one. By the house dense planting and container displays surround a paved area enclosed on two sides by tall hedges. Through an arch in the beech hedge, steps lead down to a grassy walk edged by mixed borders. After our visit we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Australia.

Day 21 Friday July 1, 2016 In flight

Day 22 Saturday July 2, 2016 Australia

Carolyn Robinson’s Gardens of England Tour

Carolyn Robinson’s Gardens of England Tour Itinerary

 

Day 1 Thu 23 June: Brisbane – Singapore 
This morning depart Brisbane on your Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore. Upon arrival you will be met and transferred to you r accommodation. The remainder of the day is at leisure.

Day 2 Fri 24 June: Singapore (B,D)
After breakfast you will enjoy a tour to the Gardens by the Bay. The key attractions of the gardens include from viewing the amazing plants from cool dry areas in the Flower Dome, to tropical plants in the Cloud Forest. Gaze up in awe at the dramatic vertical plant displays of the Supertrees. This evening enjoy a night out in bustling China Town, dinner is included at a local restaurant. Afterwards stroll through the night markets and the enjoy a rick enjoy a Chinese banquet

Day 3 Sat 25 June:  Singapore – London (B)
This Morning you will be transferred to the airport for your Singapore Airlines fight to London. Afternoon arrival at London Heathrow, you will be met at the airport by an English-speaking assistant and transferred to your centrally located Hotel for overnight accommodation by coach.
Hotel: Queens Gate Hotel, London


Day 4 Sun 26 June:  London (B,D)
Breakfast this morning. Day at leisure.
This evening please meet your Tour Manager for departure on a Thames dinner cruise, duration 2.45hrs. Enjoy a 4-course a la carte dinner as you cruise down the River Thames, gliding past some of London’s most spectacular landmarks including the Houses of Parliament, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Tower Bridge. Return to your hotel around 10:00pm.
Hotel: Queens Gate Hotel, London


Day 5 Mon 27 June:   London – Wesley – Tunbridge Wells (B,D)
This morning after breakfast travel with your Tour Manager to the RHS Gardens at Wisley with a stop for morning tea. An official expert guide will meet you at the gardens and take you on a conducted tour with free time later to explore on your own. Early afternoon, travel to fashionable Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent for your 4 night stay. Tonight enjoy a 3-course welcome dinner. 
Overnight: The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Day 6 Tue 28 June: Tunbridge Wells – Edenbridge – Ticehurst – Tunbridge Wells (B)
This morning travel to renowned Leyden Gardens for a special opening and presentation by the owner and highly regarded garden designer, Roger Platts. This is one of the special highlights of the tour. This afternoon we visit award winning Pashley Manor Gardens where your guide either be will be the owner and creator or the head gardener. Free time in the gardens before returning to your hotel late afternoon. 
Overnight: The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Day 7 Wed 29 June: Tunbridge Wells – Sissinghurst – Rolveden – Tunbridge Wells (B)
Today first to one of the most famous of English Gardens – Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens. You are booked for an earlybird tour at 10 am before the crowds arrive and you’ll be shown around these wonderful gardens by one of their expert guides. Later you will have free time to explore on your own. This afternoon travel to a hidden gem, Hole Park Gardens, where the Barham family have been residents for 4 generations. The 200 acres of superb classic parkland with gardens incorporating a skilful mix of formal design and more naturalised planting, give colour throughout the year. Your tour will be conducted by the owner or head gardener with free time afterwards before returning to your hotel. 
Overnight: The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Day 8 Thu 30 June: Tunbridge Wells – Northlam – Hurst Green – Tunbridge Wells (B)
You travel today to a pilgrimage place of horticulturalists from across the world and home of gardening writer Christopher Lloyd – Great Dixter Gardens. During your guided tour by the head gardener you will wonder at mixed borders of shrubs, climbers, hardy and tender perennials, annuals and biennials, all growing together and contributing to the overall tapestry. This afternoon a short drive to Merriments Gardens where the owner will guide you around the 4 acres of peaceful, colourful gardens followed by an included Vintage Tea Party on pretty bone china with delicious home made treats.
Overnight: The Spa Hotel, Tunbridge Wells

Day 9 Fri 01 July: Tunbridge Wells – Feering – Colchester (B,D)
Say farewell to Royal Tunbridge Wells and travel across the Thames to Essex where you first visit RHS Feeringbury Manor, the amazing 10 acre garden on land originally owned by William the Conqueror. Free time to explore the gardens before travelling to another tour highlight – Beth Chatto Gardens. Starting in 1960, Beth created the famous gardens from overgrown wasteland with poor gravel soil and boggy hollows. The gardens today are an inspiration to gardeners everywhere! After a guided tour enjoy a delightful included afternoon tea overlooking the Gravel Garden. Later arrive at your hotel for 2 nights at the Best Western Rose and Crown Hotel (or similar). Tonight enjoy a 3-course dinner at the hotel. 
Overnight: North Hill Hotel, Colchester

Day 10 Sat 02 July: Colchester – Chelmsford – Colchester (B)
This morning travel to one of the finest gardens in the East of England – RHS Garden Hyde Hall. Your guided tour will introduce you to some of the delights of this 360 acre estate and later plenty of free time to explore on your own. Return to Colchester after lunch with time to explore this historic city which is the oldest recorded Roman town in Britain. 
Overnight: North Hill Hotel, Colchester

Day 11 Sun 03 July:  Colchester – Helmingham – Cambridge (B,D)
Depart Colchester and travel north to Suffolk to historic Helmingham Hall Gardens, home of the Tollemache family since 1510. You’ll have ample time to explore the ancient gardens in the 400 acre estate at your own pace as well as perhaps enjoy lunch in the tearoom. Later travel to Cambridge for your overnight stay at the Best Western PLUS Cambridge Quay Mill Hotel (or similar). Dinner tonight is at a nearby restaurant. 
Overnight: BW Plus Cambridge Quay Mill Hotel, Cambridge

Day 12 Mon 04 July:  Cambridge – Buxton (B,D)
Firstly enjoy a guided visit to the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens with plants from all over the world in gardens and glasshouses. Later meet a local tour guide who will take you to see the major sights of this famous University City including Kings College, The Backs, River Cam and Bridge of Sighs. Then travel to Buxton in Derbyshire for your overnight stay. Dinner tonight is at the hotel. 
Overnight: The Old Hall Hotel, Buxton

Day 13 Tue 05 July: Buxton – York (B,D)
Today you visit magnificent Chatsworth House and Gardens, home to the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire. The house dates from the 1560s and the 105 acre gardens is a blend of 6 different centuries. You will enjoy introductory guided tours of both the house and garden before free time to explore on your own. Late afternoon travel on to York for your 3-night stay. Tonight dinner at your hotel.
Overnight: Best Western Monkbar, York

Day 14 Wed 06 July:  York – Harrogate – York (B)
This morning a comprehensive morning tour of this ancient city with local guide when you will see many sights including Clifford’s Tower, the Shambles and York Minster. This afternoon travel to Harrogate and RHS Harlow Carr Garden. There your guided tour will include the jewel of the garden, the famous Streamside Garden as well as the Kitchen Garden, and fascinating Alpine House. Later return to York to overnight.
Overnight: Best Western Monkbar, York

Day 15 Thu 07 July: York – Malton – Ripon – York (B)
Today first to Malton for a guided tour of Scampston Walled Garden. This unique garden, set within the 18th century walls of a kitchen garden is the result of a vision by Lord and Lady Legard and the designer Piet Oudolf. At the Chelsea Flower Show in 2000 it won the prestigious Gold and ‘Best in Show’ award.
This afternoon travel to Newby Hall where you will have free time to wander through this relatively small but enchanting award winning garden of just 25 acres with one of Europe’s largest double herbaceous gardens and lovely woodland walks.
Overnight: Best Western Monkbar, York

Day 16 Fri 08 July: York – Caton – Lancaster (B,D)
Today you leave York and drive to Caton for a tour highlight – Gresgarth Hall Gardens. The gardens are open just a few days a year but we have arranged a special opening for you with a tour and talk by the head gardener. The creation of the owner and distinguished garden designer Lady Arabella Lennox-Boyd, Gresgarth has been described as one of the greatest gardens of our times and as such is a “must see” of our tour. Late afternoon we travel to the nearby Penny Street Bridge Hotel (or similar) where we also dine. Overnight Lancaster.
Overnight: Lancaster House Hotel, Lancaster

Day 17 Sat 09 July: Lancaster – Halifax – Chester (B,D)
Today travel south to Halifax to visit a fascinating and unique small garden – Dove Cottage Garden. This very special small garden was created by the Rogers family to feature a wide range of perennials and grasses, many from the North American Prairies. This naturalistic 1/3 acre garden is north facing which is unusual to say the least and is surrounded by Yorkshire stone walls and hedges. The garden “looks good, feels good and smells good” say the owners. You will love it and will have plenty of time to browse and observe. Mid- afternoon travel on to Macdonald New Blossom Hotel (or similar) for your two night stay. Dinner tonight at the hotel.
Overnight: MacDonald New Blossom Hotel, Chester

Day 18 Sun 10 July: Chester – Northwich – Chester (B) 
This morning travel to nearby Northwich to Arley Hall and Gardens for a guided tour by Lord Ashbrook (booked but subject to confirmation closer to the date). Arley has been the family home of the Ashbrooks since the 15th century and the gardens are some of the finest in Britain. The 8 acres of formal gardens feature amongst other things the famous Herbaceous Border, Pleached Lime Avenue of trees and the furlong walk. This afternoon return to ancient Chester for a tour by a local guide when you will see the amazing Roman Walls, Eastgate and its clock, and The Rows.
Overnight: MacDonald New Blossom Hotel, Chester

Day 19 Mon 11 July: Chester – Neston – Chipping Campden – Cheltenham (B,D)
First travel to Ness Botanical Gardens of the University of Liverpool, founded by the cotton merchant Arthur Bulley who was responsible for introducing hundreds of new plants to Britain, especially from China and the Himalayas. You will have some time to explore at your leisure before a 3 hour trip south to the Cotswolds and renowned Hidcote Gardens. Here you will have free time to explore the maze of narrow paved pathways and discover secret gardens, magnificent vistas and plants that burst with colour. Many of the plants found growing in the garden came from the creator Major Lawrence Johnston’s many plant hunting trips to far away places. It’s the perfect place if you’re in need of gardening inspiration. Late afternoon travel to the George Hotel (or similar) for 4 nights in fashionable Cheltenham. Dinner tonight at your hotel.
Overnight: The Thistle Hotel, Cheltenham

Day 20 to Day 22 Tue 12 Jul – Thu 14 Jul:  Cheltenham – Lower Wardington – Chipping Campden – Cheltenham (B) 
The final timings and days of garden visits for the next 4 days will not be known until February 2016 when we are able to book and confirm the precise day when you will visit Highgrove Gardens of His Royal Highness Prince Charles. However we can confirm the following visits –
• Pettifer’s Garden – Another garden where we have gained special entrance and you will have time to marvel at the small garden created since 1984 by Gina Price. This is a “gem” of an English garden.
• Kifsgate Garden – This famous garden is the work of 3 generations of ladies beginning in the 1920s. A wonderful small English garden which gets rave reviews.
• Sezincote Garden – This incredible Indian House was the inspiration for the Brighton Pavilion. It is set within a romantic water garden with pools, waterfalls, grotto and Hindu Temple. You will love its eccentricity.
• Sudely Castle and Gardens – You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy at your leisure the gardens of this historic castle. Don’t miss the Queens Garden, White Garden, Knot Garden, Tudor Physic Garden and the Herb Garden Walk. Lovers of history can visit St Mary’s Church to see the tomb of Queen Katherine Parr, the only English queen to be buried on private land.
• Highgrove Gardens – The home of HRH Prince Charles is a definite tour highlight and a “must see”!! Over 30 years in the making, the organic gardens at Highgrove are both innovative and inspiring. One of the Prince’s experienced guides with take you on a tour which includes The Stumpery, the stunning wildflower meadow and the impressive walled garden.
• Tour of Bath with local guide viewing all the major sights including Bath Abbey and the Royal Crescent. Plenty of free time to enjoy this wonderful city and see more of what interests you. Visit the Roman Baths and Pump Room if you have never been before.
• Ilford Manor Gardens – Your visit to this picturesque garden will allow you to enjoy the work of the founder Harold Ainsworth Peto who created Italian gardens set into a very steep hillside with wonderful views of the valley.
• Heale Garden (near Salisbury) – You’ll tour this lovely formal garden beside the river Avon and see its walled garden, Japanese garden and catch a glimpse of the trout for which the river is famous.
Overnight: The Thistle Hotel, Cheltenham

Day 23 Fri 15 July: Cheltenham – Bath – Salisbury (B,D) 
Tonight arrive at the Mercure White Hart Hotel (or similar) and dine at the hotel. 
Overnight: Mercure White Heart, Salisbury

Day 24 Sat 16 July: Salisbury – London Heathrow Departure
This morning meet your local guide for a city tour of Salisbury with time at the conclusion to pay a visit to Salisbury Cathedral. You then travel to Windsor where you first tour the castle with an audio guide and later visit the Savill Gardens, Britain’s finest ornamental garden.
The Savill Garden is a true wonder, a garden for all seasons and a place of beauty and colour that’s loved by horticulturalists and enthusiasts alike. Visitors can journey through 35 acres of interconnecting gardens and exotic woodland. Don’t miss the Rose Garden opened by H.M. the Queen in 2010.
Late afternoon your coach will take you to London Heathrow Airport where you say farewell to your tour manager and driver and board for flight with Singapore Airlines for Australia.

Day 25 Sun 17 July: In Transit at Singapore

Day 26 Mon 18 July: Arrival Brisbane
Early morning flight arrival into Brisbane.

NOTE: At many gardens there are musical events, craft days, markets, car rallies and all sorts of happenings during the summer. No doubt some of these will be happening whilst you are there and you will be able to enjoy them.

Millgate House, Yorkshire

Millgate House, Yorkshire

 

Historic Millgate House, dating from the early 18th century, is only a few steps away from the cobbled town square of Richmond in Yorkshire.

Overlooked by an unfinished 11 century castle and enjoying sweeping views across the River Swale and the surrounding Yorkshire Dales, Millgate House is a premium B&B property surrounded by what has long been considered one of England’s finest gardens, since it won the Daily Mail’s National Gardens Competition in 1995.

Millgate House has 2 rooms, one king and one twin, both with views out over the garden. Each has a well-appointed, period-style ensuite bathroom.

Millgate House is also renown for its magnificent breakfasts.

Richmond’s attractions include many historic buildings such as Easby Abbey, a busy marketplace, restaurants, shops, theatre, and pubs.

The surrounding district includes Bolton Castle, Kiplin Hall and several historic abbeys.

Self catering:

The Coach House is at the bottom of the site of Millgate House and is the converted stable block.It has its own separate access and parking and is available for rental via English Country Cottages on a self catering basis.
Sleeping up to 10 people, it has five en suite bed rooms, large living room, “farmhouse” kitchen and dining area. Whilst staying in the Coach House visitors can enjoy the garden of Millgate House.
The Coach House is in a secluded quiet setting set well back from the hustle and bustle of the town but within two or three minutes walking distance of the shops and facilities. It has lovely views of the river side and the waterfalls. You can book on line with English Country Cottages directly.

 

2016 Garden Tour of Tuscany and Sicily with Mediterranean Cruise with by Jane Edmanson

Garden Tour of Tuscany and Sicily with Mediterranean Cruise 2016, hosted by Jane Edmanson

 

DAY 1 Monday June 13, 2016 Departure
Today we depart Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth on our overnight flight to Rome.

DAY 2 Tuesday June 14, 2016 Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany
On arrival in Rome, we travel north to the Tuscan village of Bagno Vignoni, where we will spend the next four nights. On our journey we visit the gorgeous formal gardens of Villa Lante. Geometrically organised on four levels along a main axis, emphasised by fountains, it has perfect symmetry. This is a marvellous Renaissance garden in which murmuring water, flashing fountains, shade and sunlight alternate under vast plane trees. Bagno Vignoni is a small Orcia River valley village, which has long been a favourite among painters and travellers seeking solitude in a beautiful location. We will stay at a small family-owned 15th-century hotel, built by Rossellino as a summerhouse for Pope Pius II, who enjoyed the advantage of the nearby hot mineral springs. Tour members will enjoy delicious Tuscan dinners each night during our stay at Bagno Vignoni. (D)

DAY 3 Wednesday June 15, 2016 Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany
This morning we will visit La Foce, established by the author Iris Origo and her husband Maquis Antonio Origo on the site of an Osteria. They contacted Cecil Pinsett in 1927 to help them design their garden. Pinsett planted cypresses and hollies like a frame surrounding the garden. Inside the frame there is an Italian Renaissance garden, a fountain garden, an orangery and an upper flower garden using Gertrude Jekyll’s planting style as inspiration. In the afternoon we enjoy a sightseeing tour of Siena with a local guide, who will introduce us to the major sights of the city, including the Piazza del Campo with its splendid civic tower and the enormous, partially-completed Duomo. The biennial Palio horse race festival is held here. Siena is also home to the oldest bank in the world and a spectacular town hall. (D)

DAY 4 Thursday June 16, 2016 Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany
Today we drive through the picturesque Tuscan countryside to Florence, where we soak up the atmosphere of this lovely city, capital of Tuscany. Home of Michelangelo and the Medici family, the city was the cradle of the Renaissance. On arrival we have a walking tour of Florence and we see the Piazza del Duomo, one of the largest cathedrals in the Christian world. Together with Brunelleschi’s wonderful dome, we see the Campanile and the Baptistry. We also wander through the Piazza della Signoria, which contains the Loggia della Signoria, the Palazza Vecchio and nearby, the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River. We continue our travels to explore Villa Gamberaia, set in classic olive-grove country. Restored to its 16th-century splendour, the garden is small but idyllic. The main terrace is laid out with parterres de broderie and the water gardens are reminiscent of Persian reflecting pools. We return to Bagno Vignoni for an evening at leisure. (D)

DAY 5 Friday June 17, 2016 Bagno Vignoni, Tuscany
This morning is free for individual exploration. Perhaps pamper your self in the spa or with a massage or walk along the river valley. This afternoon we will visit Villa Vicobello, which is surrounded by a beautiful park and two floors of Italian garden adorned by typical box hedges. From the second floor, where there is a half-moon shaped fountain, you can enjoy wonderful views of the city, the Torre del Mangia and the cathedral. In the park there is a long tree-lined street with an arch surmounted by the coat of arms of the Chigi family. The terraced garden of lemon trees will take you to an area of fruit trees and down again to the garden of azaleas. (D)

DAY 6 Saturday June 18, 2016 Stresa, Italian Lakes
We drive to Stresa, a gorgeous town on the shore of Lake Maggiore situated in the Italian Lakes area. On arrival we check in to our hotel and the remainder of the day is free for individual exploration. In the evening the tour manager will meet those wishing to dine with the group in the lobby.

DAY 7 Sunday June 19, 2016 Stresa, Italian Lakes
Today we walk to the foreshore to board our private boat across to Isola Bella, the most spectacular of the Borromean Islands. The magnificent villa is surrounded by one of the most dramatic 17th-century gardens in Italy, with 10 terraces rising like a ship’s prow in the reflecting waters of the lake. Masses of roses and perfumed plants set among superb statues and fountains make this a garden to remember. We visit the nearby island Isola Madre, so very different with its lush sub-tropical planting of ornamental trees and shrubs in a parkland style of the early 19th century.

DAY 8 Monday June 20, 2016 Stresa, Italian Lakes
A scenic trip along the west shore of Lake Como brings us to the picturesque village of Tremezzo and Villa Carlotta. This elegant 18th-century villa has its own landing place on Lake Como and beautiful views over the lake. It was given as a wedding present to Carlotta, Duchess of Saxe-Meningen, who, with her husband, created the landscaped gardens and began the botanical collection. Around the house, an 18th-century formal layout has lemon arbours on the terraces, tall camellia hedges and flower beds to suit the architecture. This afternoon, we visit Villa Balbienello, one of the jewels of the lake, located on a small promontory and accessed by boat. Steep steps lead from the landing to an avenue of candelabra-pruned plane trees and the loggia, garlanded with creeping fig. The villa perches high above Lake Como and is filled with an astounding personal collection of furniture and artefacts. This evening the tour manager will meet those wishing to dine with the group in the lobby.

DAY 9 Tuesday June 21, 2016 Stresa, Italian Lakes
We will have a free morning today. In the afternoon we visit Villa Taranto on the opposite bank of the Lake from Stressa. Captain Neil McEacharn laid out the garden in 1931with thousands of bulbs, border perennials and twenty thousand plants of particular botanic interest. The garden continues to provide a wonderful floral attraction for visitors to the area.

DAY 10 Wednesday June 22, 2016 Sestri Levante, Cinque Terre
Today we travel to Genoa, where we visit Villa Durazzo Pallavicini and garden. It was created by Marquis Ignazio Allessandro Pallavicini between 1840 and 1846. Ignazio appointed Michele Canzio, the art director of the theatre at Genoa as the curator. The plan of the park is like a drama in many acts. Various features recall the main civilization’s of the world. The visit begins at the Gothic Temple and continues along a path to the Kaffehaus and the Triumphal Arch. The walk travels through a Mediterranean garden with many palm trees to the Castle of the Captain of the Park, a folly in medieval style and to a grotto, symbol of Hades. We continue our journey to the attractive seaside town Sestri Levant on the edge of the Cinque Terre.

DAY 11 Thursday June 23, 2016 Sestri Levant, Cinque Terre
Late morning we travel by train to the Cinque Terre region. We will stop at Vernazza for lunch at your expense and free time. We will see the tall colourful houses and the church clustered together at the head of a well-sheltered cove. We move on to explore Manarola and Riomaggiore, before travelling by boat along the coast. We will return by train to Sestri Levant for an evening at leisure.

DAY 12 Friday June 24, 2016 Sestri Levant, Cinque Terre
The morning is free to explore Sestri Levant. In the afternoon we travel to the gorgeous village of Portofino, often in the list of the top ten villages of Italy. We will have time to explore Portofino before visiting the Abbey of La Cervara at Santa Margherita Ligure. The Abbey was built for the Benedictine monks in 1361, with the terrace overlooking the sea and the garden created in 1868. The garden is laid out with box parterre with a fountain and cherubs in the centre. We return to Sestri Levant for an evening of leisure.

DAY 13 Saturday June 25, 2016 Celebrity Equinox
We drive south to Civitavecchia today to board our luxury cruise ship, Celebrity Equinox for our seven-night cruise around the Mediterranean. The rest of the day will be available to explore the ship.

DAY 14 Sunday June 26, 2016 Livorno, Italy
This morning we arrive in Livorno and travel to the town of Collodi, famous for its connection with the Pinocchio Legend. On our tour today we visit Villa Garzoni. The garden was built shortly before 1652 by the Garzoni family, relating to the site of the old castle, which stands slightly apart, closely associated with the village that nestles round it, on the edge of a cliff like slope, which had been chosen in earlier times for its defensible approach. The garden of Villa Garzoni, whose layout makes the fullest use of a precipitous hillside site in a manner that is usually associated with Rome, features a water garden, constructed at the foot of a series of balustraded terraces and a suite of grand symmetrical staircases connecting the lower water gardens at the base of the hill, with the house, the cascade, the teatro di verdura and other garden features above. We will travel to Lucca with time for lunch. In the afternoon we enjoy a sightseeing tour of Lucca with a local guide. Lucca has preserved within its girdle of ramparts a rich heritage of churches, palaces, squares and streets that gives the town a charming atmosphere. The church of San Michele in Foro stands on the site of the Roman Forum and dominates the surrounding square, which is lined by old mansions and the Palazzo Pretorio.

DAY 15 Monday June 27, 2016 French Riviera
Our ship arrives in the pretty town of Villefranche-sur-Mer, Today we will enjoy a sightseeing tour with a local guide of the main sights of the French Riviera. We first explore Nice’s narrow picturesque streets before a drive along the Corniche road, where we have spectacular views of the ocean and cliffs. We visit Monte Carlo, famous for its casino and royal family. This afternoon Jane will lead the group on our visit to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. The garden was laid out at the beginning of the 20th century by Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild, a member of the wealthy Rothschild family. The garden has been developed as a series of compartments representing different architectural and planting styles and is the ultimate in manicured French exotic style.

DAY 16 Tuesday June 28, 2016 Ajaccio, Corsica
The ship arrives in Ajaccio this morning, the birth place of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1769. This morning we will visit Salecca Park, which stretches over seven hectares and brings together all the fragrances of the island’s plants. Walking around the winding paths in the garden, we will see many varieties of lavender, rosemary, euphorbia and oleander. There is also a fabulous panoramic view of the Tyrrhenian Sea as we enjoy the gardens. In the afternoon, we will visit the house owned by the Bonaparte family from 1682 until 1923 where we will see the historic and fascinating decorative items and paintings.

DAY 17 Wednesday June 29, 2016 At sea
The day is free to enjoy the wonderful facilities of the ship. In the afternoon Jane will lead a Gardening Trivia competition. We will divide the group into teams with prizes for the winning team.

DAY 18 Thursday June 30, 2016 Palma de Mallorca, Spain
After docking in Mallorca, we travel to Espores to visit a country house on a site known since Roman times. Since 1447 it has been privately owned by various noble families. We will see the gorgeous drawing room with its own theatre and a dudgeon with a torture chamber. We will also explore the gardens which contain spectacular waterfalls and an extensive botanical park. We will continue with a visit to Jardins Alfabia, which has an interesting legacy of Arab landscaping and irrigation. A flight of stairs lined with tall palms leads to a covered walkway. From here we can walk around the garden, where we see lily ponds, bamboo groves and citrus orchards. We return to the ship for an overnight in Palma de Mallorca.

DAY 19 Friday July 1, 2016 Palma de Mallorca, Spain
This morning we have free time to explore Mallorca. In the afternoon we visit Carla Ratjasa the Royal Palace, which has stood on this site since the Muslim governors built their alcazar soon after the Arab conquest. It was converted into gothic style under Jaume II The S’Hort de Rei garden beneath the Palace contains fountains, palms and cyprus trees.

DAY 20 Saturday July 2, 2016 Barcelona/Departure
This morning we will disembark the ship in Barcelona, capital of Catalonia and the second largest city in Spain. We will enjoy a sightseeing tour with a local guide of Barcelona. We will see the historic cathedral and the beautiful streets of the Gothic Quarter as well as the modernist Eixample district and see examples of Gaudi’s stunning architecture, including the famous Sagrada Familia. We will visit Parc Guell, which is a combination of architectural and landscape features with mature and natural looking plantings. The park was commissioned by Count Eusebi Guell in the 1890s. By 1914, Antoni Gaudi had completed the famous features that are most enjoyed by the park’s visitors today. Among them is the grand iron-balustrade entrance, with its mosaic tile work on the walls and the imposing staircase dragon. Jane will make sure that you get the most out of this unique garden. Tour members not continuing on the extension tour will travel to the airport for their evening flight to Australia. The tour manager will meet those wishing to dine as a group in the lobby.

DAY 21 Sunday July 3, 2016 In flight

DAY 22 Monday July 4, 2016 Arrive Australia
The group arrives in Australia and tour arrangements conclude.

POST-TOUR TO BARCELONA AND LONDON
DAY 1 Saturday July 2, 2016 Barcelona, Spain
Today we will enjoy a sightseeing tour with a local guide of Barcelona with the main tour group. Late afternoon we check in to our hotel.

DAY 2 Sunday July 3, 2016 Barcelona, Spain
This morning we travel north to the Costa Brava to visit the Jardi Botanic Mar I Murtra, which was created by Karl Faust. He created several different gardens to house the plants he collected from all over the world. Mar I Murtra is now divided into tropical, temperate and Mediterranean garden areas. In the afternoon, we will travel to visit Santa Clothilde, a large property built on the site of an old vineyard. It is an Italianate garden in the Renaissance style, where the symmetry of paths, planting and interesting focal points define the garden.

DAY 3 Monday July 4, 2016 London
Today we will fly to London. On arrival we continue to our Kensington hotel by private coach. The remainder of the afternoon will be free. The tour manager will meet those wishing to dine with the group in the lobby to go to a nearby restaurant for dinner. Tonight you might like to catch one of the many splendid London shows.

DAY 4 Tuesday July 5, 2016 London
This morning is free for individual exploration relax or do some shopping. In the afternoon we visit Chiswick House garden. The gardens stretching over thirty hectares were created by William Kent on the ancient classical model, between 1715 and 1858. He planted groves of trees, made sweeping lawns and added focal points with a line of statues and three architectural points. In recent years there has been a program of restoration in the garden, which includes the planting of sixteen thousand new trees.

DAY 5 Wednesday July 6, 2016 London
Late morning we visit the Royal Horticultural Garden, Wisley. The RHS was given Wisley Estate in trust by Sir Thomas Hanbury in 1903. The garden will capture the imagination with richly planted borders and luscious rose gardens and amazing glasshouses which recreate tropical, moist temperate and dry temperate habitats. Trials of flowers, vegetables and fruit were expanded at Wisley and they continue to be some of the principal features of the garden. Several Chelsea Flower Show prize winning gardens are displayed in the grounds.

DAY 6 Thursday July 7, 2016 Departure
The highlight of our time in London will be an escorted visit to the famous Hampton Court Flower Show. One of the main events in the English horticultural calendar and boasts fine displays of flowers, plants, trees and interesting garden layouts. Jane will ensure that you explore all areas of this wonderful show. After our visit we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Australia.

2016 Garden Tour of Italy, England and France, hosted by Deryn Thorpe

Garden Tour of Italy, England and France 2016, hosted by Deryn Thorpe

 

DAY 1 Monday May 9, 2016 Depart Australia
Our holiday begins with an evening Emirates Airlines flight to Nice.

DAY 2 Tuesday May 10, 2016 Nice
This afternoon we arrive in Nice. After clearing Customs we are transferred to our hotel and the afternoon is free for some exploration of this picturesque city on the French Riviera.

DAY 3 Wednesday May 11, 2016 Nice
This morning a local guide takes us sightseeing to see the best of the French Riviera. We explore the narrow picturesque streets of Nice and drive along the Corniche Road which provides spectacular views of the ocean and cliffs as we travel to Monte Carlo, famous for its casino and royal family. In the afternoon, we’ll visit Le Jardin Exotique d’Eze, perched on a high outcrop with the most magnificent views overlooking the sea. This garden with its varied collection of succulents offers a unique experience, and the fortified medieval town of Eze is an archictectural gem. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner in Nice to get to know Deryn Thorpe and other tour members.

DAY 4 Thursday May 12, 2016 Nice
This morning Deryn will lead the group on our visit to the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild. The garden was laid out at the beginning of the 20th century by Baroness Ephrussi de Rothschild, a member of the wealthy Rothschild family. The garden was developed as a series of compartments representing different architectural and planting styles. The garden is the ultimate in manicured French exotic style. Seven gardens laid out around the pink, Venetianstyle villa, represent a voyage around the world including – French, Spanish, Florentine and Japanese, which are furnished with the ‘spoils’ of her travels. The sea views are wonderful and the interiors of the villa are simply beautiful. We will have time for lunch in Menton before visiting Clos du Peyronnet. This estate has remained the property of the same family since 1915. Laid out in the Arts and Crafts style, it takes advantage of the warm climate to nurture exotic plants such as South African bulbs and unusual fruit trees. The landscaping of Clos du Peyronnet combines colours and movements through a play of water staircases, formed by successive ponds, the last step of which is the Mediterranean Sea. Those who would like to dine together can meet the Tour Manager to go to a nearby restaurant.

DAY 5 Friday May 13, 2016 Nice
We will visit La Serre de la Madone this morning. This famous garden was designed by Lawrence Johnston during the interwar years, after he had developed well known Hidcote Manor Garden in England. A visit to a perfumery will give us an insight into the use of the acres of flowers grown in the Riviera. The afternoon and evening are free for individual exploration of Nice and its many charming restaurants.

DAY 6 Saturday May 14, 2016 Florence
Today we drive through the picturesque Tuscan countryside, a landscape dotted with small towns and ancient farmhouses, which has largely remained unchanged over the centuries. Our destination of Florence, the capital of Tuscany, is the home of Michelangelo and the Medici family and the cradle of the Renaissance.

DAY 7 Sunday May 15, 2016 Florence
This morning’s walking tour of Florence takes in the Piazza del Duomo, one of the largest cathedrals in the Christian world. Together with Brunelleschi’s wonderful Dome, we see the Campanile and the Baptistry. We also wander through the Piazza della Signoria, which contains the Loggia della Signoria, the Palazza Vecchio and nearby, the Ponte Vecchio over the Arno River. This afternoon is free to explore Florence as you wish.

DAY 8 Monday May 16, 2016 Florence
Our coach drives us to visit Villa Le Balze an early masterpiece of English architect Cecil Pinsent who designed a Renaissance-style villa set in just over one hectare of garden. The garden was created in 1914 on a very steep site overlooking spectacular views of Florence. To the sides of the house are enclosed formal garden rooms. The lemon garden next to the house has four box-edged grass enclosures surrounding a circular pool. The formal gardens give way to a bosco and olive groves. We continue our travel to explore Villa Gamberaia, set in classic olive-grove country. Restored to its 16th century splendour, the garden is small but idyllic. The main terrace is laid out with parterres de broderie and the water gardens are reminiscent of Persian reflecting pools.

DAY 9 Tuesday May 17, 2016 Florence
Today we travel south to Siena, one of the best-preserved medieval towns in Italy. In the morning we will visit Villa Cetinale, built in the 15th century by the Chigi family, bankers and money lenders for popes and English kings. Additions to the original house and garden were carried out by Carlo Fontana, who was a pupil of Bernini. In the gardens are wonderful statues and the Romitorio, a hermitage where monks lived until near the end of the 19th century. Lord Lambton bought Vila Cetinale from the Chigi family in 1977 and since then the gardens have been immaculately restored and enriched. Lord Lampton died eight years ago. In the afternoon we enjoy a sightseeing tour of Siena with a local guide who will introduce us to the major sights of the city, including the magnificent Piazza del Campo with its splendid civic tower and the enormous, partially completed Duomo. The biennial Palio horse race festival is held here. Siena is also home to the oldest bank in the world and a spectacular town hall. We return to Florence and those who would like to dine together can meet the Tour Manager to go to a nearby restaurant.

DAY 10 Wednesday May 18, 2016 Rome
On the way to Rome we stop to visit the gorgeous formal gardens of Villa Lante. Geometrically organised on four levels along a main axis, emphasised by fountains, it has perfect symmetry. This is a marvellous Renaissance garden in which murmuring water, flashing fountains, shade and sunlight alternate under vast plane trees.

DAY 11 Thursday May 19, 2016 Rome
This morning we enjoy a sightseeing tour with a local guide of Rome, which was once the centre of the Roman Empire. Highlights include the Coliseum, the Vatican and St Peter’s Basilica before we walk through the old town to see the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, one of the few perfectly preserved ancient Roman buildings. This afternoon is free to explore Rome’s many galleries, museums and shops.

DAY 12 Friday May 20, 2016 Rome
This morning Deryn leads us around the high Renaissance garden of Villa d’Este, renowned for its spectacular use of water, and included in the UNESCO World Heritage list. The garden was created by architect Pirro Ligorio for Cardinal Ippolito d’Este, using water supplied through a tunnelled aqueduct from the River Aniene. Highlights include the miniature Rometta, built in 1568 to represent Rome and its seven hills, the Tiber River, the Walk of the Hundred Fountains and the Organ Fountain. We then visit Villa Adriana, from which Villa d’Este drew inspiration, as well as many statues and marble used for its construction. Hadrian’s Villa is one of the greatest monuments of antiquity and now also accorded UNESCO World Heritage listing. Today the site has wildflowers and tall cypresses growing throughout the complex of over 30 buildings. We return to Rome for an evening at leisure.

DAY 13 Saturday May 21, 2016 Sorrento
Today we travel to Sorrento where we will stay for four nights. On the way we will stop at the unique Giardino e Rovine di Ninfa. The beautiful gardens ramble through the ruins of a medieval town, reclaimed as a garden in 1921. Streams and waterfalls punctuate these romantic gardens, which contain an astonishing collection of plants. As we journey to Sorrento we have wonderful views of the sea, with citrus groves dotting the surrounding countryside. Those who would like to dine together can meet the Tour Manager to go to a nearby restaurant for dinner.

DAY 14 Sunday May 22, 2016 Sorrento
After breakfast we visit Villa Rufolo, one of the oldest surviving palaces in Italy. It dates from the 13th century and overlooks the sea from a series of garden terraces. There are formal beds of colourful annuals, plus palms, cycads and yuccas. On the middle level an oleander walk frames a breathtaking view of the coast. The charming town of Ravello clings to the steep slopes of the Dragon Hill, inspiring its description by Andre Gide as “nearer to sky than it is to the shore”. We have time for lunch among Ravello’s enticing alleys, stairways and roofed passages before continuing to Villa Cimbrone, set on a cliff-top promontory. Full of statues and small temples, the garden features a long, wisteria-clad pergola, rose garden and bedding out gardens. The ‘Walk of the Infinite’ ends in a belvedere, situated where the views and its height above the sea leaves you breathless.

DAY 15 Monday May 23, 2016 Sorrento
Today we travel to the island of Ischia to visit the famous garden, La Mortella. Here we explore a 2 hectare garden massed with rare trees, palms, shrubs, ferns and bulbs. Features include an Islamic-style rill of water leading to a pool. This is part of an extension to the garden by famous British landscape designer Russell Page for Lady Walton. His design incorporates the dramatic topography into the site and includes a series of rock pools, their banks a home for bog plants, ferns and bamboo, which contrast with the parched Mediterranean hillside. The tropical glasshouse has hummingbirds as the entire design was created to delight all senses. On our return, the remaining afternoon is free for individual exploration.

DAY 16 Tuesday May 24, 2016 Sorrento
A highlight of the tour, today we will visit the ancient ruins of Pompeii, the Roman city destroyed by an eruption of the volcano Vesuvius in AD79. The impressive ruins help us understand what life was like at the height of the Roman Empire, 2000 years ago. Our guided tour of this ancient city is with a local expert. The Casa dei Vettii is the most lavishly decorated dwelling in the town. Faithfully restored, it is the finest example of a Pompeiian house and garden. On our return to Sorrento the afternoon is free for individual exploration. The Tour Manager will meet those wishing to dine as a group.

DAY 17 Wednesday May 25, 2016 London
Today we fly to London for three nights. To begin our exploration of this fascinating and historic city, we meet our London Blue Badge guide for a comprehensive tour of the main sights. We take in Buckingham Palace, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, The Strand, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure to shop or sightsee amidst the bustle of the city. Our Tour Manager will meet those wishing to dine with the group in the lobby to go to a nearby restaurant for dinner or you may like to take in a show in London’s theatre district.

DAY 18 Thursday May 26, 2016 London
The highlight of our time in London is our escorted visit with Deryn Thorpe to the famous Chelsea Flower Show. It is the summer event in the English horticultural calendar and boasts about twenty amazing landscaped gardens built by prominent landscapers and more than five hundred displays featuring the best flowers, plants and trees and many new introductions. For gardeners, it is the experience of a lifetime and a highlight of our garden tour.

DAY 19 Friday May 27, 2016 London
This morning we visit Hampton Court Palace and Garden. The Palace is an interesting insight into the activities of British monarchs from Henry VIII onwards. The garden is most famous for its Great Vine, planted in 1768, which still produces hundreds of Black Hamburg grapes each year. The Pond Gardens offer a magnificent display of bedding plants. The newly restored Privy Garden of William III is a spectacular example of the Baroque, with parterres, cut work, clipped yews and spring and summer displays of 17th century plants. In the afternoon, we visit a private garden in West London. This is a true collectors’ garden, with perennial borders, a knot garden, bog garden, conservatory and views to a private park. We will have a farewell dinner this evening to say goodbye to our new friends.

DAY 20 Saturday May 28, 2016 Departure
The morning is free for individual activities. In the afternoon we visit the Royal Horticultural Garden, Wisley. The RHS was given Wisley Estate in trust by Sir Thomas Hanbury in 1903. The site trials flowers, vegetables and fruit and highlights include the three conservatories, rose garden, magnificent specimens of Japanese maples and spectacular perennial borders. We continue to Heathrow airport for our return flight to Australia.

DAY 21 Sunday May 29, 2016 In flight

DAY 22 Monday May 30, 2016 Australia
The group arrives in Australia and tour arrangements conclude.

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History and Birdlife Cruise

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History and Birdlife Cruise

 

ITINERARY

 

Day 1. Arrive Edinburgh and Embark Ship
On arrival in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh, you’ll be met at the airport and transferred to the port of Leith. Board the MS Hebridean Sky after 4.00pm, your home for the next 10 nights. After settling in to your suite, enjoy a Welcome Dinner this evening.
Ten Nights: the MS Hebridean Sky (D)

Day 2. Aberdeen and Crathes Castle
Cruising along Scotland’s east coast, over the waters of the North Sea, today you’ll arrive at Aberdeen. Disembark and travel by coach through Royal Deeside, the picturesque valley of the River Dee. Absorb the lovely scenery as you head to Crathes Castle, a 16th-century castle that’s famous for its splendid landscaped grounds and gardens. Return to your ship for lunch before enjoying an afternoon visit to Pitmedden Garden. (BLD)

Day 3. Inverewe Gardens
Today your ship will drop anchor and you’ll enjoy a Zodiac ride to one of Scotland’s premier gardens, Inverewe. This botanical garden in the north-west Highlands, presents an amazing collection of exotic trees and shrubs that are sheltered by well-positioned windbreaks of native pine. After a tour, return by Zodiac to your ship and set off during lunch across The Minch and past the Isle of Skye. (BLD)

Day 4. Isle of Mull, Duart Castle, Isle of Iona
Freedom of Choice. After breakfast, set off to the Isle of Mull where you have two touring options. The first option is to visit a quaint private garden and the second option is Duart Castle, a 13th century clifftop castle set in the Millennium Wood. Later cruise to the Isle of Iona, a place of tranquility where more than 40 Scottish Kings, as well as Kings from Ireland, France and Norway are buried. After exploring Iona Abbey, perhaps take a short walk to the Bay at the Back of the Ocean – named because the next westward stop is North America. BLD

Day 5. Isle of Gigha, Achamore House and Gardens and Isle of Jura
This morning visit the beautiful Isle of Gigha. Privately owned by its 120 inhabitants, the landscape consists of heather-covered hills, deserted sandy beaches, clear green seas and just the one single-lane road, which meanders between quaint cottages and farms. Here, you’ll enjoy time to wander the gardens of Achamore House. Laid out by Sir James Horlick from 1944, this stunning garden boasts a wonderful collection of azaleas, rhododendrons and exotic plants. Returning to your ship for lunch, you’ll then cruise to the Isle of Jura, where you’ll enjoy the opportunity to visit the 200 year-old single malt Scotch whisky distillery. (BLD)

Day 6. Belfast and Mount Stewart, Freedom of Choice.
This morning enjoy a sightseeing tour of Belfast. This afternoon you can choose from two options, either the Titanic Exhibition or Mount Stewart, an 18th century house and garden in County Down. Planted in the 1920s by Lady Londonderry, the gardens today are owned by The National Trust and are of significant international importance. Here, a series of outdoor ‘rooms’ and vibrant parterres contain many rare plants that thrive in the mild climate of the Ards Peninsula. Enjoy time to explore the gardens as well as the opulent house, which boasts a fascinating heritage and contains world-famous artefacts and artwork. Then return to your ship for dinner. (BLD)

Day 7. Portmeirion and Bodnant Garden, Freedom of Choice
This morning you’ll cruise into Holyhead to spend a full day exploring this spectacular part of Wales. Visit Portmeirion, an extraordinary Mediterranean-style village designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975. Choose from a tour of the village and its gardens or the gardens of nearby Plas Brondanw, the family home of Williams-Ellis. Afterwards drive through the famous Snowdonia region to Bodnant Garden, one of the most beautiful gardens in the United Kingdom. Spanning some 80 acres, the garden is set above the River Conwy and offers views to the Snowdonia range. Stroll through the Upper Garden, with its terraces and informal lawns, then continue into the Dell, the wild garden of the lower section formed by the valley of the River Hiraethlyn. Afterwards, return to your ship for dinner. (BLD)

Day 8. Dublin, Freedom of Choice
Your ship will arrive in Dublin Bay this morning and enter the mouth of the River Liffey. From here, you have a choice of three activities. First option is to travel by coach into the Wicklow Mountains and visit the gardens of Powerscourt, with its charming walled garden, striking terraces, fine statuary, varied trees, carefully designed walking paths and more. Then travel to Mount Usher, a lovely romantic garden on the banks of the River Vartry. Second option is to visit the private garden of botanical author, Helen Dillon and Mt Usher Garden. The third option is to visit Helen Dillon’s garden then enjoy a sightseeing tour of Dublin. (BD)

Day 9. Waterford, Freedom of Choice
Your ship will arrive in Waterford on Ireland’s south eastern coast. From here, you’ll travel to Mount Congreve Gardens, a vast and visually inspiring woodland garden set on the banks of the River Suir. Later, select from two touring options. First option is to travel to Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s most historic and attractive cities, and visit Kilkenny Castle and the design centre before returning to Waterford. The second option is to remain in County Waterford for a visit to Lismore Castle, which features the oldest continually cultivated gardens in Ireland, followed by a tour of the world-famous Waterford Crystal Factory. (BLD)

Day 10. Isles of Scilly and Tresco
Today will see you cruising amid the beautiful Isles of Scilly, an archipelago off Great Britain’s south western tip. Disembark on the island of Tresco, considered by many to be the most attractive of the islands. It is leased by the Dorrien-Smith family, who have created a wonderful 40 acre sub-tropical garden near their Tresco Abbey home. You’ll have the opportunity to go for a relaxing stroll along the traffic-free lanes and wander along one of the lovely white-sand beaches where the sea colour has more in common with the Aegean than the North Atlantic. Back on board for lunch and afternoon tea before a special Farewell Dinner. (BLD)

Day 11. Portsmouth and Arrive London
After breakfast this morning, you’ll disembark the MS Hebridean Sky in the English waterfront city of Portsmouth. From here, you’ll be transferred by coach to London, arriving at Heathrow Airport at around 12.30pm or the St James Court Hotel which is in Central London at around 1.30pm. (B)

Birdlife of the British Isles
While taking in the spectacular coastal scenery of the British Isles, you’ll be joined by an ornithologist, who will share their expertise on the many species of birds that call the British Isles home. This is the season when they are at their most prolific.

Small Ship Cruising with Botanica
As you uncover the delights of the British Isles, you’ll enjoy a truly intimate and unique small ship cruising experience aboard the MS Hebridean Sky. Experience great hospitality from the moment you step on board and relax, knowing you only have to unpack once before unwinding in your spacious home-away-from-home. While taking in the spectacular coastal scenery of the British Isles, you’ll be joined by expert onboard lecturers, including a dedicated ornithologist, who will share their expertise on the many species of birds that call the British Isles home, as well as history and garden lectures.

Monty DonSpecial Guest Speaker – Monty Don
Garden author, journalist and presenter, Monty Don will join your cruise where he will conduct an informative lecture.

This tour can be combined with other Botanica tours:

· Loire Valley & Chelsea Flower Show (BTLVC9)
· British Isles & Cornwall (BTBNCC15)
· London & Chelsea Flower Show (BTCFS5)

Spring Gardens of France

Spring Gardens of France

 

Experience the romance, beauty and grandeur of France with remarkable gardens, dramatic coastlines, picturesque villages and landscapes, distinctive regional architecture, superb seafood and mouthwatering cheeses.

Join in Paris prior to embarking on an exploration of the springtime gardens of Upper Normandy. Travel the ‘cider route’ to the medieval town of Bayeux, gateway to the World War II Normandy landing beaches and home of the world famous Bayeux tapestry.

Continue to Brittany in the northwest, and enjoy a leisurely stay on the coast, visiting a selection of superb gardens and quaint villages. Conclude with four nights in the Loire Valley known as the ‘Garden of France’. Explore chateaux, vineyards and attend the annual International Garden Festival at Chateaux du Chaumont.

French hospitality and countryside at its best!

AT A GLANCE…
• Tour the famous garden of Claude Monet at Giverny
• Discover gardens of grandeur and intimacy, including 17 private gardens
• Travel the dramatic coastline of Normandy and Brittany
• Browse the colourful markets, relish the local food and wine
• Explore charming towns and villages of provincial France
• Leisurely four night stays in Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley

ITINERARY:

Sat 28 May 2016 / Depart Australia
Suggested departure from Australia on Emirates/QANTAS Airlines flights to Paris (Charles de Gaulle Airport) via Dubai.

Sun 29 May / Arrive Paris
Afternoon arrival in Paris and check in to your hotel.

This evening, join Julie and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner. (D)

Mon 30 May / Paris – Rouen
Begin your spring tour with a visit to the magnificent garden and home of impressionist painter, Claude Monet. Enjoy both his famous ‘pond and water’ garden with its Japanese bridge, and his ‘Clos Normand’ garden known for a palette of colours.

After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy time in the charming village of Giverny. Continue to Rouen, the capital of the Upper Normandy region.

Tonight, enjoy dinner in one of the local restaurants in the historic city centre. (BLD)

Tue 31 May / Rouen
Journey north to the coastal area of Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer. Visit the renowned garden of the late Princess Sturdza of Norway, ‘Le Vasterival’. Accompanied by one of the gardeners, discover a beautiful display of plants of the day.

Following lunch in a local village (own expense), continue to Château de Miromesnil set amongst beautiful woodland. Enjoy a guided tour of the fabulous walled kitchen garden and the castle park, with its 17th century fenced brick walls.

Return to Rouen via the farming village of Grigneuseville, home to Jardin Agapanthe, owned and created by landscape architect Alexandre Thomas. Spend time wandering these two intimate, secluded gardens; one which is relatively new, the other 20 years in the making.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Rouen. (BD)

Wed 1 Jun / Rouen
Begin the morning with a walking tour of Rouen. Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, with its Tour de Beurre (butter tower), the Gros Horloge (a fourteenth-century astronomical clock), and the church of Saint Joan of Arc, located where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Remainder of the morning is free to meander the old market square.

Following lunch (own expense), depart for Montmain to visit Jardins d’Angelique. Created by the Lebellegard family, the garden surrounds a 17th century Norman manor house and was established in memory of their daughter, Angelique.

Later travel to Auzouville-sur-Ry to visit Le Jardin Plume. Meet the owners, Sylvie and Patrick Quibel as they guide you around their contemporary garden surrounding an apple orchard.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Rouen. (BD)

Thu 2 Jun / Rouen
Return to the coast via the town of Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy and the Jardin de Valérianes, an English garden consisting of two parts; the ancient and the new.

Continue north to the garden, L’Etang de Launay, created by former art dealer Jean-Louis Dantec. The six-acre garden boasts high-pruned specimen trees, small ponds and many trees chosen for their bark.

Prior to returning to Rouen, visit the 30 acre coastal estate, Le Bois des Moutiers. The park and manor is the collaboration of the famous English architect Edwin Lutyens and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. Antoine Bouchayer-Mallet, the current owner of Le Bois des Moutiers said “the house has been designed to look at the gardens, and the gardens have been designed to be looked at from the house.” (BL)

Fri 3 Jun / Rouen – Bayeux
Depart Rouen for a leisurely day’s drive to Bayeux. Journey through picturesque postcard towns, into the heart of Pays d’Auge, home of the Normandy Cider Route, adorned with apple orchards and half-timbered houses.

Visit Le Jardin du Pays d’Auge and eco-museum situated in the village of Cambremer. Located on a seven acre lush estate, the property boasts a number of themed gardens surrounding a 17th century farmhouse. Stroll through the grounds prior to lunch at their créperie.

Later in the afternoon, stop in at Domaine Duponts famous for its ciders, pommeau and calvados. Enjoy a tour of the distillery and cellars followed by the opportunity to taste some of the products.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Bayeux. (BLD)

Sat 4 Jun / Bayeux
Enjoy a day at leisure.

You may wish to mosey through the bustling Saturday market or visit the Bayeux tapestry. An embroidered cloth more than 60 metres long, made to commemorate events in the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 is located in the purpose-built Bayeux Tapestry Museum.

For those interested in war history you may wish to visit the battlefields of Normandy (optional extra). (B)

Sun 5 Jun / Bayeux – Perros-Guirec
Depart Bayeux and travel west to Perros-Guirec, a popular seaside town in Brittany.

Begin with a guided tour by the owner of Le Jardin de Castillon, a remarkable garden set in a leafy valley on the outskirts of Bayeux.

Continue to the riverfront city of Dinan, considered one of the most attractive and best preserved towns in Brittany. Stroll the cobbled streets filled with art galleries and craft shops, and enjoy lunch (own expense) at one of the many restaurants situated along the River Rance.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Perros-Guirec. (BD)

Mon 6 Jun / Perros-Guirec
Today visit two very different gardens that are maintained by the same gardeners.

First is Kerdalo, considered one of the finest gardens in the region. Created by the late Prince Peter Wolkonsky, these gardens are now looked after by his daughter, Isabelle, and her husband Timothy Vaughan.

Continue to the nearby port town of Tréguier, best known for being the birthplace of St Yves, the patron saint of lawyers. Time to explore the town and many eateries on the harbour.

In the afternoon, visit Isabelle and Timothy Vaughan’s private garden Crech ar Pape, overlooking the sea.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Perros-Guirec. (BD)

Tue 7 Jun / Perros-Guirec
Travel to Roscoff in northwestern France, a well-known seaside town that is linked to Plymouth (England) and Cork (Ireland) by its numerous ferries. Take a 15-minute boat ride to the Île de Batz to visit Jardin Georges Delaselle’s coastal garden. The garden comprises a unique botanical collection from the five continents.

Return to the mainland for lunch (own expense).

In the afternoon visit Le Jardin Exotique de Roscoff, overlooking the harbour. Due to the hot currents that make up the Gulf Stream that runs along the coast, a unique microclimate is created resulting in a superb variety of subtropical plants.

Continue to the charming village of Pontrieux. Enjoy an evening boat trip along the river; discover the many lavoirs that line the river, and bridges which have been beautifully illuminated, an ideal way to see the village.

Dinner in Pontrieux, prior to returning to your hotel. (BD)

Wed 8 Jun / Perros-Guirec
This morning is free to further explore Perros-Guirec, or perhaps take a coastal walk or relax and enjoy the seaside town.

After lunch (own expense) travel south to visit Le Grand Launay garden. Built around a manor, this modern garden has been gradually formed over 25 years by its owners, Jean and Jacqueline Shalit.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Perros-Guirec. (BD)

Thu 9 Jun / Perros-Guirec – Saumur
Depart Perros-Guirec for a leisurely day’s drive to Saumur, stopping to visit the medieval fortress, Château de Josselin – a highlight of the French Renaissance. Enjoy time to stroll the castle grounds and three distinct gardens: the Formal French, the English and the Rose garden.

Following a break for lunch (own expense), continue to Saumur.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Saumur. (BD)

Fri 10 Jun / Saumur
Today, visit the Château de Chaumont overlooking the River Loire to attend the annual International Festival of Gardens. Every year landscape architects and garden designers are invited to create a themed garden. Enjoy the day exploring the 30-odd gardens in the magnificent grounds of the Chateau.

Later in the afternoon return to Saumur via the village of Chédigny, famous for its Rose gardens. Drive through Langeais in the heart of the Loire valley.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Saumur. (BD)

Sat 11 Jun / Saumur
Morning is free to further explore Saumur and its Saturday market.

In the afternoon visit the estate Clos Cristal Souzay-Champigny. Enjoy a tour and tasting of this 25-acre vineyard, the first in Saumur to produce and market the red wine which later became known as Saumur-Champigny.

Continue to Chinon to visit the beautiful Le Jardin d’Elsie. Situated on the site of an old vineyard the owner, Elsie De Raedt, has created a fascinating garden of ancient, modern and rare roses. (B)

Sun 12 Jun / Saumur
Today visit two outstanding gardens. The first is the Château de la Chatonnière, situated in a valley with sweeping views across the forest of Chinon and the river Indre. The Château is home to 14 remarkable gardens.

Continue to the village of Azay le Rideau. Free time to explore the narrow cobbled streets of this picturesque village.

Following a picnic lunch, visit Château de Villandry. One of the largest and last castles built along the Loire River, it consists of six outstanding gardens. Enjoy the afternoon strolling through its extensive terraces.

Tonight celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (BLD)

Mon 13 Jun / Saumur – Paris
Tour arrangements conclude with an early morning transfer to Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport, in order to arrive by 12.00, in time for flights departing at 15.35, or later.

If returning to Australia today, depart on Emirates/QANTAS flights at 15.35 via Dubai to Australia.

Evening arrival in Australia on Tuesday 14 June. (B)

* At the time of brochure printing (June 2015) most but not all garden visits are confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2-3 months prior. Therefore, whilst we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some possible changes of itinerary.

Great Castles, Country Houses and Gardens of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales

Great Castles, Country Houses and Gardens of Yorkshire, Derbyshire and Wales

 

York, Yorkshire – 6 nights

Day 1: Tuesday 31 May, Manchester Airport – Adel – York
•Arrive Manchester Airport and transfer to Leeds
•York Gate: Guided tour of gardens and afternoon tea

Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Manchester Airport around midday. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to York where we spend the next six nights. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Manchester Airport Arrivals Hall – please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time.

En route to York we visit the highly innovative ‘paradise’ garden of York Gate, a one-acre garden tucked away behind the ancient church in Adel, on the northern outskirts of Leeds. Created by the Spencer family during the second half of the 20th century, and in 1994 bequeathed to Perennial, the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society (founded 1839), it is a garden of extraordinary style and craftsmanship, widely recognised as one of the most innovative small gardens of the period. The garden is divided by yew and beech hedges into a series of smaller gardens, each with its own theme and style. From the formality of the herb garden with its topiary, to the dell with its half-hidden pathways and stream, every area has an intimacy and charm of its own. Traditional materials are used with creativity and invention. From pretty paths to pergolas, detailing throughout is exquisite. Evergreens, clipped into strong architectural shapes, are used to spectacular effect throughout the garden. (Overnight York)

Day 2: Wednesday 1 June, York – Harewood – Harrogate – York
•Harewood House: Private tour of Thomas Chippendale and the Watercolours Collection
•Spa Town of Harrogate
•Evening Welcome Reception at Fairfax House

This morning we travel to West Yorkshire to Harewood House. There we embark on a private tour of one of England’s greatest country houses, boasting architecture by John Carr (1772) and Charles Barry (1843), magnificent interiors by Adam, furniture by Thomas Chippendale, and a park designed by ‘Capability’ Brown. A particular focus of our tour will be the highly regarded watercolour painting collection.

We next visit the old spa town of Harrogate. Prior to the discovery of its iron and sulphur rich waters, Harrogate comprised two minor villages (High Harrogate and Low Harrogate) situated close to the historic town of Knaresborough. Harrogate’s first mineral spring was discovered in 1571 by William Slingsby, who found that water from the Tewitt Well possessed similar properties to that of the springs of the Belgian town of Spa (which gave its name to spa towns). The medicinal properties of Harrogate’s waters were widely publicised by one Edmund Deane, whose book Spadacrene Anglica, or The English Spa Fountain, was published in 1626 and Harrogate consequently developed considerable fame as a spa town.

This evening we walk from our hotel to Fairfax House, one of the finest Georgian Houses in England. Here we first take an exclusive tour of the house, then enjoy the ambience of the house with beverages and canapés in a private reception. (Overnight York) B

Day 3: Thursday 2 June, York
•York Minster
•Barley Hall
•Afternoon at leisure

This morning we will take a walking tour of the historic centre of York. This vibrant city was founded by the Romans in 71AD. As Eboracum it was an important town in the Empire’s north and in 208 the entire Roman world was governed from here. After being virtually abandoned following the fall of the Roman Empire and the withdrawal of the army, the town saw a period of population by the Anglo Saxons. York was first invaded by the Viking army on 1 November 866 and a new era began. After a short period of invasion and conquest, the Vikings chose to settle in York (which they called Jorvik) rather than return to Scandinavia. Archaeological excavations have revealed a wealth of evidence of the successful metal-based industries that were developed here as well as the city’s role in trade. By the time of the Domesday Book in 1086, York was second only to London in size and prosperity.

The next chapter in the city’s history is Norman, when William the Conqueror marched on York intent on making this wealthy town part of his kingdom. He established a garrison here and built two castles to control access to the town from the River Ouse. There was considerable resistance to the Norman occupation of the town with attempts to overthrow the new power. This was brutally suppressed in what is known as the ‘Harrying of the North’ when William extracted his vengeance on the population and many thousands died in a period of violence and famine, whilst the lively Viking city was systematically destroyed. The Normans rebuilt York and it is to this period a number of the city’s churches belong.

The medieval period was a Golden Age for York, when the town was a centre of trade and religion. However, following the War of the Roses and the defeat of Richard III to Henry Tudor, the city underwent another period of decline. The Reformation had a tremendous impact on York and its many churches and important religious houses which operated schools, hospitals, hospices and employed local citizens. The Dissolution of the Monasteries left a large hole in the finances of the city, and many religious buildings fell into disrepair. Elizabethan York saw a return to prosperity which continued until the Civil War when the city was used as a Royalist stronghold and was besieged by the Parliamentarian army. Once again the religious and business focus of the town allowed it to rise again to regional prominence, and the Industrial Revolution brought new business opportunities to the region.

The Georgian period coincided with a building boom and York now boasts many fine Georgian mansions. Our guide will point out the many layers of the city’s rich history that can be seen in the buildings, roads, walls and churches.

Our walking tour includes a visit to York Minster, one of England’s greatest cathedrals, which has a long intricate history. The present building, which has the finest medieval stained glass in England, had a number of precursors. In 1069, for example, the Normans destroyed the Anglo-Saxon cathedral and so in 1080 its Archbishop, Thomas, began a new cathedral that was completed in 1100. But in 1137 its east end was destroyed by fire. A new Romanesque choir was built in 1175, a south transept added in 1220, and the north transept completed in 1253. In 1394 the present choir was begun, and the foundations of the Lady Chapel laid in 1361. In 1338, the Great West Window was completed. The Great East Window followed in 1405, and the Minster, now completed, was consecrated in 1472. Meanwhile, the Minster’s original west towers had collapsed. The Minster became caught up in the Reformation – Thomas Wolsey was archbishop here – and in the Civil War, York remained a centre of Catholicism in England. Eighteenth-century damage by fire and nineteenth-century restoration further modified this great building. Major restoration occurred again after another fire in 1984; in consequence York University has become one of England’s most important architectural conservation centres.

Our morning’s program concludes with a visit to the Barley Hall, a medieval townhouse that was once home to the Priors of Nostell and the Mayor of York. The hall features stunning high ceilings, beautiful exposed timber frames, and possibly the only horn window in England. The remainder of the day is free to explore York further, at leisure. (Overnight York) B

Day 4: Friday 3 June, York – Fountains Abbey – Newby Hall – York
•Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden: Tour of Cistercian Abbey & Georgian Water Garden
•Church of St Mary
•Church of Christ the Consoler
•Newby Hall & Gardens

Today we visit England’s largest ruined monastery, Fountains Abbey, situated in the beautiful Skell river valley, in which the 18th-century water garden of Studley Royal is also located. The view of the Abbey from the cliff above Studley Royal became a definitive instance of the ‘Picturesque’: a ruined Gothic abbey, evoking an ancient, pious culture, seen from a ‘modern’ 18th-century site. Flanked by two vast lawns set against awe-inspiring cliff faces, with the Skell running under its buildings, the Abbey is a masterpiece of 12th-century building ingenuity. Our tour of the site will take in spaces like the cellarium in which the lay brothers ate and slept; it retains much of its sophisticated vaulting.

In 1132 Fountains was founded in its isolated valley by Thurston, Archbishop of York, for a community that wished to return to a strict form of Benedictine rule; isolation being an ideal of medieval monasticism. The valley was sheltered from the weather and had clean water, plentiful wood, and building stone of high quality. The Abbey subsequently came under reforming Cistercian rule. The Cistercians followed a rigorous daily regime, committed to long periods of silence and a subsistence diet. They wore habits of coarse un-dyed sheep’s wool that earned them the name ‘White Monks’. After Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries (1536-40), glass and lead from Fountains found their way to Ripon and York. Its buildings and parts of its estate were sold to Sir Richard Gresham, whose family subsequently sold them to Stephen Proctor, the builder of Fountains Hall. In 1767 the ruins were sold for £18,000 to William Aislabie, creator of Studley Royal.

The Aislabie family created Studley Royal Water Garden in a wild and well-wooded part of the valley. Its formal, geometric design and its extraordinary vistas constitute a very imaginative, free and individualistic interpretation of French formal garden tradition. Ground level views emphasise its sweeping horizontality, relieved by fabriques and the kind of statues favoured by Grand Tourists to Rome; from higher up the garden’s complex structure reveals itself. Fabriques include the Neo-Classical Temple of Piety (dedicated to Hercules), a rusticated Banqueting House, a Gothic octagon tower and a Temple of Fame, and a rotunda with wonderful views across the garden where 18th-century visitors picnicked. Other garden features include the Rustic Bridge, Hermit’s Grotto, Half Moon Pond, Cascades, Canal, Fishing Tabernacles, Drum Fall and the Seven Bridges Valley in the Deer Park. Our garden tour climaxes at the end of the High Ride at ‘The Surprise View’, also called ‘Anne Boleyn’s Seat’, because of a headless statue to be seen there! It gives a magnificent panorama of the distant Abbey ruins.

Returning from the end of the water gardens we climb a path through the fields to William Burges’ St Mary’s Church, one of Britain’s finest Gothic Revival churches. From outside its chancel you can see all the way to Ripon Cathedral.

We next tour the house and gardens at Newby Hall, one of England’s renowned Adam houses; its exceptional interior decoration and fine Neoclassical sculpture collection represent the epitome of 18th-century taste. Built in the 1690s in the style of Sir Christopher Wren, it was later enlarged and transformed by John Carr and subsequently by Robert Adam. It was the home of the Compton family and much of its superb collection was acquired on a Grand Tour by a Compton ancestor, William Weddell. The collection includes tapestries in the magnificent Gobelins Tapestry Room, a renowned gallery of classical statuary, and some of Chippendale’s finest furniture. Its glorious garden was designed in the 1920s by Major Edward Compton, who was strongly influenced by the garden of Hidcote. Newby Hall’s garden has many rare plants, including the National Collection of Cornus (Dogwood). It is famed for its main axis of double herbaceous borders, amongst the longest in Europe. Flanking this axis are numerous formal, compartmented gardens including a Rose Garden, a Water Garden, Autumn Garden and even a Tropical Garden. (Overnight York) BL

Day 5: Saturday 4 June, York – Castle Howard – Thirsk – Markenfield Hall – York
•Castle Howard: Private Guided tour of house & morning tea
•Market Town of Thirsk, the Darrowby of the late James Herriot
•Markenfield Hall

This morning we will have a private tour of a masterpiece of the Baroque, one of England’s greatest country houses, Castle Howard, the setting for the BBC series Brideshead Revisited. The 3rd Earl of Carlisle commissioned the ‘castle’ (a term often used for country mansions with no military purpose) from the gentleman-dilettante Sir John Vanbrugh, a fellow member of the famous Whig Kit-Cat Club. Nicholas Hawksmoor, architect of a number of Oxford colleges, assisted Vanbrugh here and at Blenheim. Vanbrugh designed a Baroque structure with two wings projecting symmetrically on either side of a north-south axis.

Castle Howard’s crowning central dome over the Great Hall, where we have a morning tea of Danish pastries, was added as an afterthought. The East Wing and the east end of the Garden Front, the Central Block (including the dome), and the west end of the Garden Front all received exuberant Baroque decoration of coronets, cherubs and urns. Doric pilasters are on the north front and Corinthian on the south. Giovanni Antonio Pellegrini, the Venetian Rococo painter, designed many of the house’s interiors when he was living in England between 1708 and 1713. Much of his painting was unfortunately destroyed in a fire in 1940. The house remained incomplete on the death of the 3rd Earl in 1738, and Vanbrugh’s design was never completed. The West Wing was designed in a Palladian style for the 4th Earl by Sir Thomas Robinson and was not completed until 1811. Much the house, including the central dome, was destroyed by fire in 1940. Most of the devastated rooms were restored and the house was opened to the public in 1952.

Castle Howard has extensive and diverse gardens, including a large formal garden immediately behind the house. The house, flanked by two lakes, is prominently situated on a ridge, which was exploited to create a landscape garden that lies beyond the formal garden and merges with the surrounding park. Occupying this landscape are the Temple of the Four Winds at the end of the garden and the Mausoleum in the park. Castle Howard also has an arboretum called Ray Wood, and a walled garden that contains decorative rose and flower gardens. The garden architecture at Castle Howard also includes the ruined Pyramid, an Obelisk and several follies and other motifs in the form of fortifications. Another huge arboretum, called Kew, at Castle Howard was established in 1975 as a joint venture between Castle Howard and Kew Gardens. Managed by the Castle Howard Arboretum Trust, it has one of the most important collections of specimen trees in the United Kingdom.

Many of us grew up watching the television series All Creatures Great and Small and late this morning we travel to the bustling market town of Thirsk, where the stories originated. James Alfred Wight (James Herriot) moved to Thirsk to work as a country vet with Donald Sinclair in July 1940. Here there will be some time at leisure for lunch and to explore the town on a Saturday, which is Market Day.

Our day’s program concludes with a private tour of Markenfield Hall, a charming medieval moated manor house. The privately owned home is tucked away down a mile-long winding drive and is the most complete surviving example of a medium-sized 14th-century country house in England. The earliest part of the house dates to c.1230, while the main sections were built 1310-1325 for John de Markenfield, Chancellor of the Exchequer to Edward II, with further additions and alterations in the 16th, 18th and 19th centuries. The history of the home has always been deeply intertwined with the fortunes of Fountains Abbey and it was one of the most important centres of the 1569 ‘Rising of the North’. The house has been lovingly restored and in 2008 it was the first recipient of the Sotheby’s/Historic Houses Association Restoration Award, a prize that recognises the finest restoration of a historic house in Britain in a way which respects and is in sympathy with the age and quality of the building. (Overnight York) B

Day 6: Sunday 5 June, York – Scampston Estate – Hunmanby Grange Gardens – Burton Agnes Hall – York
•The Walled Garden of Scampston Hall
•Hunmanby Grange Garden
•Burton Agnes Hall

We begin this morning by driving to Scampston Hall, situated in peaceful North Yorkshire, to visit its famous Walled Garden. Sir Charles and Lady Legard’s stunningly beautiful contemporary garden is quite unlike any other. Opened to the public for the first time in 2004, it has been received with great acclaim by visitors from all over the world. Set within the 18th-century walls of Scampston’s original kitchen garden, today the Walled Garden has an exciting and unashamedly modern feel to it and complements the adjacent 18th-century ‘Capability’ Brown park. The garden had been derelict for nearly fifty years before Sir Charles and Lady Legard undertook the huge task of renovating. Having adopted a traditional approach to the restoration of the house and park, they here produced a stunning garden with a contemporary feel with the help of leading garden designer, Piet Oudolf. Our visit includes an introductory talk from the head gardener.

We next visit another important experiment in contemporary gardening, Gill and Tom Mellor’s Hunmanby Grange. This is a working farm situated on top of the Yorkshire Wolds, inland from the southern end of Filey Bay. It occupies an open site exposed to prevailing winds from the West. Gardening with this exposure, and Hunmanby’s chalk soil, was highlighted in a recent feature on the BBC2 program Gardeners’ World. The Mellors have expanded the garden since 1983, always taking into account the need for wind protection. Windbreaks in the form of hedges and fences, which give south and west protection, have shaped the site into a series of smaller gardens, each developed with close regard to shelter, aspect, views and need. The garden is entered from the nursery, between two sheltered SW facing borders. Here the orchard has apple trees on one side, underplanted with daffodils and camassias. On the other side hemerocallis, iris, dierama and crocosmia provide grass-like foliage and summer flowers. The pond and gravel garden is a sheltered, sunny area. It was originally planned as a vegetable garden, but now has tender specimens planted around two ponds, one for fish and one for frogs.

Having visited two experimental contemporary gardens we now travel back in time to visit Burton Agnes Hall, an exquisite Elizabethan house filled with fine art, furniture, porcelain and impressionist and modern paintings. Fifteen generations have filled the Hall with treasures over five centuries, from magnificent carvings commissioned when the Hall was built to French Impressionist paintings, contemporary furniture, tapestries and other modern artwork. Lawns and topiary bushes surround the Hall and its gardens contain a maze, giant games, a jungle garden, and more than four thousand plant species. Burton Agnes Hall’s walled garden won the Historic Houses Association and Christies’ Garden of the Year Award 2005. We shall be given a guided tour of this beautiful property before returning to York. (Overnight York) BL

Buxton, Derbyshire – 4 nights

Day 7: Monday 6 June, York – Renishaw Hall – Haddon Hall – Buxton
•Renishaw Hall: Private literary tour of the home of the Sitwell family, gardens and ‘Renishaw cream tea’ (subject to confirmation)
•Bakewell
•Haddon Hall

We depart York early this morning, and travel south to Renishaw Hall, a country house in Derbyshire where the Sitwell family has lived in this ancestral home for nearly four centuries. On arrival we will take a tour of Renishaw’s beautiful Italianate garden, park and lake, that were created by Sir George Sitwell, father of Osbert, Edith and Sacheverall. Sir George spent much of his life in Italy, where he had bought the huge former palace-villa of the Florentine Acciaiuoli family, Montegufoni. In England, he wanted to create an Italian garden in contrast to Gertrude Jekyll’s ‘colourful’ designs. The use of water, fountains, temples, cave and avenues adds effect and shelter for tender specimen plants. Following a morning tea of cucumber sandwiches, freshly baked scones with strawberry jam and fresh doublecream, served in the Georgian stables, we shall visit Renishaw Hall.

The interior, which features an antechamber designed by Edwin Lutyens, is graced with many Italian artworks and pieces of furniture collected by Sir George. The painting collection includes Salvator Rosa’s Belisarius in Disgrace, a painting that was once much appreciated by Benjamin Franklin. Our tour will have a literary focus, as Renishaw Hall is a house ‘built on books’, with a wide range of literary interests and connections over a period of almost 400 years. Each Sitwell generation has made its unique contribution to the literary legacy of the house and the family, particularly the famous ‘literary trio’ – Edith, Osbert and Sacheverell Sitwell. Our tour will follow the fortunes of the Sitwell family as wealthy book collectors in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, and will include a special visit to the Renishaw Hall Library.

After free time for lunch in the small market town of Bakewell (famous for its pudding) we continue our tour of Derbyshire with a visit to Haddon Hall, arguably the finest example of a fortified medieval manor house in existence, and dating mostly from the 14th and 15th centuries. Originally owned by the descendants of William the Conqueror’s illegitimate son, Peverel, it was passed through marriage to the Manners family, later to become Dukes of Rutland, in whose possession it has remained. Haddon Hall affords a wonderful glimpse of English Early Modern country house design, because it remained closed and empty for two hundred years after the Dukes of Rutland moved to Belvoir Castle in the 17th century. The 9th Duke of Rutland reopened it in the 1920s. Because the grounds had escaped transformation into a landscape garden it influenced Edwardian gardeners deeply; its series of 17th-century terraces were particularly important. It embodies a vision of ‘old England’ symbolised by the rambling roses growing over its old stone walls. These roses are quite superb (some are 80 years old), and also impressive are the delphinium beds. There are recreations of 17th century box-edged parterres or knots, and below there are wonderful river meadows with a small and large stone bridge, which feature prominently in the 2006 BBC TV dramatisation of Jane Eyre. The approach to the house has a wonderful topiary garden.

The house itself has sections from a number of periods from the late 12th century to c.1620. The Banqueting Hall is medieval, but the house is predominantly Elizabethan, its pride being the oak panelled Long Gallery; the diamond panes of the gallery’s many windows are set at different angles to facilitate the entry of daylight. It also has a magnificent collection of English, Flemish and French tapestries, remains of a larger collection lost in a 1925 fire. Most important are five early 17th century English tapestries that may have belonged to King Charles I. The chapel has medieval frescoes, and the house also has a fine painting by Rex Whistler (1933), the artist of Plas Newydd.

Next we continue our journey to the elegant spa town of Buxton which will be our base for the next four nights. Our hotel, built in 1550 by the Earl of Shrewsbury, the 4th husband of formidable Bess of Hardwick, is reputedly the oldest in England and has hosted during its long history such luminaries as Mary, Queen of Scots and Daniel Defoe. It is located in the centre of the town opposite one the most exquisite Edwardian opera houses in the British Isles, which we will visit during our stay. (Overnight Buxton) B

Day 8: Tuesday 7 June, Buxton – Peak District – Castleton – Lyme Park – Buxton
•White Peak District
•Castleton Village, Peak District National Park
•Lyme Park, House & Garden
•Lecture by Sir Richard FitzHerbert: ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’

This morning we enjoy the stunning and diverse scenery of Britain’s first designated national park, the Peak District National Park (1951). The Peak District is situated at the southern end of the Pennines in Central England and covers most of northern Derbyshire as well as parts of Cheshire, Yorkshire and Staffordshire. It has been prominent in numerous movies and TV dramas, including the BBC’s Pride and Prejudice and Jane Eyre. A local guide will point out some of the locations used during filming whilst introducing Derbyshire’s bustling market towns, villages, and showing us its hills, dales and rivers.

Following lunch in Castleton, one of the most beautiful villages in the Peak District, we visit Lyme Park, the largest house in Cheshire. A Tudor house transformed into an Italianate palace, it is famous for its role as ‘Pemberley’, Darcy’s home, in the BBC’s 1995 version of Pride and Prejudice. Aficionados of the series will recall the scene of Lizzy meeting the dripping figure of Mr Darcy following his dip in the lake! Thomas Legh, an intrepid explorer and collector who made a pioneering journey through Egypt and up the Nile in 1816, saved Lyme Park from ruin. An extremely wealthy young man, he set Lewis Wyatt the huge task of reviving this vast, outdated family home. Wyatt’s remodelling, although extremely thorough, in no way compromised the 17th-century character of Lyme Park. The saloon, with its magnificent rococo ceiling and Grinling Gibbons-carved wood decorations, speaks amply of his sensitive approach.

This evening we are joined by Sir Richard FitzHerbert, who inherited Tissington Hall and the Estate from his uncle, the late Sir John FitzHerbert at the age of 24 in 1989. Sir Richard will provide an illustrated lecture entitled ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’. (Overnight Buxton) BL

Day 9: Wednesday 8 June, Buxton – Tissington Hall – Chatsworth House – Buxton
•Tissington Hall & Gardens
•Tissington Village & Norman Church of St Mary’s
•Chatsworth House: one of the grandest Whig country houses (to be confirmed)

This morning we journey into Derbyshire to Tissington Hall, a beautiful Jacobean mansion where eight generations of the FitzHerbert family have lived. Tissington presides over a quintessentially English village, complete with duck pond and village green. This is one of the few remaining privately owned villages left in Britain. As it has no road markings or street lighting it is often used for filming period pieces, such as the BBC’s Jane Eyre (2006) and The Duchess (2007). Sir Richard will personally give a guided tour of the hall and its gardens, as well as the village and the Norman Church of St Mary’s.

This afternoon we visit Chatsworth House, one of the grandest Whig country houses, situated in a spectacular landscape in the heart of the Peak District. It is the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, of the Cavendish family. The dowager Duchess, born Deborah Mitford (Debo), the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters, revived the economy of the estate after it had been almost destroyed by death duties following the death of the 10th Duke in 1950 (the Chatsworth Settlement). The core of the house is from 1552, but its great days date from the 1690s, after the 4th Earl of Devonshire was created 1st Duke in 1694 for his part in the Glorious Revolution (1688). Generations of prominent Whigs followed and so Chatsworth represents the first phase of the great Whig country house (Stowe represents the second). The 1st Duke rebuilt the old house in stages, adding its fine Baroque façades, and it was substantially complete by 1707. The Painted Hall, whose ceilings and walls carry scenes of the life of Julius Caesar (1692-94) by Louis Laguerre, leads to a grand staircase. The State Apartments are the most important late Baroque presentation rooms in England, with ceilings by Laguerre and Mortlake tapestries made from Raphael’s tapestry cartoons now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The chapel, designed by Cibber, is equally impressive, with illusionistic paintings by Laguerre and woodcarvings by Grinling Gibbons.

Chatsworth’s late Baroque gardens, like almost all great English Baroque gardens, were swept away when the 4th Duke commissioned Capability Brown to replace them (1760s). One survival is an Italianate cascade designed in 1696 by Grillet, a pupil of Le Nôtre. Thomas Archer, arguably the English architect who best understood the Italian Baroque, added the Temple or Cascade House above it in 1703. In the 19th century Joseph Paxton, the 6th Duke’s gardener, created a great glasshouse for exotic specimens; its revolutionary design led to his architectural triumph, London’s Crystal Palace. Paxton also built the Emperor fountain, whose jet rises 280 feet, and a vast rock garden. Newer additions to the garden include a serpentine hedge. (Overnight Buxton) BL

Day 10: Thursday 9 June, Buxton – Quarry Bank – Peover Hall – Buxton
•Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Estate
•Peover Hall, Gardens & Park
•Evening Performance at the Buxton Opera House (to be confirmed in 2016)

This morning we drive to Quarry Bank Mill, a rare Georgian cotton mill that is both one of Britain’s most important industrial heritage sites as well as a working mill that produces over 9,000m (10,000 yards) of cloth each year. Founded in 1784 by a young textile merchant, Samuel Greg, Quarry Bank Mill was one of the first generation of water-powered cotton spinning mills. By the 1830s Samuel Greg & Co. was one of the largest cotton manufacturing businesses in Britain with four other mills as well as Quarry Bank.

This mill reflects the earliest phase of the industrialisation of England, when manufacturing had not yet moved to great industrial cities, but rather occurred where water was plentiful. Such early industrial complexes often are built in a fine, simple architectural style not unlike some of the earliest colonial architecture in Australia. Our visit here offers a unique opportunity to see the two major sources of power available during the Industrial Revolution. The most powerful working waterwheel in Britain illustrates how power can be harnessed to drive machinery. A Boulton and Watt type beam engine (c.1830) and an 1880s Horizontal Engine powered by steam bring the past to life. Chief Engineer Barry Cook will be on hand to explain how everything operates. Time permitting, we also visit the three-hectare (8-acre) ‘Secret Garden’, the Greg family’s lovely, picturesque valley retreat adjoining the mill. Recently restored, it has now been opened to the public for the first time.

Our second visit for the day is to Peover Hall, an Elizabethan manor house (1585) that has a fine carved staircase, panelled walls and a long gallery. It also has beautiful stables. General George S. Patton used Peover as headquarters of the American Third Army during World War II. The house has a twentieth-century Arts and Crafts garden. We tour the house and its distinctive garden, which features fine topiary, an avenue of pleached limes, a circular lawn, yew hedges, a rose garden, a white garden, a pink garden and a lily pool with a summer house.

We return in the late afternoon to Buxton. After an early pre-theatre supper we will attend a musical performance at the Buxton Opera House, an exquisitely beautiful Edwardian theatre and one of the country’s finest examples of Frank Matcham theatre design. Since opening in 1903 it has hosted touring Shakespeare companies, West End successes, ballets, concerts and musical comedy and in 1925 the great Anna Pavlova performed the Dance of the Dying Swan. In the late twenties it operated as a both a theatre and a cinema. After falling into disrepair it was restored to its former glory in 2001. (Overnight Buxton) BD

Chester, Cheshire – 3 nights

Day 11: Friday 10 June, Buxton – Little Moreton – Biddulph Grange Garden – Chester
•Little Moreton Hall
•Biddulph Grange Garden: Private guided tour of this amazing Victorian Garden
•Evening meal at La Brasserie, Chester Grosvenor Hotel

This morning we drive to Little Moreton Hall for a guided tour of one of Britain’s finest timber-framed, moated Tudor manor houses, which featured in David Dimbleby’s How we built Britain documentary (2007). Of particular importance is its magnificent Long Gallery that has unusual plasterwork. Its grounds feature a delightful knot garden.

This afternoon we take a private tour of Biddulph Grange Gardens. Biddulph is a treasure trove of 19th-century eccentricities and a rare surviving example of a High Victorian garden. Our private guided tour of the garden, to be opened specially for our group, leads us down tunnels and pathways taking us on a miniature tour of the world, with rare and exotic plantings and picturesque garden architecture, such as an Egyptian court and elegant Italian terraces. There is a unique Chinese garden with a temple enclosed within its own Great Wall of China. Some of the more eccentric features of the garden are an upside-down tree and strange stone sculpture. Biddulph also has an unusual geological gallery where the garden’s creator, James Bateman, showed his fossil and geological collection. It was arranged to correspond with the seven days of creation in the Genesis story and is contemporaneous with the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species (1859), a seminal work in scientific literature and a pivotal work in evolutionary biology.

We next drive a short distance to the city of Chester, lying on the River Dee, close to the border of Wales. Tonight we dine at La Brasserie at our hotel, The Chester Grosvenor. (Overnight Chester) BD

Day 12: Saturday 11 June, Chester
•Orientation Tour of Chester incl. Chester Cathedral
•Afternoon at leisure

A Roman legion founded Chester on the Dee River in the 1st century A.D. It reached its pinnacle as a bustling port in the 13th and 14th centuries but declined following the gradual silting up of the river. While other walls of medieval cities of England were either torn down or badly fragmented, Chester still has 3km of fortified city walls intact. The main entrance into Chester is Eastgate, which dates only from the 18th century. Within the walls are half-timbered houses and shops, though not all of them date from Tudor days. Chester is unusual in that some of its builders used black-and-white timbered facades even during the Georgian and Victorian eras.

This morning we take an orientation tour of this interesting medieval city including a visit to Chester Cathedral. The present building, founded in 1092 as a Benedictine abbey, was made an Anglican cathedral church in 1541. Many architectural restorations were carried out in the 19th century, but older parts have been preserved. Notable features include the fine range of monastic buildings, particularly the cloisters and refectory, the chapter house, and the superb medieval woodcarving in the choir (especially the misericords). Also worth seeing are the long south transept with its various chapels, the consistory court, and the medieval roof bosses in the Lady Chapel.

The afternoon is free for you to further explore Chester at leisure. (Overnight Chester) B

Day 13: Sunday 12 June, Chester – Liverpool – Chester
•Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
•Time at leisure at Liverpool’s refurbished Albert Dock
•Tate Liverpool: home of the National Collection of Modern Art in the North
•The Beatles: Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road (exteriors only)

Liverpool, with its famous waterfront on the River Mersey, is a great shipping port and industrial center and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. King John launched Liverpool on its road to glory when he granted it a charter in 1207. Before that, it had been a tiny 12th-century fishing village, but it quickly became a port for shipping men and materials to Ireland. In the 18th century, it grew to prominence because of the sugar, spice, and tobacco trade with the Americans. By the time Victoria came to the throne, Liverpool had become Britain’s biggest commercial seaport.

This morning we drive to Liverpool to visit the Walker Art Gallery, opened in 1877. Here, we focus on its Pre-Raphaelite collection and its Victorian sculpture. The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, founded in London in 1848, consisted of seven young artists dedicated to the revival of styles that preceded the High Renaissance: John Millais, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Collinson, F G Stephens, Thomas Woolmer and William Michael Rossetti. Liverpool was the only provincial city with its own Pre-Raphaelite school (The Liverpool Academy). The Walker Art Gallery collection includes Rossetti’s Dante’s Dream (1871), Millais’ Isabella, Holman Hunt’s Triumph of the Innocents and one of the world’s finest corpuses of Victorian sculpture.

At midday there will be time at leisure to explore Liverpool’s recently refurbished Albert Dock which features a number of museums including the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the award-winning ‘Beatle Story’ and numerous restaurants and cafés.

This afternoon we visit the Tate Liverpool, which displays much of the National Collection of 20th-century art, complemented by changing art exhibitions of international standing such as the prints of Joan Miró or the sculptures of the iconoclastic British sculptress Rachel Whiteread. Before returning to Chester we make a short tour to view a number of the sites associated with the Beatles including Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and the childhood homes of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. (Overnight Chester) B

Portmeirion, Wales – 3 nights

Day 14: Monday 13 June, Chester – Erddig House – Powis Castle – Portmeirion
•Erddig: private tour of house & gardens
•Powis Castle and Garden
•Evening Meal at Castell Deudraeth

Early this morning we depart Chester and cross into Wales for a private tour of Erddig’s house and gardens. Located on the outskirts of Wrexham, Erddig is one of the finest and evocative country houses in Britain, reflecting the upstairs downstairs life of a gentry family over 250 years. Mainly of the 18th century, it has fine furniture, textiles and wallpaper. The servants’ quarters are particularly well preserved. Erddig’s walled garden is one of the most important surviving 18th-century formal gardens in Britain. The gardens contain rare fruit trees, a canal, a pond, a Victorian era parterre, and are home to an NCCPG National Plant Collection of Hedera (ivy).

Following an early lunch we continue south to Powis Castle, a 13th-century border castle with the rare 17th century Baroque garden of William Herbert, first Marquess of Powis. Herbert, a Roman Catholic, went into exile with James II after the Glorious Revolution (1688). In 1703 the Herberts returned from exile, their taste shaped by great French gardens such as St Germain-en-Laye, where the Stuart court was located. This put them out of step with new directions in Whig landscape gardening. Their grand Baroque terraces survive, with an extraordinary yew hedge, planted in 1720, that is now old and irregular in a way never intended when it was first established. Powis did not escape change entirely. A Dutch-style water garden laid out in 1705 in the flat meadows below the castle was swept away in the 1770s, and in part of this area an Edwardian formal garden was laid out in 1912. The Baroque terraces enjoy magnificent views. Against them are spectacular herbaceous borders by Graham Stuart Thomas and Jimmy Handcock. There are rich flower displays in vases on the edges of the terraces and in its niches. They are lined with lead statues by John van Nost, examples of the early 18th-century taste for picturesque Italianate rustic garden figures. In the castle courtyard stands a lead statue of Pegasus bearing aloft the personification of Fame, original centrepiece of the lost Dutch water garden. Van Nost’s pupil, Andries Carpentiére, based it on Antoine Coysevox’s group of Fame at Louis XIV’s palace at Marly. South and east of the castle is a Wilderness with a fine collection of trees and shrubs planted in the 20th century.

A Herbert family member married into the Clive family in the 18th century and their descendants own Powis today. Powis’ Clive Museum displays superb Indian treasures collected by family members, including Robert, ‘Clive of India’. The castle interior has a fine Baroque staircase (1674-1685) with a ceiling by Verrio, its walls painted in 1705 by his pupil Gerard Landscroon, who also painted the library. G.F. Bodley’s dining room with fine panelled walls and Jacobean plasterwork and his Oak Drawing Room are fine examples of Edwardian taste. A grand Baroque state bedroom (1665-1685) is the only one in Britain with a bed railed with a balustrade in the manner of Louis XIV’s Versailles. A superb T-shaped Elizabethan Long Gallery (1587-1595) has original plasterwork and chimneypieces. The castle’s sculpture collection includes marble busts of Roman emperors and a Roman statue of a cat playing with a snake that Robert Clive acquired in Rome. An interesting painting collection includes a fine view of Verona by Bernardo Bellotto.

From Powis Castle we cross the mountains, rising above the treeline, before descending into Gwynedd, an area in north-west Wales. We make our way to the resort village of Portmeirion, our base for the next three nights. Portmeirion is the creation of the flamboyant Arts and Crafts architect and garden designer Sir Clough Williams-Ellis (1883-1978), a dedicated sailor who loved the Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre (especially Portofino) and decided to create his own version of them in Wales. In 1925 he bought a spectacular Snowdonian peninsula site not far from his family house at Plas Brondanw, overlooking an estuary that forms a vast sandy beach at low tide. On the cliffs above Portmeirion’s only pre-existing structure (now Hotel Portmeirion) he built a range of picturesque buildings and towers as a kind of village-hotel. Many writers, including Evelyn Waugh, lived and wrote here in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s. These village houses surround a garden, forming a colourful, seaside version of Arts and Crafts taste. Many are tiny and are built using parts of demolished buildings. Clough later espoused a Romantic version of the Dutch 17th and 18th-century style. He was not afraid to create buildings in painted sheet metal, sometimes painted illusionistically to give a sense of relief, or to create buildings that had no other function than to look interesting: he built a domed building because he felt an Italianate coastal village should have one. Portmeiron also has interesting woodland walks, one of which takes you past a pet cemetery and ‘lighthouses’.

Williams-Ellis wanted to demonstrate that architecture could be both beautiful and fun but he was also a serious conservationist and town planner. He argued against uncontrolled suburban development (England and the Octopus), founded the Council for the Protection of Rural England, saved Stowe, and contributed to the planning of New Towns in post WWII Britain. His daughter created the Portmeirion pottery works, which is still run by the family. Tonight we will dine at Castell Deudraeth, a Victorian castellated mansion Williams-Ellis bought from his uncle in 1931 with the intention of incorporating it into the Portmeirion hotel complex. The intervening war and subsequent building restrictions delayed its incorporation until 2001 when it was finally opened. Portmeirion is now owned by a charitable trust. (Overnight Portmeirion) BLD

Day 15: Tuesday 14 June, Portmeirion – Caernarfon – Snowdonia National Park – Portmeirion
•Caernarfon Castle: the greatest of the Edwardian Castles
•Lamberis Village
•Dolbardarn Castle (exterior only)
•Snowdon Mountain Railway – excursion by diesel engine to summit

This morning we head further north along the coast to reach Caernarfon, located at the southern end of the Menai Strait between north Wales and Anglesey. Caernarfon was considered a strategically excellent place to build a castle during Edward I’s invasions of Wales. Completed in 1330, the castle was built on a site that had once been a Roman fort and then a Norman motte and bailey; it was to become a symbol of English dominance in a region strong in Welsh tradition and anti-English feeling. To stamp his supremacy even further on the native population, Edward ensured that the birth of his son, the first English Prince of Wales, took place in the castle (1284) and the castle continues to be the setting for the Investiture of the Prince of Wales, the last being Prince Charles in 1969.

Following lunchtime at leisure in Lamberis we view Dolbadarn Castle. Built for Llywelyn the Great in the 1230s, it features a massive round-towered keep. We then take the cogwheel railway train to the summit of Snowdon to enjoy the breathtaking views over the area. In the late afternoon we return to Portmeirion, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Portmeirion) B

Day 16: Wednesday 15 June, Portmeirion – Harlech – Plas Brondanw – Portmeirion
•Harlech Castle
•Plas Brondanw Gardens
•Village of Portmeirion

This morning we make a brief visit to Harlech Castle. Men of Harlech or The March of the Men of Harlech is a song and military march which is traditionally said to describe events during the longest siege in British history (1461-1468) which took place here during the War of the Roses. Edward’s tried and tested ‘walls within walls’ model was put together in super-fast time between 1283 and 1295 by an army of nearly a thousand skilled craftsmen and labourers. The structure boasts two rings of walls and towers, with an immensely strong east gatehouse. It was impregnable from almost every angle. Its secret weapon was a 200-foot (61m) long stairway which still leads from the castle to the cliff base. Access via the stairway to the sea and crucial supplies kept the castle’s besieged inhabitants fed and watered. When it was first built, a channel would have connected the castle and the sea. You could have sailed a boat up to the moat. Seven hundred years later, the sea has receded and you could say the castle appears almost stranded, waiting for the tide to turn once more.

Next we visit Plas Brondanw, the home of Clough Williams-Ellis between 1902 and 1960. It has one of the great Arts and Crafts gardens, noted for its structure of yew-hedged compartments. Inspired by stunning views of the mountains of Snowdonia, Clough cleverly ‘borrowed’ the peaks of the Snowdon and Cnight mountains visually by using the former to establish the chief axis of the garden, and revealing the latter through a window-opening cut in a hedge. Within the grounds of Plas Brondanw is Folly Castle, described on a plaque as ‘a wedding present from the Welsh Guards to Clough Williams-Ellis and Amabel Strachey in 1915′. Located on a small hill, the folly affords good views of the surrounding landscape. It has featured in the film Inn of the Sixth Happiness and the Doctor Who film, The Five Doctors.

We return to Portmeirion for lunch and this afternoon we are at leisure to explore the village and its beautiful gardens. (Overnight Portmeirion) BL

Bodysgallen Hall, Conwy, Wales – 3 nights

Day 17: Thursday 16 June, Portmeirion – Gwydir Castle – Betws-y-Coed – Bodnant Gardens – Bodysgallen Hall
•Gwydir Castle
•Village of Betws-y-Coed: Miners’ Bridge and Church of St Michael
•Bodnant Garden
•Gardens of Bodysgallen Hall

This morning we drive to Gwydir Castle beneath Carreg y Gwalch (Rock of the Falcon), the ancestral home of the powerful Wynn Family, descendants of the kings of Gwynedd, and one of the most significant families of North Wales during the Tudor and Stuart periods. The Castle is being sympathetically restored by the present owners, who will introduce us to their house and garden.

Following our tour of Gwydir Castle we travel to the village of Betws-y-Coed (“Prayer house in the wood”) which lies in the Snowdonia National Park, in a valley near the point where the River Conwy is joined by the River Llugwy and the River Lledr. It was founded around a monastery in the late sixth century and grew very slowly with the development of the local lead mining industry. In 1815, the Waterloo Bridge, built by Thomas Telford to carry the A5 road across the River Conwy and through the village, brought considerable transport-related development. Following some time at leisure for lunch, we explore the Miners’ Bridge and the 14th century church of St. Michael.

Bodnant Garden occupies an 80-acre westward sloping site above the River Conwy that looks across the valley towards the Snowdonia range. Its spectacular garden was the inspired work of the second Lord Aberconway who in 1902, with his mother’s encouragement, conceived and constructed its great terraces and organised the mass planting of Chinese rhododendrons. Appointed in 1920, Bodnant’s head gardener Frederick Puddle undertook an extensive and successful rhododendron hybridising programme, a project continued until today by three generations of Aberconways and Puddles. It is the archetypal plantperson’s garden, where exotic species brought from China or the Himalayas were first cultivated in Britain.

The garden has two parts. The upper part surrounding the house consists of five Italianate terraces on which herbaceous borders surround informal shady lawns. Its most famous feature is the laburnum walk, a fifty-five metre long tunnel that becomes a mass of yellow blooms from late May to early June. Lower down is the Pin-Mill, a reconstructed garden folly. From here the ground drops away to a deep, damp valley, known as The Dell, along which rushes the river Hiraethlyn. Here, in the Pinetum and Wild Garden, grow Britain’s earliest plantings of the Metasequoia (Dawn Redwood), discovered only in the 1940s.

From Bodnant Garden we continue north to Bodysgallen Hall which will be our base for the next 3 nights. Bodysgallen is a manor house in Conwy county borough, north Wales, near the village of Llanrhos. Since 2008 the house has been owned by The National Trust. We plan to arrive at the hall in time for you to enjoy a walk through the hall’s magnificent 200 acres of gardens before dinner. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BD

Day 18: Friday 17 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Penrhyn Castle – Conwy – Bodysgallen Hall
•Penrhyn Castle: private guided tour of the Castle
•Plas Mawr
•Aberconwy House
•Conwy Castle
•Conwy Suspension Bridge

This morning we journey along the coast to visit the enormous Penrhyn Castle, which sits beween Snowdonia and the Menai Strait. Built in 1820-35 in neo-Norman style, this is one of the most sumptuous country houses of its time. It features a one-ton slate bed made for Queen Victoria, elaborate carvings, plasterwork and mock-Norman furniture. It also has an outstanding collection of paintings. The stable block houses a fascinating railway museum.

Midday we travel to Conwy, and following some time at leisure for lunch we visit Aberconwy House, a delightful 14th-century merchant’s house and the only house of its type that has survived Conwy’s turbulent history. Nearby is Plas Mawr, possibly the best preserved Elizabethan town house in Great Britain. It was built by Robert Wynn between 1576 and 1585 and its interior has elaborately decorated plaster ceilings and fine wooden screens.

Castle Conwy, which, like Caernarfon, was constructed by Edward I between 1283 and 1289 as one of the key fortresses in his ‘iron ring’ of castles to contain the Welsh, dominates the town. A World Heritage site, Conwy has no concentric ‘walls within walls’ because they were not needed. Its massive military strength springs from the rock on which it stands and seems to grow naturally. Soaring curtain walls and eight huge round towers give the castle an intimidating presence undimmed by the passage of time. Nearby we visit one of the first road suspension bridges, designed by Thomas Telford and opened in 1826. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BD

Day 19: Saturday 18 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Anglesey Island – Plas Newydd – Bodysgallen Hall
•Archaeological Tour: Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber
•Plas Newydd House & Gardens
•Archaeological Tour of Holyhead – including Ty Mawr Hut Circles and St Cybi’s Church
•Evening Farewell Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall

This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall for a full day excursion to the Isle of Anglesey. Here, in the company of an archaeologist, we explore a number of prehistoric sites and take a private tour of Plas Newydd.

Our first visit is to the prehistoric site of Bryn Celli Ddu, meaning ‘the mound in the dark grove’. This is an impressive Neolithic chambered tomb with partially restored entrance passage and mound, on the site of a former henge monument.

Nearby we visit the house and gardens at Plas Newydd. James Wyatt redesigned this elegant old home in the 18th century in a Gothic style and its 1930s interior is famous for its association with Rex Whistler. Like Williams-Ellis, Whistler belonged to that underrated strand of mid 20th-century British culture that looked to the past with gusto. Uninhibited by modernist theory, they did not hesitate to revive the great traditions of the past. In the dining room, Whistler created his masterpiece, a vast mural for the sixth Marquess of Anglesey. This mural, eighteen metres wide, was executed on one enormous piece of canvas that Whistler had made on a special French loom. Within an Arcadian and Romantic coastal landscape are romantic allusions to Whistler’s unrequited love for Lady Caroline, the beautiful eldest married daughter. On the painting’s left side is a depiction of Romeo and Juliet in which the young Whistler (Romeo) languishes beneath the balcony of Lady Caroline (Juliet).

The mild climate of the coastal setting of the gardens at Plas Newydd is ideal for many woody plants from warmer temperate regions of the world. While the bones of the garden were set out in the late 18th century by leading landscape gardener Humphrey Repton, much has changed in the intervening centuries. A long and broad sweep of lawn fringed and broken by trees to the west of the house is known as ‘the West Indies’, and at the end of the Long Walk you arrive at an arboretum known as ‘Australasia’ that features, among other things, a collection of eucalyptus, added in the 20th century. A wild and exotic wood of rhododendrons was established in the 1930s by the sixth Marquess and added to by the ‘thinnings’ sent from Lord Aberconway of Bodnant as a wedding present to Lord Anglesey in 1948. For three seasons, lorry-loads of rhododendrons arrived with two gardeners to plant them.

Following a light lunch at Plas Newydd’s café we spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring sites around the mountainside of Holyhead. We visit the atmospheric Ty Mawr Hut Circles, which boast wonderful views of Snowdonia, and St Cybi’s Church, which overlooks the harbour.

The site of Ty Mawr Hut Circles which dates back to the Neolithic and early Bronze Ages includes the remains of about 20 round stone houses, stores and workshops, and artefacts including a stone sink deeply embedded in the ground. This was a settlement built around what became an agricultural site, so in effect these people were farmers. Grinding stones were found on the site, indicating the processing of wheat. There is evidence of various settlements on the site with up to 1000 years between them. The site was excavated during the 19th century, and coins and artefacts dating to Roman times were discovered.

St Cybi’s Church was originally a Roman Fort and naval base used to defend the island from marauding pirates in the Irish Sea. After the departure of the Romans from Britain the site was gifted to Cybi by Maelgwyn, the 6th-century King of Gwynedd, where he founded a monastery. To this day the remains of the walls of the Roman Fort butt up to the walls of St Cybi’s Church and indeed form a peaceful area within the bustling ferry-port town of Holyhead. The remains of the Roman walls, with the corner towers still standing, are some 4 metres in height and 1.5 metres thick, with the corner towers being 5 metres in diameter. The church has suffered a violent history, being sacked by the Vikings in the 10th century and by the English during the Glyndwr Rebellion in the 15th century. During the Glyndwr Rebellion Henry IV’s army invaded Anglesey from Ireland and sadly, when Henry’s men returned to Dublin, they took with them St. Cybi’s shrine and relics. Another assault on the church took place in the 17th century when Cromwell’s soldiers systematically destroyed the interior windows, font, tombs and statues. The present day church is perpendicular in style. The chancel is 13th century with the rest being 15th to 16th century. There are fine stained glass windows, and beautiful stone carvings from different ages on the parapet and in the porch.

In the late afternoon we return to Conwy where we shall enjoy a group evening farewell meal at Bodysgallen Hall. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BLD

Day 20: Sunday 19 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Manchester Airport
•Departure transfer to Manchester Airport

This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall and travel to Manchester Airport for our return flight to Australia. Our arrival time is planned for check-in for the ASA ‘designated’ flight which is currently scheduled to depart in the early afternoon. B

French Enlightenment Gardens

Discovering the Romantic ‘Jardins Anglais’ of the Ile de France

 

Join the Académie des Arts de Vivre (AAV) on this private tour of the enchanting late 18th century landscape gardens in the Paris region: Bagatelle, Chantilly, Ermenonville, the Désert de Retz, Rambouillet, Méréville and the Petit Trianon at Versailles.

Your specialist guide will lead you on this exploration of French Enlightenment landscapes designed during the halcyon decades preceding the Revolution, explaining why the avant-garde and the nobility rejected the rigid formality, exemplified in Le Nôtre’s gardens at Versailles, and adopted instead the naturalistic style of English Romantic gardens style.

Begin at Ermenonville where you will discover the utopian landscape experiment conducted by the avant-garde Marquis de Girardin. This iconic landscape was not only a garden, but also a model farm and village, and a materialization of the ideals espoused by the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who found his final refuge and resting place here.

Explore Chantilly where in the 1770s a revolutionary style of landscape garden was created by the Prince de Condé in an attempt to rival and outdo Louis XV’s park at Versailles. This new “Romantic” park was laid out as a veritable arcadia of oriental gardens, picturesque hamlets and magnificent rock grottoes, much of which survives today.

Experience the haunting Désert de Retz created by the Baron de Monville on the edge of the royal hunting forest of Marly. This idiosyncratic landscaped park is dotted with architectural follies all designed by this fashionable member of Marie-Antoinette’s circle.

At Versailles visit the Bains d’Apollon and the Petit Trianon, two enchanting naturalistic landscapes that attest to the Queen’s attempts to escape courtly protocol and find a temporary respite from the fraught political atmosphere of the time. Within the town of Versailles itself, discover other small 18th century pavilions and follies that bear witness to the pastoral fantasies of their courtly builders.

At Rambouillet tour the landscape garden with its exquisite late 18th century architectural follies: the shell cottage created by the idealistic Duc de Penthièvre for his daughter-in-law, the Princesse de Lamballe and the exotic dairy, or laîterie, designed in the form of a temple by Hubert Robert for Marie-Antoinette.

Discover Méréville, the most extensive and costly of these new landscape gardens where the royal banker Jean-Joseph de Laborde gave free reign to his friend Hubert Robert. Here the landscape painter transferred his romantic visions from canvas to a natural environment of stone, land, and vegetation to create an earthly paradise.

This bespoke 4-day Itinerary with privileged access includes luxury accommodation and transportation, specialist guide, the assistance of our Académie Hostess, and all reservations, entrance fees and taxes.

The exclusive AAV tour can be customized to meet your interests and requirements. Available all year, through April through October are best for optimal garden conditions. Price upon request.

spoga+gafa

spoga+gafa

 

spoga+gafa is a fair open to trade visitors only. You will need to register and present your trade credentials for admittance. You can register online HERE

Held in the spacious halls of the Koelnmesse in Cologne, Germany, it’s easy to get there by car, train or air, and book nearby hotels for your stay.

Exhibitors come to spoga+gafa from around the world to exhibit the latest in garden and outdoor living and leisure products.

Opening hours: Sunday and Monday from 9am to 6pm; Tuesday from 9am to 5pm

Special features include:

Boulevard of Ideas

The IVG Garden Party

The Plant Park

 

Koelnmesse GmbH
Messeplatz 1
50679 Köln
Germany
Telefon +49 221 821-3998
Telefax +49 221 821-3999