Paradise Gardens of Persia with Genevieve Jacobs

Paradise Gardens of Persia
HORTICULTURAL HERITAGE OF IRAN
with Genevieve Jacobs

 

07–23 April 2019 (17 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

Discover the Persian horticultural heritage of Iran’s delicate and beautiful gardens, whose historic importance has earnt them a place on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Divided always into four sections and featuring water as a central element, the Persian garden is a representation of paradise on earth, tracing its symbolism back through Islam to ancient Zoroastrian culture. The gardens are all the more impressive considering the feats of hydrological engineering which have raised such verdant sanctuaries from the dry earth of Iran.

From Tehran in the north to Isfahan and Yazd in the centre and Shiraz in the south, explore extraordinary palace and city gardens, and discover how the heritage of ancient Persia flourishes in modern Iran.

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Begin and end in Tehran, the dynamic political, economic and cultural capital of the country, and visit the gardens of Golestan Palace and Sa’ad Abad Palace
• Be enchanted by the poetic Shiraz, ‘the City of Nightingales and Roses’
• Discover the stunning gardens, bazaars and mosques of Isfahan, whose expansive central square inspired the proverb ‘Isfahān nesf-e Jahān’ – ‘Isfahan is half the world’
• Explore the mud-brick city of Yazd, where the Zoroastrians still tend their sacred fires, and 18th century ‘wind towers’ cool the gardens of the city
• Visit the extraordinary ancient sites of Persepolis and Pasargadae, which embody the remains of the very earliest chahar bagh (four-part Persian garden)

 

ITINERARY…

SATURDAY 06 APRIL 2019 / DEPART AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND

Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qatar Airways flights to Tehran via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

 

SUN 07 APR / ARRIVE TEHRAN

Arrive in Tehran in the mid-morning and transfer to your hotel for check-in. In the afternoon, enjoy lunch and a welcome briefing and then begin your explorations of Tehran with a visit to the Treasury of National Jewels, where the most priceless collection of jewels and gems anywhere in the world is housed in the vaults of the Central Bank of Iran. Continue to the ‘Fire and Water Park’, to see the award-winning ‘Nature Bridge’ connecting together two of Tehran’s public parks. In the evening, enjoy a special welcome dinner with Genevieve and fellow travellers.  (L D)

 

MON 08 APR / TEHRAN

This morning, travel to Sa’ad Abad Palace Museum in northern Tehran. Elements of the Persian Garden can be seen here in the significance of the layout of the garden in relation to the palace windows.

Return to the city for lunch and a visit to the Golestan Palace and Museum Complex, former residence of the Qajar Dynasty shahs in the 19th and early 20th century. Visit the Marble Throne Hall and walk through the palace’s rambling gardens, featuring marble fountains, mosaics, stained-glass work and stone latticework. Dinner is at a local Persian restaurant.  (BLD)

 

TUE 09 APR / TEHRAN

Begin the day with a visit to Iran’s National Museum, which is home to the Archaeological Museum and the Islamic Museum. These museums display some of the finest treasures of Persian history, ranging from stone tools to sculpture, pottery, painting and glasswork, covering a period of 9,000 years.

After lunch, continue to the Glass and Ceramics Museum, which exhibits pottery dating back to 4,000 BC, and the Carpet Museum, where the gallery’s collection features Persian carpets from various regions of Iran.  (BLD)

 

WED 10 APR / TEHRAN – KERMAN

Check out of the hotel for a mid-morning flight to the city of Kerman, located in south-east Iran (flight included in tour price). Upon arrival, visit the 17th century Ganj-Ali-Khan Complex, composed of a bathhouse, bazaar and caravanserai, and later visit the 14th century Friday Mosque and the 18th century Hammam-e-Vakil bathhouse, transformed into a traditional teahouse with graceful archways and tiled walls.

After lunch, discover the Harandi Gardens, part of the former residence of Kerman’s governor and hidden behind high walls, and now open as a museum of archeology and musical instruments.  (BLD)

 

THU 11 APR / KERMAN

Embark on a full-day excursion to the surrounding sites of Kerman. First, explore the desert citadel of Rayen, thought to have foundations from the Sassanian era of 224 – 649 BC. Inhabited until 150 years ago, this preserved Mediaeval mudbrick city has survived numerous natural disasters that have destroyed similar citadels in the region. Then, stop at the shrine of renowned Iranian poet and sage Nematollah Vali, where the twin turquoise minarets, reflecting pool and courtyards have been described as the most magnificent architectural masterpiece of old Persia.

On return to Kerman, enjoy lunch and then a visit to the Shahzadeh Garden, one of the nine UNESCO World Heritage-listed Persian Gardens. Built in the late 1900s, and encircled by distant mountains, the cascading fountains and waterways provide engineered irrigation to the garden.  (BLD)

 

FRI 12 APR / KERMAN – YAZD

Check out of the hotel for a day’s drive to Yazd, through regions of pistachio fields and pomegranate orchards. En route, visit the 400-year-old Zein-o-Din caravanserai situated along the ancient Silk Road, and the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Persian Garden of Bagh-e Pahlavanpour. Supplied by abundant water from underground channels, the gardens are over five hectares in size and flanked by plane trees. Here traditional Iranian architecture can be seen to be melding with modern 20th century design ideals. Arrive in Yazd in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel.  (BLD)

 

SAT 13 APR / YAZD

Spend a full day of sightseeing in Yazd, a city known for its unique Persian architecture and recognised as a World Heritage Site in 2017. Visit the 14th century Friday Mosque, which has the highest portal and minarets in Iran, and the active Zoroastrian Fire Temple, where the fire inside has been burning for the last 1500 years.

In the afternoon, stroll through the gardens of Bagh-e Dolat Abad, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed garden built around 1750. Designed in accordance with the Persian garden principle of symmetry, the garden is planted with soaring pines and cypresses, and has the highest badgir (wind-catcher) in Iran.  (BLD)

 

SUN 14 APR / YAZD – SHIRAZ

Check out of the hotel and travel to Shiraz. Stop en route in Abarkuh, a typical desert town and enjoy tea under the shade of a 4,000-year-old cypress tree.

Travel to Parsargadae, the remains of the palaces of Cyrus the Great, the founder of the First Persian Empire. The world’s oldest extant garden layout and the first of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed Persian Garden, it is believed that the world’s first formal chahar bagh (fourfold garden), laid out with water rills dividing the quartets, was created here. Although little remains today of the gardens, excavations reveal the existence of basins and channels.Continue to Shiraz and arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon. (BLD)

 

MON 15 APR / SHIRAZ

Begin the day with a talk by Genevieve, then explore ‘the City of Nightingales and Roses’ with a visit to the tombs and memorial gardens of Iran’s greatest lyric poets, Hafez and Sa’adi. Then, travel to the northwest part of Shiraz for a visit to the second UNESCO World Heritage-listed Persian Garden, Bagh-e Eram, known for its cypress trees, ornate Qajar Dynasty palace and orange groves.

In the afternoon, explore the late 19th century merchant home and garden of Narenjestan, meaning ‘Place of Oranges’. The gardens, lined by date palms, are based around a central water channel and pools on either side. Later, visit the pink-tiled 19th century Nasir-ol-Molk Mosque, and finish the day in the heart of the city at the Vakil Bazaar of Shiraz, considered to be the finest in Iran.  (BLD)

 

TUE 16 APR / SHIRAZ

This morning, visit Persepolis, one of the most important historical and archaeological sites of the Ancient World. Sacked by Alexander the Great in 330BC, Persepolis was rediscovered in the 1930s after being lost under the Persian sands for centuries. See the famous bas-reliefs, depicting kings and courtiers and gift-bearing representatives of tributary nations of the Persian Empire.

At Naqsh-e-Rustam, see Ka’ba-ye Zartosht, the enigmatic cuboid building which is thought to have served as a Zoroastrian fire temple or the mausoleum of an unknown shah. Gaze up at the Egyptian-inspired Royal Tombs of the great Achaemenid shahs and the seven magnificent Sassanian Dynasty rock-reliefs, including a relief depicting the famous victory of Shapur I over the hapless Roman Emperor Valerian in the 3rd century AD. (BLD)

 

WED 17 APR / SHIRAZ

Spend the morning discovering the gardens of Shiraz. Begin at the Arg-e-Karim Khan, an 18th century citadel and garden, followed by the historical Nazar Garden. Then, wander through the Jahan Nama Garden, the oldest gardens in Shiraz. Established in the 13th century, this walled garden features the classic Persian arrangement, with four broad avenues bordered with cypresses, roses and orange trees. A rill lined with 64 fountains stretches from the central pavilion down one of the avenues while plantings of yellow, purple, red and white flowers populate geometric flower beds.

In the afternoon, visit Bagh-e Dolgosha, also known as the ‘Garden of the Heart’s Delight’. Conclude the day at the Afif-Abad Garden, which surrounds the Royal Palace of the Safavid Dynasty (1501 – 1722). Ornamental decorations in this garden show a mixture of Achaemenid, Sassanid, Zand and Qajar influences.
(BLD)

 

THU 18 APR / SHIRAZ – ISFAHAN

Check out of the hotel for a full day’s journey by road to Isfahan. En route, stop at the historical complex of Izad-Khast, a 17th century caravanserai and bridge, where the architecture style and composition of the mud fort is unique to this region. Continue to Isfahan and arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon. (BLD)

 

FRI 19 APR / ISFAHAN

Begin the day with a morning talk by Genevieve, then enjoy a full-day tour of the beautiful city of Isfahan, the 17th century capital of the Safavid Dynasty shahs. Visit the Armenian quarter, the Orthodox Cathedral of Vank and the famous bridges of Shahrestan, Khajou and Sio-se-pol, which stretch serene and golden across the languid Zayandeh River.

In the afternoon, visit one of the world’s grandest squares, which inspired the proverb ‘Isfahān nesf-e Jahān’ – ‘Isfahan is half the world’, and two of the Islamic world’s greatest mosques, the Sheikh Lotfollah and the Iman Mosque. Following this, visit the Hasht Behesht pavilion, set amongst tree-lined alleys, a reflecting pool and water rills.  (BLD)

 

SAT 20 APR / ISFAHAN

This morning, visit the magnificent Friday Mosque, and its famous Uljaytu Mihrab (Prayer Niche), an elaborate stucco work of the 14th century Il-Khanid Dynasty. While construction on the mosque first began in the 8th century, successive dynasties added to it until the 20th century, and today Isfahan’s Friday Mosque is considered to be a museum of a thousand years of Persian religious architecture in one building.

Afterwards, travel to the 17th century Chehel Sotun Palace Garden, a UNESCO World-Heritage listed Persian Garden. The pool opposite the palace reflects back the garden’s twenty-columned portico, giving rise to its name ‘The Palace of Forty Columns’. Later, delight in an exploration of Qeisarieh Bazaar, one of the oldest and largest bazaars of the Middle East, with hundreds of stores displaying the arts and crafts for which Isfahan is famous. (BLD)

 

SUN 21 APR / ISFAHAN – TEHRAN

Check out of the hotel and depart for Tehran via Kashan. In Kashan, visit a fine example of a 19th century merchant residence known as Taba-Tabai House. Then, stroll through the historical UNESCO-listed garden of Fin, built in the mid-16th century. Distinctive features of the garden include the cedar trees, extravagantly-decorated pleasure pavilions, bubbling fountains and turquoise-tiled water rills. Continue to Tehran for arrival in the early evening.  (BLD)

 

MON 22 APR / TEHRAN

Enjoy a leisurely start to the morning. In the afternoon, travel to the north of Tehran for a visit to the Niavaran Palace Complex surrounded by lush gardens and used as a summer home for various Shahs of the Qajar and Pahlavi dynasties from the late 18th to the late 20th century. Continue to the Jamshidieh Park at the base of the Kolakchal Mountain. Known as the Stone Garden, the garden’s design is centred around the park’s cascading waterfall and pond, with channels of water flowing parallel to the garden paths to the lower reaches of the park. A favourite retreat amongst Iranian locals, the park offers panoramic views of the city below. Tonight, celebrate the conclusion on the tour with a special farewell dinner with Genevieve and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

TUE 23 APR / DEPART TEHRAN

After breakfast, transfer to the airport for departure on suggested Qatar Airways flights to Australia or New Zealand via Doha. Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at the airport. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.  (B)

Gardens of Sri Lanka with Helen Young

Gardens of Sri Lanka with Helen Young

Landscape Gardens, Tea Plantations and Colonial Heritage

 

20 February – 06 March 2019 (15 days)

 HIGHLIGHTS…

 

From the coast to the highlands, the fabled ‘Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ reveals exquisite treasures of garden design, stunning natural scenery and fragrant spice and tea plantations.

Join garden writer Helen Young to explore the landscape gardens of the brothers Bevis and Geoffrey Bawa, two of the founders of ‘Tropical Modernism’, and the spectacular Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. Immerse yourself in the ancient history of Sinhalese kingdoms of Dambulla, Sigiriya, Polonnaruwa and Kandy, and appreciate the Portuguese and Dutch colonial legacy in the fort city of Galle.

Stimulate the palate with wonderful Sri Lankan cuisine, wander through spice and tea plantations redolent of the heritage of British Ceylon, and see stunning natural scenery as you gaze off the ‘World’s End’ cliff in Horton National Park.

AT A GLANCE…

 

• Marvel at the unique landscape gardening and architectural design of the famous Bawa brothers at Brief Garden and Lunuganga Estate
• Explore the colonial heritage of what was once British Ceylon in the misty hills of the tea country, and visit spice gardens where Sri Lanka’s delightful cuisine originates
• Visit private and botanical gardens which display the luxuriance of Sri Lanka’s rich flora
• Immerse yourself in the fascinating history of the Portuguese-Dutch fort city of Galle

ITINERARY

 

WEDNESDAY 20 FEBRUARY 2019 / ARRIVE COLOMBO – NEGOMBO

 

In the morning, depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Sri Lankan Airlines flights to Colombo via Singapore. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

Arrive in Colombo in the evening, and transfer to the hotel in the nearby resort town of Negombo (included in tour price).

 

THU 21 FEB / NEGOMBO – KURUNEGALA – DAMBULLA

Join Helen and fellow travellers for a special welcome breakfast, and then depart for Dambulla.

En route, stop for lunch at a local restaurant in Kurunegala, the royal capital in the 13th-14th centuries.

Continue to Dambulla and check in to the hotel in the afternoon. In the evening, enjoy a talk by Helen, followed by dinner. (BLD)

 

FRI 22 FEB / DAMBULLA

Dambulla is located in the heart of Sri Lanka’s so-called ‘Cultural Triangle’, comprising numerous UNESCO World Heritage sites. Begin your exploration of Dambulla with a visit to Sigiriya (‘Lion Rock’), a striking sandstone monolith which rises a sheer 200 metres from the ground. It is surrounded by the remnants of an ancient city with a series of moats, ramparts and water gardens, and a pair of giant stone lion’s paws guards the staircase that leads to the summit, which was once occupied by a royal palace.

After lunch, visit Polonnaruwa, the second most ancient of Sri Lanka’s Sinhalese kingdoms and one of the best planned archaeological sites in the country. In the 11th century it became a magnificent walled city with an extensive irrigation system of channels and lakes. (BLD)

 

SAT 23 FEB / DAMBULLA – ELKADUWA

This morning, explore the Dambulla caves complex, including the Golden Temple of Dambulla. One of the very icons of Sri Lanka, this spectacular cave monastery is still home to Buddhist monks, and is covered with exquisite 2,000-year-old murals, while the shrines also house a collection of statues of Buddha, including a 15-metre-long reclining Buddha.

Then visit a spice and herb garden in Dambulla, where you can see how Sri Lankans turn the floral abundance of their natural environment to culinary use. Enjoy a light lunch of fresh fruit and spiced tea.

In the afternoon, travel to the lakeside village of Elkaduwa and check in to the hotel, followed by dinner. (BLD)

 

SUN 24 FEB / ELKADUWA

In the morning, join Helen for a tour of the garden of the hotel, which, at 1,000 m elevation, provides a fine view over the surrounding landscape.

Enjoy lunch at the hotel, and then take a guided walk through a small village and a nearby tea plantation, savouring the verdant sights and delicious aromas of Elkaduwa, so reminiscent of old Ceylon.

Weather permitting, enjoy a spectacular equatorial sunset, when the sun swiftly drops below the horizon in a blaze of crimson and gold. (BLD)

 

MON 25 FEB / ELKADUWA – KANDY

Check out of the hotel in the morning and travel to Udawattakele Forest Reserve, one of the pleasure gardens of the last kings of Sri Lanka. Located only a few minutes’ drive from the city of Kandy, Udawattakele nevertheless enjoys the serenity and luxuriance of a tropical rainforest.

After lunch, continue to Kandy itself, last capital of the Sri Lankan kings, which is nestled in the green hills of the island’s lush interior. Check in to the hotel in the afternoon, and then in the evening attend a Kandyan dance performance, including the cobra dance, the mask dance and the gini sisila, a dance demonstrating power over fire. The entire frenetic and colourful spectacle comes to a climax with an amazing fire-walking act. Dinner afterwards is at a local restaurant. (BLD)

 

TUE 26 FEB / KANDY

In the morning, visit the sacred Temple of the Tooth. The temple houses one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics – the left canine tooth of the Buddha himself – and over the millennia since his death, wars have been fought for the possession of this sacred symbol of the Buddha’s power and protection. Today, the Temple of the Tooth attracts Buddhist devotees from all over the world. The Royal Complex, situated around the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy Lake, represents the zenith of ancient Sri Lankan architecture.

In the afternoon, enjoy a talk by Helen and then visit the Royal Peradeniya Botanical Gardens. Home to nearly 4,000 species of plants and encircled by a river, the gardens boast an impressive avenue of coconut palm trees, a fragrant spice garden, giant bamboo plants, an orchid collection and a gargantuan Javan fig tree (Ficus benjamina). (BD)

 

WED 27 FEB / KANDY – NUWARA ELIYA

Check out of the hotel and travel to Nuwara Eliya, situated around 2,000 metres above sea level, high in the tea country of Sri Lanka’s central highlands. Founded as a hill retreat for the British during colonial times, several buildings and parks here retain features from a bygone era of fox hunting, polo and cricket.

In the afternoon, visit a tea plantation and tea factory to discover the intricacies of the tea-making process. Since the introduction of the tea plant (Camellia sinensis) by the British in the 19th century, Nuwara Eliya has become the capital of Sri Lanka’s tea industry, and the rolling mountains of the district, carpeted in the fresh green of ripening tea, are the very quintessence of ‘Ceylon tea country’. (BLD)

 

THU 28 FEB / NUWARA ELIYA

Rise early and fortify yourself with a hearty breakfast before setting out for the Horton Plains National Park. On arrival in the park, walk to the fabled World’s End, a sheer cliff with a drop of about 1,200 m to the jungle below. On a clear day, you can spot the Indian Ocean some 80 kilometres in the distance.

Return to Nuwara Eliya for lunch at a local restaurant, and then enjoy an afternoon at leisure, with the option to visit Victoria Park in the centre of town, which is home to delightful hill country flora and fauna, the latter including the Kashmir flycatcher (Ficedula subrubra), Indian pitta (Pitta brachyura) and cinereous tit (Parus cinereus mahrattarum). Dinner is at the hotel. (BLD)

 

FRI 01 MAR / NUWARA ELIYA – UDAWALWE

Check out of the hotel and depart Nuwara Eliya, visiting first the Hakgala Botanical Gardens. Located under the mighty Hakgala Peak, these are the highest botanical gardens in the world and contain English oaks (Quercus robur), Himalayan pines (Pinus wallichiana), Japanese cedars (Cryptomeria japonica) and Californian cypresses (Cupressus macrocarpa).

Descend from the hill country to the grassy plains of Udawalawe National Park. After checking in to the safari resort-style hotel, situated just a five-minute drive from the park’s entrance, embark on a late afternoon jeep safari drive in the park, with the chance of spotting elephants, sloth bears, birds and possibly even an elusive leopard. Return to the hotel for dinner. (BLD)

 

SAT 02 MAR / UDAWALAWE – GALLE

Depart Udawalawe National Park and visit the Eth Athuru Sevana elephant sanctuary, established in 1995 as Asia’s first ‘rehabilitation centre’ for elephants to take in orphaned elephants from the National Park and raise them to be able to live independently.

Then continue onwards to the captivating Portuguese and Dutch coastal fortress town of Galle. Our hotel for the next two nights, the minimalistic, stately and elegant Lighthouse Hotel, was designed in the mid-1990s by the celebrated Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa, and was one of his final projects. Dinner this evening is at the Lighthouse Hotel. (BLD)

 

SUN 03 MAR / GALLE

After breakfast, visit Galle Fort, a UNESCO World Heritage site and the largest surviving European-built fortress in Asia. First built by the Portuguese in 1588, when the Dutch gained control of the fort (and the fertile cinnamon-growing region around it) in 1640, they extended it with the construction of its three bastions – Sun, Moon and Star. Command of the fort passed to the British in the 18th century. Some of the most significant buildings still remaining include the Dutch Reformed Church, the Dutch Government House, the Old Dutch Hospital, Meera Mosque, All Saints’ Anglican Church, the Clock Tower and the cast-iron Galle Lighthouse.

Return to the hotel in the early afternoon, with lunch and the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Dinner is at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

MON 04 MAR / GALLE – COLOMBO

Check out of the hotel and depart Galle for ‘Brief’, the former home and garden of Bevis Bawa, elder brother of Geoffrey Bawa. Started in 1929, Brief is a hillside garden overlooking a former rubber plantation. The house, which is also open to view, contains many wonderful artworks including a magnificent mural of Sri Lankan life by Australian artist Donald Friend, painted in the Modernist style of Marc Chagall.

Continue to ‘Lunuganga’, the former country estate of Geoffrey Bawa, and enjoy a guided tour of the estate’s expansive gardens. During the construction of Lunuganga in the 1940s, Geoffrey Bawa realised that architecture was his true calling, and abandoned his career as a lawyer in colonial Ceylon.

After lunch at Lunuganga, continue to Colombo, the economic and cultural capital of Sri Lanka. (BLD)

 

TUE 05 MAR / COLOMBO

Enjoy a morning tour of Colombo, visiting the Colombo Fort, the Oriental Bazaar at Pettah, several Hindu and Buddhist temples, the Jami Ul-Alfar Mosque, as well as the Wolvendaal Dutch Church, Hulftsdorp Law Courts, Independence Square and the parliament building, another project designed by Geoffrey Bawa.

After lunch, conclude your exploration of Colombo with a visit to the National Museum, which houses a large and important collection of Sri Lanka’s cultural and artistic heritage.

Return to the hotel in the afternoon. This evening, join Helen and fellow travellers for a special farewell dinner. (BLD)

 

WED 06 MAR / DEPART COLOMBO

In the morning, check out of the hotel and transfer to Colombo Bandaranaike Airport (included in tour price), where tour arrangements conclude.

Suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand departing from 12:00. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any extra nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour. (B)

 

Gardens of the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and Malta with Helen Young

Gardens of the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and Malta with Helen Young

 

The coastline of Italy’s Tyrrhenian Sea, gracefully easing down from Rome to the Amalfi Coast, joins hands with the historic Ionian islands of Sicily and Malta. For hundreds of years, travellers have come to bask in the beauty of these shores, and have built magnificent gardens to glorify this home of la dolce vita. Join Helen Young to admire the languid opulence of the gardens of Sorrento, Positano and the isles of Ischia and Capri, and the rugged beauty of the Mediterranean gardens of Sicily and Malta. In Rome, get a glimpse of the formal gardens of the Pope’s exclusive retreat of Castel Gandolfo, and wander through the captivating Vatican Gardens.

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Visit Sorrento, Positano, Ischia and Capri, whose naturalistic gardens overflow with verdant growth and colourful blossoms
• In Sicily, see gardens raised in the shadow of Mt Etna, and wander through picturesque Taormina and Syracuse
• Explore the gardens and palaces of Malta, where gardens of palm trees and succulents grow from the honey-coloured earth
• In Rome, visit the Pope’s private gardens at Castel Gandolfo, newly opened to the public for the first time, as well as the Vatican Gardens
• Optional post-tour to Gozo, Malta’s charming second island

 

ITINERARY

THURSDAY 03 MAY 2018

Suggested departure from Australia or New Zealand on Emirates flights via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

 

FRI 04 MAY / ARRIVE ROME

Mid-afternoon arrival in Rome, and check in to your hotel. In the evening, join Helen and your fellow travellers for a welcome reception. (R)

 

SAT 05 MAY / ROME

Today, enjoy a full-day tour of the private gardens and palaces of the Vatican City and the Pope’s lakeside residence of Castel Gandolfo. First stop is the Vatican itself for a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, and the Vatican Gardens, which cover more than half of the Vatican City’s 44 hectares in central Rome. Then board the dedicated ‘Papal Express’ train bound for Castel Gandolfo, an exclave of the Vatican City perched above Lazio’s Lake Albano. Opened to the public only in 2014 by Pope Francis, visitors can now stroll through the Barberini Gardens. After lunch, explore the Apostolic Palace. Return by train to central Rome for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

SUN 06 MAY / ROME – SORRENTO

After checking out of your hotel, travel to the remarkable landscape garden of Ninfa, described as ‘the most romantic garden in the world’. The settlement of Ninfa (from Latin ‘nymphaeum’ meaning ‘temple of the water nymphs’) was a flourishing Mediæval town with over 150 houses, a church, a castle, a town hall and a defensive wall, before being abandoned in the 17th century due to fears of malaria. It was not until the 20th century that the noble Caetani family established Ninfa as a landscape garden amidst the crumbling ruins. After free time for lunch, drive to Sorrento and check in to your hotel, followed by dinner. (BD)

 

MON 07 MAY / SORRENTO

Depart by ferry for a day-trip to the island of Capri, the iconic summertime retreat of the Amalfi Coast. Visit first the gardens of Villa San Michele, built by a 19th century Swedish doctor and philanthropist who created a terraced residence replete with intimate leafy walkways, Greek bronzes in its corridors and a red granite sphinx perched on the Siren Heights overlooking the Gulf of Naples. Enjoy lunch in a typical local restaurant and experience the true stile di Capri. After lunch, return to Sorrento, followed by an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

TUE 08 MAY / SORRENTO

This morning, depart by ferry for a tour of the gardens of Ischia, the picturesque volcanic isle lying off the northern horn of the Gulf of Naples. Explore the garden of La Mortella, named for the myrtle trees that grew on the site in the 1950s before British composer Sir William Walton turned it into the luxuriant gardens seen today. The garden’s key feature is its central Fountain of the Four Ponds filled with water lilies, strelitzia and Egyptian papyrus plants. After lunch, return to Sorrento. (BL)

 

WED 09 MAY / SORRENTO – RAVELLO

Check out from your hotel and drive to Positano, the glory of the Amalfi Coast. Enjoy a guided tour of Hotel Il San Pietro, a terraced garden and hotel built on the spot where St Peter supposedly first set foot on Italian soil, and after lunch in this spectacular setting, spend some free time in Positano in the afternoon. Continue to Ravello and check in to your hotel. (BL)

 

THU 10 MAY / RAVELLO

In the morning, explore Ravello with an orientation walking tour. Visit Villa Rufolo, whose 13th century origins are evident in its Arab-Norman tower and Moorish cloisters, and whose terraces look out over the Bay of Salerno. Villa Rufolo’s gardens overflow with terraces of orange, red and pink blossoms, shaded by palm trees so typical of Mediterranean gardens. Explore Villa Cimbrone, quiet hideaway of DH Lawrence, Winston Churchill other famous figures, whose Mediæval-style castle-palace incorporates elements inspired by Saracenic, Byzantine, Moorish and Renaissance architecture. Its garden features a 500 metre-long central nave shaded by cypress, acacia and arbutus, leading under a bridge hung with roses and wisteria.
After the conclusion of the walking tour, enjoy free time for lunch and the remainder of the afternoon and evening at leisure in Ravello. (B)

 

FRI 11 MAY / RAVELLO – CATANIA

Enjoy a leisurely morning in Ravello, before checking out from the hotel and transferring to Naples airport for a flight to the city of Catania in Sicily. (B)

 

SAT 12 MAY / CATANIA

In the morning, discover Catania with an orientation tour of the city centre. Explore the fascinating Orto Botanico of the University of Catania, which is divided into the Hortus Generalis (plant species from around the world) and the Hortus Siculus (Sicilian native plants). Wander the paths of the Giardino Bellini, Catania’s oldest urban park, where the planting is changed daily to depict the day’s date. Travel to the Giardino della Villa Trinità, a three-hectare garden on the slopes of Mount Etna, where citrus trees, palms, succulents and irises are set amongst the saje (traditional handmade irrigation channels) and the natural lava outcrops. Enjoy lunch in the garden before returning to your hotel for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

SUN 13 MAY / CATANIA

Depart for a full-day tour to Taormina, an ancient city set between the towering Mount Etna and the azure waters of the Ionian Sea. Visit the Giardino della Villa Comunale, developed in the late 19th century by Lady Florence Trevelyan, a Scotswoman who had immigrated to Sicily after having an affair with the Prince of Wales, and her husband Salvatore Cacciola, a professor of histology and long-time mayor of Taormina. The garden’s olives, pines, palms, cypresses and creepers are typical of the Mediterranean biome. Continue to Casa Cuseni, ‘an English garden in the soil of Sicily’ designed by a trio of 19th century British artists. Casa Cuseni blends the familiar English garden design with the indigenous flora of the Mediterranean. Enjoy free time in Taormina for lunch and a stroll, before returning to Catania. (B)

 

MON 14 MAY / CATANIA – SYRACUSE

Depart Catania bound for Syracuse. En route visit the centuries-old estates of two noble families which have each been given a new lease on life with the addition of sumptuous gardens by their present owners. Travel first to the Villa Borghese and Giardino del Biviere in Lentini. In the 1960s, Principessa Maria Carla Borghese decided to turn the dry rocky bed of a drained lake into a lush garden, populated with plants drawn from her travels throughout the Mediterranean and gifted to her by foreign visitors. Next, visit the Estate of San Giuliano in Villasmundo for lunch, followed by a guided tour of the gardens. Created by the Marchese of San Giuliano in 1974, the garden is quartered into Arabian, Tropical, Mediterranean and Scented Flower sectors. Continue to Syracuse and check in to your hotel, followed by an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

TUE 15 MAY / SYRACUSE

Explore central Syracuse with a walking tour of Ortigia Island, the heart of the old city, and a visit to the Galleria Regionale del Palazzo Bellomo to discover its collection of art treasures from deconsecrated churches and convents. After lunch at a local restaurant, delve into the Hellenistic past of Syracuse with a tour of the Ancient Greek Theatre, recessed into the Temenite Hill and overlooking the Bay of Syracuse, and the 3rd century BC Altar of King Hiero II, the largest known altar from antiquity. Also visit the ancient quarries which supplied the doughty and durable limestone of which Greek Syracuse was built. (BL)

 

WED 16 MAY / SYRACUSE – VALLETTA

Enjoy a morning and early afternoon at leisure with late check out from your hotel, before departing for the city of Noto, the last stronghold of the Arabs against the conquering Normans in the 11th century. In Noto, watch organisers put the finishing touches on the famous Infiorata di Noto flower festival. In the afternoon, depart for the port city of Pozzallo, and after dinner at a local restaurant board the ferry to Malta, arriving in the late evening. (BD)

 

THU 17 MAY / VALLETTA

In the morning, take in the sights of Valletta, Malta’s honey-coloured capital city, with a walking tour of the Upper Barrakka Gardens, St John’s Co-Cathedral and the Armoury of the Grandmaster of the Knights of St John. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the 5,500-year-old temple complex of Ħaġar Qim and Mnajdra, whose Stone Age megaliths, one of the national symbols of Malta, are around a millennium older than even the most ancient of Egypt’s pyramids. Return to Valletta for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

FRI 18 MAY / VALLETTA

After a morning visit to the Argotti Botanical Gardens in Valletta, travel to the town of Rabat and enter St Paul’s Grotto, the cave where the Apostle Paul is said to have lived after he was shipwrecked on the shores of Malta in 60 AD. Continue to Mdina, which served as the capital of Malta from antiquity to the Middle Ages, and discover the Siculo-Norman, Gothic and Baroque architecture of the houses of Malta’s noble families. After a visit to the Cathedral of St Paul, built on the spot where the Roman governor greeted the shipwrecked saint, enjoy a farewell lunch. After lunch, visit Naxxar’s 18th century Palazzo Parisio, residence of the Scicluna family, whose gilded ballroom has seen the palace dubbed ‘a miniature Versailles’. After a tour of the palace and its luxuriant Baroque gardens, enjoy some free time for afternoon tea before returning to Valletta. (BL)

 

SAT 19 MAY / DEPART VALLETTA

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. Suggested departure for Australia or New Zealand on Emirates flights via Dubai. (B)
OR
Join an optional two-night extension tour to Gozo.

 

POST TOUR EXTENSION ITINERARY

19–21 May 2018 (3 days) – Locally Guided

 

SATURDAY 19 MAY 2018 / VALLETTA – VICTORIA

After breakfast, drive to the port city of Ċirkewwa for a ferry ride to the picturesque island of Gozo. On arrival, proceed to Victoria, the capital of Gozo, with free time for lunch before a walking tour of the sights of the city. Built on one of the three hills of Gozo, Victoria is dominated by its honey-coloured Mediæval citadel. In the afternoon, check in to your hotel for dinner. (BD)

 

SUN 20 MAY / VICTORIA

Enjoy a full-day tour of the highlights of Gozo. In the morning, travel to Dwejra Bay, where the Mediterranean creeps through a natural archway underneath great limestone cliffs and forms the gentle, teal-coloured lagoon known as the Inland Sea. Explore the megaliths of Ġgantija, a 5,000-year-old temple complex dedicated to a Stone Age fertility goddess and continue to Calypso’s Cave, where the nymph Calypso was said to have trapped Odysseus for seven years. (For safety reasons, it is not possible to enter the cave – but given what happened to Odysseus, it is just as well!) Enjoy lunch in the beguiling fishing village of Xlendi, set between the steep hills and the deep sea. Visit the Villa Rundle Gardens, a Mediterranean-style garden established around 1915 by the British Governor of Malta, before returning to your hotel for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

MON 21 MAY / VICTORIA – VALLETTA

After breakfast, check out from hotel and return to Malta island by ferry. Transfer to Valletta Airport arriving by 12:30, where tour arrangements conclude. Suggested departure for Australia or New Zealand on Emirates flights via Dubai departing from 15:30 onwards. (B)

 

Autumn Colours of Japan

Autumn Colours of Japan

– Classical and contemporary gardens of northern Japan with Helen Young

On this unique tour to Hokkaido and northern Honshu, discover a colourful panorama of classical Japanese gardens and contemporary garden design during the glorious autumn season.

Somewhat akin to Australia’s Tasmania, Hokkaido is less populated than the rest of Japan, boasts a sophisticated capital Sapporo, features a rugged landscape and has its own distinctive outdoors culture. Over a week here, follow the ‘Hokkaido Garden Path’, explore exciting contemporary gardens, stay in a hot spring resort in the mountains and marvel at the beauty of the changing season all around you.

On the main island of Honshu, at Matsushima Bay and in Tokyo, you will discover some of Japan’s most famous classical gardens, ranging from ancient temple gardens to the much-loved Japanese ‘strolling garden’ and the gardens of the Imperial Palace. Throughout, discover the unique Japanese aesthetic of gardens, art and the changing seasons.

 

AT A GLANCE…

  • Explore private gardens, sculpture gardens, botanical gardens and nurseries along the ‘Hokkaido Garden Path’
  • Visit Dan Pearson’s Tokachi Millennium Forest and Isamu Noguchi’s Moerenuma Park
  • Relax at a hot spring resort in Daisetsuzan National Park
  • Stay at Matsushima Bay, ranked as one of the ‘three most scenic sites of Japan
  • Finish in Tokyo with visits to the Imperial Palace gardens, Asakusa, the National Museum and Rikugien Garden

 

ITINERARY

SUNDAY 01 OCT 2017 / AUSTRALIA – SAPPORO
Morning departure from Sydney on Japan Airlines to Tokyo (same-day connections ex-MEL, BNE, CBR. Previous day connections ex-PER, ADL, DRW). Late afternoon arrival and transfer to an evening flight* (2 hr) to Sapporo.
Late evening arrival at your hotel in Sapporo, the capital of Hokkaido and Japan’s fifth largest city. Sapporo is famous for its ramen (noodles), beer and the annual snow festival held in February. Designed by European and American architects in the late 19th century, Sapporo is shaped by its wide grid of tree-lined streets and ample public parks. The city became world famous in 1972 when the Olympic Winter Games were held here.

*This flight is included if booking the tour including flights. If booking the tour without flights, you must add the cost of this flight – please check with Renaissance Tours for flight details and costs.

MON 02 OCT / SAPPORO
Your exploration of Sapporo begins at Odori Park, filled with sculptures, fountains, lilac, acacia plants and flowerbeds. See the Sapporo Clock Tower and the former Hokkaido government office building (1881), known as ‘Red Brick’, and finish with a visit to the summit of Mt Moiwa, accessed by a cable car, offering a magnificent view over the city.

Following a welcome lunch, enjoy your first taste of Hokkaido’s famous autumn colours during an afternoon walk in the Sculpture Garden of the Sapporo Art Park, set on a beautiful green hillside with a sprawling collection of 75 contemporary artworks by Japanese and international artists. (BL)

TUE 03 OCT / SAPPORO
Today begins with a visit to the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art, which features works by Hokkaido-associated painters and sculptors, an acclaimed collection of glassworks ranging from Art Nouveau to the Modern period and works by the ‘School of Paris’ painters including Jules Pascin.

After lunch, spend the afternoon in the Hokkaido University Botanical Gardens. Established in 1886, the Botanic Garden preserves a small part of the forest which formerly covered the Ishikari Plain. In addition, there is an alpine garden, a greenhouse and a small Ainu museum. (BL)

WED 04 OCT / SAPPORO – TOKACHI
Depart Sapporo for a morning’s drive to the largely rural region of Tokachi. Here you join the ‘Hokkaido Garden Path’, a 200 km garden tour route stretching from Tokachi through Furano to Asahikawa in the centre of the island.

Arriving around midday, enjoy lunch followed by a visit to Tokachi Hills garden, surrounded by three different types of garden: a colourful border garden, an English-style garden and the natural native untouched wildflowers of Tokachi.

Continue to Manabe Garden, famous as the first conifer garden in Japan but also featuring many species of colourful deciduous trees.
Late afternoon arrival at your hotel in Obihiro, your base for the next three nights. (BLD)

THU 05 OCT / TOKACHI
Today enjoy three very different garden experiences.
Begin with a visit to ‘Taishirou’s Forest’, a ‘wild garden’ full of flowers and plants that particularly bloom in Japan’s north. Continue to Rokka-no Mori, which displays the six flower varieties of Tokachi (Gentiana triflora, Sweetbrier, Trillium camschatcense, Erythronium japonicum, and Caltha palustris var. barthei) which blossom through the seasons. Throughout the garden are scattered old, rustic houses brought from Croatia that serve as art museums.

Finish with a visit to Oomori Country Garden, the creation of a garden-designer couple who now provide seedlings to other popular gardens and garden designers in Japan. Many kinds of indigenous and imported flowers bloom throughout the year from spring to autumn. (BL)

FRI 06 OCT / TOKACHI
Today is devoted to a full-day visit to the Tokachi Millennium Forest. Designed by Dan Pearson, the internationally-renowned British garden designer, the Tokachi Millennium Forest was created under the theme of a Hokkaido garden that is harmonised with nature. The garden involves four concepts: the Earth Garden that features undulated grassland and magnificent views; the Forest Garden, where one can feel the life of flowers and plants; the Meadow Garden, boasting beautiful scenery of well-known Tokachi flowers and plants, and the Farm Garden with its theme of agriculture coexisting with nature. Expect a blaze of autumn colours in the stunning natural and cultivated landscapes. (BD)

SAT 07 OCT / TOKACHI – SOUNKYO HOT SPRING
Depart the Tokachi region for the Daisetsuzan National Park located in the mountainous centre of the island.
On the way, stop for lunch and a visit to Daisetsu Mori-no Garden. Overlooking the Daisetsu mountain range, Daisetsu Mori-no Garden is a ‘forest garden with flowers, where more than 700 kinds of flowers bloom throughout the year.
Late afternoon arrival at Sounkyo Hot Springs, a resort town in Daisetsuzan National Park, surrounded by towering mountains, waterfalls and gorges. A ski resort through the winter, Sounkyo is famous for its vivid autumn colours. (BLD)

SUN 08 OCT / SOUNKYO HOT SPRING
This morning take the Ropeway up Mount Kurodake, one of the earliest spots in Japan to see autumn colours, which typically appear at the beginning of September around the mountain peak. In the upper elevations the colours are usually best in the second half of September and then slowly make their way down to the valley floor by around mid-October.

The Ropeway takes you up to the 5th Station of Mt Kurodake at an altitude of 1, 300 m. Fit tour members may choose to continue by chair lift and a steep 60-90 minute climb to the summit (1, 964 m) which rewards walkers with views into the interior of the Daisetsuzan mountains.

The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the hot springs or many gentle walks from the resort. (BD)

MON 09 OCT / SOUNKYO HOT SPRING – SAPPORO
Depart Sounkyo Hot Spring resort for a leisurely day’s drive back to Sapporo.
In the morning, stop to visit Ueno Farm, modelled on an English country-style garden, featuring hardy perennials that have been rearranged to suit the Hokkaido climate. Ueno Farm is the creation of renowned Japanese garden designer Saluki Ueno.

Later, stop to visit Moerenuma Park, a large, contemporary (2005) park on the outskirts of Sapporo designed by American-Japanese sculptor Isamu Noguchi. On the concept of “the whole being a single sculpture” and the park as a fusion of nature and art, Moerenuma is a park for all seasons with cherry blossoms in the spring, a fountain and wading pools for the summer, colourful foliage in the autumn and cross-country skiing and sledding during winter.

Late afternoon arrival and overnight in Sapporo. (BLD)

TUE 10 OCT / SAPPORO – SENDAI – MATSUSHIMA
This morning transfer to Sapporo Airport for a midday flight* to Sendai and continue to nearby Matsushima for a stay of three nights. Matsushima is famous for the stunning natural beauty of its bay, historic temples and superb gardens.

*This flight is included if booking the tour including flights. If booking the tour without flights, you must add the cost of this flight – please check with Renaissance Tours for flight details and costs. (BD)
WED 11 OCT / MATSUSHIMA
This morning, visit Shiogama, a large Shinto shrine complex believed to be over 1,200 years old and the protector of fishermen and safe childbirth. The shrine contains a wealth of history and fifteen of its buildings, which were built during the Edo Period, have been declared important cultural treasures. Famous for its cherry blossoms in the spring (over 300 cherry trees are planted around its grounds) Shiogama is equally beautiful in the autumn.

After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy a cruise around the islands of Matsushima Bay. Some 260 islands, large and small, covered by black and red pines and light grayish-coloured rocks, are scattered throughout the picturesque bay. The view of Matsushima changes from place to place and from season to season, and the area has been designated as one of the three most scenic sites of Japan. (BL)

THU 12 OCT / MATSUSHIMA
This morning you will visit the Zuiganji and Entsuin temples. Founded in 828, Zuiganji is one of the region’s most famous and prominent Zen temples. In addition to its historic buildings and art museum, the temple grounds feature a magnificent avenue of cedar trees, a number of caves that were used in the past for meditation and lovingly tended gardens for strolling, admiration and contemplation.

Entsuin Temple was built in 1646 next to Zuiganji Temple, to house the mausoleum of Date Mitsumune, the son of the ruling local feudal lord Date Terumune. The temple grounds feature a variety of traditional Japanese garden styles including a moss and maple garden with a heart-shaped pond, a Western-style rose garden, a moss and rock garden and a cedar grove for meditation at the back of the temple grounds.
The afternoon is at leisure to further marvel at Matsushima Bay, spend more time in the gardens, visit the local fish market or simply enjoy the leisure facilities of your resort-style hotel. (BD)

FRI 13 OCT / MATSUSHIMA – TOKYO
Depart Matsushima for a visit to the Rinnoji Temple, Sendai. The temple was founded in 1441 by Date Mochimune, a member of the Date clan that later controlled large parts of northern Japan in the Edo Period. The exquisite inner gardens, with their strolling paths, ponds and bridges, well-tended trees, flowers and plants, and a three-storied pagoda are a perfect example of the Japanese skill of recreating a landscape in miniature.

After lunch at a local restaurant, take the Shinkansen (‘bullet train’) from Sendai to Tokyo (2 hours). (BL)

SAT 14 OCT / TOKYO
Your exploration of the gardens of Tokyo begins with a visit to the East Garden of the Imperial Palace, created on the grounds of the former Edo Castle, the residence of the Tokugawa shogun who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867 and the Emperor Meiji who resided there from 1868 to 1888 before moving to the newly constructed Imperial Palace.

Continue to the bustling Asakusa District. After lunch at a local restaurant, visit Sensoji, Tokyo’s most popular and famous Buddhist temple, dating back to the 7th century. The temple is approached via the Nakamise, a shopping street with a variety of traditional, local snacks and tourist souvenirs.

Finish with a visit to Rikugien Garden, often considered Tokyo’s most beautiful Japanese landscape garden. Built around 1700 for the 5th Tokugawa Shogun, Rikugien literally means “six poems garden” and reproduces in miniature 88 scenes from famous poems. (BL)

SUN 15 OCT / TOKYO
Enjoy a morning visit to the Tokyo National Museum, located in Ueno Park.
The Tokyo National Museum, established in 1872, is the oldest Japanese national museum, the largest art museum in Japan and one of the largest art museums in the world. Designated in 1873, Ueno Park was the first public park in Japan. Known as one of the best spots in Tokyo for cherry blossoms, Ueno is also wonderful for is autumn leaves, with brilliant maples and ginkgos everywhere.

This afternoon is at leisure to further explore Tokyo on your own. You may want to visit the Ginza shopping district or explore more of Tokyo’s parks. This evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner. (BD)

MON 16 OCT / DEPART JAPAN
After a morning at leisure, transfer in the mid-afternoon to Tokyo Narita Airport for an evening departure on Japan Airlines. Overnight in flight. (B)

TUE 17 OCT / ARRIVE AUSTRALIA
Early morning arrival in Sydney and connections to MEL, BNE, CBR, ADL, PER, ADL, DRW.

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

Japanese and South Korean Spring Gardens and Culture Cruise

Japanese and South Korean Spring Gardens and Culture Cruise

 

Itinerary

Day 1. Arrive Tokyo
Depart Tokyo Narita International Airport at 10:00am or the New Otani Hotel Tokyo at 11:30am to explore Tokyo.
Visit the Imperial Palace East Gardens, and the Meiji Shrine and grounds.
This evening, settle in to your accommodation in Tokyo.
Stay: Tokyo, New Otani Hotel or similar

Day 2. Tokyo to Kanazawa
Today you will take a bullet train from Tokyo to Kanazawa. Kanazawa is a thriving centre of the arts, known for its lacquer ware, collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship and delicate hand-painting of silk for kimonos and Noh theatre dramas. Board your ship and enjoy a Welcome Dinner this evening.
Eleven Nights: MS Caledonian Sky (BLD)

Day 3. Kanazawa and Kenroku-en Garden
This morning depart from the port and visit Omicho Market that sells and displays everything from flowers to fish to local handicrafts. Afterwards visit one of Japan’s premier highlights and the famed Kenroku-en Garden, ranked among the country’s top gardens.
This afternoon immerse yourself in Kanazawa culture with a visit to Higashi Chaya Gai Geisha District, where still remains the traditional form of the town which traces back to Samurai Era. You will also view other handcrafted items famous in Kanazawa such as the Kimono and Golden Leaf. (BLD)

Day 4. Yuushien Garden and Matsue
This morning visit Matsue, known as the ‘Town of Water’, which nestles a scenic lake and lagoon. Visit a number of cultural attractions including Matsue Castle. Known as the ‘Black Castle’, it is one of only a few wooden Medieval castles remaining in Japan today. Admire the graceful exterior of the complex structure, then take the opportunity to explore the interior, and its magnificent views of Lake Shinji
This afternoon visit the stunning Yuushien Garden, a real flower garden full of colour and blossom, famous for growing ginseng and peonies. (BLD)

Day 5. Hagi
This morning we visit Hagi, one of Japan’s most beautiful castle towns, where you can explore the old streets; the Hagi Castle ruins; Shizuki Park; and Tokoji Temple Japan’s revolution began here in Jokamachi’s old Samurai residential quarter, where we will tour a Samurai’s home. We will also visit the historic Daisho Temple, the resting place of the two first Mori daimyo a family of powerful and territorial pre-modern Japanese lords and all of the even-numbered daimyo. This traditional temple is located on Mount Mison, considered a holy mountain, on the island of Itsukushima. Inside, you will find a flame that is said to have been burning for some 1,200 years. (BLD)

Day 6. Pusan, South Korea
Embark on a full-day excursion to Kyongju, a World Heritage-listed site often described as the world’s finest open-air museum. As the ancient capital of the Shilla Dynasty, Kyongju’s heritage dates back to the first millennium. As we stroll through some of the numerous excavated monuments, temples, tombs and pagodas, there will be time to explore the National Museum, with its exceptional collection of finely worked gold jewellery, metal weapons and pottery. At lunch, sample Korean delicacies followed by a special cultural performance of traditional dance. (BLD)

Day 7. Dejima Island and Nagasaki
This morning explore Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an A-bomb in World War II. Tour the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Museum and Glover Garden.
This afternoon visit Dejima Island, built during the Edo Period to house Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion. It was also the residential quarters of the Dutch, the only foreigners allowed to trade in Japan during the Sakoku isolation Period for 200 years, until Japan reopened to the world. (BLD)

Day 8. Yakushima Island
Today we arrive on the island of Yakushima, which became Japan’s first World Heritage-listed site in 1993. Yakushima is famous in botanical circles for many great garden plants, including dwarf plants that have evolved to grow smaller than their mainland cousins. We will spend time here on nature walks, including Yakusugi Land, a nature park populated by a number of the island’s ancient cedar trees, such as the Buddhasugi, Futagosugi and Sennensugi. (BLD)

Day 9. Uwajima, Freedom of Choice
Arrive in Uwajima, situated deep inside the saw-toothed coast of Uwajima Bay. Today you have two choices, Uwajima is the nation’s largest pearl cultivation centre, learn the process of cultivating and sorting pearls on a visit to a pearl farm before continuing on to Tensha-en Garden which is a typical example of a Japanese garden built during the Samurai era. Alternatively explore Uwajima Castle and Tensha-en Garden. (BLD)

Day 10. Miyajima and Hiroshima
Arrive in Hiroshima to visit the compelling Peace Memorial Park. The park is dotted with memorials, including the cenotaph that contains the names of all the known victims of the A-bomb. Return to the ship for lunch, then continue on to Miyajima.
Considered one of Japan’s top scenic wonders, Miyajima provides a picture-postcard vista of the scarlet Torii Gate, the giant camphor wood gates at the entrance to the Shinto Shrine. We will go ashore to explore the World Heritage-listed Itsukushima Jinja Shrine, founded in the 6th century and dedicated to three sea goddesses. (BLD)

Day 11. Takamatsu and Ritsurin Park
Today tour the stunning city of Takamatsu on Shikoku, the smallest of the four main Japanese Islands. We will journey over the Seto-Ohashi Bridge and visit Kinashi Bonsai Town. Next visit Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden, famous for its magnificent spring colours and Chrysanthemum-Moon Pavilion. (BLD)
Day 12. Okayama Koraku-en Garden and Kurashiki
This morning, we will visit Koraku-en Garden, one of Japan’s most significant gardens – the name meaning ‘garden of pleasure after’. Visit a classic Japanese teahouse with views over the garden. After a local lunch, continue to Kurashiki, where we explore the old merchant quarter and its fine 17th century wooden warehouses. The beautiful houses are painted white with traditional black tiles, and are situated along a canal framed with weeping willows. This evening enjoy a Farewell Dinner on board the ship. (BLD)

Day 13. Kobe to Kyoto
Arrive this morning into Kobe where you will be transferred from the ship to Kyoto. Kyoto was the former Imperial Capital of Japan and is now ranked as one of the world’s most liveable cities. Soak up the tranquil natural beauty of this peaceful place. Visit the rock garden masterpiece of Ryoanji and Kinkakuji, a fine example of Muromachi period garden design. Afterwards enjoy a city sightseeing tour including the Gion District – where the world-famous Geisha reside.
Stay: Kyoto, Granvia Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 14. Depart Kyoto
After breakfast, you will be transferred to the airport by shuttle bus for your flight home. (B)

 

The MS Caledonian Sky

Botanica has elevated adventure travel to a new standard. With 57 suites and just 100 travellers, the MS Caledonian Sky is designed for intimate small groups with the décor of a grand English country hotel, while our crew of 75 will assure personalised attention.

 

Japanese Spring Blooms

Embark on a voyage of horticultural discovery of this fascinating region during the first flourish of spring. This remarkable season brings a myriad of spectacular blooms and bursts of colour from tree peonies, Japanese azaleas and peach blossoms. Venture along the historic shores of Japan, exploring ancient castles, peaceful gardens and opulent temples. Take in the colourful hues of the plum, apricot and peach blossoms that colour the streets, parks and temple gardens, providing a vivid display for us to enjoy.

 

Highlights

•  Learn about the history of Japan during onboard lectures
•  Tour the Imperial Palace Gardens and Meiji Shrine in Tokyo
•  Travel by Bullet train from central Tokyo to Kanazawa
•  Explore Kenroku-en Garden, ranked among the country’s top gardens
•  Visit a Samurai’s home and Pearl Farm
•  See Yushien Garden, famous for growing ginseng and peonies
•  Discover Kyongju, a World Heritage-listed site in South Korea
•  Visit Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden famous for its spring colours
•  Travel to Yakushima, Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage-listed site
•  Visit the stunning city of Takamatsu
•  See Koraku-en Garden, the famous landscape garden of Okayama
•  Explore the majestic Western Kyoto Gardens including Kinkakuji and Ryoanji
•  Learn about Japanese plants and gardens from your Botanical Guides

 

Included

•  Services of a Cruise Director and lectures from your Botanical Guides
•  Airport transfers on first and last day, tipping and port taxes
•  37 Meals – 13 Breakfasts 12 Lunches and 12 Dinners
•  Wine, beer and soft drinks included with lunch and dinner on board the ship
•  11 nights on the small ship, the MS Caledonian Sky, which holds a maximum of 100 passengers
•  1 night each in Tokyo and Kyoto in 4-5 star hotels
•  Enjoy coastal views from your suite
•  On board lectures by the Expedition Team and Botanical Guides

 

Great Gardens of China: From Classical to Contemporary

Great Gardens of China: From Classical to Contemporary with Genevieve Jacobs

 

This fascinating tour explores centuries of Chinese culture through the lens of gardens, landscapes and art. From the great gardens of the Ming and Qing dynasties to cutting-edge artistic innovations of the 21st century, China is a unique civilisation where the old and new coexist in surprising, dynamic harmony.

Designed with the garden-lover in mind, this tour will also appeal to anyone interested in China’s long and rich cultural history as well as the extraordinary changes taking place there currently. From the bustling cities of Shanghai and Beijing to the serene ‘garden capital’ of Suzhou and the striking jagged granite peaks of the Yellow Mountains, discover the Chinese traditions of garden design, along with stunning historical sights, dramatic scenery, and traditional and contemporary art and architecture.

China has long been a source of inspiration to horticulturists, artists and adventurers. Now let this captivating destination inspire you too!

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Explore the exquisite gardens, fine museums and cutting-edge art and architecture of Shanghai and Beijing
• Take time to discover the captivating gardens, pagodas, stone bridges and temples of Suzhou, China’s ‘garden capital’
• Enjoy the scenic lakeside ancient capital of Hangzhou, loved by emperors, poets and painters alike
• Be inspired by the striking granite peaks and ancient twisted pine trees of the World Heritage-listed Yellow Mountains
• Take advantage of a post-tour trip to Chengde and visit the world’s largest existing imperial garden and see one of the best preserved sections of China’s Great Wall

 

ITINERARY

FRI 24 MARCH 2017 / AUSTRALIA – SHANGHAI
Suggested morning departure from Sydney on Qantas (connecting flights available ex-MEL, BNE, CBR, ADL). Suggested departure from Perth on Cathay (via Hong Kong). Evening arrival in Shanghai and transfer to your hotel. (NB. Flight not included in tour cost. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with these travel arrangements).

SAT 25 MAR / SHANGHAI
Enjoy a full-day tour of Shanghai, a city that started as a humble fishing village before becoming a thriving trading centre in the late 19th century. Included in the tour is a visit to the 400-year old Yuyuan Garden. This meticulously reconstructed garden preserves its classical beauty, and features traditional Chinese architecture, miniature lakes, bridges and rock formations. After a welcome lunch, visit the Shanghai Museum. The museum building is shaped like a bronze tripod and houses one of the world’s finest collections of ancient and modern Chinese art and artefacts. Tonight, enjoy dinner in a local restaurant. (BLD)

SUN 26 MAR / SHANGHAI
Embark on a ‘contemporary express’ trip of modern Shanghai, beginning with a visit to Yuz Museum, established in 2007 by Budi Tek, a Chinese-Indonesian entrepreneur, art philanthropist and collector, to promote contemporary art and artists of both Asia and the West. Visit the Power Station of Art, home to the Shanghai Biennale and the first state-run museum of contemporary Chinese art. In the afternoon, visit 50 Moganshan Road, a contemporary art district with a thriving community of more than a hundred artists and whose studios are open to the public. (BL)

MON 27 MAR / SHANGHAI – SUZHOU
After breakfast, depart for the ‘garden capital’ of Suzhou, situated on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River and near the shores of Lake Taihu. This enchanting city is renowned for its beautiful stone bridges, pagodas and meticulously designed gardens. Following lunch and a background talk, visit the Master of the Nets Garden is the smallest of the Suzhou residential gardens, yet is considered one of the most impressive because of its use of space, creating the illusion of an area that is much greater than its actual size. (BLD)

TUE 28 MAR / SUZHOU
Visit the Garden of the Humble Administrator, the largest classical garden in Suzhou and one of the most famous gardens in China. Continue to the Suzhou New Museum, designed by the renowned American Chinese designer I. M. Pei, who spent his childhood in Suzhou. The museum, which is an extraordinary contemporary interpretation of traditional Suzhou architecture, houses over 30,000 cultural relics, most notably Ming and Qing dynasty paintings and calligraphy, and ancient arts and crafts. (BL)

WED 29 MAR / SUZHOU
This morning visit two gardens. The first, Lion Grove Garden, is reputedly the world’s only surviving rock garden, whose name is derived from the lion-shaped taihu rocks. The Lingering Garden, originally a classical private garden and now one of the four most famous gardens in China and a UNESCO World Heritage site. Laid out in typical Qing style, the garden is renowned for its magnificent buildings in various shapes, sizes and colours. During the visit, join Genevieve Jacobs for a talk about Chinese gardens.

The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy Suzhou’s many other gardens and attractions. (BL)

THU 30 MAR / SUZHOU – HANGZHOU
Leave Suzhou and drive to Hangzhou, one of China’s six ancient capitals. In the afternoon, enjoy a picturesque lake cruise on the West Lake, Hangzhou’s centrepiece, and loved by emperors, poets, painters and Communist rulers alike. This is followed by a visit to Guozhuang Garden. Completed in 1861, this elegant garden villa was built as a private retreat for a wealthy Qing dynasty silk merchant. It is a fine example of Chinese aesthetics in which the man-made and natural are in harmonious balance. Dinner this evening is in the hotel restaurant (BLD)

FRI 31 MAR / HANGZHOU
This morning visit Lingyin Temple, the oldest and most influential Buddhist monastery in South-eastern China with a history of more than 1,600 years. In the afternoon, visit a couple of select contemporary art galleries. Tonight enjoy a performance of ‘Impression West Lake’. (BL)

SAT 01 APR / HANGZHOU – HUANGSHAN
Transfer by coach from Hangzhou to Huangshan (Yellow Mountains). Frequently the subject of traditional Chinese paintings and literature, this UNESCO World Heritage-listed area is well known for its striking scenery, including peculiarly-shaped granite peaks, ancient twisted pine trees, and unique cloud formations. In the afternoon, attend a talk and then visit Tunxi Old Street, lined with two- and three-storey houses displaying the 800-year old design of ‘shop in the front, and house or workshop at the back’. (BLD)

SUN 02 APR / HUANGSHAN
Enjoy a full day in the Yellow Mountains. Take a cable car from Yungu Station and visit a number of mountain peaks such as Brush Pen Peak, Begin-to-Believe Peak and Lion Peak as well as the Xihai Grand Canyon. (BLD)

MON 03 APR / HUANGSHAN – BEIJING
After a morning at leisure, transfer to the local airport for the flight to Beijing. (B,D)

TUE 04 APR / BEIJING
After a talk by your tour leader this morning, today’s city tour begins in Beijing’s geographical heart, Tiananmen Square. At over 40 hectares, Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest public square and has been the site of demonstrations, celebrations and political incidents for nearly a hundred years. Visit the National Museum of China, China’s largest and most comprehensive history museum including collections of decorative objects and artefacts such as bronzes, pottery, lacquer ware, jade, textiles and paintings. This afternoon visit the Red Gate Gallery, founded in 1991 by Australian Brian Wallace and is China’s first private contemporary art gallery owned and managed by a foreigner. (BL)

WED 05 APR / BEIJING
This morning visit the Imperial Palace (The Forbidden City). Dating back to the 15th century, this site is a magnificent complex of pavilions, courtyards, gates, ceremonial halls, residences, gardens and lakes. After lunch, visit Jingshan Park, a beautifully landscaped royal garden with wonderful views over the Forbidden City. End the day with a tour of the Hutong district surrounding the ancient Bell and Drum Towers, which were used to tell the time during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. (BL)

THU 06 APR / BEIJING
Visit the Summer Palace, the summer retreat of the imperial family during the Qing Dynasty. Renowned for its architectural grandeur and stunning natural beauty, a large man made lake makes up three-quarters of the total area. The afternoon is at leisure. Optional opera/music/ballet performance at the new National Centre of the Performing Arts, commonly referred to as ‘The Egg’. (Not included in tour price, additional cost applies). (BL)

FRI 07 APR / BEIJING
Explore the burgeoning contemporary art scene with a visit to Guanfu Museum, China’s first private museum and 798 Art Space, the pioneer of the contemporary art in modern China. (B)
(BLorD)

SAT 08 APR / BEIJING
Visit the Temple of Heaven, a superb example of imperial Chinese architecture. Following a special farewell lunch, today’s tour ends in the nearby Pearl Market, Beijing’s largest arts and crafts market.

Suggested travel arrangements for SYD / MEL / BNE / ADL / CBR tour members.
8.00 PM checkout and transfer to Beijing Capital Airport for departure on overnight Qantas flight to Sydney.
(BL)

SUN 09 APR / DEPART BEIJING
Mid-morning arrival in Sydney (connecting flights available to MEL, BNE, CBR, ADL).

Suggested travel arrangements for PER tour members.
After breakfast tour arrangements conclude with a private transfer to the airport for departure on Cathay Pacific via Hong Kong. Late evening arrival in Perth.
(B)

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)

 

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Rowan Hayes

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Rowan Hayes

 

OVERVIEW
Borneo, the ‘Land Below the Wind’ as it was once called, has steamy jungles, exotic wildlife and extraordinary landscapes. It is still possible to meet the families of once head-hunting indigenes and to experience the Malay states that spawned adventurous romance from which the likes of Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling drew inspiration.

This tour exposes you to rainforest and other ecological niches that make the island one of the world’s plant hotspots. Teeming, noisy jungles, secluded beaches, mountains and rainforest are home to orangutan, hornbills, exotic plants, amazing caves, tribal village life.

There is the opportunity to immerse yourself in the colonial history with discussions about the ‘white Rajahs’ and visits to WW2 memorials.

Oriental cuisine and tropical fruit delights such as rambutan, jackfruit, salak, durian will add to your destination experiences.

Please note: Because we are seeking to find unspoilt environments and intact plant communities with abundant wildlife. Accommodation in remote national parks is basic, as illustrated.

Although this is not a trekking journey, we will, on occasions be walking on tracks and boardwalks for up to three hours. The walking tracks are not unlike a hike in our bushland. A reasonable level of fitness is necessary. Tropical temperatures can be challenging and it is necessary to maintain hydration.

TOUR ITINERARY
Day 1 Sat 10 September Sydney-Singapore-Kuching
Depart Sydney to Kuching, Sarawak via Singapore. Overnight at hotel.

Day 2
Visit the famous Kuching Museum, ride sampans to cross the Sarawak River. Pass the white rajah’s residence, see the orchid garden on the other side of the Kuching Waterfront. Make an offering at a Chinese Buddhist temple. Evening meal in a night market. Sample the famous offerings of satay, kolo mee and other Kuching favourites. After dinner stroll beneath wide trees along the romantic big lazy riverfront. Colonial buildings with the old shops of the bazaar enrich the experience. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 3 Kuching-Bako National Park
Bus to Kampong Bako. Take a long boat to Bako National Park arriving through the mangroves. Immediately encounter unusual plants, tropical littoral abundance. See wildlife such as naughty macaques and proboscis monkeys, wild pigs, an incredible variety of birds and insects. Spot light for shy jungle creatures at night. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 4 Bako National Park
Walk the Lintang trail where practically all vegetation types at Bako can be seen. Forest types range from mangrove to kerangas (heath forest), tropical swamp vegetation, cliff vegetation and beach vegetation. There are several side trails to follow inside the park depending on level of fitness and interest. All the trails have a great variety of vegetation, from mighty 80-metre dipterocarp trees such as Shorea species to dense mangrove forest. Unusual carnivorous pitcher plants and interesting symbiotic relationships are found on the Lintang trail. The park’s coastline is dotted with small bays, coves and beaches. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 5 Bako National Park
Hike the boardwalks through wetlands, swim in secluded jungle pools and on beaches of the South China Sea. Watch proboscis monkeys feeding on jungle fruits. Look for the Rufous-backed Kingfisher, Stork-billed Kingfisher, Red-crowned Barbet, Woodpeckers, Broadbills, Mangrove Blue Flycatcher, Babblers, and owls. Overnight at Bako National Park Hostel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 6  Bako National Park-Kuching
Proceed back to Kuching. Free at leisure. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 7  Kuching-Mulu National Park
Fly to Mulu National Park. This World Heritage-listed area allows canopy walks and treks that reveal exotic creatures, spectacular caves and stunning limestone karst formations. There is Deer Cave, which can fit five cathedrals the size of London’s Saint Pauls. Another key attraction is Clear Water Cave, the longest cave in Southeast Asia. The massive caves here are home to millions of bats and cave swiftlets that swarm out into the jungle in great clouds every evening at dusk! It is an extraordinary sight. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 8  Mulu National Park
Explore the jungle, photograph elusive butterflies…. There are around 2000 species of plants in the park. As many as eight different species of Hornbill are to be seen, and over 27 species of bat etc. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 9  Mulu National Park
Take a longboat up river tributaries, swim in pristine jungle rivers. Try the Mulu Canopy Skywalk. The Skywalk is the longest tree canopy walk in the world. Relax at the jungle café. Overnight in the National Park Longhouse. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 10  Mulu National Park-Kota Kinabalu
Fly to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (the ‘Land Below the Wind). Evening explore the Phillipino Market. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast)

Day 11  Kota Kinabalu
Explore Kota Kinabalu – snorkel on tropical islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park, visit Kampong Air, the water village, or take the old colonial train to Tenom for lunch. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 12  Kota Kinabalu-Mt. Kinabalu
Bus to the lower slopes of Mt. Kinabalu. Enjoy the walks around the park headquarters. Climb through several ecological zones to experience plant communities ranging from tropical rainforest to the sub-alpine. Stay at hotel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 13  Mt. Kinabalu
Visit Ranau War Memorial where the Sandakan Death March ended and then travel on to Poring Springs. There are steaming hot pools providing a relaxing place to unwind after trekking the slopes of Mount Kinabalu. Experience another incredible jungle canopy walk in the evening. Overnight at hotel. (Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner)

Day 14  Mt. Kinabalu-Kota Kinabalu
Maybe see an orangutan. Venture along jungle trails to rarely visited waterfalls. Rest on the way back to Kota Kinabalu. Evening shopping in Kota Kinabalu. (Breakfast/Lunch)

Day 15  Kota Kinabalu-Singapore-Sydney
Overnight flight to Sydney via Singapore. (Breakfast)

Day 16  Arrive in Sydney

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

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

Sri Lanka: Gardens of Paradise

The island paradise of Sri Lanka is renowned for its palm-fringed beaches, misty mountain landscapes, extraordinary wildlife, lush tropical flora and cultural diversity.

Known as the ‘the land of smiles’ Sri Lanka is also steeped in heritage. With a history that dates back over 2,000 years, the island is home to some of Asia’s best preserved monuments and to no fewer than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. Thanks to its colonial history (Portuguese, Dutch and British), interaction with Arab, Chinese and Malay merchants over the centuries, and the prevailing religions of Buddhism and Hinduism, Sri Lanka is a land of rich traditions, continual festivities and an exotic cuisine.

The garden lover will be amply rewarded by some of the world’s best botanical gardens, ancient Buddhist sites and Royal Hindu ‘pleasure gardens’, fragrant spice and herb gardens, hill country estates and some contemporary private gardens.

AT A GLANCE…
• Tour price includes flights on Singapore Airlines and late check-out on last day
• explore six UNESCO World Heritage listed sites
• enjoy the scenic train trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya in the highlands
• stay in a mixture of beachside, lakeside, safari resort and grand historic hotels
• visit botanical, pleasure, herb and private gardens

ITINERARY

Sun 10 Apr 2016 / Australia – Colombo
Depart Australia on Singapore Airlines flights via Singapore. Arrive Colombo at midnight. Transfer to your hotel located in the nearby resort town of Negombo.

Mon 11 Apr / Colombo – Dambulla
After a leisurely start join Fiona for a welcome briefing and introductory talk followed by a welcome lunch with fellow garden lovers.

After lunch drive to Dambulla in the heart of Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’ comprising numerous UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites. (BLD)

Tue 12 Apr / Dambulla
After breakfast, explore Polonnaruwa, which became Sri Lanka’s second capital city in 1070 AD. Under King Parakramabu, who ruled in the late 11th century, Polonnaruwa became a magnificent walled city and is famous for his policy that every drop of rain should be used. An extensive irrigation system with channels and lakes was built. The largest tank is the Parakrama Samudraya or the ‘Sea of Parakrama’, with an area of 2,600 hectares.

In the afternoon visit Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, which was selected for his capital by an obsessed monarch in the 5th century and is an astonishing feat of engineering and construction. The most striking portion of Sigiriya, a terracotta and grey core of rock, rises a sheer 200 metres above a forested plain, its flattened summit sloping gently. A series of moats, ramparts and water gardens – remnants of an ancient city – spread out on two sides of the rock, with the remains of a pair of giant stone lion’s paws still guarding the staircase that leads to the summit, once occupied by a royal palace. (BLD)

Wed 13 Apr / Dambulla – Kandy
Morning visit to the Golden Temple of Dambulla which dates back to the 1st century BC as a centre of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus alike. The Cave monastery, home to Buddhist monks, is covered with exquisite 2,000 year-old murals depicting the life and times of the Lord Buddha. The shrines also house a collection of 157 statues of Buddha in various sizes and poses, including a 15 metre long reclining Buddha and vividly coloured frescoes on the walls and ceiling, making this the largest antique painted surface in the world.

Later, depart for Kandy, en route stopping to visit a private garden. Nestled in the hills at an altitude of 488 metres, Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings. The name Kandy conjures visions of a storied past, splendour, legend, folklore, mystery and traditions lovingly kept alive for countless years. (BD)

Thu 14 Apr / Kandy
Start your exploration of Kandy with a visit to the sacred Temple of the Tooth, which houses one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics and draws followers of the Buddhist faith from all over the world. The Royal Complex situated around the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy Lake – comprising the King’s Palace, the Queen’s Palace, the Audience Hall, the Royal Boathouse and the Royal Summer House, represent the zenith of ancient Sri Lankan architecture.
After lunch at a local restaurant, the afternoon is at leisure to explore Kandy. You may wish to visit a batik factory, gem store or explore Kandy’s main market with fruit, vegetable, tea and spice stalls and fabric shops. Souvenirs, scarves, leatherwork and clothing can also be found in abundance.
(BL)

Fri 15 Apr / Kandy
Following a talk, visit the Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, which was originally the pleasure gardens of the royalty. Nearly 4,000 species of plants are found in this garden and it is encircled by the Mahaweli River. There is an avenue of coconut palm trees, a spice garden, giant bamboos, rubber trees, an orchid collection and a giant Javan fig tree which covers 1,600 sq metres.

Sri Lanka’s botanic gardens have a long and proud history, punctuated by colonialism, and industrial change. Throughout this period the gardens have continued to flourish, and the plant collections and herbarium grown.

Later, visit 1 – 2 private gardens.

In the evening attend a Kandyan dance performance. Dances include the cobra dance, mask dance and the Ginisila, showing power over fire. The entire frenetic and colourful spectacle climaxes with the amazing fire-walking act.
(BL)

Sat 16 Apr / Kandy – Nuwara Eliya
Depart Kandy in the morning and travel by train to Nuwara Eliya, situated at around 2,000 metres above sea level in the Central Highlands. The town was founded by Samuel Baker as a hill retreat for the British during the colonial era, where typical English pastimes including fox hunting, polo and cricket were played. Several buildings and parks here retain features from the colonial period.

Arrive in Nuwara Eliya early in the afternoon. Time at leisure before visiting the Hill Club (dress code applies), which was founded in 1876 by a British coffee planter, as a home away from home, and is today a privately operated club and hotel. Enjoy a tour of the beautiful gardens followed by dinner. (BLD)

Sun 17 Apr / Nuwara Eliya
Full day exploration of Nurawa Eliya including visits to Victoria Park, a tea plantation and Hakgala Botanical Gardens. Victoria Park at the centre of town comes alive with flowers around March to May and it is also home to quite a number of hill country bird species, including the Kashmir flycatcher, Indian pitta and grey tit.

Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of tea. Since the introduction of tea to Sri Lanka in mid 19th century, Nuwara Eliya has been the capital of the tea industry. The rolling mountains of Nuwara Eliya are carpeted by green tea plantations. Visit a tea plantation and a tea factory and observe all about the process of manufacturing tea.

In the afternoon, visit Hakgala Botanical Gardens which were established in 1861 under the patronage of the British. They are located under the Hakgala Peak and are the highest set botanical gardens in the world. There are trees like English Oak, Himalayan Pines, Japanese Cedars and Cypress trees from California.
(BLD)

Mon 18 Apr / Nuwara Eliya – Udawalawe N.P.
Depart Nuwara Eliya for Udawalawe, one of Sri Lanka’s National Parks.

Mid-afternoon arrival and check-in to your safari resort-style hotel, situated just 500 metres from the Ath Athuru Sevana (Elephant Orphanage), and a five minute drive from the Udawalawe National Park.

At dusk, embark on a jeep safari in the national park before returning to the hotel for dinner.
(BLD)

Tue 19 Apr / Udawalawe N.P.
Day at leisure. A wide range of activities are available ranging from half- and full-day jeep safaris, nature tracks, bird watching trails, night safaris etc. During safaris you may see the elusive leopard, elephant, sloth bear, sambar, chital, wild boar, tripe necked, brown and ruddy mongoose, black-naped hare, marsh mugger crocodile and several civet species. The National Park is also a popular bird watching destination.
(BLD)
Wed 20 Apr / Udawalawe N.P. – Galle
A day of travel takes you from Udawalawe N.P. to Galle, an ancient Dutch outpost located on the south western coast of Sri Lanka. The minimalistic, stately and elegant Lighthouse Hotel, your home for the next two nights, was designed by the famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Dinner at the hotel.
(BLD)

Thu 21 Apr / Galle
Following a morning talk, pay a visit to ‘Lunuganga’, the former country home of Geoffrey Bawa. Started in 1947, the garden led Bawa, a lawyer called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1940, to decide to become an architect. The garden at Lunuganga estate remained his first muse and experimental laboratory for new ideas.

After lunch at Lunuganga, return to Galle. Afternoon at leisure to explore Galle Fort. (BL)

Fri 22 Apr / Galle – Colombo
Today journey from Galle to Colombo. En route visit ‘Brief’, the former house and garden of lawyer turned landscape architect Bevis Bawa, brother of Geoffrey Bawa. Started in 1929, it is a hillside garden overlooking a former rubber plantation. It contains sculptures by Bevis himself and his many artist friends, including Donald Friend, who went for a weekend and stayed six years. The house is also open to view and contains many wonderful artworks including a magnificent mural of Sri Lankan life by Donald Friend in the style of Chagall.

Continue to Colombo where you will stay at the historic Galle Face hotel. The hotel was built by four British entrepreneurs in 1864. Its name derives from the stretch of lawn which it faces, known as the Galle Face Green. Dinner at the hotel. (BLD)

Sat 23 Apr / Colombo
During a morning tour of Colombo, see the Fort area, the Oriental bazaar at Pettah, numerous Hindu and Buddhist temples and the Jumi Ul Alfar Jumma Mosque as well as the Wolfendhal Dutch Church, Hulftsdorp Law Courts, Independence Square and the Geoffrey Bawa designed Sri Lankan Parliament building. Finish with a visit to the National Museum which houses a large and important collection of Sri Lanka’s cultural and artistic heritage.

Enjoy lunch at the Gallery Café, situated within the former office of Geoffrey Bawa, followed by a visit to Colombo Zoo to attend the Elephant Circus. (BL)

Sun 24 Apr / Depart Colombo
Morning exploration of two or three private gardens of Colombo including an Ayurvedic garden. A light lunch will be served in one of the gardens.

Mid-afternoon return to the hotel for an afternoon and evening at leisure until 9.00 pm check-out and transfer to the airport. (BL)

Mon 25 Apr / Arrive Australia
1.30 am departure from Colombo on Singapore Airlines to Singapore and Australia. Evening arrival in Australia.

Sri Lanka: Gardens of Paradise

The island paradise of Sri Lanka is renowned for its palm-fringed beaches, misty mountain landscapes, extraordinary wildlife, lush tropical flora and cultural diversity.

Known as the ‘the land of smiles’ Sri Lanka is also steeped in heritage. With a history that dates back over 2,000 years, the island is home to some of Asia’s best preserved monuments and to no fewer than eight UNESCO World Heritage sites. Thanks to its colonial history (Portuguese, Dutch and British), interaction with Arab, Chinese and Malay merchants over the centuries, and the prevailing religions of Buddhism and Hinduism, Sri Lanka is a land of rich traditions, continual festivities and an exotic cuisine.

The garden lover will be amply rewarded by some of the world’s best botanical gardens, ancient Buddhist sites and Royal Hindu ‘pleasure gardens’, fragrant spice and herb gardens, hill country estates and some contemporary private gardens.

AT A GLANCE…
• Tour price includes flights on Singapore Airlines and late check-out on last day
• explore six UNESCO World Heritage listed sites
• enjoy the scenic train trip from Kandy to Nuwara Eliya in the highlands
• stay in a mixture of beachside, lakeside, safari resort and grand historic hotels
• visit botanical, pleasure, herb and private gardens

ITINERARY

Sun 10 Apr 2016 / Australia – Colombo
Depart Australia on Singapore Airlines flights via Singapore. Arrive Colombo at midnight. Transfer to your hotel located in the nearby resort town of Negombo.

Mon 11 Apr / Colombo – Dambulla
After a leisurely start join Fiona for a welcome briefing and introductory talk followed by a welcome lunch with fellow garden lovers.

After lunch drive to Dambulla in the heart of Sri Lanka’s ‘Cultural Triangle’ comprising numerous UNESCO World Heritage cultural sites. (BLD)

Tue 12 Apr / Dambulla
After breakfast, explore Polonnaruwa, which became Sri Lanka’s second capital city in 1070 AD. Under King Parakramabu, who ruled in the late 11th century, Polonnaruwa became a magnificent walled city and is famous for his policy that every drop of rain should be used. An extensive irrigation system with channels and lakes was built. The largest tank is the Parakrama Samudraya or the ‘Sea of Parakrama’, with an area of 2,600 hectares.

In the afternoon visit Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, which was selected for his capital by an obsessed monarch in the 5th century and is an astonishing feat of engineering and construction. The most striking portion of Sigiriya, a terracotta and grey core of rock, rises a sheer 200 metres above a forested plain, its flattened summit sloping gently. A series of moats, ramparts and water gardens – remnants of an ancient city – spread out on two sides of the rock, with the remains of a pair of giant stone lion’s paws still guarding the staircase that leads to the summit, once occupied by a royal palace. (BLD)

Wed 13 Apr / Dambulla – Kandy
Morning visit to the Golden Temple of Dambulla which dates back to the 1st century BC as a centre of pilgrimage for Buddhists and Hindus alike. The Cave monastery, home to Buddhist monks, is covered with exquisite 2,000 year-old murals depicting the life and times of the Lord Buddha. The shrines also house a collection of 157 statues of Buddha in various sizes and poses, including a 15 metre long reclining Buddha and vividly coloured frescoes on the walls and ceiling, making this the largest antique painted surface in the world.

Later, depart for Kandy, en route stopping to visit a private garden. Nestled in the hills at an altitude of 488 metres, Kandy was the last capital of the Sri Lankan kings. The name Kandy conjures visions of a storied past, splendour, legend, folklore, mystery and traditions lovingly kept alive for countless years. (BD)

Thu 14 Apr / Kandy
Start your exploration of Kandy with a visit to the sacred Temple of the Tooth, which houses one of Buddhism’s most sacred relics and draws followers of the Buddhist faith from all over the world. The Royal Complex situated around the Temple of the Tooth and Kandy Lake – comprising the King’s Palace, the Queen’s Palace, the Audience Hall, the Royal Boathouse and the Royal Summer House, represent the zenith of ancient Sri Lankan architecture.
After lunch at a local restaurant, the afternoon is at leisure to explore Kandy. You may wish to visit a batik factory, gem store or explore Kandy’s main market with fruit, vegetable, tea and spice stalls and fabric shops. Souvenirs, scarves, leatherwork and clothing can also be found in abundance.
(BL)

Fri 15 Apr / Kandy
Following a talk, visit the Botanical Gardens in Peradeniya, which was originally the pleasure gardens of the royalty. Nearly 4,000 species of plants are found in this garden and it is encircled by the Mahaweli River. There is an avenue of coconut palm trees, a spice garden, giant bamboos, rubber trees, an orchid collection and a giant Javan fig tree which covers 1,600 sq metres.

Sri Lanka’s botanic gardens have a long and proud history, punctuated by colonialism, and industrial change. Throughout this period the gardens have continued to flourish, and the plant collections and herbarium grown.

Later, visit 1 – 2 private gardens.

In the evening attend a Kandyan dance performance. Dances include the cobra dance, mask dance and the Ginisila, showing power over fire. The entire frenetic and colourful spectacle climaxes with the amazing fire-walking act.
(BL)

Sat 16 Apr / Kandy – Nuwara Eliya
Depart Kandy in the morning and travel by train to Nuwara Eliya, situated at around 2,000 metres above sea level in the Central Highlands. The town was founded by Samuel Baker as a hill retreat for the British during the colonial era, where typical English pastimes including fox hunting, polo and cricket were played. Several buildings and parks here retain features from the colonial period.

Arrive in Nuwara Eliya early in the afternoon. Time at leisure before visiting the Hill Club (dress code applies), which was founded in 1876 by a British coffee planter, as a home away from home, and is today a privately operated club and hotel. Enjoy a tour of the beautiful gardens followed by dinner. (BLD)

Sun 17 Apr / Nuwara Eliya
Full day exploration of Nurawa Eliya including visits to Victoria Park, a tea plantation and Hakgala Botanical Gardens. Victoria Park at the centre of town comes alive with flowers around March to May and it is also home to quite a number of hill country bird species, including the Kashmir flycatcher, Indian pitta and grey tit.

Sri Lanka is one of the world’s largest exporters of tea. Since the introduction of tea to Sri Lanka in mid 19th century, Nuwara Eliya has been the capital of the tea industry. The rolling mountains of Nuwara Eliya are carpeted by green tea plantations. Visit a tea plantation and a tea factory and observe all about the process of manufacturing tea.

In the afternoon, visit Hakgala Botanical Gardens which were established in 1861 under the patronage of the British. They are located under the Hakgala Peak and are the highest set botanical gardens in the world. There are trees like English Oak, Himalayan Pines, Japanese Cedars and Cypress trees from California.
(BLD)

Mon 18 Apr / Nuwara Eliya – Udawalawe N.P.
Depart Nuwara Eliya for Udawalawe, one of Sri Lanka’s National Parks.

Mid-afternoon arrival and check-in to your safari resort-style hotel, situated just 500 metres from the Ath Athuru Sevana (Elephant Orphanage), and a five minute drive from the Udawalawe National Park.

At dusk, embark on a jeep safari in the national park before returning to the hotel for dinner.
(BLD)

Tue 19 Apr / Udawalawe N.P.
Day at leisure. A wide range of activities are available ranging from half- and full-day jeep safaris, nature tracks, bird watching trails, night safaris etc. During safaris you may see the elusive leopard, elephant, sloth bear, sambar, chital, wild boar, tripe necked, brown and ruddy mongoose, black-naped hare, marsh mugger crocodile and several civet species. The National Park is also a popular bird watching destination.
(BLD)
Wed 20 Apr / Udawalawe N.P. – Galle
A day of travel takes you from Udawalawe N.P. to Galle, an ancient Dutch outpost located on the south western coast of Sri Lanka. The minimalistic, stately and elegant Lighthouse Hotel, your home for the next two nights, was designed by the famous Sri Lankan architect Geoffrey Bawa. Dinner at the hotel.
(BLD)

Thu 21 Apr / Galle
Following a morning talk, pay a visit to ‘Lunuganga’, the former country home of Geoffrey Bawa. Started in 1947, the garden led Bawa, a lawyer called to the Bar at the Inner Temple in 1940, to decide to become an architect. The garden at Lunuganga estate remained his first muse and experimental laboratory for new ideas.

After lunch at Lunuganga, return to Galle. Afternoon at leisure to explore Galle Fort. (BL)

Fri 22 Apr / Galle – Colombo
Today journey from Galle to Colombo. En route visit ‘Brief’, the former house and garden of lawyer turned landscape architect Bevis Bawa, brother of Geoffrey Bawa. Started in 1929, it is a hillside garden overlooking a former rubber plantation. It contains sculptures by Bevis himself and his many artist friends, including Donald Friend, who went for a weekend and stayed six years. The house is also open to view and contains many wonderful artworks including a magnificent mural of Sri Lankan life by Donald Friend in the style of Chagall.

Continue to Colombo where you will stay at the historic Galle Face hotel. The hotel was built by four British entrepreneurs in 1864. Its name derives from the stretch of lawn which it faces, known as the Galle Face Green. Dinner at the hotel. (BLD)

Sat 23 Apr / Colombo
During a morning tour of Colombo, see the Fort area, the Oriental bazaar at Pettah, numerous Hindu and Buddhist temples and the Jumi Ul Alfar Jumma Mosque as well as the Wolfendhal Dutch Church, Hulftsdorp Law Courts, Independence Square and the Geoffrey Bawa designed Sri Lankan Parliament building. Finish with a visit to the National Museum which houses a large and important collection of Sri Lanka’s cultural and artistic heritage.

Enjoy lunch at the Gallery Café, situated within the former office of Geoffrey Bawa, followed by a visit to Colombo Zoo to attend the Elephant Circus. (BL)

Sun 24 Apr / Depart Colombo
Morning exploration of two or three private gardens of Colombo including an Ayurvedic garden. A light lunch will be served in one of the gardens.

Mid-afternoon return to the hotel for an afternoon and evening at leisure until 9.00 pm check-out and transfer to the airport. (BL)

Mon 25 Apr / Arrive Australia
1.30 am departure from Colombo on Singapore Airlines to Singapore and Australia. Evening arrival in Australia.

Japanese Gardens and Contemporary Art

Japan is renowned for its garden culture, dating back 500 years. In recent decades, the Japanese have embraced ‘the new’ in striking art and architecture, often set in magnificent spaces or dramatic natural environments.

From Tokyo to Kyoto, this tour will introduce you to some of Japan’s most famous gardens as well as ground-breaking art and architecture. With Genevieve, you will explore the Japanese aesthetic in gardens, art and culture, embarking upon a unique visual journey from the distant past to the near future.

 

AT A GLANCE …

• Discover modern museums, tranquil parks and high-octane energy of Tokyo
• Enjoy a change of pace in the unspoiled, Edo-era mountain town of Takayama
• Visit ‘must-see’ gardens including Okayama’s Korakuen Garden, Takamatsu’s Ritsurin Park, the Adachi Art Museum and Garden, and Kyoto’s ‘Rock’, ‘Moss’, ‘Zen’ and ‘Bamboo’ Gardens
• Spend two days on the famous ‘art island’ of Naoshima
• Finish in the former imperial capital of Kyoto, the home of ancient temples, castles and gardens, and I.M.Pei’s Miho Museum of Contemporary Art.

 

ITINERARY

 

Tue 13 Oct / Tokyo
Suggested departure from Australia on Cathay Pacific Airways via Hong Kong to Haneda Airport (HND), Tokyo.

For guests arriving on suggested flights, a transfer to the hotel will be provided.

Perth and Brisbane passengers depart Hong Kong on flight CX 548, and arrive in Haneda at 13:25.
Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney passengers depart Hong Kong on flight CX 542 and arrive in Haneda at 21:05.

Wed 14 Oct / Tokyo
Join Genevieve and fellow members for a welcome breakfast and briefing.

Depart the hotel for a full day of touring. Begin with the Imperial Palace East Gardens which are a part of the inner palace. They are the former site of Edo Castle’s innermost circles of defence: the honmaru (main circle) and ninomaru (secondary circle).

Next visit Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shinto shrine – Meiji Jingu. The shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken, and is located in an evergreen forest of approximately 175 acres, in the middle of Tokyo.

Following lunch, continue to the Mori Art Museum a contemporary art museum founded by real estate developer, Minoru Mori. The museum is located on the 52nd and 53rd floors of the Mori Tower, offering spectacular views from the panoramic observation deck.
(BL)

Thu 15 Oct / Tokyo
Morning visit to the large, public Ueno park situated in central Tokyo. The park grounds were originally part of Kaneiji Temple, a family temple of the ruling Tokugawa clan during the Edo Period. Today it is home to museums, a zoo, a Toshogu Shrine and the Shinobazu Pond.

Enjoy a visit to Tokyo National Museum located within the park, housing the largest collection of national treasures and important cultural items in the country.

In the afternoon, visit one of Tokyo’s oldest Japanese gardens, Koishikawa Korakuen Garden – a beautiful Japanese landscaped garden, representing famous Japanese and Chinese scenes in miniature, dating from the early Edo Period.

Dinner at a local restaurant.
(BD)

Fri 16 Oct / Tokyo – Takayama
Please note: you will be required to pack a small bag for travel on the train and the two-night stay at Takayama. Your main suitcase will be transferred directly from Tokyo to the Okayama hotel.

After breakfast, depart Tokyo by train to Takayama, via Nagoya (change train). The journey is approx. 3h, and lunch boxes are available on board to purchase.

On arrival enjoy a walking tour of Takayama’s beautifully preserved old town. Many of the buildings and streets of houses date back to the Edo Period (1600-1868), with some open to visit, providing a glimpse behind the façade into the former living quarters of local merchants.

Dinner at a local restaurant.
(BD)

Sat 17 Oct / Takayama
This morning travel to the Shirakawa Valley, home to the historic village of Shirakawa-go, a traditional Japanese settlement. The village houses are unique to Japan and are known as ‘Gassho-zukuri’. ‘Gassho’ means praying hands, suggesting the form of hands raised in prayer to the Buddha (here it refers to the triangular shape of the roof).

Afternoon at leisure to further explore Takayama.
(B)

Sun 18 Oct / Takayama – Okayama
Today depart Takayama by train to Okayama (change trains at Nagoya). Journey time is approx. 5h30m, and lunch boxes are available on board to purchase.

Afternoon arrival in Okayama.

The largest city in the Chugoku Region after Hiroshima, Okayama developed as a castle town during the Edo Period (1603-1867), becoming a significant regional power and is an important transportation hub. Okayama faces the Seto Inland Sea and is endowed with abundant natural beauty, including the islands, Seto-ohashi Bridge (spanning Honshu and Shikoku islands), Mt Washu-zan (which overlooks them), and the Hiruzen-kogen Highlands in Daisen-Oki National Park.

Dinner at a local restaurant.
(BD)

Mon 19 Oct / Okayama
Following breakfast, join Genevieve for a talk on Japanese garden design.
Your exploration of Okayama begins with a visit to the Korakuen garden, one of the three most famous landscape gardens in Japan (along with Kanazawa’s ‘Kenrokuen’ and Mito’s ‘Kairakuen’). Korakuen is a spacious garden that incorporates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden, including a large pond, streams, walking paths and a hill that serves as a lookout point.

Following lunch near the garden, cross the Asahi River by footbridge to Okayama Castle. Also known as ‘crow castle’ due to its black exterior, Okayama Castle was built in 1597 in the style of the Azuchi-Momoyama Period. The original castle was destroyed in the last year of World War II, but a reconstruction was made in 1966.
(BL)

Tue 20 Oct / Okayama – Takahashi – Okayama
Drive to the small city of Takahashi located in the mountains to the north of Okayama, for a visit to the Raikyu-ji temple, a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect that dates back to 1504. The beautifully constructed garden within the temple grounds garden is a Penglai Zen dry- garden style constructed by Kobori Enshu, one of the founders of the Japanese tea ceremony, renowned for his architecture, garden design, calligraphy and poetry.

After lunch, continue to the Adachi Art Museum) in Yasugi. Set within a superb and unique garden, the museum was built to house the collection of modern Japanese paintings, ceramics and sculptures of local businessman and collector Zenko Adachi.
(BL)

Wed 21 Oct / Okayama – Takamatsu – Naoshima
Today you will travel over the Seto Ohashi Bridge to Takamatsu on the island of Shikoku in the Inland Sea. Visit Ritsurin Koen Garden, often mentioned as deserving of a spot on the list of the ‘three most beautiful gardens of Japan’. The spacious park features many ponds, hills, historic trees and beautiful pavilions divided into a Japanese style garden.

After lunch (own expense), continue to Naoshima. Transfer by ferry to Naoshima Island (35km/1.5 h), home to the Benesse Art site.

Dinner at our hotel.
(BD)

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Benesse Art Site: The site combines Benesse House (a symphony of nature, art and architecture), the Art House Project (which weaves threads of everyday home life with substantial strands of history), and Chichu Art Museum, a fresh re-interpretation of the potential of art museums.
Benesse House Museum opened in 1992 as a facility integrating a museum with a hotel, based on the concept of ‘Co-existence of nature, art and architecture’. The facility consists of four buildings, all designed by Japanese architect Tadao Ando: Museum, Oval (opened in 1995), Park and Beach (both opened in 2006).
The Art House Project started in 1998 in Naoshima’s Honmura district. The project takes empty houses scattered about residential areas, and turns the spaces themselves into works of art, weaving in the history and memories of the period when the houses were used as homes.
Chichu Modern Art Museum is built into the hillside overlooking the southern coast of Naoshima. Designed by Ando Tadao, it is primarily underground and utilises natural light to illuminate artworks by Claude Monet, Walter De Maria and James Turrell.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

Thu 22 Oct / Naoshima
Begin with a tour of the Chichu Modern Art Museum.

Following lunch at a local restaurant, visit Benesse House Museum. One of the pleasures of visiting Benesse House is unexpectedly encountering works of art, not only within the walls of the museum but also while strolling around the grounds, enjoying the abundant natural beauty of the Inland Sea region.
(BL)

Fri 23 Oct / Naoshima
In the morning take the ferry to the Inujima Art Project Seirensho, a museum that preserves and reuses the remains of a copper refinery on the island. The project embraces the concept of a recycling-based society as a model for a new type of regional revitalisation through industrial heritage, architecture, art and the environment.

Early afternoon return to Naoshima Island.
(BD)

Sat 24 Oct / Naoshima – Himeji – Kyoto
After breakfast, depart Naoshima by ferry to Uno port, then transfer by coach via Himeji Castle to Kyoto (approx 220km), stopping en route at Kokoen garden.

Late afternoon arrival in Kyoto. With its hundreds of temples and gardens, Kyoto was the imperial capital between 794 and 1868, and remains the cultural centre of Japan.

Dinner at a local restaurant.
(BD)

Sun 25 Oct / Kyoto
After breakfast, join Genevieve for a talk on the gardens of Kyoto.

Begin with a tour of the elegant Nijo-jo Castle, built by the first Tokugawa Shogun, a striking example of the splendid decorative luxury of the Momoyama period (1587–1615), followed by a visit to the Kyoto Handicrafts Centre.

Visit Ryoan-ji Temple, which houses the famous Zen rock garden, before visiting Kinkaku-ji, the Golden Pavilion built in 1397 as a villa for Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu.
Ryoan-ji is the site of Japan’s famous rock garden consisting of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. A feature of the garden’s design is that from any vantage point, at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.

Continue to the nearby Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. It has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Onin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto; and once again, more recently, in 1950 when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955.
(B)

Mon 26 Oct / Kyoto
Begin with a visit to the Kyoto National Museum for an introduction to the traditional arts of Japan. Continue to Sanjusangendo, a uniquely shaped long hall rebuilt in 1251 to house its central image of the thousand-armed Bodhisattva Kannon, surrounded by 1,000 gilt bronze images of Kannon.

In the afternoon visit Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), a Zen temple at the foot of Kyoto’s eastern mountains. In 1482, shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa built his retirement villa on the grounds of today’s temple, modelling it after Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion). The villa was converted into a Zen temple after Yoshimasa’s death in 1490. Stroll along the ‘Philosophers Path’ which follows a quiet tree-lined canal connecting Ginkaku-ji to the extensive buildings and grounds of one of the world’s largest Zen temples, Nanzen-ji.

This evening enjoy a performance of Japanese Arts at the Gion Corner Theatre. Located in one of Kyoto’s best preserved historical quarters, the Gion Corner Theatre presents a display of Japanese traditional arts and entertainment including Kyoto-style dance, flower arrangement, tea ceremony, Japanese Harp, Comic play, Court music and Puppet play.
(BD)

Tue 27 Oct / Kyoto
Morning visit to Saiho-ji (Kokedera), an ancient temple said to have been established by the monk Gyoki during the Nara Period (710 – 794), later restored and converted into a Zen temple by the monk Muso Soseki, in 1339. The precincts are covered by more than 120 types of moss, resembling a beautiful green carpet, hence its other name, Kokedera, which literally means ‘Moss Temple’.

After lunch, visit the Daitoku-ji temple complex consisting of nearly two dozen sub-temples, and one of the best places in Japan to see a wide variety of Zen gardens such as Daisen-in, a Zen contemplative garden. One part of the garden is an allegory; the other is designed for meditation.
(B)

Wed 28 Oct / Kyoto
Morning visit to the Miho Museum nestled among the verdant Shigaraki Mountains. The museum houses the Shumei Family Collection of rare treasures from the ancient world and traditional Japanese art.

Continue to the Arashiyama-Sagano area situated on the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area is known for its scenic beauty, narrow streets, old villas and temple compounds. It was favoured by noble classes 1,200 years ago. Enjoy a walk through the area’s vast bamboo groves.

This evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner.
(BLD)

Thu 29 Oct / Depart Kyoto
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

Kansai International Airport (KIX) can be reached by airport bus service or express train departing from near your hotel. There will be local assistance to buy tickets (approx 1 hr30 min).

Morning departure from Kansai on Cathay Pacific flights to Adelaide, Brisbane and Perth via Hong Kong (nb: Guests travelling to Perth arrive in the evening on the same day, 29 October).

Evening departure from Kansai on Cathay Pacific flights to Sydney and Melbourne, via Hong Kong.
(B)

Fri 30 Oct / Arrive Australia
Morning arrival in Australia for Adelaide and Brisbane guests, and an afternoon arrival for Melbourne and Sydney guests.

Garden Lovers' Tour of America

Tour Details

 

Beginning in the unique, port city of Charleston and winding your way north to New York City, this tour will explore a dazzling selection of gardens, private and public, historic and contemporary, on the USA’s East Coast.

Timed to coincide with the spring blooms of the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll begin the tour with the Charleston Spring Festival, strolling leisurely between gardens while getting to know this charming city. Explore South Carolina’s nearby plantations and enjoy culinary experiences scouted by gourmand and tour leader, Kirsty Dougherty.

Visit historic Monticello and Washington DC as well as the renowned Chanticleer and Longwood Gardens of Philadelphia. In New York, your final destination, be surprised by urban farming in Brooklyn Grange Farm and green space reclamation in the High Line and 55 Waters Street, Manhattan.

If you haven’t travelled with Kirsty before, she is well-known in the States for her passion for gardens, combined with a love of food and wine, convivial company and good times. Bon voyage!

 

AT A GLANCE…

Begin in Charleston during the annual Spring Festival of Houses and Gardens
Visit South Carolina’s magnificent plantations on the Ashley River
Explore the grounds and home of Jefferson’s Monticello and Washington’s Mt Vernon
Discover Chanticleer, Longwood and Mrs Hamilton’s gardens in Philadelphia
Enjoy a contemporary take on urban gardening in New York City, including the High Line and Brooklyn Grange – the world’s largest rooftop farm
Savour the varied local cuisines, wines and flavours of America, through South to North

 

Itinerary

Mon 06 Apr 2015 / Depart Australia – Arrive Charleston
Depart Australia and arrive in historic Charleston, South Carolina late on the same day. Taxis are readily available to transfer you from the airport to the hotel. Check-in to the beautiful King Charles Inn and get some rest before the tour starts on Tuesday.

Tue 07 Apr / Charleston
After a morning at leisure, gather for a welcome tour briefing and lunch with Kirsty and fellow travellers.

After lunch, walk with a 13th generation Charlestonian, Anne Middleton Herron, to get a local perspective on a city rich in early American history. As you stroll through the old walled city, you will be able to identify buildings dating back to before the Revolutionary War. End the tour in a private courtyard in the Middleton family’s private garden with refreshments.

Kirsty will provide restaurant recommendations for dinner on your own tonight – Charleston is a food destination and the restaurant scene is fabulous. Charleston is low-country cuisine, representing the area between Savannah, Georgia and Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. Recipes from this region were greatly influenced by immigrants from Europe, West Africa and the West Indies. (BL)

Wed 08 Apr / Charleston
Spend the day visiting three plantations within ten minutes of each other on the Ashley River, which offer very different experiences.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a former slave plantation established in 1679, containing America’s oldest public gardens, constructed in 1840 by John Grimké Drayton. Today, the English-style gardens feature winding paths lined with native azaleas and antique camellias, as well as a pre-Revolution-era plantation house and a petting zoo.

Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens, dating back to 1741. The Garden Club of America has called the 65 acres ‘the most important and most interesting garden in America’. The gardens have been planned so that there is something blooming at Middleton Place year-round.

Drayton Hall is the only original Ashley River plantation home (i.e. main residence) that still stands. The home is unfurnished and unrestored, but the interior and exterior architecture are completely authentic. It is the oldest surviving example of Georgian Palladian architecture in the US, and one of the only pre-revolutionary houses that remain in close-to original condition today. (BL)

Thu 09 Apr / Charleston
Continue your exploration of Charleston, the Holy City by the harbour, with a harbour cruise taking in significant historical sights while keeping your eye out for dolphins.

After lunch, stroll leisurely through eight to ten private gardens as part of the Festival of Houses and Gardens. Guides are stationed at each location to provide information about garden design, plant material and history. Enjoy wine and American Classic Tea reception in the garden of the Nathaniel Russell House Museum, widely recognized as one of America’s most important neoclassical houses and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973. Today, the interiors are restored to their original 1808 grandeur and surrounded by formal gardens. (B)

Fri 10 Apr / Charleston – Richmond – Charlottesville
Depart Charleston by air (3 hours) for Richmond, Virginia. Transfer to the Omni Hotel in downtown Charlottesville – well located to the historic mall zone. Explore the area and enjoy dinner at your own leisure. (B)

Sat 11 Apr / Charlottesville
This morning, enjoy a historical visit to Monticello, home to Thomas Jefferson, America’s 3rd President and the Author of the Declaration of Independence. Tour the home and its grounds, which were a botanic showpiece, a source of food, and an experimental laboratory of ornamental and useful plants from around the world.

After a picnic lunch, continue to a local vineyard in an area highly regarded for its wine. Jefferson was the first landowner in the area to encourage grape planting on the land near Monticello. Relax and taste the wine from the area. Return to Charlottesville for an evening at leisure. (B, PicnicL)

Sun 12 Apr / Charlottesville – Washington DC
Depart Charlottesville and travel to Mt Vernon, home of George Washington, first President of the United States. The 21-room mansion is an iconic example of 18th century architecture. The gardens and grounds of Mt Vernon are beautiful, with both ornamental and edible plants grown there for centuries.

In the afternoon, continue to Washington DC via the Arlington Cemetery. (BL)

Mon 13 Apr / Washington DC
Enjoy a morning orientation tour of the nation’s capital. Begin with the best known Washington institutions such as the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and the White House. See also the Jefferson Memorial and the National Mall with the Korean Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

The afternoon is at leisure to further explore Washington on your own. You may wish to visit the United States Botanic Gardens, established by the U.S. Congress in 1820 and one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. Alternatively, the various branches of the Smithsonian Institution (the world’s largest museum and research complex comprising 19 museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoological Park) are all open today. (B)

Tue 14 Apr / Washington DC – Philadelphia
This morning you will visit Dumbarton Oaks. Bought in 1920 and described as ‘an old-fashioned house standing in rather neglected grounds’, owners Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss had soon employed landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand to design the gardens. Dumbarton Oaks is ranked number 6 in the National Geographic’s Top 10 Gardens of the World.

After lunch in Georgetown, drive to Philadelphia in the afternoon. (BL)

Wed 15 Apr / Philadelphia
Learn about the early history and foundation of the United States of America on a walking tour of the Independence National Historical Park where the events of the American Revolution transpired.

In the afternoon continue to the new home of the Barnes Foundation, established in 1922 by wealthy pharmaceutical mogul Dr Albert C. Barnes to ‘promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts’. Spend the afternoon viewing the remarkable collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. (B)

Thu 16 Apr / Philadelphia
Enjoy a day outside the city in exclusive district, Wayne, which dates back to the early 20th century, when land along the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad was developed for summer homes to escape the heat of Philadelphia.

Begin with a visit to Chanticleer which, in 2013, celebrated two anniversaries: its centennial as the Rosengarten estate and 20th year as a public garden.

After lunch at nearby Valley Forge Flowers, visit the private garden of Mrs Dodo Hamilton, Campbell Soup heiress, legendary horticulturalist and supporter of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (America’s oldest). (BL)

Fri 17 Apr / Philadelphia – New York
Depart Philadelphia and drive to New York.

On the way, stop at Longwood one of the premier botanical gardens in the United States covering more than 1,077 acres (436 ha). Your visit will coincide with the famous Spring Blooms festival, when thousands of bulbs blossom throughout the gardens.

Continue to New York City, arriving in the late afternoon. (BL)

Sat 18 Apr/ New York
Enjoy a day of exploration of Manhattan’s contemporary green spaces and relaxing gardens.

First, begin with a visit to the new 9/11 Memorial Museum, honouring the victims and examining 9/11 and its continued global significance. Continue to the incredible public space that is Ken Smith’s Elevated acre at 55 Water St, and The Gardens of Remembrance, Piet Oudolf’s waterfront plantings on Battery Point, which are a tribute to the victims of 9/11 and include 114 varieties of perennials and native plants.

After lunch on your own in Chelsea’s thriving art district, head to the High Line, the famous elevated freight railway transformed into a public park on the lower west side of Manhattan. The 1.6km park’s attractions include naturalised plantings inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks, rugged meadow plants as well as many American natives.

Evening at leisure. Renaissance Tours will assist with theatre and restaurant bookings. (B)

Sun 19 Apr / New York
Spend the day out of Manhattan in the borough of Brooklyn.

Today begins with a visit to Brooklyn Grange, a one acre urban farm in Brooklyn. Enjoy the unique perspective of the Manhattan skyline from the top of a six-storey industrial building amidst a productive, thriving green space. Take the Founders tour and be inspired by their fascinating philosophy.

In the afternoon experience spring in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Along with countless other spring blossoms, April is prime flowering time for over 200 Japanese flowering cherry trees showcasing more than 40 different species and cultivars.

This evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a dinner cruise on New York harbour. (BD)

Mon 20 Apr / Depart New York
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. (B)

Garden Lovers’ Tour of America

Tour Details

 

Beginning in the unique, port city of Charleston and winding your way north to New York City, this tour will explore a dazzling selection of gardens, private and public, historic and contemporary, on the USA’s East Coast.

Timed to coincide with the spring blooms of the Northern Hemisphere, you’ll begin the tour with the Charleston Spring Festival, strolling leisurely between gardens while getting to know this charming city. Explore South Carolina’s nearby plantations and enjoy culinary experiences scouted by gourmand and tour leader, Kirsty Dougherty.

Visit historic Monticello and Washington DC as well as the renowned Chanticleer and Longwood Gardens of Philadelphia. In New York, your final destination, be surprised by urban farming in Brooklyn Grange Farm and green space reclamation in the High Line and 55 Waters Street, Manhattan.

If you haven’t travelled with Kirsty before, she is well-known in the States for her passion for gardens, combined with a love of food and wine, convivial company and good times. Bon voyage!

 

AT A GLANCE…

Begin in Charleston during the annual Spring Festival of Houses and Gardens
Visit South Carolina’s magnificent plantations on the Ashley River
Explore the grounds and home of Jefferson’s Monticello and Washington’s Mt Vernon
Discover Chanticleer, Longwood and Mrs Hamilton’s gardens in Philadelphia
Enjoy a contemporary take on urban gardening in New York City, including the High Line and Brooklyn Grange – the world’s largest rooftop farm
Savour the varied local cuisines, wines and flavours of America, through South to North

 

Itinerary

Mon 06 Apr 2015 / Depart Australia – Arrive Charleston
Depart Australia and arrive in historic Charleston, South Carolina late on the same day. Taxis are readily available to transfer you from the airport to the hotel. Check-in to the beautiful King Charles Inn and get some rest before the tour starts on Tuesday.

Tue 07 Apr / Charleston
After a morning at leisure, gather for a welcome tour briefing and lunch with Kirsty and fellow travellers.

After lunch, walk with a 13th generation Charlestonian, Anne Middleton Herron, to get a local perspective on a city rich in early American history. As you stroll through the old walled city, you will be able to identify buildings dating back to before the Revolutionary War. End the tour in a private courtyard in the Middleton family’s private garden with refreshments.

Kirsty will provide restaurant recommendations for dinner on your own tonight – Charleston is a food destination and the restaurant scene is fabulous. Charleston is low-country cuisine, representing the area between Savannah, Georgia and Pawley’s Island, South Carolina. Recipes from this region were greatly influenced by immigrants from Europe, West Africa and the West Indies. (BL)

Wed 08 Apr / Charleston
Spend the day visiting three plantations within ten minutes of each other on the Ashley River, which offer very different experiences.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens is a former slave plantation established in 1679, containing America’s oldest public gardens, constructed in 1840 by John Grimké Drayton. Today, the English-style gardens feature winding paths lined with native azaleas and antique camellias, as well as a pre-Revolution-era plantation house and a petting zoo.

Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s oldest landscaped gardens, dating back to 1741. The Garden Club of America has called the 65 acres ‘the most important and most interesting garden in America’. The gardens have been planned so that there is something blooming at Middleton Place year-round.

Drayton Hall is the only original Ashley River plantation home (i.e. main residence) that still stands. The home is unfurnished and unrestored, but the interior and exterior architecture are completely authentic. It is the oldest surviving example of Georgian Palladian architecture in the US, and one of the only pre-revolutionary houses that remain in close-to original condition today. (BL)

Thu 09 Apr / Charleston
Continue your exploration of Charleston, the Holy City by the harbour, with a harbour cruise taking in significant historical sights while keeping your eye out for dolphins.

After lunch, stroll leisurely through eight to ten private gardens as part of the Festival of Houses and Gardens. Guides are stationed at each location to provide information about garden design, plant material and history. Enjoy wine and American Classic Tea reception in the garden of the Nathaniel Russell House Museum, widely recognized as one of America’s most important neoclassical houses and declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973. Today, the interiors are restored to their original 1808 grandeur and surrounded by formal gardens. (B)

Fri 10 Apr / Charleston – Richmond – Charlottesville
Depart Charleston by air (3 hours) for Richmond, Virginia. Transfer to the Omni Hotel in downtown Charlottesville – well located to the historic mall zone. Explore the area and enjoy dinner at your own leisure. (B)

Sat 11 Apr / Charlottesville
This morning, enjoy a historical visit to Monticello, home to Thomas Jefferson, America’s 3rd President and the Author of the Declaration of Independence. Tour the home and its grounds, which were a botanic showpiece, a source of food, and an experimental laboratory of ornamental and useful plants from around the world.

After a picnic lunch, continue to a local vineyard in an area highly regarded for its wine. Jefferson was the first landowner in the area to encourage grape planting on the land near Monticello. Relax and taste the wine from the area. Return to Charlottesville for an evening at leisure. (B, PicnicL)

Sun 12 Apr / Charlottesville – Washington DC
Depart Charlottesville and travel to Mt Vernon, home of George Washington, first President of the United States. The 21-room mansion is an iconic example of 18th century architecture. The gardens and grounds of Mt Vernon are beautiful, with both ornamental and edible plants grown there for centuries.

In the afternoon, continue to Washington DC via the Arlington Cemetery. (BL)

Mon 13 Apr / Washington DC
Enjoy a morning orientation tour of the nation’s capital. Begin with the best known Washington institutions such as the U.S. Capitol, the Supreme Court, the Library of Congress and the White House. See also the Jefferson Memorial and the National Mall with the Korean Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

The afternoon is at leisure to further explore Washington on your own. You may wish to visit the United States Botanic Gardens, established by the U.S. Congress in 1820 and one of the oldest botanic gardens in North America. Alternatively, the various branches of the Smithsonian Institution (the world’s largest museum and research complex comprising 19 museums and galleries, as well as the National Zoological Park) are all open today. (B)

Tue 14 Apr / Washington DC – Philadelphia
This morning you will visit Dumbarton Oaks. Bought in 1920 and described as ‘an old-fashioned house standing in rather neglected grounds’, owners Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss had soon employed landscape gardener Beatrix Farrand to design the gardens. Dumbarton Oaks is ranked number 6 in the National Geographic’s Top 10 Gardens of the World.

After lunch in Georgetown, drive to Philadelphia in the afternoon. (BL)

Wed 15 Apr / Philadelphia
Learn about the early history and foundation of the United States of America on a walking tour of the Independence National Historical Park where the events of the American Revolution transpired.

In the afternoon continue to the new home of the Barnes Foundation, established in 1922 by wealthy pharmaceutical mogul Dr Albert C. Barnes to ‘promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts’. Spend the afternoon viewing the remarkable collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. (B)

Thu 16 Apr / Philadelphia
Enjoy a day outside the city in exclusive district, Wayne, which dates back to the early 20th century, when land along the Main Line of the Pennsylvania Railroad was developed for summer homes to escape the heat of Philadelphia.

Begin with a visit to Chanticleer which, in 2013, celebrated two anniversaries: its centennial as the Rosengarten estate and 20th year as a public garden.

After lunch at nearby Valley Forge Flowers, visit the private garden of Mrs Dodo Hamilton, Campbell Soup heiress, legendary horticulturalist and supporter of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (America’s oldest). (BL)

Fri 17 Apr / Philadelphia – New York
Depart Philadelphia and drive to New York.

On the way, stop at Longwood one of the premier botanical gardens in the United States covering more than 1,077 acres (436 ha). Your visit will coincide with the famous Spring Blooms festival, when thousands of bulbs blossom throughout the gardens.

Continue to New York City, arriving in the late afternoon. (BL)

Sat 18 Apr/ New York
Enjoy a day of exploration of Manhattan’s contemporary green spaces and relaxing gardens.

First, begin with a visit to the new 9/11 Memorial Museum, honouring the victims and examining 9/11 and its continued global significance. Continue to the incredible public space that is Ken Smith’s Elevated acre at 55 Water St, and The Gardens of Remembrance, Piet Oudolf’s waterfront plantings on Battery Point, which are a tribute to the victims of 9/11 and include 114 varieties of perennials and native plants.

After lunch on your own in Chelsea’s thriving art district, head to the High Line, the famous elevated freight railway transformed into a public park on the lower west side of Manhattan. The 1.6km park’s attractions include naturalised plantings inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the disused tracks, rugged meadow plants as well as many American natives.

Evening at leisure. Renaissance Tours will assist with theatre and restaurant bookings. (B)

Sun 19 Apr / New York
Spend the day out of Manhattan in the borough of Brooklyn.

Today begins with a visit to Brooklyn Grange, a one acre urban farm in Brooklyn. Enjoy the unique perspective of the Manhattan skyline from the top of a six-storey industrial building amidst a productive, thriving green space. Take the Founders tour and be inspired by their fascinating philosophy.

In the afternoon experience spring in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. Along with countless other spring blossoms, April is prime flowering time for over 200 Japanese flowering cherry trees showcasing more than 40 different species and cultivars.

This evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a dinner cruise on New York harbour. (BD)

Mon 20 Apr / Depart New York
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. (B)

Northwest Flower and Garden Show, Seattle

Northwest Flower and Garden Show 2017

 

A Taste of Spring – let things get a little tasty and Plant Grow and Eat!

Come along a celebrate all things edible and sustainable, with urban food gardening, homesteading, outdoor dining and a range of exciting culinary experiences including a brand new show section ‘The Tasting Corner’ filled with craft food and beverage exhibitors.

 

Show Gardens

The Northwest Flower and Garden Show show gardens are the heart and soul of all world-class gardens shows and the Northwest Flower & Garden Show 2017 is no exception.

 

Seminars

All the dozens of seminars and demonstrations at the Northwest Flower and Garden Show are FREE so make sure you come along for lots of inspiration and ideas for your garden. Meet some of your favorite gardening heroes, like Dan Hinkley, Joe Lamp’l, Debra Prinzing, Tracy DiSabato-Aust and Linda Chalker-Scott.

With seminars and advice for new gardeners as well as old hands, our expert Speakers will give you tips and techniques for creating gracious outdoor living spaces and luscious, sustainable gardens perfect for your family.

Our seminars bring together stunning visuals and up-to-date advice from all kinds of garden experts – designers, horticulturists and also authors, as there are plenty of very practical sessions too, with demonstrations covering edible gardening, growing plants in of containers, how to prune a wide vareity of plants, and even flower arranging. We have something for every gardener! Whether you can fit in just one seminar or dozens, remember that it’s all included in your ticket price. Why not buy a multi-day pass so you can see them all and still enjoy everything else that the show has to offer too?

If your’e keen to see a particular speaker, or get tips on a special subject, or buy a new book signed by the author, use our handy seminar and book-signing guides (available in December)

 

Marketplace

Our Marketplace with over 300 exhibitors is just the thing for your green thumb as you stock up on the latest tools and accessories for your home and garden. You can buy new plants or unique hand-crafted wares, savor delicious specialty foods, or find that special piece of furniture or art to grace your garden. There’s aisle after aisle of fresh gear and outstanding services, including a Plant Market and Vintage Garden Market. We even have a free package check service for you to stash your purchases while you continue to enjoy the show.

 

Venue

Washington St. Convention Center 7th & Pike | Seattle, Washington

 

Show Hours

Wednesday: 9am – 8pm; Thursday: 9am – 8pm; Friday: 9am – 8pm; Saturday: 9am – 8pm; Sunday: 9am – 6pm

French and Italian Gardens in Spring – Nice to Rome

French and Italian Gardens in Spring – Nice to Rome

NOTE: This tour can be stand-alone or a continuation of French Gardens in Spring – Paris to Nice

 

Day 1. Arrive Nice

Arrive into Nice on the French Riviera, where you will enjoy dinner this evening.
Stay: Two Nights: Nice, Hotel Ellington
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Dinner

Day 2. Nice and Monaco

Visit the gardens of Ephrussi de Rothschild, featuring French and Japanese gardens. See the exotic gardens, which brings together several million species of succulents. Boldly planted on the rocky mountainside where it blooms superbly, a prehistoric cave 60 metres below ground reveals its spectacular stalagmites and stalactites formed over a millennia. We continue to Princess Grace Rose Garden in Monaco, a place of calm and serenity where the scent of some 4,000 roses hangs in the air. Afterwards, we visit the Jardin de la Madone in Menton.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 3. Le Cinque Terre

Explore the famous fishing villages of the Cinque Terre, then head to La Spezia, a village on the Cinque Terre.
Stay: La Spezia, My One Hotel
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Dinner

Day 4. Pisa

See the Leaning Tower of Pisa, then enjoy lunch in a Tuscan vineyard. Next, we visit Villa Gamberaia, constructed in the early 1600s and is famed for its magnificent gardens located in an exceptional position overlooking the Arno Valley. The unique garden plan and setting in the Tuscan landscape have been celebrated by garden designers throughout the centuries.
Stay: Two Nights: 5-star hotel in Florence, Helvetia and Bristol Hotel
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Lunch
  • • Dinner

Day 5. Florence

In Florence, we visit the Accademia Gallery that houses Michelangelo’s masterpiece ‘David’. Continue to the Piazza del Duomo, home to the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the Baptistry and Giotto’s Campanile. Later, perhaps visit Boboli Gardens and marvel at the collection of sculptures dating from the 16th through to the 18th centuries. Please note if you wish to visit the Uffizi Gallery in your own time, please book tickets in advance.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 6. Tuscany and Rome

Travel to San Gimignano, then see the gardens at Villa Lante at Bagnaia, with its cascades to fountains and dripping grottoes. Here, marvel at the Quadrato, a perfectly square parterre. Its centre basin contains the “Fontana dei Mori” by Giambologna, where four life-sized moors stand around two lions representing the Montalto coat of arms. Continue to Rome, and enjoy an evening walking tour to see the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps.
Stay: Two Nights: Rome, Boscolo Exedra
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Dinner

Day 7. Rome Sights and The Vatican

This morning after breakfast, enjoy a sightseeing tour of Rome, including the Colosseum, the Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel and marvel at the art and gardens of this incredible complex. Then, head to the exquisite Villa d’Este garden at Tivoli, with its impressive fountains, nymphs, grottoes, plays of water, and music.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 8. Ninfa and Pompeii

Travel to the Garden of Ninfa, set within the ruins of this ancient city. This oasis houses a rich variety of fauna, including the rare Brown Trout and over 150 species of birds. Afterwards, visit fascinating Pompeii to enjoy a guided tour of this historic site, then travel to Sorrento.
Stay: Two Nights: Sorrento, Hilton Palace
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 9. La Mortella and Ischia Island

Cruise to the island of Ischia and the fabulous La Mortella garden, divided into two parts: a lower garden, called The Valley; and an upper garden named The Hill, terraced with retaining walls. The expansive areas of the garden are linked by a network of walks, paths, ramps and steps that climb the dry walls, permitting us to reach the upper hill, where we can enjoy breathtaking views of the Bay of Forio.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Dinner

Day 10. Amalfi Coast and Depart Rome

Travel back to Rome and admire the breathtaking scenery via the Amalfi Coast. Visit Villa Rufolo in Ravello, which overlooks the front of the cathedral square. The villa, whose original function was that of watchtower, dates back to 1200 and originally belonged to the powerful Rufolo family. The enchantment of the villa is found within its famous garden and magnificent main tower 30 metres high. Arrive at Rome airport at approximately 5.00 pm and the Rome hotel at 6.00 pm.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

 

French Gardens in Spring – Paris to Nice

French Gardens in Spring – Paris to Nice

Note: This tour can be stand alone, or continue on from Nice to Rome on Botanica Tour BTIF10

 

Day 1. Arrive Paris and Sightseeing

On arrival, be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. This afternoon, depart the hotel for a city sightseeing tour. This evening, enjoy a wonderful dinner cruise on the Seine River.
Stay: Two Nights: 5-star hotel in Paris, Scribe Hotel by Sofitel
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Dinner

Day 2. Monet’s Garden

Today, visit the iconic Monet’s Garden, designed with an artist’s eye for colour. There are two parts in Monet’s garden: a flower garden called Clos Normand; and a Japanese-inspired water garden, forming a contrast that complements one another. Clos Normand has expanded to approximately one hectare, full of perspectives, symmetries and colours. Fruit trees and ornamental trees dominate the climbing roses, long-stemmed hollyhocks and the coloured banks of annuals. Monet mixed the simplest flowers of daisies and poppies with some of the most rare varieties. In the water garden, you will find the famous Japanese bridge covered with wisterias, weeping willows, a bamboo wood and above all the famous nympheas, which bloom all summer long.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 3. Loire Valley and Château de Chenonceau

In the Loire Valley visit the Villandry Garden, with its potager filled with ornamental and edible vegetables. Embark on an art experience as you visit Château de Chenonceau, an exceptional site with its exquisite design, richness of collections, furniture and decorations. It houses an exceptional museum collection of the Old Masters’ paintings: Murillo; Le Tintoret; Nicolas Poussin; Le Corrège; Rubens, Le Primatice; and Van Loo, as well as an extremely rare selection of 16th-century Flanders Tapestries.
Stay: Tours, Hotel Univers
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Dinner

Day 4. Burgundy and Wineries

Enjoy a tour of one of Burgundy’s most important towns, Beaune, considered to be the ‘Capital of Burgundy Wines’. Visit the Marché aux Vins, a former Franciscan church that was restored in 1977, where the beauty of the architecture is matched only by the superb wines presented. Afterwards, dine on classic Burgundy dishes and sample the region’s finest wines.
Stay: Beaune, Hotel Mercure Centre
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Dinner

Day 5. Avignon and Sightseeing

Tour the Papal Palace and Saint Andre Abbey. Admire ancient walls, pretty gardens and narrow streets. This afternoon, enjoy an exclusive opportunity to meet Monty Don, when he will conduct a special lecture.
Stay: Two Nights: Avignon, Grand Hotel
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Dinner

Day 6. Provence

This morning visit the park and garden at Brantes Castle, a contemporary garden with a Tuscan influence with its magnificent mirror pools, lanes of boxwood, plane tree forest and one of the oldest grandiflora magnolias in Europe – approximately 200 years old. Continue to Arles to see the magnificent Roman arena, then enjoy the rest of the day to explore this region at your leisure.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 7. Grasse and Cote d’Azur

Travel to the Côte d’Azur region. Visit Grasse, now known as the perfume capital of the world since production in the 18th-century. After visiting a perfumery, continue to Nice on the French Riviera.
Stay: Two Nights: Nice, Hotel Ellington
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast
  • • Dinner

Day 8. Nice and Monaco

Visit the gardens of Ephrussi de Rothschild, featuring French and Japanese gardens. See the exotic gardens, which brings together several million species of succulents. Boldly planted on the rocky mountainside where it blooms superbly, a prehistoric cave 60 metres below ground reveals its spectacular stalagmites and stalactites formed over a millennia. We continue to Princess Grace Rose Garden in Monaco, a place of calm and serenity where the scent of some 4,000 roses hangs in the air. Afterwards, we visit the Jardin de la Madone in Menton.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast

Day 9. Depart Nice

After breakfast you will be transferred to the airport for your onward flight.
  • Daily Meals Included:
  • • Breakfast