The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna

The Living Eden: Madagascar’s Unique Flora and Fauna

 

 

ITINERARY

The following itinerary lists a range of sites which we plan to visit. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in flight schedules, road and weather conditions. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches (usually boxed lunches) and evening meals as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch, and D=evening meal. The duration of walks described below are approximate only.

 

Discovering Lemurs

Lemurs belong to the suborder Strepsirhini, which also includes bushbabies, pottos and lorises. These groups are the most basal living primates. Ancestral prosimians, possibly resembling today’s Mouse Lemurs, are thought to have colonised Madagascar from mainland Africa 50-60 million years ago. In the absence of competition from other non-primate mammals, these species diversified to fill a wide range of unusual ecological niches. There are five distinct families of lemurs: Lemuridae, Indriidae, Megaladapidae, Cheirogaleidae and Daubentoniidae. The Lemuridae comprises 10 species, divided into two subfamilies: the Lemurinae (‘true’ lemurs) and the Hapalemurinae (Bamboo or Gentle Lemurs). All species of lemurs are endemic primates of Madagascar. They are the smallest primate in the world, from Ms Berthe Lemur which weighs 30 grams to the Indri, which can weigh up to 9.5 kg. Recently extinct species were much larger. In 2010, five families, 15 genera and 101 species and subspecies of lemurs were officially recognized. Between 2000 and 2008 39 new species were identified. During this tour we shall study several beautiful species including the Indri Indri, Sifaka and some interesting nocturnal species.

 

Guiding in Madagascar and visits to the National Parks

Entry to national parks and reserves in Madagascar requires that you be accompanied by a local guide. During visits to the national parks there will be at least two local guides as well as our English-speaking national guide from Wild Madagascar. This will enable us, if necessary, to sub-divide into small groups according to preference and ability levels. If you feel you cannot keep up with the rest of the group or feel tired, you may return to the entrance of the national park, shorten your visit or take a short-cut to meet the rest of the group at a different place.

 

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 1: Monday 9 September, Arrive Antananarivo

 

Airport transfer for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight (from Mauritius MK288 1410-1505)
Orientation tour of Antananarivo
Welcome Evening Meal

We arrive in Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital city, affectionately known as ‘Tana’. We proceed immediately from the airport for a short orientation tour of the city including stops at the former Prime Minister’s and Queen’s Palaces.

The city of Tana was built in three stages; the high city was the first area occupied during the royal period, and it is here that the old Manjakamiadana Rova (Queen’s Palace) is located. This royal palace complex (rova in Malagasy) served as a residence for the kings and queens of the Merina Kingdom during the 17th and 18th centuries and the rulers of the Kingdom of Madagascar in the 19th century. Its religious counterpart is the nearby fortified village of Ambohimanga, which served as the spiritual seat of the kingdom. Originally made of wood, in 1869 the palace was rebuilt in stone by order of Queen Ranavalona II. In 1995 a fire almost completely destroyed the palace sparing only the stone walls. From its high position the palace offers great panoramic views of the city and the Twelve Sacred Hills.

The Andafiavaratra Palace, also known as the Prime Minister’s Palace, is located north of the Queen’s Palace. The original wooden palace was built under the supervision of Queen Ranavalona I. In 1872, it was rebuilt according to the plans of British architect William Pool. The 3-storey palace centres on a large reception hall lit up by a glass dome. Each of the four corner towers includes a bell tower. From 1864 to 1895 the palace was the residence of Prime Minister Rainilaiarivony, who married three queens and exercised ultimate power from here. After Madagascar became independent, the palace was used as army barracks, a court, school of fine arts, presidential palace and finally again as the prime minister’s office. In 1976 the palace burnt down. Following extensive restoration it now houses a museum displaying precious items which were saved from the fire of the Rova in 1995 including the red jacket of Radama I, the royal coral jewels, various royal portraits and the diadem of the last queen. Note: this palace is is currently closed for restoration and may not be open by September 2019.

We next drive down to mid-city Tana, or the administrative district, ending at the Rainiharo tombs. While poorly maintained, the tomb designed by Jean Laborde in 1835 for the deceased prime minster is nevertheless a significant example of French colonial architecture and the first structure in Madagascar to use carved stone. A three-year stay in Bombay, shortly before Laborde’s fateful shipwreck on Madagascar, gave a decided Hindu air to his design for this mausoleum.

Finally we visit the low city which is the commercial area of the town with its magnificent Avenue de l’Independence and its imposing colonial buildings including the old railway station. In the late afternoon we transfer to our hotel located in the heart of the government district. This evening we gather for a welcome meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Antananarivo) LD

 

 

Andasibe National Park – 3 nights

 

Day 2: Tuesday 10 September, Antananarivo – Marozevo – Andasibe

 

Peyrieras Reptile Reserve (Mandraka Nature Farm), Marozevo

Physical Endurance: Our visit to the reserve may include an optional ten minutes hike to the top of a nearby hill where a family of Coquerel’s Sifaka (Propithecus coquereli) and a group of Common Brown Lemurs (Eulemur fulvus) reside. The hillside is quite steep. Duration: 2hrs

Early evening walk in the VOI Community managed forest of the Reserve of Indri d’ Analamazaotra. Physical Endurance: The night walk starts at around 1800 from the entrance to the VOI preserve. The trail, winding in the understory of the forest, is reasonably flat. Duration: 1.5hrs

This morning we depart Antananarivo for Andasibe, a region of primary forests and lakes. En route we stop at the Peyrieras Reptile Reserve, founded by the French entomologist and naturalist André Peyriéras, for a close-up look at some of Madagascar’s numerous reptiles and amphibians, including several species of chameleons, snakes, geckos and frogs.

We arrive at our atmospheric lodge, set on the edge of the rainforest, in the late afternoon. In the early evening we make our first visit to the special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra with a stroll through the VOI community managed forest. Here we search for a number of nocturnal species including various tree frogs, chameleons, the Eastern Woolly Lemur (Avahi laniger), Furry-Eared Dwarf Lemur (Cheirogalus crossleyi) and Goodman’s Mouse Lemur (Microcebus Lehilahitsara). (Overnight Andasibe) BLD

 

Day 3: Wednesday 11 September, Andasibe

 

Journey by 4WD
Birdwatching and nature tour of Mantadia National Park: The Tsakoka and Belakato Trails

Physical Endurance: Hiking trails in Mantadia can be steep and are often sandy/muddy. As our plan is to combine birdwatching and wildlife, lemurs in particular, we cannot limit walks to the lower elevation. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 4-5hrs.
Time at leisure

The Andasibe-Mantadia National Park is a pristine primary growth rainforest reserve, separated into two sections, each home to plants and animals found only in that part. The two protected areas are referred to as the ‘special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra’ (or Andasibe National Park) and Mantadia National Park. Mantadia National Park, located 21kms north of the Andasibe National Park, was created primarily to protect the Indri and also constitutes a habitat for the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur (Varecia variegat). A quiet, beautiful area with numerous waterfalls, it is undeveloped and less visited than its popular neighbour to the south.

We spend today exploring this section of the park, looking for lemurs, reptiles and rare endemic birds. The terrain at Mantadia is ranked from rough to very rough and searching for wildlife will be physically demanding. We will dedicate four to five hours to following a combination of the Tsakoka and Belakato trails. We intend to be back at our lodge around mid-afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. (Overnight Andasibe) BLD

 

Day 4: Thursday 12 September, Andasibe

 

Birdwatching and nature tour of the special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra
Physical Endurance: Hiking trails in the reserve are steep in spots and can be sandy/muddy. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 3-4hrs.

Lemur Island

This morning we explore the special Reserve of Indri d’Analamazaotra, world famous for its population of Indri whose unforgettable wail can be heard emanating from the misty forest throughout the day, most commonly in the early morning. There are about 60 resident family groups of two to five Indris each. In 2005 the Goodman’s Mouse Lemur was discovered here and identified as a distinct species. There are numerous other species to see as well, such as the Bamboo Lemur and the Brown Lemur, the Emerald-Green Parson’s Chameleon and a number of rainforest dependent birds.

In the middle of the afternoon, we visit Lemur Island, a tiny reserve owned by Vakona Lodge, home to three species of lemur including the Bamboo Lemur, the Black-and-White Ruffed Lemur and the Brown Lemur. Here we may obtain a close-up view of these endemic creatures. (Overnight Andasibe) BLD

 

 

Antsirabe – 1 night

 

Day 5: Friday 13 September, Andasibe – Ambatolampy – Antsirabe

 

Aluminium Pot Workshops, Ambatolampy
Evening orientation walk of Antsirabe (time-permitting)

We spend most of the day travelling from Andasibe to Antsirabe. Our journey will take approximately seven to eight hours. South of Tana we make a brief visit to the charming and very typical plateau town of Ambatolampy, famous for its aluminium pots. A visit to a local foundry will enable us to view the workers who, out of the blazing hot metal, create small artworks, cutlery and cooking pots. Their skilful technique is interesting to watch. The metal is smelted by one worker in a crucible until it is molten. In the mean time, another member of the team creates the inverted shape of the inside of the pot on the floor of the workshop using a very fine-grained mixture of sand, laterite and powdered charcoal. Once this shape has been completed, a wooden mould is lowered carefully over the foundry sand, and more sand is packed around it. Finally, the molten metal is poured into the cavity between the two to create the pot. The pot is then left to cool – which is a surprisingly quick process – before the mould is removed and the foundry sand is gently swept away to expose the new pot. It is then sanded and burnished to remove the rough edges and reveal the characteristic silvery white colour of the metal.

Depending on the traffic, we hope to arrive into Antsirabe in time for a short evening orientation stroll along the Avenue de l’Independence. Colonial Antsirabe’s broad tree-lined avenue, which stretches from its handsome railway station to the Hôtel des Thermes was intended to achieve the goals of defining the resort as European and of making it a symbol of French rationality and modernity with which to impress the Malagasy. (Overnight Antsirabe) BLD

 

 

Ranomafana National Park – 3 nights

 

Day 6: Saturday 14 September, Antsirabe – Ambositra – Ambatovaky – Ranomafana

 

Rickshaw ride: visit to the semi-precious stone workshops and handicraft sector of Antsirabe
Wood carving of Ambositra
Blacksmith village of Ambatovaky

Early this morning we begin with a short tour of Antsirabe, the third largest city in Madagascar. Located on a high plateau, at an altitude of approximately 1500m, it has a relatively cool climate. Its name, meaning “where there is salt”, honours the large number of hot springs whose curative qualities were appreciated by the local population when French colonists decided to locate a thermal bath here in the 19th century. It is also renowned for having hundreds of registered rickshaws (or pousse-pousses in French) and specialises in the cutting of semi-precious stones. In the town’s thriving handicrafts sector we may view a variety of products including jewellery made from zebu horn, toys crafted from old tin cans, wood carvings, polished minerals, embroidered tablecloths and clothing.

Mid-morning we depart Antsirabe and continue 90km south to the Betsileo town of Ambositra, whose close proximity to the forest has made it the centre of Madagascar’s wood carving industry. Its name means “the place of the eunuchs” supposedly because the Merina tribe castrated all defeated warriors of the local tribe, the Zafimaniry. The cultural influence of this tribe can be found in the traditional motifs on the local houses with their intricately carved balconies, panels and shutters. We’ll encounter many specialized workshops in printmaking, wood carving and marquetry. Saturday is market day; raffia products are particularly plentiful.

The village of Ambatovaky, situated 24km from the entrance to Ranomafana National Park, consists of a small population of farmers and artisans. Here shall visit a local blacksmith before continuing to Ranomafana National Park in the mountainous highlands. (Overnight Setam Lodge, Ranomafana) BLD

 

Day 7 & 8: Sunday 15 September & Monday 16 September, Ranomafana National Park

 

Mornings: Birdwatching and nature walk along the Varibolamena Trails
Physical Endurance: One of the most difficult trails, it is taxing due to the rough terrain and humidity. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 4 hrs.

Afternoon: Birdwatching and nature walk along the Vohiparara Trails
Physical Endurance: The Vohiparara Trail is flatter than the Varibolamena Trail. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: dependent on bird species spotted; approx 2hrs.

Particularly rich in wildlife, this hitherto unprotected fragment of mid-altitude rainforest and higher-altitude mountain cloud forest first came to the world’s attention with the discovery of the Golden Bamboo Lemur in 1986; formal protection followed in 1991. Today this exquisite upland cloud forest is one of Madagascar’s top wildlife hotspots. The 12 lemur species that live here include all three Bamboo Lemurs: Grey Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur griseus), Greater Bamboo Lemur (Prolemur simus) and the Golden Bamboo Lemur (Hapalemur aureus). The Bamboo or Gentle lemurs have grey-brown fur. Their muzzles are short and their ears are round and hairy. Lengths vary from 26 to 46 cm, with tails just as long or longer, and they weigh up to 2.5 kg. Bamboo Lemurs prefer damp forests where bamboo grows and as their name suggests they feed almost exclusively on bamboo. Completely dependent on this low-energy food source, the lemur must lead a very sedentary lifestyle and spend much of its time eating. As with many specialised species, this lemur is unable to adapt to its rapidly changing habitat. Widespread clearing of its rainforest habitat has caused populations to become isolated in the few remaining patches of forest capable of supporting the species. Other residents of the park include the striking Milne-Edward’s Sifaka and the robust Black and White-Ruffed Lemur. There are also scores of reptiles and beautiful chameleons.

We shall spend two days in Ranomafana National Park exploring the network of paths through the forests and dense stands of giant bamboo. Expect to see various lemurs, such as Red-Fronted Brown Lemur (Eulemur rufus), Red-Bellied Lemur (Eulemur rubriventer) and the shy Grey Bamboo Lemur. For the tree lover we will see some of the species of Dombeya with their heads of pink or white flowers. Ranomafana is also superb for birdwatchers as many of the rainforest dwelling endemics occur in the park. There are Brown Mesite, Blue Coua and the Velvet Asity. Ranomafana is a herpetologist’s paradise, with a variety of chameleons, geckoes, skinks and frogs. The floral diversity is bewildering, with numerous species of palm, bamboo and orchid thriving here.

The Ranomafana National Park trail is considered to be one of the most difficult walks included on this tour due to the roughness of terrain and the permanent humidity. Difficulty will undoubtedly arise while tracking wildlife, in particular Golden Bamboo Lemurs and Milne’s Edward Sifaka, the former being very often met only off track – which can be a strenuous endeavour. The terrain where birds are usually encountered is more even. (Overnight Setam Lodge, Ranomafana) BLD

 

Isalo National Park – 2 nights

 

Day 9: Tuesday 17 September, Ranomafana – Anja – Isalo National Park

 

Ring-Tailed Lemurs of Anja Community Reserve
Physical Endurance: Relatively easy trail with only slight uphill slopes. The narrow trails follow open vegetation through dry-deciduous forest. Duration: 2hrs

Leaving the rainforest early after breakfast we drive across the desolate central southern interior to the community-run Anja Reserve. Known for its superb scenery, the reserve covers eight hectares and is home to about 300 Ring-Tail Lemurs (Lemur catta), instantly recognisable by their banded tail, and some intriguing plants adapted to the dry southern climate. The region is sacred to the Betsileo; their ancestors are buried here and it has always been fady (meaning taboo in the traditional culture of Madagascar) to hunt the lemurs. The caves here have provided a useful sanctuary in times of trouble and were inhabited up to a century or so ago. We spend a couple of hours in the Anja Reserve following a relatively easy trail through dry-deciduous forest to spot groups of Ring-Tailed Lemurs and various species of reptiles.

In the afternoon we continue our drive to Isalo’s remarkable landscapes, with eroded ‘ruiniforme’ sandstone outcrops, giving hints of silver and green reflections of sunlight, and interspersed with endless palm savanna of the endemic Bismarkia Palms (Bismarkia nobilis). (Overnight Hôtel Le Jardin du Roy, Ranohira, Isalo National Park) BLD

 

Day 10: Wednesday 18 September, Isalo National Park

 

Morning nature trail, Isalo National Park
Physical Endurance: The path to the natural pool climbs steeply and there is little shade along the way. The hiking time for the uphill climb is approximately 1-1.5 hours at a leisurely pace with stops. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 2-3hrs.

Afternoon at leisure OR optional trail to the Piscine Noire et Bleu, Isalo National Park.  Physical Endurance: This 4km walk begins with easy walking, but becomes more difficult towards the end of the canyon due to stream crossings on flattened boulders, cliff ascents on carved steps, followed by a descent to the pools along narrow steps and stepping stones. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 3hrs.

We explore Isalo National Park’s fascinating plant community, including some very localised species of palm, aloe and the squat ‘elephant’s foot’ pachypodiums, which flourish on the rock faces. With luck, we’ll see some Ring-Tail Lemurs or Verreaux’s Sifakas in dense vegetation lining the canyon streams. Isalo offers several options for hikes into rocky canyons and verdant oases, with opportunities to take a refreshing dip in naturally formed pools at the base of hidden waterfalls. We shall look for Ring-Tail Lemurs, Verreaux Sifakas and Red-Fronted Brown Lemurs that have adapted to life in this dry desert climate.

Our early morning trail provides views of xerophytic and sclerophyllous vegetation as well as stunning sandstone runiforme scenery.

This afternoon is at leisure for you to enjoy the lodge’s facilities. Alternatively you may wish to join an optional walk to the ‘Piscine Noire et Bleu’ (Black and Blue Pools), both fed by narrow waterfalls, located at the end of the Namazaha Canyon. This canyon features riparian (riverbank) vegetation and shelters a variety of birds including the Benson Rock Thrush (Monticola bensoni). We begin the trail in a dry deciduous pocket forest that is home to birds, reptiles and insects. At the centre of this forest we may see Ring-Tailed Lemurs, the Red-Fronted Brown Lemurs and a Verreaux Sifaka. (Overnight Hôtel Le Jardin du Roy, Ranohira, Isalo National Park) BLD

 

Ifaty – 2 nights

 

Day 11: Thursday 19 September, Isalo – Zombitse National Park – Toliara – Ifaty

 

Zombitse National Park
Physical Endurance: An easy walk along the Mandresy Trail; terrain includes loose sand. Duration: 2hrs

Arboretum d’Antsokay, Toliara

We make a very early start to drive to Zombitse National Park. The forest is a very special transition zone between the southern flora and the western deciduous forest. Similar in appearance to the latter, it contains the baobab species of the former. Here we may find our first Angraecum orchids and see Rhopalocarpus, a large tree and a member of a family unique to Madagascar. The large white Verreaux’s Sifakas bound from tree to tree and often allow close views.

After lunch we visit the splendid Aboretum d’Antsokay, located 12km south-east of Toliara. Created in the early 80s on the initiative of a Swiss amateur botanist, Hermann Petignat, the arboretum is devoted to the conservation of plants from the south-western part of Madagascar. In close collaboration with many institutions including the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew and WWF it presents a typical spiny thicket (also known as spiny forest) in a botanical garden preserving more than 900 species, of which 90% are endemic to the region and 80% have medicinal virtues.

In the late afternoon we drive to Ifaty, a small fishing village with idyllic palm-fringed white beaches on the southwestern coast of Madagascar. (Overnight Ifaty) BLD

 

Day 12: Friday 20 September, Ifaty

 

Reniala Reserve: Spiny Thicket
Physical Endurance: An easy walk; terrain includes loose sand.
Today we make an excursion to the Reniala Reserve whose name “mother of the forest” is the nickname of the baobabs endemic to this area. The reserve, which opened in 2001, functions as a botanical garden, ornithological park and baobab forest, and includes some of the last pieces of primary forests of the South. The spiny thicket or “spiny desert” of southern Madagascar, also referred to as deciduous thicket, is a globally distinctive ecoregion with 95 percent of the plant species endemic to the region. Members of the endemic Didiereaceae family dominate the thicket, which have similar xeric adaptations to New World cacti, such as small leaves and spines, but are woody rather than succulent. The reserve also features the the famous baobabs (Adansonia rubrostipa), Pachypodium and countless Euphorbia.

For bird lovers, you may see the Madagascar harrier-hawk (Polyboroides radiatus) or find the sickle-billed vanga (Falculea palliata), the white-headed vanga (Artamella viridisa) and Madagascar buttonquail (Turnix nigricollis) in their natural habitat. Reniala is also home to many endemic reptiles. A big population of the rare radiated tortoise and the smaller spider tortoise (Astrochelys radiata and Pyxis arachnoides) lives on the sandy ground and shares its territory with many Madagascar iguanas (Chalarodon madagascariensis). The forests are rapidly disappearing and becoming fragmented by charcoal production, agricultural expansion (for maize and cattle grazing), and wildfires associated with generation of new cattle pastureland. (Overnight Ifaty) BLD

 

Kirindy Forest Reserve – 1 night

 

Day 13: Saturday 21 September, Ifaty – Toliara – Morondava – Kirindy

 

Fly Toliara to Morondava via Antananarivo (MD713/MD702 0745-1230)
Nocturnal guided visit of Kirindy Forest Reserve
Physical Endurance: Trails are broad and mostly flat, making walking easy. Duration: 2hrs

Today we fly from Toliara to Morondava, and then drive to the Kirindy Forest Reserve. This 10,000-hectare reserve is a rare remnant of Madagascar’s threatened dry tropical deciduous forest. The reserve contains such oddities as the endangered Giant Jumping Rat collected by Gerald Durrell and now resident at the Durrell Wildlife Foundation, the Fossa (Cryptoprocta ferox) – Madagascar’s largest predator and a member of the mongoose family, and seven species of nocturnal lemur including the Fork-Marked Lemur, Coquerel’s Dwarf Lemur and the smallest of all primates, the Pygmy Mouse Lemur. Also present is the hissing cockroach. Kirindy boasts the highest density of primates of virtually any forest in the world. Diurnal lemurs include the acrobatic Verreaix’s Sifaka and Red-Fronted Brown Lemur.

Kirindy is part of the Manabe forests, also noted for their diverse botany which includes three of the island’s seven endemic baobabs, including the Giant Baobab and the smallest, the Bottle Baobab. Birdwatching is excellent, and we should see the Madagascar Jacana, Coquerels and Crested Couas and Sicklebill Vangas to name but a few. You may also see iguanids and the Flat-Tailed Tortoise – known as Kapidolo (ghost turtle), currently one of the most threatened of all the world’s tortoises.

This evening we take a walk through the reserve to spot some of these nocturnal species including the Giant Jumping Rat (Hypogeomys antimena). Accommodation is provided at the recently opened (April 2017) Relais du Kirindy. Your impressive nocturnal wildlife walk should leave you feeling that our night in Kirindy Forest was well worthwhile. (Overnight Relais du Kirindy, Kirindy Forest Reserve) BLD

 

Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Sunday 22 September, Kirindy – Belo Tsiribihina – Tsingy de Bemaraha

 

Return visit to Kirindy Forest Reserve
Journey by 4WD to Bekopaka via the Tsirbihina River and Belo Tsiribihina

Following an early return visit to the Kirindy Forest Reserve we drive northwards to the shores of the Tsiribihina River where a barge will transport us across the river to the town of Belo Tsiribihina. The river crossing takes about 45 minutes.

Following lunch in Belo Tsiribihina we make the four to five-hour drive to Bekopaka. Our journey takes us across savanna, a grassland home to the Madagascar Harrier-Hawk (Polyboroides radiatus). One of the commonest raptors of Madagascar, this is a very large bird of prey. Aside from its size, it is unmistakable with its black and white stripes (called barring) on its underside, grey back, long bare yellow legs and bare pink or yellow skin patch around the eye.

A second barge will take our party across the river Manambolo to the village of Bekopaka; we shall spend the next three nights based at the Soleil des Tsingy. Located in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Tsingy de Bemaraha, the lodge is perched on the highest point in this region, offering spectacular views of the surrounding scenery. (Overnight Soleil des Tsingy, Bekopaka) BLD

 

Day 15: Monday 23 September, Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

 

The Gorge of the Manambolo River by pirogue
Physical Endurance: The excursion by pirogueon the Manambolo River is not suitable for anyone with bad knees. Further details are provided below. Duration: 2hrs

The Petite (Small) Tsingy
Physical Endurance: The walk includes a short ascent following a series of iron ladders and wooden walkways. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 2-3hrs.

The spectacular mineral forest of Tsingy de Bemaraha stands on the west coast of Madagascar. The area, designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990, comprises 1575 square kilometres of canyons, gorges, undisturbed forests, lakes and mangrove swamps. The northern section is designated an Integral Reserve, and therefore off-limits to visitors, but we shall visit the southern section, declared a national park in 1998. This vast forest of rugged and eroded karst pinnacles supports about 90 species of birds, 8 species of reptiles and 11 species of lemurs. Scientists estimate that 86.7% of the flora and flora are endemic to Madagascar, and 47% are endemic to this region.

This morning we make an excursion by pirogue (wooden dug-out canoe) to the spectacular Manambolo Gorge, where the river has carved a deep channel through the limestone plateau. As we canoe past dry forest and sheer, vertical cliffs, craggy caves and overhangs, we shall view unusual vegetation, endemic water birds, and hear the shrill cries of black parrots resounding against the rock walls. Madagascar Fish Eagles can sometimes be seen perching in large trees edging the river. The park is generally divided into two parts – the Petit (Small) and the Grand (Big) Tsingy – a distinction based upon on area and also on the height of the pinnacles.

This afternoon we visit the Petit Tsingy. An easy walk through a dry deciduous forest (where you’ll get to see plenty of lemurs) takes us to the base of the karst formations. Here a short ascent – following a series of iron ladders and wooden walkways (designed by a French mountaineer) – takes us to the viewpoint that opens up to a vista of the surrounding Tsingy forest. (Overnight Soleil des Tsingy, Bekopaka) BLD

 

Day 16: Tuesday 24 September, Tsingy de Bemaraha National Park

 

The Grand Tsingy: Adjacent Forest Walk (Option 1)
Physical Endurance: Option 1: A leisurely forest walk. Duration: 2hrs

Climbing The Grand Tsingy (Option 2: strenuous)
Physical Endurance: Option 2: Climbing the Grand Tsingy is long and strenuous and can be very hot during the middle of the day. It includes many steps, cables, walkways, caves, and a fair bit of rock scrambling. You need to be okay with heights. A climbing harness is provided for those undertaking the cables and rock scrambling section. Duration: 4hrs.

Afternoon at leisure

We depart very early this morning for a one-hour drive to the Grand Tsingy; a packed breakfast will be provided. We may see lemurs and dozens of birds, orchids, aloes, pachypodium and baobabs. The endemic and medicinal plants make the flora of this park unique. On arrival we take a leisurely walk exploring the adjacent forest for birds: Decken’s Sifaka (Propithecus deckeni), Randrianasolo’s Sportive Lemur (Lepilemur randrianasoli). At the entrance of the Tsingy we may also search for the Western Ring-Tailed Mongoose (Galidia elegans occidentalis). Note: the Grand Tsingy, the outskirts of which are characterised by xerophyte vegetation, may be viewed from below, from quite short distance without needing to climb.

Alternatively you may wish to take an adventurous (and indeed strenuous) walk traversing the pinnacles either along a harnessed track or following the iron ladder way. A harness clipped to a steel cable is used for safety on the vertiginous and exposed scrambling sections amongst the rock. (Note: no technical climbing experience is necessary).

After visiting the park we shall return to our hotel for lunch and an afternoon at leisure to relax. (Overnight Soleil des Tsingy, Bekopaka) BLD

 

Morondava – 1 night

 

Day 17: Wednesday 25 September, Tsingy de Bemaraha – Morondava

 

Return journey to Morondava by 4WD
Avenue des Baobabs

We return to Morondava by road, viewing the sunset in the Avenue des Baobabs. This cluster of towering Grandidier’s Baobabs (Adansonia grandidieri) is one of Madagascar’s most famous views. In 2007 the avenue (together with about 300 baobabs of three species in the surrounding one kilometre) became an officially protected natural monument. Andansonia grandidieri is the most majestic and famous of the baobab species and may reach 30m in height. The best-known specimens form the Boabab Avenue. These trees would once have been surrounded by dense forest, but today their isolated silhouettes can be seen for miles across the flat, featureless rice fields. There is now an active program to plant saplings amongst the existing trees. The project suffered a setback late in 2012 when a fire engulfed 11ha of the 320ha reserve, destroying 99 of the 2220 newly planted trees, but no mature baobabs were affected. We overnight in Morondava, a relaxed coastal town located on the Mozambique Channel. (Overnight Morondava) BLD

 

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 18: Thursday 26 September, Morondava – Antananarivo

 

Flight Morondava – Antananarivo (MD702 MOQTNR 1355-1455)
Royal Hill of Ambohimanga

Following some time at leisure we take a flight back to Antananarivo. We spend the remainder of the day exploring this city, including the UNESCO heritage listed Royal Hill of Ambohimanga, one of the most important spiritual and historic sites for the Malagasy people. Occupied since the 15th century, it was a fortified political capital, royal palace and royal burial ground. In the nineteenth century, the French colonial authorities made several attempts to undermine the significance and national symbolism of Ambohimanga, all of which proved unsuccessful. (Overnight Antananarivo) BLD

 

 

Maroantsetra – 1 night

 

Day 19: Friday 27 September, Antananarivo – Maroantsetra

 

Flight from Antananarivo to Maroantsetra (flight details to be confirmed)
Orientation tour of Maroantsetra
The Tomato Frog, Dyscophus antongilii

This morning we fly to Maroantsetra. Located at the far end of the Bay of Antongil, near the mouth of the Antainambalana River, this charming town described as ‘Madagascar at its most authentic’, enjoys both river and ocean views.

This afternoon we make a short tour of the town which often smells of vanilla and cloves; looking around we may see tables of drying vanilla beans on colourful blankets or cloves drying on mats and plastic bags.

Vanilla is a major export from Madagascar’s east coast. The only fruit-producing orchid, it is one of the most labour-intensive crops in the world, taking as long as five years from planting the vine to producing aged extract. Production involves the entire family, who pollinate the vanilla by hand when it flowers after two years, and then collect, cure and dry the pods. World vanilla prices experienced a massive spike after a 2000 cyclone devastated much of the East Asia crop. The sudden drop in supply pushed vanilla prices to nearly $500 per kg. However, by 2010 prices had dropped to as low as $25 per kg. Today, vanilla prices are surging again due to drought, fungal attacks and low prices driving many producers out of the market. Vanilla now sells for $80-$120 per kg. Despite the establishment of a financial cooperative which allows farmers to access credit during the lean season that lasts for most of the year (vanilla is sold only between June and October), very few people are still interested in caring for their plantations. Many have moved away from vanilla to other cultivations. Seeing drying vanilla pods is therefore very much dependent on the year and whether vanilla plantations are still tended.

There is also an abundant market featuring food such as large jumping shrimp, rice, greens, coconuts and a variety of cooked dishes, housewares, clothing and jewellery. Among the local crafts are lovely handmade raffia hats and bags which are primarily used by the local women. Women with stately postures may be seen balancing raffia totes and baskets piled high with fruit, vegetables and other goods on their heads.

While in Maroantsetra we also visit an area dedicated to the breeding habitat of the Tomato Frog, Dyscophus antongilii, a conspicuous red-orange frog belonging to the Microhylidae family. Currently listed as ‘Near Threatened’ by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, it is present in eastern and north eastern Madagascar, with two main nuclei, one around and within the town of Maroantsetra, and the other in the surroundings of Antara, close to the town of Toamasina. (Overnight Maroantsetra) BLD

 

 

Masoala National Park – 2 nights

 

Day 20: Saturday 28 September, Maroantsetra – Nosy Mangabe – Masoala

 

National Park

Réserve de Nosy Mangabe: Physical Endurance: Hiking trails can be steep and are often sandy/muddy. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels. Duration: 2hrs

Early this morning we travel by boat to the Masoala Peninsula. En route we make an excursion to the island nature reserve of Nosy Mangabe, a small island (520ha), located in Antongil Bay two kilometres offshore from Maroantsetra, and covered in humid dark-green thick forest.

The boat takes around 40 minutes before we wade ashore. The island is home to White-Fronted Brown Lemurs and Black-and-White Ruffed Lemurs, Leaf-Tailed Geckos (Uroplatus fimbriatus), several species of chameleons, frogs and snakes, including the Madagascar Tree Boa (Sanzinia madagasciensis), some of which can usually be spotted easily on the forest trails during a day visit. There is also the nocturnal Aye-Aye Lemur, which in the past could be seen if one stayed overnight on the island. However, the Aye-Aye on Nosy Mangabe are now more elusive and night walks are no longer permitted on the island.

In the early afternoon we continue by boat to the Masoala Peninsula. Here we spend three nights based at the Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge offering accommodation in rustic, but quite adequate, thatched huts. (Overnight Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge) BLD

 

Day 21: Sunday 29 September, Masoala National Park

 

The Western Coastal Trail, Lohatrozona
Physical Endurance: Hiking trails can be steep and are often sandy/muddy. Group may be divided into smaller groups based on ability levels.

The Masoala Peninsula is truly exceptional: two percent of all of planet earth’s animal and plant species are to be found here. Some species like Aye-Aye, Red-Ruffed Lemur, Madagascar Red Owl and the extremely rare Serpent Eagle are endemic to the peninsula.

Encompassing 2,300 square kilometres of rainforest and 100 square kilometres of marine parks, Masoala is Madagascar’s largest protected area. The park was established in 1997 to preserve this unique ecosystem comprising coastal rainforest, flooded forests, marsh and mangroves from the serious threat of encroachment by local communities that depend on the area for agricultural land and firewood, and from international logging companies harvesting timber. The park forests, which abound with chameleons, geckos, frogs as well as several species of butterflies, tumble down to the edge of a pristine, unspoiled shore peppered with unexplored golden beaches.

The three marine parks protect over 10,000 ha of coral reefs, marine plants and mangroves around the peninsula. Presently, more than 3,001 fish species have been inventoried in the marine parks. Antongil Bay is also used as a shelter by humpback whales that gather here during the summer breeding season, when Antongil’s waters literally froth with cetaceans.

The region also supports one of the most diverse groups of palm species in the world. The park is home to a total of 102 species of birds, more than 60% of which are endemic. During our stay we shall be looking for, among others, the rare and localised Helmet and Bernierʼs Vangas, Madagascar Long-Eared Owl, Red-Breasted Coua and both Short-Legged and Scaly Ground-Rollers. There are also several rare species of lemur (Red-Ruffed, White-Fronted Brown, Fork-Marked) and chameleon. Among the carnivores, Masoala is the only locality where the Mongoose Salanoia Concolor or Brown-Tailed Mongooses have been observed since 1970. This species is the least known of the Malagasy carnivores. (Overnight Masoala Dounia Forest Lodge) BLD

 

 

Antananarivo – 1 night

 

Day 22: Monday 30 September, Masoala – Maroantsetra – Antananarivo

 

Morning Charter Flight from Maroantsetra to Antananarivo (MD417 WMNTNR 1600-1715)
Farewell Evening Meal at La Varangue

We travel this morning by boat to Moroantsetra where we connect with our charter flight back to Antananarivo. The afternoon is at leisure. This evening we enjoy a farewell meal at La Varangue, one of the city’s top gourmet restaurants thanks to it’s chief Lalaina Ravelomana who is a kitchen maestro and chocolate specialist. (Overnight Antananarivo) BLD

 

Day 23: Tuesday 1 October, Antananarivo TOUR ENDS

Airport transfer for participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight (MK289 1655-1940)
Following some time at leisure in the morning we transfer to the Antananarivo airport in order to check-in for our late afternoon flight for Australia (via Mauritius) B

 

 

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, Landscapes and Art of the Top End

Gardens, Landscapes and Art of the Top End
Darwin and the Northern Territory

 

24 – 30 April 2019 (7 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

Join garden expert Elizabeth Swane to discover the diverse natural beauty of Australia’s ‘Top End’, and delve into the Northern Territory’s fascinating history and artistic culture. Thanks to Darwin’s coastal tropical climate allowing for the flourishing of a wide range of floral specimens, see the best of this natural abundance in sites such as Anthill Gardens, the largest private tropical garden in the Territory, and a selection of private gardens. Also visit the extensive George Brown Botanic Gardens, before exploring some of Darwin’s unique history and art in the Darwin Military Museum, and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
Then venture into Kakadu National Park, a 20,000 square-kilometre wilderness of wetlands, rivers, grasslands, escarpments and forests as old as time itself.

 

AT A GLANCE…

 

• Delight in the verdant tropical abundance of public and private gardens of Darwin, including the George Brown Botanic Gardens and Anthill Gardens
• Immerse yourself in the fascinating history and culture of Darwin, visiting the Darwin Military Museum, the Art Gallery of the Northern Territory and the cross-cultural exchange of the Paul Johnstone Art Gallery
• Explore the natural wonders of Kakadu National Park, including the rock art sites of Nourlangie and Ubirr, and visit Injalak Arts Centre in Arnhem Land

 

ITINERARY…

 

WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL 2019 / ARRIVE DARWIN

Arrive in Darwin in the mid-afternoon on suggested Qantas flights. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Make your way to the hotel and check in. At 17:00, enjoy an orientation coach tour of Darwin, visiting the Esplanade, Cullen Bay, Myilly Point Heritage Precinct and Fannie Bay. Conclude at the Darwin Waterfront for a special welcome dinner with Elizabeth and fellow travellers. (D)

 

THU 25 APR / DARWIN

After breakfast, set out for a walking tour of central Darwin, including the Legislative Assembly Building, the Supreme Court, the Territory Library and a visit to the gardens of Government House, the official residence of the Administrator of the Northern Territory. Then visit the Darwin Military Museum, commemorating the significant role of the armed forces in Territory life, particularly during the bombing of Darwin in 1942.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory for a guided tour of its special exhibition, followed by free time to explore the permanent exhibitions, including the Cyclone Tracy exhibition.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon, followed by an evening at leisure. You may wish to take a stroll down to Mindil Beach to explore the famous sunset markets, where hundreds of small businesses sell everything from crocodile jewellery to exotic tropical fruits. (BL)

 

FRI 26 APR / DARWIN

In the morning, visit one of Darwin’s private gardens, where local horticulturalists display the best in tropical gardening, integrating native and exotic species. Continue to the George Brown Botanic Gardens, one of the finest displays of tropical flora in Australia, and one of the only such gardens in the world in which marine and estuarine plants grow naturally.
Then, visit the Paul Johnstone Gallery, which exhibits works from community art centres across Northern and Central Australia by both Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists. Return to the hotel in the early afternoon, with the remainder of the afternoon at leisure to continue your exploration of Darwin at your own pace.
In the evening, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

SAT 27 APR / DARWIN

This morning, visit Jasmine Jan Studio and Gallery, where the eponymous artist – and zookeeper! – has turned her enthusiasm for the plants and animals of her native Top End into striking works of art, with a unique aesthetic combining her training in science, visual arts and animal husbandry.
Continue to Anthill Gardens for a light lunch followed by a tour of the gardens. Named for the ‘cathedral’ termite mounds standing sentinel over the entrance, Anthill Gardens is the largest private tropical plant display in the Northern Territory. Adorned with frangipani, bougainvilleas, poincianas, roses, heliconias, flowering ginger, cacti, agave, bromeliads and bamboo, Anthill Gardens embodies the floral abundance of the Territory in every season. Return to the hotel in the afternoon before an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

SUN 28 APR / DARWIN – KAKADU

After an early breakfast, check out from the hotel and travel to Kakadu National Park. In the late morning, arrive at Bowali Information Centre, which serves as the gateway to Kakadu and explains the history and significance of the area to Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians over the centuries.
Enjoy some free time for lunch before continuing to the awe-inspiring Nourlangie rock art site, with paintings dating back as far as 20,000 years, representing the very beginning of Australian art. Nourlangie represents the changing relationship of the local Bininj/Mungguy people with the landscape of Kakadu over the millennia, and tells the story of their ancestors, including Namarrgon (Lightning Man), who splits the dark clouds with his stone axes to make lightning and thunder in Kakadu’s prodigious Wet Season storms. (BD)

 

MON 29 APR / KAKADU

Depart early for the drive into western Arnhem Land and a visit to the Injalak Art Centre, the most important community art centre in the region. Male and female Indigenous artists display their skills in distinct sections of the art centre, with the male artists specialising in screen printing and fabric work, while the female artists continue their millennia-old tradition of pandanus weaving.
After lunch, visit the Ubirr rock art site, famous for its ‘X-ray’ depictions of humans and animals, revealing the artists’ intricate knowledge of internal anatomy. Paintings at Ubirr include the Rainbow Serpent, barramundi, goannas, possums, wallabies and a European buffalo farmer with his hands tucked nonchalantly into his pockets.
In the late afternoon enjoy a cruise on the peaceful Yellow Water billabong, where fish eagles soar above the treetops and mighty crocodiles glide silently through the water below. Then celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Elizabeth and fellow travellers. (BLD)

 

TUE 30 APR / KAKADU – DARWIN – DEPART DARWIN

After an early breakfast, check out from the hotel and return to Darwin.
Along the way, stop at the Window on the Wetlands information centre, which provides an informative explanation of the formation and function of the wetland ecosystem within Kakadu National Park.
Arrive at Darwin Airport in time for flights departing from 14:00 onwards. For those tour members remaining in Darwin, the coach will continue to Darwin CBD, where tour arrangements conclude. 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 Adriatic

Gardens of the Adriatic Dubrovnik to Venice with Helen Young

 

28 April – 10 May 2019 (13 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS

Travel north along the enchanting Dalmatian Coast from Dubrovnik to the island of Hvar and onwards to Venice, visiting the elegant gardens that grace the eastern shore of the Adriatic Sea.
Begin in Dubrovnik, whose UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town is still ringed with Mediaeval walls, and visit the botanical garden on the verdant island of Lokrum. Explore the Arboretum of Trsteno with its pair of 500-year-old Oriental Planes and the fields of delightful spring blossoms on the island of Hvar. Continue up the spectacular Dalmatian Coast to Split, the vibrant city which grew up around the site of Roman Emperor Diocletian’s vast palace, and onwards to Opatija and the floral abundance of the Villa Angiolina.
Finish in the stunning city of Venice, the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’, with visits to some of its ‘secret gardens’ as well as its cultural and architectural gems, and cruise past Renaissance and Baroque villas along the Brenta River.

 

AT A GLANCE

• Experience the relaxed pace of Croatian life in Dubrovnik and Split, and savour the delicious seafood cuisine of the Adriatic
• Visit the botanic garden on the island of Lokrum, where the brother of the Austrian Emperor used to spend his summer holidays
• Explore the elegant Trsteno Arboretum and stroll through fields gladdened with springtime blooms on the beautiful island of Hvar
• Delight in the horticultural abundance of the 19th century Villa Angiolina in Opatija, abounding with exotic plants drawn from across the world
• Discover the secret gardens of Venice, and cruise along the Brenta River in the hinterland of the Veneto, visiting the villas of Venetian nobility

Tour includes 3-night cruise.

 

ITINERARY

 

SATURDAY 27 APRIL 2019 / DEPART AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND

Depart Australia or New Zealand in the evening on suggested Emirates flights to Dubrovnik via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

 

SUN 28 APR / ARRIVE DUBROVNIK

Arrive in Dubrovnik in the early afternoon and make your way to the hotel.
Check in to the hotel and enjoy an afternoon at leisure. In the early evening, attend an introductory briefing at the hotel, followed by a special welcome dinner with Helen and fellow travellers. (D)

 

MON 29 APR / DUBROVNIK

In the morning, enjoy a talk by Helen, and then set out on a walking tour of the UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town of Dubrovnik. Visit Large Onofrio’s Fountain and the Church of St Blaise, patron saint of the city. See Orlando’s Column and the Sponza Palace, and then continue to the Franciscan Friary and the 17th century Baroque Cathedral. Conclude at the St John Fortress, part of Dubrovnik’s extensive Mediaeval walls which stoutly defended the then-Republic of Ragusa against the Venetians, Ottomans and pirates alike. After lunch, take the ferry to nearby Lokrum Island for a visit to its delightful botanical gardens, featuring a healthy collection of 800 species of exotic plants, such as palm trees, eucalyptus and cacti, many dating from the 19th century plantings of Archduke Maximilian, brother of the Emperor of Austria. Return to Dubrovnik for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

TUE 30 APR / DUBROVNIK

Enjoy a morning at leisure to stroll through Dubrovnik and relish the delights of spring on the Dalmatian Coast. In the afternoon, travel to the town of Trsteno and explore its extensive arboretum, the oldest in the region, which was founded by the Gozze family in the late 15th century. Count Gozze requested that Ragusan traders bring back seeds and cuttings from all the lands they visited, and from these varied samples he founded his diverse collection.(BL)

 

WED 01 MAY / DUBROVNIK – MLJET (CRUISE)

In the morning, check out of the hotel and transfer to the wharf to embark on the MS Adriatic Sun, a luxury private-charter boat which will be our home for the next three nights.
Cruise through the Elaphiti Islands, which fringe the Dalmatian Coast, to the island of Mljet, almost all of which is still covered with ancestral Adriatic forest. Visit Mljet National Park, a highlight of which is the serene Great Lake and the Monastery of St Mary on its central islet – that is, an island, in a lake, on an island, in the sea. Overnight moored in Mljet. (BLD)

 

THU 02 MAY / MLJET – KORČULA (CRUISE)

While cruising from Mljet to the island of Korčula, enjoy a talk by Helen on the flora and horticulture of the region. In the afternoon, visit St Mark’s Cathedral in Korčula, constructed by local builders in the 15th and 16th centuries. Standing proudly above the fortified town, the cathedral contains an altarpiece painted by Tintoretto. Overnight moored in Korčula. (BLD)

 

FRI 03 MAY / KORČULA – HVAR – BRAČ (CRUISE)

Cruise from Korčula to the island of Hvar. In Hvar, visit St Stephen’s Cathedral, built in the distinctive syncretic architectural style of the Dalmatian Coast and containing elements of the Renaissance, Mannerist and Baroque traditions. Then take a stroll through the fields of Hvar, where an abundance of spring wildflowers makes for one of the most delightful experiences of the Dalmatian Coast. Cruise onward to the island of Brač, and then in the evening uphold nautical tradition by celebrating the final night of our Dalmatian cruise with the Captain’s farewell dinner. Overnight moored in Brač. (BLD)

 

SAT 04 MAY / BRAČ – SPLIT (CRUISE)

In the morning, cruise from Brač to Split on the mainland and disembark. Split is Croatia’s second largest city, and traces its history to the Hellenistic Greek town established on the site and named after the indigenous spiny broom plant (Calicotome spinosa) that covered the hillside: the plant’s Greek name was Aspalathos, which became the Latin Spalatum and then Croatian Split. Split’s great treasure is the Palace of Diocletian, built in the 4th century AD as a luxurious seaside retirement home for the Eastern Roman Emperor (who was himself a native of Dalmatia). The first Roman emperor ever to voluntarily abdicate the throne, Diocletian lived out the last seven years of his life in this elegant palace-fortress, and reportedly spent his days tending his vegetable garden. He was particularly proud of his cabbages. After some free time for lunch at leisure, check in to the hotel. The remainder of the afternoon and evening are at your disposal to continue your exploration of Split at your own pace. (B)

 

SUN 05 MAY / SPLIT – OPATIJA

Check out from the hotel and drive to Plitvice Lakes National Park. After lunch at a local restaurant in the park, visit the stunning complex of lakes and waterfalls at the heart of the park. A series of dazzling blue lakes steps downwards through a verdant valley in the Dinaric Alps, with waterfalls cascading from one level to the next. Continue to Opatija, and check in to the hotel, followed by dinner. (BLD)

 

MON 06 MAY / OPATIJA

After a morning talk by Helen, visit the Villa Angiolina and its adjoining park. The villa was built in 1844 by Iginio Scarpa, a wealthy merchant, and it started the fashion for Austrian nobility taking their summers in Opatija. The adjacent park contains more than 150 species of plants from as far away as China and South America, collected through Scarpa’s extensive trading network. Ginkgos, pines, cedars, spruces, palms and camellias are all to be found in the park’s extensive collection.
Lunch and the remainder of the afternoon are at leisure, with the opportunity to visit Opatija’s Church of St James and Church of the Annunciation. (B)

 

TUE 07 MAY / OPATIJA – VENICE

Check out from the hotel in the morning and bid farewell to Croatia, travelling westward along the coast to Venice, the ‘Queen of the Adriatic’. Stop for lunch en route.
Arrive in Venice in the afternoon and check in to the hotel, followed by an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

WED 08 MAY / VENICE

Spend a day exploring some of the public and private gardens of Venice. The city’s status as one of the mighty ‘maritime republics’ of the Middle Ages brought wealth and exotic goods flowing into Venice, and leading citizens confidently displayed the spoils of their commerce by constructing elegant villas and formal gardens amongst the dense alleys of the city. In the morning, visit some of these ‘hidden gems’ of Venice, such as the gardens of Ca’ Zenobio, the former home of the scholarly Armenian Mekhitarist monks, and the elegant Italianate gardens of the Palazzo Malipiero which overlook the Canal Grande. Enjoy a light lunch at a local restaurant in Venice, and then visit the Hotel Cipriani on the island of Giudecca in the afternoon to explore its exquisite gardens, followed by afternoon tea. The evening is at leisure. (BL)

 

THU 09 MAY / VENICE

Today, travel inland into the Venetian countryside, tracing the Brenta River past Renaissance and Baroque villas which were once home to noble Venetian families such as the Foscari and the Pisani. Cruise upriver to the Villa Foscari, known as ‘La Malcontenta’ after a bride who married into the family and found her husband less than satisfactory. Designed by Andrea Palladio, this temple-villa is nestled between weeping willows on the banks of the Brenta. Visit the Villa Widmann, an 18th century mansion surrounded by Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) and horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) trees.After some free time for lunch in Dolo (own arrangements), visit the Villa Pisani in Strà, decorated with magnificent frescoes which were the final works of Giambattista Tiepolo. Return to Venice in the afternoon. This evening, join Helen and fellow travellers for a special farewell dinner in Venice. (BD)

 

FRI 10 MAY / DEPART VENICE

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
If you are leaving Venice today, make your way to the railway station or airport for your onward journey. If returning to Australia or New Zealand today, suggested afternoon flights on Emirates via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional accommodation, either before or after the tour.
(B)

Western Australia: Wildflowers, Wineries and Private Gardens of the South West

Western Australia: Wildflowers, Wineries and Private Gardens of the South West

 

ITINERARY

 

 

Margaret River – 2 nights

 

Day 1: Saturday 14 September, Arrive Perth – Dwellingup – Margaret River

Meeting Point: Perth Airport (domestic terminal) at 11.30am
Coach journey from Perth airport to Margaret River
Orondo Farm, Dwellingup: Guided tour of the private gardens & afternoon tea

Our private coach collects us at Perth airport and drives to Dwellingup to visit Orondo Farm with its 25-plus acre private garden surrounded by woodlands and traversed with meandering watercourses. The fertile river valley, within which the garden sits, creates a perfect microclimate and provides the rich loam soils for growing rare deciduous and evergreen trees, flowering shrubs, such as rhododendrons, camellias and azaleas, and colourful perennials that have been planted over the years. The owners and creators of Orondo Farm, Bette and Bill Healy, will treat us to guided tour and an afternoon tea. We drive to the Margaret River Holiday Suites, home for the next two nights. (Overnight Margaret River)

 

Day 2: Sunday 15 September, Margaret River – Yallingup – Wilyabrup – Margaret River

Bill Mitchell’s award-winning garden, Yallingup
The Secret Garden by Paul Bangay
Cullen Wines: Spiral Garden Biodynamic Tour, followed by a wine tasting
Cullen Wines: Welcome Lunch – 5-course Dégustation Menu

We journey to Yallingup to visit the garden of Bill Mitchell, who was the Gardening Australia magazine ‘Gardener of the Year’ for 2016. Situated on the clifftop of Smiths Beach and surrounded by Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park, Bill was driven by the need of a fire-management plan due to being in an extreme bushfire risk area because of the surrounding heathland flora to create a fire-resistant garden. The result was ‘Fire and Beauty’, a five-year-old garden mass-planted with fire-retardant plants, such as succulents and cacti. Drifts of bird attracting aloes, huge dragon trees, rare and unusual succulent varieties have been combined with local stone mastering the art of a lower maintenance garden without sacrificing colour and beauty. The achievement of this non-gardener’s concept and design is inspiring.

Next we visit a garden that was designed by Melbourne master Paul Bangay, early in his career in 1997 for Pat Poynton, who, as a skilled gardener in her own right, has continued developing the garden to reflect her passions. Margaret River’s Secret Garden is situated in a valley beside the Wilyabrup Brook and covers 1.2ha of formal, semi-formal and natural landscapes set within a native West Australian peppermint forest producing a wonderful microclimate. The head gardener will take us on a romantic journey through the spring displays of iris, clematis and crab apples that complement the formal plantings and defined structure for which Paul Bangay is renowned.

The rest of the day will be spent enjoying a gourmet experience for which Margaret River is internationally renowned. Cullen Wines was established in 1971 and their philosophy is ‘quality’, ‘integrity’ and ‘sustainability’ with a commitment to biodynamic viticulture that led them to produce a number of award-winning wines. Here, we will be given a tour of their Biodynamic Spiral Garden and historic vineyards, which enables us to become familiar with the biodynamic process employed throughout the winery and gardens. This will be followed by a tasting of the wines they produce. Lunch is a 5-course extravaganza of food, from the biodynamic garden together with local produce, matched with current and museum vintages. (Overnight Margaret River) BL

 

Walpole – 1 night

 

Day 3: Monday 16 September, Margaret River – Cape Leeuwin – Pemberton – Walpole

Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse
BBQ lunch
4WD Ecotour visiting Beedelup National Park, Yeagarup Dunes & coastal heath at Warren River

We leave Margaret River to travel south-westwards towards the Cape Leewin Lighthouse, the tallest lighthouse on mainland Australia. It also has the distinction of being at the most south-westerly point of Australia. The lighthouse was constructed in 1895 from local limestone and opened by WA Premier John Forrest. This functioning lighthouse is situated at the junction of the Indian and Southern oceans and still plays an important role in guiding vessels around the treacherous cape. The lighthouse precinct includes the cottages that housed the keepers and surrounding land on which they grew fresh vegetables.

Next, we travel through the coastal town of Augusta before arriving near Pemberton at the Greater Beedelup National Park, where we will have a BBQ lunch surrounded by karri trees, of which some specimens are believed to be in excess of 400 years old. The park takes its name from the Beedelup Brook running through it, possibly deriving from the Nyoongar word Beedja, which means ‘place of rest’ or ‘place of sleep’. After a short walk to the rocky granite cascades of Beedelup Falls, our 4WD Ecotour begins by driving to Lake Yeagurup and over the Yeagurup Dunes, the largest land-locked mobile dune system in the southern hemisphere. From the dunes, we will continue by 4WD to the beach at the mouth of the Warren River. Along the way, karri forests and coastal heath will be admired. We reconvene with the bus at the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, so named after being pegged in 1988 as part of Australia’s bicentennial celebrations. The pegging enables it to be one of three fire lookout trees open to the public in this area. We continue south to the Tree Top Walk Motel in Walpole. A light dinner will be served at the hotel on arrival. (Overnight Walpole) BLD

 

Albany – 3 nights

 

Day 4: Tuesday 17 September, Walpole – Valley of Giants – Albany

Cruise with a local expert to explore the biodiversity of the Walpole Wilderness
Valley of the Giants: Tree Top Walk & the Ancient Empire Walk

This morning we embark on a wilderness ecotour to explore the Walpole Nornalup National Park, home to tingle forests that occur nowhere else in the world. We will be travelling by boat along the waterways of the Walpole and Nornalup Inlets Marine Park, which is one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth and fed by the Franklin and Deep rivers. Its remote wilderness feel is due to the untouched nature of the park, its wildlife and scenic quality.

There will be time at leisure for lunch in Walpole before travelling to the Valley of the Giants. These ‘giants’ refer to the tingle trees that make up this spectacular forest, which only occur in this area and can grow to a height of 75m and have a circumference of up to 25m. To achieve the full experience of their majestic grandeur, we will walk amidst the canopy on a walkway positioned 40m above the ground. The Ancient Empire Walk allows us to see the red tingle trees (Eucalyptus jacksonii) from a boardwalk along the forest floor and is based on the theme of the lost era of Gondwana. The origins of some of these plants date back to this period in time, that is 65 million years ago. We drive to the Best Western Albany Motel and Apartments, our home for three nights. (Overnight Albany) BL

 

Day 5: Wednesday 18 September, Albany – Stirling Range – Albany

Stirling Range National Park

Today, Steve Wood will be joined by ASA garden leader Sabrina Hahn. She is best known for her gardening talk back show on ABC Perth radio and also for her weekly column in Western Australian newspaper. The Stirling Range was formed around 55 million years ago when sedimentary layers were pushed up as Australia drifted away from Antarctica. The peak of the range is Bluff Knoll where fossils of jellyfish-like creatures can be seen as evidence of its violent formation. Noongar people call it Koi Kyeunu-ruff ‘a place of ever moving fog and mist’ and it holds the totemic spirit of their people. The base of the Stirling Range holds many secrets and an astonishing diversity of plants.

Those who wish to test their legs will walk up Bluff Knoll to get a bird’s eye view of the landscape and hopefully see some of the rare plants that only grow on the peak of this mountain. On the walk, Sabrina will explain the plants that grow on different parts of the Stirling Range in relation to soil type and climate. Bluff Knoll is the only spot in all of Western Australia that experiences snow. (Overnight Albany) BL

 

Day 6: Thursday 19 September, Albany Area

Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve
Torndirrup National Park: The Gap & Natural Bridge, The Blowholes & Stony Hill
Historic Whaling Station

We will walk through the Two Peoples Bay Nature Reserve heritage trail which tracks through peppermint woodlands and the remote and untouched beach. This is home to the critically endangered Gilberts potoroo and the noisy scrub bird and we may be lucky enough to hear them. It is a mecca for bird lovers and fishermen. This has been listed as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world with azure blue water, massive granite boulders and pure white sand. The coastal heathland plants have been carved by the wind and many species have adapted in unusual ways to compensate for salt laden winds and sandy soil.

Torndirrup National Park is known for its rugged coastlines which feature coastal heaths, granite outcrops, sheer cliffs and steep sandy slopes and dunes. Natural structures, such as the Natural Bridge and The Gap, were carved by the ferocity of the waves. The Blowholes are where air, and occasionally spray, is blown through a crackline in the granite, making an impressive sound. The highest point in the Torndirrup National Park is Stony Hill from which an expansive view to the west can be enjoyed. The Stony Hill Heritage Trail gives a 360 degree view of the national park and of Albany.

The historic Whaling Station was owned by Australia’s last whaling company, the Cheynes Beach Whaling Company, which processed over 1000 humpback and sperm whales a year at its peak. A significant part of Australian history, the whaling station is now considered a heritage site and has been preserved exactly as it was on the last day of operation in 1978 when the workers ‘simply put down their tools and walked away’. During this unique experience, we will be informed on the station’s operations and history, share in the workers’ memories and stories and discover their place in the economic and social history of Albany. (Overnight Albany) B

 

Hopetoun – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Friday 20 September, Albany – Fitzgerald River National Park – Hopetoun

Fitzgerald River National Park: a Biodiversity Hotspot

The Fitzgerald River National Park is the largest and most botanically significant national parks in Australia. It is the most diverse botanical regions in the world, featuring more than 1,800 species of plants, 75 of these are found nowhere else in the world. There are 184 bird species, 22 mammal species, 41 reptile species and 12 frog species living in the park. A number of species have only recently been rediscovered here, including the Dibbler and Heath rat.

During the winter months southern right whales shelter close to shore with their newborn calves. We will divide the trip into two main areas and walk from the car park at Mount Barren to Sepulcralis Hill, and then separately to No Tree Hill.

In the afternoon, we drive to the Hopetoun Motel and Chalet Village, our home for the next two nights. (Overnight Hopetoun) BLD

 

Day 8: Saturday 21 September, Hopetoun – Ravensthorpe – Hopetoun

The Railway Heritage Trail, Ravensthorpe
Wildflower Show, Ravensthorpe

This morning we drive to Ravensthorpe to walk the Ravensthorpe Railway Tour. The bus will take us to the drop off point at the Heritage trail which takes us through Eucalypt woodlands and wildflower country. Sabrina will have a list of plants people will see and bring reference books.

The afternoon will be spent at the Ravensthorpe Wildflower Show where Sabrina will take us around and explain different plant groups and how they evolved. There is over 1000 different species of plants collected from two national parks and over 3000 species in their world class herbarium. (Overnight Hopetoun) BLD

 

Fremantle – 4 nights

 

Day 9: Sunday 22 September, Hopetoun – Fremantle

Homestead lunch in the Wheatbelt Region

On our way to Fremantle we break our trip with a visit to a local farm or homestead located in the Central Wheatbelt Region of Western Australia. Our hosts will provide us with a long-table lunch where we will taste the local produce. In the late afternoon we arrive at the Esplanade Hotel Fremantle by Rydges, our home for three nights. (Overnight Fremantle) BL

 

Day 10: Monday 23 September, Fremantle – Waroona – Jarrahdale – Fremantle

Cypress Farm, Waroona: Guided tour with Professor Kingsley Dixon (to be confirmed in 2019)
Millbrook Winery, Jarrahdale: Tour of organic food garden with award-winning chef, Guy Jeffreys & 3-course lunch

Our tour will be visiting Cypress Farm, the private garden of Professor Kingsley Dixon, who is the John Curtin Distinguished Professor at Curtin University and Foundation Director of Science at Kings Park and Botanic Garden. Named ‘West Australian Scientist’ of the Year in 2016, Professor Dixon was responsible for the discovery of the chemical in smoke that initiates germination of seed in Australian plant species after a bushfire. Not only a keen gardener, Professor Dixon is also a passionate speaker in biodiversity conservation science and restoration ecology, having been recognised for his acclaimed work in these areas. Cypress Farm is located near Dwellingup and takes advantage of the area’s clay-based soils, cooler climate and abundant water supply allowing the most diverse range of European and Australian plant species to be grown and displayed at their very best.

Next we transfer to Millbrook Winery where we will be treated to 3-course gourmet lunch utilising fresh produce from the Millbrook garden and showcasing the creative abilities of Head Chef, Guy Jeffreys. Guy was named ‘Chef of the Year 2017’ by the West Australian Good Food Guide. He is a passionate grower of organic food and believes in the philosophy of ‘root to shoot’ where as much of the plant as possible is used and little to none is wasted. Guy will give us a tour of the one-acre organic gardens that includes over 100 varieties of heirloom vegetables, along with an active orchard, an olive grove and one of the largest vineyards in the Perth Hills. A wine tasting tour will follow the garden tour. (Overnight Fremantle) BL

 

Day 11: Tuesday 24 September, Fremantle – Perth – Karrinyup – Fremantle
Exclusive tour of Kings Park breeding program of Australian native plants hosted by Digby Growns, and Kings Park Botanical Garden tour showcasing native Spring wildflowers.
Janine Mendel’s private garden in Karrinyup
Farewell Dinner at La Sosta
Kings Park covers an area of 400 hectares and is situated only minutes from the centre of Perth. The Botanic Garden consists of 17 hectares of outstanding display gardens featuring over 3000 varieties of West Australian native flora. Our tour starts with Digby Growns, Senior Plant Breeder at Kings Park International Park Breeding Program, giving us a rare behind-the-scenes opportunity by guiding us through the science and ingenuity of one of the world’s most exclusive and diverse plant breeding programs. This will be followed by a visit to Kings Park Nursery, where we will be shown some of the rare grafting techniques used to reproduce the most difficult to grow native species and explore the secrets of making and using smoke water as discovered by Professor Kingsley Dixon that is vital in germinating seed of many Australian bushland plants.

After lunch, we will be visiting the private garden of Janine Mendel in Karrinyup. Janine has trained and worked as a cartographer before embarking on her career as an award-winning landscape designer 24 years ago. She has designed more than 1000 Australian gardens, many of them small urban spaces. She believes less is more and that, by its very nature, good design should tread lightly on the planet. In line with her philosophy that a house should look like ‘it’ has been planted in the garden, she thinks the most successful gardens are created when the entire site becomes the canvas for the design of both the house and the landscape.

Her present house and garden were designed simultaneously enabling her to place the house exactly where she wanted it as far back from the road as possible. This means every room has a view to the outside, and it allows the living areas at the front of the house to be bathed in winter sun but protected from the harsh summer sun and winter winds. Janine’s garden combines lush planting with many textural elements such as stone, timber and stainless steel to create interest and contrast. The front entry garden evokes a sub-tropical theme, while the central courtyard has a beach theme and contains succulents and white sand. The rear courtyard has fruit trees and some productive plants.

Tonight we enjoy a Farewell Dinner at Fremantle’s award-winning Italian Restaurant, La Sosta. (Overnight Fremantle) BD

 

Day 12: Wednesday 25 September, Fremantle Area – Perth Airport

Private garden of Sabrina Hahn, Willagee
Private garden of Deryn Thorpe incl. morning tea, Mt Lawley
Transfer to Perth Airport arriving at 1215hrs

The morning consists of visiting the two private gardens of Sabrina Hahn and Deryn Thorpe. Sabrina’s house is marked out from others in her suburban street by the boab on the verge and a raised planter box with herbs and vegies that she grows for her neighbours to pick. Inside the front fence is a garden combining drought tolerant Mediterranean and Australian plants, with a collection of potted begonias, her Nana’s favourite plant, on the front veranda. The back garden has inherited lemon scented gums, fruit trees and an ornamental vegetable patch, with a hedge of Viburnum tinus and a central glass water feature. There is also a firepit, and a collection of unusual plants from the Kimberley that were collected on Sabrina’s many trips working with Aboriginal groups in establishing food gardens in schools.

Deryn Thorpe is a garden guide for ASA, who writes about gardening in magazines including Gardening Australia and co-hosts a weekly gardening podcast with Steve Wood called ‘All The Dirt’. Her garden was featured on the ABC TV’s Gardening Australia program in May 2018. She will explain the design, planting and the challenges of creating a traditional cottage garden on Perth’s non-wetting sandy soil which is recognised as one of the world’s least fertile soils. Her garden surrounds a 1913 Federation style home in the leafy inner Perth suburb of Mount Lawley. The garden layout has a formal structure but garden beds are informally planted. The front beds are filled with roses, vegetables and massed plantings of flowering perennials and annuals. Hanging baskets and pots add colour to the sweeping veranda. Established trees give dappled shade and a sense of scale to the high-set house. The back garden is more structured with hedges, pergolas, pots of succulents, a herb garden and swagged roses on chains suspended between obelisques. Deryn will be very kindly treating us with a sweet and savoury morning tea.

After these two gardens, we transfer to the airport. Our tour officially ends at approximately 12.15pm on arrival at Perth Airport. B

 

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

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

 

**Early-Bird special BOOK before July 31**

 

ITINERARY

 

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

 

 

York, Yorkshire – 6 nights

 

Day 1: Tuesday 28 May, Manchester Airport – Adel – York

Arrive Manchester Airport and transfer to Leeds
York Gate Garden: Guided tour of gardens and afternoon tea
Light (2-course) evening meal

Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Manchester Airport around midday. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to York, where we spend the next six nights. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Manchester Airport Arrivals Hall – please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time.

En route to York we visit the highly innovative ‘paradise’ garden of York Gate, a one-acre garden tucked away behind the ancient church in Adel, on the northern outskirts of Leeds. Created by the Spencer family during the second half of the 20th century, and in 1994 bequeathed to Perennial, the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society (founded 1839), it is a garden of extraordinary style and craftsmanship, widely recognised as one of the most innovative small gardens of the period. The garden is divided by yew and beech hedges into a series of smaller gardens, each with its own theme and style. From the formality of the herb garden with its topiary, to the dell with its half-hidden pathways and stream, every area has an intimacy and charm of its own. Traditional materials are used with creativity and invention. From pretty paths to pergolas, detailing throughout is exquisite. Evergreens, clipped into strong architectural shapes, are used to spectacular effect throughout the garden.Tonight we enjoy a light (2-course) evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight York) D

 

Day 2: Wednesday 29 May, York – Harewood – Harrogate – York

Harewood House: Private tour, Thomas Chippendale and the Watercolours Collection
Spa Town of Harrogate
Evening Welcome Reception at Fairfax House (Exclusive private visit, to be confirmed in 2018)

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

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

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

 

Day 3: Thursday 30 May, York

Guided Walking Tour of York, including York Minster
Afternoon at leisure

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

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

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

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

Our walking tour includes a visit to York Minster, one of England’s greatest cathedrals, which has a long, intricate history. The present building, which has the finest medieval stained glass in England, had a number of precursors. In 1069, for example, the Normans destroyed the Anglo-Saxon cathedral and so in 1080 its Archbishop, Thomas, began a new cathedral that was completed in 1100. In 1137 its east end was destroyed by fire. A new Romanesque choir was built in 1175, a south transept added in 1220, and the north transept completed in 1253. In 1394 the present choir was begun, and the foundations of the Lady Chapel laid in 1361. In 1338, the Great West Window was completed. The Great East Window followed in 1405, and the Minster, now completed, was consecrated in 1472. Meanwhile, the Minster’s original west towers had collapsed. The Minster became caught up in the Reformation – Thomas Wolsey was archbishop here – and in the Civil War, York remained a centre of Catholicism in England. 18th-century damage by fire and 19th-century restoration further modified this great building. Major restoration occurred again after another fire in 1984; in consequence York University has become one of England’s most important architectural conservation centres.

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

 

Day 4: Friday 31 May, York – Fountains Abbey – Newby Hall – York

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal: Tour of Cistercian Abbey & Georgian Water Garden
Church of St Mary
Church of Christ the Consoler
Newby Hall & Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 5: Saturday 1 June, York – Castle Howard – Thirsk – Markenfield Hall – York

Castle Howard: Private Guided tour of house & morning tea
Market Town of Thirsk, the Darrowby of the late James Herriot
Markenfield Hall

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 6: Sunday 2 June, York – Scampston Estate – Mansion Cottage – Burton Agnes Hall – York

Walled Garden of Scampston Hall
Mansion Cottage
Burton Agnes Hall

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

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

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

 

Buxton, Derbyshire – 4 nights

 

Day 7: Monday 3 June, York – Renishaw Hall – Haddon Hall – Buxton

Renishaw Hall: Private Literary Tour of the Sitwell family home & gardens (to be confirmed in 2018)
Bakewell
Haddon Hall

We depart York early this morning and travel south to Renishaw Hall, a country house in Derbyshire where the Sitwell family has lived in this ancestral home for nearly four centuries. On arrival we take a tour of Renishaw’s beautiful Italianate garden, park and lake, that were created by Sir George Sitwell, father of Osbert, Edith and Sacheverall. Sir George spent much of his life in Italy, where he had bought the huge former palace-villa of the Florentine Acciaiuoli family, Montegufoni. In England, he wanted to create an Italian garden in contrast to Gertrude Jekyll’s ‘colourful’ designs. The use of water, fountains, temples, cave and avenues adds effect and shelter for tender specimen plants.

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

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

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

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

 

Day 8: Tuesday 4 June, Buxton – Peak District – Castleton – Lyme Park – Buxton

White Peak District
Castleton Village, Peak District National Park
Lyme Park, House & Garden
Lecture by Sir Richard FitzHerbert: ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’

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

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

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

 

Day 9: Wednesday 5 June, Buxton – Tissington Hall – Chatsworth House – Buxton

Tissington Hall & Gardens
Tissington Village & Norman Church of St Mary
Chatsworth House: one of the grandest Whig country houses (to be confirmed in 2018)

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

This afternoon we visit Chatsworth House, one of the grandest Whig country houses, situated in a spectacular landscape in the heart of the Peak District. It is the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, of the Cavendish family. The late Duchess, born Deborah Mitford (Debo) (1920-2014), the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters, revived the economy of the estate after it had been almost destroyed by death duties following the death of the 10th Duke in 1950 (the Chatsworth Settlement). The core of the house is from 1552, but its great days date from the 1690s, after the 4th Earl of Devonshire was created 1st Duke in 1694 for his part in the Glorious Revolution (1688). Generations of prominent Whigs followed and so Chatsworth represents the first phase of the great Whig country house (Stowe represents the second). The 1st Duke rebuilt the old house in stages, adding its fine Baroque façades, and it was substantially complete by 1707. The Painted Hall, whose ceilings and walls carry scenes of the life of Julius Caesar (1692-94) by Louis Laguerre, leads to a grand staircase. The State Apartments are the most important late Baroque presentation rooms in England, with ceilings by Laguerre and Mortlake tapestries made from Raphael’s tapestry cartoons now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The chapel, designed by Cibber, is equally impressive, with illusionistic paintings by Laguerre and woodcarvings by Grinling Gibbons.

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

 

Day 10: Thursday 6 June, Buxton – Quarry Bank – Buxton – Baslow Hall – Buxton

Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Estate
Walking Tour of Buxton, followed by time at leisure
Group Dinner at Fischer’s, Baslow Hall

This morning we drive to Quarry Bank Mill, a rare Georgian cotton mill that is both one of Britain’s most important industrial heritage sites as well as a working mill that produces over 9000m (10,000 yards) of cloth each year. Founded in 1784 by a young textile merchant, Samuel Greg, Quarry Bank Mill was one of the first generation of water-powered cotton spinning mills. By the 1830s Samuel Greg & Co. was one of the largest cotton manufacturing businesses in Britain with four other mills as well as Quarry Bank.

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

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

 

Chester, Cheshire – 3 nights

 

Day 11: Friday 7 June, Buxton – Little Moreton – Biddulph Grange Garden – Chester

Little Moreton Hall
Biddulph Grange Garden: Private guided tour of this amazing Victorian Garden

This morning we drive to Little Moreton Hall for a guided tour of one of Britain’s finest timber-framed, moated Tudor manor houses, which featured in David Dimbleby’s How we built Britain documentary (2007). Of particular importance is its magnificent Long Gallery that has unusual plasterwork. Its grounds feature a delightful knot garden.

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

We next drive a short distance to the city of Chester, lying on the River Dee, close to the border of Wales. (Overnight Chester) B

 

Day 12: Saturday 8 June, Chester

Walking Tour of Chester
Guided Tour of Chester Cathedral
Afternoon at leisure

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

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

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

 

Day 13: Sunday 9 June, Chester – Liverpool – Chester

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Time at leisure at Liverpool’s refurbished Albert Dock
The Beatles sites: Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road (exteriors)

Liverpool, with its famous waterfront on the River Mersey, is a great shipping port and industrial center and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. King John launched Liverpool on its road to glory when he granted it a charter in 1207. Before that, it had been a tiny 12th-century fishing village, but it quickly became a port for shipping men and materials to Ireland. In the 18th century, it grew to prominence because of the sugar, spice, and tobacco trade with the Americans. By the time Victoria came to the throne, Liverpool had become Britain’s biggest commercial seaport.

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

We take a short walk to Liverpool’s recently refurbished Albert Dock, where there will be time at leisure to explore this precinct. Albert Dock features a number of museums, including the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the award-winning ‘Beatle Story’ and numerous restaurants and cafés. In your leisure time you may wish to visit the Tate Liverpool, which displays much of the National Collection of 20th-century art, complemented by changing art exhibitions of international standing such as the prints of Joan Miró or the sculptures of the iconoclastic British sculptress Rachel Whiteread.

Before returning to Chester we make a short tour to view a number of the sites associated with the Beatles including Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and the childhood homes of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. (Overnight Chester) B

 

 

Portmeirion, Wales – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Monday 10 June, Chester – Erddig Hall – Powis Castle – Portmeirion

Erddig Hall: private tour of house
Powis Castle and Garden
Dinner at Hotel Portmeirion

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 15: Tuesday 11 June, Portmeirion – Caernarfon – Llanberis – Snowdonia National Park – Portmeirion

Caernarfon Castle: the greatest of the Edwardian Castles
Dolbardarn Castle (exterior only)
Snowdon Mountain Railway – excursion by diesel engine to summit
Dinner at Castell Deudraeth

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

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

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

 

Day 16: Wednesday 12 June, Portmeirion – Harlech – Plas Brondanw – Portmeirion

Harlech Castle
Plas Brondanw Gardens
Afternoon at leisure in the village of Portmeirion

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

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

 

 

Bodysgallen Hall, Conwy, Wales – 3 nights

 

Day 17: Thursday 13 June, Portmeirion – Gwydir Castle – Bodnant Garden – Bodysgallen Hall

Gwydir Castle
Bodnant Garden
Gardens of Bodysgallen Hall
Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall

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

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

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

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

 

Day 18: Friday 14 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Penrhyn Castle – Conwy – Bodysgallen Hall

Penrhyn Castle
Time at leisure in Conwy
Plas Mawr
Conwy Castle

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

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

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

This evening we are at leisure. You may wish to dine at Bodysgallen Hall, or perhaps take a short taxi ride (approx. 10 mins) to the seaside town of Llandudno. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) B

 

Day 19: Saturday 15 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Anglesey Island – Bodysgallen Hall

Plas Newydd House & Gardens
Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber
Farewell Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall

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

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

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

In the late afternoon we return to Conwy, where we shall enjoy a farewell dinner together at Bodysgallen Hall. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BLD

 

Day 20: Sunday 16 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Manchester Airport.

Tour Ends.
Departure transfer to Manchester Airport

This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall and travel to Manchester Airport for our return flight to Australia. The ASA ‘designated’ flight is scheduled to depart in the early afternoon. B

 

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 20-day Cultural Garden Tour of England & Wales involves:

A large amount of walking (ranging from one to five kilometres per day) often up and down hills, flights of stairs, cobbled streets, and uneven ground (especially during some of the garden site visits), and/or standing, interspersed with coach travel.
Extensive coach travel, some on winding country roads.
Visiting a range of towns and villages on foot, involving walks uphill from bus parks to historic town centres and other sites.
Many early-morning departures (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (5.30-6.30pm).
Travelling to the United Kingdom during summer. June is the sunniest month of the year across England and Wales. While the average day-time temperature is 18-20°C, in recent years England has experienced heatwaves reaching up to 35°C.
This tour includes the use of audio headsets, which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.

Other considerations:

3- to 5-star hotels with four hotel changes; some hotels do not have in-room air-conditioning.
You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
A trip on the Snowdon Mountain Railway (Diesel Service: Summit return – Day 15).
It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

National Trust Membership

It is a requirement that all travellers on this program have a current membership to the National Trust for the period of the tour. You will need to send a photocopy of your National Trust membership card to ASA prior to the start of the tour, and to carry your card with you throughout the tour program. Different types of National Trust membership are available (family, singles, etc) and the fees vary from state to state. For assistance in joining the National Trust and completing these formalities, please contact ASA.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

 

Landscapes, Art & Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence & the Cévennes

Landscapes, Art & Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence & the Cévennes

 

ITINERARY

 

 

The following itinerary describes a range of museums and gardens which we plan to visit. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.

 

 

Menton – 8 nights

 

Day 1: Sunday 5 May, Arrive Nice — Transfer to Menton

Introductory Meeting
Welcome Dinner

On arrival at Nice’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach and travel west along an awesome coastline where the pre-Alps plunge almost sheer into the sea, to the port town of Menton. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Hotel Napoléon, Menton. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information.

For the next 8 nights we stay at the 4-star Hotel Napoléon, located just across the road from the beach and only a ten-minute slow walk to the old town of Menton. In the hotel’s private off-street courtyard, an exotic garden designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières hides a small paved area. For Ossart and Maurières, hotel gardens “must be able to satisfy each client’s need for privacy and yet welcome people in groups. As much as the interior decoration, the gardens participate in the overall feel of the place and must be designed around an original idea or theme. Finally, they must be attractive in all seasons, whether as places to relax in or simply to be seen from windows”. This evening we enjoy a welcome meal at a local restaurant overlooking Menton’s Garavan Bay. (Overnight Menton) D

 

Day 2: Monday 6 May, Menton

Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh
Guided tour of Menton, including the Salle des Mariages
Jean Cocteau Museum, Menton

We start the day with a visit to the sub-tropical botanical garden of Val Rahmeh, laid out in 1905 for Lord Radcliffe, Governor of Malta. In 1957 Miss May Sherwood Campbell acquired the property and a second garden, now accessed by a bridge, and created a pond with water hyacinths, water lilies, and papyrus. In 1966 she donated her property to the nation, and today it is owned by The French Museum of Natural History. A guided tour will reveal a wonderful array of lush plantings.

Menton occupies a natural amphitheatre dominated by Mount Agel and the Gorbio and St. Agnes Heights. Ruined fortresses clinging to its surrounding cliffs testify to the town’s deep, turbulent history. Here we shall study the work of one of the coast’s greatest creators, the famous artist and film-maker Jean Cocteau. Cocteau first came upon Menton in 1955 while vacationing at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. He fell in love with its high-cliffed coastal charms and began the next year, at the request of the mayor, to redecorate the town hall’s Salle des mariages with frescoes and furnishings all with a theme of ‘Love’.

Nearby we also visit the new Jean Cocteau Museum which includes 990 works by Cocteau. All of the artist’s key periods are represented, from the first self-portraits of the 1910s up to the “Mediterranean” period towards the end of his life. There are drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics, tapestries, jewellery, books and manuscripts and 172 photographs relating to Cocteau. There are also works by fellow artists Picasso, Modigliani, Di Chirico and others. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 3: Tuesday 7 May, Menton — Opio — Coursegoules — Menton

La Casella, Opio (private garden, by special appointment – to be confirmed in 2019)
Le Vallon du Brec (private garden, by special appointment)
Late afternoon at leisure

Our first visit is to the garden of La Casella, a stylish pavilion located on the site of an old jasmine farm. The garden was created by Tom Parr and his partner Claus Scheinert, and is a wonderful example of a late 20th-century garden combining Provençal, English and Italian styles. Here, Parr created a series of flower-filled rooms that became a benchmark of simple grandeur. The gardens themselves, under Scheinert’s astute direction, have become more structurally ambitious, lush, and romantic with every season. It is a garden of parallel, raised terraces with each terrace more perfect than the last. Laurus nobilis has been sculpted into rows of obelisks, walls clipped from Italian cypress and yew. Old-fashioned roses form one terrace in a planting framed by lavender. The house, integrated with the garden, is colored terracotta and planted with white wisteria.

Tom Parr, who died aged 81, was one of England’s leading postwar decorators (a term he proudly preferred to ‘interior designer’), working first with David Hicks and then for 35 years at Colefax and Fowler, of which he became chairman. Parr decorated for a legion of worldwide clients, from Dame Vivien Duffield to members of the Ford dynasty and Château Latour. Many of his clients became lifelong friends, among them the Duke and Duchess of Beaufort at Badminton, where Parr was to achieve some of his finest work. Claus Scheinert passed away in 2015, 4 years after his partner Tom Parr.

Then we travel to Coursegoules to visit Le Vallon du Brec, situated at an altitude of 1000 metres, in the backcountry of Nice. Designed by its owners, photographer and painter Yan and Jean Grisot, this 20,000-square-metre garden is divided in two parts. One, planted with botanical varieties from China, Japan, North America, contrasting with old roses and irises, is dotted with wooden sculptures. The second half is wild prairies on old farming terraces dating back to the 11th century. This large garden has been awarded the status of ‘Jardin Remarquable’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment. We return to Menton for a late afternoon at leisure. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 4: Wednesday 8 May, Menton

Clos du Peyronnet, Menton (private garden, by special appointment)
Serre de la Madone, Menton
Dinner at Restaurant Mirazur, Menton

This morning we visit one of the garden highlights of the region, the Clos du Peyronnet. Created by Mr and Mrs Derick Waterfield (and still tended by their son’s nephew), the Clos du Peyronnet was established around a Belle Époque Italianate villa in the Garavan (gardé du vent: ‘sheltered from the wind’), on terraces between vertical cliffs and the sea. The villa façade has been engulfed by a Wisteria sinensus (Chinese wisteria). Oreopanax, catalpa and jacaranda give way to a wet grotto, terraces of heat-loving plants such as hibiscus and solanum, architectural cypresses, and a water garden designed to afford glimpses of the Mediterranean below.

This afternoon we visit Serre de la Madone, designed in the 1920s by Lawrence Johnston, creator of the world-famous Hidcote Garden in the Cotswolds, England. Johnston was interested in acclimatising a large variety of exotic species to this inimitable environment. La Serre de la Madone is a secluded paradise with double curving steps, fountains, pools, classical statuary, green garden rooms, a Moorish patio and orangeries for tender exotic plants. Johnston employed 12 gardeners to tend his 7 hectares of terraces that boast an almost bewildering variety of plants from throughout the world.

This evening we dine at the two-Michelin-star Restaurant Mirazur, which enjoys spectacular views of Menton’s old town and harbour. Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco excels in original Mediterranean-style dishes, using wild herbs, edible flowers and the freshest vegetables obtained from the restaurant’s garden. (Overnight Menton) BD

 

Day 5: Thursday 9 May, Menton — Villefranche-sur-Mer — Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat — Beaulieu-sur-Mer — Menton

Chapelle Saint-Pierre by Jean Cocteau, Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villa Ephrussi, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Villa Grecque Kérylos, Beaulieu-sur-Mer

This morning we drive out to Cap-Ferrat, a narrow peninsula extending far out to sea. Our first visit is to the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, painted by Jean Cocteau at Villefranche. The ornamentation of the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, a jewel of the modern symbolist art, was a dream cherished for a long time by Cocteau that he finally realised in 1957. He supervised the ceramicists and stonecutters who worked on his project. The chapel evinces a simple, humble fervor reminiscent of small Romanesque churches. It simultaneously represents St. Peter’s life, the village dear to Cocteau’s childhood, and the artist’s friendship for the fishermen to whom the chapel was dedicated.

The road to Cap-Ferrat offers wonderful views of the Mediterranean. The Cap itself was one of the most fashionable resorts of the 20th century and is associated with such luminaries and eccentrics as Somerset Maughan, who lived in the Villa Mauresque, and Léopold II of the Belgians, who established the world’s most important private botanical gardens there. In 1926, Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild chose a site here for her enormous villa and garden – Villa Île de France. The eclecticism of her garden, named after the famous ship and tended during her residence by gardeners in sailors’ uniforms, reflects the syncretic mix of styles that made the Riviera an important avant-garde centre in the early twentieth century. We shall take a guided tour of the villa’s first floor that includes terracotta sculptures by Clodion, a Meissen China Room and a Tapestry Room whose furniture by Jacob is upholstered with Beauvais tapestries. We shall then tour the villa’s seven exquisite gardens, which include patios, waterfalls, ponds, floral borders, shady walks and rare species of trees. The garden ensemble comprises Florentine, Spanish, formal French and exotic gardens, as well as rose and rock gardens.

After lunch in the villa’s tearoom, we visit the Grecian Villa Kérylos, one of the most extraordinary sites on the French Riviera. It was built in the early 1900s, in the Belle Époque era, and is a unique and extremely luxurious re-creation of an ancient Grecian dwelling, complete with wall decorations and furniture. It was built as the tribute to Greek civilisation by two great Hellenophiles, Théodore Reinach, an archaeologist and patron of the arts, and the architect Emmanuel Pontremoli who based the design on the remains of noble houses from the 2nd century BC on the Island of Delos. Everything inside, from the arrangement of rooms to the details of the décor, was designed to recreate the atmosphere of a luxurious Grecian villa. From the garden around the villa there are fine views of the Cap-Ferrat peninsula, dotted with magnificent mansions. The garden contains a pleasing mixture of typically Greek plants: olive trees and vines, pomegranate and carob trees, acanthus and myrtle, oleanders and irises, pine and cypress trees, palm trees and papyrus which all help create a Grecian look and feel in the bright Mediterranean sunshine. (Overnight Menton) BL

 

Day 6: Friday 10 May, Menton — Grasse — Châteauneuf-Grasse — Menton

Le Mas des Pivoines, Grasse (private garden, by special appointment)
Lunch at Restaurant Le Mas des Géraniums, Opio
Jardin de la Villa Fort France, Châteauneuf-Grasse (private garden, by special appointment)

Our first visit is to a garden located in the countryside near Grasse. Le Mas des Pivoines is owned by Marcel and Lucile Barrault, who have been developing this 1.5-hectare garden since 1998. The topography of the site allows a succession of different gardens: olive grove, lavender fields, mix-borders of Mediterranean plants, separated from each other by arbours covered with roses or vine creepers. Two large, flat areas are connected by a set of terraces. The dry stone retaining walls are lined up with iris and plants adapted to the dry conditions, leading to recently landscaped park. A creek runs at the lower part of the land. From mid-April, venerable tree peonies such as the double-pink ‘Duchesse de Morny’ start blooming. These are followed by tree and herbaceous peonies such as the ‘Golden Isles’ and ‘Hanakisoi’, roses, shrubs spring flowers, irises, perennials and so on. This is a constantly evolving garden where one can find some ancient remains including basins, canals, arbours, mass of fallen rocks, gazebos and big box-hedges.

We lunch among olive, fig and lime trees at Le Mas des Géraniums, a typical Provençal farm located on Opio’s hill. In this peaceful and beautiful setting, we shall enjoy a light lunch.

Just a short drive away is the garden of Villa Fort France. The original owners, Lady Winifred Fortescue and her husband, Sir John, an archivist and military historian, bought it in 1935. Lady Fortescue wrote a best-selling account of her struggles to create her home there entitled Perfume from Provence, which was illustrated by A.A. Milne. She followed this success with two further books written when she moved to Opio: Sunset House and Trampled Lilies (which recounts her time during the war years). The rose garden she created was expanded to form the current garden by Jeanne Gruniaux, who continued to advise the present owners, Pierre and Valérie de Courcel, until her death. The de Courcel have added their own deft, artistic touches to create a lovely garden full of colour, much of which comes from a superb use of annuals (poppies, larkspur, love-in-the-mist and aquilegia plus a sweet pea hedge). (Overnight Menton) BL

 

Day 7: Saturday 11 May, Menton — Tourrettes-sur-Loup — Saint-Paul de Vence — Vence — Menton

Domaine du Prieuré, Tourrettes-sur-Loup (private garden, by special appointment – to be confirmed in 2019)
The Maeght Foundation, Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence

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

Then we drive to Saint-Paul de Vence, built on a rocky outcrop and surrounded by ramparts overlooking the coast. Fortified in the 16th century, it remained beautifully intact and began to attract artists such as Russian painter Marc Chagall who moved here in 1966. A host of famous artists and writers were drawn to the beauty of the surrounding area and its exceptional light. Later it also became a favorite ‘hangout’ of film directors and French and international stars such as Yves Montand and Simone Signoret.

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

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

 

Day 8: Sunday 12 May, Menton — Cap d’Antibes — Antibes — Nice — Menton

Scenic drive, Cap d’Antibes
Château Grimaldi – Musée Picasso, Antibes
Provençal Food Market, Cours Masséna, Antibes
Matisse Museum, Nice

This morning we tour the Cap d’Antibes, a beautiful peninsula with a winding road that reveals stunning views around every corner; we shall take in the grand panorama at the highest point of the cape, the Plateau de la Garoupe.

We visit the port town of Antibes, which attracted many writers, such as Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as artists like Picasso. Our walking tour includes a visit to Antibes’ Provençal food market on the Cours Masséna. We also visit the Château Grimaldi, a mix of 12th and 16th-century architecture, which houses the Musée Picasso. Picasso used the castle as his studio for a time in 1946. In addition to his paintings, it holds a fine collection of the master’s ceramics.

After lunchtime at leisure in Antibes we drive to Cimiez, site of a small Roman city just oustide of modern-day Nice. It is more famous, however, for its museum devoted to France’s greatest modern painter, Henri Matisse, who lived in Nice from 1917 to his death in 1954. We shall view the paintings in the museum that span his career, from the very early Still Life with Books (1890) to his Rococo Armchair (1947) and Blue Nude (1952). (Overnight Menton) B

 

 

Aix-en-Provence – 3 nights

 

Day 9: Monday 13 May, Menton — Fréjus — Bouc-Bel-Air — Aix-en-Provence

Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre, Fréjus (private garden, by special appointment)
Jardins d’Albertas, Bouc-Bel-Air (private garden, by special appointment)

This morning we drive to Fréjus, built upon the remains of an ancient harbour where Octavian (Augustus) moored ships captured from Cleopatra’s fleet at the Battle of Actium. Our main interest is not Fréjus’ Roman remains, however, but the Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre of Madame Nicole Arboireau, chief exponent of the Provençal cottage garden. Nicole Arboireau’s garden contrasts vividly with the foreigners’ gardens you have hitherto encountered. She has set herself the task of nurturing the Provençal tradition of the small garden in which local plants are propagated. We will explore this lovely small domain, learning much about the traditions of gardening in this region, and enjoy a delicious Provençal buffet, prepared by Nicole herself. Nicole’s delightful book Jardins de Grands-Mères describes the gardens of grandmothers, with their special secrets revealed.

Following our visit, we continue to Aix-en-Provence, where we shall be based for the next three nights. En route we shall visit the Jardins d’Albertas at Bouc-Bel-Air. The city of Aix-en-Provence occupies a site previously inhabited by Celts, Greeks and Romans. It rose to prominence as capital of the County of Provence and then the royal city of the House of Anjou. Under René of Anjou it was a centre of Italian and French culture. Absorbed by the French monarchy at the end of the 15th century, it became the home of the Parlement de Provence, a status it lost during the French Revolution. The Marquis Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas, first president of the Provence Audit Office, decided in 1751 to create a garden to the south of the city at Bouc-Bel-Air. The craze for gardening in mid-18th-century France meant that the domain was laid out before the house. In fact, this country retreat never gained its house. The garden, which includes a kitchen garden, is laid out somewhat like Villandry in the Loire. Its formal parterres have a profusion of sculpture set against powerful vistas. It has been maintained since the 18th century by the Albertas family, which has taken great pains to maintain its original state. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

Day 10: Tuesday 14 May, Aix-en-Provence — Valensole — Aix-en-Provence

Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole (private garden, by special appointment)
Atelier Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence
Orientation walk of Aix-en-Provence

This morning we drive north of Aix to the Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole. This bastide was constructed in the first half of the 18th century. Jean-Baptiste de Villeneuve, seigneur of Esclapon, who was descended from an ancient Provençal family, laid out its basic form. His garden still occupies three terraces with seven basins and fountains from the 18th and 19th centuries. The late owner André de Villeneuve, has, over the last 30 years, created the present garden on the original terraces, around the early basins. Parterres planted in the tradition of the French formal garden, an alley of 100-year-old chestnut trees, a huge basin on the lowest terrace, and a view beyond to purple lavender plantations, form a magnificent ensemble, along with colourful roses and richly aromatic sage, thyme and other Provençal herbs. There are fruit and olive trees at every level, and remarkable walls constructed of round stones from the Valensole Plateau. Alain Sauvat, long-time friend of André de Villeneuve and manager of the property will show us the garden and host us for lunch. Mr Sauvat comes from a family of lavender growers. He will also guide inside his small museum of lavender, housed in a former 1925 lavender distillery.

In the afternoon we drive back to Aix to the Atelier Cézanne, which was the base from which this most careful and methodical of artists made excursions to paint in the countryside. When the weather was bad he worked in the atelier, painting his famous still lifes. One of the most interesting aspects of this museum is that it still has many of the objects Cézanne collected and used as subjects for these still lifes: a table, a short ladder, a high easel, a potbelly stove, a sofa, a few chairs, the items seen here were the only furniture present in the closed world of Cézanne. A few locally decorated vases, a ginger jar and an olive pot, a fruit bowl, a plate, a glass, a bottle of rum, three skulls, and a little plaster cupid by François Duquesnoy are among the smaller objects made so famous in his works that are in the atelier’s collection.

Dickens visited Aix, Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral went to school and Marcel Pagnol attended university there, and it was Émile Zola’s home town. As a boy he became friendly with Cézanne, and the two enjoyed long excursions where Paul would paint and Émile would write. Our day ends with a guided orientation walk of Aix. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

Day 11: Wednesday 15 May, Aix-en-Provence — Cucuron — Le Puy-Sainte-Réparade — Aix-en-Provence

Pavillon de Galon, Cucuron (private garden, by special appointment)
Lunch at La Petite Maison de Cucuron, Cucuron
Art and Architecture Tour, Château Lacoste, Puy Sainte Réparade

This morning we travel north of Aix-en-Provence to the Pavillon de Galon, a restored 18th-century hunting pavilion, surrounded by vines, orchards, cherry and olive trees. At the foot of the Luberon mountains and facing south, its grounds are secluded yet have stunning views all around. Its gardens, which boast a colourful mix of lavender and clipped hedges, have been awarded the status ‘remarkable garden’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment.

We next drive to the preserved medieval village of Cucuron in the heart of the Luberon National Park, home to La Petite Maison de Cucuron, a delightful restaurant run by Michelin-star Chef Eric Sapet, which has a reputation as one of the finest restaurants in Provence. Located on the central square in the shade of hundred-year-old plane trees, the Petite Maison serves traditional Provençal dishes made with fresh market produce.

On our way back to Aix-en-Provence, we visit Château La Coste, the creation of Irish property magnate Patrick (Paddy) McKillen. It is a vineyard where wine, art and architecture live in harmony. Since 2008, the Château has been inviting artists and architects to choose a place in the landscape and create a work that they feel belongs there. Jean Nouvel designed the estate’s chai de vinification (wine vault); while in 2011, Tadao Ando designed the art centre surrounded by a shallow pool of water, on which Louise Bourgeois’ Crouching Spider masterpiece perches.

We take a guided tour through the wooded hilltops and valleys, alongside olive groves and vineyards, to discover the many installations of contemporary art by Alexander Calder, Frank O. Gehry, Ai Weiwei, Andy Goldworthy, Paul Matisse, Tom Shannon, Jean Prouve, Sean Scully, Richard Serra, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Tunga, and others.

We also visit the kitchen garden, conceived by the landscape designer Louis Benech. It consists of twelve equal-sized square plots of aromatic herbs, vegetables and flowers, and it is edged by an orchard of almond, peach, red plum, and cherry trees. The central plots of the garden are planted with perennials, perfumed roses, asparagus, artichokes, aubergines and tomatoes. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

 

Avignon – 6 nights

 

Day 12: Thursday 16 May, Aix-en-Provence — Ménerbes — Avignon

Le Clos Pascal, Ménerbes (private garden, by special appointment)
La Carméjane, Ménerbes (private garden, by special appointment)

In the Luberon hills, beneath the perched village of Ménerbes, we visit Clos Pascal, a little-known work by the famous Nicole de Vésian. Long, gentle terraces, cloud-clipped shrubs lead up to a potager garden and a small vineyard. La Carméjane, owned by Mr and Mrs Coxe, is located on the edge of the village. The rose-covered terrace reached from the house has amazing views of the rural landscape. The lower terrace has cherry orchards, a potager for the family and a new restored area planted with olive trees. In the late afternoon we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon (the name given to the western end of the range) to Avignon. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Day 13: Friday 17 May, Avignon

Papal Palace, Avignon
Pont Saint-Benezet, Avignon
Afternoon at leisure in Avignon

Avignon, one of Europe’s most interesting and beautiful medieval cities, is sited majestically on the banks of the Rhône. Its historical importance and great monuments are due to its status as a papal city between the 14th and the 18th centuries; it reverted to the French crown in 1761.

This morning we will visit the castle that served as a palace fortress for the seven popes whose sojourn in France between 1309 and 1377 came to be called by opponents ‘the Babylonian Captivity’. For the following 400 years it was the residence of the papal legate. This massive complex has some rooms that are masterpieces in their own right, such as the grand hall, the great kitchen, with its single huge chimney spanning the whole interior, and the papal bedroom with its painted walls depicting a great vine set against a blue background.

Near the Papal Palace is the Pont Saint-Benezet, the famous bridge described in the popular children’s song, Sur le pont d’Avignon. Bridges were vital to medieval pilgrimage and Saint-Benezet, who built the bridge between 1177 and 1185, founded a company of bridge-builders to serve this purpose. Now missing a number of spans, the original 900-metre-long wooden structure was repaired and reconstructed – in stone – many times before half the bridge collapsed into the Rhône in the mid-1600s. The remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Day 14: Saturday 18 May, Avignon — Eygalières — Noves — Avignon

Mas Benoît, Eygalières (private garden, by special appointment)
Atelier of Marc Nucera, Noves (by special appointment)

Today we are privileged to meet with Marc Nucera, renowned tree sculptor and ‘shaper’. Marc started his career as the student and disciple of the professor, sculptor and then garden designer and Land Art practitioner Alain-David Idoux. Although Idoux died tragically young, he left behind a legacy of ground-breaking design.

Our day begins with a visit to the private gardens of Mas Benoît, located close to Eygalières, in the foothills of the Alpilles. The garden surrounding this traditional Provençal farmhouse, or ‘mas’, lies on a low hill with the magnificent backdrop of the Alpilles in the distance. It is considered a leading example of contemporary Mediterranean landscape art by Alain-David Idoux, with lavender wedge, almond spiral, rock river and oak groves sculpted by Marc Nucera.

We next travel to Noves, just south of Avignon, to meet Marc Nucera at his atelier and experimental garden ‘Le Terrain’. Son of a furniture maker, Marc Nucera trained as a tree pruner, commencing with the rehabilitation of old olive orchards. In the 1990s, working with land artist, Alain-David Idoux, Marc began to evolve his own style. Local garden designers, including the legendary Nicole de Vésian, creator of La Louve (She-Wolf) garden in Bonnieux, gave help and encouragement. Nucera’s love of trees is reflected in the way he brings out the existing character of each individual plant, highlighting their best features so that they both enhance and give coherence to the surrounding landscape. He sculpts living trees, favoring natives such as almonds, green and white oaks, and the remnants of cypress hedging often found on old farmsteads. He also gives new life to dead trees by turning them into furniture and sculptures, either still in the ground or positioned near their place of origin. (Overnight Avignon) BL

 

Day 15: Sunday 19 May, Avignon — L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue — Gordes — Bonnieux — Sorgues — Avignon

Sunday Market, L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue
Scenic drive to Gordes
Le Jardin de La Louve (She-Wolf), Bonnieux (private garden, by special appointment)
Château de Brantes, Sorgues: garden tour, Provençal dinner and classical music concert

We depart early this morning, and travel 30 kilometres west of Avignon to visit the Sunday market of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. This large market is a food market, flea market, and antique market where you can buy everything from olives to fine art. The town itself stretches across the Sorgue River, earning it the nickname ‘Venice of Provence’, and makes a very lovely backdrop to this large market with its shade-providing plane tress, babbling river, historic waterwheels, and flower-filled riverside cafés and restaurants. The town is famous for being a big hub for antique dealers and is the second largest antique centre in France (after Paris).

Having collected some ingredients for a picnic lunch, we continue our journey through the Petit Luberon. This scenic drive takes us to the village of Gordes, perhaps the most picturesque of the perched villages. The houses of Gordes rise in picturesque tiers above the Imergue valley on the edge of the Vaucluse plateau. The stone buildings built in tight against the base of the cliffs and those perched on the rocks above, including the 12th-century castle, are made of a beige stone that glow orange in the morning sun. A short drive across the valley takes us past Roussillon, a village that stands on the highest hill between the Coulon valley and the Vaucluse plateau. These striking hills, composed of ochre rock of 16 or 17 different shades featured in the local houses, enhance the beauty of the village and the surrounding countryside.

Continuing south through the Luberon mountain range, we reach the picturesque village of Bonnieux, set atop craggy cliffs, where we shall visit the garden La Louve (She-Wolf). Nicole de Vésian began restoring her Provençal terrace garden on the lower fringe of this medieval town in 1987. Here the former fashion stylist designed house and garden in harmony with the natural surroundings, producing a result with the concision, beauty and elegance of a Frank Lloyd Wright prairie house. Since Nicole’s death in 1996, this tiny spot has become one of the most photographed gardens in the world. While La Louve was already dearly loved, the publication of Louisa Jones’ book, Modern Design in Provence (2011), only fanned the flames. Nicole also created several other gardens which are less well-known.

In the late afternoon we make our way to the Château de Brantes, located just outside the village of Sorgues, for a special evening tour and reception. The garden, which has the oldest magnolia tree in France (1780), was designed by the Danish landscape architect Mogens Tvede in 1956. The château, listed as a historic monument in 1987, is surrounded by an extensive plane-tree wood, and features a series of basins through which flows the river Sorgues. After a guided tour through the park and garden, we enjoy an al fresco Provençal buffet dinner, followed by delightful classical music concert given under the magnolia tree. (Overnight Avignon) BLD

 

Day 16: Monday 20 May, Avignon — Pont du Gard — Arles — Avignon

Pont du Gard
Museum of Antiquities (Musée de l’Arles Antique), Arles
Theatre and Amphitheatre, Arles
Saint-Trophime and its cloister, Arles

Today we travel a short distance to visit the Pont du Gard, one of the best preserved of all Roman aqueducts. Its survival testifies to the building skill of the Romans, for the massive blocks of which it is fabricated have remained in place despite the fact it is a dry stone construction (without mortar or cement).

Then we continue our travel to visit Arles and experience the fascinating history of this Provençal town with its Roman monuments. Our first visit is to the splendid Musée de l’Arles Antique. Inaugurated in 1995, the museum features a wonderful head of Caesar and a 31m-long Roman boat which was discovered beneath the Rhône in 2011.

Provence takes its name from the fact that it was the oldest non-Italic ‘province’ (provincia) of the Roman Empire outside Italy. Arleate (now Arles), a major Roman city, was built to protect the vital estuary of the Rhône. This colonia was given a typical gridded street plan that can still be traced in the centre of the city. It had an important amphitheatre, which in the Middle Ages became a castle but is now used for bullfights, and a theatre, now used for festivals. Arleate was a major centre of early Christianity and produced a number of very important martyrs who were buried in its great cemetery, Alyscamps. Among these was Saint-Trophime, whose Romanesque basilica has one of the finest porticoes in Provence, with a porch modelled on a Roman triumphal arch. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Day 17: Tuesday 21 May, Avignon — Saint Etienne du Grès — Saint-Rémy-de-Provence — Avignon

Le Petit Fontanille, Saint Etienne du Grès (private garden, by special appointment)
Private garden designed by Dominique Lafourcade (by special appointment)

This morning we visit Le Petit Fontanille, the private garden of Mrs Anne Cox Chambers near Saint Etienne du Grès. Le Petit Fontanille is the work of several English garden designers, Peter Coates, Rosemary Verey, and, more recently, Tim Rees. The garden merges perfectly into the hills, the woods and olive groves of the surrounding countryside and its success lies in its combination of a profusion of native plants with exotics that are compatible with the climate. Here the design is all about lines; olive trees form a horizontal mass against the verticality of the Italian cypresses.

In the afternoon, we make a visit with master landscape architect Dominique Lafourcade to one of her recent creations near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

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

 

 

Florac – 3 nights

 

Day 18: Wednesday 22 May, Avignon — Uzès — Le Villaret — Florac

Wednesday market of medieval village of Uzès
Le Jardin des Sambucs, Le Villaret (private garden, by special appointment)
Dinosaur footprints, St-Laurent-de-Trèves

Our journey continues north-west of Avignon to the pretty village of Uzès, home to one of the most colourful markets in the south of France. The Wednesday morning market, located on the Place aux Herbes, specialises in produits du terroirs (regional products and specialties) where you can find creamy goat cheese, garlic olives, fragrant herbs, pots of thyme-flavoured honey, bread and even small jars of snail and shallot spread!

We then drive to the foothills of the Cévennes National Park. Set in Le Villaret, a tiny hamlet on a terraced slope, Le Jardin des Sambucs is one of France’s most creative new country gardens, appealing to plant-lovers, art-lovers and those who enjoy simply being in places of exuberant beauty.

Awarded ‘2013 Favourite Garden of the Year’ by the Association of French Garden Journalists, it is a labyrinth of stone, pools, wild plants and horticultural treasures. It covers some 5,000 m² of hillside in the southern Cévennes hills on the edge of the Mediterranean climate zone.

It took years for the owners, Agnès and Nicolas Brückin, to transform land previously farmed by Agnès’ family into a marvellous mix of plantsmanship fused with artistic imagination. Nicolas worked with stone while Agnès cared for the plants, creating a garden rich with scents and hues, and blessed with a unique sense of humour.Highly personal, it is both pioneer and model in ecotourism, blending family gardening with nature study, organic agriculture and country crafts. We lunch in the garden sampling a menu based on their home grown vegetables flavoured with edible flowers, such as elderflower.

We continue our journey to our friendly family hotel in the picturesque village of Florac at the very centre of the Cévennes National Park, where we shall stay for the next three nights.

Our journey takes us past the little hamlet of St-Laurent-de-Trèves, situated on a rocky outcrop with magnificent views. Dinosaur footprints have been discovered here, dating back 190 million years, to the time when the region was a limestone swamp. A short walk around the site reveals a number of footprints, which are amazingly clear.

We dine in the hotel restaurant, L’Adonis, whose owner and chef Martial Paulet will serve dishes with the best local seasonal produce. The hotel is situated on the escarpments of the Causse Méjean close to the awesome Gorges du Tarn, Mont Lozère et du Mont Aigoual. Robert Louis Stevenson became enamoured of this awesome region and spent much time wandering through it. (Overnight Florac) BLD

 

Day 19: Thursday 23 May, Florac — Mont Lozère — Finiels — Pont de Montvert — Florac

Orientation walk in Florac
Mont Lozère scenic drive
Pont de Montvert

We spend the next two days exploring the Cévennes National Park in the company of local expert mountain guide Anne Nourry, Vice-President of the Association Sur Le Chemin de Robert Louis Stevenson. The Cévennes, now a UNESCO-listed National Park, was and still is one of the wildest areas of France, with mountains and deep gorges. 19th-century travellers like Robert Louis Stevenson visited isolated villages that seemed locked in the past, with a tradition-bound, conservative culture. Many peasants of the Cévennes, like much of the population of southern France, had converted to Protestantism in the 16th century. When Louis XIV revoked the Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes (1685), which had assured Protestants the right of free worship, the Huguenot Camisards of the region revolted (1704-1712); their revolt is called the Camisard Revolt. When Stevenson trekked through the area, Protestantism was again tolerated, but the deeply conservative people of each village adhered universally either to the Protestant or Catholic cause. Intermarriage between Catholics and Protestants was strictly forbidden and offenders would be cast out of both villages. Stevenson, a Scot, was himself a Protestant, and both the geography of the Cévennes with its barren rocky heather-filled hillsides, and the history of religious strife that lay over the land, were familiar to him.

Today’s program will combine coach touring with easy rambles through the countryside and to small, medieval villages. We shall be able to imagine the area as Robert Louis Stevenson saw it, with its wilderness scenery of rugged escarpments, deep valleys, small streams and a host of pretty wildflowers.

After an orientation walk in Florac, we take a scenic drive to the summit of Mont Lozère which is the highest peak in the Cévennes National Park. It offers some stunning natural scenery and is covered by coniferous plantations and ‘broom’ scrub moorland. A short walk will enable us to view the Pic de Finiels which rises at 1699m. The distinct geological zones that make up the Cévennes National Park sustain different types of landscape, which have all been shaped by human activity. Mont Lozère is a granite massif scattered with typical reliefs called felsenmeer (block fields). Water is omnipresent in springs, peat bogs and rivers. The bare crests are summer pastures for great flocks of sheep. Mont Lozère bears the signs of ancient human occupation: menhirs, Gallo-Roman vestiges, and so on.

Following our lunch in the small village of Finiels, we drive to the Pont de Montvert (870 metres in altitude), located at the base of the south-facing slopes of Mont Lozère. Le Pont de Montvert is a pretty granite village that is named for its hump-backed bridge (en dos d’âne) that spans in a single arch the swift-flowing Tarn. The bridge is guarded by a defensive tower at the village end, now with a less bellicose function: it holds the village clock. Medieval in aspect, the bridge and tower date to the 17th century. The bridge is well known as one of the places that Robert Louis Stevenson stopped during his famous Travels with a Donkey and now forms one of the stopping points along the popular trail that follows his original route. (Overnight Florac) BLD

 

Day 20: Friday 24 May, Florac — Gorges du Tarn — Gorges de la Jonte — Florac

Boat excursion, Gorges du Tarn
Belvédère des Vautours (Vulture Lookout), Gorges de la Jonte
Farewell Dinner

This morning we focus on the great Gorges du Tarn, an impressive canyon cut by the Tarn through the harsh limestone plateaux (causses) south of the Massif Central. We shall drive along the gorge and then take a boat excursion down the Tarn as it winds through the most spectacular section of the valley. Starting from La Malène, we board small flat-bottomed boats and make our way down the river in the crisp morning light through Les Détroits, the most beautiful and narrowest section of the canyon, between towering vertical cliffs of up to 400 metres, and end at the Cirque des Baumes (baume meaning ‘cave’), where the gorge widens forming a magnificent amphitheatre.

Following a picnic lunch we travel to the western edge of the park, where the Gorges du Tarn meets the Gorges de la Jonte. Here we visit the Belvédère des Vautours, an interpretive centre and viewing point for the many vultures that nest in the gorge, mostly Griffon vultures, but now also Black vultures. With the aid of national park officers, we may view their nests, and watch individuals and groups perched on the dramatic gorge walls. Two decades or so ago these giant airborne scavengers were almost extinct in the Cévennes. Now, thanks to a successful reintroduction program, some 75 pairs breed in the national park. Following a majestic aerial ballet performed by 30 or so vultures, we return to our hotel and enjoy a farewell meal together. (Overnight Florac) BLD

 

Day 21: Saturday 25 May, Florac — Nîmes TGV Station

Corniche des Cévennes

This morning we drive out of the Cévennes National Park along the scenic Corniche des Cévennes, past the village of Saint-Jean-du-Gard and on to Nîmes’ TGV station, where you will be able to take a train to your airport or next French destination. B

 

Natural Landscapes and Gardens of South Africa

Natural Landscapes and Gardens of South Africa

 

 

Draft Itinerary Only

 

The itinerary given below is currently being revised. An updated program for 2019 will be available by end of May 2018.

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

 

Cape Town, Waterfront – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Saturday 14 September, Arrive Cape Town

Arrival Transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Travellers taking the ‘designated ASA flight’ will arrive into Cape Town late this evening. A private coach will transfer you to your hotel. Situated at the foot of the majestic Table Mountain in the south of the Western Cape Province, Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest and arguably loveliest city. Our hotel for the first three nights is located on the famous Victoria and Alfred (or V&A) Waterfront. (Overnight Cape Town, Waterfront)

 

Day 2: Sunday 15 September, Cape Town

Table Mountain with horticulturalist, Adam Harrower
Welcome Lunch at the Bo-Kaap Malay Restaurant
Bo-Kaap Malay Quarter
The Company’s Gardens

This morning we ascend Table Mountain on its aerial cableway which affords passengers a 360-degree view of the city. Atop Table Mountain a number of pathways lead us to views over Cape Town, Table Bay, Robben Island, the Cape Flats and the Cape Peninsula.

Horticulturalist Adam Harrower will join us here to share his knowledge of the mountain vegetation.

The Table Mountain National Park has the richest single floristic area on the planet, with over 1500 species of indigenous flora. ‘Fynbos’, an Afrikaans word meaning ‘delicate bush,’ is the name of the scrubby vegetation that is particular to the Cape; it is found in abundance on the mountain slopes. Fynbos consists of four primary plant groups: proteas (large broad-leafed shrubs), ericas (low-growing shrubs), restios (thin reed-like plants) and geophytes (bulbs). This is an ancient form of vegetation, some species (restios) of which date back 60 million years. Common garden plants like geraniums, freesias, daisies, lilies and irises originated in fynbos. Like many Australian natives, fynbos species depend on fire for seed dispersal and new growth. To survive they must burn every 15-20 years; weaker plants thereby flourish and avoid being overwhelmed by stronger species.

We spend the rest of the day exploring Cape Town. Known as the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town boasts a proud heritage spanning over 300 years. Its historical diversity is visible in the mixture of African, Asian and European influences that infuse its cuisine and cultural life, and especially its architecture – the colourful houses of the Bo-Kaap nestled on the slopes of Signal Hill, Cape Dutch homesteads, Victorian homes in its suburbs at the foot of the mountain, and Cape Town’s colonial civic buildings.

The historic ‘Bo-Kaap’ or ‘Cape Malay Quarter’ is one of the most culturally interesting parts of the city. Many Bo-Kaap residents are descended from Indonesians, Sri Lankans, Indians and Malays, who were enslaved by the Dutch-East India Trading Company in the 17th and 18th centuries. A number of these slaves were Muslims who introduced Islam and played an important role in the development of the Afrikaans language. A simple form of Dutch, Afrikaans evolved so slaves from different countries and cultures could communicate with each other and with their Dutch masters. Educated Muslims were the first to write texts in Afrikaans.

We shall sample the area’s excellent cuisine with a Welcome Lunch in a traditional Cape Malay restaurant situated in the heart of the Bo-Kaap. We then tour the Bo-Kaap area with its steep, narrow streets adorned with colourfully painted artisan houses and mosques. The architectural style of these buildings is a synthesis of Cape Dutch and Edwardian idioms.

We then make our way to Cape Town’s city centre, or City Bowl, and the Company’s Garden. The Company’s Garden, now a large public park and botanical garden in the heart of Cape Town, is the oldest garden in the country. It was laid out by Cape Town’s founding father Jan van Riebeeck on orders of the Dutch-East India Trading Company, so as to provision colonists with vegetables. As more produce became available from the Company’s gardens at Newlands and from the Free Burghers who had settled along the Liesbeek River, the town garden was slowly converted into a botanical and ornamental garden, although vegetables continued to be grown for a number of years. Today the ensemble includes a rose garden, fishponds and a Saffron Pear Tree that is believed to be South Africa’s oldest cultivated tree. (Overnight Cape Town, Waterfront) BL

 

Day 3: Monday 16 September, Cape Town

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCCA)
Lunch at the Granary Café, Silo Hotel
Robben Island Tour

We spend the morning visiting the Zeitz MOCAA, the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world. Opened in September 2017, this converted grain silo overlooking the Atlantic on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, was designed by architect Thomas Heatherwick. With 100 galleries spread over nine floors, the museum focuses exclusively on 21st-century work from Africa and the diaspora.

Lunch will be served at the Silo Hotel, a new luxury hotel situated above Zeitz MOCCA. Its Granary Café overs fabulous views over the city.

In the afternoon we depart by ferry for Robben Island from the Nelson Mandela Gateway. Located on the V&A Waterfront, this gateway was officially opened by Nelson Mandela on 1 December 2001. It is the embarkation point for exclusive access to Robben Island, the infamous site of the maximum-security prison where, along with other political prisoners, Mandela was imprisoned for 25 years by the South African apartheid regime. Robben Island has a long history as a place of banishment and punishment. In 1657, five years after Jan van Riebeeck established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa, he decided to use the island as a place of banishment. Thenceforth, various governors of the Cape used it as a place of exile. In 1846 the prison became a hospital. In 1855 part of the hospital became a colony for lepers and a lunatic asylum, whilst another portion was converted back into a prison. In 1959 the island became a maximum-security prison and between 1961 and 1991 over 3,000 political prisoners were incarcerated here. Since 1997 the prison has been a museum and in 1999 Robben Island was declared a World Heritage Site. Today’s prison’s guides are former inmates. (Overnight Cape Town, Waterfront) BL

 

Cape Town, Newlands – 6 nights

 

Day 4: Tuesday 17 September, Cape Town – Cape Point Reserve – Newlands

Biodiversity Showcase Garden, Green Point Park – with Marijke Honig of Think Ecologic
Lunch at Two Oceans Restaurant
Cape Point Nature Reserve with horticulturalist, Adam Harrower

This morning local botanist and landscaper Marijke Honig shows us one of her projects, the Showcase Biodiversity Garden, situated in the 12-hectare Green Point Urban Park. It is a unique didactic garden featuring ‘educational art and craft’, a khoikhoi (native to the Cape region) food garden, interactive displays and over 320 local plant species.

Next we drive to the Cape Point Nature Reserve located at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, part of the huge Table Mountain National Park that stretches from Signal Hill and Table Mountain in the north to Cape Point in the south, encompassing the coastline of the peninsula. Lunch is at Two Oceans Restaurant which occupies an enviable position above False Bay at the southwestern tip of Africa. The restaurant is as famous for its seafood cuisine as it is for a superb wooden deck that looks out onto one of the most stunning ocean views in South Africa.

Horticulturalist, Adam Harrower, joins us again today to explore the indigenous fauna and flora that are conserved in this rich wilderness area. The Cape Peninsula has in excess of 2,500 fynbos species and within its 7,750 hectares it sustains more varieties of plants than the whole of the British Isles, including some 1,100 indigenous species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. The reserve also protects a variety of animals including buck, baboons and Cape Mountain Zebra; over 250 species of birds are found here. Cape Point’s treacherous cliffs form Africa’s most south-westerly point: they mark the point where the cold Atlantic Beguela coastal current merges with the warm Agulhus Indian Ocean current from the south. We shall ride the funicular up to the lighthouse at the peak of Cape Point where you can view the Cape of Good Hope to the west.

We spend the next 6 nights at the 4-star Vineyard Hotel located in the leafy suburb of Newlands, on the slopes of Table Mountain. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BL

 

Day 5: Wednesday 18 September, Newlands – Drakenstein Valley – Franschhoek – Newlands

Babylonstoren Garden, Drakenstein Valley
Private garden of Henk Scholtz, Franschhoek
The Leeu Collection: Leeu House & Le Quartier Français. Guided tour of the Herb & Vegetable Garden, Bokkie Garden & Vineyard Walk; wine-tasting & lunch

Private garden designed by Franchesca Watson, Franschhoek
Today we make a day excursion to the historic town of Franschoek located in the fertile Cape Winelands region. Thanks to their Mediterranean climate and winter rainfall, this region boasts some of the finest wines in the country, important for winemaking, one of South Africa’s fastest growing industries.

We first visit the garden of Babylonstoren, a Cape Dutch farm with vineyards and orchards surrounded by the dramatic mountains of the Drakenstein Valley. It has an exceptionally well–preserved werf (barn) dating from 1690. Inspired by the 17th and 18th century formal Company Gardens of the Dutch East India Company and harking back to the mythical gardens of Babylon, its 8-acre fruit and vegetable garden is unique to South Africa. Every one of over 300 varieties of plants in the garden is edible. The garden is divided into fifteen clusters spanning vegetable areas, berries, bees, indigenous plants, ducks and chickens, and even includes a prickly pear maze. Gravity feeds water from a stream into the garden waterways as it has done for 300 years.

We next drive to the Franschhoek Valley, where French Huguenot refugees first settled in 1688. The region’s climate and French cultural influence combine to make this valley South Africa’s gourmet centre. Before acquiring its present name, the valley was called Olifants Hoek in Afrikaans, describing the herds of elephants that used to roam into the valley along an elephant path from the mountain pass between Villiersdorp and Franschhoek.

In Franschhoek we first visit the private garden of well-known South African garden designer and artist Henk Scholtz. Scholtz’s garden featured on the BBC’s Around The World In 80 Gardens and was described by presenter Monty Don as ‘probably the most photogenic garden [I’ve] ever been to. The garden uses only a few varieties of plants that provide a strong rhythm and continuity in both its structure and planting. Although a small garden, its clever use of borrowed landscapes gives it a feeling of enormity, which contrasts with the extreme intricacy of its myriad small spaces, graced by eccentric sculptures.

Businessman Analjit Singh bought several properties in the Franschhoek Valley including the art-filled Leeu House and Le Quartier Français. Both manor houses are surrounded by Franchesca Watson-designed gardens and vineyards overseen by the very best young winemakers Chris and Andrea Mullineux. Gardens designed by Franchesca include the Herb & Vegetable Garden, the Bokkie Garden and the Vineyard walk. The country herb and vegetable picking garden is laid out around three granadilla-covered pavilions with formal hedges. This was the first garden laid out on the property and it has incredible valley and mountain views. The garden provides fresh seasonal produce for the Leeu Estates culinary team.

The word ‘bokkie’ is the diminutive of buck and is often used within the Afrikaans community as the term for ‘beloved’ or ‘sweetheart’. An expression of love, the beautifully laid out Bokkie Garden aims to create a meditative and serene space where people can reconnect with nature and one another. A small vineyard showcasing carefully selected varieties of grape has also been established, from which a very limited edition wine will be produced.

The gardens along the Vineyard Walk meander along the natural course of the river and were designed to suggest nature – the planting is controlled but more relaxed than the formality of the rest of the gardens on Leeu Estates. Oak trees at the river are interplanted with evergreens, creating a perennial screen of green. In spring, luminescent white azaleas along the river stand out against the banks of green.

We shall take a garden tour with the head gardener, enjoy a wine-tasting at the wine studio, and enjoy lunch at one of the manor’s restaurants.

In the afternoon, garden designer Franchesca Watson will take the group to some contemporary gardens. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BL

 

Day 6: Thursday 19 September, Cape West Coast

Full day trip to the Cape West Coast with horticulturist Adam Harrower including:
!Khwa ttu San Education and Culture Centre (time allowing)
Postberg section of West Coast National Park
Tienie Versveld Reserve
Darling Wildflower Show (dates subject to confirmation in early 2019)
Waylands Wildflower Reserve

In August and September each year, the Cape West Coast bursts into a dazzling display of wild flowers, carpeting what is normally a barren semi-desert with a colourful array of daisies, yellow gansogies, felicias, nemesias and vygies. The West Coast flower region, an integral part of the Cape Fynbos Kingdom, boasts more than 1,200 species of flowering plants. About 80 of these are not only endemic to the West Coast but are encountered nowhere else on the globe. Conservation International has recognised the Cape Floristic Region as the only arid ‘hot spot’ for biodiversity, placing it among the 25 most ecologically valuable places in the world.

Today Adam Harrower leads us on a very special private tour of the West Coast reserves to experience their remarkable displays and study the distinctive vegetation types that contribute to Cape Fynbos Kingdom’s unique species diversity.

We drive north to the top end of the West Coast National Park (Langebaan), where we visit Postberg, a special section of the park that is only open to the general public in early spring when the wild flowers are blooming in the Cape. There we shall admire the magical displays of multi-hued spring flowers, and perhaps also catch a glimpse of the many antelopes that populate the reserve.

Time allowing, we shall also stop at !Khwa ttu San Education and Culture Centre, to explore the world of the descendants of southern Africa’s earliest indigenous people, the San. Located 70 kilometres north-west of Cape Town, this 850 hectare nature reserve is home both to hundreds of species of indigenous fynbos plants and a wide array of indigenous animal species such as Eland, Zebra, Oryx, Bontebok and Springbok.

Before leaving the West Coast National Park, we stop at Geelbek to collect our picnic basket and then continue to the small town of Darling where we hope to visit its famous flower show (subject to confirmation). The arid region through which we are travelling is termed ‘veld’ in Africaans, the equivalent of ‘prairie’ in the USA and grassland in Australia. There are many varieties of veld, which are distinguished by their soil types. Darling is surrounded by three distinct types, Strandveld (sandy plains, dunes and limestone with granite ridges), Renosterveld (coastal lowlands with shale and granite) and Sandveld (with dry, sandy soil) that account for the huge variety of plant species in its environs. To celebrate this extraordinary variety, the Darling Wildflower Society has held a show virtually every year since 1917, and pursued a sustained policy of educating local farmers to protect the region’s species. The show’s uniqueness is that it displays plants that are not cultivated but wild, having been picked under strict supervision.

We also visit the Waylands Flower Reserve and Tienie Versfeld Wildflower Reserve. The former, founded in 1922, boasts some 300 varieties of Lowland Fynbos. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BLD

 

Day 7: Friday 20 September, Newlands – Kenilworth – Stellenbosh – Newlands

Stellenberg, Kenilworth: Tour of gardens and the private home of Sandy and Andrew Ovenstone
Historic town of Stellenbosch
Delaire Graff Estate (to be confirmed)
Dylan Lewis Studio & Sculpture Garden, Stellenbosch

This morning we visit Stellenberg Garden, located at Kenilworth in the heart of Cape Town’s southern suburbs. Owner Sandy Ovenstone has lived on the property since 1974. She will guide our tour of her beautifully tended gardens that owe much of their inspiration to three well-known English gardens, Sissinghurst, Hidcote Manor and Hatfield House. The white garden, planted alongside the 1840s Cape Dutch homestead, displays a wonderful mix of romantic perennials. A vegetable patch boasts a companionable mix of herbs, vegetables, sweet peas and foxgloves. There is also a marsh garden area and a wonderful formal parterre designed by David Hicks as a silver wedding present for Sandy from her husband Andrew. Franchesca Watson has created three of its other gardens: the Medieval Garden, the Garden of Reflection and the Parterre Garden.

Mid-morning we continue to the pretty university town of Stellenbosch, situated at the head of the Eerste (First) River Valley. It was one of the first valleys to be settled by Europeans and the area contains many well-preserved examples of domestic Cape Dutch architecture and notable vineyards.

Delaire Graff Estate, a botanical paradise in a gorgeous setting, is our lunch destination. Surrounding the terraced restaurant area are are acres of tranquil colours planted to reflect the changing seasons, spectacularly in bloom every day of the year. Spectacular views of the Stellenbosch valley can be enjoyed at this wonderful estate, which features an art collection including world-famous Tretchikoff’s Chinese Girl.

Dylan Lewis is a South African artist who has emerged, internationally, as one of the foremost figures in contemporary sculpture. Lewis’s primary inspiration is wilderness. We take a guided tour through the extensive sculpture garden, formed and created by Lewis. From virtual flat farmland, there is now an undulating landscape of valleys and hills, ponds fed by natural springs and shady secret gardens and groves, inviting peaceful contemplation. The monumental pieces permanently installed in their magical surroundings and given an insight into Dylan’s journey to his work. At one level his bronze sculptures celebrate the power and movement of Africa’s life forms; at another the textures he creates speak of the continent’s primeval, rugged landscapes and their ancient rhythms. A visit to his circular studio with its huge barn doors, open out onto a magnificent view of the landscape. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) B

 

Day 8: Saturday 21 September, Newlands – Kirstenbosch – Pniel – Newlands

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden with horticulturalist Adam Harrower
Old Bethlehem Farm, Pneil – design project by Franchesca Watson and Danie Steenkamp

Located on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is considered one of the most beautiful botanic gardens in the world. It was established in 1913 on land left to the nation by Cecil Rhodes to protect the immense floral wealth of the Cape region. Kirstenbosch is one of 8 protected areas that make up the Cape Floral Region (CFR), a 528 hectare botanical wonderland that is home to over 22,000 indigenous plants; it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. This distinctive phytogeographic unit is listed among the 6 ‘Floral Kingdoms’ of the world; it is by far the smallest of these and for its size the richest and most diverse. Species include almost 70% of the 9,500 plants that are endemic to this region. The Garden’s horticulturalist Adam Harrower will lead a special tour introducing the collection of South African plants in the 40 hectares of developed garden; the crane flower (Strelitzia reginae) is the emblem of the garden.

Following some refreshments at the Kirstenbosch tearoom we journey to Old Bethlehem Farm located in the Dwars River Valley between the villages of Kylemore and Pniel. The old farm buildings, which date from the late 1680’s, have been beautifully restored. Here we shall meet Danie Steenkamp, a landscaper, town planner and founder of DDS Projects; he is currently considered the best landscaper in the Franschoek/Stellenbosch region. Francesca Watson and Danie were responsible for designing the farm’s simple gardens and restoring the natural fynbos landscape. Time-permitting, we may also visit another small project by Danie in the area. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BL

 

Day 9: Sunday 22 September, Newlands – Constantia – Bishopscourt – Newlands

Garden Newbury & Garden Raymond, Bishopscourt – design projects by Franchesca Watson
Garden Urquhart, Bishopscourt
Liz McGrath’s award-winning gardens at Cellars-Hohenort
Gardens Middleton, Ackerman & Topat, Constantia – design projects by Franchesca Watson

Today is devoted to visiting gardens in the suburbs of Constantia and Bishopscourt. These include the private gardens of Gavin and Sharland East Urquhart featured in Nicola Hadfield’s Beautiful Outdoors of South Africa as ‘Brave heart’. Sharland, a well-known artist and gardener, has made a brave statement with her landscaping.

The Cellars-Hohenort Hotel is located on the slopes of Table Mountain in the heart of the Constantia Valley. We shall take a tour of its beautiful gardens which have been voted by American magazine Garden Design, as one of the top 30 hotel gardens in the world. Set over nine spectacular acres, the gardens are the result of the owner Liz McGrath’s 20-year vision. Giant camphor trees dating back to the eighteenth century are surrounded by more recent gardens including the unrivalled Cellars-Hohenort rose garden.

We also visit a number of private gardens designed by Franchesca Watons including the large garden of ‘Middleton’ which has been developed over the years as a series of large garden “rooms” with Table Mountain as the dramatic backdrop. The garden features wonderful seasonal plantings with a sensitive use of colour. Level changes give interest and structure to the various spaces. The newest addition is the rill garden planted with grasses and perennials. (Overnight Newlands, Cape Town) BL

 

Mossel Bay – 1 night

 

Day 10: Monday 23 September, Newlands – Somerset West – Swellendam – Mossel Bay

Vergelegen Wine Estate & Garden, Somerset West – guided tour with head gardener, Mr Richard Arms
Historic town of Swellendam

We depart Cape Town to journey towards Mossel Bay, considered to be South Africa’s historical capital, where the renowned ‘Garden Route’ begins. On the way we visit Vergelegen (meaning ‘situated far away’), which has been a gardener’s paradise since 1700 when the then Governor of the Cape, Willem Adriaan van der Stel, cleared land to establish a garden and develop its vineyards. Willem Adriaan, a keen horticulturist, was the author of The African Gardener’s and Agriculturists’ Calendar. King George VI and Queen Elizabeth visited here during their tour of 1947 and were reputedly ‘overcome by Vergelegen’s loveliness’. Restored in 1987, the ensemble now features a White Garden, a Rose Garden and the magnificent Octagonal Garden, which affords views to the house along 400m of twin herbaceous borders. The garden also includes a Wetland Garden and Yellowwood Walk. Along with summer flowering perennials, annuals such as cleome and nicotiana are planted in September.

After lunch at the Vergelegen Camphors Restaurant we drive to Mossel Bay, making a short stop in Swellendam, the third oldest town settled in South Africa by the Dutch East India Company. Founded in 1746 by the Governor of the Cape Province, Hendrik Swellengrebel, and his wife Helena Ten Damme, the town displays its rich history through its marvellous Cape Dutch and Victorian architecture. It has over 50 National monuments, most of them excellent examples of Cape Dutch architecture. (Overnight Mossel Bay) BL

 

Knysna Quays – 3 nights

 

Day 11: Tuesday 24 September, Mossel Bay – Garden Route – Knysna Quays

Old Post Office Tree and Bartholomew Diaz Museum, Mossel Bay
Knysna Elephant Park: sunset walk with African elephants

This morning we visit the Bartholomew Diaz Museum named after the Portugese explorer who was the first European to land at Mossel Bay in 1488. Mossel Bay subsequently became an important port of call for many Portuguese ships taking on board fresh water and replenish provisions. The museum complex comprises a number of buildings as well as a 500 year-old ‘Post Office Tree’ that was once used by sailors who deposited messages for other ships in a boot that hung from its branches.

From Mossel Bay we drive to Knysna along what is known as the ‘Garden Route’, a conservation route along the strip of coastal plain that stretches between Mossel Bay and Storms River Mouth. Ostensibly a marketing idea for promoting this stretch of coast, The Garden Route enjoys a semi-Mediterranean climate and includes indigenous forest, freshwater lakes, wetlands, hidden coves, and long beaches. Our journey ends at Knysna, one of the main centres on the Garden Route. Our hotel is located on the former harbour quays from where we can enjoy one aspect of Knysna’s enchanting natural setting, its estuary called Knysna Lagoon where sea and sweet water mix. The lagoon’s salt marshes and sandbanks support an unsurpassed wealth of bird and marine life, the Knysna Loerie (brightly coloured bird of the banana eating family) and the Knysna Seahorse being the most famous examples.

We conclude the day with a quintessentially African experience, an opportunity to walk with elephants in the Knysna Elephant Park. Our sunset tour at the Elephant Park begins with spectacular views of the Outeniqua mountain range and Knysna forest and concludes with a meal at the beautiful Lapa restaurant overlooking the indigenous forest. In between, you have the rare and exciting opportunity to get close to the elephants that live here in a controlled, free range environment. Knysna Elephant Park also supports a number of elephants at their orphanage near Port Elizabeth. The Park’s primary role is rehabilitating elephants and providing them with better homes. We shall dine at the park’s restaurant before returning to our hotel in the early evening. (Overnight Knysna Quays) BD

 

Day 12: Wednesday 25 September, Knysna – Plettenberg Bay – Knysna

Keurbooms Cottage & the White House: private gardens of Julian Treger, Plettenberg Bay (to be confirmed)

Today we hope to visit two world-class gardens, both owned by Julian Treger. (Overnight Knysna Quays) B

 

Day 13: Thursday 26 September, Knysna

Knysna Forest Tour
Sunset Ferry Cruise on Knysna Lagoon

Knysna grew up as a small port from which timber from indigenous forests, part of the original montane rainforests, was exported. Today we make a full day excursion into the strictly protected 80,000-hectare Knysna Forest, the largest remaining forested area in South Africa. The indigenous forests of huge ancient hardwood trees like Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Redwood found here are both a rarity and are considered a treasure in a country composed mainly of savannah. It is believed that a couple of wild elephants still live in the forests, though sightings are extremely rare.

Our guides today will introduce the forest’s astounding diversity of plant life including huge Yellowwood trees, ferns and mosses and fynbos vegetation. We follow a trail of approximately 3.2 kilometres through to the heart of Diepwalle Forest, where we will stop for lunch under an enormous Outeniqua Yellowwood tree (Podocarpus falcatus). The ‘Big Tree’, or ‘King Edward VII Tree’, has staggering dimensions: a height of 39 metres with a crown width of 32 metres, and its age is estimated at approximately 650 years.

In the evening, we shall take a sunset cruise across the turquoise waters of Knysna Lagoon which opens up between two sandstone cliffs known as the Heads, once proclaimed by the British Royal Navy the most dangerous harbour entrance in the world. We shall also see some interesting birdlife such as African fish eagles, darters, kingfishers, cormorants and black oystercatchers.

The rest of the evening is at leisure in Knysna Quays and you may wish to sample the town’s famous oysters. (Overnight Knysna Quays) BL

 

Umhlanga, Durban – 1 night

 

Day 14: Friday 27 September, Knysna – George – Durban – Umhlanga

Late-morning flight George to Durban
Private garden designed by John Brookes, Durban
Durban Botanical Gardens
Oyster Box Hotel, Umhlanga Rocks – guided tour of landscaped gardens designed by Franchesca Watson

This morning we drive from Knysna to George Airport to catch a late morning flight to Durban. Described as a city where the ‘sun never sets’ Durban is a coastal metropolis on the Indian Ocean, famous for its string of magnificent beaches known as the ‘Golden Mile’. With a warm, sub-tropical climate, it is the largest city in KwaZulu-Natal, and South Africa’s busiest port. Durban was first a Dutch and then an English colony, and now has the largest Indian population of any city outside of India. Its ethnic complection has produced in Durban a vibrant mix of architectural styles, encompassing elegant Victorian houses and monuments, Hindu temples and modern high-rises, and the largest mosque in the southern hemisphere.

This afternoon we visit a private garden located in central Durban, designed by influential English designer and plantsman John Brookes. The garden’s owner Neville Schaefer also owns Riversfield Farm, a property in the Natal Midlands that he has kindly invited us to visit on Sunday.

Nearby, we also meet with Di Higginson for a guided tour of the Durban Botanical Gardens, which are Africa’s oldest surviving botanic gardens. They were established in 1849 to participate in the quest for Kew Gardens to establish a series of botanic gardens across the world which would assist in the introduction of economically valuable plants, and to supply plants to Kew that were new to science. The gardens include collections of sub-tropical trees, cycads, palms and orchids, and a lake with water lilies and pink lotus.

Our accommodation for tonight is at the famous luxury Oyster Box Hotel in Umhlanga Rocks, an exclusive resort town north of Durban on the coast of KwaZulu-Natal. The hotel, which originally opened in 1947, underwent an extensive two-year renovation, re-opening 2009. As part of the refurbishment program, Cape Town based landscape consultant Jean Wouters and landscape designer Franchesca Watson have recreated beautiful sweeping gardens with a colonial feel to suit the style of the hotel. Having worked for the Botanical Gardens in Durban, Franchesca Watson contributed her extensive knowledge of KwaZulu-Natal plants to the project. The garden features all the colourful tropical plants such as bouganvillea and frangipani together with local subtropical coastal plants, giving it a romantic air. Thickly planted areas are punctuated with functional clearings such as the wedding garden and the fountain court, creating small, secluded garden rooms.

This evening we shall dine in the beautiful Ocean Terrace restaurant overlooking the Indian Ocean and sample Durban’s Indian culinary heritage with a selection of fine curries using fresh local ingredients and spices. (Overnight Umhlanga Rocks) BD

 

Hilton, Natal Midlands – 2 nights

 

Day 15: Saturday 28 September, Umhlanga – Durban – Pietermaritzburg – Oakpark – Hilton

Private garden of Rob and Jane Crankshaw, Cowies Hill – with horticulural consultant, Geoff Nichols
Rosehurst Garden, Pietermaritzburg
Private garden of Sue and Hugh Akerman, Pietermaritzburg
Norwood Garden, Oakpark
Sue Tarr’s Summerhouse, Hilton

Early this morning we depart Umhlanga for Cowies Hill to visit the private garden of Rob and Jane Crankshaw. We will be accompanied by horticultural consultant Geoff Nichols who helped lay out the garden in 1999. A few large trees remain from the original garden including a big Casuarina cunninghamiana and some Jacaranda mimosifolias with a border of azaleas (which might still be in flower during your visit). The rest of the garden now consists of local trees and shrubs. There are at least 100 species of tree planted in the garden. A very rare epiphytic orchid Diaphananthe millarii occurs in one tree in the garden.

Next we drive 90 kilometres to Pietermaritzburg, the capital and second largest city of the province of KwaZulu-Natal. Few African cities are as vibrant as Pietermaritzburg. Steeped in a history that has Zulu, Boer, British and Indian elements, it is one of the best-preserved Victorian cities in Africa. Its city hall, built in 1900, was then the largest all-brick building in the southern hemisphere.

Pietermaritzburg is justifiably known as the City of Flowers, with private gardens and public parks awash with lush foliage and seasonal blooms, such as bougainvilleas and azaleas. Today we visit some of Pietermaritzburg’s and nearby Hilton’s lovely private gardens, which open to the public every year as part of the local Witness Open Gardens scheme, ranging in size from neat townhouse plots to rambling two-acre smallholdings. The Hilton gardens, growing in misty, hilly conditions, are filled with azaleas, fine trees, exotics and some of the finest roses to be found in South Africa.

Now thirty years old, the delightful town garden of Rosehurst was established by the late David and Lorraine Kettley, well-known Pietermaritzburg heritage and garden personalities. Influenced by Sissinghurst Castle Garden in South East England, this is a whimsical Victorian-style garden featuring hedges, topiary and relatively informal plantings set upon a formal framework. It is divided up into a number of ‘garden rooms’ each with its own predominant colour theme: small entrance garden, pink lawn garden, yellow sundial garden, mauve side garden, white gazebo garden and the all-colour potager/kitchen garden. It also has a delightful tearoom where lunch can be obtained.

After lunch we continue with a visit to the private garden of Sue and Hugh Akerman. This mostly indigenous garden has some exotically planted areas of bright annuals and mosaic features. The indigenous trees that have been established for over 25 years have created a rivereen forest along the stream. It is a steeply sloping property where the owners have reclaimed land from rampant alien vegetation and re-planted it with indigenous plants and trees. Sue, who is well known for her artistic flair, has several new mosaic features in the garden. Paths meander beside the stream for some distance so be sure to wear good walking shoes! The bird life in the garden is prolific.

From Pietermaritzburg we continue to nearby Norwood garden, with over 7000m2 of rolling landscaped gardens in an informal, tropical, forest style, with numerous formal elements. Massive trees frame many beautiful vistas through the garden and over the city. The garden features masses of clivias, tree ferns and cycads and magnificent koi ponds.

We also visit Sue Tarr’s Summerhouse at Folly Hill located in Hilton. The summerhouse, now a nursery set in beautiful gardens, was formerly a milking shed. The old milking pens and feeding troughs provide a backdrop to the displays of goods on sale, and the old calf pens are now used as a rustic restaurant, La Popote, where we will enjoy afternoon tea. Sue is a well-known local landscaper and her garden is a great inspiration to many gardeners. The garden features lovely old trees and wonderful azaleas. There are also well-established borders with roses, perennials and shrubs.

We spend the night in Hilton, enjoying an evening meal together at our Tudor style hotel. (Overnight Hilton) BLD

 

Day 16: Sunday 29 September, Natal Midlands
Riversfield Farm

Pizza Lunch at the Italian Restaurant, ‘La Lampara’
Benvie Farm

Today we visit more private gardens in the area, including a formal 18th century English garden by legendary British gentleman of design, the late David Hicks (1929-98), on Riversfield Farm. An architectural garden with a formal potager, a dovecote, and a Gothic pool pavilion, the garden displays a panache typical of Hick’s work.

After a light pizza lunch at the nearby Italian Restaurant, ‘La Lampara’, we visit Benvie farm, located in Karkloof. The gardens were established in 1882, by Scottish emigrant John Geekie who is well known throughout South Africa by both the gardening and birdwatching fraternities. Geekie, who was a cabinet-maker by profession, also loved trees, and imported seedlings from across the world. Many of the trees which he planted are still standing today, including three giant eucalypts. Today the farm’s arboretum is managed by Geekie’s great grand-daughter.
The 127-year old garden covers an area of about 30 hectares, and consists mainly of large conifers, rhodedendrons and azaleas, all of which is bordered by a typical indigenous mist belt forest. The garden features a walkway, about 2kms long, where bird watchers stand a good chance of seeing Orange Ground Thrush, Chorister Robin Chat, Olive Woodpecker, Grey Cuckooshrike, Knysna Turaco, White starred Robin and Cape Parrot which use the property as a nesting site. (Overnight Hilton) BLD

 

Johannesburg – 3 nights

 

Day 17: Monday 30 September, Hilton – Durban Airport – Johannesburg

Morning flight from Durban to Johannesburg
Light Lunch at The View
Guided tour of Sir Herbert Baker’s ‘Northwards’ by resident curator, Dr Neil Viljoen
Heritage tour of Rockridge Road, Parktown including Baker’s Stonehouse (exterior) and Pilrig House

Sir Herbert Baker’s St Margaret’s including gardens designed by landscape designer Patrick Watson
This morning we depart Durban and the KwaZulu-Natal region to fly to the economic hub of Africa, Johannesburg, a bustling, sprawling city of contrasts, spread across the small but densely populated province of Gauteng. Some people call it ‘Jozi’ or ‘Joburg’, others ‘Egoli’, meaning ‘City of Gold’, a reference to its origins as a gold rush town founded after the discovery of gold on the East Rand in the late 19th century. From its humble origins as a camp of rows of tents, Johannesburg has grown to be the economic powerhouse not only of South Africa, but much of the African continent, with one of the forty largest metropolitan areas in the world. The city’s modern vibrancy is largely based on the diversity of its people and cultures, with a mix of indigenous African, and immigrant Dutch, English, Portuguese and Malay cultures.

This afternoon is dedicated to exploring the work of Sir Herbert Baker and heritage properties in the Parktown area. Sir Herbert Baker, a British architect, was the dominant force in South African architecture for two decades, 1892-1912. In 1902 he left his practice at the Cape in the hands of his partner and went to live in Johannesburg, where he built Stonehouse. Baker quickly became noted for his work, and was commissioned by a number of the “Randlords” (the wealthy mining magnates of Johannesburg) to design houses, particularly in the suburbs of Parktown and Westcliff.

Following a light lunch at The View, ostensibly the oldest house left standing in Johannesburg, we meet with Dr Neil Viljoen for a tour of Northwards which was designed by Baker in 1904 as the residence of John Dale Lace and the flamboyant Lady Josie Dale Lace. Northwards is an impeccable example of the aesthetics and characteristics of the Arts and Crafts movement. The contrasts between Koppie stone quarried on site and plastered brickwork, the warm and comfortable wood panelled rooms and wooden floors and the very sensible usage of space exemplify this architectural style. In line with the movement, the house was built by specialist craftsmen and masons rather than from manufactured parts which had become popular during the Industrial Revolution. The house possesses some beautiful romantic features like a minstrel gallery and Juliette balconies.

Next we meet with local historian, William Gaul for a heritage tour down Rockridge Road, Parktown to view other examples of Sir Herbert Bakers work. Here we shall view Stonehouse (designed 1902), Pilrig House (designed 1903) and St Margaret’s (designed 1911). At St Margaret’s we shall also visit the delightful garden designed by Patrick Watson, one of South Africa’s most stylish, gifted and sought after landscape designers.

We spend the next 3 nights in the municipality of Sandton, one of the most opulent areas in Johannesburg. Sandton began as a sedate rural suburb for white upper class gentlemen and was once dubbed the ‘mink and manure’ belt. Today it is known as ‘Africa’s richest square mile’ and it is South Africa’s most important financial and business district. (Overnight Sandton, Johannesburg) BD

 

Day 18: Tuesday 1 October, Johannesburg – Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site – Johannesburg

Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site: Maropeng Visitor Centre and Sterkfontein Caves
Lunch at Roots Restaurant
Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens

Today our destination is the Cradle of Humankind, Gauteng, a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered one of the most important paleontological zones in the world, where remains of Australopithecus, distant forebear of humankind, have been discovered. The site comprises a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossilised remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids. The dolomite in which the caves formed, started out as coral reefs growing in a warm shallow sea about 2.3 billion years ago. We first visit the Maropeng Visitors Centre. Maropeng means ‘returning to the place of origin’ in Setswana, the area’s major indigenous language. A series of fascinating exhibits focusing on the development of our ancestors over the past few million years are housed in the Tumulus Building designed to resemble a giant ancient burial mound.

We also visit the Sterkfontein Caves owned by the University of the Witwatersrand whose scientists have been responsible for the main excavations and the discovery of many fossils, including ‘Mrs Ples’, a 2.1-million-year-old Australopithecus skull, and ‘Little Foot’, an almost complete Australopithecus skeleton dating back more than 3 million years.

Midday we shall enjoy a 4-course lunch at the Roots Restaurant which is renowned as one of Johannesburg’s top fine dining restaurants. Located in the private Letamo Game Estate, chef Allistaire Lawrence specialises in French cuisine with subtle Asian and African influences.

This afternoon we visit the Walter Sisulu National Botanic Garden which is one of the 8 botanical gardens managed by the South African Biodiversity Institute (Overnight Sandton, Johannesburg) BL

 

Day 19: Wednesday 2 October, Johannesburg – Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve – Johannesburg

Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve
Private Estate of Iwan and Irene Roux – private landscape project by Patrick Watson
Farewell Dinner at the Bull Run Restaurant

This morning we visit the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve, a privately owned, non-subsidized game reserve, covering approximately 1200ha on the typical Highveld of Gauteng. The reserve which is situated in the Cradle of Humankind was founded in 1985 by Ed Hern, a well known stockbroker, with the aim of preserving this beautiful area for private leisure. Prior to this, the land was utilised as a dairy and agricultural produce farm. From a modest beginning of two white rhinos, “Ouvrou” and “Bulle”, imported from a zoo in Germany, and some antelope species, the reserve now boasts 600 head of game representing 25 different species.

We visit the reserve at the same time the lions, cheetahs and wild dogs are hand-fed. We shall also enjoy a game drive with one of the reserve’s rangers. With roughly 600 head of game within the reserve, a visit is bound to include white rhino, buffalo, cheetah, hippo and antelope.

Another highlight is our visit to see the lion cubs, one of the species that forms part of the reserve’s breeding program. Most of the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve’s focus is on their breeding program. No fewer than 18 white rhino calves have been born on the reserve. Other animals bred here include the Cape wild dog, Bengal tigers, Siberian tigers and the white lion. Another interesting project of the reserve is the vulture restaurant – literally a way of providing the vultures that live in the surrounding Magaliesberg with carcasses, donated by local farmers. Up to 200 birds feast at a time in the reserve.

Our progam concludes with a visit to the private estate of Iwan and Irene Roux to further study the work of landscape designer Patrick Watson. Unlike many of his contemporaries, his work has no one distinctive stamp that indelibly marks a garden as his; rather he strives to create something unique for each client. With flair and originality he combines local species into a natural looking ecology that will have interest throughout the year within an ecologically sound background.

In 1991 he was awarded the “Honorary Landscape Architect and Member of the South African Institute of Landscape Architects” in appreciation for his contribution to many of South Africa’s finest gardens. His work covers an immense range of projects – from tiny domestic private gardens to vast industrial estates, hotel complexes, golf courses and even entire farms.

In the mid-afternoon we shall return to our hotel where there will be some at leisure. In the early evening we shall remeet for a group evening farewell meal at the Bull Run Restaurant. (Overnight Sandton, Johannesburg) BLD

Day 20: Thursday 3 October, Depart Johannesburg
Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight.

Our tour ends in Johannesburg. Passengers travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport for the return flight to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in South Africa. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

 

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 20-day Garden Tour of South Africa involves:

  • A moderate amount of walking mainly during outdoor site visits, often up and down hills (incl. steep inclines at Cape Point and in Knysna Forest) and/or flights of stairs, and uneven terrain at gardens, along forest tracks, and in nature reserves (Wildflower Reserves, Table Mountain, Knysna Forest & Knysna Elephant Park). You therefore need to be a good walker and also be prepared to stand for some time in front of buildings, art works and during guided tours of museums and gardens.
  • Moderate coach travel – often on minor roads, and two internal flights (Day 14: George to Durban; Day 17: Durban to Johannesburg).
  • A daily schedule often involving early-morning departures (between 8.00-8.30am) and concluding in the late afternoon (6.00-6.30pm).
  • Evening cruise on Knysna Lagoon (Day 13).
  • This tour includes the use of audio headsets, which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
    4-& 5-star hotels with six hotel changes.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
  • It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace.
  • ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Visa Requirements for South Africa

Australian, New Zealand and British passport holders do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days provided they have return/onward tickets and two completely blank pages in their passport. Please also note you will need at least six months validity on your passport from your return date.

A Taste of Tasmania: Spring Gardens, Cradle Mountain & Gourmet Delights

A Taste of Tasmania: Spring Gardens, Cradle Mountain & Gourmet Delights

 

ITINERARY:

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

 

Hobart – 4 nights

 

Day 1: Saturday 16 November, Arrive Hobart

Morning airport transfer for participants arriving on the ASA designated flight

Time at leisure (optional visit to the Salamanca Market)
Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens incl. the Tasmanian Community Food Garden
Welcome Drinks

Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ morning flight will be transferred from the airport to our heritage hotel, a 19th-century sandstone mansion, which is in the historic area of Battery Point and a short stroll from Salamanca Place’s Georgian warehouses that now house galleries and boutiques. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group ready for our afternoon tour.

On arrival there will be some time at leisure to explore Hobart’s colourful Saturday Salamanca Market as the hotel check in is 2.00pm.Salamanca Market is on the Hobart waterfront and is an eclectic mix of more than 300 stallholders. You can buy some locally produced fare for lunch, or dine in a nearby café, and it’s a great place to meet the artisans, watch buskers and soak up the atmosphere while you browse stalls with jewellery, handcrafted timber items, vintage collectables, pottery, plants and flowers.

Our program will officially commence this afternoon with a guided tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens, including the Tasmanian Community Food Garden which was completed in 2013 on the site of the original ‘Pete’s Patch’ developed by gardening guru Peter Cundall. This working organic production and display garden, with a multitude of veggie production practices has a working example of the original six-bed crop rotation system made famous in the original patch. The site today is used extensively for filming on ABC television’s Gardening Australia program.

We’ll visit the only place outside of the sub Antarctic where you can see the biodiversity of subantarctic plants from Macquarie Island and other subantarctic islands between Tasmania and Antarctica. The gardens also have collections of Tasmanian plants and noteworthy areas include the ‘Friends’ Mixed Border’ and the Japanese garden. We end the day with Welcome Drinks at the hotel. (Overnight Lenna of Hobart Hotel)

 

Day 2: Sunday 17 November, Hobart – Huon Valley – Glazier’s Bay – Hobart

Crawleighwood Nursery and Garden, Huon Valley
Long Table Lunch at Fat Pig Farm, Glazier’s Bay

Our first visit is to Crawleighwood, at Nicholls Rivulet in the Huon Valley. Here, Penny Wells and Pavel Rusicka have created a 2-hectare garden comprising rhododendrons, Japanese maples, woodland perennials, rainforest species and native Tasmanian plants. Crawleighwood contains at least one specimen of each Tasmanian conifer, including the iconic Huon pine.

Our sumptuous long table lunch will feature food grown at Fat Pig Farm in Glazier’s Bay, the home of chef Matthew Evans, former restaurant reviewer and presenter of the SBS show Gourmet Farmer. The show is filmed at the farm and between courses we’ll tour the 70-acre mixed farm which has a 1.7-acre market garden, rare Wessex saddleback pigs, beef cattle, beehives, fruit orchard and micro-dairy. (Overnight Lenna of Hobart Hotel) BL

 

Day 3: Monday 18 November, Hobart – Neika – Russell Falls – Hamilton – Hobart

Sally Johannsohn’s Garden & Nursery, Neika
Russell Falls, Mount Field National Park
Prospect Villa & Gardens, Hamilton

This morning we travel to Neika in the foothills of Mt Wellington, where plantswoman Sally Johannsohn has created a 2-acre, contemporary perennial garden to complement her nursery called Plant Hunters. Sally was ‘guest gardener’ at Chanticleer, one of America’s most imaginative and exciting public gardens in 2014 and since then has concentrated on succession planting, adding more bulbs and annuals to extend the flowering season. The garden has rich basalt soils supporting many unusual perennials and shrubs from Asia, North America’s woodlands and Europe, which show the beauty and variety of ornamental plants.

Next we drive to Russell Falls at Mount Field National Park which is part of Tasmania’s World Heritage Wilderness Area. Featured on Australia’s first stamp, Russell Falls consists of two vertical drops; the 20-minute return walk to the falls is on a good track and boardwalk through lovely rainforest. The walk passes through towering swamp gums and areas close to the falls are framed by stunning tall tree ferns. A light lunch can be purchased at the Waterfalls Café and Gallery.

At Prospect Villa, overlooking the village of Hamilton, Helen Poynder has spent more than 35 years creating two different gardens surrounding her sandstone home. The romantic English garden, divided by hedging, overflows with roses, clematis and delphiniums. It has a white garden, herbaceous border, urn garden, round garden, secret garden and long walk. On the hotter western side house is a formal Renaissance-style garden inspired by visits to Italy. In the late afternoon we return to Hobart for an evening at leisure. (Overnight Lenna of Hobart Hotel) B

 

Day 4: Tuesday 19 November, Hobart – New Norfolk – Derwent Valley – Hobart

Rosedown Gardens, New Norfolk
Sumptuous lunch at the Agrarian Kitchen, Farm & Orchard, Derwent Valley
Gardens of Corinda, Glebe

This morning we travel northwest to the region of New Norfolk, the residential heart of the Derwent Valley which has a rich history, quality produce and pretty rural scenery.

Hundreds of roses bloom at Rosedown Gardens, a 4.5-acre garden transformed from orchards and hopfields by Ian and Brenda Triffitt into a garden with an emphasis on roses. The garden is relaxed and romantic and surrounds a 1840s riverside cottage set against towering eucalypts. We’ll be wowed by gorgeous heritage, David Austin and Alister Clark roses which team with spring flowering perennials and shrubs. Hedged grass paths weave between specimen trees and vine-covered arbours and more roses and iris surround a big pond.

We’ll have a sumptuous paddock-to-plate lunch at the Agrarian Kitchen, a restaurant committed to reconnecting the kitchen with the land. The restaurant is on a 5-acre working farm with an extensive vegetable garden, orchard, berry patch and herb garden. Many heirloom plants are grown using organic principles and rare-breed Wessex Saddleback and Berkshire pigs, Barnevelder chickens, milking goats, a flock of geese and honeybees are also in residence.

Returning to Glebe, a suburb of Hobart, we visit the enchanting gardens of Corinda, which compliment the Italianate Victorian home built in 1880 by former Hobart lord mayor Alfred Crisp. The 1796 sqm property is divided into garden rooms with different effects, some are romantic and a little wild, others very formal with box hedges. The garden’s sculptural feel is created by hedges of pleached linden, espaliered fruit trees, a cobblestone courtyard and topiary animals. (Overnight Lenna of Hobart Hotel) BL

 

Launceston – 3 nights

 

Day 5: Wednesday 20 November, Hobart – MONA – Broadmarsh – Launceston

MONA – Museum of Old and New Art, Hobart
Weston Farm, near Broadmarsh

This morning we travel to the Berriedale Peninsula and the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA), an art museum that is the antithesis of the traditional gallery. It was created to be shocking, educational and entertaining with the confronting themes of passion, death and decay explored in unflinching detail. The controversial artworks are all from the private collections of arty eccentric David Walsh, a mathematician and art collector who made his money perfecting algorithms that let him beat casinos and bookies at their own game. Like it or not, you’ll be talking about it for years.

Nearby is Weston Farm, a small family business specialising in exquisite Peony roses, award-winning extra virgin olive oil and fresh farm produce. Horticulturist-turned-farmer Richard Weston and his wife Belinda purchased the farm in 1992 and transformed a bare 5.3-hectare property, about 30 minutes north of Hobart, into a successful mixed enterprise. In 2012 Richard was awarded the prestigious 2012 Nuffield Scholarship sponsored by Impact Fertilisers and the Tasmanian Government to investigate white asparagus production for the gourmet market, and in 2016, Weston Farm won the Delicious Produce Awards for their Smoked Paprika.

Richard and Belinda will show us their beautiful working farm, where everything conforms to organic and sustainable farming practices. Beyond the house and vegetable garden is the olive grove and open fields of peonies which will be at their peak when we visit. Weston Farm has over 30 different varieties, colours and forms, varying from soft voluptuous double pinks, dramatic bright crimson, delicate single whites, antique semi double corals and everything in between.

We shall then enjoy a lunch in the garden and sample some of the fresh farm produce that the family grows for fine restaurants such as The Source at MONA and their own café, Pigeonhole, in Hobart.

In the late afternoon we continue our drive north to the Peppers Seaport Hotel in Launceston, a waterfront hotel built on a former dry dock at the confluence of the North Esk, South Esk and Tamar rivers. (Overnight Peppers Seaport Hotel, Launceston) BL

 

Day 6: Thursday 21 November, Launceston – Longford – Carrick – Glengarry – Launceston

Woolmers Estate, National Rose Garden of Australia, Longford
Hawthorn Villa, Carrick (subject to confirmation closer to the date)
Garden of Jodi Broomby, Tamar Valley, Glengarry

Today we begin with a visit to Woolmers, a World Heritage-listed convict site with rose gardens displaying all the recognised rose families and one of the finest collections of historic roses in the southern hemisphere. It also has a grand productive vegetable garden. The 82-hectare property, founded in 1817 by prominent grazier and member of parliament, Thomas Archer, includes a two-part manor house, coach house, extensive outbuildings and convict cottages.

Hawthorn Villa is a Victorian gothic revival property situated on a hill with views over the countryside and the Liffey River. Its two acres of parklike gardens include a National Trust Listed grove of magnificent sequoias that were thought to have been planted more than 150 years ago, predating the house. Nicole and Innes Pearce moved to the home in 2003 and have created the two-acre garden from scratch. Innes is a former landscaper and has reflected the home’s symmetry in the garden which has extensive use of clipped box hedging. Areas of the garden have a maturity that belies the actual age of the garden as some of the plants have been rescued and re-homed. There are almost 100 individual, old English-style topiaries and a 40-year-old wisteria is the centrepiece for the white garden, which includes white iris, pentstemons and foxgloves. The white theme is continued elsewhere with a white dovecote and doves.

This afternoon we visit the private gardens of Jodi Broomby, located in the Tamar Valley, a region of premium vineyards, scenic pastures and forests. Jodi Broomby is a dedicated plantswoman and when she isn’t milking cows, she spends all her free time in the garden and home nursery. She uses plants to create structure in her garden by layering them from tall shrubs at the back down to smaller plants at the front. Her roses include many David Austin varieties which she teams with favourites like species geraniums and delphiniums and less common perennials like sanguisorba and phuopsis, morina, Aquilegia rockii and verbascum. (Overnight Peppers Seaport Hotel, Launceston) BL

 

Day 7: Friday 22 November, Launceston – Lalla – Pipers River – Launceston

The Pear Walk Country Garden, Lalla
Lunch at Bay of Fires Winery, Pipers River
Karen Johnson’s Garden, Pipers River

Today we begin with a visit to The Pear Walk country garden in Lalla. Remarkable garden walks and arches, created in the early 1900s by Frank Walker, a Kew trained plantsman, are hallmarks of this historic garden. The garden has a fairytale ambience and the centrepiece is a 500-foot-long pear arch with 24 trees on each side, twenty feet apart. New trees have been planted to replace those that have succumbed to age. Rhododendrons, azaleas and bulbs bloom beneath the tree canopy. The owners are restoring the historic arbour walk, which has magnificent trees including the original tree fern, liriodendron and cypress. More recent features include a laburnum walk, climbing roses and parkland gardens.

Today we enjoy lunch and wine-tasting at the Bay of Fires Winery, which is nestled in lush towering woodlands along the banks of the Pipers River. The Pipers River farming area has emerged during the past decade as Tasmania’s premier wine-growing district. Although the industry is small and new by national standards, the wines produced within the region are acknowledged as among the best in Australia.

Landscape designer Karen Johnson is, for the first time, opening her own home garden which she has developed on a 100-acre property, with one kilometre of Pipers River frontage and views to Mt Arthur. She’ll show us how she created a home garden using a blend of native and exotic plants on a windy, hilltop site. She moved there in 2010 and lived in the shed while establishing gardens and building an architect-designed black steel and blackbutt timber home. She’ll share her thoughts on designing for a view, the marathon of river weed removal and revegetation, swap tips for building productive vegetable gardens and provide insights on the advantages of working with a garden designer. (Overnight Peppers Seaport Hotel, Launceston) BL

 

Cradle Mountain – 3 nights

 

Day 8: Saturday 23 November, Launceston – Westbury – Cradle Mountain

Culzean Gardens, Westbury
‘Devils@Cradle’ – Tasmanian Devils Sanctuary

We begin today with a visit to the Culzean Gardens (pronounced ‘cullane’), a 13-hectare property with almost 3 hectares of parklike gardens and a 3-acre lake fringed with thousands of iris. The home was built in 1840 and many significant driveway trees were planted in the 1870s. The property has hundreds of conifers and mature trees, rhododendrons and azaleas and hundreds of roses.

In the afternoon we continue our journey west to Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, an integral part of Tasmania’s World Heritage area. The region is characterised by rugged peaks, deep gorges, glacial lakes, heathlands, Button grass moors and ancient forest.

Following some time relaxing at our hotel, we’ll meet Tasmania’s most famous animal, the Tasmanian devil. They look cute and cuddly but have a ruffian personality. We’ll also learn about the devastating facial tumour disease threatening these Tassie natives. Our early evening visit allows us to observe the amazing night-time antics of these devils at feeding time. (Overnight Cradle Mountain Hotel) BLD

 

Day 9: Sunday 24 November, Cradle Mountain – Nietta – Cradle Mountain

Dove Lake Walk
Cruickshanks Lookout, Leven Canyon
Kaydale Lodge Gardens, Nietta

Early this morning our coach takes us to Dove Lake for a six-kilometre, two-hour walk around the lake. Much of the track, which is under the towering shadow of Cradle Mountain, is boarded for easy walking. We’ll see Glacier Rock and walk through the tranquil Ballroom Forest where myrtle-beech trees are festooned in moss. On our walk we’ll be on the lookout for Australia’s only cold-climate deciduous tree. Nothofagus gunnii is also known as tanglefoot as bushwalkers sometimes get caught in its twisted, ground-hugging branches. You’ll only find it in Tasmania! Note: If you prefer to sleep in you can take a leisurely half hour stroll along the walking track at the rear of our hotel.

We’ll return briefly to the hotel before setting out for Leven Canyon, Tasmania’s deepest limestone ravine. Here, a well-maintained track (20-minute return walk), takes us to Cruickshanks Lookout, which provides breathtaking views of the canyon floor 275 metres below (where the Leven River flows), and views of Black Bluff and the surrounding countryside.

Just north of Leven Canyon lies Kaydale, a 2-hectare garden, created by two garden-obsessed generations of the Crowden family. The four gardeners have their own interests and gardens include a grand rockery with a waterfall, one of Tasmania’s best collections of deciduous trees, a vegetable patch, a pear walk with 27 espaliered trees, woodlands garden with a stream and Japanese style zen garden with raked gravel and bonsai. Featured plants in November include peonies and waratah. (Overnight Cradle Mountain Hotel) BLD

 

Day 10: Monday 25 November, Cradle Mountain – Barrington – Mole Creek – Chudleigh – Cradle Mountain

Jennifer Stackhouse’s Garden, Barrington
Wychwood Garden, Mole Creek
Old WesleyDale, Mole Creek
Melita Honey Farm, Chudleigh

You’ll remember today as one of the best days you’ve ever spent touring gardens!

Jennifer Stackhouse is a renowned Australian garden writer, editor and author of several gardening books who will, for the first time, open her one-acre Barrington garden in Tasmania’s lush northwest to an interstate garden group. She moved there from NSW in July 2014, attracted by the timber Federation home set in an old garden with a small orchard and mature trees that had been lovingly planted and tended for 28 years by keen gardeners. The area she now calls home enjoys a cool climate with high rainfall and has rich red soil. We’ll be able to admire foxgloves, poppies, peonies, clematis, roses, rhododendrons and dogwoods, hear about the changes she has made and what it’s like making a ‘cool’ change.

Most people think that Wychwood is Tasmania’s finest garden and today you get to decide for yourself. Wychwood was nothing more than a paddock in 1991 and today mixes sweeping borders of rare perennials and heritage roses with an outstanding contemporary design unlike any other garden we visit. The garden is a work of art with inspired planning and use of materials and plants that ranges from subtle to surprising. The most talked about and photographed feature of the 1-hectare garden is a medieval turf labyrinth but you’ll also love the winding privet hedges, a heritage apple orchard with resident geese, birch copse, water features and woodland.

Old WesleyDale is a glorious English style garden that started in 2001, aided by a backdrop of mature trees and hawthorns from the 1940s that create hedges in the wider landscape. Features include a walled garden for vegetables, picking garden and glass house, a terrace garden and aviary, ha-ha walk, lake walk and an amazing sculptured elephant edge created from honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida) that will have you reaching for your secateurs once you get home!

Bees do much more than just pollinate and at Melita Honey Farm you can look into a glass-backed hive and see the queen bee laying eggs and the workers spinning the nectar into liquid gold! They produce 50 varieties of honey, nougat and 12 flavours of honey ice cream. How sweet is that! (Overnight Cradle Mountain Hotel) BLD

 

Day 11: Tuesday 26 November, Cradle Mountain – Longford – Launceston Airport

Brickendon – a World Heritage-listed Colonial Farm Village, Longford
Farewell Lunch at Josef Chromy Wines

Transfer to Launceston Airport (arrival approx. 1600hrs)
Brickendon, like Woolmers, was settled by William Archer, in 1824 and has been owned and farmed by the same family for over 180 years. Members of the fifth generation of Archers are now tending the gardens. We’ll see the convict buildings of the farm village and check out the roses, shrubs and some of the oldest trees in Australia including oaks, elms, pines, cedars, yews and lindens and gardens with cool climate specialty plants like old fashioned roses and clematis.

We conclude our tour with a farewell lunch at Josef Chromy Wines, set among old English gardens and stands of 100-year-old oak trees, and overlooking a picturesque lake and vineyard. Acclaimed as one of Australia’s top 10, the cellar door is housed in the original 1880s homestead. The restaurant matches the best local regional produce with award-winning cool climate wines. BL

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 11-day Cultural Garden Tour of Tasmania involves:

  • A moderate amount of walking mainly during outdoor site visits, often up and down hills and/or flights of stairs and uneven terrain
  • A moderate amount of coach travel, several on winding mountainous roads
  • The daily schedule generally involves an early-morning departure (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (between 5.00-5.30pm)
  • 4-star hotels with 2 hotel changes
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage only includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
  • It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace.
  • ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on weather, clothing and what to pack.

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

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

 

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

 

ITINERARY

 

York, Yorkshire – 6 nights

 

Day 1: Tuesday 28 May, Manchester Airport – Adel – York

 

Arrive Manchester Airport and transfer to Leeds
York Gate Garden: Guided tour of gardens and afternoon tea
Light (2-course) evening meal

Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Manchester Airport around midday. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to York, where we spend the next six nights. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Manchester Airport Arrivals Hall – please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time.

En route to York we visit the highly innovative ‘paradise’ garden of York Gate, a one-acre garden tucked away behind the ancient church in Adel, on the northern outskirts of Leeds. Created by the Spencer family during the second half of the 20th century, and in 1994 bequeathed to Perennial, the Gardeners’ Royal Benevolent Society (founded 1839), it is a garden of extraordinary style and craftsmanship, widely recognised as one of the most innovative small gardens of the period. The garden is divided by yew and beech hedges into a series of smaller gardens, each with its own theme and style. From the formality of the herb garden with its topiary, to the dell with its half-hidden pathways and stream, every area has an intimacy and charm of its own. Traditional materials are used with creativity and invention. From pretty paths to pergolas, detailing throughout is exquisite. Evergreens, clipped into strong architectural shapes, are used to spectacular effect throughout the garden. Tonight we enjoy a light (2-course) evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight York) D

 

Day 2: Wednesday 29 May, York – Harewood – Harrogate – York

 

Harewood House: Private tour, Thomas Chippendale and the Watercolours Collection
Spa Town of Harrogate
Evening Welcome Reception at Fairfax House (Exclusive private visit, to be confirmed in 2018)

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

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

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

 

Day 3: Thursday 30 May, York

 

Guided Walking Tour of York, including York Minster
Afternoon at leisure

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

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

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

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

Our walking tour includes a visit to York Minster, one of England’s greatest cathedrals, which has a long, intricate history. The present building, which has the finest medieval stained glass in England, had a number of precursors. In 1069, for example, the Normans destroyed the Anglo-Saxon cathedral and so in 1080 its Archbishop, Thomas, began a new cathedral that was completed in 1100. In 1137 its east end was destroyed by fire. A new Romanesque choir was built in 1175, a south transept added in 1220, and the north transept completed in 1253. In 1394 the present choir was begun, and the foundations of the Lady Chapel laid in 1361. In 1338, the Great West Window was completed. The Great East Window followed in 1405, and the Minster, now completed, was consecrated in 1472. Meanwhile, the Minster’s original west towers had collapsed. The Minster became caught up in the Reformation – Thomas Wolsey was archbishop here – and in the Civil War, York remained a centre of Catholicism in England. 18th-century damage by fire and 19th-century restoration further modified this great building. Major restoration occurred again after another fire in 1984; in consequence York University has become one of England’s most important architectural conservation centres.

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

 

Day 4: Friday 31 May, York – Fountains Abbey – Newby Hall – York

 

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal: Tour of Cistercian Abbey & Georgian Water Garden
Church of St Mary
Church of Christ the Consoler
Newby Hall & Gardens

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 5: Saturday 1 June, York – Castle Howard – Thirsk – Markenfield

 

Hall – York
Castle Howard: Private Guided tour of house & morning tea
Market Town of Thirsk, the Darrowby of the late James Herriot
Markenfield Hall

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 6: Sunday 2 June, York – Scampston Estate – Mansion Cottage – Burton Agnes Hall – York

 

Walled Garden of Scampston Hall
Mansion Cottage
Burton Agnes Hall

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

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

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

 

Buxton, Derbyshire – 4 nights

 

Day 7: Monday 3 June, York – Renishaw Hall – Haddon Hall – Buxton

 

Renishaw Hall: Private Literary Tour of the Sitwell family home & gardens (to be confirmed in 2018)
Bakewell
Haddon Hall

We depart York early this morning and travel south to Renishaw Hall, a country house in Derbyshire where the Sitwell family has lived in this ancestral home for nearly four centuries. On arrival we take a tour of Renishaw’s beautiful Italianate garden, park and lake, that were created by Sir George Sitwell, father of Osbert, Edith and Sacheverall. Sir George spent much of his life in Italy, where he had bought the huge former palace-villa of the Florentine Acciaiuoli family, Montegufoni. In England, he wanted to create an Italian garden in contrast to Gertrude Jekyll’s ‘colourful’ designs. The use of water, fountains, temples, cave and avenues adds effect and shelter for tender specimen plants.

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

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

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

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

 

Day 8: Tuesday 4 June, Buxton – Peak District – Castleton – Lyme Park – Buxton

 

White Peak District
Castleton Village, Peak District National Park
Lyme Park, House & Garden
Lecture by Sir Richard FitzHerbert: ‘Country Houses of Derbyshire’

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

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

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

 

Day 9: Wednesday 5 June, Buxton – Tissington Hall – Chatsworth House – Buxton

 

Tissington Hall & Gardens
Tissington Village & Norman Church of St Mary
Chatsworth House: one of the grandest Whig country houses (to be confirmed in 2018)

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

This afternoon we visit Chatsworth House, one of the grandest Whig country houses, situated in a spectacular landscape in the heart of the Peak District. It is the home of the 12th Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, of the Cavendish family. The late Duchess, born Deborah Mitford (Debo) (1920-2014), the youngest of the famous Mitford sisters, revived the economy of the estate after it had been almost destroyed by death duties following the death of the 10th Duke in 1950 (the Chatsworth Settlement). The core of the house is from 1552, but its great days date from the 1690s, after the 4th Earl of Devonshire was created 1st Duke in 1694 for his part in the Glorious Revolution (1688). Generations of prominent Whigs followed and so Chatsworth represents the first phase of the great Whig country house (Stowe represents the second). The 1st Duke rebuilt the old house in stages, adding its fine Baroque façades, and it was substantially complete by 1707. The Painted Hall, whose ceilings and walls carry scenes of the life of Julius Caesar (1692-94) by Louis Laguerre, leads to a grand staircase. The State Apartments are the most important late Baroque presentation rooms in England, with ceilings by Laguerre and Mortlake tapestries made from Raphael’s tapestry cartoons now in the Victoria & Albert Museum. The chapel, designed by Cibber, is equally impressive, with illusionistic paintings by Laguerre and woodcarvings by Grinling Gibbons.

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

 

Day 10: Thursday 6 June, Buxton – Quarry Bank – Buxton – Baslow Hall – Buxton

 

Quarry Bank Mill & Styal Estate
Walking Tour of Buxton, followed by time at leisure
Group Dinner at Fischer’s, Baslow Hall

This morning we drive to Quarry Bank Mill, a rare Georgian cotton mill that is both one of Britain’s most important industrial heritage sites as well as a working mill that produces over 9000m (10,000 yards) of cloth each year. Founded in 1784 by a young textile merchant, Samuel Greg, Quarry Bank Mill was one of the first generation of water-powered cotton spinning mills. By the 1830s Samuel Greg & Co. was one of the largest cotton manufacturing businesses in Britain with four other mills as well as Quarry Bank.

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

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

 

Chester, Cheshire – 3 nights

 

Day 11: Friday 7 June, Buxton – Little Moreton – Biddulph Grange Garden – Chester

 

Little Moreton Hall
Biddulph Grange Garden: Private guided tour of this amazing Victorian Garden

This morning we drive to Little Moreton Hall for a guided tour of one of Britain’s finest timber-framed, moated Tudor manor houses, which featured in David Dimbleby’s How we built Britain documentary (2007). Of particular importance is its magnificent Long Gallery that has unusual plasterwork. Its grounds feature a delightful knot garden.

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

We next drive a short distance to the city of Chester, lying on the River Dee, close to the border of Wales. (Overnight Chester) B

 

Day 12: Saturday 8 June, Chester

 

Walking Tour of Chester
Guided Tour of Chester Cathedral
Afternoon at leisure

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

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

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

 

Day 13: Sunday 9 June, Chester – Liverpool – Chester

 

Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool
Time at leisure at Liverpool’s refurbished Albert Dock
The Beatles sites: Penny Lane, Strawberry Field, Mendips and 20 Forthlin Road (exteriors)

Liverpool, with its famous waterfront on the River Mersey, is a great shipping port and industrial center and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. King John launched Liverpool on its road to glory when he granted it a charter in 1207. Before that, it had been a tiny 12th-century fishing village, but it quickly became a port for shipping men and materials to Ireland. In the 18th century, it grew to prominence because of the sugar, spice, and tobacco trade with the Americans. By the time Victoria came to the throne, Liverpool had become Britain’s biggest commercial seaport.

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

We take a short walk to Liverpool’s recently refurbished Albert Dock, where there will be time at leisure to explore this precinct. Albert Dock features a number of museums, including the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the award-winning ‘Beatle Story’ and numerous restaurants and cafés. In your leisure time you may wish to visit the Tate Liverpool, which displays much of the National Collection of 20th-century art, complemented by changing art exhibitions of international standing such as the prints of Joan Miró or the sculptures of the iconoclastic British sculptress Rachel Whiteread.

Before returning to Chester we make a short tour to view a number of the sites associated with the Beatles including Penny Lane, Strawberry Field and the childhood homes of John Lennon and Sir Paul McCartney. (Overnight Chester) B

 

Portmeirion, Wales – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Monday 10 June, Chester – Erddig Hall – Powis Castle – Portmeirion

 

Erddig Hall: private tour of house
Powis Castle and Garden
Dinner at Hotel Portmeirion

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 15: Tuesday 11 June, Portmeirion – Caernarfon – Llanberis – Snowdonia National Park – Portmeirion

 

Caernarfon Castle: the greatest of the Edwardian Castles
Dolbardarn Castle (exterior only)
Snowdon Mountain Railway – excursion by diesel engine to summit
Dinner at Castell Deudraeth

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

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

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

 

Day 16: Wednesday 12 June, Portmeirion – Harlech – Plas Brondanw – Portmeirion

 

Harlech Castle
Plas Brondanw Gardens
Afternoon at leisure in the village of Portmeirion

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

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

 

Bodysgallen Hall, Conwy, Wales – 3 nights

 

Day 17: Thursday 13 June, Portmeirion – Gwydir Castle – Bodnant Garden – Bodysgallen Hall

 

Gwydir Castle
Bodnant Garden
Gardens of Bodysgallen Hall
Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall

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

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

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

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

 

Day 18: Friday 14 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Penrhyn Castle – Conwy – Bodysgallen Hall

 

Penrhyn Castle
Time at leisure in Conwy
Plas Mawr
Conwy Castle

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

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

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

This evening we are at leisure. You may wish to dine at Bodysgallen Hall, or perhaps take a short taxi ride (approx. 10 mins) to the seaside town of Llandudno. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) B

 

Day 19: Saturday 15 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Anglesey Island – Bodysgallen Hall

 

Plas Newydd House & Gardens
Bryn Celli Ddu Burial Chamber
Farewell Dinner at Bodysgallen Hall

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

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

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

In the late afternoon we return to Conwy, where we shall enjoy a farewell dinner together at Bodysgallen Hall. (Overnight Bodysgallen Hall) BLD

 

Day 20: Sunday 16 June, Bodysgallen Hall – Manchester Airport. Tour Ends.

Departure transfer to Manchester Airport
This morning we depart Bodysgallen Hall and travel to Manchester Airport for our return flight to Australia. The ASA ‘designated’ flight is scheduled to depart in the early afternoon. B

 

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

 

This 20-day Cultural Garden Tour of England & Wales involves:

A large amount of walking (ranging from one to five kilometres per day) often up and down hills, flights of stairs, cobbled streets, and uneven ground (especially during some of the garden site visits), and/or standing, interspersed with coach travel.
Extensive coach travel, some on winding country roads.
Visiting a range of towns and villages on foot, involving walks uphill from bus parks to historic town centres and other sites.
Many early-morning departures (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (5.30-6.30pm).
Travelling to the United Kingdom during summer. June is the sunniest month of the year across England and Wales. While the average day-time temperature is 18-20°C, in recent years England has experienced heatwaves reaching up to 35°C.
This tour includes the use of audio headsets, which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.

Other considerations:

3- to 5-star hotels with three hotel changes; some hotels do not have in-room air-conditioning.
You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
A trip on the Snowdon Mountain Railway (Diesel Service: Summit return – Day 15).
It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

National Trust Membership

It is a requirement that all travellers on this program have a current membership to the National Trust for the period of the tour. You will need to send a photocopy of your National Trust membership card to ASA prior to the start of the tour, and to carry your card with you throughout the tour program. Different types of National Trust membership are available (family, singles, etc) and the fees vary from state to state. For assistance in joining the National Trust and completing these formalities, please contact ASA.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Gardens of New Zealand with Helen Young

Gardens of New Zealand with Helen Young

 

Join garden writer Helen Young to explore the best of New Zealand’s springtime gardens, including the spectacular annual Taranaki Garden Festival.

New Zealand is a hidden gem of garden design, combining English landscape garden design with colonial heritage, indigenous flora and Māori reverence for the natural world.

Begin in Christchurch on the South Island and wander through Broadfield Garden and the elegant Ohinetahi. Visit Upton Oaks, Paripuma and Bankhouse near Blenheim and then cross the Cook Strait to the North Island to visit the annual Taranaki Garden Festival in New Plymouth, where scores of private gardens open their gates to visitors for just a few days in the year. Conclude in Auckland, with a visit to Ayrlies Garden, the ‘quintessential New Zealand garden’.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• In the Christchurch region, wander through the carefully structured Ohinetahi Garden and then visit Broadfield, which combines rhododendrons, lilies and daffodils with a forest of indigenous ferns and Kauri trees
• In New Plymouth, explore private gardens open only during the Taranaki Garden Festival, an annual showcase of more than 40 gardens, celebrity chef demonstrations and guided walks
• Visit the knot-garden of Upton Oaks in Blenheim, and the gardens of Barewood in Awatere, designed to complement a century-old homestead, and Ayrlies Garden in Auckland
• Enjoy the wine of New Zealand’s famed Marlborough region, one of the great Sauvignon Blanc producers of the world.

 

TOUR LEADER:

Horticulturist, garden writer, presenter and author, Helen Young has led more than 20 garden tours internationally and domestically. She is well known for her weekly columns in The Weekend Australian over the last 17 years, and as House and Garden magazine’s garden writer for more than 10 years. Sydneysiders know her as a long-term regular expert on ABC Sydney Radio’s Saturday morning gardening program, but she also runs her own successful horticulture business.

 

Friday 19 October 2018 / Arrive Christchurch

Suggested afternoon arrival in Christchurch. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements. In the evening join Helen and fellow garden lovers for a special welcome dinner. (D)

 

Sat 20 Nov / Christchurch

Today explore two outstanding gardens. First visit Broadfield New Zealand Landscape Garden, a 3.5 hectare showcase garden established in the 1990s. Many native plants are used formally and informally as are NZ-raised varieties of azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, maples, peonies and roses. It includes a Kauri forest with over 100 trees and scores of species of other forest trees, shrubs, climbers and ferns.
After lunch, visit Ohinetahi, a well-structured, carefully designed garden created by architect Sir Miles Warren which consists of a number of formal rooms, of differing style and character. The garden houses an important sculpture collection and a small art gallery. Hedges are used to shelter plants that would otherwise struggle in the high winds. Features include a herb potager, box-edged rose garden, herbaceous borders, a ‘Red Garden’, gazebo, rectangular pond, arched bridge and statues. There are spectacular views down to Lyttleton Harbour. Enjoy afternoon tea in the garden before returning to your hotel for an evening at leisure.(BL)

 

Sun 21 Oct / Christchurch – Greymouth

Enjoy a morning to explore the Christchurch Botanic Gardens. Founded in 1863 with the planting of an English oak tree, over the years natural wetlands and sand dunes have been transformed into an elegantly cultivated 21 hectare park with more than 10 different gardens framed by mature trees and expansive lawns, which are mostly contained within a loop of the Avon River.

After lunch in the gardens, depart Christchurch for a scenic drive over the Southern Alps to Greymouth. Drive across the Canterbury Plain and climb to more than 900 metres through Arthur’s Pass National Park before descending to Greymouth. In the late afternoon, arrive in Greymouth, known for its gold mining heritage and pounamu (New Zealand jade). (BLD)

 

Mon 22 Oct / Greymouth – Blenheim

Depart Greymouth and travel along the scenic West Coast, stopping to see the New Zealand fur seal colony at Cape Foulwind and the Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes.

Begin your exploration of the Marlborough area and its gardens with Bankhouse Garden, one of the highlights of the Wairau Valley. Meander through the lower level into a shaded gully that hosts rhododendrons and bog plants. Continue towards the house and onwards to the upper level garden terraces where you find rambling roses and a variety of drought-resistant plants. In the afternoon, arrive in Blenheim, our base for the next three nights. (BD)

 

Tue 23 Oct / Blenheim

After breakfast, visit Barewood Garden for a guided tour and lunch. Recognised as a ‘Garden of National Significance’, Barewood garden is designed to complement the 100-year-old homestead, and features formal allées of hawthorn and Malus, plantings of unusual trees and shrubs and a classic potager featuring espaliered fruit.

Continue to Paripuma Garden, with its unique collection of indigenous and rare plant species that have created a haven for wildlife on what was once a bare sandy paddock.

Depart for a visit to Allan Scott Wines, the family-owned winery established by Allan and Catherine Scott. Enjoy a wine tasting and free time in the European-style courtyard with its exceptional gardens and vistas over the vineyards beyond. (BL)

 

Wed 24 Oct / Blenheim

Begin with a visit to Huguette Michel’s Hortensia House. The Monet-inspired garden is informal in design and is loosely themed on blue and yellow, capturing an essence of serenity and reflecting the colours of the house. Huguette’s favourite shade of hydrangea is blue and these, along with lavenders, forget-me-nots, love-in-a-mists and other plants provide the blue tones throughout the garden. Yellow is provided by varieties of roses, pansies, daisies, aquilegias and gazanias.

Following a wine tasting and lunch at a local winery, visit Upton Oaks, the English-inspired garden of Dave and Sue Monahan developed around a restored 1911 Victorian villa. Brick walls, ponds, perennial borders and a 17th century style ‘knot-garden’ are divided into sections by colour. Upton Oaks is also recognised as a ‘Garden of National Significance’.
(BL)

 

Thu 25 Oct / Blenheim – Wellington

After breakfast, depart for Picton and enjoy the scenic crossing on the Interislander ferry to Wellington. The three-hour journey is considered one of the most spectacular cruises in the world. Arrive at the hotel in the early afternoon and enjoy some free time in Wellington. (BL)

 

Fri 26 Oct / Wellington

Begin with a walking orientation tour of the vibrant city of Wellington, nestled around the harbour and surrounded by natural scenery. See the famous ‘Beehive’ and Parliament Buildings and visit Saint Paul’s Cathedral.

Drive out of Wellington into the picturesque Ohariu Valley to Pepped Warbeck garden, another ‘Garden of Significance’. The garden consists of a majestic entrance and long curving drive, planted with Marlborough daisies and many different native trees and shrubs. Extensive lawns sweep down to the re-modelled bog garden which features five adjoining ponds planted with primulas, bog irises, hostas and gunnera.

After lunch, return to Wellington for a visit to the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, a fascinating centre dedicated to art, history and Māori culture. Its Māori name translates as ‘The Treasure Chest’. (BL)

 

Sat 27 Oct / Wellington – New Plymouth

Depart Wellington for a leisurely drive to New Plymouth. En route, stop for lunch and a visit to Nicki and Clive Higgie’s garden, Paloma, near Wanganui. This exotic ‘Garden of National Significance’ is landscaped with plants from all over the world, and is presented as several distinct zones, including the Palm Garden, the Desert House, the Garden of Death, the Bamboo Forests, the Jardin Exotique, the Wedding Lawn and the two Arboreta. In the afternoon, continue to New Plymouth, our base for the next four nights. (BL)

 

Sun 28 – Tue 30 Oct / New Plymouth (Taranaki Garden Festivals)

New Plymouth is home to the annual ten-day PowerCo Taranaki Garden Festival (formerly the Taranaki Rhododendron & Garden Festival), which showcases some of New Zealand’s most stunning private and public gardens.

The 2018 festival features over 40 diverse and inspiring gardens, including many ‘Gardens of National Significance’, newly-added gardens and more than a dozen special events. Nearly all of the gardens are private gardens and are opened exclusively for the duration of the festival.

The festival includes a mixture of events, including house and garden tours, celebrity chef demonstrations, guided walks, workshops and a diverse garden speaker series.

During this period, another garden festival also takes place in Taranaki region – the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival. The Fringe Festival includes a selection of gardens from cottage gardens to native gardens, highly structured to informal gardens, and is presented with a distinctive laid-back Kiwi charm.

Helen and the festival organisers will curate a stimulating programme in both the PowerCo Taranaki Garden Festival and the Taranaki Fringe Garden Festival, from the huge range of gardens and events on offer over the three days we will spend here.

In addition to its beautiful parks and gardens, the city of New Plymouth is known for its sunny climate and art galleries, while the conical shape of Mount Taranaki provides a dramatic backdrop to the city. Meanwhile, down at the waterfront are Puke Ariki, an integrated museum-library-heritage centre, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, New Zealand’s first museum of contemporary art, and the Len Lye Centre, the country’s first museum devoted to a single artist. (B, L or D)

 

Wed 31 Oct / New Plymouth – Hamilton – Auckland

Depart New Plymouth for a leisurely day’s drive to Auckland. En route, stop in Hamilton to visit the Hamilton Garden. Often mistakenly referred to as a ‘botanic garden’, Hamilton Garden is rather a collection of themed gardens, exploring different civilisations and recreating historically important garden styles from around the world. In the afternoon, continue to Auckland. (BD)

 

Thu 01 Nov / Auckland

Spend the day in some of Auckland’s most interesting gardens. In the morning, visit Ayrlies, situated in the gently rolling country of east Auckland. This is one of New Zealand’s best-known gardens, characterised by sweeping lawns and informal but detailed plantings beside ponds and waterways. Then visit Eden Garden with its collections of perennials, vireyas, camellias, bromeliads and native New Zealand plants. Return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure. In the evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Helen and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

Fri 02 Nov / Depart Auckland

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements, including flights and post-tour accommodation. (B)

 

Note: At time of publication (April 2018), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than two to three months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.

Gardens in Spanish Culture

Gardens in Spanish Culture

 

**Early-Bird special BOOK before 31 July**

 

ITINERARY

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

 

Seville – 3 nights

Day 1: Tuesday 14 May, Arrive Seville

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

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

 

Day 2: Wednesday 15 May, Seville

Welcome Meeting
Museum of Fine Arts (Museo de Bellas Artes)
Royal Alcázar of Seville
Welcome Dinner at a private 17-century palace

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

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

This evening we enjoy an exclusive Welcome Dinner at an elegantly restored private 17th-century Casa Palacio (stately home) in the heart of Seville, a short walk from our hotel. (Overnight Seville) BD

 

Day 3: Thursday 16 May, Seville

Santa Cruz Quarter and the Hospital de los Venerables (Fundación Focus)
Cathedral and Giralda of Seville
Casa de Pilatos

Today we walk through the Santa Cruz quarter, Seville’s medieval ghetto. Despite its narrow winding streets, this precinct grew in popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries. Aristocrats built small palaces here, without disturbing its original, picturesque street plan.

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

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

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

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

 

Córdoba – 2 nights

Day 4: Friday 17 May, Seville – Hornachuelos – Palma del Río – Córdoba

Gardens of the Palace of Moratalla, Hornachuelos
Lunch at the Monasterio de San Francisco, Palma del Río
Evening walking tour of the Patios of the Zona Alcazar Viejo, San Basilio District of Córdoba

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

Nearby, we enjoy lunch at the Restaurante Monasterio de San Francisco, a religious foundation founded by the seventh Lord of Palma in the late 15th century.

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

 

Day 5: Saturday 18 May, Córdoba

Synagogue, Córdoba
Great Mosque, Córdoba
Time at leisure
Late afternoon walking tour of Córdoba Patios including the patios of the Palacio de Viana

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

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

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

 

Ronda – 1 night

Day 6: Sunday 19 May, Córdoba – Ronda

Puente Nuevo, Ronda
Bullring, Ronda
Casa del Rey Moro, Ronda

Private palace garden, Ronda (by special appointment)
This morning we depart early for the magnificent Andalusian ‘white town’ of Ronda, dramatically sited on sheer cliffs above a deep ravine, with grand panoramic views framed by mountains. The early 19th-century artists David Roberts and J.F. Lewis both painted the picturesque view of the Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which spans the deep ravine, ‘El Tajo‘, separating the two parts of Ronda, the old Muslim town and the Christian district, the Mercadillo. The Guadelvin River cut this ravine, and the high bridge which spans it was built in the late 18th century. Of Roman origin, Ronda became an almost impregnable Muslim fortress city until the armies of Ferdinand and Isabella took it in 1485.

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

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

This evening we enjoy special access to one of Ronda’s finest stately residences. The Palacio is an 18th-century renovation of an earlier 16th-century building, gifted to the current owner’s family by the Reyes Catolicos. Its impressive Baroque entrance displays sculpted figures believed to represent natives of South America. Its delightful hidden garden includes a rare 200-year-old pinsapo (evergreen fir). Abies pinsapo is a species of fir native to southern Spain and northern Morocco. Related to other species of Mediterranean firs, it is considered the Andalusian National Tree. In Spain, it appears at altitudes of 900–1,800 metres in the Sierra de Grazalema in the province of Cádiz and the Sierra de las Nieves and Sierra Bermeja, both near Ronda in the province of Málaga.

Tonight we dine together in the restaurant of the Parador de Ronda, which serves Andalusian specialties and fresh local produce. (Overnight Ronda) BD

 

Málaga – 1 night

Day 7: Monday 20 May, Ronda – Málaga

Visit and lunch at a private country house hosted by the owners, province of Málaga
Centre Pompidou Málaga

This morning we drive through the hills above the Mediterranean coast to Málaga. En-route we visit an outstanding example of a Mediterranean classical garden created with cypresses and geometric hedges in terraces. The owners, who are keen gardeners, will give us a tour of their creation and host a delicious lunch of Andalucian and Catalan specialties.

We arrive in Málaga in the early afternoon and check in to our hotel, conveniently located opposite the cathedral and a few minutes’ walk from Málaga’s waterfront.

Málaga, (malaka: fish salting place), was founded by the Phoenicians around 800 BC. The city grew to become a major port in Roman times, exporting olive oil and garum (fish paste), as well as copper, lead and iron from the mines in the mountains around Ronda. Málaga continued to flourish under Moorish rule from the 8th century AD and became a prosperous port of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada. The city held out against the invading Christian armies until 1487 and displayed equal tenacity against Franco’s fascists during the Spanish Civil War.

In the afternoon we visit a branch of Paris’ famous Pompidou Centre, which opened on Málaga’s waterfront in 2015. Housed in an extraordinary post-modernist coloured glass cube, the Centre, like its Parisian parent, has a collection of 20th century art, including works by Robert Delauney, Vassily Kandinsky, Fernand Léger, René Magritte and Frida Kahlo, and also holds interesting temporary exhibitions. (Overnight Málaga) BL

 

Granada – 3 nights

Day 8: Tuesday 21 May, Ronda – Málaga – Granada

Walking tour of Málaga including the Museo Picasso
Visit and lunch at a private Andalucian farmhouse hosted by the owners, Málaga
Historical-Botanical Garden La Concepción, Málaga

We spend the morning visiting key sites in Málaga. Our walking tour will take in the Renaissance Cathedral with its fine Baroque façade, the remains of the Roman theatre and the exterior of Málaga’s Alcázar (citadel).

We also visit the Picasso Museum, housed in a fine 16th-century palace built on 2500-year-old Phoenician remains. Pablo Picasso was born in Málaga in 1881 and in 2003 a Picasso Museum was established here in response to the artist’s desire for his work to be exhibited in his city of birth; it features 233 paintings, sculptures and ceramics created between 1892 to 1972. This rich collection was donated by Christine and Bernard Ruiz-Picasso, the artist’s daughter-in-law and grandson. The opening of the Picasso Museum initiated a revival in the cultural life of the city.

We then drive south of the city to a traditional Andalucian cortijo (country estate), owned by one of Spain’s most well known literary families. The estate features a lush subtropical garden with an outstanding Phytolacca dioica tree and an alley of Pecan trees. Following a tour of the garden, we enjoy a sumptuous lunch of local specialities hosted by the owners and learn about the estate’s literary history.

Nearby we visit Málaga’s La Concepción garden, begun in 1889 by Thomas Livermore, who was the British consul in this city. La Concepción, which at one point commands views down over the city, is an important example of a Mediterranean coastal garden.

We continue our drive through the Sierra Nevada, which acted as a barrier, protecting Spain’s last Muslim kingdom, Granada, from Christian incursions. We shall gain a deeper understanding about the way the mountains isolated Granada from the grand views we will encounter along this road. (Overnight Granada) BL

 

Day 9: Wednesday 22 May, Granada

Alhambra and Generalife
Carmen of the Fundacion Rodriguez Acosta
Dinner at the Mirador de Morayma Restaurant

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

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

Finally, we shall visit the Alcazaba, the fortress of the Alhambra, which has a broad panorama of the Sierra Nevada. The Alhambra and Generalife complexes sit within what could almost be termed a ‘forest’ that covers their hills. Watered by conduits from the Sierra Nevada, this lush environment enabled not only the inimitable orchestration of buildings and plants in the main complex, but also a proliferation of fine small villas with gardens called carmenes. A carmen is a typical house of the old quarter of Granada that has a walled garden, the counterpart of, but different to the patios of Córdoba. The word comes from the Arabic word for garden: karm. These villas became fashionable in the 16th century when wealthy Christians purchased a number of old, Islamic, town houses and demolished parts of them to make a walled garden. They often employed Moorish craftsmen to design and decorate them. The carmenes of Granada were, of course, both inspired by, and measured, the great Islamic palace and villa complex of the Alhambra.

Just a short walk away is the Carmen of the Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta, arguably the best Spanish example of interplay between early modern architecture and gardening. Built by the painter José María Rodríguez-Acosta, a native of Granada and friend of the musician de Falla, this fine modernist house develops the local carmen tradition to create a unique interplay of simple brilliant white architecture and the various greens of the garden. The garden, inspired by the Generalife, is made up of a number of terraces oriented towards the plain and the Sierra Nevada in which the fragments of walls and columns in the purest modernist style interplay with cypress hedges whose shapes are ‘architectural’ in their composition, massing and the precise lines of their profiles. The Foundation, which occupies the original house, has works collected by Acosta supplemented by an important collection of Manuel Gómez Moreno composed of works from most periods of Spanish art history.

Tonight we shall dine together at the restaurant Mirador de Morayma, in Granada´s ancient Moorish quarter, the Albaicín, with breathtaking views of the Alhambra. This elegant restaurant housed in a traditional carmen, features traditional local cuisine and ecological wine produced at the restaurant’s own country estate in the Alpujarra region. (Overnight Granada) BD

 

Day 10: Thursday 23 May, Granada

Albaicín quarter
Muslim Baths
Capilla Real
Cathedral
Corral del Carbón
Afternoon at leisure

We begin this morning by exploring Granada’s most important residential quarter, the Albaicín which nestles below the Alhambra. The Albaicín was the last refuge of the Muslims of Granada and traces of its Islamic heritage remain to be discovered, including a beautiful and tranquil bathhouse, and fragments of minarets converted into church towers.

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

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

 

Toledo – 2 nights

Day 11: Friday 24 May, Granada – Toledo

Toledo Cathedral

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

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

Culturally, however, Toledo remained ‘Islamic’ for centuries after the imposition of Christian rule. Large Muslim and Jewish subject communities remained, and they were employed by their new Castilian rulers to emulate earlier Muslim art and architecture, creating a distinctively Toledan Mudéjar style. This style is a blend of Roman, Visigothic, Umayyad and later Almohad styles characterised by decorative screenwork realised in brick on the exteriors of churches and bell towers. Toledan Mudéjar can also be found in the former synagogues of the Judería (ghetto), Santa Maria la Blanca and El Tránsito, which contain stuccowork decoration that mimics Almohad and Nasrid styles respectively. The cathedral, built on the site of the great mosque, also bears many traces of Toledo’s multi-cultural character, whilst the narrow twisting streets of the old city and its absence of open squares and public spaces perpetuate Muslim urban-planning.

This afternoon, we begin our tour of this splendid city with a visit to Toledo’s Cathedral, a Gothic cathedral modelled upon Bourges Cathedral in France. Its construction began two centuries after Toledo’s capture by Alfonso VI of Castile in 1085, and until then the Christians worshipped in the re-dedicated great mosque of the city. In the 14th century the great mosque was finally torn down and a Gothic cathedral constructed on its foundations. Later monarchs and state dignitaries embellished the cathedral by the addition of a rich choir, decorated with reliefs recounting the conquest of Granada, and sumptuous chapels. We shall look at both the exterior and interior of the cathedral, noting in particular the opulent retablo mayor, the choir and the lateral chapels.

The Cathedral Museum holds a range of works by El Greco, Titian, Zurbarán, and Ribera, and the Almohad banners captured by the Castilians at the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa in 1212. In the Treasury we shall see an illuminated manuscript given by St Louis of France to Alfonso X and a massive Gothic gold monstrance in the shape of the intricate flèche of a cathedral.

This evening, we meet Spanish landscape designer Miguel Urquijo, who will show us a beautiful palace garden in the heart of Toledo with magnificent views of the Cathedral. Miguel and his partner Renate Kastner restored the garden in 2008, working from a previous structure of patios, terraces, fountains and paved walks that perfectly represent the classic Spanish urban garden. Cypresses, Canary Palm, pomegranates and olive trees, together with trimmed box hedges, mix in a harmonious chaos punctuated by prickly pears, delicate calas and the essential and colourful geranium. The palace itself encapsulates the overlap of cultures, where Muslim elements coexist with the Jewish and the Christian, and holds an exquisite collection of art and antiques; in this magical setting, we shall enjoy an aperitif hosted by the owners. (Overnight Toledo) B

 

Day 12: Saturday 25 May, Toledo

El Tránsito
Santo Tomé Church
Museo El Greco
Santa Maria la Blanca
Afternoon at leisure

This morning we continue our guided tour of Toledo with visits to the two former Mudéjar synagogues of Santa María la Blanca and El Tránsito. Santa María la Blanca is a 13th-century building which bears a strong similarity to contemporary Almohad architecture further south, whilst El Tránsito is a 14th-century structure with stucco panels of a similar style to those in the Alcázar of Seville and the Alhambra. El Tránsito also houses a small museum that catalogues the Jewish presence in Spain. A highlight of today is the Church of Santo Tomé, home to El Greco’s famous The Burial of Count Orgaz (c.1586). The nearby El Greco museum displays a great collection of the painter’s works, including several of his portraits of apostles and saints, as well as the View and Plan of Toledo.

The afternoon is at leisure for you to explore this splendid city and you may wish to visit the nearby Franciscan monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, originally intended, before the capture of Granada, as the mausoleum of Ferdinand of Aragón and Isabella of Castile. The mausoleum church itself will remind you of the Capilla Real in Granada. (Overnight Toledo) B

 

Jarandilla de la Vera – 2 nights

Day 13: Sunday 26 May, Toledo – Jarandilla de la Vera

Visit and lunch at a private organic farm hosted by the owners, Toledo province

From Toledo in Castile, we head to the western frontier region of Extremadura, famous for its conquistadors like Francisco Pizarro, who conquered much of South America. We travel through an area of undulating hills where traditionally the noble Trujillanos had their olive groves and vines producing oil and wine for their own consumption. Today the region of Extremadura produces approximately 3.3% of the total olive oil produced in Spain. The types of olives that are cultivated in this region for the production of oil include Cornicabra, Carrasqueña and Morisca.

We visit an organic farm that specialises in free-range livestock (sheep and cattle), fresh produce, and specialty products such as extra virgin olive oil, sheep and goat cheeses, and organic wheat products. We shall take a tour of the property and enjoy a lunch of fresh seasonal produce and homemade treats hosted by the owners.

Tonight we stay at the countryside Parador of Jarandilla de la Vera. Housed in a 14th-century castle, this parador retains many historic features including Gothic galleries, a fireplace specially built for Emperor Charles V, and an ancient garden featuring a fountain famous for bringing good fortune. (Overnight Jarandilla de la Vera) BL

 

Day 14: Monday 27 May, Jarandilla de la Vera – Monfragüe

National Park – Jarandilla de la Vera
Monfragüe National Park
Visit and lunch at ‘La Lancha’ – private farm of Eduardo Mencos & Anneli Bojstad, Jarandilla de la Vera

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

Famed Spanish landscape designer, writer and photographer Eduardo Mencos considers the Spanish countryside to be this great ‘maestro’ and source of inspiration. On the grounds of his 30-hectare country farm ‘La Lancha’, Eduardo has produced his version of an 18th-century ‘ornamental farm’ – a landscaped working farm with decorative features such as arbours, antique wells, water reservoirs, ruins. You won’t see a single wire or a water deposit (they are hidden underground). Here Eduardo and Anneli grow organic olives and breed Merino sheep, which roam free around the property. Following a leisurely lunch, we tour the farm and learn about Eduardo’s work and passion for the gardens of his native Spain. (Overnight Jarandilla de la Vera) BL

 

Segovia – 2 nights

Day 15: Tuesday 28 May, Jarandilla de la Vera – Ávila – Segovia

Visit and lunch at private garden by landscaping and garden design studio Urquijo-Kastner, Ávila
Romeral de San Marcos, Segovia

Near the walled city of Ávila, we visit a newly established garden by talented design duo Miguel Urquijo and Renate Kastner. Miguel fell in love with gardening in England while studying biology at the University of Buckingham in the 1980s. Renate has a Master’s Degree from the Technical University Munich/Weihenstephan, Germany’s premier school of Landscape Architecture. Their Ávila garden is particularly interesting for their successful cultivation of the olive tree, a traditional Mediterranean plant, in an area subjected to a harsh continental climate of cold winters and scorching summers. In this rugged landscape, they have planted over 40 olives trees, the owner’s favourite, along with cypresses, giving a distinctly Mediterranean character to the garden. Carefully worked stone walls create terraces and make up the main structure, while Mediterranean shrubs and perennials provide seasonal interest.

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

We then check in to our hotel ideally located in the centre of Segovia. (Overnight Segovia) BL

 

Day 16: Wednesday 29 May, Segovia

Alcazar of Segovia
Evening reception at a private palace overlooking Segovia’s Roman aqueduct
Dinner at Mesón de Cándido Restaurant, Segovia

We spend the morning exploring Segovia, a city settled since Roman times. During the early Islamic period, Segovia stood in the marches between the Kingdom of the Asturias and Umayyad Córdoba and may have been temporarily deserted. In the 10th century, the Umayyad caliphs constructed a frontier fortress here. Segovia subsequently became part of the Ta’ifa kingdom of Toledo, and Castilian after the fall of Toledo. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the Muslim fortress was rebuilt as a Christian castle and in the 16th century, a Gothic cathedral with unusual Classical domes was constructed. Segovia’s Roman aqueduct, a remarkable dry-stone structure, was partially destroyed in the Middle Ages and rebuilt by Isabella of Castile in the 15th century.

This evening we enjoy exclusive access to a private palace overlooking Segovia’s aqueduct, where we shall be hosted by the owners and enjoy a glass of Sangría in the garden.

We then dine at a Segovia institution, El Mesón de Cándido, to feast on the town’s local speciality, roast suckling pig. (Overnight Segovia) BD

 

Madrid – 3 nights

Day 17: Thursday 30 May, Segovia – Madrid

Prado Museum

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

 

Day 18: Friday 31 May, Madrid

Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Garden, CaixaForum, Madrid
Royal Botanical Garden of Madrid

Lunch at private landscaped rose garden near Madrid
Private garden by landscape designer Fernando Martos
We make a brief visit to Madrid’s CaixaForum to view an example of Patrick Blanc’s vertical gardens. This is not only the first to be installed in Spain but also the largest implemented to date on a façade without gaps, as it has a planted surface area of 460 m2. The vertical garden forms an impressive natural tapestry made up of 15,000 plants of 250 different species that have transformed one of the buildings adjoining the developed area of the CaixaForum Madrid into a surprising garden.

Nearby are the Royal Botanical Gardens, established by Charles III and designed by Francesco Sabatini and Juan de Villanueva, architect of the Prado. It is understandable that the ruler of a great empire in the Americas should be interested in collecting exotic species. Charles III, in fact, financed plant-collecting expeditions to Mexico, Columbia, Peru and Chile. Despite the fact that the garden lost many valuable trees in a tornado in 1886, most of its important exhibits remain. The garden is shaded by large specimens of tree of heaven (Ailanthus altissima), cork oaks, camphor trees, eucalyptus, olives, European field elms and mulberries, walnuts, nettle trees and crape myrtle, among many others. In 2005 a modern addition designed by well-known Spanish landscape architect Fernando Caruncho, with architect Pablo Carvajal, was commissioned to house the extensive bonsai collection of former Spanish Prime Minister Felipe González. The new garden called the ‘Terraza de los Laureles’ consists of an elevated avenue, a central square with a pond and a small greenhouse, and provides a grand panorama of the historic gardens below.

We then visit a landscaped rose garden created as an oasis in the city by its owner, a ‘rose expert’ and artist specialising in painting botanical motifs on ceramics and porcelain, as well as an exceptional cook. We shall tour the rose beds and enjoy lunch in the gardens.

This afternoon we meet young Spanish landscape designer Fernando Martos. After studying at the School of Landscaping and Gardening in Madrid, Fernando continued his training as a gardener at Newby Hall in Yorkshire, where he fell in love with the seasonal changes and the English style of gardening. Inspired by Beth Chatto and her gardening with drought resistant plants, he began experimenting at his family’s property in the south of Spain. Traditionally, Spanish gardens have followed French or Italian models, but Fernando is quickly being recognised for his talent and innovation by “trying to get the English look using Mediterranean-climate plants.” Fernando will show us one of his latest projects. (Overnight Madrid) BL

 

Day 19: Saturday 1 June, Madrid – Guadalajara – Madrid

Private gardens and farewell lunch hosted by Eduardo Mencos’ family

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

Day 20: Sunday 2 June, tour ends, Madrid

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

 

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating
The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, six to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 20-day tour involves:

A moderate amount of walking, often up and down hills (e.g. steep inclines in Granada and Ronda) and/or flights of stairs, along cobbled streets and uneven terrain
Standing during museum and other site visits
Moderate coach travel, often on minor roads
Early-morning departures (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (between 5.30-6.30pm)
The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
Other considerations:

4-star hotels with seven hotel changes
You must be able to carry your own hand-luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person
Evening meals are generally not served until 8-8.30pm.
It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information
Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers see: www.smartraveller.gov.au

 

Plant Identification App

During the tour you may wish to consider using a plant identification app. Tim Entwisle suggests “that for a garden tour of Europe that two apps be considered. Download Pl@ntNet for free and use its ‘Western Europe’ dataset, then consider investing $1.03 for the Flowerchecker+ app, which gives you three free identifications from an expert then 1USD for any subsequent identification. Pl@ntNet is probably the most useful for someone just curious about a few plants along the way but it won’t help you with all the garden plants that come from outside Europe (although it does have a couple of other datasets – South America, for example – which might be very useful).” For further information see Tim Entwistle’s review at: www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-11/plant-recognition-apps-no-replacement-for-botanists/8251280

Glorious Gardens of Great Britain with Julie Kinney

Glorious Gardens of Great Britain

CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW, SALISBURY, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, OXFORD
with Julie Kinney

 

20 May – 04 June 2019 (16 days)

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

Delight in the springtime bloom at the best of Great Britain’s flower exhibitions, country estates and private gardens in the company of gardening author Julie Kinney.

In London, spend a day at the world-renowned Chelsea Flower Show before travelling to East Sussex to homes and gardens once owned by members of the Bloomsbury group, including the home of Virginia Woolf. Explore the privately-owned Chisenbury Priory in Wiltshire and, near Salisbury, the house and grounds of Highclere Castle, setting of television series Downton Abbey. Discover ornamental country gardens in Wales, before finishing in Oxford with a visit to Waterperry Gardens, former site of the celebrated Waterperry School of Horticulture.

 

AT A GLANCE…

 

• Enjoy a special day of members-only access into the Chelsea Flower Show, before it opens to the public
• Visit more than a dozen private gardens of manors, monasteries and castles
• Explore the estate of Highclere Castle and the market town of Bampton, setting of the television series Downton Abbey
• Spend a day in Bath, amongst the rich heritage of the Roman, Regency and Georgian eras
• Uphold a British culinary tradition at a Pudding Club dinner in Mickleton, Gloucestershire
• Journey through picturesque countryside and quaint villages in England and Wales, replete with Medieval architecture, rolling hills and historical landmarks

Note: At time of publication (April 2018), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2 to 3 months prior to visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary. [Appears on first page, underneath Tour Leader biography]

 

SUNDAY 19 MAY 2019 / DEPART AUSTRALIA / NEW ZEALAND

 

Suggested departures on flights from Australia or New Zealand to London. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

 

MON 20 MAY / ARRIVE LONDON

Arrive in London and make your own way to the hotel. Tour arrangements begin at 15:00. Join Julie and fellow travellers and enjoy a quintessential English afternoon tea before an evening at leisure. (T)

 

TUE 21 MAY / LONDON

Today, visit the glorious Chelsea Flower Show, with exclusive members’ access ahead of its opening to the public. Held for over 100 years on the grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, this prestigious horticultural show exhibits innovative garden designs, rare plants, emerging garden trends and ideas for the home gardener. Wander at your own pace through the award-winning displays and dazzling floral tapestries. The remainder of the afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B)

 

WED 22 MAY / LONDON – ALFRISTON

This morning, depart London for Sissinghurst Castle in Kent. Created in the 1930s by Vita Sackville-West, gardening author and member of the early 20th century Bloomsbury Group, the castle gardens are considered among the most famous in England with its ‘garden rooms’ and use of colour themes in the planting design. Enjoy a talk and explanation of the grounds by Vita’s granddaughter, author Juliet Nicolson, before the gardens’ public opening.

Next, travel to Great Dixter, the former home of garden writer Christopher Lloyd, for a tour by one of the gardeners. A patchwork of perennials, annuals, shrubs and climbers, Great Dixter’s plantings are bold experiments of colour and form. Afterwards, continue to the village of Alfriston for check-in and dinner at the hotel. (BD)

 

THU 23 MAY / ALFRISTON

After breakfast, visit Charleston House, home of Bloomsbury artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, for a special private garden tour. Later, wander through Monk’s House, the home and garden of Virginia Woolf. With ornamental blooms, narrow garden paths and views over the Downs, the garden was Woolf’s inspiration for her short story The Orchard.

After lunch at a local pub, return to Alfriston, stopping en route at a small church in Berwick where murals painted by the Bloomsbury artists cover the nave walls and chancel arch. The remainder of the day is at leisure, with the opportunity to take a walk on the Sussex Downs or pay a visit to Alfriston Clergy House. (BL)

 

FRI 24 MAY / ALFRISTON – SALISBURY

Depart Alfriston for Colemore House, an exquisite private garden with woodland walk, arched roses and thatched pavilion. Explore the Norman church next door, which dates from the 12th century.

In the afternoon, visit Upton Grey Manor, a private home with a garden designed by British horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll. With a ‘Wild Garden’ and a ‘Formal Garden’, the gardens are considered the most faithfully-restored of Jekyll’s designs. Continue on to Salisbury for hotel check-in and dinner. (BD)

 

SAT 25 MAY / SALISBURY

Enjoy a morning at leisure to discover the sights of Salisbury or amble through the famous Salisbury charter markets.

Later in the day, enjoy a tour of the private Chisenbury Priory garden, with its unusual plants, herbaceous borders and orchard. Then, visit Caen Hill Locks, a spectacular engineering feat along the Kennet and Avon Canal. In the late afternoon, travel to Wudston House, where the formal structures of the garden blur into the perennial meadows beyond. Dinner is at a local pub en route back to Salisbury. (BD)

 

SUN 26 MAY / SALISBURY – BATH

Check out of the hotel and depart for the private garden of Iford Manor. The Italianate garden, created by architect Sir Harold Peto in the early 20th century, is characterised by its structural use of cypresses and terraces, cloister garden and statues. Enjoy a tour of the Peto gardens followed by the private Walled garden, normally closed for the family’s exclusive use.

After lunch, visit Hanham Court Gardens. Previously owned by garden designers Isabel and Julian Bannerman, the traditional English gardens feature Romantic elements of rambling roses, bubbling streams, miniature parkland and wildflower meadows. Of particular note is its stumpery, similar in style to the stumpery created for the Prince of Wales at Highgrove by the Bannermans. Arrive in Bath in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

MON 27 MAY / BATH

Enjoy a day at leisure in the town of Bath, a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site with a legacy from the Roman, Regency and Georgian eras. Spend a day exploring its boutique shops and cafés, its plethora of museums or relax in the thermal waters of its Roman baths. (B)

 

TUE 28 MAY / BATH

Today, explore the gardens and estate of Highclere Castle, the filming location of award-winning television series Downton Abbey. Home to the Earls of Carnarvon since the mid-17th century, the sweeping parkland was designed by 18th century landscaper Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, with the grounds containing 250-year-old cedars and several follies, including a Temple of Diana and an Etruscan temple. (B)

 

WED 29 MAY / BATH (MONMOUTHSHIRE)

Today, cross the border into Monmouthshire in Wales. En route, visit the Special Plants Nursery, owned by British garden author Derry Watkins, renowned for its collection of plants from Bulgaria, South Africa and Nepal. Arrive at High Glanau House in Monmouthshire for lunch and a tour of the Arts and Craft-style garden. Designed in the 1920s by Henry Tipping, a former editor of Country Life magazine, the four-hectare garden draws inspiration from the style of Gertrude Jekyll, with spectacular views across the valleys.

Next, travel to the unique and unusual gardens of Veddw House on the Welsh border. With its grass parterre, wave-shaped hedges, and dramatic reflecting pool, the contemporary garden incorporates an interest in the local landscape history and modern ecological gardening practices. (BL)

 

THU 30 MAY / BATH – CHIPPING CAMPDEN

Check out from the hotel and travel north to the town of Barnsley. Stop en route at Tetbury, a historic wool town with medieval cobbled streets and original 16th century merchants’ houses. Arrive in Barnsley for a visit to the garden at The Little House, the first private garden created by renowned British designer Rosemary Verey.

Following free time in Bibury, a village once described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in England”, visit Kingham Hill House, where the geometrical garden designed by Verey features avenues of maple trees, stepped pools and yew hedging. Check in to the hotel in Chipping Campden, with dinner at the hotel. (BD)

 

FRI 31 MAY / CHIPPING CAMPDEN

Begin the day with a tour and talk at Upton Wold, a private garden with undulating landscapes, open vistas and an innovative walnut arboretum. Continue on to the privately-owned Westwell Manor, where an imaginatively-designed garden surrounding the 16th century manor features multiple garden rooms, including the Kitchen Garden, Breakfast Garden and Moon Garden.

Afterwards, enjoy a scenic stop at Bampton Village, the market town used as a setting in Downton Abbey. In the evening, delight in a Pudding Club Dinner, a culinary extravaganza which celebrates the traditional British pudding, officiated by a Pudding Master and featuring the delectable Parade of Seven Puddings. (BD)

 

SAT 01 JUN / CHIPPING CAMPDEN – OXFORD

This morning, travel to the private cottage garden of a leading British garden journalist for morning tea, before heading to Hidcote Manor Gardens, considered one of the best gardens of the Arts and Crafts movement and a strong influence on the design of many significant gardens, including Sissinghurst Castle (visited earlier in the tour).

Then, explore another Arts and Craft garden at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, the creation of three generations of female gardeners and famous for its Kiftsgate rose, a scented climbing rose claimed to be the largest rose in Britain. Arrive in Oxford in the late afternoon for check-in and dinner at the hotel. (BD)

 

SUN 02 JUN / OXFORD

Spend a morning at leisure in Oxford, a city with architecture and history reaching back to Saxon times, and a rich selection of botanical and college gardens interwoven through the sandstone buildings of the city.

At midday, strike out for a scenic journey across Oxfordshire. Arrive at Waddesdon Manor, a grand French Renaissance château, built for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild in the 1870s. Enjoy a tour of the gardens and explore the house at your own pace before partaking in an afternoon tea in the former Servants’ Hall. The evening is at leisure. (BT)

 

MON 03 JUN / OXFORD

In the morning, travel from Oxford to Waterperry Gardens, the previous site of Beatrix Havergal’s Waterperry School of Horticulture for Ladies. A formal knot garden, a waterlily canal and a famous herbaceous border are just a few of the garden’s highlights across its three hectares of ornamental gardens.

Conclude your garden explorations with a visit to a rarely opened private home and garden, which has been described by Britain’s garden writers as the finest garden and restoration in the country. Return to Oxford in the early afternoon for time at leisure.

In the evening, enjoy a cruise on the Thames and a special farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

TUE 04 JUN / OXFORD – LONDON – DEPART LONDON

Check out from the hotel in the morning and depart Oxford.

For those leaving today, transfer to London Heathrow Airport in time for flights departing from 14:30 (transfer included in tour price).

For those continuing on to London, transfer to central London, arriving at approximately 12:00 (transfer included in tour price). Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Heathrow Airport or in central London.

Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including post-tour accommodation. (B)

 

 

Gardens of Tasmania

Gardens of Tasmania

 

Meander Valley, Bay of Fires and the Derwent and Huon Valleys
with Jennifer Stackhouse

 

28 October – 05 November 2018 (9 days)

Traverse the Island State with garden writer Jennifer Stackhouse to explore springtime gardens from the Meander Valley and Bay of Fires in the north to the Derwent and Huon Valleys in the south.
In the north, explore historic Culzean Gardens, Old Wesley Dale and the apple orchards of Wychwood. Visit Brickendon Estate and Highview country garden near Scottsdale. Explore the spectacular Bay of Fires National Park on a guided walking tour before heading south towards Hobart.

In the Huon and Derwent valleys get to know some of the private gardens and nurseries that make the island bloom, including Eggs and Bacon Cottage Garden and Prospect House Garden.
Complement your exploration of Tasmania by joining our four-day tour to the Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival in the charming town of Evandale beforehand.

 

AT A GLANCE:

 

• Visit Culzean Gardens and Old Wesley Dale in the Meander Valley and Brickendon Estate near Longford, and explore the stunning Bay of Fires National Park
• Discover cottage gardens in the Huon Valley, and visit Crawleigh Wood Nursery, set within lush rainforest
• Gain access to private gardens near Scottsdale and in the Derwent Valley
• Before the tour, take the opportunity to enjoy four days of fine music at the Tasmanian Chamber Music Festival in Evandale

Note: At time of publication (April 2018), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than two to three months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.

 

Sunday 28 October 2018 / Arrive Launceston

Suggested arrival in Launceston in the early afternoon. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

Make your way to the hotel and check in. Tour arrangements begin at 17:00 with an orientation tour, encompassing Launceston’s elegant City Park, historic Albert Hall and the thriving Tamar River waterfront.

Continue to Cataract Gorge Reserve for a welcome dinner and drinks with Jennifer and fellow travellers. (D)

 

Mon 29 Oct / Launceston (Meander Valley)

This morning, drive west of Launceston through the Meander Valley to Culzean Gardens in Westbury. Culzean features an Anglo-Indian-style house built in 1841 and a 1.2 hectare lake. During the late spring this colourful garden bursts with rhododendrons and azaleas.

Continue through the Meander Valley to the 1830s estate of Old Wesley Dale near Mole Creek. After lunch, explore this beautifully restored rural property with wonderful views of the Great Western Tiers.

Then visit Wychwood Garden & Nursery, a gorgeous one-hectare temperate garden whose features include sweeping borders full of perennials, old roses and ornamental grasses, a fruit and vegetable garden, a heritage apple orchard, water features and woodland areas.Return to Launceston in the late afternoon before an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

Tue 30 Oct / Launceston

Discover Tasmania’s World Heritage Brickendon Estate. Enjoy a morning tea and a guided tour of its special garden, with the added enjoyment of the beauty of 180-year-old trees from all parts of the world.

Enjoy lunch at the Jolly Farmer Inn, followed by a tour of its Georgian-style building dating back to 1826 and charming garden.

Continue to Evandale, a National Trust-classified Georgian village. Visit Leybourne private garden, and then enjoy some free time in the village before returning to Launceston. (BL)

 

Wed 31 Oct / Launceston – St Helens

Depart Launceston for a full day’s drive across the Northeast to St Helens. On the way, visit Anabel’s Garden in Scottsdale and Highview country garden. Enjoy a warm country welcome from the owners and lunch in a garden.

Arrive in St Helens in the late afternoon and check in to the hotel. Enjoy dinner in the hotel restaurant. (BLD)

 

Thu 01 Nov / St Helens

During a half-day guided walk, explore stunning Binalong Bay and the Bay of Fires, a coast of white sandy beaches dotted with giant granite boulders. Its landscape of coastal heathlands and woodlands co-mingles with 100 species of birds and wildlife.

The afternoon is at leisure, with the opportunity to embark on a one-hour return walk to St Helens Point where you will find the spectacular Peron Dunes and vast ocean beach overlooking scenic Georges Bay. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

Fri 02 Nov / St Helens – Hobart

Enjoy a leisurely day’s drive along the picturesque East Coast down to Hobart. On the way, stop for a visit to the picturesque port town of Bicheno.Then, explore the Tasmanian Bushland Garden near Orford. This regional botanic garden is devoted to Tasmanian native plants, featuring some of the rare and threatened plants of this region. Continue to Hobart and check in to the hotel, before dinner in a local restaurant. (BD)

 

Sat 03 Nov / Hobart (Huon Valley)

After breakfast, enjoy some free time to explore the iconic Salamanca Market at your own pace. This weekly outdoor market takes place every Saturday and gathers over 300 stallholders from all over Tasmania including creative artisans and talented musicians.

After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to Eggs and Bacon Bay Cottage Garden, located in a sheltered bend of the Huon River. Discover its flowering Tasmanian understory garden before continuing to Crawleighwood Nursery and Garden. Wander between rhododendrons, maple woodlands, Gondwanan rainforest species, rare and unusual plants. Enjoy afternoon tea on the property before returning to Hobart. (BL)

 

Sun 04 Nov / Hobart (Derwent Valley)

After breakfast, depart for Hamilton for a visit to Prospect House and Garden. Admire the elegant early-colonial architecture of the house and half a hectare of colourful gardens.

Continue to New Norfolk, located in the upper Derwent Valley, with lunch at leisure and free time in the town. Visit a private garden in Richmond before returning to Hobart in the late afternoon. (B)

 

Mon 05 Nov / Depart Hobart

In the morning, visit the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Begun in 1818, this is Australia’s second oldest botanic garden, this year celebrating its bicentenary. Explore the garden with a guided introductory walk followed by free time to continue at your own pace.

Enjoy a special farewell lunch with Jennifer and fellow travellers.

Tour arrangements conclude after lunch in central Hobart. Make your way to the airport for suggested flights departing from 18:00 onwards. (BL)

 

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

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

 

**FILLING FAST – Limited places remaining**

 

ITINERARY

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

 

St Helier, Jersey – 6 nights

 

Day 1: Friday 24 May, Arrive Jersey

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

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

 

Day 2: Saturday 25 May, Jersey

Walk around St Helier: Royal Square, Central Market & Church of St Helier
Eric Young Orchid Foundation
Mont Orgueil Castle, Grouville
Welcome Talk by Tim Liddiard, Natural Environment Officer for the States of Jersey: An introduction to the unique ecology of the Channel Islands
Welcome Dinner

 

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

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

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

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

 

Day 3: Sunday 26 May, Jersey

Le Clos du Chemin, St Peter
Jersey War Tunnels, St Lawrence
Grey Gables, St Brelade
Parish Church and Fishermen’s Chapel of St Brelade’s Bay

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

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

We visit the Jersey War Tunnels, originally constructed as an ammunition store and artillery barracks, but were converted into a casualty clearing station known as Hohlgangsanlage 8 (often abbreviated to Ho8) or the German Underground Hospital. A huge workforce was needed to build the 1-kilometre network of tunnels and this was supplied by the Organisation Todt. More than 5000 slave labourers were brought over to Jersey – Russians, Poles, Frenchmen and Spaniards. Conditions were terrible, although Russian and Ukrainian POWs were treated the worst, with cases of malnutrition, death by exhaustion and disease among them becoming common. Today the site is a museum, which through interactive displays tells the story of the Occupation.

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

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

 

Day 4: Monday 27 May, Jersey

La Maison des Près, St Peter
Rozel Valley

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

We then travel by coach to Rozel Valley. After a light pub lunch we will walk through the grounds of La Ferme, one of the largest dairy farms on the island, and on to the north coast cliff path. From here we will be able to see L’Etacquerel Fort before returning to the coach. (Overnight St Helier) BL

 

Day 5: Tuesday 28 May, Jersey

Wildlife walk with Mike Stentiford: Le Noir Pré Orchid Field
Creux Baillot Cottage Gardens, Leovill, St Ouen
Tour of St Ouen’s Manor Gardens with Ned Malet de Carteret, brother of the current Seigneur
St Matthew’s Church, (Glass Church), Millbrook

The favourable climate of the islands, warmed all year around by the Gulf Stream, ensures that the Channel Islands have dynamic ecosystems, and each provides a sanctuary for a rich variety of flora and fauna. This morning we take an environmental wildlife walk with the ‘Birdman of Jersey’, naturalist Mike Stentiford, who will introduce you to some of Jersey’s abundant flora and fauna. Mike was awarded an MBE in 2000 in recognition of the work he has done in promoting and introducing Jersey’s natural heritage to visitors to the island.

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

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

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

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

 

Day 6: Wednesday 29 May, Jersey

The Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust
Introduction to Jersey’s Prehistoric Sites by archaeologist Olga Finch
La Hougue Bie: prehistoric mound and dolmen
La Hougue Bie Museum & the ‘Jersey Hoard
La Pouquelaye de Faldouet, Neolithic Passage Grave

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

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

Durrell met his second wife, Lee McGeorge Durrell, in 1977 when he lectured at Duke University; she was studying there for a PhD in animal communication. They married in 1979. She co-authored a number of books with him, including The Amateur Naturalist, and became the Honorary Director of the Trust after his death.

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

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

We conclude the program by visiting the 6,000-year-old burial site at La Hougue Bie. This prehistoric mound and dolmen is one of Europe’s finest Neolithic passage graves. Particularly significant at La Hougue Bie is the placement of its entrance; it points directly east and during the Equinox sunlight penetrates the passageway illuminating the chamber deep in the mound. The discovery of the Equinox alignment demonstrates how important this time of year was to this past farming community and how critical cycles of nature were to its survival. (Overnight St Helier) BL

 

St Peter Port, Guernsey – 7 nights

 

Day 7: Thursday 30 May, Jersey – Guernsey

Flight from Jersey to Guernsey
Clematis Greenhouses of Raymond Evison

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

On our arrival at St Peter Port we will check in to our hotel before visiting the greenhouses of renown plantsman Raymond Evison where we shall learn about his extraordinary collection of clematis. Raymond had devoted five decades to breeding and cultivating this exquisite plant. He won the first of his 28 Chelsea Gold medals while still in his early twenties and he has won gold each year from 2003. (Overnight St Peter Port) B

 

Day 8: Friday 31 May, Guernsey

La Petite Vallée, St Peter Port
L’Etiennerie Farm, Castel

Today we visit the private gardens of Mrs Monachan, La Petite Vallée, with a wide range of exotic and traditional planting on terraces and slopes leading down to the sea. Here we will have the chance to explore the seasonal cloisters, herbaceous borders, woodland walk and a tropical area with a number of unusual plants and water flows.

Following lunch at the Fleur du Jardin Hotel, we walk to L’Etiennerie Farm, home of Tim and Eleanor Henderson. This informal country garden features herbaceous borders, a pond, potager, a wild flower meadow and stunning views over the Fauxquets Valley and surrounding countryside. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 9: Saturday 1 June, Day Excursion to Sark

Ferry to and from Sark
Guest talk by Dr Richard Axton on Sark’s prehistoric finds and Sark in the 16th century
Guest talk by the Seneschal of Sark, Jeremy La Trobe-Bateman (subject to confirmation in 2019)
Guided tour of La Seigneurie Garden
Lobster lunch at Hathaways Brasserie
Tour of the island by horse and carriage

This morning we take a 45-minute ferry ride to Sark. The island is only 5 kilometres long and a little over 1.5 kilometres wide, but boasts 64 kilometres of picturesque coastline. Although it has a population of just 600, Sark is a self-governing Crown Dependency and was the last European territory to abolish feudalism in 2008. The Head of Government is the Seigneur, a hereditary position dating back to 1565 and currently held by John Michael Beaumont.

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

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

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

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

 

Day 10: Sunday 2 June, Alderney

Flight to Alderney
Boat cruise of the Alderney Ramsar Site: including Burhou Island for puffin watching & viewing of gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac
A guided walk to Fort Tourgis

Today we take a flight to Alderney, the third largest of the Channel Islands, situated at the mouth of the Channel, 11 kilometres due west of Cap de la Hague in Normandy. From Alderney a boat trip takes us on a tour of the Alderney Ramsar Site (1,500 hectares of important wetlands, accredited under the Ramsar convention in 2005) to view the Puffins on Burhou, as well as the impressive gannet colonies on Les Etacs and Ortac and the Atlantic seal colony near Burhou Reef.

Burhou Island is just 2.25 kilometres northwest of Alderney. Despite being only about one kilometre long and half a kilometre wide, Burhou is a bird sanctuary which is home to eleven species of breeding birds. The island is best known for its colony of Atlantic puffins, which may be viewed between March and July. The Atlantic puffin is one of four species of puffin and the only one found in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a member of the auks (Alcidae) family of sea birds which includes guillemots, the razorbill and auklets. Today there are 143 pairs of Burhou puffins, having declined from a total of many thousand birds in the last twenty years. The puffins spend most of the year out in the Atlantic Ocean. They only return to land at the end of March to breed and raise their young. On Burhou the puffins build their nests in old rabbit burrows or on the side of the cliffs. Other nesting birds on Burhou include the oystercatcher, storm petrel, shag, greater and lesser black-backed gull and herring gull.

Les Etacs and Ortac rocks support more than 2 per cent of the world’s gannet population. These colonies are the most southerly within the gannet’s range, with over 6,000 breeding pairs recorded. Gannets feed primarily on fish such as mackerel, sand eels and herring, which they find by diving to depths of up to 20 metres of scavenging along the surface of the sea.

Before returning to Guernsey, we will take the opportunity to visit the charming town of St Anne before taking a guided walk to Fort Tourgis. Fort Tourgis was built in the Victorian era, and although not the largest fort on the island, it is an impressive structure with a fascinating history. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

 

Day 11: Monday 3 June, Guernsey

Le Vallon, private garden of Major and Mrs A. Philippi
Sausmarez Park (Garden and Folk Museum (optional))
Les Nicolle Prison Garden

This morning we visit Le Vallon, a 10-acre garden surrounded by gentle rolling parkland that is split into a magnificent formal area, a natural wooded area adorned with the English Bluebells dissected with moss pathways and a stream running into a large pond, surrounded by Lysachitum americanum. At the centre of this garden is a walled kitchen garden.

From Le Vallon we transfer to Saumarez Park. The Saumarez family arrived in Guernsey between 1200 and 1254. Since their arrival on the island they have been in and out of its affairs, holding such positions as Bailiff, as well as being Hereditary Seigneurs.

A few parts of the house date from the late 12th or early 13th centuries, but most of it is a result of the many facelifts it has received throughout its history. Major changes were made in Tudor, Queen Anne, Regency and Victorian times but the facade is its most impressive feature: it is considered the finest example of Queen Anne Colonial architecture in Britain. Befitting Saumarez’s house and its rich history is its wonderful sub-tropical garden – possible because of the warm Gulf Stream. As you wander through its winding paths and jungle glades you will see why it has been written up in many publications, including 1001 Gardens to visit Before You Die. Growing here are ginger (Hedechium), giant geraniums and echiums, palm trees in profusion, drifts of bamboo, yams (Collocasia & Alocasia), several types of banana and a variety of tree ferns and camellias, as well as birds of paradise plants, (Strelitzia) Arum and Canna Lillies. We also visit the National Trust Folk Museum. Costumes, implements and artefacts dating from the 17th century to the current day provide a fascinating insight to Guernsey’s heritage in the home, in local industries, farming and fishing.

In the afternoon we visit Les Nicolle Prison Gardens, opened as part of the island’s open garden scheme. “Prisoners are more relaxed generally, not just here but we’ve got full employment in the prison, prisoners are gainfully employed, they’re in purposeful activity, they are learning, they are gaining qualification and they are preparing for release ….. Working outside somewhere like this its a privilege t come into prison and work on a project like this.” Comments David Matthews, Prison Governor. (Overnight St Peter Port) B

 

Day 12: Tuesday 4 June, Excursion to Herm

Ferry to and from Herm
Guided tour of Herm’s award-winning gardens with chief gardener, Brett Moore
Cliff Path Walk of the South Coast
Lunch at the Mermaid Tavern

The Island of Herm is a 20-minute ferry ride from St Peter Port. Like Sark, it has no cars, and visitors tour the island on foot. This tiny island, covering just 550 acres, is a subtropical paradise supporting beautiful gardens laden with native and exotic plants. From spring onwards wildflowers take over the island with violets, red campion, primroses and daffodils lining the coastal cliff paths and carpeting the woodland. The fragrance of Burnet rose drifts across the heathland by June whilst the southern cliffs are sprinkled with sea pinks, rock samphire and heather.

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

We will take a walk around the island to explore the beauty of its coastline, and then return to Guernsey. (Overnight St Peter Port) BL

Day 13: Wednesday 5 June, Guernsey
Royal Bank of Canada Garden, Les Cotils
Candie Gardens
Private garden of Mr & Mrs Cummings
Grange Court, St Peter Port
Farewell Dinner
Today we will walk along an ordinance line to visit four very different gardens. The 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show Gold medal-winning Royal Bank of Canada garden has found a permanent home in the grounds of Les Cotils, a not-for-profit hotel and conference centre. Its relocation is in partnership with Floral Guernsey and it forms part of a new floral trail through St Peter Port. Designed by Hugo Bugg, the garden explores the role of water and is divided into three zones – a ‘dry garden’ without irrigation, a water harvesting zone and an edible garden with a seating area.

We then walk through the restored Victorian Candie Gardens that offer the best view across St Peter Port harbour and over to the sister islands of Herm, Sark and Jethou, along with a rare example of a late 19th-century public flower garden. They are home to the oldest known heated glasshouses in the British Isles, which date back to the late 18th century.

We continue our floral trail with a visit to the charming private garden belonging to Mr and Mrs Cummings, and Grange Court – the private gardens of Mr and Mrs Pat Johnson, which featured in the April 2013 edition of The English Garden magazine. Set in the heart of town, Grange Court is a 2-acre garden with a mix of formal and informal styles, containing many exotic and rare plants. A mature private town garden, it is shaded by majestic old trees, including a magnificent copper beech. Features of the garden include the remains of an elegant old stone orangery which forms the backdrop to the rose gardens, and an impressive Victorian ‘cactus’ greenhouse. Mixed shrub and perennial borders provide colour all year round in this immaculately maintained garden.

There will be time to return to the hotel before we head out to a local restaurant to share a farewell dinner. (Overnight St Peter Port) BD

 

Day 14: Thursday 6 June, Depart Guernsey

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

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

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating
The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

 

This 14-day Cultural Garden Tour of the Channel Islands involves:

A moderate amount of walking, often up and down hills and/or flights of stairs, along cobbled streets and uneven terrain, and/or standing, interspersed with coach travel.
Moderate coach travel on minor roads.
Many early-morning departures (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (5.30-6.30pm).
A morning birdwatching walk on Jersey.
The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.

Other considerations:
3- to 4-star hotels with one hotel change.
You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
Ferry boat transfers between Guernsey & Sark, Guernsey & Herm and Alderney & Burhou.
Flight transfers between Jersey & Guernsey and Guernsey & Alderney.
It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

 

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

 

Plant Identification App

During the tour you may wish to consider using a plant identification app. Prof Tim Entwisle, Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, suggests “that for a garden tour of Europe that two apps be considered.

Download Pl@ntNet for free and use its ‘Western Europe’ dataset, then consider investing $1.03 for the Flowerchecker+ app, which gives you three free identifications from an expert then 1USD for any subsequent identification. Pl@ntNet is probably the most useful for someone just curious about a few plants along the way but it won’t help you with all the garden plants that come from outside Europe (although it does have a couple of other datasets – South America, for example – which might be very useful).” For further information see Tim Entwistle’s review at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-02-11/plant-recognition-apps-no-replacement-for-botanists/8251280

 

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

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

 

**FILLING FAST – Limited places remaining**

 

ITINERARY

 

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

 

Moltrasio – 2 nights

 

Day 1: Monday 29 April, Arrive Milan – Transfer to Moltrasio

Introductory meeting
Light (2-course) Dinner, La Cascata restaurant

The ASA ‘designated’ flight is scheduled to arrive at Milan’s Malpensa airport in the morning of 30 April. Those arriving on this flight will be transferred by private coach to Moltrasio. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Grand Hotel Imperiale. Private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged for those arriving independently; please contact ASA for further information.

Grand Hotel Imperiale is situated on the shores of Lake Como with panoramic views of the Grigne Mountains. We shall meet in the evening for a brief introduction to the tour, followed by a light dinner at the hotel’s La Cascata restaurant. (Overnight Moltrasio) D

 

Day 2: Tuesday 30 April, Moltrasio – Tremezzo – Bellagio – Moltrasio

Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo
Villa Melzi, Bellagio (optional)
Villa del Balbianello, Bellagio
Welcome Dinner, Imperialino restaurant

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

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

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

This evening we meet in the hotel’s Imperialino restaurant for our Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Moltrasio) BD

 

Stresa – 2 nights

 

Day 3: Wednesday 1 May, Moltrasio – Bisuschio – Casalzuigno – Stresa

Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, Bisuschio
Villa Della Porta Bozzolo, Casalzuigno

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

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

 

Day 4: Thursday 2 May, Stresa – Lake Maggiore – Lake Orta – Stresa

Isola Bella, Lake Maggiore
Isola Madre, Lake Maggiore
Orta San Giulio & Isola San Giulio, Lake Orta

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

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

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

 

Turin – 4 nights

 

Day 5: Friday 3 May, Stresa – Poirino – Turin

Tenuta Banna, Poirino (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)

This morning we make our way south from Stresa to Poirino, 30 kilometres south-east of Turin. After lunch at a local restaurant in Poirino, we make our way to nearby Tenuta Banna. This private estate is owned by Marchese and Marchesa Spinola and is home to the Spinola-Banna Foundation for Art. In the 1990s Paolo Pejrone, leading Italian landscape architect and host of our program on Day 8 of our tour, designed a modern garden around the property’s large farmhouse and adjoining church and castle. He created a series of enclosed gardens ‘organised like a Persian carpet’; they include a secret garden planted with wisterias and peonies, a potager, and a rose garden with an abundance of colour and variety. Following lunch, we will drive to Turin, Italy’s first capital city after unification and home to the House of Savoy. (Overnight Turin) BL

 

Day 6: Saturday 4 May, Turin

Orientation walk of Turin, including guided visits to the Palazzo Reale, Cathedral & Palazzo Madama
Afternoon and evening at leisure

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

 

Day 7: Sunday 5 May, Turin – Moncalieri – Turin

Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli
Villa Silvio Pellico – including lunch (exclusive private visit)

Today we visit the Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli. Giovanni Agnelli was in 1899 one of the original founders of what became the Fiat motor company. The Agnelli family, ‘the Kennedys of Italy’, are also known for their ownership of Ferrari since 1969 and as majority owners of the Juventus Football Club. Donna Marella Agnelli, of the Italian noble house of Caracciolo, is a renowned style icon, garden designer, author and photographer, as well as art collector. The Pinacoteca, opened in 2002, displays 25 masterpieces from Giovanni and Marella Agnelli’s private art collection. We shall visit the gallery known as the ‘Scrigno’, or ‘treasure chest’, which houses twenty-three paintings and two sculptures, including works by Matisse, Balla, Severini, Modigliani, Tiepolo, Canaletto, Picasso, Renoir, Manet and Canova. The space itself is a work of art, having been designed by Renzo Piano inside Turin’s historic industrial complex of Lingotto. Our specially-arranged tour allows us a visit to the former Fiat test track on the building’s roof. Our viewing of the Agnellis’ remarkable collection is not only an experience in itself, but also a fitting prelude to tomorrow’s visit to the famous gardens of the Agnelli property at Villar Perosa.

Villa Silvio Pellico, a fine Neo-Gothic mansion (1780) with a Russell Page garden, arguably one of his three masterpieces. Page had gained an understanding of the Italian and French formal tradition of gardening from Edith Wharton and Geoffrey Jellicoe. On an ill-kempt hillside in the 1950s he created a fine terraced garden on two axes divided by pools; Page was particularly sensitive to the use of water in gardens. Symmetrical hedges create a series of ‘rooms’ of different designs, using diverse vegetation and ground patterns, as well as sculptures. The present owner, Raimonda Lanza di Trabia, daughter of the last Prince of Trabia (Sicily), and her husband Emanuele Gamna, will host us for lunch. (Overnight Turin) BL

 

Day 8: Monday 6 May, Turin – Villar Perosa – Revello – Moncalieri – Turin

Program hosted by garden designer Paolo Pejrone (Gardens of Casa Agnelli & Bramafam; to be confirmed)
Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2019)
Bramafam, Paolo Pejrone’s private experimental garden (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)
Private Garden of Silvana and Alberto Peyrani (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2019)

We are particularly privileged today to accompany Paolo Pejrone on two very special garden visits. This morning we visit the exquisite gardens of Casa Agnelli, set on a private estate which has been home to the Agnelli family since the early 1800s. In 1955 Marella Agnelli commissioned Russell Page and together they transformed the gardens. The swimming pool area was designed by renowned architect Gae Aulenti and other parts of the garden were developed by Paolo Pejrone. The grounds offer a range of styles: Italianate formal gardens; a water garden with interconnecting lakes; an English-style woodland walk, a romantic garden, sculpture gardens and more. We are particularly fortunate to have been granted a visit to this most extraordinary of gardens.

Paolo Pejrone will then accompany us on a visit to his own, very private garden, designed not so much for its aesthetics, but rather as a laboratory in which the master is constantly experimenting with new plantings. Set on a steep escarpment near a ruined medieval rampart from which ‘Bramafam’ takes its name, the garden and its owner’s discussions with you will give precious, unique insights into his ideas and practice.

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

 

Lucca – 2 nights

 

Day 9: Tuesday 7 May, Turin – Santa Margherita Ligure – La Cervara – Lucca

Abbey of San Girolamo al Monte di Portofino (La Cervara)
Group Dinner at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant

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

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

 

Day 10: Wednesday 8 May, Lucca

Orientation tour of Lucca incl. Cathedral of San Martino, San Michele, San Frediano and the Piazza del Mercato
Palazzo Pfanner
Afternoon at leisure

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

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

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

 

Florence – 4 nights

 

Day 11: Thursday 9 May, Lucca – Camigliano – Capannori – San Piero a Sieve – Florence

Villa Torrigiani, Camigliano
Lunch at a Tuscan osteria
Medici Castello del Trebbio, San Piero a Sieve

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 12: Friday 10 May, Florence – Fiesole – Florence

Villa Medici in Fiesole
Villa Le Balze (to be confirmed)
Lunch at Fattoria di Maiano
Villa di Maiano & Gardens

Unlike the grand villa gardens we have visited near Lucca, Florence and its vicinity have a number of small intimate urban gardens that we visit today. Many of these offer glimpses of the city, a counterpart to the spectacular views afforded by their grander Florentine counterparts. Such views offer a reminder that Florentine villas were seen as retreats from this metropolitan powerhouse. We make an early morning visit to elegant Fiesole in the hills overlooking Florence where Boccaccio set his Decameron, model for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; Boccaccio’s protagonists told stories to while away their days in a Fiesole villa in which they had escaped from the plague ravaging Florence. Our first visit is to the garden of 16th-century Villa Medici in Fiesole. The garden, showing Cecil Pinsent’s influence, is divided into three terraces with a limonaia. We shall then walk to neighbouring Villa Le Balze. Now a University of Georgetown study centre, it has a small formal garden and olive grove designed by Englishman Cecil Pinsent, with breathtaking views over Florence.

After some time to explore Fiesole’s town centre at leisure, we transfer a short distance by coach to nearby Fattoria di Maiano, where we shall partake in a a Tuscan lunch together. The Fattoria is the organic farm and olive grove of Villa di Maiano; here we shall indulge in local specialties such as cheeses, cold cuts, and risotto al Chianti.

The Villa di Maiano can count Queen Victoria among its guests; it has also provided the set for numerous films, including James Ivory’s A Room with a View and Franco Zeffirelli’s Tea with Mussolini. Among the villa’s past owners are members of the famous Sforza and Pazzi families. However, it was wealthy Englishman Sir John Temple Leader who, after acquiring the property in 1844, renovated the villa, its gardens and the surrounding structures. We’ll take a guided tour of the Villa, including a special visit to the first floor, and the Gardens. (Overnight Florence) BL

 

Day 13: Saturday 11 May, Florence

Palazzo Corsini al Prato: Visits to the garden & palazzo; Refreshments
Afternoon at leisure

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

The afternoon is at leisure to explore Florence’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Florence) B

 

Day 14: Sunday 12 May, Florence

Chapel of the Magi, Palazzo Medici Riccardi
Museo di San Marco
Afternoon at leisure

We depart from the hotel on foot and make a visit to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi to view Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes of the Procession of the Magi in the small Magi Chapel. The sumptuous procession, which includes representations of Medici family members, is set in an ideal Tuscan landscape, which forms a fascinating comparison to the gardens we visit and countryside through which we drive.

Our next visit is to the monastery of San Marco, where Dominican monks contemplated the faith in images by Fra Angelico. Here, Cosimo de’Medici had his own cell for religious retreats, and commissioned Michelozzo to design the monks’ cloister and the reading library for his manuscripts. The monastery holds numerous artistic treasures, including a Last Supper by Ghirlandaio in the refectory, and Fra Angelico’s famous Annunciation.

We have another afternoon at leisure to enjoy Florence. (Overnight Florence) B

 

Siena – 2 nights

 

Day 15: Monday 13 May, Florence – Settignano – Pianella – Siena

Villa Gamberaia, Settignano
Villa di Geggiano, Pianella – including buffet lunch (exclusive private visit)

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

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

In the afternoon we continue to our hotel on the outskirts of Siena, a villa surrounded by gardens. (Overnight Siena) BL

 

Day 16: Tuesday 14 May, Siena

Orientation tour of Siena, including Palazzo Pubblico, Cathedral & Museum
Afternoon at leisure

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

 

Perugia – 1 night

 

Day 17: Wednesday 15 May, Siena – Chianciano Terme – Castel del Piano Umbro – Perugia

Villa La Foce, Chianciano Terme (by special appointment; to be confirmed)
Private gardens of Villa Aureli, Castel del Piano Umbro
Orientation Walk, Perugia, including Cathedral & Fontana Maggiore

We drive south to the Renaissance Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato. Origo’s two autobiographies, Images and Shadows and War in Val d’Orcia, vividly describe life on the estate in the mid-20th century. La Foce overlooks the Orcia valley and Amiata Mountains, maintaining a distinctive harmony between its spectacular landscape setting and the formal style of surrounding gardens. Terraces with cherries, pines, cypress and wild herbs gently climb its hillside setting. Now a centre for cultural and artistic activities, it hosts the distinguished Incontri chamber annual summer music festival in the Castelluccio, a medieval castle on the property.

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

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

 

Viterbo – 1 night

 

Day 18: Thursday 16 May, Perugia – Bagnaia – Viterbo

Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, Perugia
Villa Lante, Bagnaia

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

 

Rome – 4 nights

 

Day 19: Friday 17 May, Viterbo – Calcata – Vignanello – Rome

Gardens of Paolo Portoghesi, Calcata (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)
Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello

This morning we visit the private garden of distinguished architect and scholar Paolo Portoghesi. The garden reinterprets Baroque elements and Borrominian forms, and fuses geometry with nature to produce a garden which is both spectacularly modern and at the same time, reverent toward the traditions upon which it draws.

Castello Ruspoli occupies the site of a mid-9th century Benedictine convent later converted to a military stronghold. Ortensia Baglioni transformed it into a villa, designed by the great architects Sangallo and Vignola, and succeeding generations created one of Italy’s most beautiful parterres, composed of hedges of bay, laurel and box, which articulate a vast rectangular space. The Princess Ruspoli today maintains the gardens. (Overnight Rome) B

 

Day 20: Saturday 18 May, Rome – Ninfa – Cisterna – Rome

Giardini di Ninfa
Private Gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia (to be confirmed)

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

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

 

Day 21: Sunday 19 May, Rome – Tivoli – Rome

Villa d’Este, Tivoli
Group Lunch at Ristorante Sibilla, Tivoli
Time at leisure in Rome

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

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

 

Day 22: Monday 20 May, Rome – Castel Giuliano – Ladispoli – Rome

Palazzo Patrizi, Castel Giuliano (exclusive private visit)
Farewell Lunch at The Cesar Restaurant, La Posta Vecchia Hotel, home of the late J. Paul Getty (to be confirmed)

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

We finish our tour with a special dining experience at The Cesar restaurant. With a terrace overlooking the Mediterranean, The Cesar is the restaurant of luxury hotel La Posta Vecchia. The dishes, designed by renowned chef Antonio Magliulo, are traditional Italian style with a contemporary twist. They are prepared with fresh local ingredients, including produce from the property’s organic garden. The opulent villa, which houses the hotel, is richly furnished, decorated with precious artwork and surrounded by manicured gardens. It was bought by J. Paul Getty in the 1960s and sumptuously restored. Built in the 17th century to house visitors to the neighbouring Odescalchi Castle, the villa remained in a state of disrepair for decades until Getty purchased it and restored it to its former glory. During excavations for a swimming pool, the foundations of an ancient Roman villa – said to be the weekend retreat of Julius Caesar – were discovered, and Getty spared no expense in preserving the remains. On the lower level of the villa is a museum in which the mosaic floors, walls, pottery and first-century artefacts are on display. We take a stroll around this extraordinary property and say our farewells as we return to Rome. (Overnight Rome) BL

 

Day 23: Tuesday 21 May, Depart Rome

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

 

Physical Endurance & Practical Information

Physical Rating

The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, seven to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless, all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

 

This 23-day Cultural Garden Tour of Italy involves:

Moderate walking and standing during site visits; walking tours may include steep slopes, flights of stairs, cobbled streets, visits to hill-top towns and uneven ground during garden visits.
Moderate travel by air-conditioned coach.
Visiting a range of towns and villages on foot, walks uphill from bus parks to historic town centres and other sites
The use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
3- to 5-star hotels with eight hotel changes.
You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person.
Excursions by ferry in the northern Italian Lakes District.
It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers: www.smartraveller.gov.au

Natural Landscapes and Gardens of Morocco

Natural Landscapes and Gardens of Morocco

 

**WAITLISTED**

Tour Highlights

 

In Tangier, spend two days visiting a variety of private gardens and learn about the world of Moroccan interiors.
While based in a charming dar in Taroudant for 5 days, view the work of French landscape designers Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart, exploring their garden projects designed for a dry climate.
View the stunning garden of Umberto Pasti, a well-known Italian novelist and horticulturalist, whose garden is a ‘magical labyrinth of narrow paths, alleyways and walled enclosures’.
Enjoy lunch at the private residence of Christopher Gibbs, a British antique dealer and collector who was also an influential figure in men’s fashion and interior design in 1960s London. His gorgeous cliff-side compound is set in 14 acres of plush gardens.
In Marrakesh, visit Yves Saint Laurent Museum, Jardin Majorelle and Bergé’s private gardens at Villa Oasis, the Jardin Secret, the palmeraie Jnane Tamsna, André Heller’s Anima, Beldi Country Club and take afternoon tea in the gardens of La Mamounia – one of the most famous hotels in the world.
Wander through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed medinas of Fes and Tetouan.
Delight all your senses in Marrakesh’s teeming, colourful souqs, with their textiles, jewellery, carpets, carved woodwork, acrobats, snake charmers, letter writers and fortune tellers.
Journey across the pre-Sahara and through huge date palm plantations of verdant oasis river valleys.
Encounter the rich urban architecture of Andalusian mosques and madrasas, and desert mud-brick qasbas and villages.
Cross Morocco’s majestic Middle, High and Anti Atlas mountain ranges and past small Berber mountain villages.
Eat fine local food in old palaces whilst listening to exquisite Andalusian music.
Stay in charming riads in Fes and in Marrakesh – lovingly restored by local artisans and located in the medina.

 

22-day Cultural Garden Tour of Morocco

 

Overnight Rabat (1 night) • Tangier (3 nights) • Chefchaouen (1 night) • Fes (3 nights) • Merzouga (1 night) • Tineghir (1 night) • Ouarzazate (1 night) • Marrakesh (5 nights) • Taroudant (5 nights)

 

Overview

 

This 22-day cultural garden tour of Morocco is led by Stephen Ryan, horticulturalist and nurseryman. The tour explores the dynamic relationship between Morocco’s unique and diverse environments and the country’s gardening traditions. It focuses on five key themes: the tradition of the Andalusian courtyard garden; the cultivation of date plantations and palmeraies in the desert and in the south around Marrakesh; the creation of ecologically sustainable desert gardens; the cultivation of gardens and plantations in high mountain locations, and the innovations of expatriates in garden design. We travel from the rich, well-watered coastal plain across the Atlas mountains to the arid pre-Sahara, and then south for our six-day program to study landscape design projects by Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart and the ecology of the Taroudant region. In the grand, medieval Imperial cities of Fes and Marrakesh we will be introduced not only to traditional ‘Andalusian’ courtyard gardens but also to the latest in garden design. In cosmopolitan Tangiers, Morocco’s equivalent of the Côte d’Azur, we explore the wonderful houses and gardens of international expatriates. Beyond the Atlas Mountains we encounter rich palm oases that follow rivers as they snake through the empty desert. These extraordinary ‘rivers of green’ are complemented by luscious vegetable gardens in small villages. Here we learn how precious water is shared amongst the village farmers. We stay in a desert house before crossing the High Atlas to Marrakesh, the red city of the south. Here we enjoy extraordinary gardens like that of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in which verdant plants contrast with vivid blue buildings. Further south we encounter powerful contrasts between lowland and mountain plantings, observing many of Morocco’s unique flora as well as imported and acclimatised specimens. We’ll also come to understand how traditional architecture relates to its garden armature, and how contemporary architects, gardeners and plantsmen have adapted traditional relationships to create new, fascinating environments. To complement this fascinating study of the relationship between diverse ecologies and garden design, we’ll learn about the unique history of Morocco, its artistic and architectural traditions. Fes is arguably the least changed medieval city in the world, with lovely 15th-century madrasas and funduks (caravanserai). In exploring Morocco’s vivid craft traditions, we’ll learn how traditional plant dyes are used in carpets, textiles, the colouring of leather and in painting. We’ll come to understand the vital influence of Iberia upon Morocco’s development and how the countries six great dynasties, the Idrissi, Almoravids, Almohads, Merinids, Sa’adi and Alawi have interacted with Mediterranean Europe. We’ll wander through souqs selling all manner of wares from fine copper to carved wood, textiles, ceramics and Morocco’s ubiquitous carpets and also have ample opportunities to sample Morocco’s fine cuisine in a number of carefully selected restaurants.

 

Preliminary Itinerary

 

Garden visits to be confirmed later in 2019
The detailed itinerary provides an outline of the proposed daily program. Participants should note that the daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in opening hours, road conditions, flight schedules etc. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B= breakfast, L= light lunch or picnic lunch and D= evening meal.

 

Rabat – 1 night

 

Day 1: Tuesday 19 March, Arrive Casablanca – Rabat

Arrival transfer from Casablanca to Rabat
Welcome Dinner at the Hotel
Our tour commences in Rabat. Upon arrival in Casablanca, participants taking ASA’s ‘designated’ flight will drive by private coach to our hotel in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at Casablanca airport or at the Farah Rabat Hotel. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel. (Overnight Rabat) D

 

Tangier – 3 nights

 

Day 2: Wednesday 20 March, Rabat – Tangier

Royal Palace (exterior)
Hassan Tower
Marinid Necropolis of Chellah
Welcome Drinks at a private residence with interior designer François Gilles, Tangier
Rabat is situated on the southern bank of the Bu Regreg River, across from the town of Salé. A Roman town existed in the vicinity but modern Rabat is a Muslim foundation. The name ‘Rabat’ comes from the Arabic word ribat, which means a fort on the Islamic frontier, usually manned by Muslims as a religious duty. Such a fort existed on the site of modern Rabat by the 10th century. Rabat’s earliest monuments built after the Romans, however, date from the Almohad period (1147-1248). The Almohads expanded the settlement by building a qasba (kasbah), or fortress, during the reign of ‘Abd al-Mu’min, the second leader of the Almohad movement. ‘Abd al-Mu’min’s grandson, Ya’qub al-Mansur, transformed Rabat into his capital by constructing a six-kilometre defensive wall around the town, and initiating the construction of the huge Hassan Mosque.

We begin today with a visit to the Hassan Mosque and view the exterior of the Royal Palace. The official residence of King Hassan II of Morocco, this sumptuous building is constructed upon the ruins of an 18th-century palace. It is surrounded by vast lawns with various trees and brilliantly coloured flower beds.

All that remains of the Hassan Mosque is a series of huge columns from its hypostyle prayer hall and the huge Hassan Tower, originally the mosque’s minaret. The vast size of the Hassan Mosque gives a measure of the ambition of its founder, the Almohad Caliph Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur; when he died, the mosque, which would have been the largest in the world, was never completed. The minaret (1195-1196), stands to the north of the mosque’s forecourt on an axis with its mihrab in order to emphasise the mosque’s orientation. It was meant to be one of the highest minarets in the world, although its upper section was never built. The Hassan Tower, with the beautiful decorative screen-work on its upper façade, provided the model for the Giralda of Seville and the minaret of the Kutubiyya Mosque in Marrakesh. The mausoleum of Muhammad V, an example of modern Moroccan architecture, is located at the south end of the Hassan Mosque site.

We then visit the Chellah, a medieval fortified necropolis built on the ruins of the Roman town. Inside are beautifully landscaped gardens with hundreds of flowers that come into bloom during springtime. The result is an amazing variety of scents. We may also view Roman ruins and the remains of a small mosque and madrasa.

Following lunch at a local seafood restaurant we drive from Rabat to Tangier where we shall spend the next three nights at the Hotel El Minzah. Built in the 1930s, this beautiful hotel is decorated in the traditional Moorish style and is surrounded by ample gardens.

Tangier is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Morocco. Founded by the Phoenicians (c.1100 BC) it was subsequently incorporated into the Roman Empire as Tingis, capital of the province of Mauretania Tingitania. With Rome’s decline (4th century AD) it became the only surviving Roman town of any consequence in Morocco. Temporarily lost during the Vandal invasions, Tingis was recaptured by the Byzantines in the 6th century.

In the late 7th century, Tingis was captured by Muslim armies and transformed into the garrison and port of Tangier. It served as a stepping-stone for Muslim attacks on the Iberian peninsula (Spain & Portugal). When the Castilians and Portuguese eventually reconquered Iberia and began attacking north Africa, Tangier became a regular victim of Portuguese raids and was finally captured late in the 15th century. The Portuguese monarchy ceded it to Britain in the 17th century as part of the dowry of Catharine of Braganza, wife of Charles II. But the expense of retaining Tangier against constant Muslim attacks persuaded the British to withdraw in 1684 and Tangier again became a Muslim city. Morocco’s ‘Alawi dynastly added new defences and a qasba and Tangier became a small port trading with Cadiz and other Spanish ports. In the 19th century, Tangier became the ‘City of the Consuls’, the residence of European diplomats and it became an ‘international zone’ in the early 20th century during the French Protectorate. Tangier gained a shady reputation for espionage, prostitution and drug-smuggling. Since Independence in 1956 the city has been gradually re-integrated into the Moroccan cultural mainstream, although it still has a large expatriate community, especially of writers, artists and gardeners.

This evening we enjoy welcome drinks with François Gilles. François is a London-based interior designer who has been sourcing Moroccan textiles for over 30 years. Designer and decorator, Laure Welfling and the painter, sculptor and bohemian ‘Gipi’ de Richemont Salvy are kindly opening their ornately decorated Palace in the Medina to host the welcome event. We return the Hotel El Minzah for our evening meal. (Overnight Tangier) BLD

 

Day 3: Thursday 21 March, Tangier

Cape Malabata
American Legation
Palace Moulay Hafid, Mersha
Lunch at the Hôtel Nord-Pinus
Dar Al Makhzan Museum
Afternoon tea in the private gardens of Jean Marc Collinet and Richard Delabaume
When, in 1923, Tangier was declared an international zone the city began to attract artists, poets, and philosophers, much as the Côte d’Azur did on the other side of the Mediterranean. Henri Matisse, William S. Burroughs, Jean Genet, Paul and Jane Bowles, Tennessee Williams, Patricia Highsmith and Allen Ginsberg were all inspired by Tangier. Foreign residents, many of them artists, today own some of its most stylish homes. Foreign residents include the English antiques expert Christopher Gibbs, the Italian interior designer Roberto Peregalli and the American garden designer Madison Cox. “It is alarming,” Truman Capote wrote, “the number of travellers who have landed here on a brief holiday, then settled down and let the years go by”.

In the company of François Gilles, we begin the day at Cape Malabata, located 6 miles east of Tangier, for a morning view (with the sun behind us) of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Returning to the heart of Tangier, we take a short tour through the old town where traces of Tangier’s intimate relations with Europe abound. Many consular buildings, such as the American Legation, dot its narrow streets and its architectural styles bear witness to ongoing northern Mediterranean influence.

The American legation is an elaborate Moorish-style building of stuccoed masonry. This complex structure contains the two storey mud and stone building presented to the United States in 1821 by Sultan Moulay Suliman. The first property acquired abroad by the United States government, it housed the United States Legation and Consulate for 140 years, the longest period any building abroad has been occupied as a United States diplomatic post.

Today it is the Tangier American Institute for Moroccan Studies, a museum and cultural centre for the study of Morocco and Morocco-United States relations. The museum holds an impressive display of paintings that give a view of the Tangerine past through the eyes of its artists, most notably Scotsman James McBey, whose hypnotic painting of his servant girl, Zohra, has been called the Moroccan Mona Lisa. There is also a wing dedicated to the expatriate writer and composer Paul Bowles.

We then visit the renovated Palace Moulay Hafid, considered the most beautiful historical monument in Tangier. Also known as the ‘Palace of Italian institutions’, Moulay Hafid’s palace is today admired for its beautiful garden with old trees, its large patio with a gorgeous marble fountain and stucco salons.

This palace was built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Sultan Moulay Hafid. He wanted his palace to be a masterpiece of Moorish architecture also known for its beautiful gardens. The namesake of the palace, the sultan, never lived in his grand palace as he was forced into exile in France upon signing the treaty of Fez on 30 March 1912. This treaty would see Morocco become a French protectorate, and Moulay Hafid’s abdication and forced exile to France. The sultan did however demand the completion of this palace as a condition of his signing the deed of protectorate and construction was completed in late 1912.

Following lunch at Hôtel Nord-Pinus, a renovated pasha’s palace overlooking Tangier’s old port, we visit the Dar Al Makhzan Museum of Moroccan Arts located in the ‘Alawi governor’s residence and its Andalusian garden.

We finish the day in the magnificent gardens of French expatriates Jean Marc Collinet and Richard Delabaume. (Overnight Tangier) BL

Day 4: Friday 22 March, Tangier

Cape Spartel Lighthouse
Rock Lodge, private residence of Jonathan Dawson
Private gardens of Umberto Pasti
Lunch at the private residence of Christopher Gibbs
Private gardens of Veere Greeney
Afternoon tea at the private residence of Daniel Aron
We spend another day with François Gilles visiting private gardens in the lush hills of the area known as la Montagne. It is here that foreign home owners such as Madison Cox tend their magnificent gardens; Tangier is a landscaper’s paradise because just about any plant will thrive here.

We begin with a short drive to Cape Spartel, which lies 14 kilometres west of Tangier. This is the northwestern extremity of Africa’s Atlantic Coast. A dramatic drive takes us through la Montagne and over the pine-covered headland to the Cape Spartel Lighthouse. Nearby, we visit Rock Lodge, a cottage renovated by Jonathan Dawson, the Australian-born architecture and design journalist. The house is bursting with pictures, rugs, books and maps. In his courtyard garden, bougainvillea and honeysuckle share the space with liana and moonflower.

In the Nouvelle-Montagne we visit the stunning residence and garden of Umberto Pasti, a well-known Italian novelist and horticulturalist. Pasti’s garden is a magical labyrinth of narrow paths, alleyways and walled enclosures. Plants of eucalyptus, palms and bitter orange trees provide peaceful shade from the burning rays of the Moroccan sun. Lush vegetation, fountains and frog song are the only sign of life in this world of tranquility.

Nearby, in the Vieille-Montagne (‘old mountain’), lunch will be served at the private residence of Christopher Gibbs, a British antique dealer and collector who was also an influential figure in men’s fashion and interior design in 1960s London. His gorgeous cliff-side compound, which is set in 14 acres of plush gardens, includes a century-old water garden. Garden designer Sabrina Hahn describes the garden as: “A lovely free flowing garden with lots of greenery, palms, murraya and iceberg roses hedging and spring flowering perennials. Pots are filled with geranium Maderense, hollyhocks and gaura.”

Across the road, we visit the home of Veere Greeney, a New Zealand born interior designer, whose garden provides a unique view of Gibraltar. In this garden, long paved avenues are edged with very old transplanted olive trees. Hardy perennials like sage, helichrysum, perennial salvias euphorbia and large urns are filled with geraniums and annuals.

We finish the day with a visit to the garden of award-winning French photographer Daniel Aron, known for his visuals of the Hermes brand and work for Harper’s Bazaar (USA), Vogue France, House and Garden (USA) and Elle (France). (Overnight Tangier) BL

 

Chefchaouen – 1 night

 

Day 5: Saturday 23 March, Tangier – Tetouan – Chefchaouen

Medina of Tetouan
The Royal Artisan School, Tetouan (Dar Sanaa)
Old Town of Chefchaouen
Today we travel along the picturesque mountain road from Tangier to Chefchaouen, a small town nestling in a deep, narrow valley at the western end of the Rif mountains, where we spend the night.

We break our journey in the city of Tetouan, situated on the slopes of the fertile Martil Valley. Tetouan, from the Berber word tit’ta’ouin means ‘springs’, which explains the greenery of the town, its many fountains, its flowering gardens and its surrounding fertile plains. The city was of particular importance from the 8th century onwards as it served as the main point of contact between Morocco and Andalusia. After the Spanish Reconquest, the town was rebuilt by Andalusian refugees who had been expelled by Isabella and Ferdinand (1492). This is reflected in its art and architecture, which reveal clear Andalusian influences.

Tetouan’s ancient walled medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site whose houses reflect a rich aristocratic tradition. Their tiled lintels, wrought-iron balconies, courtyard gardens and extravagant interiors have a lot in common with the old Muslim quarters of Córdoba or Seville. Despite subsequent conquests, the medina has remained largely intact and one of the most complete in Morocco. Inside the medina proper are most of Tetouan’s food and crafts souqs, including the Souk el-Hots where Berber rugs and foutas (woven cotton cloth) are sold. Throughout Morocco we will find carpets, textiles and leather that are dyed with natural pigments that are derived from indigenous plants. Deftly woven carpets, expertly crafted leatherwork, intricately carved woodwork, superbly tooled metal work, colourful tiles and exquisite ceramics are all to be found in Tetouan. We visit Dar Sanaa, the Royal Artisan School where local children are apprenticed to masters for 4 years of intense training in traditional artisan work (this school is typically closed on weekends, but we can still visit its workshops).

‘Chefchaouen’ is a Berber name, meaning ‘two horns’, which refers to two rocky peaks that dominate the town. The town was founded in the 15th century by a descendant of the Prophet, called Mawlay ‘Ali ibn Rashid, and refugees from Spain who sought to create a mountain stronghold where they would be safe at last from the Christians. Around 1760 Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah (Mohammed III) ordered the Jewish families to move into the medina, their mellah (walled Jewish quarter of a city) taking in the area that today encompasses the southern quarter between the qasba and Bab el Aïn. Until this century, Chefchaouen was completely closed to Europeans, who risked their lives if they tried to enter its gates.

The Hispanic origin of Chefchaouen’s inhabitants is clearly evident in the architecture of this little town which has much in common with villages of southern Spain. Small, whitewashed ochre houses with balconies, windows covered by ornate metal grilles, tiled roofs and Andalusian-style courtyards, pile up upon one another. Chefchaouen’s famous shades of blue arose when the Jews added indigo into the whitewash to contrast the mellah against the traditional green of Islam. The town’s stone-built Friday mosque resembles rural Spanish churches. The focus of town life is the central plaza where the inhabitants promenade in the balmy dusk air. In the early evening there will be an optional walk to explore the old town of Chefchaouen. (Overnight Chefchaouen) BLD

 

Fes – 4 nights

 

Day 6: Sunday 24 March, Chefchaouen – Volubilis – Fes

Roman Site of Volubilis
Today we travel south from Chefchaouen to Fes via Volubilis. The Roman city of Volubilis was built in the 1st century BC on the site of earlier Prehistoric and Phoenician settlements when Morocco and Algeria were incorporated into the Roman Empire as the client kingdom of Mauretania. The kingdom was ruled by Juba II, the Roman-educated son of its vanquished Berber ruler. Juba II was a classmate of both Octavian and Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Antony and Cleopatra. When Octavian became Augustus, he married Juba II to Cleopatra Selene, and made them client rulers of Mauretania. They founded two capitals: Iol Caesarea in Eastern Algeria and Volubilis in Morocco. The wealth of Volubilis was based on local production of grain, olive oil and copper which were exported to the rest of the empire.

In 40 AD Caligula had Juba’s son, Ptolemy, assassinated. Mauretania went into revolt only to be formally annexed to Rome and made into the directly-governed province of Mauretania Tingitania. The wealth of Volubulis’ agricultural hinterland ensured its ongoing importance to the Romans. Despite the shrinking Roman presence in Morocco from the 3rd century onwards, Volubilis probably remained partly Romanised until the 7th century.

We visit the ruins of Volubilis, which is set in broad wheat bearing plains as it was in the Roman period. Its monuments include the well-preserved Basilica and Arch of Caracalla and there is a fine collection of very important Roman mosaic floors. We also explore the the House of Orpheus, the Baths of Gallienus, the Forum, the Temple of Saturn and a number of houses. From Volubilis we travel southeast into the fertile Sais plain to the city of Fes, where we shall spend the next few nights. (Overnight Fes) BLD

 

 

Introduction to Fes

Fes is the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities and is still its historic religious and cultural centre. Fes is actually composed of three discrete entities: Fes al-Bali (old Fes), wedged into the narrow valley of the Wad Fes (River Fes); Fes al-Jadid (New Fes), originally a royal complex; and the Ville Nouvelle (New Town), the modern French-built section of the city.

Fes al-Bali, was founded by Idris I around 799. His son, Idris II made Fes his capital in 809 and its population was swelled by immigrants from other Arabo-Islamic lands. Fes soon became an important centre for religious scholarship, commerce and artisanship. Fes benefited from its position at the juncture of land trade routes to and from al-Andalus (Islamic Spain), sub-Saharan Africa and the Islamic east.

The 11th-12th century Almoravid dynasty conquered North Morocco and incorporated Muslim Spain into its empire. Although the Almoravids founded Marrakesh as their capital in 1070, they also built mosques, baths, funduqs (multi-storey lodging houses for merchants and their wares), and fountains in Fes. Many Hispano-Muslim artisans moved to Fes to work on Almoravid buildings, which were renowned for their stuccowork decoration.

After 1154 the Almohads gave the city new walls which still define the limits of Fes al-Bali to the present day. The Qarawiyyin Mosque could now hold approximately 20,000 worshippers. The Qarawiyyin is quite different to Hispano-Muslim mosques and medieval European cathedral architecture for despite its vast size it hides within the narrow streets of the city and has no defined exterior or monumental façade.

In the 1240s the Marinid dynasty replaced the Almohads and fought against the Christians in Spain. Moroccan rulers henceforth dedicated themselves to holy war (jihad) against the aggressive Christians. Much of Fes’ exquisite architecture dates from the Marinid period (13th-15th century). They amalgamated Moroccan and Hispanic elements in a style subsequently known as ‘Andalusian’, which remains dominant in Fes and other Moroccan cities to this day. The Marinids built the royal complex of Fes al-Jadid which included palaces, mosques and residential quarters for the sultan’s troops. They commissioned a series of palaces and funduqs in Fes al-Bali and introduced the ‘madrasa’ or theological college to Morocco, constructing a series of wonderful madrasas in Fes. These madrasas have a central courtyard, a prayer hall, and several storeys of student rooms wrapped around the courtyard and prayer hall. They are all decorated in the distinctive registers of carved cedarwood, stuccowork, and mosaic tile, a hallmark of the Moroccan Andalusian style. The Marinids also created the shrine of Idris II.

In the 15th century Morocco broke up into small principalities ruled by strong men able to resist Spanish and Portuguese aggression. Fes’ cultural and commercial life was nevertheless enriched by Jewish and Hispano-Muslim migrants fleeing Spain. Fes consequently maintained its religious and cultural importance despite the 16th-century Sa’di dynasty’s choice of Marrakesh as their capital. The ‘Alawi sultans also recognised the importance of Fes and added palaces, fortifications and the Jewish quarter (mellah).

 

Day 7: Monday 25 March, Fes

Burj al-Janub
Al-Andalus Mosque
Sahrij Madrasa
The Dyers’ Street
The Tanneries
Souqs of Fes
Lunch at Le Jardin des Biehn
Dinner at La Maison Bleue
We start today with a visit to the Burj al-Janub, or South Tower, which gives a panoramic view of Fes from the alternate side to the North Tower. We then explore Fes al-Bali visiting the al-Andalus quarter; Marinid madrasas in the city; areas of artisanal production and the souqs, or markets.

The al-Andalus quarter lies on the eastern side of the Wad Fes, and has its own great mosque with a dramatic monumental gateway with a horseshoe arch. One of the most beautiful Marinid madrasas in Morocco, the Sahrij Madrasa, is located close by. The small, perfectly proportioned courtyard of the madrasa is tiled with turquoise-tinted tiles whose colour is picked up and reflected by the large central pool. This intimate space is enclosed by carved wood screens.

From the Sahrij we descend to the river and cross to the Qarawiyyin quarter of the city to see the street of the dyers and the tanneries. Every morning, when the tanneries are at their most active, cascades of water pour through holes that were once the windows of houses. Here, hundreds of skins lie spread out on the rooftops to dry, while amid the vats of dye and pigeon dung tanners treat the hides. The rotation of colours in the honeycombed vats follows a traditional sequence – yellow (supposedly ‘saffron’, in fact turmeric), red (poppy), blue (indigo), green (mint) and black (antimony) – although vegetable dyes have largely been replaced by chemicals, to the detriment of workers’ health. This ‘innovation’ and the occasional rinsing machine aside, there can have been little change here since the sixteenth century, when Fes replaced Córdoba as the pre-eminent city of leather production.

During the day we break for lunch at Le Jardin des Biehn, a large Andalusian garden in the middle of the medina, scented by Isfahan roses, jasmine, orange blossom and bergamot. The gardens, surrounded by a former 20th-century summer palace, were redeveloped by Michel Biehn. Its quadrants are divided by mosaic paths, with tingling streams and fountains, and include flowers, aromatic herbs, fruits and vegetables.

Dinner tonight will be at La Maison Bleue restaurant, a traditional Moroccan residence built in 1915 by Sidi Mohammed El Abbadi, a judge and astronomer. (Overnight Fes) BLD

 

Day 8: Tuesday 26 March, Fes

Palace and Andalusian Gardens of Fes, including the Jnane Sbil Garden (Bou Jeloud Garden) & Museum Dar Batha
Lunch at Restaurant NUR
Bu ‘Inaniyya Madrasa
Qarawiyyin Mosque (exterior)
Shrine of Mawlay Idris II (exterior)
‘Attarin Madrasa
Fondouk el-Nejjarine
Fes was one of the first cities in the world to build a water distribution network which enabled it to develop the art of gardening. This morning we return to Fes’ medina for a walking tour which explores the city’s palaces and Andalusian gardens.

The 19th-century Jnane Sbil Park (formerly Bou Jeloud Gardens), covering an area of 7.5 hectares, underwent 4 years of extensive renovations and was reopened in 2012. Renovations works included the rehabilitation of its old and ingenious hydraulic systems (including fountains, seguias, channels and norias), restoration of the central boulevard and bamboo garden, as well as the creation of the Garden of Scents. The Oued Fes (Fes river) and the Oued Jawahir (river of pearls) flowed through the garden; a water wheel remains as a reminder of how the medieval city provided power to its craftsmen and their workshops.

From Jnane Sbil Gardens we proceed through the vividly decorated Bab Bou Jeloud Gate to Fes al-Bali, unique in its maintenance of an urban plan dating to the ninth century. The narrowness of its steep, winding streets means that motor vehicles may not enter and donkeys, mules and handcarts still transport food and merchandise around the city. Many of the religious, domestic and commercial structures lining the streets date to the fourteenth century, providing a unique insight into the physical experience of living in a medieval city.

In Fes al-Bali we begin with a visit to the Dar Batha Museum, a collection of antique Moroccan woodwork, marblework and other craftwork housed in a converted ‘Alawi palace. This museum contains the original carved wood doors of some of Fes’ madrasas and a marble doorway from the Sa’di palace in Marrakesh, along with many other artefacts which demonstrate Moroccan adaptation of Hispano-Muslim styles. The palace’s garden shaded with citrus trees and perfumed with orange blossom, red roses and sweet-scented jasmine, provided a serene escape from the bustling medina. Its layout is based on the principles of charbagh – a Persian-style garden where the quadrilateral layout is divided by walkways or flowing water that intersect at the garden’s centre. In Persian, char means ‘four’ and bagh means ‘garden’. This highly structured geometrical scheme, became a powerful metaphor for the organisation and domestication of the landscape, itself a symbol of political territory. The gardens were restored by landscape architect, Carey Duncan in 2005. Duncan worked with Cotecno and Architect Raffael Gorjux from Italy recreating the Andalusian Garden while keeping existing large trees, but replanting the undergrowth which was either bare or overtaken by weeds, and revitalising the existing planting.

Midday we dine at Restaurant NUR which operates as a venue for an intriguing new visiting-chef-in-residence project. Each visiting chef is invited to create a daily menu based on seasonal produce sourced from Fes’s central market or nearby farms. The restaurant is owned by Stephen di Renza, a former fashion director for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, who divides his time between Fes and Marrakesh where he is the creative director for the Jardin Majorelle.

Following lunch we visit the 14th-century Bu ‘Inaniyya Madrasa and the ‘Attarin Madrasa, built around 1325. The ‘Attarin is a relatively small and intimate madrasa decorated with rich tile work. Both madrasas served as residences for students at the great mosques of Fes rather than as teaching centres.

We also visit the Qarawiyyin Mosque and the shrine of Mawlay Idris II. The two buildings form the sacred core of the city, and the prestigious markets for perfumes, spices and silk garments are located nearby adding pungency and fragrance to the air. Although non-Muslims may not enter these buildings, we can view their interiors through their gateways.

Finally we visit the Fondouk el-Nejjarine, home to the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts which showcases the skill of woodcarvers and artists both in the embellishments of the building and the intricately decorated items on display. Various types of timber are used in Moroccan woodcarving, including oak, mahogany, acacia and cedar, with the latter being one of the most popular, most likely due to its availability in Morocco, particularly in the Middle Atlas regions, but also because of its durability, warm shades of color and its texture which is particularly suited to carving. Declared a national monument in 1916, the funduq was originally built in the 18th century as a caravanserai (roadside inn) where travellers could rest before continuing their, sometimes arduous, journey. These buildings, which are found throughout Morocco, were typically built in a square or rectangular shape around an inner courtyard, usually with a fountain in the middle creating an oasis from the Moroccan heat. (Overnight Fes) BL

 

Merzouga – 1 night

 

Day 9: Wednesday 27 March, Fes – Ifrane – Midelt – Merzouga

Ifrane
Midelt
Today we travel from Fes to Merzouga, on the edge of the Sahara, through the Middle Atlas mountains. We shall pass through Ifrane, a small mountain town built by the French to escape the summer heat of the plains. The town is famous for its luscious gardens. Just outside Ifrane we drive through huge cedar forests, second only to those of Lebanon. These forests provided the wood to be carved into the magnificent decoration of Moroccan monuments. From Ifrane we will drive to Midelt through some of Morocco’s most magnificent scenery in which broad high plains are framed everywhere by snow-capped mountains.

Midelt, where we eat lunch, marks the start of one of the main routes through the eastern High Atlas mountains to the Sahara. This route was carved through the mountains by the Wad Ziz, a river which snakes south alongside the road. As we drive south the cedars and oaks of the north gradually give way to barren rock, clusters of date palms marking water sources, and finally the sand of the desert. We emerge from the mountains into the fertile Ziz Valley down which vast numbers of date palms stretch to the horizon like brilliant green rivers; dates are a Moroccan staple and one of the country’s major exports, (Overnight Merzouga) BLD

 

Tineghir – 1 night

 

Day 10: Thursday 28 March, Merzouga – Rissani – Erfoud – Tineghir

Dawn Camel Excursion (Optional)
Tomb of Mawlay ‘Ali al-Sharif, Rissani
Rissani Market
Moroccan khettara
After an optional dawn excursion to the sand dunes of Merzouga to watch the sunrise, we depart for Rissani, the capital of the province of Tafilalt and ancestral home of the ‘Alawi dynasty. Rissani lies alongside the ruins of the early Islamic town of Sijilmassa which controlled Moroccan trade with sub-Saharan Africa from the early 8th century until the 14th century. Sijilmassa’s vast ruins reflect the wealth of this medieval city, but by the 16th century it was no more than one of a number of fortified mud-brick villages (qsars). These mud-brick villages are composed of many small houses wedged together whose outer walls form a continuous outer rampart through which a single ornate portal provides access to the village. The modern town of Rissani, constructed this century, itself grew out of the largest set of local qsars.

The ‘Alawi dynasty’s founder Mawlay ‘Ali al-Sharif died a hero fighting the Portuguese in North Morocco. His tomb in Tafilalt became a local shrine, set amid date palms, irrigation canals and brilliant green qsar gardens. We shall visit the mausoleum of Mawlay ‘Ali al-Sharif (gardens only) and the Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim, a restored 18th-century kasbah or fortified house. In Rissani’s Thursday market, we may view wandering traders, nomads, Berbers and Arab desert dwellers who come to sell all kinds of clothing, wares, plants, spices and vegetables, and animals.

After lunch in Erfoud, we take the Tinjdad road west to the town of Tineghir at the mouth of the Tudgha Gorge. This road marks the start of the Route of the Qasbas, so-called because of the many fortified houses, or qasbas, which line its edges. Along the way we stop to view part of the 300-kilometre network of khettara (qanat) – subsurface irrigation channels which were excavated in the Tafilalt basin beginning in the late 14th century. More than 75 of these chains provided perennial water following the breakup of the ancient city of Sijilmassa. Khettara continued to function for much of the northern oasis until the early 1970s, when new technologies and government policies forced changes. (Overnight Tineghir) BLD

 

Ouarzazate – 1 night

 

Day 11: Friday 29 March, Tineghir – Tudgha Gorge – Taourirt – Ouarzazate

Qsars of Tineghir
Tudgha Gorge
Qasba de Taourirt
Near Tineghir the High Atlas meets the Jabal Saghru, a small massif which is part of the Anti Atlas range. The deep gorges of Tudgha and Dades mark the fault line between these two mountain ranges. Both gorges were carved out of the rock by torrents of melt water from the peaks above them. As they widen, small terraces of crops line each watercourse and villages cling to their sides, placed above the line of the torrential meltwaters which can close the gorges in spring. Here the mud-brick is the same brilliant red as the soil, creating a striking contrast to the rich green crops.

This morning we visit the qsar (fortified village) of Tineghir and then head up the Tudgha Gorge. En route we shall take a leisurely walk through one of the rich, cultivated areas nestling on the banks of the Wad Tudgha. After lunching in the Tudgha Gorge, we shall return to the Route of the Qasbas and continue west.

This afternoon we visit the Qasba of Taourirt located in the town of Ouarzazate. Built late in the 19th century, the qasba became important in the 1930s when the local Glawi dynasty’s powers were at their peak. The qasba was never actually resided in by the Glawi chiefs but rather by their second tier of command, including their sons and cousins and their massive entourages of extended family members, servants, builders, and craftsmen. The qasba has close to 300 rooms grouped in more than 20 riads (apartments). (Overnight Ouarzazate) BLD

 

Marrakesh – 5 nights

 

Day 12: Saturday 30 March, Ouarzazate – Ait Ben Haddu – Marrakesh

Ksar of Ait Ben Haddu
Tiz n’Tishka Pass
This morning we drive to Ait Ben Haddu, one of the fortified villages under control of the Glawi family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Located in the foothills of the High Atlas, Ait Ben Haddu is the most famous qsar in the Ounila Valley, and a striking example of southern Moroccan architecture. This fortified village in its dramatic landscape is regularly used as settings for films.

This afternoon we cross the High Atlas by way of the Tiz n’Tishka Pass to Marrakesh, leaving behind the landscapes of the pre-Sahara with its pisé qasbas and qsars, the verdant palm groves of the Ziz valleys, and the rocky drama of the gorges. (Overnight Marrakesh) BLD

Introduction to Marrakesh
Marrakesh is the 3rd imperial city we visit, founded in 1070 by the Almoravid Abu Bakr. He chose the site because it was well watered and flat: perfect as a camping ground for the Almoravid army, composed of nomads from the Sahara. Marrakesh began as the perfect springboard for the Almoravid conquest of North Morocco, but it soon became the Almoravid capital by virtue of its location on the trans-Saharan trade route.

After the Almoravids had conquered much of Spain, a period of cultural and artistic exchange ensued bringing the sophisticated urban culture of al-Andalus (Iberia) to Marrakesh. All that remains of Almoravid Marrakesh is an exquisite qubba, (domed chamber), which may indicate the site of the lost Almoravid great mosque of Marrakesh.

In 1147 Marrakesh fell to the Almohads, who then captured North Morocco, Muslim Spain, and North Africa as far as Tunis. The most famous Almohad ruler, Ya’qub al-Mansur, builder of the Qasba of the Udaya and Hassan Tower in Rabat and the Giralda of Seville, constructed a spectacular Almohad great mosque (1190), sister to the great mosques of Rabat and Seville here. The mosque soon became known as the Kutubiyya, or Booksellers’ Mosque, as a result of the book market which grew up in its shadow.

The minaret of the Kutubiyya is one of the most important extant Almohad buildings as the only Almohad minaret which has survived intact. Like the Hassan Tower, the minaret’s façades are decorated with intricate screenwork, punctuated on the upper levels with small windows. It is crowned with a small domed pavilion surmounted with a gold spike holding three gold balls and a crescent, and gives an impression of how the Hassan Tower would have looked. Ya’qub al-Mansur also enclosed the city in a new set of walls punctuated by gateways, of which the most important is the Bab Agnaou. The Almohads also constructed the suburban Menara Gardens with their huge central pool and olive groves as a place for recreation and physical training of the Almohad army.

The Marinids showed little interest in Marrakesh but nevertheless commissioned the Bin Yusuf or Yusufiyya Madrasa here. Like Morocco’s other Marinid madrasas, the Yusufiyya has a central courtyard leading to a prayer hall flanked by students’ cells.

The Sa’di dynasty added palaces, shrines and mosques to Marrakesh. The greatest Sa’di sultan, Ahmad al-Mansur al-Dhahabi, embellished the Sa’di tomb complex and renovated the Yusufiyya Madrasa. The Sa’di reproduced Andalusian stucco work in marble from Italy.

Fes, Meknes, Rabat and Marrakesh all became ‘Alawi capitals when this dynasty supplanted the Sa’adi. Many ‘Alawi sultans loved Marrakesh and built palaces and gardens here. Mawlay ‘Abd al-Rahman (1822-1859) restored the Agdal gardens and his son, Sidi Muhammad sponsored agricultural projects in the area. His grandson’s minister, Mawlay al-Hassan (1873-1894), built the Bahia and Dar Si Sa’id palaces.

 

Day 13: Sunday 31 March, Marrakesh

Bahia Palace & courtyard gardens
Sa’di Tombs
Bab Agnaou
Kutubiyya Mosque
Le Jardin Secret (See Youtube video)
La Mamounia: historical gardens and afternoon tea
This morning we visit the 19th-century Bahia Palace, a fine example of Andalusian-style architecture. This was previously the home of Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 1860s and embellished from 1894 to 1900 by slave-turned-vizier Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed. The name ‘Bahia’ means ‘palace of the beautiful.” There are 160 different rooms in the palace which sprawl out in an open, rambling fashion. Decorations take the form of subtle stucco panels, zellij decorations, tiled floors, smooth arches, carved cedar ceilings, shiny marble (tadlakt) finishes and zouak painted ceilings. It has three beautiful courtyard gardens, rich with intoxicating roses, jacaranda, jasmine, orange blossom and pomegranates.

We also see the Sa’di Tombs. Sultan Ahmed al Mansour constructed the Sa’di Tombs in Marrakech during his rule of Morocco (16th century) as a burial ground for himself and some 200 of his descendants. The most significant chamber in the tombs is the Hall of Twelve Columns. Here rests the Sultan Ahmed el Mansour and his entire family. This chamber has a vaulted roof, Italian marble columns, beautifully decorated cedar doors and carved wooden screens. Inside the inner mausoleum lies Mohammed esh Sheikh, founder of the Sa’di dynasty, as well as the tomb of his mother. The tombs are surrounded by a small garden with richly coloured and scented roses.

We end the morning visiting the 12th-century, horseshoe-arched Bab Agnaou and the Kutubiyya Mosque. The Almohad Bab Agnaou is one of the 19 gates of Marrakesh. The Kutubiyya Mosque, Marrakesh’s largest, is ornament with curved windows, a band of ceramic inlay, pointed merlons, and decorative arches. It was completed under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184-1199).

Following lunch at the La Maison Arabe’s renowned restaurant ‘Les Trois Saveurs’, we visit Le Jardin Secret, a public garden designed by English landscape architect, Tom Stuart-Smith. The garden is located on the former site of the Riad of the Governor of the medina in the 19th century. Described by Tom Stuart-Smith: “Part of the garden is a faithful reconstruction of an Islamic garden that could have existed in Marrakech in the 19th century. The smaller garden has been largely reconfigured and is a more romantic interpretation of a Moroccan garden, full of the sorts of flowers and colour that would not be found in the more traditional garden. The west courtyard has a citrus grove with underplanting of Stipa tenuissima, California poppy, Lavender and Tulbaghia.”

We end the day with a visit to the gardens of La Mamounia one of the most famous hotels in the world (1929) and beloved of Winston Churchill. Its vast gardens are cared for by 40 gardeners who twice a year plant 60,000 annuals to enhance its grounds. They garden has immaculately mown grass under citrus and olive orchards, a desert garden, a rose garden and a tropical garden as well as many fountains. At the back of the 15-hectare garden there is a herb and kitchen garden whose produce is used in the hotel’s daily meals. We will be served Moroccan style afternoon tea in the garden. (Overnight Marrakesh) BL

Day 14: Monday 1 April, Marrakesh

Gardens of Jnane Tamsna with Gary Martin and Meryanne Loum-Martin
Yusufiyya Madrasa
Jama’ al-Fana’
This morning we transfer to Jnane Tamsna. Owned by ethnobotanist Gary Martin and his wife Meryanne Loum-Martin, this beautifully designed boutique guesthouse boasts a magnificent botany collection. It is set in the Palmeraie area of Marrakesh where tens of thousands of palm trees create shade for other plants to prosper, providing the atmosphere of an oasis. The free-flow approach (there are no formal lawns), adds to the ambience with grounds that encourage aromatic herb gardens, olive groves, lemon trees, vegetable plots and flower beds. The organic gardens are spread over nearly 9 hectares, and are watered constantly by traditional groundwater flow (khettara) and drip irrigation, while the air is naturally scented by gardenia, jasmine and white bougainvillea. We enjoy a visit of the garden and the estate before sitting for lunch.

In the afternoon we visit the religious heart of old Marrakesh where the Almoravid Qubba, the Yusufiyya Madrasa and Yusufiyya Mosque stand, probably on the site of the original Almoravid great mosque of Marrakesh. We shall also walk through the old medina visiting the city’s fascinating souqs. Marrakesh’s souqs are renowned for their vast size and the quality and variety of crafted goods on sale there. As in other Moroccan cities, each different craft can be found in its own particular street or alley: we shall see streets dedicated to gold jewellery, silver, cedar wood carving, silk robes, textiles, leather slippers, copper utensils, ceramics, rugs and carpets. The market area is covered by reed lattices whose dappled shade shelters the alleys from the hot southern sun.

We walk through the old city to its commercial and recreational heart, the Jama’ al-Fana’, an extraordinary public arena lined with booths selling fresh orange and grapefruit juice, nuts and sweets. In the centre a number of stalls offer snacks and meals of infinite variety, and numerous people provide public services and entertainments. Dentists, preachers, acrobats, black musicians from the Gnawa religious brotherhood, letter writers, snake charmers and story tellers all mingle in the Jama’ al-Fana’ from dusk late into the night. This square is very dear to the people of Marrakesh, a place to meet and promenade. This is evening is at leisure. You may wish to stay on in the Jama’ al-Fana’ to enjoy its extraordinary atmosphere. (Overnight Marrakesh) BL

 

Day 15: Tuesday 2 April, Marrakesh

Jardin Majorelle and Musée d’Art Berbère
Villa Oasis: the private garden of Pierre Bergé
Yves Saint Laurent Museum
Afternoon at leisure
Marrakesh, perhaps known best for its souqs (markets), squares and spices, also has many lush gardens. Green spaces have always been an integral part of life in Marrakesh. The city’s gardens have also inspired many artists, fashion designers and writers over the years. The British writer Osbert Sitwell said Marrakesh “is the ideal African city of water-lawns, cool, pillared palaces and orange groves.” Matisse, Delacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jean-Paul Getty visited too, finding inspiration and spending long periods in the city.

Early this morning we visit the Jardin Majorelle, created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent. The garden presents a cacophony of pink bougainvillea, blush-coloured water lilies, and a vast array of cacti. The inner walls are painted a vibrant ‘Majorelle’ blue, named after the garden’s founder. Majorelle’s art-deco studio houses a Berber Art Museum which displays valuable ceramics, weapons and magnificent jewellery, textiles, carpets, woodwork and other treasures. We also, by special invitation, will visit the gardens of Villa Oasis, Yves Saint Laurent’s private home adjoining the Jardin Majorelle.

Located right next to the Jardin Majorelle is the Yves Saint Laurent Museum dedicated to the work of the French fashion designer. This new museum houses an important selection from the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent’s impressive collection, which comprises 5,000 items of clothing, 15,000 haute couture accessories as well as tens of thousands of sketches and assorted objects.

The remain of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Marrakesh) B

Day 16: Wednesday 3 April, Marrakesh – Ourika Valley – Marrakesh

Private gardens of Dar Azaren, Tnine Ourika
Anima Garden
Beldi Country Club, lunch and garden
Today we drive thirty kilometres south of Marrakesh to visit the secluded retreat of Dar Azaren, owned by Liliane Fawcett. This dar (house), set in 6.5 hectares, is nestled within olive groves and walled gardens, and offers spectacular views of the High Atlas Mountains. The grounds and gardens, conceived by Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart, blend subtle plantations of fragrant flowers and sculptural cacti with local crops. The colours of the landscape using the grey santolina, mauve lantana and enormous Kalanchoe set a dramatic scene.

We then visit the nearby newly opened Anima, one of the most beautiful and imaginative gardens in Morocco. Austrian multi-media artist André Heller’s opulent, two-hectare botanical garden is a magical place of sensuality and wonder. It combines unusual sculptures with flowers and plants, paying homage to local traditions and fauna, as well as incorporating modern Western elements.

We return to Marrakesh to dine at the Beldi Country Club, set in a breathtaking landscape. After lunch, we visit the gardens, a fabulous combination of traditional Arabic plantings with long reflection pools, and French influences, with a field of roses and bold colours on furniture.

The remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Marrakesh) BL

 

Taroudant – 5 nights

 

Day 17: Thursday 4 April, Marrakesh – Ouirgane -Taroudant

Lunch at Domaine de la Roseraie, Ouirgane
Dar Al Hossoun
Today we journey south to Taroudant, following one of the most spectacular routes in Morocco. It winds its way up and then down through the High Atlas, above the beautiful valleys and past isolated villages, eventually reaching the Tizi-n-Test pass, with its breathtaking views across the Souss Valley to the Anti Atlas.

We break for lunch in Ouirgane, a small village surrounded by stunning greenery, red-earth hills and pine forests. Lunch will be served in the Domaine de la Roseraie, which is set in the middle of 25 hectares of flower beds, olive trees, orchards and, as the name suggests, plenty of rose bushes. Winding paths through the estate offer unique views over the Toubkal range. (Mt Toubkkal is the highest peak in the Atlas mountains, and in North Africa, at 4137 metres).

We continue south along windy roads to Taroudant, known as the ‘pearl of the Souss Valley’. Here our group will stay at Dar Al Hossoun, designed by Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart.

For over 25 years, Maurières and Éric Ossart have been designing gardens in France and throughout the Mediterranean region. When they moved to southern Morocco they realised the importance of designing low-maintenance gardens for a dry climate. Since 2002, they have been working to create gardens in the olive groves to the west of Taroudant. Their work focuses on preserving areas of unspoiled natural wilderness, designing and building gardens and rammed-earth houses that have by stages added an entirely new neighbourhood to the city.

In the company of Ollivier Verra, owner of Dar Al Hossoun, we take a tour of Dar Al Hossoun before dinner.

Dar Al Hossoun was Ossart & Maurières’ very first build, one of the most widely publicised examples of their work as landscape architects. Surrounded by a garden that served originally as a test bed to study plant performance in the arid, pre-Saharan environment of the Souss Valley, the property boasts hundreds of species of plants proved to be drought-tolerant, plus an impressive 500-metre-square sunken garden for fragile species not usually found in this region. (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

 

Day 18: Friday 5 April, Taroudant

Dar Igdad and L’Orange Bleue
Tour of Taroudant’s secret gardens by horse & carriage
Palais Salam
Dar Ali
Dat Sidi Hussein
Dinner at Dar Sidi ou Sidi, the private home of Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart
Today we continue our discovery of Ossart & Maurières’ finest gardens in the Hossoun olive grove.

The Dar Al Hossoun build prompted the construction of the two adjoining properties, Dar Igdad and L’Orange Bleue, which marked Ossart & Maurières’ very first venture into steppe planning: with groups of grasses, drought-tolerant shrubs (grown mainly from seeds collected in Madagascar and Mexico) and succulents featuring a rich collection of opuntia (prickly pear).

Dar Igdad, meaning ‘the house of the birds’ in Berber, was begun in 2007 on the site of a former olive grove. Like Dar Al Hossoun, it is surrounded by high earthen walls in a rich mahogany colour, against which still stand many of the grove’s original multi-trunked trees. The garden, which featured in Garden Illustrated by Louisa Jones, is drought tolerant. The most spectacular part, a vast meadow, appears natural but is actually composed of species from similar biotopes from all over the world, like American agaves and African euphorbias that grow among the meadow’s Sahara grasses.

At Dar Deboules and Dar Carlhian, we see Ossart & Maurières’ most recent designs. Both gardens offer an unusually broad range of steppe plants, making it possible to track growth from planting to maturity.

Following a buffet lunch in the sunken garden of Dar Al Hossoun, we take a tour of Taroudant’s secret gardens by horse and carriage.

Taroudant, a walled Berber market town, lies just south of the High Atlas and to the north of the Anti Atlas. It gained commercial and political importance thanks to its position at the heart of the fertile Souss Valley. The Sa’adi made it their capital for a short time in the 16th century before moving on to Marrakesh. The 7.5 kilometres of ramparts surrounding Taroudant are among the best-preserved pise (reinforced mud) walls in Morocco. As the sun moves across the sky their colour changes from golden brown to the deepest red.

Built in the 16th and 17th century, a string of mighty defensive towers create the gates of the city. One of the most commonly used of these gates is the impressive, triple-arched Bab el-Kasbah, approached along an avenue of orange trees. Beyond and to the right past an olive press stands another gate, Bab Sedra that leads to the old qasba quarter – a fortress built by Moulay Ismail in the 17th century that is now the poorest part of town.

At the heart of this ancient city lies the medina, home to traditional Moroccan houses with interior gardens or courtyards, many of them built or restored by Ossart and Maurières. These are the riads for which Morocco is famous – havens of freshness usually exclusively reserved for their owners, and now ours to discover on this enchanting tour.

We enjoy some tea at Palais Salam, the former Pasha’s residence, before visiting Sidi Hussein, the house of five courtyards. This is one of Ossart and Maurières’ most ambitious projects in the medina. It is composed of several buildings, each one arranged around an amazing inner garden but all built in different styles to reflect the changing face of Taroudant architecture. The site was formerly occupied by badly dilapidated houses that were demolished to free up some 1000 square metres of building space.

We enjoy some tea at Palais Salam, the former Pasha’s residence, before visiting Dar Ali, Empress Farah’s house. Then, we visit Sidi Hussein, the house of five courtyards. This is one of Ossart and Maurières’ most ambitious projects in the medina. It is composed of several buildings, each one arranged around an amazing inner garden but all built in different styles to reflect the changing face of Taroudant architecture. The site was formerly occupied by badly dilapidated houses that were demolished to free up some 1000 square metres of building space.

Dinner will be served in the Dar Sidi ou Sidi, the private home of Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart, tucked away deep in the souq, at the heart of the old town. The house, a fine example of Taroudant vernacular architecture, features a terrace-planted botanic garden housing Ossart and Maurières’ private plant collection.

Dinner is followed by a screening (with commentary) of Frédéric Wilner’s film Jardins d’Eden (Gardens of Eden). (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

 

Day 19: Saturday 6 April, Taroudant – Tiout Oasis – Taroudant

Tiout Oasis and the Anti Atlas
Dar El Nour
Dar Ahbab
In the company of Ollivier Verra, we subdivide into two groups to take two small coaches on a scenic drive through the Souss Valley to the fertile oasis of Tiout, located on the northern edge of the Anti Atlas mountains.

In the Souss Valley we’ll witness the tremendous contrast between commercially farmed irrigated cash crops (such as oranges, maize or bananas) and subsistence farming of arid land including the strange sight of goats grazing in the native argania (trees). Argania spinosa, endemic to the semi-desert Sous Valley and the Algerian region of Tindouf, is a source of argan oil used for dipping bread, on couscous, salads, and in natural cosmetics. In Morocco, arganeraie forests now cover some 8280 square kilometres, designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

The Tiout Oasis, formed by a now dried-up ancient lake, is probably the westernmost of all the oases that have survived from antiquity. It provides a perfect demonstration of the traditional custom of sharing irrigation water and also reflects the diverse richness of sub-Saharan arable farming. Our excursion includes a guided tour led by a local farmer, a visit to women argan oil cooperative, with lunch under Berber canvas at the heart of the oasis.

We return to the Hossoun valley to visit Dar El Nour and Dar Ahbab. These two houses and gardens were specifically designed for a relatively small plot of land, focusing on the affinity between rammed-earth buildings and natural swimming pools. The gardens appear wild, but do in fact contain at least 200 different species of carefully selected plants.

Tonight we dine together at Dar Al Hossoun. This will be followed by a screening of Jacques Becker’s Ali Baba et les 40 voleurs (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) – a 1954 film shot in Taroudant, starring French actor and singer Fernandel. (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

 

Day 20: Sunday 7 April, Taroudant

Les Jardins de Andrew
Dar Zahia, lunch and garden
Visit to the souq and ramparts
La Tour des Faucon, dinner and garden
This morning we visit three gardens located in the outskirt of Taroudant. We start the day with a visit to Les Jardins de Andrew. Andrew is an eccentric British collector with a taste for whimsical constructions. Andrew’s garden, located outside the ramparts, is punctuated by fanciful creations that lend an air of mystery to their lush surroundings. Ossart and Maurières describe their work thus: “using the same plants as at Dar Igdad, we laid out here a very formal garden corresponding exactly to the architecture of the house. Keeping in mind the advice of the great Brazilian designer Roberto Burle Marx, we used the right plant in the right place, whether rare or commonplace, native or exotic. We often use bold swaths of the same plant to get different moods even in this relatively small garden”.

Nearby, we visit the recently designed Dar Zahia Garden with the owner Marc Belli. French photographer Marc Belli designed his own garden covering nearly 4,000sq m. Behind the property main gate, one discover a field of roses and hibiscus. Around a patio, we find jacarandas, euphorbias, palm trees and acanthus. A 32-meter long swimming pool has been built in the middle of the plot. It has on one side an orchard and rose garden and on the other side, fields of olives and fig trees. All around the garden, cacti, agaves, grasses and zoysia lawn have been arranged with the pool water used to irrigate the soil. We enjoy lunch in Dar Zahia’s garden.

Today, Taroudant is an important hub in southern Morocco well known for its handicrafts, jewellery design, Berber crafts and woodwork. Within the walled inner city there are two main squares – Place Assarag (Place Alaouyine) and Place Talmoklate (Place en Nasr) – which mark the centre of town, with the main souq area between them. The pedestrian area of Place Assarag is the centre of activity, and comes alive in late afternoon as the sun’s heat eases off and people come out to promenade. Lately it has seen the return of performers such as storytellers, snake charmers and musicians – as in Marrakesh’s Jemaa el-Fnaa, but on a smaller scale.

Then we head for La Tour des Faucons (The Falcon’s Villa). Welcomed by Karl Morsher, the owner and designer, we visit his contemporary style villa and tower, as well as the renovated farmhouse and its extensive grounds of palm and olive trees (producing their own organic olive oil) and exotic flower-filled gardens. We enjoy our dinner at La Tour des Faucons.

We return to our riad, Dar Al Hossoun, for a screening of the film La Route des cédrats (‘The Citron Trail’) directed by Izza Genini (with commentary). (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

 

Day 21: Monday 8 April, Taroudant – Afensou and the upper valley of the Oued Ouaer – Taroudant

Claudio Bravo palace and gardens
Lunch in traditional Berber house
Trek across high plateaux to study flora found at medium altitude around Imoulass
High-altitude garden designed by Éric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières, Afra
Farewell Dinner at Dar Al Hossoun
Today, we spend the morning visiting the Claudio Bravo palace and gardens. Chilean painter Claudio Bravo spent his last years building an enormous palace in Taroudant in which to house his collections. The gardens surrounding the palace are equally enormous and are arranged around a large pond that provides water for citrus and banana trees; the interior gardens were designed by Ossart and Maurières.

Taroudant stands at the foot of the Western High Atlas Mountains, which reach a maximum elevation at Djebel Aoulim of 3400 metres. In the upper valleys are ancient mud brick and pisé villages nestling in high-altitude oases – traditional settlements planted with palm trees, olive groves and even walnut trees in the highest villages. The tracts of land in between them provide an ideal habitat for a wealth of native flora.

Following a light lunch in a traditional Berber house, we trek across the high plateau (nothing too demanding) through thickets of thuja (a tree of the coniferous family, close to cedar, which grows only in Morocco, specifically in the Atlas Mountains, used by artisans for making tables, boxes etc) and the flora found at medium altitude around Imoulass (Callitris articulate, Polygala balansae, Thymus saturejoïdes, Salvia taraxifolia, Chamacytisus albidus, etc).

In the village of Afra we visit Ossart & Maurières’ high-altitude garden – the perfect location for hundreds of different plant species, including some rare specimens.

We return to our riad for a farewell meal at Dar Al Hossoun. (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

Day 22: Tuesday 9 April, Taroudant – Agadir, Tour Ends.

Airport transfer for those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight
This morning we shall transfer to Agadir airport in order to board our domestic flight to Casablanca. Group members taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport for the flight home. Those not taking this flight can use a taxi or contact ASA to arrange a private transfer. B

A Designer’s Guide to the Gardens of England and the Hampton Court Flower Show

A Designer’s Guide to  Gardens of England and the  Hampton Court  Flower Show

 

**Early-Bird special BOOK before July 31**

Tour Highlights

 

 

Award-winning Australian landscape architect Jim Fogarty leads this contemporary garden tour of Southern England. We visit magnificent gardens near Oxford, Bath, Winchester, Brighton and Windsor, concluding with a visit to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show with fireworks on the celebrated preview evening.
Discover exemplary gardens that showcase the modern romantics style of contemporary colour schemes and perennial herbaceous borders by some of the world’s greatest garden designers.
Be treated to a selection of England’s finest contemporary private gardens designed by Tom Stuart-Smith including the gardens at Broughton Grange, Brockhampton Cottage, Grendon Court, Moor Hatches Garden, and his very own gardens at Serge Hill & The Barn.
Learn how some of the most iconic English gardens continue to inspire modern designers when we visit Hidcote Manor, Kiftsgate, Great Dixter, Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst, & the Manor House Garden by Gertrude Jekyll.
Visit Alasdair Forbes’ incredible modern garden at Plaz Metaxu; a concept garden of poetic symbolism.
Wander through Piet Oudolf’s gardens at the world-famous Hauser and Wirth, whose art gallery and sculptures are set amongst swathes of new perennials by Oudolf, pioneer of the Dutch Wave movement.
Compare naturalistic planting by Piet Oudolf and the minimalist design of Christopher Bradley-Hole in two unique gardens at Bury Court.
Join Juliette Mead for a delightful home-cooked lunch at Moor Hatches, a Tom Stuart-Smith garden rarely opened to the public.
Enjoy a special visit to Crockmore House Gardens and meet the owner, The Honourable Julia Kirkham, including a visit to Orchard Dean Nursery that supplied many of the plants.
Visit Througham Court Garden, Dr Christine Facer’s ‘laboratory’ and enjoy a modern garden inspired by science.
After visiting Tintern Abbey, view Anne Wareham’s modern Veddw Gardens located in the Welsh borders; full of big confident sweeps of plants and patterns of hedging.
Be inspired by the exemplary plantings at Pettifers Garden, Bramdean House, the work of Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe at Shute House, & Marylyn Abbott’s West Green House & Gardens.
Meet Mark Straver, owner of Hortus Loci nursery and learn about growing plants for some of the world’s greatest designers at RHS shows.
Spend the morning with Andy Sturgeon, one of Britain’s most acclaimed contemporary garden designers and discover what inspires his incredible garden designs.
Wander the swathes of herbaceous perennials as Sussex Prairie Garden as well as Henrik Gerritsen’s Dutch influenced plantings at Waltham Place that were sourced from Piet Oudolf’s own nursery in the Netherlands.
Learn about the botanicals used in the process of distilling Gin at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery and explore the eclectic shopping in laneways of Brighton.

 

15-day Garden Tour of England

 

Overnight Oxford (3 nights) • Bath (3 nights) • Winchester (2 nights) • Brighton (3 nights) • Windsor (3 nights)

 

Oxford – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Thursday 20 June, London Heathrow Airport – Oxford

Arrive London Heathrow Airport and transfer to Oxford
Welcome Meeting
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Heathrow Airport on 20 June. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to Oxford, where we spend the next three nights. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the hotel in Oxford, or alternatively at the Heathrow Airport Arrivals Hall to join the coach transfer– please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time. In the evening there will be a short Welcome Meeting at the hotel. (Overnight Oxford)

 

Day 2: Friday 21 June, Oxford – Banbury – Lower Wardington – Oxford

Broughton Grange, Banbury
Pettifers Garden, Lower Wardington
Welcome Dinner at The Quod, Oxford
We begin our tour of contemporary gardens with a visit to Broughton Grange, which has received much attention since opening under the National Garden Scheme (NGS) in 2004. The gardens are set in 350 acres of parkland, farmland, and open meadow, with a style of planting that owes its origins to the Victorian era. The gardens’ development accelerated in 2001, when acclaimed landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith, who has been awarded eight RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medals including three Best in Show awards, was commissioned to transform a 6-acre field into a walled garden. This impressive new garden features three individually themed terraces and has been designed with consideration to the surrounding rural landscape. Broughton Grange now represents one of the most significant private contemporary gardens in Britain. Broughton Grange is the first of a selection of Tom Stuart-Smith gardens included in the tour. A ploughman’s lunch will be provided after our guided tour of the gardens.

After lunch, we explore the innovative Pettifers Gardens, where head gardener Polly Stevens will provide us with a guided tour. The tour will describe not only the interesting and surprising plant combinations, but also how this garden has undergone changes made by the owner and designer, the Honourable Mrs. Gina Price, since the early 1990s, when she began to design the garden. Combined with friendship and advice from Diany Binney at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Pettifers has today developed a reputation as one of the must-see English country gardens. Adorned with herbaceous perennials, this garden is guaranteed to please in the peak of English summer. RHS judge and media personality James Alexander-Sinclair described the garden in Gardens Illustrated magazine as “undoubtedly one of the most exciting and delightful gardens in the country.”

Our dinner destination is the Quod Restaurant and Bar in Oxford. An ASA favourite, the Quod will be the perfect location for the group to formally sit down together for a welcome meal and compare notes from the day with tour leader and leading garden designer Jim Fogarty. (Overnight Oxford) BLD

 

Day 3: Saturday 22 June, Oxford – Bibury – Chipping –Campden – Oxford

Village of Bibury, the Cotswolds
Hidcote Manor, Chipping Campden
Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Chipping Campden
Our day commences with a drive through the Cotswolds visiting the village of Bibury, described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds.”

Later in the morning, we undertake a self-guided tour of the delightful National Trust property, Hidcote Manor. Hidcote is a significant garden, and one of England’s most influential gardens of the 20th century. It was designed in the English Arts and Craft style by Major Laurence Johnston as a series of garden rooms each with a different character and theme and each separated from each other by walls and hedges. We will explore how and why Hidcote remains as one of the world’s most influential gardens.

Located less than a kilometre away, we take a short walk to Kiftsgate Court Gardens, sometimes referred to as the ‘twin’ of Hidcote. After sitting down to lunch in the tearooms, we will hear the story of Kiftsgate’s three generations of women gardeners: Heather Muir, Diany Binny and Anne Chambers. Heather Muir created the gardens in the 1920’s. From the mid-50’s, Diany Binny continued to add to the garden by creating the semi-circular pool in the lower garden and redesigning the ‘white sunk garden.’ One of the finest accomplishments of its current owner, Anne Chambers, is the new ‘abstract modern’ water garden. (Overnight Oxford) BL

 

Bath – 3 nights

 

Day 4: Sunday 23 June, Oxford – Througham – Tintern – Devauden – Bath

Througham Court: private tour with Dr Christine Facer Hoffman (exclusive private visit)
Sunday lunch at the Anchor Inn and visit to Tintern Abbey
Veddw House, Devauden
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 77kms south to the county of Gloucestershire. Here, we visit Througham Court, a 17th-century Jacobean house with 6 acres of formal and informal gardens, and receive a private tour by the garden’s owner and designer, Dr Christine Facer Hoffman. Hoffman, scientist and landscape architect, describes her private garden as “a personal laboratory to experiment with new ideas, materials and planting combinations.” Developed since 2000, contemporary areas have been artfully embedded in the Cotswold architect Norman Jewson’s 1930’s Arts and Crafts masterpiece. Hoffman has stated that her contemporary ‘fragments’ are inspired by scientific discoveries and theories. She uses mathematical number sequences found in nature to create a symbolic and metaphorical narrative so that the gardens may be ‘read’ by the visitor. Througham Court has been described by The Sunday Times as “one of England’s most remarkable gardens” and has featured on Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden Secrets on BBC 2.

Crossing the border to Wales after a bit more than an hour’s drive, we visit scenic Tintern Abbey. Located on the Wye river, Tintern Abbey is one of Wales’ most significant ruins sites. The Abbey dates back to the 12th century, and in later years inspired William Wordsworth’s poetry. For lunch, we will dine at the Anchor Inn, a short walk from the Abbey.

Following lunch, we will visit the theatrical Veddw House Garden, designed by the owners Anne and Chris Wareham. Anne Wareham, describes herself as a ‘bad-tempered’ gardener, but this has not stopped the garden from making the list of Alan Titchmarsh’s pick of 10 Best British Gardens. The owners don’t follow a style guide, rather they operate by their own rules. Veddw is quirky and ambitious, and a guided tour will help explain the back story to the creatively cut formal hedges and the more informal planting style that has made Veddw famous. (Overnight Bath) BL

 

Day 5: Monday 24 June, Bath – Brockhampton – Upton Bishop – Bath

Brockhampton Cottage: the Private Garden of Peter & Ravida Clay (exclusive private visit)
Grendon Court, Upton Bishop: the Private Garden of Mark & Kate Edwards (exclusive private visit)
Brockhampton Cottage, Designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, is located in Herefordshire atop a hill with a view to the south and west of unspoiled countryside. Owned by the visionary Peter Clay, who as a co-owner of the biggest gardening website in the UK (Crocus.co.uk) comes with pedigree in the British horticultural industry, the garden has been created in the modern romantic style with herbaceous borders set over a series of terraced spaces with wild flower meadows beyond. This beautifully designed & constructed garden blends into the distant views over the Herefordshire valleys and will not disappoint.

Just across the road is Grendon Court, a garden also designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. Created over two levels this garden comprises a mix of mass planted perennials combined with ornamental flowering grasses, providing a variety of texture and colour and year-round interest. Owner of Grendon Court, Kate Edwards, will put on a two-course lunch for us at her garden, and together with Peter Clay from Brockhampton Cottage, will explain to the group the fascinating story of how both gardens were created. (Overnight Bath) BL

 

Day 6: Tuesday 25 June, Bath – Witheridge near Tiverton – Somerset – Bath

Plaz Metaxu, Witheridge near Tiverton: Private Garden of Alasdair Forbes Esq. (exclusive private visit)
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Plaz Metaxu, meaning “the place that is in between” is a modern garden at Coombe House designed by Alasdair Forbes that pushes the boundaries of garden design. The creation of the garden is clearly very personally inspired but it also draws elements of Greek mythology, Taoism and Buddhism. Learning about the various themes and sculptures will give the group an understanding of Alasdair Forbes’ passion for the classics and will be a fascinating educational journey for contemporary garden enthusiasts.

Piet Oudolf is a Dutch garden designer who has been credited with leading the global wave of the ‘New Perennial Movement,’ a naturalistic artist driven planting style that relies on swathes of perennial plants and ornamental grasses providing an ever-changing landscape through the seasons. Today we will visit one of his famous gardens, the 1.5 acre garden at Hauser & Wirth that includes ‘Oudolf Field’ – a large perennial meadow to the north of the farmyard and new gallery buildings. The garden bears some resemblance to a traditional English classic garden, but is softened by use of modern herbaceous borders, and swathes of perennials, which loosens the overall effect. There is also a mix of old and new architectural styles, with the original buildings of the site and the new gallery. We will be introduced to the work of Piet Oudolf, the project design, and some of the details of the planting at the gallery. We will also visit the Radic Pavilion where we will be introduced to the style and work of the architect, Laplace & Co., founded in 2004 in Paris by Luis Laplace and Christophe Comoy. (Overnight Bath) BL

 

Winchester – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Wednesday 26 June, Bath – Shaftesbury – West Amesbury – Winchester

Shute House, Shaftesbury
Moor Hatches, West Amesbury: home-made lunch at the Private Garden of Juliette Mead & Guy Leech (exclusive private visit)
This morning we tour south from Bath to visit the gardens of Shute House, originally designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe in the late 1960s. Thirty years later, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe was tempted out of retirement to revitalise the gardens for its new owners, in what would become his final project. The gardens include waterfalls, canals and rills that run through a series of atmospheric ‘rooms.’ Current owners John and Suzy Lewis continue to maintain the gardens. There is certainly a formal feel to Shute House gardens, but the inclusion of contemporary sculptures mixes an element of playfulness to the formality.

After a light lunch, we pay a visit to another of Tom Stuart-Smith’s creations, Moor Hatches. This is a contemporary family garden with a swimming pool that has been widely photographed and published. Access to Moor Hatches is provided by application only and it is a rare privilege to be welcomed into this garden. (Overnight Winchester) BL

 

Day 8: Thursday 27 June, Winchester – Upton Grey – Hook – Whitchurch – Winchester

The Manor House Garden, Upton Grey
Hortus Loci Nursery, Hook: Private Tour with Mark Straver
West Green House Gardens, Hook: Private tour with owner and designer Marylyn Abbott
Bombay Distillery, Whitchurch
The Manor House garden was designed and planted in 1908 and 1909 by Gertrude Jekyll and is said to be the most accurately and fully restored of her gardens. Jeckyll (1843-1932) was an influential British garden designer often described as a premier influence in the world of garden design. Thanks to her association with the English architect, Edwin Lutyens, Jekyll was half of one of the most influential and historical partnerships of the Arts and Crafts movement. Jeckyll was one of the first to explore the use of colour and texture in planting designs that remains relevant today.

The garden at the Manor House consists of a formal garden with herbaceous borders in colours running from cool colours at either end to bright hot colours in the centre, a wild garden, a rose lawn, planted drystone walls, as well as bowling and tennis lawns. The house gardens are surrounded by a nuttery, kitchen garden, and orchard. The 15th century Manor House was altered by Ernest Newton in 1903-1905 for Charles Holme, founder of the leading Arts and Crafts magazine The Studio.

Later in the morning, we will visit Hortus Loci, a wholesale plant nursery that sources plants for high-profile landscape designers. Since starting in 2011, Hortus Loci have supplied plants to many gold medal gardens at RHS Chelsea Flower Show & RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The owner & director, Mark Straver will provide us with a personal tour and give some background to some of the challenges with supplying plants for RHS shows. Previously, as head buyer for Crocus, Mark was integral in sourcing the plants for the gold medal winning Australian Garden presented by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011, designed by Jim Fogarty. With Hortus Loci, Mark sourced and supplied the plants for ‘Essence of Australia’ presented by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2014, designed by Jim Fogarty, that was awarded a gold medal and the Tudor Rose Award for Best in Show. The tour will be followed by a light lunch on site at the Hobo.co garden café.

West Green House Gardens, created by acclaimed garden designer and writer, Marylyn Abbott, is one of England’s finest manor house gardens, marrying neo-classical style with contemporary design. These are the creation of an Australian, Marylyn Abbott. The gardens are a personal creation based upon Marylyn’s early love of gardens, inculcated by her mother and grandmother when she was growing up in Australia (Marylyn masterminded the famous Australian garden, ‘Kennerton Green’). At West Green House she has reconciled her Australian gardening heritage, dominated by brilliant light, with England’s softer, more muted atmosphere. Marylyn is a prolific writer; her latest book The Resilient Garden, in keeping with her experience reconciling very different gardening environments, discusses a collection of plants that will acclimatise to both Mediterranean and cool temperate gardens. The garden includes a walled garden, a potager garden, perennial borders, the ‘Paradise Water Garden’ and the contemporary ‘Garden of the Five Bridges.’ With unfolding garden rooms opening up to more informal garden areas, the garden includes follies and touches of humour.

Our day will finish with a visit and tour of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, where we will learn about the role that botanicals play in the process of making gin. In recent years, gin has undergone a revival of interest with a new generation keen to learn about the variety of herbs, spices and fruits used to make versions of this traditional drink. The award-winning sustainability measures in design and construction are at the heart of this state-of-the art distillery. (Overnight Winchester) BL

 

Brighton – 3 nights

 

Day 9: Friday 28 June, Winchester – Bramdean – Farnham – Brighton

Bramdean: Private Garden of Victoria Wakefield (exclusive private visit)
Bury Court, Farnham: designed by Piet Oudolf & Christopher Bradley-Hole
Bramdean House is a 5-acre plantsman’s garden famous for its herbaceous perennial borders. The formal gardens comprise a progression of three compartments laid out on rising ground and aligned on the north front of the house. A central doorway opens from the house with an axial grassed path that is flanked by the widely photographed deep herbaceous borders, planted in mirror image on either side of the path. Although traditional in style, we will explore the connection between traditional herbaceous English borders and the style of planting used in the natural style plantings of today’s more contemporary English gardens.

After morning tea at Bramdean, and a short drive north with South Downs National Park on our right, we arrive at The Barn at Bury Court for a guided tour. The gardens at Bury Court are contemporary in style and include gardens designed by Piet Oudolf & Christopher Bradley-Hole. The courtyard garden was created by owner John Coke in collaboration with Piet Oudolf and reflect Oudolf’s passion for the naturalistic style and feature ornamental grasses and hardy perennials.

The front garden at Bury Court was added later, and was designed by leading landscape minimalist Christopher Bradley-Hole. Bradley-Hole has won multiple gold medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, including Best in Show, and his designs work on mathematically harmonious proportions that often form the backbone to his gardens. Providing a contrast to the courtyard garden, this garden is designed around a formal grid pattern of rusted steel-edged beds and gravel paths. The garden is planted with swathes of tall grasses mixed with carefully selected flowering perennials to create a dream-like meadow feel. At its tranquil heart is a reflective pool and simple but innovative seating area. (Overnight Brighton) BL

 

Day 10: Saturday 29 June, Brighton – Brighton and surrounds – Brighton

Spend the morning with Andy Sturgeon, one of UK’s leading garden designers
Explore Brighton including the famous Brighton ‘Lanes’
Today we will spend the morning with Andy Sturgeon who is one of the UK’s leading garden designers. He is a published author, journalist and broadcaster, and an active commentator in the international garden design sector. His modern designs are a fusion of traditional materials and contemporary styling which have become known for their timeless architectural qualities, innovative planting and sculptural characteristics. Andy has exhibited several times at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and has won seven gold medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show as well as twice being awarded the coveted ‘Best in Show’ award. The Sunday Times and House and Garden Magazine place Andy in the Top Ten list of landscape designers in Britain. Andy Sturgeon & Jim Fogarty are both design directors of Garden Design Asia and have travelled together and exhibited extensively at international garden shows in Japan, Korea, Malaysia & Singapore.

In the afternoon we will have free time to explore the sites of Brighton. ‘The Lanes’ are a collection of narrow alleyways in in the city of Brighton famous for their many small shops that include antique & jewelry shops as well as cafes, restaurants and bars.

 

Day 11: Sunday 30 June, Brighton – Northiam – Cranbrook– Brighton

Great Dixter House and Gardens, Northiam
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Cranbrook
Today is a day of iconic English gardens. The Lloyd family developed Great Dixter early in the 20th century from an original design by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Today it is more famous for the plantings established by Christopher Lloyd documented in his many classic gardening books. The residence comprises a mid 15th-century hall house, typical of the Weald of Kent, to the south side of which a second, early 16th-century yeoman’s house was grafted. Lutyens enjoyed using local materials and retained farm buildings like oast houses, cowsheds, barns and outbuildings. Around these he designed his garden, featuring a sunken garden, topiary and yew hedges. Christopher Lloyd managed Great Dixter from the 1950s and was noted for his innovative approach and introduction of concepts like the mixed border and meadow garden, and his replacement of the rose garden with schemes using less fashionable plants like cannas and dahlias. We will investigate his full range of planting schemes. Although Lloyd is no longer present in the garden his gardener Fergus Garrett has achieved what some consider even better results in recent years. Great Dixter was chosen by Alan Titchmarsh as one of his 10 Best British Gardens and is widely acclaimed by plantsmen and women worldwide.

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

 

Windsor – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Monday 1 July, Brighton – Henfield – Molesey – Windsor

Sussex Prairie Garden, Henfield
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Molesey
Sussex Prairie Garden is a large 8 acre garden featuring swathes of herbaceous perennials. Opened in 2009, it is Britain’s largest “Prairie,” or “Naturalistic,” garden and is the work of the owners Paul & Pauline who enlisted help from family and friends to plant as many as 35,000 plants. Sussex Prairie features large groupings of each plant variety in muted colours that complement the surrounding landscape. Guests at Sussex Prairie will be provided with a picnic lunch as well as an explanation of what is meant by ‘naturalistic planting’ and advice for enthusiastic planters.

In the early afternoon we drive to Windsor to check into the Royal Windsor Hotel for the final two nights of the tour. During the afternoon, we will have time to rest as the exciting Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Flower Show awaits us in East Molesey in Sussex. This is the largest of all the RHS shows and is said to be the largest garden show in the world. With more space than RHS Chelsea, RHS Hampton Court offers more interactive displays and has fast become one of the most enjoyable RHS shows for keen gardeners. We will visit the show on the exclusive Preview Evening from 5pm which will provide us with a sneak peak of one of England’s most loved events on the Garden calendar. Our tour leader, Jim Fogarty, having won Best in Show at RHS Hampton Court in 2014, will be able to provide expert commentary and give an insight into what it takes to exhibit at the world’s largest garden show. As well as meeting exhibitors and viewing show gardens & floral displays, we will see contemporary and highly expressive conceptual gardens and world gardens. Choose to dine at the Champagne & Seafood Restaurant or at the abundance of food courts and food trucks for something more relaxing. The Preview evening includes live music and entertainment with the culmination being the incredible musical fireworks finale in the twilight sky at 10pm. With Hampton Court Palace providing a spectacular backdrop, this will be a night to remember. (Overnight Windsor)BLD

 

Day 13: Tuesday 2 July, Windsor – Henley-on-Thames – White Waltham – Windsor

Crockmore House, Henley-on-Thames: designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole (exclusive private visit)
Waltham Place: designed by Henk Gerritsen
Christopher Bradley-Hole’s design at Crockmore House Garden was high on our list when planning this itinerary. The garden was constructed in 1999 and planted in 2000. Bradley-Hole, a master at creating contemporary landscapes, has cleverly used a series of curves that forms the basis of the design, extending the curves out as far as the fields using ornamental grasses to seamlessly blend with the landscape beyond. The garden has become immensely popular with photographers as well as students of Landscape Architecture and design worldwide. The Honourable Julia Crockmore, who owns this flamboyant, ambitious, and modern garden, will provide us with lunch, and will personally show us around the gardens. Ms Crockmore graduated from the Oxford College of Garden Design in 2005 with a post-graduate in residential landscape architecture.

Later in the afternoon, we are taken to Waltham Place, a biodynamic and organic farm that includes a series of walled gardens. As is always the case with biodynamic philosophy, the gardeners at Waltham place have worked with nature to produce the many different facets of the gardens. The gardens include a Japanese Garden, a Butterfly Garden, a Kitchen Garden, Friar’s Walk and much more. The Dutch garden designer Henk Gerritsen, renowned for the Priona gardens in the Netherlands, was commissioned in 1999 to transform the formal gardens using his principles of natural plantings reflecting his idea that nature is not symmetrical but irregular, free and whimsical. Driven to impress visitors with a garden free of fertilisers and pesticides, without the endless battle against weeds and predators, a need arose to find suitable plants robust enough. These he found via the celebrated garden designer and plants man Piet Oudolf. Many of the plants in the ornamental gardens at Waltham Place have been introduced through Piet Oudolf’s nursery in the Netherlands. (Overnight Windsor) BL

 

Day 14: Wednesday 3 July, Windsor – Bedmond– Windsor

Serge Hill, Bedmond: Private Garden of Tom Stuart-Smith (exclusive private visit). The Barn, Bedmond: Private Garden of Tom Stuart-Smith (exclusive private visit)
Farewell meal at local restaurant
The tour finishes with an exclusive visit to two of Tom Stuart-Smith’s very own private gardens, Serge Hill & The Barn. Both providing diverse examples of Stuart-Smith’s work, each of the gardens displays unique characteristics. Serge Hill is where Tom grew up and has been in Tom Stuart-Smith’s family since 1927, when his grandfather purchased the estate. This is a walled garden that began as mainly a vegetable growing area, but has now developed colourful rose borders with a variety of inspiring colour combinations in the planting. The Barn, in contrast, features naturalistic planting and was created by Tom and his wife Sue in the 1980s. Thanks to their tireless and creative work, the garden has grown from an ‘arable field’ into a fully mature garden, with incredible and inspiring displays of modern colour. (Overnight Windsor) BD

 

Day 15: Thursday 4 July, Depart Windsor

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight.
Our tour ends in Windsor. Passengers travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport for the return flight to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in the UK. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

Cherry Blossom and the Art of the Japanese Garden

Cherry Blossom and the Art of the Japanese Garden

 

**FILLING FAST – BOOK NOW**

Highlights

 

Travel with John Patrick, landscape architect, author and former presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia when Japan’s countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious cherry blossom.
Visit a diverse range of Japan’s traditional gardens, including Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) & Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple) in Kyoto, Isuien Garden in Nara and Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa. We also visit a number of small gardens by special appointment.
Explore some of Japan’s splendid art collections, including Tokyo’s Suntory Museum of Art and the National Museum, the National Treasure Museum in Nara, and the magnificent collection of kimonos at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum at the foot of Mt Fuji.
Visit the Jiyu Gakuen School in Tokyo, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright when he lived in Japan.
Experience Japan’s unique culture at a tea ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto and lunch at the delightful teahouse of Happoen Garden in Tokyo.
View the great Buddha at Nara’s impressive Todai-ji Temple, the world’s largest timber building.
Explore the historic Kiso Valley, witnessing the distinctive wooden architecture of the Edo era.
Stay one night in Nara in a Ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn (or at the heritage Nara Hotel offering western-style accommodation).
Sample an array of traditional cuisine types, including shabu-shabu, teppan-yaki, oskashi and kaiseki.
Kazumasa Kubo, an internationally renown master of ikebana and artistic flower arranging, will give a special private demonstration of his work in Tokyo

 

Overview

 

The tour has been timed to visit Japan when its countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious cherry blossom. In historic centres like Kyoto and Nara and in Tokyo you’ll discover how Japan’s gardens can be experienced on many levels and are renowned for subtly combining artifice and nature, blurring the boundaries between garden and landscape. Some gardens are tiny and minimalist, conveying subtle meanings through ingenious combinations of moss, stones, rock and water. Others are grand, framing rich palaces and temples like Tokyo’s Imperial Palace Garden. In Kyoto we combine garden visits with expressions of traditional Japanese culture like tea ceremonies, geisha rituals and cuisine. Kyoto gardens include such extensive, ancient temple and garden complexes as Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoan-ji – the famed Dragon Peace Temple. Throughout, garden visits are also combined with an appreciation of Japan’s traditional architecture and great museums to enrich your understanding of Japanese aesthetics. In 8th-century capital Nara, architectural treasures, great collections and fine gardens include the Todai-ji Temple, the world’s largest timber building, Kofuku-ji Temple with a five-storey pagoda and treasure trove of Buddhist statues; we also visit Nara National Museum. At Kanazawa we explore traditional construction techniques at Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi Samurai Residence and Higashichaya District’s many old Samurai houses. Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden is the ‘garden of the six sublimities’. In Tokyo highlights include Happoen Garden where ladies in kimonos serve lunch in a delightful teahouse before we stroll through the gardens viewing 200 year-old bonsai trees. Rikugien Garden (c. 1700) is utterly Japanese, with manicured grass, artfully contorted pine trees held up by wooden supports, wooden tea houses, crooked rustic bridges over gurgling streams and a lake filled with carp and tiny turtles. Tokyo National Museum and Suntory Museum of Art offer masterpieces to further inspire you. We also make a very special day tour to villages in Kiso Valley, carefully preserved monuments to Japan’s feudal past, and stroll Japan’s greatest natural symbol, Mt Fuji.

 

15-Day Cultural Garden Tour of Japan

 

Overnight Tokyo (1 night) • Kawaguchiko (1 night) • Matsumoto (2 nights) • Kanazawa (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Nara (1 night) • Kyoto (2 nights) • Tokyo (3 nights)

 

Tokyo – 1 night

 

Day 1: Wednesday 27 March, Arrive Tokyo
Arrival transfer for those travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Welcome Evening Meal
After our arrival at Narita Airport those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private to the Hotel New Otani Tokyo. This hotel stands within a beautiful traditional Japanese garden originally designed for the daimyo (feudal lord) Kato Kiyomasa Lord of Kumamoto in Kyustiu over four hundred years ago. This garden is well worth strolling through and will introduce you to many facets of the Japanese gardens we shall visit in the coming weeks. Tonight we enjoy a welcome evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight Tokyo) D

 

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

 

Day 2: Thursday 28 March, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

Sankei-en Garden
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
Today we depart Tokyo by coach and travel west to the iconic Mt Fuji, the largest volcano in Japan. This is Japan’s highest peak at 3776m. It last erupted in 1707 and forms a near perfect cone. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most important landmark, which stands for the nation’s identity. It has been pictured countless times, not least in Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1826 – 1833).

On the way to Mount Fuji we visit the beautiful Sankei-en Garden, a spacious Japanese style garden in southern Yokohama, in which are set a number of historic buildings from across Japan. There is a pond, small rivers, a profusion of flowers and wonderful scrolling trails. The garden, built by Hara Sankei, was opened to the public in 1904. Among the historic buildings in the park are the elegant residence of a daimyo (feudal lord), several tea houses, and the main hall and three storied pagoda of Kyoto’s old Tomyoji Temple.

In Kawaguchiko we will visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. When the artist Itchiku Kubota was young, he encountered an example of ‘Tsujigahana’ at the Tokyo National Museum. ‘Tsujigahana’ was a technique used in dying kimonos during the 15th and 16th century, an art that was later lost. Kubota-san revived the art and created a series of kimonos decorated with mountain landscapes in all four seasons and Mount Fuji. These kimonos are displayed in a breathtaking setting. The main building is a pyramid-shaped structure supported by 16 Hiba (cypress) wooden beams more than 1,000 years old. Other parts of the museum, displaying an antique glass bead collection, are constructed of Ryukyu limestone. The museum’s unique architecture is set against a lovely garden and red pine forest. Tonight we dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Kawaguchiko) BD

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Nagoya. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kawaguchiko.

 

Matsumoto – 2 nights

 

Day 3: Friday 29 March, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

Fifth Station of Mt Fuji
Nakamachi Street and Kurassic-kan
Matsumoto Rising Castle
We start our day with a visit to the Fifth Station (Kawaguchi-ko) at the Fuji Five Lakes, and from here we can enjoy a spectacular view of the snow-capped peak (weather permitting). A gentle stroll will allow us to identify some of the native flora of this region of Japan.

We then travel to Matsumoto. On arrival in the town, we walk through the historic Nakamachi-dori, a street lined with white-walled traditional inns, restaurants and antique shops. Here we visit the Nakamachi Kurassic-kan, an historic sake brewery with black-beamed interiors and traditional plaster-work outside. We cross the river to walk along the market street Nawate-dori before arriving at Matsumoto-jo, the imposing castle approached across a moat. Matsumoto-jo was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodeled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Day 4: Saturday 30 March, Matsumoto – Kiso Valley – Matsumoto

Tsumago
Magome
Nagiso Town Museum
Today we drive out of Matsumoto and head to the Kiso Valley for a taste of how Japan looked prior to urbanisation. Developed by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as one of the five main highways linking his capital Edo (Tokyo) with the rest of Japan, the valley contains eleven post towns and some of them have been preserved as a virtual museum of the feudal past.

As we follow the valley we’ll enjoy features of the Nakasendo route, including Kiso Fukushima, the location of a major barrier, but today the gateway to the sacred mountain of Ontake.

Tsumago was a ghost town 30 years ago, with its traditional Edo-era houses on the point of collapse. Its restoration sparked the idea of cultural preservation in Japan. The pedestrian-only street is similar to that once encountered by lords and their samurai centuries ago. The highlight of Tsumago is Okuya Kyodokan, a folk museum inside a designated post inn, where the daimyo’s (feudal lord) retinue rested. On the opposite side of the street the Kyu-honjin is where the daimyo used to stay. We will also visit Magome, which means ‘horse-basket’, because this is where travellers were forced to leave their horses before tackling the mountainous roads ahead.

Our final visit for the day is to the Nagiso Town Museum. Opened in 1995, the Museum has three divisions: Tsumago Post Town Honjin, a sub-honjin, and a history museum. (A honjin is a temporary residence for a lord or dignitary to stay in when traveling to and from the shogunate capital of Edo.) The present building of the subhonjin was built in 1878 utilising Japanese cypress throughout, a type of wood proscribed for ordinary construction during the Edo period (1600 –1868). The History Museum contains historical materials of Nagiso Town and history of the trust organisation dedicated to the preservation of historic towns, villages, and neighborhoods. From here we return to Matsumoto, where you can explore the city on your own and enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Kanazawa – 1 night

 

Day 5: Sunday 31 March, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts
Nomura Samurai Residence
Higashi-Chayamachi District
This morning we travel by coach to Nagano, where we board the new Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa. The Japanese visit Kanazawa in droves but perhaps because of its remote location and very cold winters few foreigners make the journey to experience its rich cultural legacies.

On arrival we visit the Prefectural Arts Museum & Craft Centre located at the edge of the gardens and designed to harmonise with its landscape. The museum was established to showcase the fine arts and crafts of Ishikawa, a Prefecture whose culture of fine arts and traditional crafts compares with that of Tokyo and Kyoto. Highlights of its collection include feudal daimyo utensils using the Kaga Makie technique and a huge range of Kutani porcelain collection from Ko-kutani (Old Kutani). The museum also exhibits works by numerous ‘living national treasures’ whose works relate in some way to Ishikawa Prefecture.

The feudal atmosphere of Kanazawa still lingers in the Nagamachi district where old houses of the Nagamachi Samurai line the streets that once belonged to Kaga Clan Samurais. The T-shaped and L-shaped alleys are distinct characteristics of the feudal town, and the mud doors and gates of the houses remain the same as they were 400 years ago. The houses with their samurai windows (bushimado) and mud walls under the yellow Kobaita wooden roofs, which were protected from snow by straw mats (komo), evoke a bygone era. We shall visit the Nomura Samurai Family Residence to develop fort a Samurai’s daily life was like during the feudal period. The garden inside the Nomura Residence has trees that are over 400 years old as well as various beautiful lanterns.

Across the Asano River is the district of Higashi-Chayamachi, Kanazawa’s most famous geisha district. Many of the tall wooden-latticed houses on the narrow streets are still used by geisha for high-class entertainment as they have done since 1820 when the area was established as a geisha quarter. You can take tea (without geisha) at Shima House for a chance to experience its refined and elegant atmosphere. Like Kyoto’s Gion, this district has been designated as one of Japan’s cultural assets. (Overnight Kanazawa) B

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Kyoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kanazawa.

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 6: Monday 1 April, Kanazawa – Kyoto

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa
Gion District, Kyoto
Our first destination this morning is Kanazawa Castle, the seat of power of the local Maeda clan, hereditary feudal lords (daimyo) of the Kaga province from 1583. Burnt down on a number of occasions, only the superb Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya samurai dwelling house survive from the original construction.

Kenrokuen Garden is Kanazawa’s prime attraction and one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Korakuen (Okayama) and Kairakuen (Mito). Kenrokuen was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and there has been a garden on the site since the late 1600s. The original garden, begun by the fifth Maeda lord, Tsunonori Maeda, was called Renchi tei but it was almost entirely burnt out in 1759. It was restored in the 1770s and in 1822 became known as Kenrokuen, a name that means, ‘the garden of six sublimities’ or, ‘a garden combining the six aspects of a perfect garden’. These six features were what the Chinese traditionally believed were necessary for the ideal garden – spaciousness and seclusion, artifice and antiquity, water-courses and panoramas: all these characteristics are to be found in the 25 acres of this beautiful garden.

We then transfer to the train station to take the train south the Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the late 8th century (circa 794 AD) until 1868, when the court was moved to Tokyo. It is home to 17 World Heritage Sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, yet much of the city centre is modern. One of the finest of its contemporary buildings is its dramatic railway station.

We begin our exploration of Kyoto with a glimpse of a vanishing world – the district of Gion, home to geisha houses and traditional tea houses. Although the number of geishas has declined over the last century the area is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. To experience the traditional Gion, we stroll along Hanami-koji, a street lined by beautiful old buildings including tea houses where you may be able to glimpse a geisha apprentice. Contrary to popular belief Gion is not a red-light district, nor are geishas prostitutes. Geishas are young girls or women extensively trained as entertainers and skilled in a number of traditional Japanese arts such as classical music and dance as well as the performance of the exacting rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 7: Tuesday 2 April, Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Daitoku-ji Buddhist Complex incl. the Ryogen-in
Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple)
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens, including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. Our first visit in Kyoto is to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). During the 15th century the Chinese Sung Dynasty exercised an enormous influence in Japan as artists, poets and Zen priests were gathered together by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun (1358-1409). Yoshimitsu began construction of the Golden Pavilion just before he retired in 1394, handing power to his nine-year-old son so that he could move to his estate. Little of his work remains but we can sense the character of the garden in its pond, rockwork and extensive plantings.

The pavilion at Kinkaku-ji recalls Sung period architecture but it is a recreation, having been burned down in the 1950s. The present building is an exact replica except that where Yoshimitsu proposed only to gild the ceiling of the third storey with gold; now the whole building is gilded. Yoshimitsu positioned his palace on the edge of a lake. The ground floor was a reception room for guests and departure point for leisure boating, the first storey was for philosophical discussions and panoramic views of the lake while the upper floor acted as a refuge for Yoshimitsu and was used for tea ceremonies. The size of the gardens is increased visually by the water’s convoluted edge, the use of rocks and clipped trees and by visually ‘borrowing’ a distant view of Mt Kinugasa that creates a sense of gradation between foreground, middleground and deep distance.

We next visit Daitoku-ji, a large complex of Zen temples with prayer halls, religious structures and 23 sub-temples with some of the most exquisite gardens in Kyoto, some quite small, including raked gravel gardens and, in the Daisen-in, one of the most celebrated small rock gardens in Japan. The Japanese consider Daitoku-ji one of the most privileged places to study and it is associated with many of Japan’s most famous priests. Unlike many of the larger public Buddhist temples of earlier sects, the Rinzai sect monasteries were intimate, inward looking and remained isolated from the outside world.

The temple received imperial patronage and thus grew out from its centre in an organic way. A transition occurred as the complex expanded from a formal centre to semiformal and informal precincts. The central north-south walkway is most formal with wide paths to accommodate processions and ceremonies, while to the side are sub-temples with gates. As you walk through one of these gates you immediately come upon a less formal world with narrow paths, turns and walkways. The temple site contains a number of notable gardens including Daisen-in, Korin-in, Koho-an, Hogo and Ryogen-in.

We conclude the day with a visit to Ryoan-ji – the Dragon Peace Temple. No other garden in the world is so simple, elegant and refined. The garden comprises 15 rocks in a sea of raked gravel surrounded by a compacted mud wall coated in oil that is in itself a national treasure. The garden dates from 1500 as part of a temple of the Renzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple burned but was reconstructed in its original form. The garden constitutes the supreme example of a dry garden where gravel and rock symbolise plant and water elements. Indeed, apart from the moss on the rocks, no other plants grow in it. The meaning of the garden remains unknown. It might symbolise islands in a sea, mountains seen through clouds or tigers and cubs crossing a river, but this doesn’t matter since this is a garden to encourage contemplation, the enclosing wall separating the visitor from the world outside, and the verandah creating a horizontal boundary. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 8: Wednesday 3 April, Kyoto

Renge-ji Temple
Shisen-do Temple
Lunch at the Grand Prince Hotel
Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)
Today we will visit a number of Kyoto’s great gardens. Our first visit for the day is to Renge-ji, a diminutive garden that captures the essence of Japanese gardens with a central pond surrounded by plantings linking to the hillside beyond. Stones, bridge and plantings are all reflected on the water-surface, giving a sense of spaciousness.

Shisen-do is an intimate garden, of personal taste rather ostentatious public display. Its street walls mask the tranquillity and beauty to be found within. Raked sand, clipped azaleas and the tree covered hillsides of Higashiyama form the main components of this garden designed by Ishikawa Jozan (1583–1672). Clipped azaleas give way to natural vegetation beyond the garden boundary but it is the close harmony between the indoor spaces of the pavilion and the garden beyond that is most striking. The verandah offers a transition between its dark interior and the light-filled garden.

Following lunch at the Grand Prince Hotel we visit Ginkaku-ji. Originally constructed as the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435–1490), the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) became a Zen temple upon his death. The garden is complex, comprising two distinct sections, a pond area with a composition of rocks and plants, and a sand garden with a truncated cone – the Moon-Viewing Height – suggesting Mt Fuji, and a horizontal mound – the Sea of Silver Sand – named for its appearance by moonlight. An educational display at the garden contains good moss and weed moss to allow you to tell the difference. (Overnight Kyoto) BL

 

Nara – 1 night

 

Day 9: Thursday 4 April, Kyoto – Nara

Nara Park (Nara-koen) including the temples of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji
Isuien Garden
Traditional Japanese bath (optional)
We leave Kyoto by coach for the ancient Japanese city of Nara, the national capital prior to Kyoto. During this period Buddhism became firmly established in Japan under the patronage of nobles who sponsored the buildings and works of art that we shall visit.

Our first destination is to the impressive Todai-ji, founded in 745 by Emperor Shomu. Although rebuilt following a fire in 1709 to two-thirds of its original size it neverheless remains the largest timber building in the world. Two seven-metre tall guardian gods flank the entrance, (known as the nandai-mon), to the great Buddha Hall, the Daibutsu-den, which houses the 15-metre tall bronze statue of the great Buddha. The original casting was completed in 752, when an Indian priest stood on a special platform and symbolically opened its eyes by painting on the Buddha’s eyes with a huge brush. This ceremony was performed before the then retired Emperor Shomu, his wife Komio and the reigning Empress Kogen, together with ambassadors from China, India and Persia. Your visit will be a truly amazing experience.

We then visit the wonderful Nara-koen complex. It contains a five-storey pagoda, part of the Kofuku-ji founded in 669, a fine collection of Buddhist statues in the kokuhokan (National Treasure Building) and a 15th-century hall to the north of the pagoda. The kokahokan is a treasure trove of early Buddhist statues and although it is not large, each piece has been carefully chosen as a masterpiece of its style and period.

Our final visit is to the small Isuien garden, a traditional Japanese garden notable for its extensive use of moss and its exquisite tea pavilion. From here you might like to stroll through some of Nara’s historic streets or try a traditional Japanese bath (sento: public bath; onsen: hot spring bath). The traditional Japanese-style inn we are staying in tonight provides open-air communal baths using hot spring water and affords a wonderful view of Kofuku-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda, which is illuminated at night. Tonight we dine in a traditional style at the Ryokan Asukasou on Japanese kaiseki dishes. (Overnight Nara) BD

Note: We will leave our main luggage at the hotel in Kyoto during our 1 night stay in Nara. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Nara

 

Kyoto – 2 nights

 

Day 10: Friday 5 April, Nara – Kyoto

Treasures of the Nara National Museum
Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple
Horyu-ji Temple
Our first visit today is to the Nara National Museum noted for its collection of Buddhist art, including images, sculpture, and ceremonial articles.

Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple was built in the 19th year of the Tempyo era (747) by Empress Komyo as an offering of thanksgiving when Emperor Shomu recovered from an eye disease. It now constitutes a single hall enshrining a powerful image of Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha, surrounded by clay sculptures of 12 guardians called Juni Shinsho, the Yakushi Nyorai’s protective warriors. In Japanese sculpture and art, the warriors are almost always grouped in a protective circle around the Yakushi Nyorai; they are rarely depicted as single figures. Many say they represent the 12 vows of Yakushi; others believe the 12 were present when the historical Buddha introduced the ‘Healing Sutra’; others claim that they offer protection during the 12 daylight hours, or that they represent the 12 months and 12 cosmic directions, or the 12 animals of the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

The grounds of Horyu-ji Temple house the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, dating from the Asuka Period (mid 6th – beginning of 8th c.AD). Throughout the 187,000-square-metre grounds are irreplaceable cultural treasures, bequeathed across the centuries and continuing to preserve the essence of eras spanning the entire journey through Japanese history since the 7th century. Horyu-ji contains over 2,300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, including nearly 190 that have been designated as National Treasures or important Cultural Properties. In 1993 Horyu-ji was selected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage as a unique storehouse of world Buddhist culture. Following this visit we transfer by coach to Kyoto. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 11: Saturday 6 April, Kyoto

Tenryu-ji Temple
Saiho-ji (or ‘Koke-dera’ – moss temple)
Nanzen-ji (Hojo and Konchi-in)
Nishiki-koji Covered Market
We first visit the Tenryu-ji. It dates from the period of shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1339) who commissioned the priest Muso Kokushi, one of Japan’s best known garden designers who also designed the moss garden at Saiho-ji to create this garden. Kokushi’s work modified an estate of Emperor Gosaga from 1270. He changed its form to include an Heian-style pond garden with popular, contemporary Chinese aspects. These included most notably a group of seven vertical rocks near the rear shore of its pond. These contrast markedly with Japanese rock work that takes a more horizontal form. This is one of the earliest gardens to show shakkei, the incorporation of borrowed landscape into a garden’s design.

Saiho-ji Temple has the oldest major garden of the Muromachi Period. Originally designed to represent the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) of Amida Buddhism, this so-called ‘strolling garden’ is set in a dark forest and is designed for meditation. It was re-designed by a Zen Buddhist priest, Muso Soseki, who also designed the Tenryu-ji garden in Kyoto, when it passed to the Zen Buddhist sect. The chief feature of the garden is the ‘golden pond’ with pavilions scattered on its shore and connected by a path that allows controlled views of the garden. The pond is shaped like the Japanese character for ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. It is divided by islands connected by bridges. The mosses, which give the garden its alternative name (Koke-dera – ‘moss temple’) were established as an economy measure after the Meiji restoration (1868).

Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. It was founded in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama, and was rebuilt several times after devastating fires. At the entrance to the complex one passes through the huge Imperial gate, built in 1628 by Todo Takatora, and into the complex with its series of sub-temples. We will see the hojo, or abbot’s quarters, which is notable for both it’s beautiful golden screen paintings and the tranquil sand and rock garden. We will also explore the sub-temple Konchi-in which was added to the complex in 1605.

In the late afternoon we shall walk through the traditional 17th-century Nishiki-koji covered market, which has for centuries been the focus of food shopping in the city. You may wish to try Japanese pickled vegetables or purchase teapots and teabowls from a traditional vendor. By contrast we will visit a Japanese electrical store where you will see Japanese consumerism at its height. Spread over five storeys, this extraordinary store offers every imaginable electrical item. We will end the day in the fashionable gallery and restaurant area. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 7 April, Kyoto – Tokyo

Heian Shrine
Tofuku-ji
Tea Ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple
We begin the day with a visit to one of the newest religious sites in Kyoto, the Heian Shrine, which boasts the largest torii (sacred gate) in Japan and lovely gardens. The shrine was built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s 1100th anniversary and to honour its founder, Emperor Kammu and also to celebrate the culture and architecture of the city’s Heian-past. It is constructed on the site of the original Heian Hall of State but is a smaller and somewhat imperfect recreation of this earlier building. Four gardens surround the main shrine buildings on the south, west, middle and east, covering an area of approximately 33,000 square metres. The gardens are designated as a national scenic spot representative of Meiji-era (1868–1912) garden design.

We then visit the superb Tofuku-ji Hojo, a garden designed in 1939 by Shigemori Mirei. This will be familiar to many who have read books on Japanese gardens for it combines 20th-century design with elements from Japanese tradition. Mirei implements subtle, restrained design themes such as chequer-boards of stone in moss to allow the natural form and colour of maples on the surrounding hills to make full impact.

We end our visit to Kyoto with a visit to the Kodai-ji Temple to experience a tea ceremony. We then transfer to the station and take the JR Super Express train to Tokyo. (Overnight Tokyo) B

 

Day 13: Monday 8 April, Tokyo

Jiyu Gakuen School
Suntory Museum of Art
Shabu Shabu Lunch at Kisoji Restaurant
Rikugien Garden
We begin our day with a visit to the Jiyu Gakuen School. This is a beautifully preserved building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1921, one of 12 buildings the American designed during the two years he lived in Japan. Only three of Wright’s buildings survived the 20th century, and we shall be taken on a tour of this very special building.

The Suntory Museum of Art was founded in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district in 1961 as the cultural arm of a famous distillery. ‘Beauty in Everyday Life’ has been the theme of the Museum since its establishment when the then President of Suntory, Keizo Saji, developed what is now a 3,000-piece collection containing one National Treasure and 12 Important Cultural Properties among its priceless ceramics, folding screens, kimonos, lacquer ware, textiles and glasswork. Its aim is to relate old things to the new, present beauty over time, and to represent beauty without regard for cultural frontiers of countries and races.

To enhance this philosophy of fusing the ‘traditional’ with the ‘contemporary’, the Museum relocated in 2007 to its current Tokyo Mid-town location to be part of the art district known as Roppongi art triangle. Architect Kengo Kuma, whose aim was to create ‘a Japanese-style room in the city’, designed its new home using new technology and traditional Japanese design elements. The architect’s signature vertical lattice design covers the exterior, while the interior features a sliding 10-metre-high lattice that controls the flow of light. Natural materials like laminated paulownia wood for the interior lattice, washi for the atrium walls, and recycled whiskey barrel wood (a connection to the Suntory distillery) for the flooring create a feeling of warmth throughout the building.

We take a break in the middle of the day to enjoy a lunch at the traditional Kisoji Restaurant whose specialty is shabu-shabu: thin slices of beef cooked in boiling water at your table and dipped in sauce.

Our last garden visit today is to the Rikugien garden which is all that a traditional Japanese garden should be: manicured grass, artfully contorted pine trees held up by wooden supports, wooden tea houses and moss-encrusted stone lanterns, crooked rustic bridges over gurgling streams, a lake filled with carp and tiny turtles. Built around 1700 by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, grand chamberlain of the fifth shogun, Rikugien means ‘six poems garden’ and reproduces in miniature 88 scenes from famous poems. While some traditional Japanese gardens are meant to be contemplated from a fixed spot, Rikugien is a typical example of a so-called ‘strolling garden’ and we will meander through the network of walking paths as we enjoy the afternoon. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

 

Day 14: Tuesday 9 April, Tokyo

Tokyo National Museum
Happoen Garden
Demonstration by Kazumasa Kubo of the Japanese art of flower arranging
Farewell Lunch at Happoen Gardens Teahouse
Koishikawa-korakuen Garden
Ginza Shopping Area
Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. The museum holds over 110,000 objects, which include more than 87 Japanese National Treasures and 610 Important Cultural Property holdings. The museum’s collections focus on ancient Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road but there is also a large collection of Greco-Buddhist art.

Meaning ‘beautiful from any angle’, the Happoen garden lives up to its name. On arrival we shall be given a demonstration in Japanese flower arranging by internationally renown master Kazumasa Kubo, who has studied the tradition of ikebana, and adapted it into his own style. Following a farewell lunch at the garden’s delightful tea house, where ladies in kimono will serve you matcha (green tea) and okashi (variety of snacks), a stroll through the gardens will reveal 200 year old bonsai trees, a stone lantern said to have been carved 800 years ago, and a central pond.

In the afternoon we visit a rare surviving 17th-century strolling garden, located in the west of the city. Koishikawa-korakuen was designed in part by Zhu Shun Shui, a Ming dynasty refugee from China, and the garden recreates both Japanese and Chinese landscapes. Here we will find waterfalls, ponds, stone lanterns, a small lake with gnarled pines and humped bridges.

We finish our day with a visit to Ginza. When Tokugawa Ieyasu moved his capital to Edo in 1590, Ginza was swampland. In 1612 the area was filled in and the silver mint was built here giving Ginza (‘Silver Place’) its current name. The area was completely destroyed by fire in 1872 after which the Meiji government ordered it rebuilt in red brick to the designs of English architect Thomas Waters. This new incarnation seems to have set its course for all things Western and modern, turning the area into one of Tokyo’s great shopping-centres. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

 

Day 15: Wednesday 10 April, Depart Tokyo

Imperial Palace Plaza
Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple
Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our last morning in Japan begins with a visit to the Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza, the home of the reigning emperor of Japan and his family. We will enter via the Nijubashi, where two picturesque bridges span the moat. The Higashi Gyoen, or East Garden, was opened to the public in 1968 and provides an attractive environment in which to stroll and relax.

During our travels we have encountered many traditional and historic temples and explored the variety of gardens that play such an important role in the complex. Our program concludes with a visit to the Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple. This is a newly built modern temple in the lively heart of Tokyo. Here we will see the skill by which the architects have utilised the precious space available, and how the traditional components of a temple complex have been reinterpreted in a contemporary structure. In place of a small stroll garden using moss or stone or sand, here bamboo is used to create a green space for contemplation in this busy metropolis.

At the conclusion of the visit participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach to the Narita Airport for their flight home. B

From the Italian Alps to Puglia

From the Italian Alps to Puglia

 

From the Italian Alps to Puglia – Gardens of Northern and Southern Italy with Post-Tour to Ravello with Sandy Pratten
11–23 September 2018 (13 days)

Experience a kaleidoscope of Italian horticulture, from the verdant Alpine gardens of Lombardy and Piedmont in the north to the Mediterranean gardens of Puglia in the south.

 

AT A GLANCE…

 

• Explore the shores of Lake Maggiore and Lake Como in the Italian Alps, and the splendid gardens of Isola Madre, Isola Bella and the Villa del Balbianello
• Discover Puglia, where agriculture and horticulture converge, and delight in the quaint historic towns of Lecce and Alberobello
• Experience the richness of Italian culture in the country’s superb archaeological museums and distinctive regional cuisines
• Complete your Italian sojourn with an optional post-tour to Ravello, the picturesque town perched high above the Amalfi Coast and blessed with luxuriant gardens.

 

ITINERARY

 

MONDAY 10 SEPTEMBER 2018 / DEPART AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND

Suggested departure from Australia or New Zealand in the afternoon on Qantas/Emirates flights to Milan via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

 

TUE 11 SEP / ARRIVE MILAN – LAKE MAGGIORE

Suggested arrival in Milan in the morning. Group transfer (included in tour price) from central Milan (14:00) or Milan Malpensa Airport (15:15) to Stresa on the shores of Lake Maggiore.
Check in to the hotel in the afternoon, before a special welcome dinner with Sandy and fellow travellers in the evening. (D)

 

WED 12 SEP / LAKE MAGGIORE

Explore Isola Madre, the largest of the islands of Lake Maggiore, where the wealthy Borromeo family constructed an elegant palace in the 16th century. Surrounding the palace are 8 hectares of botanical gardens all’inglese (in the English style), spread across seven terraces featuring palms, cypresses, rhododendrons and camellias.
Then visit Isola Bella, another of the beautiful ‘Borromean Islands’ of Lake Maggiore, whose 17th century palace was built by Count Borromeo for his wife Isabella (from which the island derives its name). Ten terraces of gardens and the gentle lakeside environment have allowed the flourishing of species from hydrangeas to ginkgos, Greek strawberry trees and a colossal camphor laurel, a species first introduced to curious Europeans in the writings of Marco Polo. (BD)

 

THU 13 SEP / LAKE MAGGIORE

In the morning, visit Villa Taranto, whose expansive gardens were created by Capt. Neil McEacharn in the 1930s in imitation of the landscape gardens of his native Scotland. Gathering plant specimens from around the world, this ‘Laird of the Lake’ established an estate whose botanical riches are matched only by its aesthetic beauty, graced by fountains, greenhouses, wells and statues. In autumn, the turn of season paints the oak and maple foliage red and gold, and the boughs of persimmon trees hang heavy with ripening fruits.
The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the languid beauty of Lake Maggiore in the autumn, followed by dinner at a local restaurant in Stresa. (BD)

 

FRI 14 SEP / LAKE MAGGIORE – LAKE COMO

Travel eastwards from Lake Maggiore to Lake Como, one of the deepest in Europe at more than 400m in depth.
Explore the Villa del Balbianello, a meeting place for Italian republicans in the early 19th century who gathered there to plan the unification of the various states that covered the Italian peninsula at the time. The gardens of the villa were significantly developed by the Visconti family in the 19th century.
Continue to the Villa Carlotta, a magnificent 18th century edifice standing above terraced gardens which look over Lake Como to the Alps beyond. The 8 hectare botanical garden features azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias and orange trees. (BD)

 

SAT 15 SEP / LAKE COMO

The day begins with a visit to the Giardini di Villa Melzi di Bella. The villa was built between 1808 and 1810 by the Count of Lodi, and its architecture recalls the Neo-Classicism of the Napoleonic Era. The surrounding park contains Greek and Roman-style sculptures, as well as a tranquil Japanese reflecting pond.
Continue to the Villa Monastero, built on the site of a 12th century Cistercian convent, whose paths wend their way through gardens planted with kumquats, lemon, lime, myrtle and agave. (BL)

 

SUN 16 SEP / LAKE COMO (LAKE LUGANO)

Enjoy a day trip to Lake Lugano, straddling the border between Italy and Switzerland. Historically contested between the Duchy of Milan and the Bishopric of Como, Lake Lugano is now an oasis of tranquillity, and its delightful gardens benefit from an almost Mediterranean microclimate – not to mention a spectacular panoramic backdrop. A boat cruise along the lake offers a breathtaking panorama of deep blue waters, rising green foothills and great grey Alpine peaks. (BL)

 

MON 17 SEP / LAKE COMO – LECCE

Early in the morning, check out from the hotel and transfer to Milan for a flight to Brindisi in Puglia.
On arrival in Brindisi, transfer to Lecce, our base for the next three nights.
Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

TUE 18 SEP / LECCE

Begin your exploration of Puglia with a tour of the town of Lecce, whose abundance of Baroque sculptures has earnt it the moniker ‘The Florence of the South’. Thousands of years of human habitation and a naturally workable local stone known as pietra leccese (Lecce stone) have graced Lecce with monuments including a Roman theatre, a 16th century triumphal arch and several fine 17th century churches.
Delve into Puglia’s rich history in the Faggiano Museum. The museum was created in 2008 from the private residence of restaurateur Luciano Faggiano, who had been digging beneath his floor to repair some sewage pipes when he uncovered layers of history stretching back more than 2,500 years, including the remains of a 16th century Franciscan convent, a 12th century Templar home and a treasure trove of historical relics from Roman times. (BL)

 

WED 19 SEP / LECCE

Spend a day exploring the Salento Peninsula, the ‘high heel’ of the Italian boot. Travel to the town of Otranto, whose distinctive 15th century Aragonese Castle, in the shape of a very irregular pentagon, commands a port which has been home to Greeks, Romans, Ottomans and Siculo-Normans across the millennia of its existence.
Continue to the stunning Cava di Bauxite, where a small blue lake fringed with verdant vegetation sits within the brick-red earth that gives the area its name.
After lunch, visit the La Cutura Botanic Garden in Giuggianello, a 35 hectare garden designed in the late 19th century style and containing a collection of rare tropical plants and grasses, as well as an ornate Italian-style garden, a rose garden and a grove of plants native to Lecce. (BL)

 

THU 20 SEP / LECCE – ALBEROBELLO

In the morning, check out of the hotel and travel to the UNESCO World Heritage-listed town of Alberobello. Alberobello is famous for its quaint trulli, whitewashed houses built with conical grey drystone roofs dating from the 18th century.
Like so many good stories, the history of the trulli begins with a clever act of tax avoidance: by not using mortar in the building of the roof, the owner of the house could avoid the application of the imperial building tax, either because the residence was deemed ‘temporary’ or because it could be dismantled when tax inspectors were in the area. There are around 1,400 trulli in the town, and even the church is in the form of a trullo.
In the evening, check into the hotel, a magnificently restored 1700s masseria (traditional Pugliese farmhouse) surrounded by groves of olives, citrus and carob trees which was once a meeting place for the Knights Hospitaller. (BD)

 

FRI 21 SEP / ALBEROBELLO

In the morning, explore the fascinating sassi of Matera, in the neighbouring Region of Basilicata. The sassi are cave-houses dug directly into the limestone hillside of Matera, and were continuously inhabited for 9,000 years until the remaining inhabitants were moved into modern housing in the 1950s. In recent decades, the sassi have been carefully restored, and are now home to shops, restaurants and hotels.
After lunch, continue to Castel del Monte, a defensive fortress built in the 1240s by Holy Roman Emperor Frederick II. The World Heritage-listed fortress is unusual for being constructed in an octagonal shape with an octagonal tower on each corner. (BLD)

 

SAT 22 SEP / ALBEROBELLO

Explore the gardens of Masseria Salinola, an estate which was once a salt warehouse, and still produces fine extra-virgin olive oil from trees dating back more than a century.
Continue to Martina Franca, a charming white city in the Murge Hills graced with a collection of Baroque and Rococo churches. Explore the Palazzo Ducale, where Late Mannerism gives way to the Baroque, and admire the façade of the Church of San Domenico designed by the Domenican Friar Antonio Cantalupi. Visit the Basilica of San Martino, arguably one of the finest examples of Late Baroque architecture in all Puglia, whose richly embellished interior and exterior prefigure the development of the mid-18th century Rococo style.
In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Sandy and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

SUN 23 SEP / ALBEROBELLO – BARI
Transfer from Alberobello to Bari.
For those continuing on to the Ravello post-tour, travel onwards from Bari to Ravello.
For those not continuing on to the post-tour, tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Bari Airport at 11:00 for flights departing from 13:00. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your onward travel arrangements. (B)

 

POST-TOUR TO RAVELLO with Sandy Pratten

23–26 September 2018 (4 days)

 

ITINERARY

 

SUNDAY 23 SEPTEMBER / BARI – RAVELLO

Arrive in Ravello in the afternoon, and enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in the evening. (D)

 

MON 24 SEP / 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, and the villa’s architecture inspired the stage design for Wagner’s opera Parsifal. After the conclusion of the walking tour the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to explore the town at your own pace.
In the evening, attend a performance by the Ravello Concert Society in the Annunziata Historic Building, constructed in 1281. Martina Biondi will be performing three ’cello suites by J.S. Bach. (B)

 

TUE 25 SEP / RAVELLO

Explore Villa Cimbrone, quiet hideaway of DH Lawrence, Winston Churchill and 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, and the famous Terrazza dell’Infinito (Terrace of Infinity) belvedere onto the endless blue sea.
In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Sandy and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

WED 26 SEP / DEPART RAVELLO

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. Please see the hotel concierge for Naples airport or rail transfers.
If you wish to extend your stay, or travel elsewhere, Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements. (B)

 

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden

 

Tour Highlights

 

Travel with Jim Fogarty, award-winning landscape architect and author, on this tour of Japan in Autumn, when Japan’s countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious colour.
Visit a diverse range of Japan’s traditional gardens including: Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) & Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple) in Kyoto, Isui-en in Nara, Kenroku-en in Kanazawa and Koraku-en in Okayama. We also visit a number of small gardens by special appointment.
Explore some of Japan’s splendid art collections, including Tokyo’s Suntory Museum of Art and the National Museum, the National Treasure Museum in Nara, and the magnificent collection of kimonos at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum at the foot of Mt Fuji.
Visit the Jiyu Gakuen School in Tokyo, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright when he lived in Japan.
Accompanied by architect Riccardo Tossani, visit a private Tokyo residence that he designed.
Experience Japan’s unique culture at a tea ceremony at Kodai-ji in Kyoto and lunch at the delightful teahouse of Happo-en in Tokyo.
View the great Buddha at Nara’s impressive Todai-ji complex, the world’s largest timber building.
Explore the historic Kiso Valley, witnessing the distinctive wooden architecture of the Edo era.
Stay one night in Nara in a ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn (or in western-style accommodation at the Nikko Nara Hotel).
Sample an array of traditional cuisine types, including shabu-shabu, teppan-yaki, oskashi and kaiseki.
Conclude with a visit to the Adachi Museum of Art, where a collection of contemporary Japanese art is harmoniously set within one of the most beautiful and admired contemplative gardens in the country.

 

Tour Overview

 

The tour has been timed to visit Japan when its countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious autumnal colour. In Tokyo and in historic centres like Kyoto and Nara we’ll discover how Japan’s gardens can be experienced on many levels and are renowned for subtly combining artifice and nature, blurring the boundaries between garden and landscape. Some gardens are tiny and minimalist, conveying subtle meanings through ingenious combinations of moss, stones, rock and water. Others are grand, framing rich palaces and temples like Tokyo’s Imperial Palace Garden. In Tokyo, highlights include Happo-en where ladies in kimonos serve lunch in a delightful teahouse before we stroll through the gardens viewing 200-year-old bonsai trees. Tokyo National Museum and Suntory Museum of Art offer masterpieces to inspire you, and we will explore examples of contemporary garden design and landscaping in this most modern city. In Kyoto we combine garden visits with expressions of traditional Japanese culture like tea ceremonies, geisha rituals and cuisine. Kyoto gardens include such extensive, ancient temple and garden complexes as Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoan-ji – the famed Dragon Peace Temple. Throughout, garden visits are also combined with an appreciation of Japan’s traditional architecture and great museums to enrich our understanding of Japanese aesthetics. In 8th-century capital Nara, architectural treasures, great collections and fine gardens include the Todai-ji, the world’s largest timber building, Kofuku-ji with a five-storey pagoda and treasure trove of Buddhist statues; we also visit Nara National Museum. At Kanazawa we explore traditional construction techniques at Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi Samurai Residence and Higashichaya District’s many old Samurai houses. Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en is the ‘garden of the six sublimities’. We also make a very special day tour to villages in Kiso Valley, carefully preserved monuments to Japan’s feudal past, and stroll Japan’s greatest natural symbol, Mt Fuji. Our tour finishes with a visit to the Adachi Museum of Art. In addition to its stunning collection of contemporary Japanese art, the museum is renowned for its beautiful contemplation garden which visitors enjoy through large picture windows.

 

16-day Cultural Garden Tour of Japan in Autumn

 

Overnight Tokyo (3 nights) • Kawaguchiko (1 night) • Matsumoto (2 nights) • Kanazawa (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Nara (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Matsue (1 night)

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 13 November, Arrive Tokyo

Arrival transfer for those travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza
Koishikawa Koraku-en Garden
Light Dinner
After our arrival in Tokyo those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred in a private vehicle to the Hotel New Otani Tokyo. This hotel stands within a beautiful traditional Japanese garden originally designed for the daimyo (feudal lord) Kato Kiyomasa, Lord of Kumamoto in Kyustiu over four hundred years ago. This garden is well worth strolling through and will introduce you to many facets of the Japanese gardens we shall visit in the coming weeks.

After time to rest at the hotel, we begin our tour with a visit to the Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza, the home of the reigning emperor of Japan and his family. We enter via the Nijubashi, where two picturesque bridges span the moat. The Higashi Gyo-en, or East Garden, was opened to the public in 1968 and provides an attractive environment in which to stroll and relax.

We then visit a rare surviving 17th-century strolling garden, located in the west of the city. Koishikawa Koraku-en was designed in part by Zhu Shun Shui, a Ming dynasty refugee from China, and the garden recreates both Japanese and Chinese landscapes. Here we find waterfalls, ponds, stone lanterns, a small lake with gnarled pines and humped bridges.

Tonight we enjoy a light dinner together at our hotel. (Overnight Tokyo) D

 

Day 2: Thursday 14 November, Tokyo

Suntory Museum of Art
Happo-en Garden
Welcome Lunch at Happo-en Gardens Teahouse
Residence ‘R’ with Riccardo Tossani
The Suntory Museum of Art was founded in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district in 1961 as the cultural arm of a famous distillery. ‘Beauty in Everyday Life’ has been the theme of the museum since its establishment when the then President of Suntory, Keizo Saji, developed what is now a 3000-piece collection containing priceless ceramics, folding screens, kimonos, lacquer-ware, textiles and glasswork. Its aim is to relate old things to the new, present beauty over time, and to represent beauty without regard for cultural frontiers of countries and races.

To enhance this philosophy of fusing the ‘traditional’ with the ‘contemporary’, the museum relocated in 2007 to its current Tokyo Mid-town location to be part of the art district known as the Roppongi art triangle. Architect Kengo Kuma, whose aim was to create ‘a Japanese-style room in the city’, designed its new home using new technology and traditional Japanese design elements. The architect’s signature vertical lattice design covers the exterior, while the interior features a sliding 10-metre-high lattice that controls the flow of light. Natural materials like laminated paulownia wood for the interior lattice, washi for the atrium walls, and recycled whiskey barrel wood (a connection to the Suntory distillery) for the flooring create a feeling of warmth throughout the building.

Meaning ‘beautiful from any angle’, the Happo-en garden lives up to its name. Following a Welcome Lunch at the garden’s delightful teahouse, where ladies in kimono will serve you matcha (green tea) and okashi (variety of snacks), a stroll through the gardens will reveal 200-year-old bonsai trees, a stone lantern said to have been carved 800 years ago, and a central pond.

Our final visit today is to a private Tokyo residence designed by architect Riccardo Tossani, who will personally show us his work, explaining the concepts and influences. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

 

Day 3: Friday 15 November, Tokyo

Jiyu Gakuen School
Tokyo National Museum
Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple by Yutaka Kawahara Design Studio
We begin our day with a visit to the Jiyu Gakuen School. This is a beautifully preserved building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1921, one of 12 buildings the American designed during the two years he lived in Japan. Only three of Wright’s buildings survived the 20th century, and we shall be taken on a tour of this very special building.

Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. The museum, which holds over 110,000 objects, focuses on ancient Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road. There is also a large collection of Greco-Buddhist art.

During our travels we’ll encounter many traditional and historic temples and explore a variety of gardens that play such an important role in these complexes. This afternoon we visit a contemporary temple – the Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple by Yutaka Kawahara Design Studio. Completed in 2013, in the lively heart of Tokyo, this Buddhist complex is intended to represent the ‘Gokuraku’ or ‘Paradise in the Sky’ and is comprised of the three traditional structures associated with Buddhist architecture – the vihara (monastery), the stupa (pagoda), and the shrine – stacked one atop the other in response to its compact site. In place of a small stroll garden using moss, stone or sand, here bamboo is used to create a green space for contemplation in this busy metropolis. (Overnight Tokyo) B

 

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

 

Day 4: Saturday 16 November, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

Sankei-en (Sankei’s Garden)
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
Today we depart Tokyo by coach and travel west to the iconic Mount Fuji, the largest volcano in Japan. This is Japan’s highest peak at 3776 metres. It last erupted in 1707 and forms a near perfect cone. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most important landmark, which stands for the nation’s identity. It has been pictured countless times, not least in Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1826-1833).

On the way to Mount Fuji we visit the beautiful Sankei-en, a spacious Japanese-style garden in southern Yokohama, in which are set a number of historic buildings from across Japan. There are a pond, small rivers, a profusion of flowers and wonderful scrolling trails. The garden, built by Hara Sankei, was opened to the public in 1904. Among the historic buildings in the park are the elegant residence of a daimyo (feudal lord), several teahouses, and the main hall and three storied pagoda of Tomyo-ji, the abandoned temple of Kyoto.

In Kawaguchiko we will visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. When the artist Itchiku Kubota was young, he encountered an example of ‘Tsujigahana’ at the Tokyo National Museum. ‘Tsujigahana’ was a technique used in dying kimonos during the 15th and 16th century, an art that was later lost. Kubota-san revived the art and created a series of kimonos decorated with mountain landscapes in all four seasons and Mount Fuji. These kimonos are displayed in a breathtaking setting. The main building is a pyramid-shaped structure supported by 16 Hiba (cypress) wooden beams more than 1000 years old. Other parts of the museum, displaying an antique glass bead collection, are constructed of Ryukyu limestone. The museum’s unique architecture is set against a lovely garden and red pine forest. Tonight we dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Kawaguchiko) BD

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Matsumoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kawaguchiko.

 

Matsumoto – 2 nights

 

Day 5: Sunday 17 November, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

Fifth Station of Mt Fuji
Nakamachi Street and Kurassic-kan
Matsumoto Rising Castle
Japan Ukiyo-e Museum
We start our day with a visit to the Fifth Station (Kawaguchi-ko) at the Fuji Five Lakes, where, weather permitting, we can enjoy spectacular views of the snow-capped peak. A gentle stroll will allow us to identify some of the native flora of this region.

We then focus upon Matsumoto and its surrounds for the next two days. On arrival in the town, we walk through the historic Nakamachi-dori, a street lined with white-walled traditional inns, restaurants and antique shops. Here we visit the Nakamachi Kurassic-kan, an historic sake brewery with black-beamed interiors and traditional plaster-work outside. We cross the river to walk along the market street Nawate-dori before arriving at Matsumoto-jo, the imposing castle approached across a moat.

Matsumoto-jo was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodeled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains.

We end our day with a visit to the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, a privately owned art museum that houses the world’s largest collection of Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e). The Sakai family started collecting ukiyo-e in the mid-19th century and subsequent generations built an outstanding corpus of historic and contemporary works. They established the museum in 1982.(Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Day 6: Monday 18 November, Matsumoto – Kiso Valley – Matsumoto

Narai
Tsumago
Magome
Nagiso Town Museum
Today we drive out of Matsumoto and head to the Kiso Valley for a taste of how Japan looked prior to urbanisation. Developed by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as one of the five main highways linking his capital Edo (Tokyo) with the rest of Japan, the valley contains eleven post towns and three of them, Narai, Tsumago and Magone, have been preserved as a virtual museum of the feudal past.

At Narai we see distinctive wooden buildings with window shutters and renji-goshi latticework. We shall visit the Kashira-ningyo where colourfully painted dolls and toys are still made. Nakamura House dates from the 1830s and was the home of a merchant who manufactured combs, one of the area’s specialties. You will have time to visit this and explore side streets where there are temples and shrines and the famous Kiso-no-Ohashi, an arched wooden bridge that crosses the Narai-gawa.

As we follow the valley we’ll enjoy features of the Nakasendo route, including Kiso Fukushima, the location of a major barrier, but today the gateway to the sacred mountain of Ontake.

Tsumago was a ghost town 30 years ago, with its traditional Edo-era houses on the point of collapse. Its restoration sparked the idea of cultural preservation in Japan. The pedestrian-only street is similar to that once encountered by lords and their samurai centuries ago. The highlight of Tsumago is Okuya Kyodokan, a folk museum inside a designated post inn, where the daimyo’s (feudal lord) retinue rested. On the opposite side of the street the Kyu-honjin is where the daimyo used to stay.

Our third village stop is Magome, which means ‘horse-basket’, because this is where travellers were forced to leave their horses before tackling the mountainous roads ahead.

Our final visit for the day is to the Nagiso Town Museum. Opened in 1995, the museum has three divisions: Tsumago Post Town Honjin, a sub-honjin, and a history museum. (A honjin is a temporary residence for a lord or dignitary to stay in when travelling to and from the shogunate capital of Edo.) The present building of the subhonjin was built in 1878 utilising Japanese cypress throughout, a type of wood proscribed for ordinary construction during the Edo period (1600-1868). The History Museum contains historical materials of Nagiso Town and history of the trust organisation dedicated to the preservation of historic towns, villages, and neighbourhoods. From here we return to Matsumoto, where you can explore the city on your own and enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Kanazawa – 1 night

 

Day 7: Tuesday 19 November, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts
Nomura-ke (restored samurai residence & house garden)
Higashi-Chayamachi District
This morning we travel by coach to Nagano, where we board the new Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa, considered one Japan’s best-preserved Edo-period cities. The Japanese visit Kanazawa in droves but perhaps because of its remote location and very cold winters few foreigners make the journey to experience its rich cultural legacies.

On arrival we visit the Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts, which showcases the fine arts and crafts of Ishikawa, a Prefecture whose culture of fine arts and traditional crafts compares with that of Tokyo and Kyoto. Highlights of the collection include feudal daimyo utensils using the Kaga Makie technique, Kutani porcelain from Ko-kutani (Old Kutani) and Wajima lacquer-ware.

The feudal atmosphere of Kanazawa still lingers in the Nagamachi district, where old houses of the Nagamachi Samurai line the streets that once belonged to Kaga Clan Samurais. The T-shaped and L-shaped alleys are distinct characteristics of the feudal town, and the mud doors and gates of the houses remain the same as they were 400 years ago. The houses with their samurai windows (bushimado) and mud walls under the yellow Kobaita wooden roofs, which were protected from snow by straw mats (komo), evoke a bygone era.

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the scale and dispensation of land to samurai families who lived in this district, and others in the city, was a fairly accurate indicator of rank. One of the larger Nagamachi estates was assigned to Nomura Denbei Nobusada, a senior official in the service of the first feudal lord of the Kaga domain. The reforms that accompanied the Meiji Restoration in 1868 decimated the lifestyles of the socially privileged. The samurai, whose social class was nulified, not only had their stipends terminated, but their estates were also appropriated by the state. Consequently, the Nomura family, whose considerable land holdings dated back 12 generations, lost their home and were reduced to turning a section of the remaining part of their property over to the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. Though they were discouraged from public displays of ostentation, merchant families and those of former samurai were not prohibited from commissioning the construction of exquisite gardens.

We visit the restored residence of Nomura, displaying the lifestyle and artifacts of the era, and explore its garden which features trees that are over 400 years old. Broad, irregularly shaped stepping stones provide access to the inner garden whose attractive entrance is flanked by a Chinese maple tree with leaves that turn a brilliant red in autumn.

Across the Asano River is the district of Higashi-Chayamachi, Kanazawa’s most famous geisha district. Many of the tall wooden-latticed houses on the narrow streets are still used by geisha for high-class entertainment as they have done since 1820 when the area was established as a geisha quarter. You can take tea (without geisha) at Shima House for a chance to experience its refined and elegant atmosphere. Like Kyoto’s Gion, this district has been designated as one of Japan’s cultural assets. (Overnight Kanazawa) B

Note: Our luggage will be transported directly from Matsumoto to our hotel in Kyoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kanazawa.

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 8: Wednesday 20 November, Kanazawa – Kyoto

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Kenroku-en, Kanazawa
Train from Kanazawa to Kyoto
Gion District, Kyoto
Our first destination this morning is Kanazawa Castle, the seat of power of the local Maeda clan, hereditary feudal lords (daimyo) of the Kaga province from 1583. Burnt down on a number of occasions, only the superb Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya samurai dwelling survive from the original construction.

Kenroku-en is Kanazawa’s prime attraction and one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Koraku-en (Okayama) and Kairaku-en (Mito). Kenroku-en was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and there has been a garden on the site since the late 1600s. The original garden, begun by the fifth Maeda lord, Tsunonori Maeda, was called Renchi tei but it was almost entirely burnt out in 1759. It was restored in the 1770s and in 1822 became known as Kenroku-en, a name that means ‘the garden of six sublimities’ or, ‘a garden combining the six aspects of a perfect garden’. These six features were what the Chinese traditionally believed were necessary for the ideal garden – spaciousness and seclusion, artifice and antiquity, water-courses and panoramas: all these characteristics are to be found in the 25 acres of this beautiful garden.

We then transfer to the train station to take the train south to Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the late 8th century (c.794 AD) until 1868, when the court was moved to Tokyo. It is home to 17 World Heritage Sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, yet much of the city centre is modern. One of the finest of its contemporary buildings is its dramatic railway station.

We begin our exploration of Kyoto with a glimpse of a vanishing world – the district of Gion, home to geisha houses and traditional teahouses. Although the number of geishas has declined over the last century the area is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. To experience the traditional Gion, we stroll along Hanami-koji, a street lined by beautiful old buildings, including teahouses, where you may be able to glimpse a geisha apprentice. Contrary to popular belief Gion is not a red-light district, nor are geishas prostitutes. Geishas are young girls or women extensively trained as entertainers and skilled in a number of traditional Japanese arts such as classical music and dance as well as the performance of the exacting rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 9: Thursday 21 November, Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Daitoku-ji Buddhist Complex incl. the Ryogen-in
Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple)
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens, including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. Our first visit in Kyoto is to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). During the 15th century the Chinese Sung Dynasty exercised an enormous influence in Japan as artists, poets and Zen priests were gathered together by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun (1358-1409). Yoshimitsu began construction of the Golden Pavilion just before he retired in 1394, handing power to his nine-year-old son so that he could move to his estate. Little of his work remains but we can sense the character of the garden in its pond, rockwork and extensive plantings.

The pavilion at Kinkaku-ji recalls Sung period architecture but it is a recreation, having been burned down in the 1950s. The present building is an exact replica except that where Yoshimitsu proposed only to gild the ceiling of the third storey with gold; now the whole building is gilded. Yoshimitsu positioned his palace on the edge of a lake. The ground floor was a reception room for guests and departure point for leisure boating, the first storey was for philosophical discussions and panoramic views of the lake while the upper floor acted as a refuge for Yoshimitsu and was used for tea ceremonies. The size of the gardens is increased visually by the water’s convoluted edge, the use of rocks and clipped trees and by visually ‘borrowing’ a distant view of Mt Kinugasa that creates a sense of gradation between foreground, middleground and deep distance.

We next visit Daitoku-ji, a large complex of Zen temples with prayer halls, religious structures and 23 sub-temples with some of the most exquisite gardens in Kyoto, some quite small, including raked gravel gardens and, in the Daisen-in, one of the most celebrated small rock gardens in Japan. The Japanese consider Daitoku-ji one of the most privileged places to study and it is associated with many of Japan’s most famous priests. Unlike many of the larger public Buddhist temples of earlier sects, the Rinzai sect monasteries were intimate, inward looking and remained isolated from the outside world.

The temple received imperial patronage and thus grew out from its centre in an organic way. A transition occurred as the complex expanded from a formal centre to semiformal and informal precincts. The central north-south walkway is most formal with wide paths to accommodate processions and ceremonies, while to the side are sub-temples with gates. As you walk through one of these gates you immediately come upon a less formal world with narrow paths, turns and walkways. The temple site contains a number of notable gardens including Daisen-in, Koto-in, Koho-an, Hogo and Ryogen-in.

We conclude the day with a visit to Ryoan-ji – the Dragon Peace Temple. No other garden in the world is so simple, elegant and refined. The garden comprises 15 rocks in a sea of raked gravel surrounded by a compacted mud wall coated in oil that is in itself a national treasure. The garden dates from 1500 as part of a temple of the Renzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple burned but was reconstructed in its original form. The garden constitutes the supreme example of a dry garden where gravel and rock symbolise plant and water elements. Indeed, apart from the moss on the rocks, no other plants grow in it. The meaning of the garden remains unknown. It might symbolise islands in a sea, mountains seen through clouds or tigers and cubs crossing a river, but this doesn’t matter since this is a garden to encourage contemplation, the enclosing wall separating the visitor from the world outside, and the verandah creating a horizontal boundary. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 10: Friday 22 November, Kyoto

Renge-ji
Shisen-do
Lunch at the Beaux Sejours, Grand Prince Hotel
Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)
Today we will visit a number of Kyoto’s great gardens. Our first visit for the day is to Renge-ji. The temple is known for its garden, which reflects the beauty of seasonal change. Autumn when the maple leaves change colour, is the best season to visit. Capturing the essence of Japanese gardens, it includes a central pond surrounded by plantings linking to the hillside beyond. Stones, bridge and plantings are all reflected on the water-surface, giving a sense of spaciousness.

The intimate gardens of Shisen-do are considered masterworks of Japanese gardens. Its street walls mask the tranquillity and beauty to be found within. Raked sand, clipped azaleas and the tree covered hillsides of Higashiyama form the main components of this garden designed by Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672). Clipped azaleas give way to natural vegetation beyond the garden boundary but it is the close harmony between the indoor spaces of the pavilion and the garden beyond that is most striking. The verandah offers a transition between its dark interior and the light-filled garden.

Following lunch at the Grand Prince Hotel’s Beaux Sejours restaurant, we visit Ginkaku-ji. Originally constructed as the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-1490), the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) became a Zen temple upon his death. The garden is complex, comprising two distinct sections, a pond area with a composition of rocks and plants, and a sand garden with a truncated cone – the Moon-Viewing Height – suggesting Mt Fuji; and a horizontal mound – the Sea of Silver Sand – named for its appearance by moonlight. An educational display at the garden contains good moss and weed moss to allow you to tell the difference. (Overnight Kyoto) BL

 

Nara – 1 night

 

Day 11: Saturday 23 November, Kyoto – Nara

Nara Park (Nara-koen) including the temples of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji
Isui-en Garden
Traditional Japanese bath (optional)
We leave Kyoto by coach for the ancient Japanese city of Nara, the national capital prior to Kyoto. During this period Buddhism became firmly established in Japan under the patronage of nobles who sponsored the buildings and works of art that we shall visit.

Our first destination is to the impressive Todai-ji, founded in 745 by Emperor Shomu. Although rebuilt following a fire in 1709 to two-thirds of its original size it nevertheless remains the largest timber building in the world. Two seven-metre tall guardian gods flank the entrance, (known as the nandai-mon), to the great Buddha Hall, the Daibutsu-den, which houses the 15-metre-tall bronze statue of the great Buddha. The original casting was completed in 752, when an Indian priest stood on a special platform and symbolically opened its eyes by painting on the Buddha’s eyes with a huge brush. This ceremony was performed before the then retired Emperor Shomu, his wife Komio and the reigning Empress Kogen, together with ambassadors from China, India and Persia.

We then visit the wonderful Nara-koen complex. It contains a five-storey pagoda, part of the Kofuku-ji founded in 669, a fine collection of Buddhist statues in the kokuhokan (National Treasure Building) and a 15th-century hall to the north of the pagoda. The kokahokan is a treasure trove of early Buddhist statues and although it is not large, each piece has been carefully chosen as a masterpiece of its style and period.

Our final visit for the day is to the small Isui-en, a traditional Japanese garden notable for its extensive use of moss and its exquisite tea pavilion. This garden is a kaiyushiki teien (strolling) style design that allows the visitor to easily walk through the garden and view it from many different angles.

From here you might like to stroll through some of Nara’s historic streets or try a traditional Japanese bath (sento: public bath; onsen: hot spring bath). The traditional Japanese-style inn we are staying in tonight provides open-air communal baths using hot spring water and affords a wonderful view of Kofuku-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda, which is illuminated at night. Tonight we dine in a traditional style at the Ryokan Asukasou, which serves Japanese kaiseki dishes. (Overnight Nara) BD

Note: We will leave our main luggage at the hotel in Kyoto during our 1 night stay in Nara. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Nara

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 24 November, Nara – Kyoto

Treasures of the Nara National Museum
Shin-Yakushi-ji
Horyu-ji
Our first visit today is to the Nara National Museum, noted for its collection of Buddhist art, including images, sculpture and ceremonial articles.

Shin-Yakushi-ji is a Buddhist temple built in the 19th year of the Tempyo era (747) by Empress Komio as an offering of thanksgiving when Emperor Shomu recovered from an eye disease. It now constitutes a single hall enshrining a powerful image of Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha, surrounded by clay sculptures of 12 guardians called Juni Shinsho, the Yakushi Nyorai’s protective warriors. In Japanese sculpture and art, the warriors are almost always grouped in a protective circle around the Yakushi Nyorai; they are rarely depicted as single figures. Many say they represent the 12 vows of Yakushi; others believe the 12 were present when the historical Buddha introduced the ‘Healing Sutra’; others claim that they offer protection during the 12 daylight hours, or that they represent the 12 months and 12 cosmic directions, or the 12 animals of the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

The grounds of Horyu-ji house the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, dating from the Asuka Period (mid-6th-beginning of 8th century AD). Throughout the 187,000-square-metre grounds are irreplaceable cultural treasures, bequeathed across the centuries and continuing to preserve the essence of eras spanning the entire journey through Japanese history since the 7th century. Horyu-ji contains over 2300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, including nearly 190 that have been designated as National Treasures or important Cultural Properties. In 1993 Horyu-ji was selected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage as a unique storehouse of world Buddhist culture. Following this visit we transfer by coach to Kyoto. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 13: Monday 25 November, Kyoto

Tenryu-ji
Saiho-ji (or ‘Koke-dera’ – moss temple)
Nanzen-ji
Nishiki-koji Covered Market
We first visit the Tenryu-ji, which dates from the period of shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1339). He commissioned the priest Muso Kokushi – one of Japan’s best known garden designers, who also designed the moss garden at Saiho-ji – to create this garden. Kokushi’s work modified an estate of Emperor Gosaga from 1270. He changed its form to include an Heian-style pond garden with popular, contemporary Chinese aspects. These included most notably a group of seven vertical rocks near the rear shore of its pond. These contrast markedly with Japanese rock work that takes a more horizontal form. This is one of the earliest gardens to show shakkei, the incorporation of borrowed landscape into a garden’s design.

Saiho-ji has the oldest major garden of the Muromachi Period. Originally designed to represent the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) of Amida Buddhism, this so-called ‘strolling garden’ is set in a dark forest and is designed for meditation. It was re-designed by a Zen Buddhist priest, Muso Soseki, who also designed the garden of Tenryu-ji in Kyoto, when it passed to the Zen Buddhist sect. The chief feature of the garden is the ‘golden pond’ with pavilions scattered on its shore and connected by a path that allows controlled views of the garden. The pond is shaped like the Japanese character for ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. It is divided by islands connected by bridges. The mosses, which give the garden its alternative name (Koke-dera – ‘moss temple’) were established as an economy measure after the Meiji restoration (1868).

Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. It was founded in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama, and was rebuilt several times after devastating fires. At the entrance to the complex one passes through the huge Imperial gate, built in 1628 by Todo Takatora, and into the complex with its series of sub-temples. We will see the hojo, or abbot’s quarters, which is notable for both it’s beautiful golden screen paintings and the tranquil sand and rock garden. We will also explore the sub-temple Konchi-in which was added to the complex in 1605.

In the late afternoon we shall walk through the traditional 17th-century Nishiki-koji covered market, which has for centuries been the focus of food shopping in the city. You may wish to try Japanese pickled vegetables or purchase teapots and teabowls from a traditional vendor. Nearby is a Japanese electrical store that show Japanese consumerism at its height. Spread over five storeys, this extraordinary store offers every imaginable electrical item. We will end the day in the fashionable gallery and restaurant area. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 14: Tuesday 26 November, Kyoto

Heian Shrine
Tofuku-ji
Tea Ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple
We begin the day with a visit to one of the newest religious sites in Kyoto, the Heian Shrine, which boasts the largest torii (sacred gate) in Japan and lovely gardens. The shrine was built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s 1100th anniversary and to honour its founder, Emperor Kammu and also to celebrate the culture and architecture of the city’s Heian-past. It is constructed on the site of the original Heian Hall of State but is a smaller and somewhat imperfect recreation of this earlier building. Four gardens surround the main shrine buildings on the south, west, middle and east, covering an area of approximately 33,000 square metres. The gardens are designated as a national scenic spot representative of Meiji-era (1868-1912) garden design.

We then visit the superb Tofuku-ji Hojo, a garden designed in 1939 by Shigemori Mirei. This will be familiar to many who have read books on Japanese gardens for it combines 20th-century design with elements from Japanese tradition. Mirei implements subtle, restrained design themes such as chequer-boards of stone in moss to allow the natural form and colour of maples on the surrounding hills to make full impact.

We end our visit to Kyoto with a visit to the Kodai-ji Temple to experience a tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Matsue – 1 night

 

Day 15: Wednesday 27 November, Kyoto – Okayama – Matsue
Kouraku-en, Okayama
Adachi Museum of Art
Farewell Dinner at a Local Restaurant
Today we depart Kyoto and travel by train to Okayama where we visit another of the country’s so-called ‘Three Great Gardens of Japan’, Kouraku-en. This garden dates from the Edo period when the daimyo (feudal lord) Ikeda Tsunamasa ordered its construction in 1687. Completed in 1700, it has retained its overall appearance with only a few minor changes made over the centuries. The garden was used for entertaining guests and also as a retreat for the daimyo.

In the afternoon we travel by train to Matsue, where we shall visit the Adachi Museum of Art, located in the rural landscape of the Sinmane region. This is a contemporary art museum set within a large garden, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. The museum was founded by Adachi Zenko who felt a strong resonance between the sublime sensibility of the Japanese-style garden and the paintings of Yokoyama Taikan whose work he collected. This is a contemplation garden which visitors observe from various carefully designed points within the museum. Each season reveals itself through different aspects of the garden, and during our visit we can expect the hills that form the backdrop to the vista before us to be a blaze of autumnal colour while vivid reds enliven the foliage of the garden. After checking in to our hotel, we shall enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Matsue) BD

Note: As we will be travelling by train today, our luggage will be transferred directly to the Matsue hotel

 

Day 16: Thursday 28 November, Depart Matsue

Izumo Shine
Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo
This morning we travel from Matsue to the nearby town of Izumo to visit the Izumo-taisha, one of the oldest and most important Shinto shrines in Japan. Its foundation date is not known, but it was already a well established religious complex in the 10th century. The complex comprises of multiple prayer halls and sanctuaries. The artistic and archaeological treasures form this area are displayed next door to the shrine at the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo.

After lunchtime at leisure we transfer to Izumo Airport for our flights home. B

Spring Gardens of Victoria with Julie Kinney

Spring Gardens of Victoria – Private Gardens of Daylesford and Mount Macedon with Julie Kinney

 

24 October – 02 November 2018 (10 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

In the springtime, joyous blossoms bedeck the charming towns of rural Victoria and the gardens of Daylesford and Mount Macedon.

 

AT A GLANCE…

 

• Visit a dozen private gardens in the Daylesford and Mount Macedon areas and meet some of the gardeners themselves
• Experience spring at Stonefields with a guided tour led by Paul Bangay
• Enjoy a picnic at Hanging Rock, the eerie setting for Peter Weir’s 1975 film
• Explore specialist nurseries at The Garden of St Erth, stocking cottage flower and vegetable seeds in an 1860s miner’s homestead and Lambley’s Nursery, a world leader in sustainable planting for dry climates
• Enjoy a special tour of the gardens and working horse stud at Swettenham Stud in Nagambie
• Go antiquing at the vast Newlyn Antiques and Gardens (or pick up a heritage apple or pear tree), and savour regional cuisine amongst gardens and in traditional country restaurants

Note: At time of publication (February 2018), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2 to 3 months prior to visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary

 

ITINERARY…

 

 WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER 2018 / MELBOURNE – LANCEFIELD

 

Meet Julie and fellow travellers at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at the Russell Court entrance at 10:00am. (Russell Court is an extension of Russell Street at the rear of Federations Square.) Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

Depart Melbourne for The Cottage at Bolobek, considered one of the finest private gardens of Australia. Once the home of Lady Joan Law-Smith, the walled rose garden, ornamental lake, woodland and crab-apple walk are some of the delights hidden within Bolobek’s garden spaces. Enjoy an introduction and tour of the garden, followed by lunch with a selection of produce from Bolobek’s veggie patch.

Travel next to Cope-William Winery for a visit to their contemporary art gallery and gardens. In the afternoon, check in to your hotel, and later enjoy a special welcome dinner. (LD)

 

TUE 25 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

Start today with a visit to Ard Choille Heritage Gardens. Its exotic trees and shrubs encapsulate the atmosphere of a 19th century garden, with its notable inclusion of a rare 19th century metal shade house.

Following a tour of the gardens, enjoy lunch in the Gardens of Tieve Tara. With a fern glade, rose arbour, and two lakes complemented by a Monet-styled bridge, the garden foliage and flowers present a vibrant display of spring colours.

After lunch, depart for the private gardens of Dreamthorpe, with its romantic surroundings of elegant oak trees, wisteria and a secluded lake. Arrive back at your hotel for a late afternoon wine tasting in the on-site cellar. Later, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Lancefield, a village in the Macedon Ranges where pastoral heritage charm blends with a lively arts scene. (BLD)

 

FRI 26 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

After breakfast, travel to the formal gardens of Sunnymeade, the 2017 winner of a Melbourne Cup Australian gardens competition. Explore its unique garden rooms, which includes a Persian-styled garden and Gothic-style building, and find a collection of rare and unusual perennials in Sunnymeade’s small nursery.

Continue to Swettenham Stud at Nagambie, located on the Goulburn River, for a tour of the gardens and the surrounding buildings. (B)

 

SAT 27 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

Spend a morning at the local Lancefield farmers’ market, discovering local produce, plants and crafts.

Next, have a picnic at Hanging Rock, made famous as the setting of the 1975 film, with a walk around the unusual rock formations, created by years of erosion on this extinct volcano.

In the afternoon head to Chapman Hill Olives for a visit of the working olive grove and gardens. (BLD)

 

SUN 28 OCT / LANCEFIELD – HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

Check out from your hotel for an exploration of The Garden of St Erth, where over 3,000 plant varieties with a focus on drought tolerant flowers are showcased, along with the garden’s Diggers Club nursery. Travel to Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm for lunch and a tour of the historic 1850s stone farmhouse.

Later, visit Newlyn Antiques, with its vast collection of pottery, glassware, jewellery and furniture spread across three 19th century buildings. Nestled between, amongst landscaped grounds, is Newlyn’s cottage nursery specialising in Heritage varieties of irises, apples and pears. (BL)

 

MON 29 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

This morning, depart for The Garden of Lixouri and Hedgehogs garden, with a photo stop en route at the Malmsbury viaduct. Rarely open to the public, Lixouri’s Mediterranean-style garden combines an established olive grove with soft flowering natives. Next door, the private garden of Hedgehogs features rambling roses, soft garden paths and cottage plantings.

After lunch, explore the township of Castlemaine at leisure, with its historic ‘Gold Rush’ streetscape, before returning to Hepburn Springs. (BL)

 

TUE 30 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

Begin today with a morning at leisure in the town of Daylesford, known for its historic streetscapes, art studios, cosy cafés and boutique stores.

Then head to Lambley Nursery, where a featured range of frost-hardy plants are world renowned for their sustainability and dry climate aptitude. Return to your hotel, stopping en route for a visit to Overwrought Garden Art store, for a wander through their garden filled with local art and metalwork designs. Arrive in the late afternoon in time for optional spa treatments (additional cost). Dinner at a local hotel. (BD)

 

WED 31 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

Today, visit the private garden Meadowbank, owned by photographer Simon Griffiths, known for his images in cooking and gardening books by Maggie Beer and Paul Bangay. Travel to Rosebery Hill for a tour of the gardens, which include a quirky topiary, an avenue of poplar trees, rare plants and a century-old Cork Oak.

Explore the Kyneton Botanic Gardens at leisure and then visit the private garden of Scotsman’s Hill, an acre of winding garden sitting atop an old bluestone quarry with views across the countryside. (B)

 

THU 01 NOV / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

Travel this morning to Stonefields for a tour of this garden led by its creator and famed landscape designer Paul Bangay.

Explore the gardens at The Convent Gallery in Daylesford, with its unique art pieces hidden amongst the greenery. Then, wander through the Wombat Hill Botanic Garden at leisure, established in the 1860s atop Daylesford’s extinct volcano, with views across the Macedon Ranges countryside.

In the evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

FRI 02 NOV / DEPART MELBOURNE

 

Check out from the hotel and return to Melbourne.

Tour arrangements conclude either upon arrival at Melbourne airport at 11:00 for flights departing from 13:00 onwards, or in Melbourne city at midday. (B)

Atacama to Patagonia: Chile’s Natural World

Atacama to Patagonia: Chile’s Natural World

 

NOTE: CLOSING SOON – 3 PLACES REMAINING

Tour Highlights

 

  • Join John Patrick, horticulturalist, garden designer and presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, and Dr Rudolf Thomann, a natural scientist, to explore Chile’s unique flora and fauna.
  • Visit public gardens and enjoy privileged access to private gardens that both reflect Chile’s lively contemporary garden culture.
  • Visit the eccentric houses of Chile’s greatest poet, the colourful Pablo Neruda, and hear marvellous stories which inspired Isabel Allende.
  • Explore the rainbow-hued UNESCO World Heritage Listed coastal town of Valparaíso.
  • Visit Santiago’s great Museum of Pre-Columbian Art to explore the rich cultural history of Central and South America, and the Padre LePaige Archaeological Museum with its superb collection from the ancient cultures of the Atacama region.
  • Discover the fascinating geology of the Atacama Desert – a high-altitude 1,200km expanse of dunes, plains, high peaks, and active volcanoes – with visits to Moon Valley in the Salt Mountain Range, the ancient village of Tocanao, Atacama Salt Flat and the famous flamingos of Chaxa Lagoon.
  • Enjoy the awesome natural beauty of Chile’s southern Lake District, visiting the magnificent Parque Nacional Volcán Villarrica which features a glorious mix of lakes and three volcanoes.
    Take a swim in the Termas Geométricas, a Japanese-inspired labyrinth of hot springs hidden in the lush Chilean forest.
  • Learn about the Mapuche community at Curarrehue’s ‘Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm’ – enjoy their culture of music, dance, and colourful costumes.
  • Cruise Lago Todos Los Santos to view three stunning but totally different volcanoes – Orsorno, Puntiagudo and Tronador.
  • Spend 2 days in the Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia – a wilderness of scrubland, ridges, rivers, lakes and lagoons and the eponymous torres (towers) of the Paine Massif; a highlight is our excursion to see the icebergs on Lago Grey.
  • Visit vibrant artists’ markets, and sample distinctive cuisine and enjoy the fine wines for which Chile is famed.

 

21-day Flora & Fauna Tour of Chile
Overnight Santiago (4 nights) • Zapallar (2 nights) • Viña del Mar (2 nights) • San Pedro de Atacama (2 nights) • Santiago (1 night) • Pucón (2 nights) • Puerto Varas (3 nights) • Torres del Paine National Park (3 nights) • Santiago (1 night)

 

Optional Extension to Easter Island
Overnight Hanga Roa (4 nights) • Santiago (1 night)

 

Itinerary

 

Santiago – 4 nights

Day 1: Sunday 14 October, Arrive Santiago

Arrival transfer for participants arriving on the ‘ASA designated’ flight
Short Orientation Walk & Light 2-course dinner
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated flight’ are scheduled to arrive into Santiago in the late afternoon. After clearing customs we transfer by private coach to our the Hotel Cumbres Lastarria, located in the Barrio Lastarria. Following check-in and time to freshen up after the long journey, there will be a short orientation walk in the hotel’s historic precinct followed by a light evening meal. (Overnight Santiago) D

 

Day 2: Monday 15 October, Santiago

Morning private garden visits (to be confirmed)
Mercado Central de Santiago
Walking tour of historic Santiago incl. Plaza de Armas, Parque Forestal & Cerro Santa Lucía
Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant
We spend the morning visiting some private gardens selected by our local Chilean expert. These visits will be by special invitation and will introduce you to some of the very latest the country has to offer in garden design that exploit Chile’s unique climate, landscapes and flora.

We return by coach to the city where we tour the Mercado Central and have time at leisure for lunch. Santiago’s fish market is housed in a 19th-century building featuring a beautiful cast-iron roof. Amongst its many stalls are numerous small restaurants serving a variety of fresh Chilean seafood dishes.

After lunch we embark on a walking tour of the city. We begin at the centre of Santiago’s social life, the Plaza de Armas, which is surrounded by heritage buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, the old post office, and the National Historical Museum. We continue past the Palacio de Bellas Artes to the Parque Forestal by the Mapocho River, where we encounter buildings dating from 1520 to the present day. The park was founded as the setting for the Fine Arts Museum. It was designed by George Dubois in a picturesque, naturalistic (English) style with plants imported from Europe and Argentina. Its romantic lake has disappeared but its magnificent six rows of Platanus X hispanica (London Plane) frame views to nearby Cerro San Cristóbel.

We continue to Santa Lucía Hill, so named because Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia took this strategic hill from its native defenders on the well-known female saint’s day. Between 1872 and 1874, it was transformed into a public promenade. In 1936, the German landscape designer Oscar Prager completed a project for the southern slope that descends to the Almeda, Santiago’s main avenue. The gardens, with their ramps and stairs, provide a valuable civic amenity.

We return to our hotel to rest and freshen up before heading to a local restaurant for our welcome dinner. (Overnight Santiago) BD

 

Day 3: Tuesday 16 October, Santiago

Viña Santa Rita: picnic lunch & wine-tasting
Cable Car to Cerro San Cristóbal
Pablo Neruda’s House: ‘Casa Museo La Chascona’
This morning we drive to the Viña Santa Rita, one of Chile’s premier wine estates, located in the verdant valleys of the Maipo wine-making region. We will walk through the vineyards and wine cellars and learn about the processes of traditional Chilean wine production. The winery, covering more than 3,000 hectares, also features the historic ‘Bodega 1′ and ‘Bodega de los 120 patriotas’ which are considered a national treasure. Whilst enjoying the glorious view of the sculpted gardens we will taste some of the vineyard’s wines, which include merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and cabernet franc. We then drive to Cerro San Cristóbal, the second-highest hill of the city (850m). A ride on the cable car affords magnificent broad panoramas of the city.

Next, we visit ‘La Chascona’, the Santiago home of Chile’s most famous poet, the Nobel Laureate, Pablo Neruda (1904-1973). His house is a triumph of artistic flourishes and includes a very broad, eccentric collection, including works of maritime art. It is located in the historic Bellavista district – home to an important arts community. (Overnight Santiago) BL

 

Day 4: Wednesday 17 October, Santiago

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
Barrio Lastarria neighbourhood
Jardín Botánico Chagual
Parque Bicentenario
This morning we visit the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art), founded by the Chilean architect and antiquities collector Sergio Larraín García-Moreno. The museum displays García-Moreno’s magnificent private collection from the major pre-Columbian Central American, Intermediate / Isthmo-Colombian (Panama etc.), Caribbean, Amazonian and the Andean cultures acquired over the course of nearly 50 years. Housed in the Palacio de la Real Aduana (1805-1807), the museum underwent extensive renovations and reopened in 2014. The collection, which ranges over 10,000 years, includes exhibits of art, sculpture, pottery, textiles and jewellery. Highlights include pieces from the Inca and Aztec empires, and the 7,000-year-old Chinchorro mummies discovered in 1983.

We then transfer to the vibrant Barrio Lastarria, a lovely historic neighbourhood in the city centre, known for its bohemian flavour and diverse cultural activity such as festivals and live performances; it has many theatres, museums, restaurants and bars. The precinct developed around the Church of the True Cross soon after Pedro de Valdivia’s Conquest of Chile. Old houses, recently restored, occupy its winding streets and the Plaza Mulato Gil de Castro.

Following a light lunch, we visit the Chagual Botanical Garden, located in the Parque Metropolitano near the Cerro San Cristóbal. It occupies 84 acres and is still in the early stages of planning and development. The aim is to recreate central Chile’s unique ecosystems featuring special collections of endangered, medicinal and other significant plants such as those with special botanical or economic value. Of particular interest, it will feature plants native to Chile’s ‘Mediterranean’ climatic zone like those of southeastern and southwestern Australia, California and the South African Cape. The Melbourne Botanic Gardens and Kings Park, Perth, have been assisting with advice on this project. The flora of Chile is diverse and spectacular and these gardens are named after the eye-catching chagual (puya chilensis) which is indigenous to the region.

We end the day with a visit to the Parque Bicentenario, a communal city garden with interesting landscape design by Teodoro Fernández L. Architects. The park is located next to ‘Sanhattan’, the popular ironic sobriquet given to Santiago’s ‘high-end’ financial district. Spread over 30 hectares along the eastern bank of the Mapocho River, it includes over 4,000 trees of which more than 1,300 are native species. (Overnight Santiago) BL

 

Zapallar – 2 nights

 

Day 5: Thursday 18 October, Santiago – Parque Nacional La Campana – Zapallar

Parque Nacional La Campana
Time at leisure in Zapallar
This morning we depart Santiago and drive to the Chilean coast. On the way we visit Parque Nacional La Campana which occupies the highest part of Chile’s coastal mountain range (cordillera). Charles Darwin climbed Cerro La Campana (1,800m) in 1845. The park, which features rugged coastal scenery, features the finest remaining stands of Chilean palm (Jubaea chilensis). The palms occur here among typical matorral vegetation, with soap-bark tree (Quillaja saponaria), Lithraea caustica, Adesmia arborea, and others. These palms, which grow to a height of 25 metres, first flower at the age of 60, and can live for 1,000 years. The genus was named after Juba II, a Berber king and botanist. The common name refers to the past use of the sap from the trunk of this palm to produce a fermented beverage. The sap is also boiled down into a syrup and sold locally as miel de palma. Although described somewhat disdainfully by Charles Darwin as a ‘very ugly tree’, many consider the Chilean wine palm J. chilensis to be one of the most impressive palms in the world.

After a picnic lunch we continue on to Zapallar where there will be time at leisure to explore the town before we enjoy a group dinner at a waterfront restaurant. Zapallar is a quaint, elegant seaside resort built along steep hills on a protected horseshoe bay between rugged, steep cliffs and rocky precipices. It offers majestic views and has many historic mansions that now sit side-by-side with contemporary homes. A Mediterranean micro-climate allows the cultivation of the many attractive gardens that have always adorned the town. (Overnight Zapallar) BLD

 

Day 6: Friday 19 October, Zapallar – Los Vilos – Zapallar

Morning private garden visit (to be confirmed)
Reserva Ecologica El Puquén, Los Molles
Following a visit to a private garden (arrangements to be confirmed), we explore the dramatic coastal El Puquén Ecological Reserve, with rugged cliffs, unusual geological formations including a volcanic cave, ancient middens, fossil zones and an interesting endemic flora (lúcumo and wild papayo). The park is home to interesting fauna, including chilla foxes (South American grey foxes), quiques (a yellow-grey animal with back spots, similar to a skunk), eagles, harmless snakes and the cururo – a species of small endemic rodent that lives underground. (Overnight Zapallar) BLD

 

Viña del Mar – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Saturday 20 October, Zapallar – Papudo – Quillota – Viña del Mar

Private garden visits (arrangements to be confirmed)
This morning we plan to visit private gardens in the area outside of Zapallar. In the afternoon we continue our journey to the resort beach town of Viña del Mar, known popularly as ‘The Garden City’. (Overnight Viña del Mar) BL

 

Day 8: Sunday 21 October, Viña del Mar – Valparaíso – Viña del Mar

Funicular ‘El Peral’ ride to Conception Hill, Valparaíso
Cerro Alegre and merchant houses, Valparaíso
House museum of poet Pablo Neruda, ‘La Sebastiana’, Valparaíso
National Botanical Garden (‘Saltpeter Park’), Viña del Mar (to be confirmed)
Our first visit this morning is to colonial Valparaíso, one of Chile’s most captivating cities, noted for its colourful history as a major port and its rich artistic, literary and political traditions. It is also physically very colourful, with extraordinary brightly painted houses crammed up against each other along the city’s steep slopes. The city’s fascinating blend of past and present has caused it to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It looks out across a wide bay with the upper parts of the town reached by stairs, narrow streets and funicular railways.

We ride the funicular ‘El Peral’ up Conception Hill which commands excellent views to the port. We then visit the port itself and the city centre and stroll through some of the avenues leading to the scenic point, Cerro Alegre. The dwellings here were once owned by foreign merchants who began building around 1840.

After time at leisure for lunch we continue to another former home of the poet Pablo Neruda, ‘La Sebastiana’. It is shaped like the hull of a ship and its contents reflect Neruda’s love of the sea. From the poet’s desk there is a spectacular view of the Pacific; he is thought to have written many poems about the natural world seated here.

We next drive to the garden originally known as ‘Saltpeter Park’ at Viña del Mar. This oasis, covering an area of 395 hectares with more than 3,000 species of flora, was originally commissioned by nitrate baron Pascual Baburizza, and was created by the French landscape gardener George Dubois. The park was donated to the Nitrate and Iodine Company so as to assure its survival. In 1951 this corporation donated the park to the Chilean State; its name was changed to ‘National Botanical Garden’. It serves both an educational and scientific purpose, and is an excellent place to go walking, thanks to its stony paths, ponds and woodlands. Highlights of the garden include one of the few documented collections of the extinct Toromiro of Easter Island (Sophora Toromiro), a collection of plants from the Juan Fernandez archipelago, a Cactarium with 60 Chilean species, and collections of Chilean Myrtaceae, ‘bosque valdiviano‘ (Valdivian forest) plants, medicinal plants and fuchsias. (Overnight Viña del Mar) B

 

San Pedro de Atacama – 2 nights

 

Day 9: Monday 22 October, Viña del Mar – Santiago – Calama – San Pedro de Atacama

Morning flight from Santiago to Calama
Parque para la Preservación de la Memoria Histórica de Calama
Valle de la Luna & Cordillera de la Sal, Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos
This morning we drive back to Santiago and board a flight to Calama, which marks the northern end of the Atacama Desert. From here we drive 103 kilometres southeast to San Pedro de Atacama which will be our base from which to explore the desert. En route we pass the memorial dedicated to victims of human rights violations. Students, communists, socialists, union members, indigenous people—ideological threats to Augusto Pinochet’s vision of fascism and free market economics, were arrested, murdered and thrown into mass graves throughout the country. The murdered of Chile were buried in the Atacama Desert, for example, during what was known as the Caravan of Death of 1973. The Pinochet regime’s depredations inspired Sting’s famous protest song They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo: 1987), referring to mourning Chilean women (arpilleristas) who dance the Cueca, Chile’s national dance, carrying photographs of their disappeared loved ones.  (Watch on Youtube)

In the afternoon we drive to the Valle de la Luna (‘Moon Valley’). Its extraordinary landscape of strange rock formations is part of the protected nature sanctuary, Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos, in the Salt Mountain Range. The valley forms a depression surrounded by jagged spines of salt-encrusted hills, with an immense sand dune running between two ridges, resulting in unbelievable moon-like scenery. We also view the canyon and small dunes of the Cordillera de la Sal (‘Salt Mountain Range’). (Overnight San Pedro de Atacama) BD

 

Day 10: Tuesday 23 October, San Pedro de Atacama

Agro-ecological tour of Toconao village
Quebrada de Jeréz
Salara de Atacama & Flamingos of Laguna Chaxa, Los Flamencos National Reserve
We begin today with an agro-ecological tour of Toconao village, located between the Andes Mountain Range and the Atacama Salt Lake. The horizon here is dominated by very high volcanoes. This little colonial village dates back 12,000 years; there is evidence of 10,000-year-old human presence in the area, making it an area of great historical and archaeological significance. It features picturesque stone houses made from local liparita stone (pumice) extracted from the local quarry, and the old church of San Lucas with its distinctive 18th-century bell tower. The sweet waters of this small oasis support a variety of fruit trees such as Easter pears, plums, quinces and grapes, as well as a wide range of vegetables. The town also features small handicraft workshops whose products include woven products made from alpaca wool. From Toconao we travel to the Jerez Canyon through which runs the Toconao River.

After lunch at a local restaurant we visit the Atacama Salt Flat; at 3,000 sq km, this is one of the world’s largest salt flats. It is also home to the famous flamingos of Chaxa Lagoon, part of the Soncor, a section of the Salar de Atacama in the Los Flamencos National Reserve. In this high, desert landscape, framed by mountains of nearly 6,000 metres, the Soncor provides a breeding ground for a wide variety of species including Chilean and Andean flamingos that use it as an important nesting site, the Andean avocet, the yellow-billed teal, the crested duck, the puna plover and Baird’s sandpiper. Various plant species grow around the edges of the lagoon, such as Distichlis spicata, Ephedra and cachiyuyo (a species of the genus Atriplex), among others. We will observe flamingos in the lagoon in which they feed and breed. (Overnight San Pedro de Atacama) BL

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

Day 11: Wednesday 24 October, San Pedro de Atacama – Calama – Santiago

Church of San Pedro
Padre LePaige Archaeological Museum
Afternoon flight from Calama to Santiago
We spend the morning visiting San Pedro de Atacama, a small isolated oasis town of modest pisé dwellings. The Atacamaño (or Kunza) culture flourished here. The earliest site dates from 9,600 BC, when cave-dwelling hunters arrived from the altiplano. There’s evidence of camelid domestication about 4,800 years ago; the San Pedro culture formed 3,000 years ago, succeeded by the more sophisticated Classic Atacameño culture 2,000 years ago. This reached its peak in the 12th century and ended with the arrival of the Incas around 1450. It was a vital resting place on the northern trade routes through the desert.

San Pedro has a beautiful small white 18th-century colonial church with a picturesque bell tower. The church is surprisingly long, with rustic vaulting of cactus wood slats and algarrobo beams bound with leather. Inside, naïve statues of saints clothed in fine satins stand on the reredos.

To the northeast of the plaza lies the modern Padre LePaige Archaeological Museum that holds superb exhibits from the Inca and other periods in the region’s pre-Columbian history. Father Gustave LePaige (1903-80) was a Belgian Jesuit priest who came to Chile in 1952. He was based in San Pedro from 1955 until his death, dedicating himself to building this archaeological collection; we shall enjoy a commentary on these exhibits by a local archaeologist. The Atacaman Desert is so arid that most artefacts are notably well-preserved. Highlights include the treasury of beaten gold bands dating from 500-900 AD, red and black ceramics of the Classic Atacameño culture, Inca ceramics with images of the sun, textiles and various mummies.

In the late morning we return to Calama for an early light lunch before taking our flight to Santiago. (Overnight Santiago) BL

 

Pucón – 2 nights

 

Day 12: Thursday 25 October, Santiago – Temuco – Curarrehue – Pucón

Morning flight from Santiago to Temuco
Mapuche community & Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm, Curarrehue
Private gardens of Hotel Antumalal
This morning we fly south to Temuco, the capital of the Araucanía Region, in Chile’s very beautiful Lakes District.

On arrival we drive to the Mapuche community in the town of Cuerarrehue, which is surrounded by high, sharp peaks. The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina, including parts of Patagonia. Mapuche is a collective term describing a wide-ranging ethnicity composed of various groups who shared a common social, religious and economic structure, and a common linguistic heritage as Mapudungun speakers. Today this group makes up over 80% of the indigenous peoples in Chile; their culture is documented as early as 600 BC.

We shall visit the museum and cultural centre, ‘Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm’, which presents Mapuche culture and that of the community of Curarrehue. The museum is housed in a modern interpretation of a mountain ruka, a traditional circular Mapuche dwelling oriented to the east. It includes displays of handicrafts, Mapuche cooking and a program of experimental music.

While in Curarrehue we also enjoy a traditional lunch, which usually includes famous sopaipillas (fried pastry) served with special homemade pebre (a sauce of onion, tomato, garlic and herbs).

After lunch we continue to Pucón where we visit the private gardens of Hotel Antumalal. Designed by the Chilean architect Jorge Elton in the 40s, and influenced by the Bauhaus style, it is considered one of the most famous hotels of the Lakes District. It hosted Queen Elizabeth on her tour of Chile in 1968. The gardens, spread over 5 hectares, offer panoramic views of Lake Villarrica and include five waterfalls with natural volcanic rock pools, a vegetable garden and an array of native vegetation.

In the early evening we arrive at the Villarrica Park Lake Hotel, where we shall be based for two nights. (Overnight Pucón) BLD

 

Day 13: Friday 26 October, Pucón

Parque Nacional Volcán Villarrica
Termas Geométricas: time to relax and enjoy a swim in the thermal pools
We spend the day visiting the magnificent Parque Nacional Villarrica, witnessing the stunning natural beauty of Chile’s southern Lake District. The park, which features a glorious mix of lakes and three volcanoes (Villarrica, Quetrupillánd and Lanín), includes a number of very good walking trails, which lead through the forest, meandering past alpine lakes and deep canyons. The park is also home to the rare Araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle tree), a protected species, of which specimens may live for over 1,000 years and takes five centuries just to reach maturity. We shall visit the south side of the Villarrica volcano which features a dense forest of these trees.

We end the day with a visit to the Termas Geométricas, a Japanese-inspired labyrinth of hot springs hidden in the lush Chilean forest. Suspended over a flowing stream, a maze of red planks winding through the forest, lead to the various pools. There are 17 pools in total, each fed directly from a natural hot spring via wooden pipes. Next to each pool is a small hut/changing room made of the same redwood as the paths. Each hut has grass planted on the roof, giving the whole facility a timeless feel, almost as if they are some extension of the natural backdrop. The complex rests at the bottom of a canyon, and mists rise from the warm waters in a nearly constant fog. Between the Japanese-styled architecture and the Chilean nature, few places in the world can claim quite such a perfect harmony of nature and design. There will be ample time to relax and enjoy a swim in the thermal pools. (Overnight Pucón) BL

 

Puerto Varas – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Saturday 27 October, Pucon – Valdivia – Puerto Varas

Valdivia city tour
Calle-Calle River Cruise: Wetlands of the Carlos Andwandter Nature Sanctuary, San Sebastián de la Cruz Fort/Isla Mancera
Today we visit one of Chile’s most beautiful historic cities, Valdivia, founded by the Spanish conquistador Don Pedro de Valdivia (1497-1553) in 1522. This southern city was of great strategic significance to the Spanish Empire. Its proximity to the Strait of Magellan made it a mandatory shelter on the route to meet the Peruvian viceroyalty. It was also rich in gold and timber and located on the largest navigable river network in the country. The Calle-Calle, Cau Cau, Cruces and Valdivia Rivers which run through this river port invest it with particular charm.

We shall tour the city, visiting the river market and the Torreón del Canelo, a watchtower used by the Spanish as protection against the Mapuches and pirates. It was built in the 17th century and restored by Ambrosio O´Higgins in the 18th century. Many of Valdivia’s houses are in German styles, built by migrants. We shall see San Francisco Church, the Cathedral and the Plaza de la República, with a giant arbour under which citizens enjoy the shade.

We also visit Teja Island, where we see the Universidad Austral de Chile campus and Valdivia’s Botanical Gardens, which display a rich variety of native and exotic species, including panaceas, cedars, ‘mediterráneos’, coihues, cypresses, laurel, tree ferns, poplars, acacias and plants from the Magellan and Valdivian forests. We continue to the traditional Kunstmann Brewery where we can taste the most diverse kinds of famous Valdivian hand-brewed beers.

We shall then embark on a cruise along the Calle-Calle River where we will encounter sea lions and view a number of Spanish Forts; Niebla, Fuerte Corral, and Fuerte Mancera. We shall journey through the wetlands of Carlos Andwandter Nature Sanctuary. This area was declared a Nature Sanctuary in 1981, and in the same year it was included in the ‘Convention on Wetlands of International Importance’. It was formed by an earthquake which submerged the area in 1960; agricultural land subsided to a depth of 1 to 2 metres. Subsequently it was colonised by vegetation, which made a home for aquatic fauna, especially birds. There are at present 119 species living in the wetland and adjoining areas. Amongst others there are black-necked swans, coots, coscoroba swans, marsh crows, coypu and river otters.

We shall also view the San Sebastián de la Cruz Fort/Isla Mancera, one of the seventeen Spanish fortresses built in the area from the 17th century, as well as the San Pedro de Alcántara Fort and the Corral Fort.

Mid-afternoon we continue our drive to Puerto Varas where we shall be based for three nights. Our hotel is within walking distance of the beach and offers panoramic views of Llanquihue Lake and the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. (Overnight Puerto Varas) BLD

 

Day 15: Sunday 28 October, Puerto Varas – Frutillar – Puerto Varas

German Colonial Museum, Frutillar
Amphitheatre (Teatro del Lago), Frutillar
Time at leisure
Today we drive south to the lakeside resort of Frutillar, located on Llanquihue Lake near the Osorno Volcano. This was Chile’s first German migrant town. Frutillar is famous for its music festival ‘Las Semanas Musicales de Frutillar’ that came into being in 1968. A particular characteristic of Frutillar is its houses German-style houses. There are beautiful gardens in the town. We shall visit the German Colonial Museum and the amphitheatre (Teatro del Lago) where the famous music festival is held.

We shall return to the hotel by mid-afternoon to enjoy some time at leisure. (Overnight Puerto Varas) B

 

Day 16: Monday 29 October, Puerto Varas – Peulla (island on Todos los Santos Lake) – Puerto Varas

Petrohué Falls, Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park
Catamaran Cruise from Petrohué to Peulla on Lago Todos Los Santos
La Villa Ecológica de Peulla
Today we visit the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park which not only contains the loveliest of Chile’s lakes, but also three stunning but totally different volcanoes – Osorno, Puntiagudo and Tronador. With up to 4 metres of annual precipitation, the park is covered with dense evergreen forrest, notably coihue. Lago Todos Los Santos is surrounded with olivine, coihue and other trees.

We depart early in the morning by bus from Puerto Varas to Petrohué, enjoying views of the Osorno Volcano, which dominates the region. On arrival we make a brief visit to the Petrohué Falls, which flow down volcanic rock chutes etched by lava. From Petrohué we board a catamaran for a 2-hour cruise across the green waters of Lago Todos Los Santos to the ecological town of Peulla. If visibility allows, we shall see the snow-capped Osorno Volcano, the Puntiaguado hill and the Tronador (extinct volcano) from our boat.

On arrival at Peulla we visit the Ecological Villa which is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and lunch at the Peulla Hotel. In the mid-afternoon we return to Puerto Varas. (Overnight Puerto Varas) BL

 

Torres del Paine – 3 nights

 

Day 17: Tuesday 30 October, Puerto Varas – Puerto Montt – Punta Arenas – Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine

Flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas
Museo Nao Viktoria
Today we drive to Puerto Montt to take our flight south to Punta Arenas located in the heart of Chilean Patagonia. From here we drive north to the vast Torres del Paine National Park.

En route we visit the Museo Nao Viktoria, which contains replicas of the ships that contributed to the discovery and colonisation of the area or have a special and historic heritage significance for the Magallanes Region of Chile. The replicas were built using traditional shipbuilding techniques. A highlight of the collection is the full-size replicas of historic ships which include the Nao Victoria, James Caird, Schooner Ancud and HMS Beagle. HMS Beagle, a British Navy brig-sloop, was converted into an exploration vessel. The most famous of her three voyages was the second (1831-1836) under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy (1805-1865). On board was the young Charles Darwin. (Overnight Torres del Paine National Park) BLD

 

Day 18: Wednesday 31 October, Torres del Paine National Park

Excursion to the National Park’s Waterfalls and Lookout points
Torres del Paine National Park (Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) encompasses the great Cordillera del Paine, glaciers, lakes and rivers. The park, which lies in a transition zone between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes, is located 112 kilometres north of Puerto Natales and 312 kilometres north of Punta Arenas. Paine means ‘blue’ in the native Tehuelche (Aonikenk) language and is pronounced PIE-na. Out of the grasslands of the Patagonian Steppe, with its herds of grazing guanacos (which are akin to llamas), soar the distinctive torres (towers) – three grey granite peaks of the Paine mountain range or Paine Massif which form part of the tapering spine of the Andes. They rise up to 2,800m above sea level, and are joined by the Cuernos del Paine. The Park’s well-known lakes include Grey, Pehoé, Nordenskiöld, and Sarmiento. Its glaciers, including Grey, Pingo and Tyndall, belong to the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.

Today’s excursion will begin at the Forestry Corporation Visitors Centre to gain an overview of this biosphere reserve. We then visit the Salto Grande where a short walk takes us to the imposing waterfall, and where we can view the Paine Grande Mountain. We also visit the Lago Nordenskjöld viewpoint, the Amarga Lagoon and the Paine River Falls, as well as encountering panoramic views of the Torres del Paine. Today’s lunch will be a picnic taken at Laguna Azul. (Overnight Torres del Paine National Park) BLD

 

Note: Today you have the option of taking a more strenuous trek through the Torres del Paine National Park, with the arrangements made by the hotel.

Day 19: Thursday 1 November, Torres del Paine National Park

Walk along Grey beach with views of the iceberg
Boat Excursion across Lago Grey to the Grey Glacier
The focus of today is a visit to the Grey Glacier, one of Torres del Paine’s most spectacular glaciers, and Lago Grey that it fills, one of its most beautiful lakes. On the approach to Lago Grey we cross a rickety bridge over a fast-flowing stream, then journey through dense forest. We then emerge from the trees onto what looks like a shingle beach overlooking the lake itself. Lago Grey is bordered by a moraine, the result of debris deposited by the glacier, and an iceberg graveyard. If the weather is fine, we shall take a 3-hour boat trip out on the lake. As we travel across the water, Glacier Grey comes into view in the distance. A wide, bluish wall sandwiched between bare rock plateaux, its façade is a mass of jagged, eroding ice. (Overnight Torres del Paine National Park) BLD

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

Day 20: Friday 2 November, Torres del Paine National Park – Punta Arenas – Santiago

Manantiales Estancia
‘Asado patagonico’, Patagonian lamb BBQ
Afternoon flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago
Today we drive back to Punta Arenas. En route we visit a traditional Patagonian estancia (ranch) where the owner will explain the traditions of Patagonian sheep farming and horse breeding. We also enjoy a traditional Patagonian lamb asado (barbecue) before taking an afternoon flight back to Santiago. (Overnight Santiago) BL

 

Day 21: Saturday 3 November, Depart Santiago

Departure transfer for travellers taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our program finishes in Santiago. Participants travelling on the ‘designated flight’ will be transferred to the airport to take our flight home to Australia. Participants electing to travel on the ASA optional extension program to Easter Island will also be transferred to the airport to commence their program B

 

Optional Extension Program to Easter Island: Hanga Roa, Easter Island – 4 nights

 

Day 1: Saturday 3 November, Santiago – Hanga Roa, Easter Island

Morning flight to Easter Island
This morning you will be transferred to the airport to take the flight to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, to use its Polynesian name. The rich and unique culture and archaeology of this island led to it being named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, and much of the island is now a national park.

Rapa Nui is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world – the nearest inhabited land is Pitcairn Island located over 2,000 kilometres away! Rapa Nui was settled by Polynesian people between 700 and 1100 AD. A thriving culture developed on the island and we will see much evidence of this in the monumental statues called moai, that are found throughout the island. It is estimated that this small island had a population of up to 15,000 people, but this thriving civilisation was greatly weakened by the gradual deforestation of the island and extinction of natural resources, brought about by human activity, overpopulation and the introduction of the Polynesian rat. When Dutch explorers first encountered the island on Easter Day in 1722 the population was approximately 3,000 people, but this dropped to just 111 in 1877, as the indigenous people struggled to survive introduced European diseases such as typhoid and smallpox, and brutal raids by Peruvian slavers. Today Rapa Nui’s population is 6,000 residents, of which 60% are of indigenous descent.

On arrival in the island at 1325hrs you will be transferred to the hotel for check in and lunch. We then take a short orientation tour of the island’s only town, Hanga Roa, then visit Museo Antropológico Sebastian Englert, a fascinating museum named after the Bavarian missionary priest who lived here from 1935 until his death in 1969. Fr Sebastian was a keen scholar and he devoted himself to the language, oral traditions and archaeology of the Rapa Nui indigenous culture.

Late this afternoon we drive to Ahu Tahai, an archaeological site a short distance from the town where we shall enjoy our first encounter with the island’s famous moai at sunset.

This site was restored in 1974 and comprises three platforms (ahu) with moai. The statues of the ahu Ko Te Riku have restored eyes and headdresses (pukaos) and give a vivid impression of the splendid and imposing nature of the Rapa Nui culture. (Overnight Hanga Roa) B

 

Day 2: Sunday 4 November, Easter Island

Ahu Vaihu
Rano Raraku
Ahu Tongariki
Ahu Te Pito Kura
This morning we first visit Vaihu where we will find eight moai lying face down in the same position they were left when they were deliberately toppled around the time of European discovery of the island. The decimation of the population saw the loss of much of the island’s cultural heritage, and the reason for the decline of the indigenous culture in the century before European arrival is an area of debate. It is believed that the moai are manifestations of a powerful ancestor cult and the means by which the living could communicate with the dead. In the later pre-European decades, the statue building practice gave way to the Bird Man Cult where the medium to communicate with the ancestors was a human chosen through competition. It is believed that is was during this phase that the moai were deliberately toppled. However, the obvious care by which the statues were lowered face-down to the ground has led scholars to suggest another theory, that the statues were lowered so they could not witness the struggles of the Rapa Nui in the 18th century.

We next travel to Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater within the Rano Raraku National Park that supplied almost all the stone for the island’s moai. Within the quarry are a number of incomplete statues. It appears that some of these were never intended to the separated from the rock from which they are carved, being located in inaccessible areas high on the outside of the crater walls, or much larger than any moai found that had been transported away. There are also several standing statues at Rano Raraku that were not deliberately pushed over. They do not have hollowed out eyes or headdresses and they are partially buried to the shoulders in the spoil from the quarry.

Our route continues to two further ahu – Ahu Tongariki, a 220-metre-long platform with 15 majestic statues with their backs to the sea, and Ahu Te Pito Kura, a complex with a huge toppled moai and nearby the sacred magnetic stone known as ‘Tita’a hanga ‘o te henua’, or ‘navel of light’.

In the mid-afternoon we return to Hanga Roa where the rest of the afternoon is at leisure.

Return to hotel in mid-afternoon, and the rest of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Hanga Roa) BL

 

Day 3: Monday 5 November, Easter Island

Ahu Akivi
Puna Pau
Afternoon at Leisure
Evening meal with demonstration of traditional dances
This morning we visit Ahu Akivi, a platform with 7 identical moai restored to their standing position. Unlike other examples we have seen, these statues face outwards towards the ocean, although the site is located inland. The site served as a celestial observatory and dates to the 16th century. During the Spring Equinox they directly face sunset, and during the Autumn Equinox they have their backs to the sunrise.

We then visit Puna Pau, the small volcanic crater where the red scoria stone used for the moai headdress were quarried.

We return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure before we enjoy a group evening meal with a demonstration of traditional Rapa Nui dances. (Overnight Hanga Roa) BD

 

Day 4: Tuesday 6 November

Rano Kau extinct volcano
Orongo Ceremonial Village
Ahu Vinapu
Cave of Ana Kai Tangata petroglyphs
Our first stop this morning is the extinct volcano of Rano Kau, which forms the southwestern headland of the island. The crater lake is one of just three natural water sources on the island, and the crater, which is a mile in diameter, has its own microclimate. On the crater’s edge we find the ruined ceremonial village of Orongo, containing a collection of low, windowless round-walled buildings that were restored to their current state in the 1970s. Orongo was a centre of the birdman cult. Competitors had to make the dangerous crossing through the surf to the nearby islet of Motu Nui and find an egg of the migratory sooty tern, then climb up the steep, jagged cliff-face to Orongo. The site has many petroglyphs with representations of tangata manu (birdmen).

After a visit to Ahu Vinapu where we find one of the larger moai on the island in a platform that faces towards the sunrise on the winter solstice, we continue to the cave of Ana Kai Tangata. Being a volcanic island there are many lava tubes and cave networks and Ana Kai Tangata is one of the most accessible. Here we find splendid rock with paintings in red white and black depicting the sooty tern and also boats, including European vessels. Some scholars suggest that for the indigenous people of Rapa Nui the island was the whole world and only the migratory birds could come and go. When Europeans arrived in their large ships, the Rapa Nui may have believed they were messengers from beyond, arriving and disappearing in the ocean like the birds. (Overnight Hanga Roa) B

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

Day 5: Wednesday 7 November, Easter Island – Santiago

Morning at leisure
This morning is at leisure. In the early afternoon we transfer to the airport for our flight back to Santiago, arriving at 2140hrs. On arrival in the capital we will be transferred to the hotel. (Overnight Santiago) B

 

Day 6: Thursday 8 November, Depart Santiago

Departure transfer for travellers taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour ends in Santiago. Participants travelling on the designated group flight will be transferred to the airport. B

 

Let’s Visit Spain and Morocco

Let’s Visit Spain and Morocco with Kim Woods Rabbidge

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Mon 16 April Arrive Barcelona

Arrive at Barcelona, group transfer to your hotel in the heart of the city (Individual transfers can be arranged on request). The remainder of the day is at leisure.

 

Day 2 Tue 17 April Barcelona

Day excursion in Costa Brava. We explore the terraced, botanical gardens of Cap Roig, extending from the castle to the sea. On the way back, in Lloret de Mar, we visit Santa Clotilde Garden perched on a cliff-top. (B)

 

Day 3 Wed 18 April Barcelona

Enjoy a city tour in Barcelona visiting Gaudi’s amazing Sagrada Familia & the Palau de la Música Catalana. Evening is at leisure. (B)

 

Day 4 Thu 19 April Barcelona-Casablanca-Marrakech

Leave Barcelona this morning on a flight to Casablanca, Morocco. After traveling by air-conditioned coach to Marrakech, our next form of transport will be calèches (horse-drawn carriages) to Marjorelle Gardens where vivid colours contrast with the villa’s bright blue façade. As dusk falls wander through Djemma El Fna square amongst jugglers, story-tellers, snake charmers and acrobats performing beneath the magnificent, illuminated backdrop of the Koutoubia Mosque. (B, D)

 

Day 5 Fri 20 April Marrakech

Morning tour to the Bahia Palace, the Menara Gardens, the Medrasa and souks (market). The Menara gardens, with a backdrop of the ancient Atlas Mountains, were built in the 12th century by the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu’min. Lunch at Terrasses d’Epices in the heart of the Medina.

After evening drinks at the famous Mamounia Hotel enjoy a lavish Moroccan feast at the renowned Yacout restaurant. (B, L, D)

 

Day 6 Sat 21 April Marrakech-Ourika Valley-Marrakech

Sip refreshing mint tea in the herbal gardens of Ourika Valley. After lunch return to Marrakech via the Saffron Gardens where you’ll discover the processes of saffron production. Be tempted with herbal teas and Moroccan pastries. (B, L, D)

 

Day 7 Sun 22 April Marrakech-Beni Mellal-Fes

Travel to Fez through the Atlas Mountains, lunch on route in Beni Mellal. We’ll pass Berber villages of Imouzer and Ifrane, and arrive in Fes late afternoon. (B, L, D)

 

Day 8 Mon 23 April Fes

Rich in traditional culture, we’ll explore the UNESCO world-heritage listed medinas of Fes, the oldest of Morocco’s Imperial cities, and the country’s symbolic heart. Visit new town, Fes J’did, the old Kasbah des Cherarda, the souqs, the Royal Palace and the Blue Gate.

Lunch at a local restaurant before visiting the famous cobalt blue pottery of Fes and we also learn about colourful, tribal Moroccan carpets. (B, L, D)

 

Day 9 Tue 24 April Fes-Tangier

On route to Tangier we stop at Volubilis, the largest and best preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. Then onto the magnificent Imperial City Meknes where we’ll lunch before continuing to Tangier. (B, L, D)

 

Day 10 Wed 25 April Tangier

This morning learn about this fascinating port city with special visits to the American Legation Museum, followed by lunch at a local restaurant.

You’re free this afternoon to wander into the Kasbah where Betty Hutton (Woolworths Heiress) lived, and soak up the history and exotic tales associated with the Continental Hotel. (B, L, D)

 

Day 11 Thu 26 April Tangier-Algeciras-Ronda

After breakfast we transfer to Tangier Med port. We’ll take a ferry across the Gibraltar Strait entering Spain, through Algeciras Port. Our coach will be waiting to take us to Ronda, where we spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the atmosphere of this captivating town. (B)

 

Day 12 Fri 27 April Ronda-Granada

This morning we’ll be escorted through Rhonda. We’ll visit the Puente Nuevo, Bullring Square, Casa del Rey Moro and Palacio del Marqués de Salvatierra.

On route to Granada, we’ll visit the beautiful, historical Jardín Botánico de la Concepción in Málaga. (B, D)

 

Day 13 Sat 28 April Granada

With our guide, this morning we’ll explore the world famous Alhambra, described by Moorish poets as ‘a pearl set in emeralds’, and the more recent gardens of the Generalife. Afterwards, we’ll relax over lunch in a local restaurant, then enjoy a leisurely afternoon. (B, L)

 

Day 14 Sun 29 April Granada-Seville

Today we visit Corral del Carbón, then the Royal Chapel of Granada and adjacent Cathedral. After lunch, we’ll depart for Sevilla, where you can either relax, wander, or shop. (B, L)

 

Day 15 Mon 30 April Seville

Walking shoes on for a visit to the Cathedral, and gardens surrounding Alcázar, of Seville, developed by Moorish Muslim kings, and still used as a residence of Spain’s Royal family.

Afterwards, we’ll lunch in a local restaurant. Evening at leisure. (B, L)

 

Day 16 Tue 01 May Seville

Today we take a panoramic tour in Seville: Torre del Oro, Real Maestranza, Expo del 92, Expo del 29, Plaza de España y Parque de María Luisa. Evening is at leisure. (B)

 

Day 17 Wed 02 May Seville-Cordoba

Depart by coach to Cordoba. Enjoy a walking tour of the Patios of the Zona Alcazar Viejo, San Basilio District of Córdoba, including entrance to the Cathedral (former mosque). Evening at leisure. (B, D)

 

Day 18 Thu 03 May Cordoba

Today we will visit the Synagogue, Great Mosque, Alcázar of Córdoba Gardens, Palacio de Viana and Córdoba Patios. Afternoon at leisure. (B)

 

Day 19 Fri 04 May Cordoba-Madrid

Transfer to the train station for the high speed train to Madrid. Check in to your hotel located in the heart of the old city. The reminder of the day at leisure. (B)

 

Day 20 Sat 05 May Madrid-Segovia-Madrid

A full day excursion to UNESCO World Heritage Segovia, a city that demonstrates Roman architectural mastery. Visit the famous Alcázar and La Granja de San Ildefonso to see the baroque palace that was built for Philip V. of Spain and set in gardens in the French formal style with fountains. (B)

 

Day 21 Sun 06 May Madrid

Enjoy a full day city tour in Madrid and visit to the Prado Museum before our farewell dinner. (B, D)

 

Day 22 Mon 07 May Depart Madrid

After breakfast, group transfer to airport (Individual transfers can be arranged on request). (B)

 

Autumn on Monaro

Autumn on Monaro – Art, Gardens and History of the High Country with Trisha Dixon

 

23–27 April 2018 (5 days)

 

Explore the historic homesteads, private gardens and artists’ studios of the Monaro Plateau at the height of its autumnal glory, where art, horticulture and history come together.

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Explore the historic houses and gardens of the Monaro, including Hazeldean Merino Stud, Micalago Station, Curry Flat and Shirley
• Visit the gardens and studio of renowned Australian contemporary artist Imants Tillers
• Enjoy a poignant commemoration of ANZAC Day in Jindabyne
• Extend your experience with a tour to the 2018 Canberra International Music Festival, attending at least six performances of music ranging from established classical works to exciting world premieres

 

ITINERARY

MONDAY 23 APRIL 2018 / ARRIVE CANBERRA

Arrive in Canberra and make your way to the hotel. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
In the evening, join Trisha and fellow travellers for a special welcome dinner. (D)

 

TUE 24 APR / CANBERRA – JINDABYNE

After breakfast, travel south to Micalago Station, a historical pioneer homestead and the location of multiple film sets including My Brilliant Career in 1979, for a guided tour around the garden and a visit to the site where George Lambert painted his iconic The Squatter’s Daughter. After lunch at the estate, continue to Jindabyne in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, our base for the next three nights.
The evening is at leisure. (BL)

 

WED 25 APR / JINDABYNE

In the mid-morning, join Jindabyne locals for a special Anzac Day commemorative service in Banjo Paterson Park, where mounted horsemen and women from the Snowy Mountains honour their ancestors who enrolled in the Light Horse Regiment. Following the service and morning tea at the Community Centre, travel to Wild Brumby distillery to enjoy a lunch of local produce, set amongst sculptured gardens and a working raspberry farm. Then continue to Bullocks Flat for an exploratory walk along historic trails, past the relics of a 1910s steam engine once used for sawmilling and the homestead of Dr. Bullock himself, tracing the Thredbo River.
Return to the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon and evening at leisure. (BL)

 

TUE 26 APR / JINDABYNE AND MONARO

Today, explore three private gardens of historical significance in the Monaro region. Start at Curry Flat, where the late 19th century homestead maintains its original features, situated within a beautifully appointed garden complete with sundial rose garden and reflecting pond.
Continue to Shirley, for lunch within the garden established by one family across three generations. Recently redesigned by leading landscaper Paul Bangay, the garden displays a love of European sensibilities with its formal parterres, expansive lawns, secret gardens, opulent autumn foliage and spectacular lake.
In the afternoon travel to Hazeldean, a property over 150 years old where century-old elms encircle the homestead and create an English-style parkland. Courtyard gardens, traditional plantings, stone terracing and vistas of Monaro Plains all complement this tranquil setting. (BL)

 

FRI 27 APR / JINDABYNE – COOMA – CANBERRA

Check out from the hotel and return to Canberra. En route, visit the studio and garden of contemporary artist Imants Tillers. As one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists, his work reflects a continued interest in the idea of place, landscapes and contemporary culture.
For those departing Canberra today, tour arrangements conclude either upon arrival at Canberra airport at 15:00 for flights departing from 17:00 onwards, or in Canberra city at 15:30.
For those joining our 2018 Canberra International Music Festival tour, tour arrangements commence in central Canberra at 17:00. (B)

 

Singapore and Garden Festival

Singapore and the Singapore Garden Festival 2018

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Sat 21 July Arrive in Singapore
Our tour commences from the hotel. A brief orientation of the city once you’ve settled into your hotel. Welcome dinner tonight. (D)

 

Day 2 Sun 22 July Singapore Botanic Garden

Transfer for a top-of-the-world experience as the Singapore Flyer, the World’s Largest Observation Wheel, takes us 165 metres into the sky. With 360-degree views, we’ll get our surroundings into perspective and enjoy panoramic views of Singapore and beyond. Then we visit the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage-listed Singapore Botanic Gardens – a star destination for both travellers and local residents. With a rich history, it is home to an array of botanical attractions and a plant collection highly regarded around the world. We also look at the extraordinary ‘orchid story’ at the National Orchid Garden. Since 1928 the garden has been developing orchid hybrids, which has led to a nationally important industry. We will look at the growing process of one of the world’s great collections. This evening soak in the beautiful experience of music and patterns of dancing light in Garden Rhapsody at Gardens by the Bay. Watch the iconic, towering Supertrees transform as the visual sensory extravaganza brings a touch of magic. (B)

 

Day 3 Mon 23 Jul Fort Canning Park-Hort Park-Little India

We’ll enjoy a short early morning visit to nearby Fort Canning Heritage Tree Trail and historic place, once home to the royalty of Singapore, with WW II sites and magnificent trees, in the heart of the city. Then we head to Hort Park, a 9-hectare site used as an education facility for Singapore gardeners. It has a range of specialised gardens, sales facilities, and educational tours. Afterwards we’ll explore Serangoon Road, Little India’s central strip that boasts a plethora of jewellery shops, traditional Indian tailors, everything-must-go fashion outlets, fresh fruit and veg stalls, Chinese liquor stores, beauty salons, and of course, row upon row of delicious curry houses. (B)

 

Day 4 Tue 24 Jul Gardens by the Bay

Today’s destination, Gardens by the Bay, offers breath-taking waterfront views. The multi-award winning horticultural destination spans 101 hectares of reclaimed land. This extraordinary project, opened 4 years ago, is a complex of outdoor gardens and glasshouses on a massive scale. Advised by the Eden Project in the UK, it covers both tropical and temperate to cool climate specialist gardens. (B)

 

Day 5 Wed 25 Jul Singapore Zoo

Visit Singapore’s award-winning wildlife park to see animals roaming freely in natural habitats. White tigers, pygmy hippos, and even naked mole rats – get up close with the wildlife in the appealing Singapore Zoo. Set in 26-hectares, it is home to over 300 species of mammals, birds and reptiles, and has been providing exciting wildlife experiences to visitors for over 40 years.
Rejuvenate your senses over lunch at Bollywood Veggies in the beautiful Kranji Countryside; then visit Kranji War Memorial that honours the men and women from Britain, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Malaya, the Netherlands and New Zealand who died in the line of duty during World War II. (B, L)

 

Day 6 Thu 26 Jul Singapore Garden Festival

We’ll spend today immersed in the grandeur of the Singapore Garden Festival, one of the world’s much-awaited floral fetes. We’ll be treated to creations from leading international landscape and garden designers, florists and horticulturists, including many familiar names from the Chelsea Flower Show, Philadelphia Flower Show, Floriade (Holland), Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show, and Laman (Malaysia). It is the foremost global garden show in the tropics showcasing, under one roof, creations from the top, award-winning garden and floral designers. Farewell dinner tonight. (B, D)

 

Day 7 Fri 27 Jul Depart Singapore

Tour arrangements finish after breakfast. Make your own way to airport for departure flight. (B)

 

Sardinia & Sicily: Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins & Vibrant Culture

Garden Tour – Sardinia & Sicily: Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins & Vibrant Culture

 

Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins and Vibrant Culture

 

TOUR ITINERARY:

Day 1 Tue 08 May Arrive Naples
Mediterranean pines and the volcano Mount Vesuvius are the iconic landmarks of Naples – the city with a terrific history, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Check in to the hotel before our welcome dinner. (D)

 

Day 2 Wed 09 May Caserta
The Royal Palace of Caserta, erected during the 18th century, is the largest royal residence in the world. You will discover this monumental complex created by the Bourbon King Charles III in the mid-18th century to rival Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid. Afterwards, you will be transferred to Naples airport for your flight to Palermo. (B, L)

 

Day 3 Thu 10 May Palermo
In the morning you will take a walking tour through the charming city of Palermo, including the traditional street markets and in the afternoon discover the beautiful Villa Tasca. After the visit continue to Monreale to visit the cathedral and the garden. (B, L)

 

Day 4 Fri 11May Bagheria and Palermo
Today you will have the privilege to visit one of the most charming Villas of Bagheria, and meet its owner: the Princess Vittoria Alliata di Villafranca e Valguarnera. Journalist, writer and the only Italian translator of J.R. Tolkien, she will open the doors of her house and garden, Villa Valguarnera, for an exclusive tour and lunch. In the afternoon, the Director of the Botanical Garden of Palermo will take you on a private tour of this urban oasis. To conclude the day, you will visit the Palazzo Alliata di Pietratagliata, a prestigious gothic building erected around the second half of the fifteenth Century. (B, L)

 

Day 5 Sat 12 May Palermo and Agrigento
In the morning you will meet with Massimiliano Marafon Pecoraro, Researcher in the Department of Historic and Artistic Studies at the University of Palermo who will show you the secrets behind one of the most striking buildings of Palermo: the Palazzina Cinese (The Chinese Palace). Afternoon transfer to Agrigento. (B)

 

Day 6 Sun 13 May Agrigento and Ragusa
Today, visit one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture: the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples). Included in the UNESCO Heritage Site list, the area is the largest archaeological site in the world with its 1,300 hectares. The Valley includes remains of seven temples, all in Doric style, including the Temples of Concordia, Hera and Zeus. After visiting the Greek temples you can enjoy a moment of relaxation, or a stroll along the ruins of a historic garden from 500 B.C.: the Giardino della Kolymbetra. (B, L)

 

Day 7 Mon 14 May Ragusa and Modica
Today’s walking tour will explore two symbols of the Sicilian Baroque: Ragusa and Modica. The next stop will be Modica, a small gem that lies nestled in a deep valley.(B)

 

Day 8 Tue 15 May Taormina
This morning we enjoy a walking tour of the Florence Trevelyan garden. This unique garden is the second biggest tourist attraction in Taormina. After the morning walk you will visit some of the most characteristics monuments of the town, including the Greek-Roman amphitheatre, you will have free time to enjoy the atmosphere of this Sicily’s most famous touristic destinations. The rest of the day is free. (B)

 

Day 9 Wed 16 May Siracusa
This morning you will say farewell to Taormina and travel to Siracusa. En route, visit to Villa San Giuliano and lunch. (B, L)

 

Day 10 Thu 17 May Siracusa
The day will start with a visit to the island of Ortigia, the historical heart of Siracusa. The tight lanes are pleasant for strolling, so you will wander down narrow medieval lanes, Baroque palaces and churches. In the afternoon you will visit the Neapolis Archeological Park which includes the Greek theatre, and the Roman amphitheatre. Afternoon is at your leisure. (B)

 

Day 11 Fri 18 May Catania-Cagliari
It’s time to say goodbye to Sicily and fly to Sardinia. You will land in Cagliari, the main city of the island. You will be met on arrival and transported to the hotel, to relax and freshen up. (B, D)

 

Day 12 Sat 19 May Cagliari
During this walking tour around the old town of Cagliari we will evoke the crucial events that took place in the most important city of Sardinia. In the afternoon the Landscape Architect Maurizio Usai will wait for you in his own private garden, La Pietra Rossa. He will guide you in an exclusive tour of his garden that he started to create when he was 17 years old. Extremely passionate about roses, his private collection counts over 250 varieties. (B)

 

Day 13 Sun 20 May Barumini-Oristano-Bosa
In the morning you will leave Cagliari and travel north-west to Bosa. A first stop will be the prehistoric archaeological site of ‘Su Nuraxi’. A second stop will be the nursery ‘I campi’ in Milis, specialized in drought tolerant plants and gardens. Continue to Oristano and Bosa. (B, L)

 

Day 14 Mon 21 May Alghero
Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most beautiful medieval cities: with its animated historic centre is a terrific place to hang out. In the afternoon you will visit the Neptune’s Grotto. Within the grotto, tourists can visit a 120-metre-long saltwater lake. (B)

 

Day 15 Tue 22 May Stintino and Asinara Isand
Fine, white sand, breathtaking panoramas, waters that range from hues of azure to turquoise, and one of the most beautiful seascapes of the entire Mediterranean: welcome to Stintino, renowned touristic destination on Sardinia’s north-western extremity. It started out as a fishermen’s village, when the Island of Asinara was made a penal colony. Isolated for almost a century, it has become an oasis of rare and sometimes-almost-extinct species of plants and animals, such as the white albino donkey. (B)

 

Day 16 Wed 23 May Telti
Today you will have the pleasure to meet again the Landscape Architect Maurizio Usai who will guide you through a beautiful private garden: Il giardino dei Fontanili. After lunch and a visit to the small town Tempio, you will continue to Olbia, where you can finally relax after a hectic few days of sightseeing. (B, L)

 

Day 17 Thu 24 May Olbia
In the morning you will take a walking tour for discovering every hidden corner of this old town, including the oldest Romanic church in Sardinia (San Simplicio) and the Archaeologic Museum where you will learn about the early Greek foundation of Olbia. In the afternoon you will meet again with the Landscape Architect Maurizio Usai who will take you for a private and exclusive tour of Villa Certosa, a 168-acre estate formerly owned by the ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Farewell dinner tonight. (B, D)

 

Day 18 Fri 25 May Depart Olbia
Your tour ends after breakfast. (B)

 

Autumn Country Gardens of NSW with Julie Kinney

Autumn Country Gardens of NSW – Southern Highlands and Blue Mountains with Julie Kinney

 

Amble through some of Australia’s most beautiful gardens, where English design finds a home in the Australian landscape, as Autumn’s brush paints the leaves gold and crimson.

In the Southern Highlands, visit grand, cool-climate gardens, including the unique Red Cow Farm (‘a garden for all seasons’) and explore a selection of private gardens in this delightful region famous for its flower shows and kaleidoscope of autumnal colour. After a day in the gardens of Crookwell, continue to the city of Orange for a peek at some of the picturesque gardens of the Central West. Then ascend to the Blue Mountains where the spectacular gardens of Mayfield, Mount Wilson and the Everglades display all the blazing glory of the Autumn season.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• Spend three nights at the Hydro-Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains, a beautiful Art Deco building originally used as a hydropathic health spa

• Discover the private gardens of the Southern Highlands, from Wildes Meadow to Bundanoon, Bowral, Mittagong and Berrima

• Explore the Everglades, designed by Danish-born landscape gardener Paul Sorensen, and spend a day in the picturesque 19th century gardens of Mount Wilson

• Travel to Orange via Crookwell, and experience the hospitality of the best local gardeners, where each garden displays the personality of its owner

• Explore the 2.5 hectare Red Cow Farm, comprising some 20 different garden ‘rooms’ created around a simple 1820s cottage

• Wander through Mayfield Garden, a 64 hectare landscape garden set in the middle of a 2,000 hectare cattle farm

 

ITINERARY

MONDAY 23 APRIL 2018 / SYDNEY – BOWRAL

Meet Julie and fellow travellers at the Ibis Hotel Darling Harbour, 70 Murray Street, Pyrmont, Sydney at 10:00. (Pre-tour accommodation available at this hotel.)

Strike out for the Southern Highlands, travelling south along the coast on the Grand Pacific Drive. Turning inland, enjoy lunch in Robertson, formerly a major centre for cheese-making, and now known for its gardens.

Continue to Bowral, the largest town in the Southern Highlands, and once the summer retreat of the Sydney gentry. Enjoy a welcome dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (LD)

 

TUE 24 APR / BOWRAL

After breakfast, visit Carisbrooke Garden in Bowral, which reflects memories of a country homestead garden and includes a woodland of unusual trees, a rose garden, a ‘borrowed view’ of the golf course beyond the croquet lawn, and a trio of summer houses. Travel to Coombewood Garden in Mittagong and wander through avenues of trees in brilliant autumn tones in this 3.2-hectare garden developed over the last 30 years.

Enjoy free time for lunch at the Sturt Café and explore the Sturt Gallery, established in 1941 by the former Headmistress of Frensham School and now a centre of excellence for craft and design education.

After lunch, continue to Greenbrier Park for a tour of their garden which fuses English design and Australian native eucalypts, followed by a special wine tasting. Return to Bowral for dinner. (BD)

 

WED 25 APR / BOWRAL

In the morning, travel to Berrima for the ANZAC Day service held near the spreading branches of an oak tree planted in 1890 by then-Premier of NSW Sir Henry Parkes.

Continue to Milton Park for lunch and a visit to the private garden. Built in the beginning of the twentieth century by the Hordern family of retail and pastoral fame, the formal gardens at Milton Park were laid out by Mary Hordern in ‘The English School of Landscape’ and are considered amongst the finest in Australia. Australia’s oldest and largest Variegated Tulip tree, Weeping Beeches, Elms and oaks are a feature of this spectacular property.

In the afternoon, visit Harper’s Mansion, a historic Georgian-style homestead completed in 1834 for District Constable James Harper, and later used as a presbytery for the priests of St Francis Xavier. Its recently restored gardens replicate the original planting, replete with a wealth of early 19th century rose varieties.

After a visit to the private garden of Old Rose Cottage, return to Bowral for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

THU 26 APR / BOWRAL

After breakfast, depart for 5th Chapter Winery and Garden near Fitzroy Falls. Explore the Japanese and enclosed parterre gardens, flower beds, fountains and water features and taste their wine, evocative of the cool climate of the Southern Highlands. Visit the garden of Yarrawin in Burradoo, estate of the late philanthropist Paul Ramsay AO, where gracious English-style lawns stretch between plantings of eucalyptus.

Enjoy time in Bowral for lunch (own expense). After lunch, travel to Red Cow Farm near Sutton Forest, an abundant 2.5-hectare garden developed around a historic 1820s cottage. Red Cow Farm features 20 different garden ‘rooms’, including a monastery garden, an abbess’s garden, a cottage garden, a kitchen garden and other gardens themed around woodlands, beech trees, classic roses, lakes, bogs and orchards.

Return to Bowral for an evening at leisure. (B)

 

FRI 27 APR / BOWRAL – ORANGE

Check out from your hotel and travel to the town of Crookwell in the Southern Tablelands to explore a range of private gardens. Well known for its enthusiastic gardening culture, each garden in Crookwell displays the distinctive personality of its owner.

Following lunch at a local restaurant, visit another private garden in Crookwell, and then continue to Orange in the Central West.

Dinner at the hotel. (BLD)

SAT 28 APR / ORANGE

Spend a day in a selection of private gardens in and around Orange. The region is famous for its orchards, producing apples, pears and stone fruits, and its climate of warm summers, cool winters and evenly-spread rainfall also allows gardeners in Orange to grow a range of different flora and create unique and beautiful gardens of their own.

Dinner at a local restaurant. (BLD)

 

SUN 29 APR / ORANGE – BLUE MOUNTAINS

landscape garden set within a 5,000-hectare working cattle farm. One of the world’s largest privately-owned cool climate gardens, Mayfield boasts a water garden, a cascade, a walled kitchen garden, an orchard, a maze, a rose garden, a croquet garden, an aviary and a set of ‘deluxe hen houses’.

After a day exploring this magnificent garden, check in to the Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath. First established as a hydropathic health spa, this beautiful hotel was built in a charming and unique amalgam of architectural styles encompassing Federation style and Art Deco.

Dinner at the hotel. (BLD)

 

MON 30 APR / BLUE MOUNTAINS

After breakfast, depart for a full-day tour to the gardens of Mount Wilson, which are lit up in a blaze of crimson and gold in the Autumn. Explore the estate of Bebeah, where neatly-clipped hedges of box and laurel frame elegant white gravel drives. Continue to Nooroo Garden, established in 1880 and home to a wealth of oaks, ash, beech, chestnut and maple trees. Wander through Merry Garth Garden, where native sassafras, coachwood, ferns and banksias meet beech trees, the orange-barked Chinese paperbark maple and the rare Rimu pine from New Zealand.

In the afternoon, visit Windyridge Garden, a landscape garden displaying a collection of sculptures amongst pin oaks, maples, copper beeches, ginkos and tupelos. (BL)

 

TUE 01 MAY / BLUE MOUNTAINS

In the morning, travel to Foggy Dew Garden in Leura, a small private garden with a wisteria arbour, laburnum walk, pond and a large rockery. Continue to the Everglades, one of Australia’s foremost heritage gardens, designed by Danish-born landscape gardener Paul Sorensen in the 1930s. Spanning 5.3 hectares, the Everglades combines traditional European-style terrace gardening with the distinctively Australian panorama of the Blue Mountains.

After lunch (own expense) and time to explore Leura, visit a private garden in Leura before returning to your hotel. In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

WED 02 MAY / BLUE MOUNTAINS – SYDNEY

Check out from the Hydro Majestic Hotel and descend from the Blue Mountains to Sydney. On the way, explore the 252-hectare Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah, where the rich basaltic soil has nurtured Australia’s finest cool climate garden, featuring a wealth of native plants and Eurasian species such as oak and birch.

For those departing Sydney, tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Sydney airport at 15:00 for flights departing from 16:30 onwards.

For those remaining in Sydney, tour arrangements conclude on arrival in central Sydney at 16:00. (BL)

Note: At time of publication (April 2017), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2 to 3 months prior to visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.

 

Great Gardens of Scotland with Genevieve Jacobs

Great Gardens of Scotland
Lowlands, Highlands, Hebrides and Orkneys with Genevieve Jacobs

 

Join garden writer and broadcaster Genevieve Jacobs as she traverses the romantic heartland of Caledonia at the peak of the summer bloom, exploring the gardens of castles and manor houses as well as private and botanical gardens.
Scotland has long drawn travellers from across the world for its natural beauty and valiant history, and nowhere more so than the heart-lifting Highlands, the rugged Hebrides of the west coast and the windswept Orkney Islands reaching out from Scotland’s north-eastern tip. Benefitting from ample rainfall for most of the year, in the summer Scotland’s gardens put on a show second to none for their verdancy and their magnificent castle and highland backdrops.

 

AT A GLANCE…

 

” Explore the gardens of the Duke of Argyll at Inveraray Castle, overflowing with rhododendrons and azaleas
” Visit the 18th century Dumfries House near Glasgow, former residence of the Marquess of Bute, replete with a walled garden and arboretum
” Travel to the water gardens of Dunvegan Castle on the Isle of Skye, and wander through the Himalayan blooms of Arduaine Garden in Argyll
” Stride like a proud Highland laird through the picturesque Brahan Estate and the exotic subtropical garden of Inverewe
” Visit the Orkney Islands, and see how the Orcadians make their windswept islands bloom in the summertime

 

ITINERARY

 

SUNDAY 03 JUNE 2018 / DEPART AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND

Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qantas/Emirates flights to Glasgow. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

 

MONDAY 04 JUN / ARRIVE GLASGOW

Arrive in Glasgow in the early afternoon and check in to your hotel. This evening, join Genevieve and your fellow travellers for a welcome dinner. (D)

 

TUE 05 JUN / GLASGOW

Begin the day with an orientation tour of Glasgow, taking in the city’s beautiful Victorian and Art Nouveau architecture including Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s House for an Art Lover and the adjacent Walled Garden.
After lunch at a local restaurant, explore the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, containing artwork ranging from Rembrandt to Monet, van Gogh and Dalí, as well as the Scottish Colourists and exponents of the Glasgow School. (BL)

 

WED 06 JUN / GLASGOW

After breakfast, depart for Dumfries House in Ayrshire, the former residence of the Marquess of Bute. Enjoy a guided tour of the Palladian manor house, containing fine works of 18th century furniture by the likes of Thomas Chippendale, and stroll through its walled garden. After lunch, explore the grounds of the estate and the recently-created arboretum, containing more than 500 specimens of trees, shrubs and woodland flowers, as well as two lochans (small lochs).
Return to Glasgow and enjoy an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

THU 07 JUN / GLASGOW – LOCH LOMOND

Check out from your hotel and travel to Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute, taking the ferry across the Firth of Clyde. After lunch at Mount Stuart, enjoy a guided tour of the manor and gardens. Built in the Gothic Revival style of the late 19th century, Mount Stuart House was the first home in Scotland fitted with electricity, and its beautiful gardens include a rock garden, kitchen garden and a quaint, secluded ‘Wee Garden’.
In the afternoon, continue to Loch Lomond, including a ferry crossing of the East Kyle of Bute to return to mainland Argyll. A picturesque freshwater loch bestriding the Highland Boundary Fault, Loch Lomond is the largest stretch of fresh water in Great Britain. (BD)

 

FRI 08 JUNE / LOCH LOMOND

After breakfast, travel to Inveraray Castle, the seat of the Dukes of Argyll, and wander through its gardens and ‘policies’ (improved lands). The magnificent 18th century castle overlooks gardens abounding with white, pink and red rhododendrons and azaleas, and containing trees planted by distinguished 19th century visitors such as Queen Victoria, Prime Minister William Gladstone and explorer David Livingstone.
Spend some free time in Inveraray for lunch before visiting Crarae Garden, an exotic garden imitating the style of a remote gorge in the Himalayas. Return to Loch Lomond for dinner. (BD)

 

SAT 09 JUN / IVERARAY – LOCH LOMOND

Check out from your hotel and travel to Arduaine Garden, on a rocky promontory at the confluence of the Sound of Jura and Loch Melfort, where the North Atlantic Drift warms the coastal climate. Begun in 1898 at the height of Scotland’s enthusiasm for exotic flowers, Arduaine Garden contains a wealth of flora from around the world, with a particular emphasis on East Asian and South American plants.
After lunch at a nearby restaurant, continue to Taychreggan for the remainder of the afternoon at leisure before dinner in the evening. (BLD)

 

SUN 10 JUN / TAYCHREGGAN – ISLE OF SKYE

After breakfast, check out from your hotel and drive to Fort William at the southern end of the Great Glen, the 100 km-fault line that cuts through the Scottish Highlands. Enjoy lunch at leisure in Fort William before you travel ‘over the sea to Skye’, the romantic Hebridean isle which has called out to travellers and members of the Scottish diaspora for centuries.
Check in to the hotel on the Isle of Skye, followed by dinner. (BD)

 

MON 11 JUN / ISLE OF SKYE

After breakfast, explore Dunvegan Castle on the northwest coast of Skye, the stout holdfast that has been the seat of Clan MacLeod of MacLeod for some 700 years. Since the 13th century, successive clan chiefs have embellished the site with towers, battlements and apartments as well as walled, round and water gardens.
After free time for lunch at Dunvegan Castle, drive to Armadale Castle on the southeast coast, a ruined 19th castle once inhabited by the MacDonalds and graced with 16 hectares of beautiful gardens and a Museum of the Isles. (BD)

 

TUE 12 JUNE / ISLE OF SKYE – INVERNESS

Check out from your hotel and cross back to the mainland to Attadale Gardens in Wester Ross. Established in the Victorian era, Attadale now contains a Japanese garden, kitchen garden, water gardens, a sunken garden and a geodesic dome filled with ferns. Scattered throughout the gardens is an impressive collection of sculptures.
After lunch, drive to Fort Augustus for a cruise on Loch Ness (weather and monsters permitting!). The largest lake by volume in the British Isles, the black waters of Loch Ness plumb depths as deep as 126 fathoms. Drive to Inverness, capital of the Highlands, for a stay of three nights.(BL)

 

WED 13 JUN / INVERNESS

In the morning, enjoy a guided tour of Cawdor Castle, which traces its origins back to a 15th century keep built by the 6th Thane of Calder. The castle is particularly well known for its gardens, including the 18th century walled garden, 19th century flower garden and 20th century wild garden – appropriately planted at the height of “Flower Power” in the 1960s.
After free time for lunch, spend the rest of the afternoon at leisure in Inverness. (B)

 

TUE 14 JUN / INVERNESS

Strike out for a day trip across Wester Ross, travelling first to Inverewe Gardens situated on the west coast of the Scottish mainland. Benefitting from the temperate influence of the North Atlantic Drift, Inverewe cultivates such diverse flora as New Zealand olearia, Himalayan blue poppies and even the northernmost planting of Australia’s own Wollemi pine.
Enjoy lunch at Inverewe before travelling to Brahan Estate in central Wester Ross. The 1,600-hectare Brahan Estate plays host to birdwatchers, golfers, trout fishers, Highland ramblers and deer stalkers. Return to Inverness and spend an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

FRI 15 JUN / INVERNESS – ORKNEY ISLANDS

Transfer to the airport for a flight across the Pentland Firth to Kirkwall, capital of the Orkney Islands. The Orkneys, an archipelago reaching out north east from the tip of the Scottish mainland, have a distinct culture of their own, embracing their Norse heritage and the windswept beauty of their island home.
On arrival in Kirkwall, visit a local workshop and gallery showcasing traditional Orcadian crafts and knitwear, and after free time for lunch, explore the history of the islands at the Orkney Museum. Check in to your hotel and enjoy dinner in a local restaurant, followed by a special guest talk from one of the Orkneys’ foremost gardeners. (BD)

 

SAT 16 JUN / ORKNEY ISLANDS

Spend a day exploring private gardens around the Orkneys. Begin at Marengo Garden in St Margaret’s Hope on the island of South Ronaldsay, which was once the centre of the islands’ herring fishing industry.
After lunch in St Margaret’s Hope, return to the main island of the Orkneys for a guided tour of the Quoy of Houton, a historic walled garden which looks out over the point where the Scapa Flow meets the Bring Deeps. The Quoy of Houton is one of the Orkneys’ most elegant gardens, and in 2017 was awarded ‘Best Challenging Garden’ in the Gardeners’ World Garden of the Year competition.
In nearby Orphir, visit Quarry Fields, a hillside garden boasting a wonderful collection of hostas and spectacular views over to the island of Hoy.(BL)

 

SUN 17 JUN / ORKNEY ISLANDS

In the morning, visit Sternwood Garden and the Finstown Community Garden, which display delightful candelabra primulas and roses protected by a shelter belt. After free time for lunch in the charming village of Finstown, continue to Birsay on the northwest coast of the main island for a guided tour of Annie’s Place. Annie’s Place is a tiny garden situated near the beach and the frigid Norwegian Sea, but through the clever use of annuals the owners manage to create a beautiful summer garden in an otherwise hostile environment.
This evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner in the capital, Kirkwall, with Genevieve and fellow travellers. (BLD)

 

MON 18 JUN / ORKNEY ISLANDS – GLASGOW – DEPART GLASGOW

Transfer to Kirkwall airport for a morning flight to Glasgow.
Tour arrangements conclude on arrival in Glasgow airport.
For those returning to Australia or New Zealand, suggested Qantas/Emirates flights departing from 15:30. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements. (B)

 

 

 

Singapore Garden Festival 2018 with Helen Young

Singapore Garden Festival 2018 with Helen Young

 

Discover the luxuriant glory of the gardens of Singapore, from botanic gardens and nature walks to 21st century urban gardens and the Singapore Garden Festival, the most significant garden show in the tropics.

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Spend two days at Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Garden Festival, showcasing landscape, balcony and fantasy gardens – and of course a wondrous display of orchids

• Enjoy a luxurious 5-night stay in the 5 star Park Royal Hotel, the ‘Hotel in a Garden’, whose balconies and walkways are given over to verdant gardens planted with palms and other tropical species

• Wander through the 82-hectare Singapore Botanic Gardens and the National Orchid Garden, which boasts a collection of cultivars named after visiting world leaders

• Traverse the green belts linking the city’s national parks, oases of calm where Singaporeans come to walk with nature

• Cruise the Singapore River and observe the energetic modern metropolis from the languid calm of a riverboat

 

ITINERARY

FRIDAY 20 JULY 2018 / AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND – SINGAPORE

Suggested mid-morning flights from Australia or New Zealand for mid-afternoon arrivals in Singapore. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

On arrival in Singapore, make your way to the hotel and check in. At 19:00, join Helen and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner. (D)

 

SAT 21 JUL / SINGAPORE

After breakfast, begin your exploration of Singaporean flora with a visit to the Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed tropical garden founded in 1859. Its extensive National Orchid Garden contains over 1,000 species, including cultivars dedicated to visiting dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth II, Emperor Akihito of Japan and Diana, Princess of Wales.

After free time for lunch, visit Fort Canning Park, once the residence of a 14th century Raja of Singapura, and now a hilltop park. Breathe in the heady aroma of nutmeg and cloves in the Spice Garden, a replica of the one established by Sir Stamford Raffles in the 1820s. Then return to your hotel for a guided tour of the hotel itself! The Park Royal Hotel contains 15,000 square metres of ‘sky gardens’, with palms and other tropical species cascading across four floors.

The evening is at leisure to enjoy the energy of Singapore on a Saturday night. (B)

 

SUN 22 JUL / SINGAPORE

Spend the day exploring the diversity of gardening in Singapore. Begin with a guided nature walk in Hort Park on Singapore’s Southern Ridges, which is connected to a network of other parks in the area by a system of bridges and raised walkways.

Continue to the Natural History Museum via the National University of Singapore.

In the afternoon, explore some of the ‘urban greening’ of Singapore with a walking tour of the horizontal and vertical gardens of the central city. Part of a concerted effort to bring nature into the heart of Singaporeans’ working and domestic lives, in recent years the city has seen luxuriant growth in the number of ‘garden walls’ and ‘garden roofs’ gracing everything from carparks to museums, malls and government ministries.

Return to the hotel in the late afternoon for an evening at leisure. Suggested dinner in the open-air hawker markets of Chinatown. (BL)

 

MON 23 JUL / SINGAPORE

Enjoy a full-day visit to the Singapore Garden Festival, located at Gardens by the Bay. The festival, now in its seventh iteration, is the world’s premier tropical garden show, exhibiting more than 400,000 plant specimens. Featuring landscape gardens, fantasy gardens, balcony gardens and more, the festival displays the best of Singaporean and international garden design. No floral exhibition in Singapore would be complete without a riotous display of the island’s most beloved blossom, and the Orchid Extravaganza sings a paean to Singapore’s national flower. Enjoy free time for lunch at the festival.
(Singapore Garden Festival dates subject to confirmation.)

Return to the hotel in the late afternoon, and in the evening, enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Singapore River followed by dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

TUE 24 JUL / SINGAPORE

Return to Gardens by the Bay for an exploration of this unique site itself. Built on 101 hectares of reclaimed land and opened in 2012, Gardens by the Bay is testimony to the garden revolution which Singapore has experienced in recent decades.

The centrepiece is two huge, cooled conservatories, each around a hectare in size: a Flower Dome bursting with specimens from the Mediterranean, South Africa, Australia and South America, and a Cloud Forest replicating the cool, moist conditions of the mountain forests of Southeast Asia and South America. Outside, an elevated walkway runs through a grove of ‘supertrees’, 25- to 50-metre tall vertical gardens growing ferns, vines and bromeliads.

Enjoy a farewell lunch atop the Marina Bay Sands Resort, 57 floors above street level, with a spectacular panoramic view of the city, bay and gardens of Singapore.
Mid-afternoon return to the hotel for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

WED 25 JUL / DEPART SINGAPORE

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. For those departing Singapore today, Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements. (B)

Celebrating Gardens and Roses

Celebrating Gardens and Roses of Japan with Sophie Thomson

 

TOUR ITINERARY:

 

Day 1 Wed 25 Oct Arrive Tokyo

On arrival in Tokyo, make your own way to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure.

 

Day 2 Thu 26 Oct Tokyo

After breakfast we visit the Kyosumi Garden. In the afternoon, we visit Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa for a taste of traditional Japan. Senso-ji is one of the very popular temples in Tokyo while the Asukusa area that surrounds it provides a wonderful variety of snacks, restaurants and souvenir shopping. In the afternoon, we will visit the historic Imperial Palace East Gardens, an oasis of calm in the middle of this giant city. Edo Castle was once the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. The old site of the castle now makes up the park and garden areas. Later we marvel at skyscraper views from the heights of iconic Tokyo Tower. Welcome dinner tonight. (B, D)

 

Day 3 Fri 27 Oct Tokyo

Today we will take an excursion to Keisei Rose Garden and Sakura Rose Garden.
Keisei Rose Garden has over 1600 rose varieties and 10,000 plants. This rose garden is owned by the Japanese agent for many international commercial rose breeders, including the infamous French rose breeder Meilland. Sakura Rose Garden is a municipal rose garden with an emphasis on heritage roses. (B)

 

Day 4 Sat 28 Oct Tokyo-Atami-Hakone

We escape Tokyo and journey by private coach to Hakone via Atami. Hopefully weather permitting we will get an excellent view of Mount Fuji. We will visit Akao Herb & Rose Garden in Atami. Continue travel to Hakone, where we will visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum, home to over 120 permanent Japanese and Western sculptures, in a garden setting. (B, D)

 

Day 5 Sun 29 Oct Hakone-Nagoya-Takayama

Transfer to Odawara station for bullet train to Takayama via Nagoya. Arrive in Takayama, we will visit Kusakabe Folk Crafts Museum. This building dating from the 1890s showcases the striking craftsmanship of traditional Takayama carpenters. Tonight enjoy a Hida beef dinner. (B, D)

 

Day 6 Mon 30 Oct Takayama

Work off your breakfast with a relaxing walking tour of the morning market. Take a walking tour around the downtown area. Many of the old town streets date from the Edo Period and are perfect for people who love to browse. Then we take an excursion to the remote mountains of Honshu to visit the UNESCO listed Shirakawa-go Village, famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. It is a fairytale walk back in time with quaint original cottages, water wheels and paddy fields. Return to Takayama for overnight. (B)

 

Day 7 Tue 31 Oct Takayama-Kani-Nagoya-Okayama

Today we travel by coach to visit the Flower Festival Commemorative Park in Kani which has over 7000 varieties of roses and 30,000 plants. The garden has two main sections with their own themes. The first is the Rose Theme Garden which contains 14 themed gardens such as the Fragrant Rose Garden, the Royal Rose Garden and the Blue Rose Garden. The second is the World Rose Garden with roses gathered from all over the world and planted by country. Then we take coach to Nogoya station for our train to Okayama. (B, D)

 

Day 8 Wed 01 Nov Okayama

We will visit Adachi Museum of Art, established in 1970, based on the private collection of Zenko Adachi. Works collected include Japanese paintings by famous painters such as Taikan Yokoyama, Shiho Sakakibara and Shunso Hishida. The museum’s gardens are also famous. A true lover of gardens, Adachi collected each of the pines and stones for the garden himself from around the country, creating a beautiful garden filled with his own passion. (B, L)

 

Day 9 Thu 02 Nov Okayama-Kyoto

After breakfast, we visit the magnificent Okayama Castle, nicknamed “Crow Castle” because of its very black colour. Then we explore the colourful and expansive Koraku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan that celebrates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden. Later we travel by bullet train to Kyoto. (B)

 

Day 10 Fri 03 Nov Kyoto

Today we visit Gio-ji Temple. It presides over a magnificent grove of thick magical moss that just about begs you to lie down on it (you are strictly forbidden), straight out of a fairytale. Then we head to the picturesque Arashiyama District for a relaxing walk through the peaceful Bamboo Forest. (B)

 

Day 11 Sat 04 Nov Kyoto

Today we will experience a truly Japanese cultural event, a tea ceremony at Kodaiji Temple, one of the most well-known temples in Japan. Then visit the peaceful Ryoan-ji Temple home to the famous Zen rock garden. It is fortunately right next door to Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), another treasure! (B)

 

Day 12 Sun 05 Nov Kyoto

This morning we visit the I M Pei-designed Miho Museum in Shiga Prefecture. The building is a work of art in itself, as it sits in perfect harmony with an incredible mountain landscape. It is best known for its Shigaraki pottery as well as an incredible collection of artworks belonging to the founder of the museum, Koyama Mihoko, one of the richest women in Japan, and her daughter Hiroko. Afternoon is at your leisure. Farewell dinner tonight. (B, D)

 

Day 13 Mon 06 Nov Depart Kyoto

Our tour ends after breakfast. Make your own way to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

Discover the Flora and Culture of New Caledonia

Discover the Flora and Culture of New Caledonia with Dr Peter Weston

 

This tour for passionate plant lovers and hunters will be escorted by Dr Peter Weston, who has just recently retired as Senior Principal Research Scientist with the NSW Herbarium. He will be taking you into the national parks of New Caledonia where you will discover the amazingly diverse flora of our tropical neighbor.

 

Itinerary …At a Glance

 

DAY 1 SATURDAY 4 NOVEMBER – DEPART SYDNEY/ARRIVE NOUMEA

DAY 2 SUNDAY 5 NOVEMBER – DAY TRIP TO MOUNT KOGHI

DAY 3 MONDAY 6 NOVEMBER – NOUMÉA TO PROTECTED BLUE RIVER NATIONAL PARK

DAY 4 TUESDAY 7 NOVEMBER – VISIT MADELEINE WATERFALL AND PLAIN OF LAKES

DAY 5 WEDNESDAY 8 NOVEMBER – TO THE NORTH AND SARRAMEA

DAY 6 THURSDAY 9 NOVEMBER – THE GREAT FERN PARK

DAY 7 FRIDAY 10 NOVEMBER – WALK TO THE DOGNY PLATEAU

DAY 8 SATURDAY 11 NOVEMBER – TO POINDIMIÉ VIA BOURAIL AND HOUAILOU

DAY 9 SUNDAY 12 NOVEMBER – VISIT KANAK VILLAGE

DAY 10 MONDAY 13 NOVEMBER – WALK IN LES ROCHES DE LA OUAÏÈM

DAY 11 TUESDAY 14 NOVEMBER – HIENGHÈNE TO BOURAIL VIA KONÉ

DAY 12 WEDNESDAY 15 NOVEMBER – VISIT GUARO DEVA AREA.

DAY 13 THURSDAY 16 NOVEMBER – TRIP CONCLUDES. FLY NOUMEA TO SYDNEY

OR JOIN

OPTIONAL EXTENSION TO THE ISLE OF PINES.

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo

Nature Lovers Tour of Borneo with Mary-Lou Lewis

 

TOUR ITINERARY

 

Day 1 Sun 24 Sep Arrive in Kuching
Arrive in Kuching, Sarawak, check in to Hilton Kuching.

 

Day 2 Mon 25 Sep Kuching

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. Visit the 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 Hilton Kuching. (B)

 

Day 3 Tue 26 Sep 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. (B,L,D)

 

Day 4 Wed 27 Sep 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. (B,L,D)

 

Day 5 Thu 28 Sep 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. (B,L,D)

 

Day 6 Fri 29 Sep Bako National Park-Kuching

Proceed back to Kuching. En-route, we will visit to the Semenggoh Wildlife Centre to catch the feeding time of the orang utans. Along the way, we will pass by the ethno-botanical gardens, with their unique collection of rain-forest plants. Arrive in Kuching and check in Hilton Kuching for overnight. (B,L)

 

Day 7 Sat 30 Sep Kuching-Mulu National Park

Morning flight 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. 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 and dinner at Mulu Marriott Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 8 Sun 01 Oct Mulu National Park

After breakfast, we depart by longboat to explore Wind Cave with a stopover at the Penan Longhouse. Later we proceed to explore Clearwater Cave, the longest cave in Southeast Asia. Overnight and dinner at Mulu Marriott Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 9 Mon 02 Oct Mulu National Park

After breakfast in the resort, we proceed to Mulu Canopy Skywalk. The Skywalk is the longest tree canopy walk in the world. Relax at the jungle café. Overnight and dinner at Mulu Marriott Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 10 Tue 03 Oct Mulu National Park-Kota Kinabalu

Free at leisure until our flight to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah (the Land Below the Wind). In the evening, we explore the Phillipino night Market. Overnight at Grandis Hotel Kota Kinabalu.(B,L)

 

Day 11 Wed 04 Oct Kota Kinabalu

Today is free for you to explore Kota Kinabalu at your own pace. Overnight at Grandis Hotel Kota Kinabalu.(B)

 

Day 12 Thu 05 Oct Kota Kinabalu-Mt. Kinabalu

Traverse along Sabah’s Crocker Range to Kinabalu Park, a World Heritage Site nominated by UNESCO. Enjoy the walks around the park headquarters. Climb through several ecological zones to experience plant communities ranging from tropical rainforest to the sub-alpine. Overnight and dinner at Kinabalu Pine Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 13 Fri 06 Oct Mt. Kinabalu

Trek through the rainforest and witness life in the treetops as you walk along the Canopy Walkway Venture along Jungle Trails to visit waterfall. Lunch at Poring Springs. There are steaming hot pools providing a relaxing place to unwind after trekking the slopes of Mount Kinabalu. Overnight and dinner at Kinabalu Pine Resort. (B,L,D)

 

Day 14 Sat 07 Oct Mt. Kinabalu-Kota Kinabalu

Visit the Kundasang War Memorial where the Sandakan Death March ended. The Memorial is made up of four beautiful gardens. Also visit the Kundasng vegetables markets before returning back to Kota Kinabalu. Overnight at Grandis Hotel Kota Kinabalu. (B,L)

 

Day 15 Sun 08 Oct Depart Kota Kinabalu

Our tour ends after breakfast. (B)

 

INCLUSIONS

 

Internal flights within Borneo; 11 nights’ accommodation at 4 star hotels/resorts with breakfast daily, 3 nights’ accommodation at Bako National Park Hostel*; private group transfers and touring with English speaking local guides; meals as stated in the itinerary.
* Bako National Park Hostel: the accommodation in Bako National Park has ceiling fan only and no air-conditioning. The shower rooms do have hot water and it is on sharing basis.

Cultural Landscapes of the Midi-Pyrénées & the Dordogne

Cultural Landscapes of the Midi-Pyrénées & the Dordogne with Adrian Mialet

 

Tour Highlights

 

This tour, led by Adrian Mialet, travels across the great southern plain between the Pyrénées and the Massif Central, into the heavily wooded highlands of the Auvergne, and down the superb river valleys of the Lot, Tarn and Dordogne.

Discover the unique history of the Cathars and their cities and castles in Carcassonne and Albi.
Visit some of the grandest pilgrim churches, at Toulouse, Moissac, Conques and Périgueux, built on the great medieval pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.

Explore the Templar and Hospitaller territories and the Commanderie in Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon, the Knights’ headquarters dedicated to the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.

Tour through one of the most scenic and dramatic regions of France, dominated by the lovely river valleys of the Lot, Tarn and Dordogne.

Learn about the unique medieval frontier towns, bastides, such as Cordes-sur-Ciel, Najac, Sarlat and Monpazier – France’s most beautiful and historic villages and towns.

Visit châteaux that were once medieval fortress castles but later became majestic palaces surrounded by fine gardens.

Visit Cro-Magnon in the Dordogne, where Homo sapiens was first identified.

See the spectacular cave paintings of the Late Stone Age in the caves of Rouffignac, Cougnac, Pech-Merle and Lascaux IV facsimile.

View the large prehistoric sculpted frieze at Abri de Cap Blanc.

Amble through the weekly village markets and taste the famous Périgord delicacies (truffle, foie gras).

Cruise along the Dordogne River on board replicas of traditional gabares.

Enjoy a falconry show at Château des Milandes.

Sample award-winning wines and enjoy lunch at Château Carbonneau near Saint-Emilion, a family-run winery with strong New Zealand ties.

 

Tour Overview

Between the Pyrénées and the Massif Central lie three of France’s most beautiful river valleys: the Lot, Tarn and Dordogne. In southern Midi Pyrénées we explore great cities of Mediterranean France, strongholds of the Knights Hospitaller and Templars, and Carcassonne, city of the persecuted Cathars. We journey through pretty agricultural landscapes, deep forests and narrow river valleys to visit prehistoric caves, medieval fortified towns and castles, Romanesque churches, Renaissance châteaux and gardens. In Toulouse, Moissac and Conques we study fine pilgrim churches, and in Albi we visit the remarkable fortress-cathedral and Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. We journey to isolated medieval bastides (fortified towns) such as Najac, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Monpazier and Sarlat (home of a famous foie gras market), survivors of the Hundred Years’ War. We encounter a rich variety of domestic architecture, each town with its own distinctive atmosphere and picturesque dwellings. The delightful gardens of Eyrignac and Marqueyssac contribute colour and scent to the richness, variety and charm of this luscious region. At town markets we purchase food for picnics, and we enjoy a number of meals at traditional restaurants including wine-tasting and lunch at Château Carbonneau near Saint-Émilion. The region’s greatest archaeological wonders, its cave paintings, occupy the valley of the Vézère, a tributary of the Dordogne. At Abri de Cro-Magnon our own species, Homo sapiens, was first identified. Local specialists show us a number of caves, some with the most exquisite artworks ever created. We visit Rouffignac, Cougnac, Pech Merle, the recently opened state-of-the-art interpretation centre of Lascaux IV and the prehistoric sculpted frieze at Abri de Cap Blanc. We cruise the Dordogne River in replica gabares to understand how rivers shaped this land and witness a falconry show at the Château des Milandes. Througho­ut, we experience the rich world of medieval romantic love, troubadours and a passion for life so vivid in this region.

 

16-day Cultural Tour of the Midi-Pyrénées & the Dordogne

Overnight Toulouse (2 nights) • Albi (3 nights) • Conques (1 night) • Saint-Jean-Lespinasse (1 night) • Sarlat (4 nights) • Montignac (3 nights) • Bordeaux (1 night).

 

Toulouse – 2 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 27 September, Arrive Toulouse

Orientation Walk
Basilica Saint-Sernin, Toulouse
Our tour commences in Toulouse. Upon arrival, participants on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be included in the group transfer to our hotel. People who have not taken the ASA ‘designated’ flight should meet the group at the Grand Hôtel de l’Opéra situated in the centre of Toulouse.

In the afternoon we shall take an orientation walk in the vicinity of the hotel and visit the great pilgrim church of Saint-Sernin (1075-1096). After the abbey church at Cluny (destroyed during the French Revolution), Saint-Sernin was the largest Romanesque church in France. It was one of the five archetypal pilgrim churches on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, the others being Sainte-Foy at Conques, Saint-Martin at Tours, Saint-Martial de Limoges, and the great cathedral at Santiago. All these churches are aisled basilicas. In each, these aisles run down either side of the nave and around the transepts and semi-circular chevet. From the chevet of each church project chapels that once displayed saints’ relics. The aisles that ran right around the church allowed pilgrims to process through the building to see the relics in these chapels without disrupting services in the chancel. Saint-Sernin was constructed from a richly coloured red brick. Its nave, the longest on the pilgrim route, leads to a crossing topped by a magnificent Gothic tiered tower and spire. (Overnight Toulouse)

 

Day 2: Thursday 28 September, Toulouse – Carcassonne – Toulouse

Château Comtal, Ramparts & Basilica of St Nazaire and St Celse, Carcassonne
Welcome Dinner
Today we drive southwest to what was once the medieval frontier between the Kingdom of France and the Spanish kingdom of Aragón, to Carcassonne, the walled city we shall visit. Before its integration into the French kingdom by Louis IX, Carcassonne was a stronghold of the Cathars, who were decimated by Simon de Montfort during the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229). Before the Crusade, Carcassonne, like many cities in this region, had been a centre of local power, jealous of its independence from larger hegemonies. Originally a Celtic settlement, then a Roman colonia (Carcasum), it became a Visigothic stronghold (508) that resisted the early Franks, was taken for a time by the Iberian Muslims (725), and had become the seat of a local county that often allied itself either to the counts of Barcelona or Toulouse. Fragments of Carcassonne’s Roman walls still exist, within the magnificent concentric rings of medieval ramparts defended by many towers. Louis IX founded a lower city across the River Aude from the original fortified city (1247), and even after it had lost importance as a bastion against Aragón (when the frontier moved further south) its towers and ramparts made the upper, older, city almost impregnable. During the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Prince destroyed Louis IX’s lower city, but could not take Carcassonne proper (1355).

Despite prosperity during the later Middle Ages as a centre of wool manufacture, Carcassonne slowly declined to provincial obscurity and its walls fell into such ruin that in the 19th century the French government considered dismantling them. Carcassonne’s mayor, the antiquary Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille, and the writer Prosper Mérimée, France’s first inspector of ancient monuments, protested, and the city was eventually restored in the 1850s and 1860s by the great Neo-Gothic architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Carcassonne’s restoration became a key moment in the growth of French, and therefore world, notions of conservation and preservation. Much of France’s medieval built heritage had either fallen into disrepair or had suffered depredations through countless wars and the French Revolution. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who also restored Notre-Dame de Paris and was then working on Saint-Sernin, Toulouse – performed the massive feat of bringing Carcassonne back to its medieval glory. Although he was criticised for giving the Carcassonne’s towers steep conical pinnacles that were uncharacteristic of a southern region without heavy snowfalls, his restoration is nevertheless seen as a masterpiece, albeit with touches of Romantic fantasy.

We shall explore Carcassonne’s ramparts and visit its Château Comtal (Count’s citadel) and the Basilica of St Nazaire and St Celse. There will be time at leisure for lunch and to allow you to further explore the city. Mid-afternoon we return to Toulouse and enjoy a Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Toulouse) BD

 

Albi – 3 nights

 

Day 3: Friday 29 September, Toulouse – Moissac – Albi

Musée des Augustins, Toulouse
Cloisters of Saint-Pierre, Moissac
The morning in Toulouse will be spent exploring the town centre and visiting the Musée des Augustins. The Musée des Augustins, once a grand old Augustinian priory used as a residence and studio by Viollet-le-Duc when he worked on the restoration of Saint-Sernin, now holds a comprehensive collection of Romanesque and Gothic sculpture from the city’s churches.

In the afternoon we depart for Albi via Moissac, visiting the church of Saint-Pierre (1100-1150), which was once a Cluniac abbey. Moissac boasts a fine trumeau (door jamb) graced by the ethereal elongated figures of St Paul and the Prophet Jeremiah. Above the trumeau is a Last Judgement in which Christ sits enthroned in kingly majesty, surrounded by the beasts and elders of the Apocalypse. The scene is based, not on St John’s apocalyptic vision, but on Matthew 25:31-46. Behind is a narthex and above this a tower room with a majestic, open dome-like structure created by powerful converging ribs; this is believed to be an architectural depiction of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Although much of the original monastery has been destroyed, its cloister remains. It has an important corpus of sculpted panels and capitals including figures in relief whose monumentality suggests that the artist, who also worked in Saint-Sernin, Toulouse, was inspired by antique sculpture, which was to be found in abundance in Southern France. (Overnight Albi) B

 

Day 4: Saturday 30 September, Albi

Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d’Albi
Musée Toulouse-Lautrec
Les Jardins du Palais de la Berbie
Afternoon at leisure
We spend a full day in Albi, a city of red brick, reminiscent of Siena. It stands on the river Tarn, whose bed provided the clay for these bricks. We visit the Bishop’s palace – the Palais de la Berbie – which has a fine garden and houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, as well as Albi’s extraordinary, fortress-cathedral, Sainte-Cécile. The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, one of the finest museums devoted to a single artist in France, incorporates early paintings by the master and some of his most important images of Parisian life. There is also a collection of his posters and a section devoted to his lithography displaying many of his lithographic stones.

As late as the 12th century, the County of Toulouse was independent of the French crown. Its cities were wealthy and their merchants criticised the corruption of the Church. Many were Cathars, a name derived from the Greek word for ‘pure’. Cathars believed in the strict separation of good and evil in the world. They were divided into two groups: ordinary believers who worked in thriving cities like Albi and Toulouse, and ‘perfecti’ who separated themselves from the world, living lives of exemplary abstinence, which contrasted awkwardly with abuses within the Church. The French crown mounted the Albigensian Crusade (c.1208-1244) to destroy the Cathar ‘heresy’. Its hidden motive was to conquer the independent south and incorporate it into the French realm. The population of Albi was slaughtered and Bishop Bernard de Castanet (1240-1317) constructed the new Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile (1282-1330; porch 1519-1535) using riches confiscated from the Cathars. The building, with huge, smooth defensive walls and curved tower-buttresses (so that stones hurled by siege machines would glance off them) was designed like a fortress to remind the Albigensians of the authority of the Church whose dogmas they had questioned. You will have the rest of the afternoon at leisure to explore for yourself this beautiful city. (Overnight Albi) B

 

Day 5: Sunday 1 October, Albi – Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon – La Cavalerie – La Couvertoirade – Millau Viaduct – Albi

Templar and Hospitaller Circuit in the Larzac
Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon: the headquarters of a local Templar Commanderie
Templar and Hospitaller villages of La Cavalerie and La Couvertoirade
Millau Viaduct (time permitting)
The south of France was enriched by Mediterranean trade and pilgrimage to Santiago, but it was also a highly contested region, where the forces of the French and Spanish kingdoms, local potentates such as the Counts of Toulouse and Carcassonne, and religious groups like the Cathars, all vied for power. Another force in this region was the Knight Templar, originally dedicated to the succour of pilgrims in Jerusalem, which had been transformed during the Crusades into an aristocratic, military order. Many myths have been spun around the Templars, most of which, such as their involvement in occult practices, are apocryphal. They nevertheless constituted a powerful force in medieval Europe, amassing vast wealth that raised the jealousy of kings. The Templars, like the Knights Hospitaller (later Knights of Malta) attracted charitable donations, including vast tracts of land. Among their many activities was banking, and Philip IV (1268-1314), who was heavily indebted to them, had many arrested, tortured to produce false confessions, and burned at the stake as heretics. He also forced Pope Clement V to disband the Order in 1312.

We spend today exploring Templar territories in the Larzac region to the east of Albi, visiting Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon, their regional headquarters (commanderie), and their stunningly picturesque fortified village of La Couvertoirade. Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon occupies a deep valley between ridges of the Larzac. It is the best-preserved Templar commandery in France, having been established by the Order in 1159, and then taken over by the Hospitallers when Philip IV eliminated the Templars. La Couvertoirade, in a wildly beautiful setting, deep in the Larzac on the edge of the Cévennes National Park, was a Templar stronghold until the fall of the Order, when it also was taken over by the Knights Hospitaller who built the village’s curtain wall between 1439 and 1450. This wall still stands, and within it are a church, a small château, and a number of lovely old houses.

We shall also dine at a small restaurant in La Cavalerie, another fortified Larzac Templar site, halfway between Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon and La Couvertoirade.

We return to Albi in the late afternoon and, time permitting, make a brief stop to view the Millau Viaduct a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn. Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world. (Overnight Albi) BL

 

Conques – 1 night

 

Day 6: Monday 2 October, Albi – Cordes-sur-Ciel – Najac – Conques

Bastides of Cordes-sur-Ciel & Najac
Today we drive north to the secluded town of Conques through the region of the Aveyron Gorges, visiting beautiful hill-top bastides, Cordes-sur-Ciel and Najac.

Bastides played a vital role in the emergence of France after the Dark Ages and the consolidation of royal power after the Albigensian Crusade. They also figured in the ensuing territorial struggle with the Plantagenets of England, the Hundred Years’ War. A bastide was a fortified village or town, usually of regular plan, in which the rural population was forced to reside so it could be defended as well as exploited by the crown or a feudal lord. Both the Plantagenet and French monarchies built bastides, and one of their later functions was as strongholds in the Hundred Years’ War. Before the advent of these very particular communities, the landscape of this heavily forested, under-populated region had only tiny, scattered, isolated settlements, abbeys or the strongholds of the local nobility. The bastides were therefore the ‘frontier towns’ or ‘colonies’ of the Middle Ages, which tamed the land. Although an ideal bastide has a grid plan centring on an arcaded market square, they in fact took many forms that depended upon topography, microclimate and available building materials.

The plan of Cordes, the very earliest bastide, does not conform to type. Its organic plan accommodated the urban fabric to the steep bluff upon which it was located. Its domestic architecture is distinctive to the region. Originally, its limited agricultural domain would have been surrounded by forest, for Cordes was founded in virgin territory. Its neighbour Najac, a fine, small bastide that occupies a craggy cliff, is dominated by a partly ruined château built by the villagers in 1253 on the orders of Alphonse de Poitiers. Najac’s 13th- century Eglise Saint-Jean, erected by the local population as a punishment for their Cathar beliefs, overlooks the village, while at the opposite end, the faubourg (medieval suburb or extension to the town) has the typical architecture of many bastides, with timber-framed houses and commercial arcades around an open area. Najac’s houses are so valued that they have registered in a special catalogue.

After lunchtime in Najac, we turn east again into deep, heavily forested valleys formed by the river Lot to Conques, one of France’s greatest treasures. Tonight we stay in a delightful small hotel occupying a late medieval house next to Conques’ famous church. (Overnight Conques) BD

 

Saint-Jean-Lespinasse – 1 night

 

Day 7: Tuesday 3 October, Conques – Figeac – Saint-Jean-Lespinasse

Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Foy, Conques
Abbey Museum, Conques
Figeac
Conques owes its fame to the Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Foy (1031-1090) that, despite its isolation, became one of the most famous shrines on the medieval pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela (northern Spain). The church is one of five archetypal pilgrim basilicas, along with Saint-Sernin (Toulouse), Santiago de Compostela, St Martin (Tours: destroyed) and Saint-Martial (Limoges). It has a fine east-end with radiating chapels, a narrow, high nave with galleries, and a well-preserved coloured portal depicting the Last Judgement in vividly descriptive detail. The abbey was founded in 866 in a lonely, thickly wooded region of the Dordogne. It became an important station on the pilgrim route to Santiago from Le Puy because of the extraordinary popularity of the saint, martyred in 330 AD, whose relics were brought here in five centuries later. The adolescent girl Sainte Foy, like St George, was of obscure origins, but later became so popular that monuments to her were founded throughout Britain, continental Europe and the Near East. Her strange reliquary, fashioned in the form of an enthroned monarch, is the only surviving example of a form popular in the 11th century. It is housed in Conques’ Abbey Museum, which holds one of Europe’s best-preserved collections of medieval pilgrim art.

We shall spend the morning visiting the abbey church and the museum of Conques, and wandering through the small town viewing its lovely small houses.

After lunchtime we shall drive west through the old town of Figeac. Its old houses, many of which have turrets and typical Quercy open-fronted attics known as Saint-Amand-de-Coly, cling to terraces on the steep valley sides above the river Célé. The town has a wonderful ensemble of merchant houses from the Renaissance and, in a medieval courtyard called Place des Ecritures, a large modern sculpture by the American artist, Joseph Kosuth. You will have time to wander through the town and see Figeac’s two churches, Saint-Sauveur and Notre-Dame-du Puy, both of which have Romanesque sections. We continue our journey north to our next accommodation, a small country hotel overlooking the Bave Valley outside the village of Saint-Jean-Lespinasse that is noted for its fine cuisine; we shall dine here tonight. (Overnight Saint-Jean-Lespinasse) BD

 

Sarlat – 4 nights

 

Day 8: Wednesday 4 October, Saint-Jean-Lespinasse – Montal – Autoire – Loubressac – Carennac – Sarlat

Château de Montal
Autoire
Loubressac
Carennac Church
Today we explore a château and two villages close to St Céré and then turn west along the valley of the Dordogne. Our route takes us through the heart of an ancient agricultural region with numerous beautiful châteaux, villages and Romanesque pilgrim churches. We begin at the Château de Montal whose powerful towers and picturesque profile give it the aspect of a fortress. Built in 1523-4, it is, however, a Renaissance palace similar to the great châteaux of the Loire, and the rich decoration of its stately façades reflects a political stability unknown earlier, when bastides were used to tame this part of France and when French and English armies fought each other for control of it. Of particular note are Montal’s portrait sculptures of Robert de Balsac, his wife Antoinette de Castelnau, and members of their family that grace the upper storeys of the courtyard façade. Within, the château has a magnificent central staircase and beautiful fittings, such as great ornamental fireplaces. After touring the château and its gardens, we continue our journey, travelling through Autoire, located at the head of the Gorge d’Autoire, a chasm running south from the Dordogne, to the nearby village of Loubressac where we break for a picnic lunch.

Near Loubressac, the Bave meets the Dordogne, whose south bank we follow to Carennac. Here we stop briefly to view the medieval tympanum over the doorway of the church. Carved tympana, often with graphic depictions of the Last Judgement, were a feature of Romanesque churches, presenting the faithful entering the shrine with awesome visions of Christ or terrifying views of eternal punishments meted out to sinners. You will be able to compare Carennac’s Last Judgement with those you have seen at Moissac and Conques, and will see how each has a very different style compared to its counterparts. From here we follow the Dordogne as it winds its way west and continue on to Sarlat-la-Canéda. (Overnight Sarlat) BL

 

Day 9: Thursday 5 October, Sarlat – Monpazier – Castelnaud-la-Chapelle – Sarlat

Orientation walk of Sarlat-la-Canéda
Bastide town of Monpazier & Thursday Market
Château des Milandes, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle incl. the Falconry Show
This morning we take a leisurely stroll of Sarlat-la-Canéda which will include a visit to the mysterious Lanterne-des-Mortes and cathedral, and time to view its golden stone buildings. Sarlat-la-Canéda was largely a ruinous town until purposefully restored by the French government in the 20th century to act as a cultural focus for the Périgord-Noir region.

Next, we drive to the bastide of Monpazier, nominated one of ‘plus beaux villages de France’. It is not only the best-preserved bastide in the Dordogne, but is also considered the most typical example of a bastide in the entire south-west of France. King Edward I of England founded Monpazier in 1284 with the help of Pierre de Gontaut, Lord of Biron, and it was only during the reign of King Charles V of France (1366-1380) that it was taken by the French. In 1574 the Huguenot captain, Geoffroi de Vivans, took control of Monpazier and in 1594 it became a centre of the Peasant’s Revolt.

Despite the ravages of the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion, Monpazier has remained remarkably unchanged for 700 years. Monpazier’s urban core is perfectly quadrilateral in overall layout, its symmetrical, gridded plan covering an area of 400 x 220 metres. The town’s grid is crossed by four transverse streets, which divide it into rectangular precincts. Medieval and 17th-century houses surround the central Place des Cornières; originally, all of Monpazier’s houses were exactly the same size and separated from one another by narrow side alleys or androns to prevent the spread of fire. The ground floor of those surrounding the square form a continuous arcade, a feature typical of bastides, also seen in northern Italy and in Spanish cities and towns. Monpazier’s old market hall is intact; its 16th-century timber roof frame is supported by wooden pillars that rest on stone blocks. St Dominique’s Church was built in the 13th century and added to later. Its nave, with ribbed vaults, leads to a polygonal chevet. Monpazier’s 13th-century Chapter House, situated behind the church, once served as the tithe barn for stocking harvest produce requisitioned as taxes. This tithe house, as well as the town’s highly organised plan and characteristic architecture, all speak physically of the fact that bastides were created from scratch as centres of power and commerce by princes.

Our visit to Montpazier is timed for the Thursday market when you will be able to purchase ingredients for a picnic lunch. Walnuts are a local speciality and taste wonderfully fresh. You may wish to try the local walnut bread and tarts!

In the afternoon we visit the Château des Milandes in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, a turreted 15th-century château, flanked by hundred-year-old magnolia trees. Les Milandes affords one of the best views of the rolling hills and tiled-roof villages of the Dordogne Valley. The château was built in 1489 when Claude de Cardaillac begged her husband, the Lord of Castelnaud, to build her a house that, true to her wishes, has a very grand interior, with beamed ceilings, mullioned windows and stained-glass panels, and huge fireplaces.

Milandes’ modern fame stems from the fact that it became the home of Josephine Baker, a far cry from the slums of St Louis USA, where at the age of 12 she had lived on the streets. Baker entered Vaudeville at 15, and soon became one of its most popular dancers, and a key player in the ‘Harlem Renaissance’. Baker fled the racism of the USA in 1925, and gained notoriety for her semi-nude performances at the Folies Bergère, becoming one of Europe’s most popular and richest music hall stars. This extraordinarily talented woman then augmented her music hall performances by becoming an important opera singer. During the war, she spied for her adopted country, assisted the Resistance, and earned two of France’s most important military honours, the Croix de Guerre and the Rosette de la Résistance. Charles de Gaulle also made her a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur. Baker was a civil rights activist, friend and associate of Martin Luther King Jr, and after his death was asked by his widow to lead the movement. Childless, she adopted 12 orphans from different countries. She bought Château des Milandes in 1947, and lived here with her French husband and adopted children. We shall tour her home, and see a number of memorabilia, including her famous banana skirt.

Milandes accommodates many birds of prey, including buzzards, falcons and barn owls. After touring the château and grounds we shall attend a Birds of Prey Show, presented by two falconers in the gardens in front of the castle. (Overnight Sarlat) B

 

Day 10: Friday 6 October, Sarlat – Grottes de Cougnac – Labastide-Murat – Pech-Merle – Sarlat

Grottes de Cougnac
Lunch at Hotel La Garissade, Labastide-Murat
Centre de Préhistoire du Pech-Merle
This morning we drive to two fascinating caves at the Grottes de Cougnac, one of which is important for its geology and the other for its fine paintings. You will see mammoth, ibex, human figures and three megaloceros (reindeer with huge antlers). Many of the painted forms take advantage of the natural shapes of the cave wall that may possibly even have suggested them. Some of the stalagmites and stalactites in the cave were deliberately broken at the time the paintings were executed. This suggests that the paintings were to be viewed from the other side of the chamber.

After lunch at Hotel La Garissade, a charming restaurant located in the small village of Labastide-Murat, we drive to Pech-Merle, where we visit a marvelous cave, with painted black outlines of aurochs, mammoth and spotted horses. The art here has been assigned to three distinct phases. To the earliest belong images of circles, dots and the outlines of hands; this phase also includes the ‘spotted horses’. The second phase includes figures made by finger-tracings on the ceiling as well as 40 black outline drawings. The last phase includes engravings, the most famous of which is a bear’s head. In the late afternoon we return to Sarlat where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Sarlat) BL

 

Day 11: Saturday 7 October, Sarlat – Vézac – Beynac-Cazenac – Sarlat

Market Day at Sarlat-la-Canéda
Jardins de Marqueyssac, Vézac
Barge excursion along the Dordogne River
Village of Beynac-Cazenac
Saturday is market day in Sarlat-la-Canéda, which rivals Conques in the beauty of its medieval streetscapes. Our leisurely morning stroll will include participation in the market where you will be able to purchase ingredients for your picnic lunch in the gardens of Marqueyssac.

The Dordogne south of Sarlat-la-Canéda is littered with exquisite châteaux, bastides and churches. Our drive to the Château de Marqueyssac allows us to inspect this landscape more closely. Marqueyssac has extraordinary ‘hanging gardens’ named because of their position on a craggy promontory with breathtaking views over the surrounding valley. The château was founded in the late 17th century and has remained in the family ever since. In the 18th and 19th centuries a vast number of box trees, which lend themselves so well to topiary, were planted. Marqueyssac’s boxwood folly, along with a great variety of oaks, hornbeams, lime trees, Judas trees, viburnum, plantain, elms and cypresses, shares this inimitable setting with vegetable and flower gardens, fine cliff-top bastions, sinuous paths, and a grand allée derived from one family member’s fond memories of Italy.

We next drive to Beynac-Cazenac, a village which has managed to retain its medieval charm. The Château de Beynac, one of the great castles of the Périgord, dominates the north bank of the Dordogne River from a precipitous height and is defended on the north side by double walls. Crouching beneath its limestone cliff is a small village, once the home of poet Paul Eluard. During the Hundred Years’ War, the Dordogne River frequently marked the border between French and English territories: the fortress at Beynac, then in French hands was faced on the opposite bank of the river by the Château de Castelnaud held by the English.

We shall enjoy a cruise along the Dordogne River on board replicas of traditional gabarres (the Dordogne’s traditional flat-bottomed boats), passing some of the valley’s most beautiful castles along the way, and a local guide will provide a commentary on various aspects relating to the river, its history and its environment.

Following some time at leisure in the village of Beynac-Cazenac to wander through its narrow paved streets, we return to Salat where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Sarlat) B

 

Condat-sur-Vézère – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 8 October, Sarlat – Rouffignac – Montignac – Lascaux IV – Montignac

Prehistoric cave of Rouffignac
Montignac
Lascaux IV
Our first visit today is Rouffignac, a vast prehistoric cave which includes ten kilometres of galleries, two of which were frequented by Cro-Magnon artists. It’s also exceptional for its more than 150 depictions of mammoths. An electrical train takes us through. This is linear art: animals and signs outlined in magnanese dioxyde, or finely engraved, or finger-drawn where the wall’s surface is soft enough. The simplicity and accuracy of line here reveal the artist’s talent and expertise more in this cave, perhaps, than anywhere else. The Great Ceiling, one kilometre from the entrance, offers the viewer an unforgettable whirl of mammoths, bisons, and ibex.

We then continue to the village of Montignac located on the Vézère River. Montignac is dominated by a tall tower, the vestige of a fortress that was once the home of the counts of Périgord. Until recently a sleepy backwater, Montignac was transformed when the Lascaux caves were discovered. It is now a thriving small town with attractive medieval streets and houses, a 17th century priory church and a local folk museum. Lunch will be served at the Hôtel Le Relais du Soleil d’Or whose main restaurant serves traditional Dordogne fare.

After lunch, we visit to the recently opened new facsimile of the world famous painted cave at Lascaux, the original having long since been closed to the public. This is the most famous and spectacular of all decorated caves, best-known perhaps for its 600 paintings of aurochs, horses, deer and a variety of signs; there are also almost 1,500 engravings in the cave. Although we cannot visit the original, it is important to see this facsimile in order to gauge the quality of this pinnacle of cave art. (Overnight Montignac) BLD

 

Day 13: Monday 9 October, Montignac – Les Eyzies de Tayac – St Léon-sur-Vézère – Thonac – Montignac

Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies
Abri Pataud, Les Eyzies
St Léon-sur-Vézère
Château de Losse
This morning we visit the Musée National de Préhistoire at Les Eyzies-de-Tayac situated in a restored château on a terrace overlooking a plane on which vast herds of reindeer and other beasts would have roamed in the Late Stone Age. The château, in fact, is located on the site of a Prehistoric settlement chosen, no doubt, for the excellent view it provided those scanning the plane for game. The museum holds, among other exhibits, an amazing collection of artefacts such as beautifully sculpted reliefs of animals.

Following lunch in Les Eyzies, we visit the excavation site of Abri Pataud, the only prehistoric site in the Dordogne to have been converted into a museum. It is situated 15 metres above the river Vézère at the foot of an imposing cliff that dominates the village of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.

Next, we continue our journey south along the Vézère Valley to Thonac to visit the Château de Losse. This castle owes its position, inhabited continuously since prehistory, to its strategic command of the valley. In the 13th century a Flemish family, the Loss, fortified the cliff above the river. Like so many French châteaux, it was transformed from a fortress to a country palace during the Renaissance. This was affected by Jean II de Loss who was one of François I’s pages and tutor to Henry IV. We shall visit the elegant Renaissance building and its large formal garden, all with magnificent views of the valley. Before returning home we also make a brief stop in the picturesque village of St-Léon-sur-Vézère. (Overnight Montignac) BD

 

Day 14: Tuesday 10 October, Montignac – Marquay – Eyrignac – St Amand-de-Coly – Montignac

Abri de Cap Blanc, Marquay
Les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac
Saint-Amand-de-Coly: Fortified Church
This morning we drive to the small village of Marquay to explore the Abri du Cap Blanc, a rock shelter that presents a large prehistoric sculpted frieze. Considered to be one of the best examples of Palaeolithic sculpture, the frieze is 13 meters long and includes carvings of horses, bison and deer.

Then we drive through lovely, often dramatic, countryside to Eyrignac, where Patrick Sermadiras de Pouzels de Lile has restored a formal 18th-century garden, a rarity in Périgord. Here, box, hornbeam and yew are clipped with an almost obsessive exactness to produce verdant architectural forms aligned along three vistas. Strong perspectives of sharply formed leafy structures are orchestrated in subtle tonal contrasts – between the fresh green of lawns, the glossy leaves of the box, the slightly translucent foliage of the hornbeam and the matt, almost black needles of the yew.

We enjoy lunch at the gardens’ terrace restaurant and visit, before driving to the picturesque village of St-Amand-de-Coly, which has an interesting 12th-century fortified church. The small walled village of Saint-Armand-de-Coly grew up around an Augustinian monastery first mentioned in a document of 1048. A monk from the Catalan monastery of Ripoll, later bishop of Vich, who made a journey around the monasteries of Périgord, wrote the 1048 text. He recorded that the monastery had grown up around the tomb of Saint-Armand, a young Limousine noble who came here as a hermit in the middle of the 6th century from the community of Genouillac (Terrasson). Saint Armand preached to the local population, and when he died was made a saint. The day of his death was fixed as 25th June. A small town grew up around the monastery, whose houses like the monastery itself, were constructed of Sarlaise stone, with typical lauze roofs. Little remains of the monastery and the high defensive walls that protected it and the town, but the magnificent early 12th century fortified church remains. (Overnight Montignac) BLD

 

Bordeaux – 1 night

 

Day 15: Wednesday 11 October, Condat-sur-Vézère – Périgueux – Pessac-sur-Dordogne – Bordeaux

Pilgrim cathedral of Saint-Front, Périgueux
Farewell Lunch and wine tasting at Château Carbonneau, Pessac-sur-Dordogne
Today we drive to Bordeaux via one of France’s most important medieval pilgrimage centres, Périgueux. Its Cathedral of Saint-Front, although very heavily restored in the 19th century, nevertheless is particularly interesting for its medieval domes. The use of domes to roof churches in this region resembles that at St Mark’s, Venice. It is typical of the ecclesiastical architecture of the Byzantine Empire rather than Western Europe. Saint-Front is actually composed of two earlier churches, separated by a high medieval bell tower.

We sample wines and eat lunch at one of the region’s wineries, Château Carbonneau, located between Saint-Emilion and Bergerac. Recently awarded International Best of Wine Tourism prize, this is a corner of New Zealand in the Sainte-Foy appellation, which is between Castillon and Bergerac. Now on the third generation of New Zealand owners (with a French husband however), and a New Zealand winemaker, they produce three types of wine: red, rosé and white. The 100-hectare plus estate is also a working farm, with cattle, forest and some beautiful Bernese mountain dogs. (Overnight Bordeaux) BL

 

Day 16: Thursday 12 October, Bordeaux. Tour Ends.

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour ends today in Bordeaux. Participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be included in the group transfer to Bordeaux airport. Participants wishing to extend their stay in France and Europe are advised to contact ASA for further information. B

 

Piet Oudolf & Dutch Wave Gardens

Piet Oudolf & Dutch Wave Gardens with Carolyn Mullet

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

August 8, Tuesday – Arrive in The Netherlands at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol
August 9, Wednesday – Jac. P. Thijssepark, Vlinderhof, Tuin “De Villa”
August 10, Thursday – Noël van Mierlo, Kasteel Geldrop, Van Nature
August 11, Friday – Oudolf/Hummelo, Hortvs
August 12, Saturday – Het Loo Palace, Kröller-Müller Museum
August 13, Sunday – Cruydt Hoeck, Priona, Mien Ruys
August 14, Monday – Lianne’s Siergrassen, Dewit Garden Tools, Jakobstuin
August 15, Tuesday – Garten Moorriem, De Kleine Plantage, Tuin aan het Wieltje
August 16, Wednesday – Depart for home or continue travels on your own

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, August 8, Tuesday – ARRIVE IN THE NETHERLANDS

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Amsterdam Airport Schiphol and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Wednesday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.

 

Day 2, August 9, Wednesday – TOUR STARTS, JAC P. THIJSSEPARK, VLINDERHOF, TUIN “DE VILLA”

What’s more appropriate than starting our Dutch Wave tour in a town renowned for its use of Dutch wildflowers? Just around the corner from Schiphol Airport is the suburb of Amstelveen with plantings that have been described as “intensified nature.” We’ll visit Jac. P. Thysse Park, named for a biologist who was an ardent devotee of native plants and birds. Designed by the late Christian P. Broerse, the park is home to just about every Dutch habitat imaginable and loaded with wild and semi-wild plantings.

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

Next, we visit a relatively new private garden, Tuin “de Villa”. Started in 2004, the garden is located in a polder between meadows and cornfields on land reclaimed from the sea. Here, Fried and Lily Frederix, the owners, have made themselves a contemporary garden. There will be much to enjoy in their crisp, diagonal design that will lead our eyes to the Dutch Wave garden far in the rear. The Frederix’s have turned a pasture into a rich tapestry of texture & color. Grasses move in the breeze and pollinators buzz around flowering shrubs and perennials. If you like to shoot videos, this is the garden for you.

 

Day 3, August 10, Thursday – NOEL VAN MIERLO, KASTEEL GELDROP, VAN NATURE

We’ll start the day by visiting a private garden designed by Noël van Mierlo. Known for his naturalistic style, van Mierlo is a three-time winner of the National Garden of the Year Award plus the Most Sustainable Garden, Netherlands and the Most Natural Pool. Getting a chance to see a garden by such an accomplished designer is a treat we’ll long remember.

Next we travel to Kasteel Geldrop, a 14th century castle, to see the work of planting designer John Schoolmeesters. He came to this garden in 2005 to turn the walled fruit and vegetable garden into a contemporary naturalistic perennial and grass garden. The end result is a prime example of a post Dutch Wave garden with an emphasis on color, texture, and shape.

Van Nature is also a post Dutch Wave display garden and nursery started in 2013 by landscaper Frank van der Linden, nursery woman Caroline van Heeswijk, and garden designer Frank Heijligers. Here we’ll see ornamental grasses and perennials that may be difficult to find but have been trialed in the display garden for low maintenance & good habit in all seasons. That’s a tall order but it will be fascinating to see what combinations they recommend.

 

Day 4, August 11, Friday – OUDOLF/HUMMELO, HORTVS

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

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

 

Day 5, August 12, Saturday – HET LOO, KRÖLLER-MÜLLER

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

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

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

 

Day 6, August 13, Sunday –CRUYDT HOECK, PRIONA, MIEN RUYS

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

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

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

 

Day 7, August 14, Monday – LIANNE’S SIERGRASSEN, DEWIT GARDEN TOOLS, JAKOBSTUIN

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

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

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

 

Day 8, August 15, Tuesday – GARTEN MOORRIEM, DE KLEINE PLANTAGE, TUIN AAN HET WEELTJE

Our final day starts with a drive into Germany where we’ll visit Garten Moorriem, Ute and Albrecht Ziburski’s garden begun in 2006. Starting at the 300 year old house, we’ll see skillful combinations of perennials and grasses that get wilder the farther away from the house they are. We’ll cross a garden bridge to see the final plantings that come into their full glory in late summer against the backdrop of a wide, native meadow landscape. This is a garden that plays with the illusion of naturalness to achieve great atmospheric effect.

We’ll return to The Netherlands to visit, Kwekerij De Kleine Plantage, a specialty nursery very much in the spirit of the Dutch Wave. In its beautiful display garden, we’ll see the latest in sturdy, textural perennials and grasses planted in alcoves along a crisp, hedge-lined avenue extending from the house. Since everything is labeled, this will be our chance to find out the names of those plants that we’ve been seeing all week but didn’t know. De Kleine Plantage will remain in our memories as a green oasis showing great love for plants and design.

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

 

Day 9, August 16, Wednesday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS
Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to the airport at 8:00 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take the train or taxi from Centraal Station to the airport.

 

Iran and the Legendary Silk Road by Private Train

Iran and the Legendary Silk Road by Private Train with Jennie Churchill

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR JOURNEY

• An exciting first time itinerary combining Iran, east to west, with the Silk Road
• Unique combination of two comfortable private trains with 4 different categories: Orient Silk Road Express and Persian Explorer
• Unforgettable immersion in centuries of Central Asian, Persian and Islamic history
• Ten extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Sites
• Warm and welcoming people
• Samarkand’s massive, mosaic-tiled Registan Square
• Among Bukhara’s thousand monuments, experience its architectural masterpiece the Mire-e-Arab Madrasah
• The ruins of Merv rising from the desert
• Iran’s holiest city Mashhad
• Wind towers of the desert city Yazd, stronghold of Zoroastrians
• Five of the nine UNESCO World Heritage listed Persian Garden complexes
• The vast Maidan of Isfahan, the world’s second largest Square
• Shiraz, gentle city of poets and gardens
• The magnificent ruins of Persepolis, once powerful capital of the world’s largest empire
• Museums and palaces of Tehran
• Markets, bazaars and traditional crafts including the making of silk fabric and carpets

 

TOUR ITINERARY

Day 1 Sat 16 September Arrival in Tashkent
Flight from your airport of departure to Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.
Overnight: Grand Mir Hotel (or similar).

Day 2 Sun 17 September Tashkent
The green oasis of the Steppe, Tashkent is Central Asia’s hub. We traverse centuries: from the C16th Kukeldash Madrasah, Soviet-era architecture to contemporary Independence Square, the Amir Timur museum and Tashkent Metro’s beautiful artwork. Depending on the schedule, settle in for an evening performance at the famous Navoi Opera Theatre. Afterwards your private train Orient Silk Road Express departs for Samarkand.
Overnight on board. Breakfast (B), lunch (L) and dinner (D)

Day 3 Mon 18 September Samarkand
After breakfast we arrive in Samarkand, for centuries a powerful political, economic and cultural centre on the Silk Road. Founded in the C7th BC, this extraordinary city reached its peak during Amir Timur’s C14th rule. Discover magnificent Central Asian Islamic architecture: the huge Registan Square with its mosaics and blue-tiled domes, necropolis Shah-e-zende and the excavation sites of Afrosiab, the oldest existing evidence of this ancient city.
Overnight: Hotel Registan Plaza (or similar). (BLD)

Day 4 Tue 19 September Samarkand
The ancient rural town of Urgut has one of Uzbekistan’s busiest and most traditional markets and the Chor-Chinor garden’s 1,000 year old trees. Back in Samarkand, there’s much more to discover: the observatory of Ulug Beg, C15th ruler and remarkable astronomer, the enormous Bibi Khanum Mosque and Timur’s resting place in the Gur Emir Mausoleum. In the evening, your train departs for Bukhara.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 5 Wed 20 September Bukhara
Journey through the red sands of the Kyzyl Kum desert to Bukhara, a fascinating city more than 2,500 years old. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed old city still boasts around one thousand monuments. We visit the Kaljan Minaret, Labi-Hauz Ensemble, the architectural masterpiece Mire-e-Arab Madrasah, and the beautiful Samanid Mausoleum. The day ends with a tour through the massive earthen Fortress Ark and a dance performance in a madrasah.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 6 Thu 21 September Merv
Our train crosses into Turkmenistan, the somewhat mysterious and least visited country in Central Asia. Towards morning, we arrive at the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site of Merv. Once a glorious metropolis famous for its exports, scholars, culture and gardens, the city was destroyed in 1221 by Ghengis Khan’s son. Merv’s astounding remnants rise from the desert among ancient ruins: the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, Kyz Kala Fortress and historic mud brick ice-houses. Late in the evening our train arrives in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat.
Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn (or similar). (BLD)

Day 7 Fri 22 September Ashgabat and Nisa
A morning drive takes us to the ancient city of Nisa, former flourishing capital of the Parthian state. Later, a guided tour of Ashgabat introduces this distinctive and rather bizarre modern-day capital. Hollywood meets Stalin in a rapidly transforming city flush with new-found oil wealth. Artefacts from Nisa and Merv in the National Museum provide further insight into a country where great science, art, architecture and spirituality countered an often-violent history.
Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn (or similar). (BLD)

Day 8 Sat 23 September Mashhad
After breakfast, a bus ride takes us across the border to Mashhad, Iran’s holiest and second-largest city. One of the seven holy sites of the Shiite Islam – and the only one in Iran – Mashhad is the site of the mausoleum of the eighth Shiite Imam, Ali ibn Musa ar-Reza. This beautiful and massive shrine complex, with its dazzling intricate blue tiles, gold domes, minarets and fountain-cooled courtyards, commemorates the AD 817 martyrdom of Imam Reza. Attracting around 20 million pilgrims each year, the shrine features one of Iran’s most comprehensive art collections.
Overnight: Hotel Homa (or similar). (BLD)

Day 9 Sun 24 September To Yazd
Around noon, we leave Mashhad on our private train, the Persian Explorer, and journey across the desert to Yazd.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 10 Mon 25 September Yazd to Isfahan
We arrive in Yazd, Iran’s most exciting desert city, early morning. Wedged between two deserts, Yazd is regarded by UNESCO as one of the oldest cities on earth. It is also the centre of Zoroastrianism in Iran. Yazd’s old, sun-dried mud brick city skyline is dominated by badgirs (wind towers), the tallest sitting in the UNESCO-listed Bagh-e Dolat Abad, described as ‘the quintessence of the Persian garden’. We visit the Zoroastrian fire temples and, rising from the desert just outside the city, former burial sites the Towers of Silence. A visit to the Yazd Water Museum explains the desert city’s Qanat water supply system. Back on board, we take lunch as we travel towards Isfahan.
Overnight: Hotel Kowsar/Abbasi (or similar). (BLD)

Day 11 Tue 26 September Kashan
Often bypassed by tourists, Kashan is one of the most alluring destinations in Iran. A full day exploring this oasis city north of Isfahan includes the exquisitely decorated, turquoise and gold Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, the Tabatabei House, one of Kashan’s architecturally-significant C19th merchant houses, and Bagh-e Fin, the oldest extant garden in Iran, its classic Persian design dating to the C16th rule of Shah Abbas 1.
Overnight: Hotel Kowsar/Abbasi (or similar). ( BLD)

Day 12 Wed 27 September Isfahan
Our time in this elegant jewel of ancient Persia centres on its heart – the vast, beautifully-proportioned, Savafid Dynasty Maidan or Imam Square, once the site of trading, assembling troops, polo games and celebrations. We visit a number of the monumental buildings bordering this UNESCO World Heritage Site: Masjed-e Imam (Imam Khomeini Mosque), the Ali Qapu Palace and its veranda overlooking the Square, and the Lotfullah Mosque, once a private mosque for the Safavid royal families. A short walk brings us to Chehel Sotun (Pavilion of Forty Pillars) with its huge reflecting pool, shady gardens and wonderful fresco museum. In the ancient historic centre we visit the Jameh Mosque, a stunning illustration of Iranian Islamic architecture over twelve centuries.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 13 Thu 28 September Shiraz
With the verses of much-loved poets Hafez and Sa’adi top of mind, a visit to Bagh-e Eram reminds us this is the city of the Persian paradise garden. The hustle and bustle of the Old Town Vakil bazaar is fun and entertaining (stock up on excellent Iranian saffron) and contrasts with the calm interiors of the elegant Nasir-al-Molk (Pink) Mosque. Its mesmerising decorations are more than matched by the dazzling mirrored tiles of the Shah Cheragh Mausoleum, the third most venerated pilgrimage site in Iran.
Overnight: Chamran Grand Hotel (or similar). (BLD)

Day 14 Fri 29 September Pasargadae & Persepolis
At the site of his victories east of the great Zagros Mountains, the Persian King Cyrus the Great built his capital city of Pasargadae. I am Cyrus the King, an Achaemenian, states the inscriptions on pillars and reliefs of the audience hall of the Residence. The sprawling archaeological site, which includes the King’s mausoleum, also contains remnants of the garden he created at Pasargadae 2,500 years ago. The oldest extant garden layout in the world, it can still be ‘read’ among the remains. We travel an hour by bus to our next destination, the magnificent ruins of Persepolis, founded by Darius 1 in the early years of the C6th BC. His Achaemenid empire was the largest the world had ever seen, extending from Egypt to Pakistan, with Persepolis its capital. The vast part-artificial platform above the plains holds an extraordinary complex of ruins, with royal palaces, reception halls, apartments, walls covered by sculpted friezes, gigantic winged bulls and monumental stairways – all burned and looted by the Greeks of Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Nearby is the impressive Naqsh-e-Rostam necropolis of the Achaemenids. A short bus ride brings us to our private train, destination Tehran.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 15 Sat 30 September Tehran
Arriving in Tehran, we farewell our charming train staff before spending a day out of the busy city centre. First stop, a guided tour of the Iranian National Botanic Garden, with the Alborz Mountains as backdrop. The garden’s 150 hectares sit at 1300 metres, with different landscapes designed to represent Iran’s diverse flora. Just 40km to the north-east of Tehran city lies the Khojir National Park, one of the oldest protected areas in the world with stunning views to the stratovolcano Mount Damavand. Khojir is renowned for its high biodiversity and as an important base for migratory birds. Dinner will be served in the Milad Tower, the sixth tallest telecommunication tower in the world.
Overnight: Hotel Laleh (or similar). (BLD)

Day 16 Sun 1 October Tehran
The Iranian capital is rich with museums. We explore the glories and excesses of the Qajar emperors in the lavish Golestan Palace and take a journey through history at the Archaeological Museum. A short walk away is the Glass and Ceramics Museum, with exhibits spanning centuries of workmanship by Iranian artisans. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy. A visit to see the glittering collection of gemstones and jewellery at the Treasury of National Jewels is highly recommended, as is time spent in Park-e Laleh or another of Tehran’s beautiful parks.
Overnight: Hotel Laleh (or similar). (BLD)

Day 17 Mon 2 October End of journey
Airport transfer for individual departure.

 

INCLUSIONS

• 6 overnights on Private Train according to the booked category (Day 1-7 with Orient Silk Road Express; Day 8 – 15 Persian Explorer)
• 10 overnights in hotels
• All meals according to program (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
• Full sightseeing program including all entrance fees as per the itinerary
• Airport transfers arrival in Tashkent and departure from Tehran
• Private air-conditioned coach for sightseeing side trips
• Tour Leader Jennie Churchill
• English-speaking Train Tour Director
• Experienced local guides
• Doctor on board
• All gratuities for guides and drivers throughout the trip
• Visas for Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

Gardens of Ireland

Gardens of Ireland with Carolyn Mullet

 

At-A-Glance Itinerary

June 11, Sunday – Arrive in Dublin at Dublin Airport
June 12, Monday – Mount Usher, Hunting Brook, June Blake’s Garden
June 13, Tuesday – Mount Venus Nursery, Corke Lodge
June 14, Wednesday– Powerscourt, Burtown House & Gardens
June 15, Thursday – Ilnacullin (Garinish Island), Derreen Garden
June 16, Friday – Bantry House, Ballymaloe Cookery School, Lakemount
June 17, Saturday –Mount Congreve, Private Garden, Farewell Dinner
June 18, Sunday – Depart or continue travels on your own

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

 

FULL ITINERARY

Day 1, June 11, Sunday – ARRIVE IN IRELAND

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Dublin Airport and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Monday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.

 

Day 2, June 12, Monday – TOUR STARTS, MOUNT USHER, HUNTING BROOK, JUNE BLAKE’S GARDEN

There’s no better way to begin a tour than with a garden that’s home to 4000 – yes, four thousand – plant varieties. Designed in a naturalistic style, Mount Usher was laid out according to the the principles of William Robinson, the Irish-born gardener, writer, and publisher who advocated wild gardening in the late 19th century. We won’t find many straight lines at Mount Usher. Instead we’ll see clusters of luscious plantings – many from the Southern Hemisphere – along the ambling Vartry River which is at the heart of this romantic garden.

Next we’ll visit Hunting Brook, a 15 year old garden which began its life as homage to Oehme, van Sweden, the landscape architects who popularized huge sweeps of ornamental grasses and perennials in the late 20th century. However, Jimi Blake, the owner who’s an internationally renowned plantsman and collector, has since moved on. The garden now features cactus, tropicals, evergreens, frequently-changing perennials, and woodland gems. The 20-acre garden is 900 feet above sea level and the landscape slopes down to Hunting Brook, from which it takes its name. We’ll work our way past thousands of plants and up the hill to a great expanse of meadow and The Wicklow Mountains in the distance. Hunting Brook is a garden that will inspire us to greater adventure in our own gardens back home.

June Blake (Jimi’s sister) started her career as a jewelry designer and a sheep farmer. Much later that she turned her three-acre property into a plant nursery and made a garden here that truly reflects an inventive and artistic spirit. The structure is quite formal but exuberant billows of plants soften the hardscape to create what garden writer Jane Powers calls “a piece of poetry.” The garden is also a great lesson in re-purposing materials found on site. Paths and walls were constructed from materials on the property; the paving at the front door was once used as the floor in a cattle shed; and steel beams used to outline some paths were salvaged from a hayshed.

 

Day 3, June 13, Tuesday – MOUNT VENUS NURSERY, CORKE LODGE

Travelers can learn a lot about a country’s gardening culture by visiting a local nursery. So we’ll begin the day with a stop at Mount Venus Nursery which specializes in unusual perennials and grasses. Here we will see the best, new cultivars of familiar plants and experience for ourselves why Liat and Oliver Schurmann’s nursery is beloved by dedicated gardeners and professional designers throughout Ireland. Beyond growing plants, this talented couple designs private gardens and have received multiple gold medals for their show gardens at Irish and English flower shows.

It seems entirely possible that the term “green gardens” was coined to describe the garden we’ll see on our visit to Corke Lodge. A parterre of boxwood, swathes of tree ferns, stands of dark green laurels, and a leafy green canopy overhead. It was created by furniture designer and architect Alfred Cochrane who inherited the property in 1980. He left in place a number of huge specimen trees but renovated the rest of the garden with an eye towards Italy. The resulting woodland garden is classically formal and now looks like it’s been there forever.

 

Day 4, June 14, Wednesday – POWERSCOURT, BURTOWN

The first garden today is Powerscourt, considered by many to be the grandest garden in Ireland. The house dates back to the mid-1700’s. It was designed for the 1st Viscount Powerscourt and includes a 13th century castle. The 62-acre garden began life as a formal landscape to complement the mansion, with a pond, a walled garden, a number of trees, a fishpond and a grotto. In the mid 1800’s, the 6th and 7th Viscounts added Italianate elements: statuary, gates, urns, stone terraces, marble replicas of classical figures, a huge mosaic made from black and white beach pebbles, a gothic boathouse and a Triton fountain. Throughout the landscape, we’ll see many specimen trees, a Japanese Garden, a Pet Cemetery, a rhododendron walk, and herbaceous borders. Those who are interested in a walk deep into the Deer Park can see the tallest waterfall in Britain and Ireland, an impressive flourish for this grand garden.

Burtown House and Gardens has been in the same family since the early part of the 18th century. The garden was laid out by Isabel Shackleton, cousin of the Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, but it came into its own after the property was inherited by three amazing artists. The late Wendy Walsh was one of Ireland’s renowned botanical artists and many of her rare plants were moved to the garden as her daughter, artist Lesley Fennell and her son James, a renowned photographer, began expanding the plantings. The design style is part Victorian, part Arts & Crafts, and features large herbaceous borders in blazing color, shrubberies, a rock garden, a sundial garden, an old orchard, a walled organic vegetable garden and a large woodland area surrounded on all sides by water. Wildflower meadows are punctuated with sculptures, and woodland and farmland walks abound. Strolls around the garden make it clear that its owners have keen artistic eyes. Burtown has recently added a restaurant where we’ll enjoy lunch.

 

Day 5, June 15, Thursday – ILNACULLIN, DAREEN

We’ll board a boat for a short ride to an island in West Cork where we’ll see a windswept landscape that’s now a noteworthy garden. Ilnacullin (which in Irish means “island of holly,”) was designed in the early 20th century by architect and landscape designer Harold Peto who turned the rocky soil into a garden paradise. Formal and classical, Peto’s design included exotic plants from afar to blend with the nearby sea and mountains. We’ll stroll around the Italian Garden, note the Japanese touches in the Casita, admire the perfect lawn for croquet and tennis, and examine the plants in the walled garden. There are many rare and notable plants in this garden, including a celery pine, a weeping Huon pine, and the multi-colored Pseudowintera colorata.

One of the most unusual gardens you’ll ever encounter is Derreen, a 60-acre property on the edge of a harbor on the rugged Beara peninsula. It’s romantic, it’s green, it’s magical and spooky. The site was inherited by the 5th Marquess of Lansdowne, who had served as Viceroy of India. He hired workers to drain the boggy soil and plant conifers, shrubs, and a massive grove of tree ferns, Dicksonia antarctica, native to Australia and Tasmania. Planted around 1900, they now are over 20 feet high, and form an amazing spectacle of pure green under a canopy of oaks, eucalyptus, rhododendrons and conifers.

 

Day 6, June 16, Friday – BANTRY HOUSE, BALLYMALOE COOKING SCHOOL, LAKEMOUNT

Our first garden today is Bantry House which has been aptly called one of the most ostentatious in Ireland. Back in the mid 1800’s, the Earl of Bantry filled sketchbooks with images of grand European estates. He then employed hundreds of workers to terrace the rocky landscape that rises up steeply from Bantry Bay, and he filled them with European statuary. One hundred steps, known as the Stairway to the Sky, ascend to the top of the property, where there’s an intricate box parterre and sweeping views of the bay and mountains. The gardens have recently been renovated, and the Sunken Garden, once home to box and roses, is now filled with airy, contemporary ornamental grasses and perennials. Paths through a woodland are lined with majestic ferns, and the Stream Walk ends at an early 20th century Japanese-style water garden. There’s also a five-acre Walled Garden, formerly a vegetable and fruit garden, but now taken over by self-seeded local plantings, a currently popular trend with gardeners everywhere interested in sustainable practices.

Next we’ll visit Ballymaloe Cooking School which was once the home of William Penn, the founder of the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. This farmland was passed down through generations of Quakers to the present owners, who have been creating new gardens on the site since the 1980’s. In a huge, one-acre organic glasshouse, vegetables of every kind are grown for the farm’s existing restaurant and for students at the cooking school. We’ll have tea here and stroll around 7.5 acres of gardens, a wildlife meadow, and a farm walk. The oldest part of the garden – Lydia’s Garden – features a serene lawn surrounded by mixed borders. There’s also a summer house with a mosaic floor, a classic baroque herb garden with 19th century beech hedges, and a lovely vegetable garden that’s often featured in publications. An ornamental fruit garden designed by Irish Times gardening correspondent Jim Reynolds sports strawberries and apples, and berries galore.

Color, color and more color – in blooms, bark, leaves, and grasses is the outstanding characteristic of the 2.5 acre Lakemount Garden just outside Cork city. It was designed by Brian Cross and his mother Rose Cross, who planted masses of hydrangeas all over the garden in hues of clear blue, purple and lavender, depending on the soil. A conservatory houses an amazing array of tropical plants, and ‘Rosemount’, planted by Rose Cross, is a classic, charming cottage garden. Lakemount is known for its collection of small trees, pruned in a sculptural manner by Brian. The garden is a true plant kaleidoscope.

 

Day 7, June 17, Saturday – Mount Congreve, Bernard Hickie Garden

Our day starts at Mount Congreve, a plant collector’s dream garden. Mount Congreve is known for its huge massings of plants, acquired over a lifetime by the late Ambrose Congreve, who died just a few years ago at age 104. Congreve’s horticultural mentor was British banker Lionel de Rothschild, who sent him plants in the 1920s and 30s, including an impressive stand of Rhododendron sinogrande, still thriving today. Congreve believed in clustering plants together for effect, and spectacular specimens are everywhere. We’ll take a half-mile stroll along a walk lined on both sides by Hydrangea macrophylla, and admire paths filled with pieris, camellia, mahonia, azaleas, and many others. Mount Congreve is home to more than 2000 varieties of rhododendron; 600 of camellias; and 300 Japanese maples. In Congreve’s Walled Garden, borders are planted to flower by month, and a door in the garden opens onto a pond shaped like the race course at Ascot. In the Woodland, we’ll see a classical temple, a Chinese pagoda, and a waterfall inside a quarry. It’s a spectacular garden, and a testament to Congreve’s plant growing expertise: he won 13 gold medals over the years at the Chelsea Flower Show for his horticultural excellence.

We’ll end our week of garden adventures by visiting a private garden designed by Bernard Hickie, a Dublin-based contemporary landscape designer known for his bold and innovative projects. As he notes on his website,

“Plants fascinate me – form, texture, habit. To combine plants successfully is both tremendously important and immensely satisfying. The joy of seeing these constantly changing creations grow and adapt to their imposed environment is exhilarating.”

Hickie was greatly influenced by his mother, who was a dedicated gardener and landscape photographer, and he traveled with her to most of the great gardens across Ireland. Aside from private residential gardens and large estates, Hickie also designs landscapes for film sets.

 

Day 8, June 18, Sunday – DEPART or CONTINUE TRAVELS

Our time together will come to an end but the true garden lover always finds fresh inspiration wherever she is. Travelers can choose to return home or carry on the adventure. We’ll provide coach transfer to the airport at 8:00 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take a taxi on your own from the hotel to the airport.

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden 2018

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden 2018, with Jim Fogarty

 

**FILLING FAST – BOOK NOW**

 

Tour Overview

The tour has been timed to visit Japan when its countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious autumnal colour. In Tokyo and in historic centres like Kyoto and Nara we’ll discover how Japan’s gardens can be experienced on many levels and are renowned for subtly combining artifice and nature, blurring the boundaries between garden and landscape. Some gardens are tiny and minimalist, conveying subtle meanings through ingenious combinations of moss, stones, rock and water. Others are grand, framing rich palaces and temples like Tokyo’s Imperial Palace Garden. In Tokyo, highlights include Happo-en where ladies in kimonos serve lunch in a delightful teahouse before we stroll through the gardens viewing 200-year-old bonsai trees. Tokyo National Museum and Suntory Museum of Art offer masterpieces to inspire you, and we will explore examples of contemporary garden design and landscaping in this most modern city. In Kyoto we combine garden visits with expressions of traditional Japanese culture like tea ceremonies, geisha rituals and cuisine. Kyoto gardens include such extensive, ancient temple and garden complexes as Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoan-ji – the famed Dragon Peace Temple. Throughout, garden visits are also combined with an appreciation of Japan’s traditional architecture and great museums to enrich our understanding of Japanese aesthetics. In 8th-century capital Nara, architectural treasures, great collections and fine gardens include the Todai-ji, the world’s largest timber building, Kofuku-ji with a five-storey pagoda and treasure trove of Buddhist statues; we also visit Nara National Museum. At Kanazawa we explore traditional construction techniques at Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi Samurai Residence and Higashichaya District’s many old Samurai houses. Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en is the ‘garden of the six sublimities’. We also make a very special day tour to villages in Kiso Valley, carefully preserved monuments to Japan’s feudal past, and stroll Japan’s greatest natural symbol, Mt Fuji. Our tour finishes with a visit to the Adachi Museum of Art. In addition to its stunning collection of contemporary Japanese art, the museum is renowned for its beautiful contemplation garden which visitors enjoy through large picture windows.

 

16-day Cultural Garden Tour of Japan in Autumn

Overnight Tokyo (3 nights) • Kawaguchiko (1 night) • Matsumoto (2 nights) • Kanazawa (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Nara (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Matsue (1 night)

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 14 November, Arrive Tokyo

Arrival transfer for those travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza
Koishikawa Koraku-en Garden
Light Dinner
After our arrival in Tokyo those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred in a private vehicle to the Hotel New Otani Tokyo. This hotel stands within a beautiful traditional Japanese garden originally designed for the daimyo (feudal lord) Kato Kiyomasa, Lord of Kumamoto in Kyustiu over four hundred years ago. This garden is well worth strolling through and will introduce you to many facets of the Japanese gardens we shall visit in the coming weeks.

After time to rest at the hotel, we begin our tour with a visit to the Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza, the home of the reigning emperor of Japan and his family. We enter via the Nijubashi, where two picturesque bridges span the moat. The Higashi Gyo-en, or East Garden, was opened to the public in 1968 and provides an attractive environment in which to stroll and relax.

We then visit a rare surviving 17th-century strolling garden, located in the west of the city. Koishikawa Koraku-en was designed in part by Zhu Shun Shui, a Ming dynasty refugee from China, and the garden recreates both Japanese and Chinese landscapes. Here we find waterfalls, ponds, stone lanterns, a small lake with gnarled pines and humped bridges.

Tonight we enjoy a light dinner together at our hotel. (Overnight Tokyo) D

 

Day 2: Thursday 15 November, Tokyo

Suntory Museum of Art
Happo-en Garden
Welcome Lunch at Happo-en Gardens Teahouse
Residence ‘R’ with Riccardo Tossani
The Suntory Museum of Art was founded in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district in 1961 as the cultural arm of a famous distillery. ‘Beauty in Everyday Life’ has been the theme of the museum since its establishment when the then President of Suntory, Keizo Saji, developed what is now a 3000-piece collection containing priceless ceramics, folding screens, kimonos, lacquer-ware, textiles and glasswork. Its aim is to relate old things to the new, present beauty over time, and to represent beauty without regard for cultural frontiers of countries and races.

To enhance this philosophy of fusing the ‘traditional’ with the ‘contemporary’, the museum relocated in 2007 to its current Tokyo Mid-town location to be part of the art district known as the Roppongi art triangle. Architect Kengo Kuma, whose aim was to create ‘a Japanese-style room in the city’, designed its new home using new technology and traditional Japanese design elements. The architect’s signature vertical lattice design covers the exterior, while the interior features a sliding 10-metre-high lattice that controls the flow of light. Natural materials like laminated paulownia wood for the interior lattice, washi for the atrium walls, and recycled whiskey barrel wood (a connection to the Suntory distillery) for the flooring create a feeling of warmth throughout the building.

Meaning ‘beautiful from any angle’, the Happo-en garden lives up to its name. Following a Welcome Lunch at the garden’s delightful teahouse, where ladies in kimono will serve you matcha (green tea) and okashi (variety of snacks), a stroll through the gardens will reveal 200-year-old bonsai trees, a stone lantern said to have been carved 800 years ago, and a central pond.

Our final visit today is to a private Tokyo residence designed by architect Riccardo Tossani, who will personally show us his work, explaining the concepts and influences. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

 

Day 3: Friday 16 November, Tokyo

Jiyu Gakuen School
Tokyo National Museum
Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple by Yutaka Kawahara Design Studio
We begin our day with a visit to the Jiyu Gakuen School. This is a beautifully preserved building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1921, one of 12 buildings the American designed during the two years he lived in Japan. Only three of Wright’s buildings survived the 20th century, and we shall be taken on a tour of this very special building.

Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. The museum, which holds over 110,000 objects, focuses on ancient Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road. There is also a large collection of Greco-Buddhist art.

During our travels we’ll encounter many traditional and historic temples and explore a variety of gardens that play such an important role in these complexes. This afternoon we visit a contemporary temple – the Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple by Yutaka Kawahara Design Studio. Completed in 2013, in the lively heart of Tokyo, this Buddhist complex is intended to represent the ‘Gokuraku’ or ‘Paradise in the Sky’ and is comprised of the three traditional structures associated with Buddhist architecture – the vihara (monastery), the stupa (pagoda), and the shrine – stacked one atop the other in response to its compact site. In place of a small stroll garden using moss, stone or sand, here bamboo is used to create a green space for contemplation in this busy metropolis. (Overnight Tokyo) B

 

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

 

Day 4: Saturday 17 November, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

Sankei-en (Sankei’s Garden)
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
Today we depart Tokyo by coach and travel west to the iconic Mount Fuji, the largest volcano in Japan. This is Japan’s highest peak at 3776 metres. It last erupted in 1707 and forms a near perfect cone. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most important landmark, which stands for the nation’s identity. It has been pictured countless times, not least in Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1826-1833).

On the way to Mount Fuji we visit the beautiful Sankei-en, a spacious Japanese-style garden in southern Yokohama, in which are set a number of historic buildings from across Japan. There are a pond, small rivers, a profusion of flowers and wonderful scrolling trails. The garden, built by Hara Sankei, was opened to the public in 1904. Among the historic buildings in the park are the elegant residence of a daimyo (feudal lord), several teahouses, and the main hall and three storied pagoda of Tomyo-ji, the abandoned temple of Kyoto.

In Kawaguchiko we will visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. When the artist Itchiku Kubota was young, he encountered an example of ‘Tsujigahana’ at the Tokyo National Museum. ‘Tsujigahana’ was a technique used in dying kimonos during the 15th and 16th century, an art that was later lost. Kubota-san revived the art and created a series of kimonos decorated with mountain landscapes in all four seasons and Mount Fuji. These kimonos are displayed in a breathtaking setting. The main building is a pyramid-shaped structure supported by 16 Hiba (cypress) wooden beams more than 1000 years old. Other parts of the museum, displaying an antique glass bead collection, are constructed of Ryukyu limestone. The museum’s unique architecture is set against a lovely garden and red pine forest. Tonight we dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Kawaguchiko) BD

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Matsumoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kawaguchiko.

 

Matsumoto – 2 nights

 

Day 5: Sunday 18 November, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

Fifth Station of Mt Fuji
Nakamachi Street and Kurassic-kan
Matsumoto Rising Castle
We start our day with a visit to the Fifth Station (Kawaguchi-ko) at the Fuji Five Lakes, where, weather permitting, we can enjoy spectacular views of the snow-capped peak. A gentle stroll will allow us to identify some of the native flora of this region.

We then focus upon Matsumoto and its surrounds for the next two days. On arrival in the town, we walk through the historic Nakamachi-dori, a street lined with white-walled traditional inns, restaurants and antique shops. Here we visit the Nakamachi Kurassic-kan, an historic sake brewery with black-beamed interiors and traditional plaster-work outside. We cross the river to walk along the market street Nawate-dori before arriving at Matsumoto-jo, the imposing castle approached across a moat.

Matsumoto-jo was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodeled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Day 6: Monday 19 November, Matsumoto – Kiso Valley – Matsumoto

Narai
Tsumago
Magome
Nagiso Town Museum
Today we drive out of Matsumoto and head to the Kiso Valley for a taste of how Japan looked prior to urbanisation. Developed by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as one of the five main highways linking his capital Edo (Tokyo) with the rest of Japan, the valley contains eleven post towns and three of them, Narai, Tsumago and Magone, have been preserved as a virtual museum of the feudal past.

At Narai we see distinctive wooden buildings with window shutters and renji-goshi latticework. We shall visit the Kashira-ningyo where colourfully painted dolls and toys are still made. Nakamura House dates from the 1830s and was the home of a merchant who manufactured combs, one of the area’s specialties. You will have time to visit this and explore side streets where there are temples and shrines and the famous Kiso-no-Ohashi, an arched wooden bridge that crosses the Narai-gawa.

As we follow the valley we’ll enjoy features of the Nakasendo route, including Kiso Fukushima, the location of a major barrier, but today the gateway to the sacred mountain of Ontake.

Tsumago was a ghost town 30 years ago, with its traditional Edo-era houses on the point of collapse. Its restoration sparked the idea of cultural preservation in Japan. The pedestrian-only street is similar to that once encountered by lords and their samurai centuries ago. The highlight of Tsumago is Okuya Kyodokan, a folk museum inside a designated post inn, where the daimyo’s (feudal lord) retinue rested. On the opposite side of the street the Kyu-honjin is where the daimyo used to stay.

Our third village stop is Magome, which means ‘horse-basket’, because this is where travellers were forced to leave their horses before tackling the mountainous roads ahead.

Our final visit for the day is to the Nagiso Town Museum. Opened in 1995, the museum has three divisions: Tsumago Post Town Honjin, a sub-honjin, and a history museum. (A honjin is a temporary residence for a lord or dignitary to stay in when travelling to and from the shogunate capital of Edo.) The present building of the subhonjin was built in 1878 utilising Japanese cypress throughout, a type of wood proscribed for ordinary construction during the Edo period (1600-1868). The History Museum contains historical materials of Nagiso Town and history of the trust organisation dedicated to the preservation of historic towns, villages, and neighbourhoods. From here we return to Matsumoto, where you can explore the city on your own and enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Kanazawa – 1 night

 

Day 7: Tuesday 20 November, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts
Nomura-ke (restored samurai residence & house garden)
Higashi-Chayamachi District
This morning we travel by coach to Nagano, where we board the new Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa, considered one Japan’s best-preserved Edo-period cities. The Japanese visit Kanazawa in droves but perhaps because of its remote location and very cold winters few foreigners make the journey to experience its rich cultural legacies.

On arrival we visit the Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts, which showcases the fine arts and crafts of Ishikawa, a Prefecture whose culture of fine arts and traditional crafts compares with that of Tokyo and Kyoto. Highlights of the collection include feudal daimyo utensils using the Kaga Makie technique, Kutani porcelain from Ko-kutani (Old Kutani) and Wajima lacquer-ware.

The feudal atmosphere of Kanazawa still lingers in the Nagamachi district, where old houses of the Nagamachi Samurai line the streets that once belonged to Kaga Clan Samurais. The T-shaped and L-shaped alleys are distinct characteristics of the feudal town, and the mud doors and gates of the houses remain the same as they were 400 years ago. The houses with their samurai windows (bushimado) and mud walls under the yellow Kobaita wooden roofs, which were protected from snow by straw mats (komo), evoke a bygone era.

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the scale and dispensation of land to samurai families who lived in this district, and others in the city, was a fairly accurate indicator of rank. One of the larger Nagamachi estates was assigned to Nomura Denbei Nobusada, a senior official in the service of the first feudal lord of the Kaga domain. The reforms that accompanied the Meiji Restoration in 1868 decimated the lifestyles of the socially privileged. The samurai, whose social class was nulified, not only had their stipends terminated, but their estates were also appropriated by the state. Consequently, the Nomura family, whose considerable land holdings dated back 12 generations, lost their home and were reduced to turning a section of the remaining part of their property over to the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. Though they were discouraged from public displays of ostentation, merchant families and those of former samurai were not prohibited from commissioning the construction of exquisite gardens.

We visit the restored residence of Nomura, displaying the lifestyle and artifacts of the era, and explore its garden which features trees that are over 400 years old. Broad, irregularly shaped stepping stones provide access to the inner garden whose attractive entrance is flanked by a Chinese maple tree with leaves that turn a brilliant red in autumn.

Across the Asano River is the district of Higashi-Chayamachi, Kanazawa’s most famous geisha district. Many of the tall wooden-latticed houses on the narrow streets are still used by geisha for high-class entertainment as they have done since 1820 when the area was established as a geisha quarter. You can take tea (without geisha) at Shima House for a chance to experience its refined and elegant atmosphere. Like Kyoto’s Gion, this district has been designated as one of Japan’s cultural assets. (Overnight Kanazawa) B

Note: Our luggage will be transported directly from Matsumoto to our hotel in Kyoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kanazawa.

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 8: Wednesday 21 November, Kanazawa – Kyoto

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Kenroku-en, Kanazawa
Train from Kanazawa to Kyoto
Gion District, Kyoto
Our first destination this morning is Kanazawa Castle, the seat of power of the local Maeda clan, hereditary feudal lords (daimyo) of the Kaga province from 1583. Burnt down on a number of occasions, only the superb Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya samurai dwelling survive from the original construction.

Kenroku-en is Kanazawa’s prime attraction and one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Koraku-en (Okayama) and Kairaku-en (Mito). Kenroku-en was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and there has been a garden on the site since the late 1600s. The original garden, begun by the fifth Maeda lord, Tsunonori Maeda, was called Renchi tei but it was almost entirely burnt out in 1759. It was restored in the 1770s and in 1822 became known as Kenroku-en, a name that means ‘the garden of six sublimities’ or, ‘a garden combining the six aspects of a perfect garden’. These six features were what the Chinese traditionally believed were necessary for the ideal garden – spaciousness and seclusion, artifice and antiquity, water-courses and panoramas: all these characteristics are to be found in the 25 acres of this beautiful garden.

We then transfer to the train station to take the train south to Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the late 8th century (c.794 AD) until 1868, when the court was moved to Tokyo. It is home to 17 World Heritage Sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, yet much of the city centre is modern. One of the finest of its contemporary buildings is its dramatic railway station.

We begin our exploration of Kyoto with a glimpse of a vanishing world – the district of Gion, home to geisha houses and traditional teahouses. Although the number of geishas has declined over the last century the area is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. To experience the traditional Gion, we stroll along Hanami-koji, a street lined by beautiful old buildings, including teahouses, where you may be able to glimpse a geisha apprentice. Contrary to popular belief Gion is not a red-light district, nor are geishas prostitutes. Geishas are young girls or women extensively trained as entertainers and skilled in a number of traditional Japanese arts such as classical music and dance as well as the performance of the exacting rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 9: Thursday 22 November, Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Daitoku-ji Buddhist Complex incl. the Ryogen-in (Dragon Peace Temple)
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens, including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. Our first visit in Kyoto is to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). During the 15th century the Chinese Sung Dynasty exercised an enormous influence in Japan as artists, poets and Zen priests were gathered together by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun (1358-1409). Yoshimitsu began construction of the Golden Pavilion just before he retired in 1394, handing power to his nine-year-old son so that he could move to his estate. Little of his work remains but we can sense the character of the garden in its pond, rockwork and extensive plantings.

The pavilion at Kinkaku-ji recalls Sung period architecture but it is a recreation, having been burned down in the 1950s. The present building is an exact replica except that where Yoshimitsu proposed only to gild the ceiling of the third storey with gold; now the whole building is gilded. Yoshimitsu positioned his palace on the edge of a lake. The ground floor was a reception room for guests and departure point for leisure boating, the first storey was for philosophical discussions and panoramic views of the lake while the upper floor acted as a refuge for Yoshimitsu and was used for tea ceremonies. The size of the gardens is increased visually by the water’s convoluted edge, the use of rocks and clipped trees and by visually ‘borrowing’ a distant view of Mt Kinugasa that creates a sense of gradation between foreground, middleground and deep distance.

After lunch we continue to Daitoku-ji, a large complex of Zen temples with prayer halls, religious structures and 23 sub-temples with some of the most exquisite gardens in Kyoto, some quite small, including raked gravel gardens and, in the Daisen-in, one of the most celebrated small rock gardens in Japan. The Japanese consider Daitoku-ji one of the most privileged places to study and it is associated with many of Japan’s most famous priests. Unlike many of the larger public Buddhist temples of earlier sects, the Rinzai sect monasteries were intimate, inward looking and remained isolated from the outside world.

The temple received imperial patronage and thus grew out from its centre in an organic way. A transition occurred as the complex expanded from a formal centre to semiformal and informal precincts. The central north-south walkway is most formal with wide paths to accommodate processions and ceremonies, while to the side are sub-temples with gates. As you walk through one of these gates you immediately come upon a less formal world with narrow paths, turns and walkways.

The temple site contains a number of notable gardens including Daisen-in, Koto-in, Koho-an, Hogo and the most famed of Kyoto’s gardens, Ryogen-in – the Dragon Peace Temple. No other garden in the world is so simple, elegant and refined. The garden comprises 15 rocks in a sea of raked gravel surrounded by a compacted mud wall coated in oil that is in itself a national treasure. The garden dates from 1500 as part of a temple of the Renzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple burned but was reconstructed in its original form. The garden constitutes the supreme example of a dry garden where gravel and rock symbolise plant and water elements. Indeed, apart from the moss on the rocks, no other plants grow in it. The meaning of the garden remains unknown. It might symbolise islands in a sea, mountains seen through clouds or tigers and cubs crossing a river, but this doesn’t matter since this is a garden to encourage contemplation, the enclosing wall separating the visitor from the world outside, and the verandah creating a horizontal boundary. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 10: Friday 23 November, Kyoto

Renge-ji
Shisen-do
Teppan-yaki lunch at the Beaux Sejours, Grand Prince Hotel
Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)
Today we will visit a number of Kyoto’s great gardens. Our first visit for the day is to Renge-ji. The temple is known for its garden, which reflects the beauty of seasonal change. Autumn when the maple leaves change colour, is the best season to visit. Capturing the essence of Japanese gardens, it includes a central pond surrounded by plantings linking to the hillside beyond. Stones, bridge and plantings are all reflected on the water-surface, giving a sense of spaciousness.

The intimate gardens of Shisen-do are considered masterworks of Japanese gardens. Its street walls mask the tranquillity and beauty to be found within. Raked sand, clipped azaleas and the tree covered hillsides of Higashiyama form the main components of this garden designed by Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672). Clipped azaleas give way to natural vegetation beyond the garden boundary but it is the close harmony between the indoor spaces of the pavilion and the garden beyond that is most striking. The verandah offers a transition between its dark interior and the light-filled garden.

Following lunch at the teppan-yaki grill at the Grand Prince Hotel’s Beaux Sejours restaurant, we visit Ginkaku-ji. Originally constructed as the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-1490), the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) became a Zen temple upon his death. The garden is complex, comprising two distinct sections, a pond area with a composition of rocks and plants, and a sand garden with a truncated cone – the Moon-Viewing Height – suggesting Mt Fuji; and a horizontal mound – the Sea of Silver Sand – named for its appearance by moonlight. An educational display at the garden contains good moss and weed moss to allow you to tell the difference. (Overnight Kyoto) BL

 

Nara – 1 night

 

Day 11: Saturday 24 November, Kyoto – Nara

Nara Park (Nara-koen) including the temples of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji
Isui-en Garden
Traditional Japanese bath (optional)
We leave Kyoto by coach for the ancient Japanese city of Nara, the national capital prior to Kyoto. During this period Buddhism became firmly established in Japan under the patronage of nobles who sponsored the buildings and works of art that we shall visit.

Our first destination is to the impressive Todai-ji, founded in 745 by Emperor Shomu. Although rebuilt following a fire in 1709 to two-thirds of its original size it nevertheless remains the largest timber building in the world. Two seven-metre tall guardian gods flank the entrance, (known as the nandai-mon), to the great Buddha Hall, the Daibutsu-den, which houses the 15-metre-tall bronze statue of the great Buddha. The original casting was completed in 752, when an Indian priest stood on a special platform and symbolically opened its eyes by painting on the Buddha’s eyes with a huge brush. This ceremony was performed before the then retired Emperor Shomu, his wife Komio and the reigning Empress Kogen, together with ambassadors from China, India and Persia.

We then visit the wonderful Nara-koen complex. It contains a five-storey pagoda, part of the Kofuku-ji founded in 669, a fine collection of Buddhist statues in the kokuhokan (National Treasure Building) and a 15th-century hall to the north of the pagoda. The kokahokan is a treasure trove of early Buddhist statues and although it is not large, each piece has been carefully chosen as a masterpiece of its style and period.

Our final visit for the day is to the small Isui-en, a traditional Japanese garden notable for its extensive use of moss and its exquisite tea pavilion. This garden is a kaiyushiki teien (strolling) style design that allows the visitor to easily walk through the garden and view it from many different angles.

From here you might like to stroll through some of Nara’s historic streets or try a traditional Japanese bath (sento: public bath; onsen: hot spring bath). The traditional Japanese-style inn we are staying in tonight provides open-air communal baths using hot spring water and affords a wonderful view of Kofuku-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda, which is illuminated at night. Tonight we dine in a traditional style at the Ryokan Asukasou, which serves Japanese kaiseki dishes. (Overnight Nara) BD

Note: We will leave our main luggage at the hotel in Kyoto during our 1 night stay in Nara. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Nara

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 25 November, Nara – Kyoto

Treasures of the Nara National Museum
Shin-Yakushi-ji
Horyu-ji
Our first visit today is to the Nara National Museum, noted for its collection of Buddhist art, including images, sculpture and ceremonial articles.

Shin-Yakushi-ji is a Buddhist temple built in the 19th year of the Tempyo era (747) by Empress Komio as an offering of thanksgiving when Emperor Shomu recovered from an eye disease. It now constitutes a single hall enshrining a powerful image of Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha, surrounded by clay sculptures of 12 guardians called Juni Shinsho, the Yakushi Nyorai’s protective warriors. In Japanese sculpture and art, the warriors are almost always grouped in a protective circle around the Yakushi Nyorai; they are rarely depicted as single figures. Many say they represent the 12 vows of Yakushi; others believe the 12 were present when the historical Buddha introduced the ‘Healing Sutra’; others claim that they offer protection during the 12 daylight hours, or that they represent the 12 months and 12 cosmic directions, or the 12 animals of the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

The grounds of Horyu-ji house the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, dating from the Asuka Period (mid-6th-beginning of 8th century AD). Throughout the 187,000-square-metre grounds are irreplaceable cultural treasures, bequeathed across the centuries and continuing to preserve the essence of eras spanning the entire journey through Japanese history since the 7th century. Horyu-ji contains over 2300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, including nearly 190 that have been designated as National Treasures or important Cultural Properties. In 1993 Horyu-ji was selected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage as a unique storehouse of world Buddhist culture. Following this visit we transfer by coach to Kyoto. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 13: Monday 26 November, Kyoto

Tenryu-ji
Saiho-ji (or ‘Koke-dera’ – moss temple)
Nanzen-ji
Nishiki-koji Covered Market
We first visit the Tenryu-ji, which dates from the period of shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1339). He commissioned the priest Muso Kokushi – one of Japan’s best known garden designers, who also designed the moss garden at Saiho-ji – to create this garden. Kokushi’s work modified an estate of Emperor Gosaga from 1270. He changed its form to include an Heian-style pond garden with popular, contemporary Chinese aspects. These included most notably a group of seven vertical rocks near the rear shore of its pond. These contrast markedly with Japanese rock work that takes a more horizontal form. This is one of the earliest gardens to show shakkei, the incorporation of borrowed landscape into a garden’s design.

Saiho-ji has the oldest major garden of the Muromachi Period. Originally designed to represent the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) of Amida Buddhism, this so-called ‘strolling garden’ is set in a dark forest and is designed for meditation. It was re-designed by a Zen Buddhist priest, Muso Soseki, who also designed the garden of Tenryu-ji in Kyoto, when it passed to the Zen Buddhist sect. The chief feature of the garden is the ‘golden pond’ with pavilions scattered on its shore and connected by a path that allows controlled views of the garden. The pond is shaped like the Japanese character for ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. It is divided by islands connected by bridges. The mosses, which give the garden its alternative name (Koke-dera – ‘moss temple’) were established as an economy measure after the Meiji restoration (1868).

Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. It was founded in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama, and was rebuilt several times after devastating fires. At the entrance to the complex one passes through the huge Imperial gate, built in 1628 by Todo Takatora, and into the complex with its series of sub-temples. We will see the hojo, or abbot’s quarters, which is notable for both it’s beautiful golden screen paintings and the tranquil sand and rock garden. We will also explore the sub-temple Konchi-in which was added to the complex in 1605.

In the late afternoon we shall walk through the traditional 17th-century Nishiki-koji covered market, which has for centuries been the focus of food shopping in the city. You may wish to try Japanese pickled vegetables or purchase teapots and teabowls from a traditional vendor. By contrast we will visit a Japanese electrical store where you will see Japanese consumerism at its height. Spread over five storeys, this extraordinary store offers every imaginable electrical item. We will end the day in the fashionable gallery and restaurant area. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 14: Tuesday 27 November, Kyoto

Heian Shrine
Tofuku-ji
Tea Ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple
We begin the day with a visit to one of the newest religious sites in Kyoto, the Heian Shrine, which boasts the largest torii (sacred gate) in Japan and lovely gardens. The shrine was built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s 1100th anniversary and to honour its founder, Emperor Kammu and also to celebrate the culture and architecture of the city’s Heian-past. It is constructed on the site of the original Heian Hall of State but is a smaller and somewhat imperfect recreation of this earlier building. Four gardens surround the main shrine buildings on the south, west, middle and east, covering an area of approximately 33,000 square metres. The gardens are designated as a national scenic spot representative of Meiji-era (1868-1912) garden design.

We then visit the superb Tofuku-ji Hojo, a garden designed in 1939 by Shigemori Mirei. This will be familiar to many who have read books on Japanese gardens for it combines 20th-century design with elements from Japanese tradition. Mirei implements subtle, restrained design themes such as chequer-boards of stone in moss to allow the natural form and colour of maples on the surrounding hills to make full impact.

We end our visit to Kyoto with a visit to the Kodai-ji Temple to experience a tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Matsue – 1 night

 

Day 15: Wednesday 28 November, Kyoto – Okayama – Matsue

Kouraku-en
Farewell Dinner
Today we depart Kyoto and travel to Okayama where we visit another of the country’s so-called ‘Three Great Gardens of Japan’, Kouraku-en. This garden dates from the Edo period when the daimyo (feudal lord) Ikeda Tsunamasa ordered its construction in 1687. Completed in 1700, it has retained its overall appearance with only a few minor changes made over the centuries. The garden was used for entertaining guests and also as a retreat for the daimyo.

In the afternoon we travel to Matsue, where we shall enjoy a farewell dinner. (Overnight Matsue) BD

 

Day 16: Thursday 29 November, Depart Matsue

Adachi Museum of Art
Our last visit for the tour is the Adachi Museum of Art, located in the rural landscape of the Sinmane region. This is a contemporary art museum set within a large garden, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. The museum was founded by Adachi Zenko who felt a strong resonance between the sublime sensibility of the Japanese-style garden and the paintings of Yokoyama Taikan whose work he collected. This is a contemplation garden which visitors observe from various carefully designed points within the museum. Each season reveals itself through different aspects of the garden, and during our visit we can expect the hills that form the backdrop to the vista before us to be a blaze of autumnal colour while vivid reds enliven the foliage of the garden.

After lunchtime at leisure we transfer to Matsue Airport for our flights home. B

Great Houses and Gardens of East Anglia 2018

Great Houses and Gardens of East Anglia in 2018 with Richard and Margaret Heathcote

 

**FILLING FAST – BOOK NOW**

 

Tour Highlights

Stay in 4-star hotels including the Hilton Cambridge City Centre; Best Western Plus Knights Hill Hotel & Spa, atop one of the highest points in West Norfolk, near King’s Lynn; Norwich’s lovely Maids Head Hotel, dating back to the 13th century; and The Angel Hotel in the heart of Bury St Edmunds.

Journey through haunting landscapes that inspired Dickens (David Copperfield), an
d natives like Rupert Brooke, L.P. Hartley, Arthur Ransom, Constable, Cotman and Gainsborough.
Go boating on the Broads and explore fenland history at Wicken Fen.

Visit Humphry Repton’s superb landscape garden at Sheringham Park, Beth Chatto’s inspiring garden, Capability Brown’s Audley End, and Helmingham Hall Gardens.

Visit the stately homes of Oxburgh, Felbrigg, Blickling, Holkham, Houghton, Somerleyton, Melford, the Royal Estate at Sandringham, and Anglesey Abbey.

Make special private visits to The Manor at Hemingford Grey, made famous as ‘Green Knowe’ by Lucy Boston; Lord and Lady Walpole’s Mannington Hall with gardens containing thousands of roses; and the 16th-century moated hall at Otley.

Visit castles at Norwich, Framlingham and Castle Rising, the great Norman cathedrals of Norwich, Ely and St. Edmundbury, and priories at Castle Acre and Walsingham.

Discover medieval Lavenham, the market town of Saffron Walden, and the Hanseatic port of King’s Lynn.

Explore Cambridge’s colleges, libraries and collections, including the Pepys Library at Magdalene College.

Take part in a literary afternoon tea at Grantchester, with punting on the Granta and attend a performance at the Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds.

 

21-day Cultural Garden Tour of East Anglia

Overnight Cambridge (4 nights) • King’s Lynn (5 nights) • Norwich (5 nights) • Bury St Edmunds (6 nights)

 

Cambridge – 4 nights

 

Day 1: Tuesday 5 June, London Heathrow – Cambridge

Arrive Heathrow Airport and transfer to Cambridge
Short Orientation Walking tour of Cambridge
Pepys Library, Magdalene College
Welcome Dinner
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Heathrow Airport in the early morning. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach north to the university city of Cambridge. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the Heathrow Airport Arrivals Hall – please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time.

Even before the famous university was founded, the River Cam, a strategic watercourse for communication, trade and conquest, shaped the city’s history. The Romans built a camp called Durolpons on a hill here to control both the river and the Via Devons that connected Colchester with Lincoln and other northern garrisons.

When the Romans departed in 425 AD the town, like all other Roman cities in Britain, went into decline. Bede, in the late 7th century, records that monks from Ely went to the ruined settlement and found a marble coffin that they used for the burial of St. Etheldreda, foundress of their monastery. The settlement enjoyed a trickle of commerce in the Saxon period, in which the bridge over the Cam was first recorded by name, Grantebrycge.

The Vikings revived Cambridge’s economic fortunes in the 9th century and the centre of town shifted from Castle Hill on the left river bank to what is now known as Quayside on the right bank. The Saxons reclaimed the city for a short time in the 11th century and built St. Benet’s church in 1025. Two years after the Battle of Hastings, in 1068, William the Conqueror built a stronghold on Castle Hill. During the Norman period, the river was called the Granta and the town became Grentabrige or Cantebrigge (Grantbridge). The city’s famous Round Church is from this period.

The city was known as Cambridge before the Granta’s name changed to the Cam. Cambridge University was founded in 1209, and its oldest surviving college, Peterhouse, in 1259. King’s College Chapel was commenced in 1446 by Henry VI and finished in 1555 under Henry VIII. The well-respected Cambridge University Press was founded in 1534. The river made medieval Cambridge a centre of trade because trade routes between London, the Midlands and Europe met at the bridge over the Cam. Interestingly, in the United Kingdom a ‘city’ must have a cathedral. Although a prosperous commercial centre and despite its renowned university, Cambridge was only officially named a city in 1954, because it has no cathedral.

After settling into our hotel, the Hilton Cambridge City Centre, we will take in the atmosphere of this wonderful centre of learning with a gentle riverside stroll along the backs of the colleges to view the famous, as well as the lesser known, colleges and their gardens. We visit the Pepys Library at Magdalene, gifted by the great diarist Samuel Pepys. His eyewitness account of life in the London of Charles II includes a famous account of the Great Fire of 1666. Pepys believed the Library of an educated man need hold no more than 3000 books and once he had arrived at that number any addition meant a book had to be discarded! One book to survive his occasional culls is a manuscript translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses used by William Caxton. Our tour includes an introduction to Samuel Pepys as a collector, information on the library building and furniture, and a chance to see and hear about a range of items from the collection.

In the evening we shall have a welcome meal at a local restaurant. (Overnight Cambridge) D

 

Day 2: Wednesday 6 June, Cambridge

Walking tour of the University of Cambridge, including King’s College, St. John’s College, Trinity College & the Wren Library
The Fitzwilliam Museum
Cambridge and its university are inseparable and our walking tour will reveal how the ‘town and gown’ have co-existed since the 13th century. College quadrangles, chapels and halls dominate the city centre around the market square, constituting a treasure trove of architectural styles. This morning a local guide will give us a tour of the various colleges of this lovely university town. We shall conclude our tour at the library at Trinity College which was started by Sir Christopher Wren. In this superb building is a statue of Byron (who broke every rule in the college books when he was a student there) and manuscripts by Milton, Tennyson and Thackeray.

In the heart of Cambridge we will visit the Fitzwilliam Museum to explore the collections of art and antiquities of Greece, Rome, Egypt, Near and Far East, all bequeathed by Viscount Fitzwilliam. The museum was established in 1816. Of special interest is the Fitzwilliam’s extensive collection of applied arts of all periods, most notably, ceramics and armour. (Overnight Cambridge) B

 

Day 3: Thursday 7 June, Cambridge – Grantchester – Cambridge

Kettle’s Yard (subject to reopening in 2018)
Grantchester through the eyes of Rupert Brook
Orchard Tea Garden
Punt from Grantchester back to Cambridge
Today we visit Kettle’s Yard, a most unusual collection created by Jim Ede, once a curator at the Tate Gallery. This is more than just an art collection. The building and the way in which the artworks and other objects are displayed are unique. In many ways Kettle’s Yard retains the characteristics of a real home where you we can sit in the chairs and read the books. Key 20th-century artists represented here include Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood, Alfred Wallis and David Jones, with sculptures by Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore, Brancusi, Joan Miró and Gaudier-Brzeska. Ede, who lived here with his wife Helen for sixteen years, set out to engage students with: “a living place where works of art could be enjoyed …where people could be unhampered by the great austerity of the museum or public art gallery”.

Next, we board our coach and drive to Grantchester for lunch. After lunchtime at leisure we will take a literary walk focused on Rupert Brooke, a quintessentially English poet, who died from an infected lip on the Gallipoli campaign during WWI and is buried on the island of Scyros in the Mediterranean. Brooke’s famous poem, The Old Vicarage, Grantchester, speaks of the town and asks:

“Stands the clock at ten to three
And is there honey still for tea?“

We will indeed take tea in the Orchard Tea Garden and explore the significance of the poet’s lines and the world of which he speaks. To complete our classic Cambridge summer’s day we will board punts to be conveyed back to Cambridge in true undergraduate style under the care of Scudamore’s Punting Company. (Overnight Cambridge) B

 

Day 4: Friday 8 June, Cambridge – Wicken Fen – Ely – Anglesey Abbey – Cambridge

Guided walking tour of Wicken Fen
Ely Cathedral
Anglesey Abbey, Gardens & Grounds
This morning we begin to explore the country of Hereward the Wake, the Saxon champion who successfully resisted the Norman armies in the marshland terrain around Ely. The Fens isolated this region until they were drained and tamed by Dutch engineers in the 17th century. Wicken Fen is the last remnant of the Fens of East Anglia, which at their greatest extent covered 2500 square miles. This reserve comprising six hundred acres is an artificially preserved wetland, managed by the National Trust since 1899. Our guided tour of Wicken Fen will reveal much of the natural and cultural history of this rich area and the technologies that have sustained it. It is particularly beautiful in June because of the large number of wildflowers that bloom at this time.

We next visit the Isle of Ely where St. Etheldreda, Queen of Northumbria, founded an abbey in 673 AD. Abbot Simon, who owed his appointment to William the Conqueror, begun construction of the great Cathedral Church of the Holy Trinity here in 1081. Ely Cathedral rose like a giant ship in the middle of the dense marshes of the Fenlands and attracted many pilgrims who came to visit Etheldreda’s tomb. Our tour of the cathedral will take in the west front with its impressive Galilee porch, the great nave and the octagonal crossing with its distinctive lantern, the work of Alan of Walsingham and William Hurley dating from 1340. We shall also visit the Lady Chapel and enjoy the architectural delights of Cathedral Close and the surrounding town, where Oliver Cromwell was born.

We complete the day by travelling to Anglesey Abbey. The chief glory of this 12th-century converted priory is its gardens and grounds, which we shall be shown by the head gardener of this important National Trust property. It is grand in scale but its spacious lawns, pools, flowers, shrubs and statuary are all brought together in a scheme that unites formality with charm. We will also explore the interior of the house in which Lord Fairhaven, son of an American Railway magnate, used great ingenuity in displaying his collections. His eclectic taste in art ranged from paintings by Antonio Canova and Claude Lorraine to those of John Constable. (Overnight Cambridge) B

 

King’s Lynn – 5 nights

 

Day 5: Saturday 9 June, Cambridge – Hemingford Grey – Wisbech – King’s Lynn

The Manor, Hemingford Grey
Peckover House, Wisbech
On this, our last day in Cambridgeshire, we visit an astonishing house, not so much for its acknowledged beauty but for its great age, extraordinary atmosphere, and important literary associations. The Manor at Hemingford Grey is one of the oldest continuously lived-in houses in England, or even Europe, for it is built around a 12th-century Norman hall. It has several original windows, a doorway and an extremely rare surviving Norman fireplace. It is also, however, a shrine to Lucy Boston, who grew up in it, and wrote about it in Green Knowe and Memory in a House. Her son Peter, who illustrated her books, depicted many of the objects in the house and the garden. The attic, for example, contains toys used by the fictional children, so you will have the feeling of walking into the literary world Lucy Boston created.

The house has a moat and beyond is a four-acre garden that borders the Great Ouse river and is famous for its collection of over two hundred old roses. It also features fascinating topiary, and an important collection of irises, many of which have won the prestigious Dykes medal. One of the special characteristics of the garden is the element of surprise it creates by use of hidden corners that one comes upon unexpectedly.

After lunch we drive a short distance through this rich fruit and flower growing area to Wisbech, a thriving river port that was once a centre of the English wool trade. Strong Dutch trade connections are reflected in the styles of gables displayed by the houses along the North Brink, the fashionable bank of the River Nene. Here, among the dignified mansions, we visit one of the town’s finest Georgian town houses. It belonged to the Peckovers, a wealthy merchant family, having been purchased by John Peckover in 1794. Its interior presents a familiar Georgian ordered restraint with one delicious surprise – Rococo plasterwork that delights with its ornament and vivid decoration. Steps lead down to an extensive garden that we will take time to explore. From the garden you can look back at the house’s three storeys of brick symmetry. After visiting this lovely house we drive on to King’s Lynn and settle into our hotel, where dinner is ordered. (Overnight King’s Lynn) BD

 

Day 6: Sunday 10 June, King’s Lynn – Castle Rising – Sandringham Estate – Houghton Hall – King’s Lynn

Castle Rising
Sandringham Estate
Houghton Hall and Walled Gardens
Castle Rising is now a small, interesting inland village but was once a seaport. When the sea receded Kings Lynn supplanted it as the main port in the region. It is, however, the location of one of the grandest surviving Norman castles anywhere and we shall visit this as part of a day dedicated thematically to the dwellings of royalty and aristocrats. Although much is lost, its original scale can be gauged from the huge earth works. The keep (c.1140), one of the largest and most ornate in England, remains to tell the story of its builder William d’Albini who married Henry I’s widow and became the Earl of Sussex. To the east of the keep, a small square gatehouse is set in the bank near a fragment of the castle’s 14th-century brick curtain wall. A rectangular enclosure, strongly banked and ditched, guards the gatehouse and to the west there is a smaller flanking enclosure. Also in the inner enclosure are the foundations of an 11th-century Norman chapel that is thought to be older than the castle itself. The remains of this chapel were uncovered in the 19th century. The castle passed to the Howard family in 1544 and it remains in their hands today, the current owner being a descendant of William d’Albini II.

From the battlements of Castle Rising we will be able to look out across the lands of the Royal estates of Sandringham, to a living monarch’s favourite home. Queen Victoria purchased Sandringham for Edward VII in 1861. The prince, who had just married Alexandra, wanted a secluded place for his projected family, where they could enjoy country pursuits. Sandringham has been a favourite of four generations of the Royal family who continue to use it as a retreat whilst farming its land. The gardens and parklands of Sandringham are extensive. The house itself is large but not at all grand or pretentious. We shall visit the gardens and the house, exploring the rooms used by the Windsor family and their guests, especially at Christmas.

We depart from Sandringham, driving along the narrow country roads of the estate lined with huge drifts of rhododendrons that flourish here, to another of Norfolk’s palaces. Houghton Hall was designed by Colen Campbell and completed in 1735 for Sir Robert Walpole, England’s first Prime Minister. It is one of the country’s great houses and everything about it is of the best quality. Only Holkham, which we visit later in the tour, rivals its Palladian grandeur. The interiors were entrusted to William Kent and their decorative style is matched by the house’s collection of art that adorns the staterooms. There are still wonderful pictures here, although all too many of them were sold to Catherine the Great of Russia to pay the debts of Walpole’s eccentric grandson. Room after room is filled with furniture that Kent designed for the house; the Green Velvet Bedchamber possesses the most sumptuous state bed in the country. We will also walk through the park and explore the walled garden. (Overnight King’s Lynn) B

 

Day 7: Monday 11 June, King’s Lynn – Oxburgh Hall – King’s Lynn

Guided walking tour of King’s Lynn: including the St. George’s Guildhall, Docklands area & Custom House
Oxburgh Hall, Garden & Estate
We begin today by meeting a local historian and ex-mayor of King’s Lynn, Dr Paul Richards, who will give us a rather different perspective on life in King’s Lynn, which has a character all its own. This ancient town was one of the most important seaports during the Middle Ages. The maze of streets and lanes, many of which retain their original character, wraps around the quay. It includes Hanseatic warehouses, which reflect stylistically the influence of the Dutch and Lowland States that traded here. The Hanseatic League developed as an important free association of trading cities around the Baltic and North Sea coasts. It was dedicated to protecting members’ shipping from pirates and guarding members’ privileges and interests. Although not a political entity in its own right, the League often defended its interests successfully against monarchs. Some other Hanseatic cities were Lübeck, Hamburg, Bruges, Bergen and Novgorod. We will begin the day by visiting St. George’s Guildhall, which was built in the 15th century. It was converted to a theatre where Shakespeare is said to have performed. Our guided walking tour will take us through the streets of King’s Lynn to reveal its buildings, people and their stories.

Our afternoon visit is to a most remarkable house and garden. Edmund Bedingfield built Oxburgh Hall in 1482, when the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of the Roses were over and England was entering a period of relative tranquillity, so that it was no longer necessary for residences to be fortified. Although this house did not function in the same way as a castle, its owners had to negotiate the tortuous politics of the Tudor court, and it therefore incorporates symbolic elements of marshall architecture. Oxburgh looks quite tremendous as we approach its twin-towered Gatehouse and seven storeys of brick walls rising to battlements. A moat surrounds this most dramatic manor house. The associated walled garden, on the other hand, is delightful, with a parterre, long herbaceous borders, and a 19th-century kitchen garden. (Overnight King’s Lynn) B

 

Day 8: Tuesday 12 June, King’s Lynn – Castle Acre – Felbrigg Hall – King’s Lynn

Castle Acre Priory & Herb Garden
Felbrigg Hall, Garden & Park
Aptly named, Castle Acre village lies within the outer bailey of an 11th-century castle built by William de Warenne, son-in-law of William the Conqueror, of which only earthworks remain. More impressive is the ruin of the Cluniac priory (founded 1090) that we have come to visit. The Cluniac love of decoration is everywhere reflected in the extensive ruins of Castle Acre Priory, whose great 12th-century church directly imitated that of the vast Burgundian mother-house, Cluny. Its beautiful west end, standing almost to its full height, is articulated and enlivened by tiered ranks of intersecting round arches. This forms an attractive group with the late medieval porch, part timber-frame and part flint-chequer, and the extremely well preserved prior’s lodging. A mansion in itself, this includes a first-floor chapel that retains traces of wall paintings, and a private chamber with two fine oriel windows. The original size of the abbey can be gauged from its remaining walls. Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, which brought about its destruction; the Roman Church was a major landowner, holding a third of the country’s land, roughly the same acreage as the king and his aristocracy, and until Henry’s reign it answered only to the popes. We will walk in the beautifully recreated medieval herb garden, which displays medicinal, culinary and decorative plants used by the religious communities living in these great monasteries, centres of learning and healing, that were scattered throughout East Anglia. Lunchtime at leisure will be in the village.

Felbrigg Hall is set on a ridge in lush parkland planted with oak, beech and chestnut. It has a wonderful walled garden, an orangery dating from 1704, and an orchard with rare old varieties such as Norfolk Beefing and Wyken Pippin. This 17th-century house belonged to Squire Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, and both he and the house are of substantial character. Although it dates back to the 1400s, it is a place in which to experience 17th-century life and culture. Fine architecture and a consummate choice of materials were brought together in a building program that lasted a hundred years and beyond. The Windham family, who owned Felbrigg for generations, bequeathed a set of pictures acquired by William Windham on his ‘Grand Tour’, and there is much else in the interior to interest us, such as the library and wood carving by Grinling Gibbons and Nollekens. (Overnight King’s Lynn) B

 

Day 9: Wednesday 13 June, King’s Lynn – Sheringham Park – Holkham Hall – King’s Lynn

Sheringham Park
Holkham Hall & Estate
Today we set off for the north coast of Norfolk to encounter two supreme moments in architectural, landscape and naval history. The first of our coastal experiences for the day comes at Sheringham Park – a masterwork of Norfolk landscaper Humphry Repton. As you walk along the snaking drive you suddenly come upon a prospect to the coast and house. This panorama is breathtaking and together with its plantings of trees and rhododendrons amounts to a quite remarkable landscape.

We drive through north Norfolk byways, threading along picturesque roads to Holkham Hall, the Palladian masterpiece that was essentially designed by Thomas Coke, with advice from William Kent, whom he had met, along with Lord Burlington, in Rome during a six-year ‘Grand Tour.’ The estate, which is a huge working farm, is still owned by his descendents, who combine agriculture with an innovative approach to conservation. Houghton Hall and Holkham have always rivalled each other, as have other pairs of English stately homes. These two Palladian houses embody the great building boom of the 18th century. Thomas Coke, first Earl of Leicester (1697-1759), was consumed by the construction of Holkham. The restoration of the family’s fortunes and completion of the house, however, fell to the second Earl. Both men had numerous talents. They were innovative farmers, reformers and progressive thinkers (they were Whigs, whereas the Walpoles of Houghton were Tories). ‘Earls of Creation’ was scholar and writer James Lees Milne’s particularly apposite title for such men. We enter a landscape in which most aspects of the vast deer park (with a herd of Fallow Deer) are dominated by the great house, and everywhere vistas lead your eye to some delight: a temple, an arch, an obelisk or a serpentine lake. In 1762 Capability Brown was commissioned to make adjustments to the grounds, but these were minor. The park wall and shelterbelt were 19th-century additions, as were the formal Victorian parterres beside the house, designed by W.A. Nesfield in 1854. The breathtaking but tasteful boldness of the park is matched by the drama of the house’s interior. The family collection of old masters epitomises the taste of an 18th-century nobleman. A visit will be a rich visual feast with few equals elsewhere within England. (Overnight King’s Lynn) BL

 

Norwich – 5 nights

 

Day 10: Thursday 14 June, King’s Lynn – Cley-next-the-Sea – Wells-next-the-Sea – Walsingham – Norwich

Wells & Walsingham Light Railway
Guided tour of Walsingham Abbey & Village
Dinner at Roger Hickman’s Restaurant
This morning we take a short coach tour of the picturesque coastline of Cley-next-the-Sea. We then drive to the tiny fishing port of Wells-next-the-Sea whose charming quay is a mile from coast at high tide. Next we embark on a pilgrimage to Walsingham Abbey, the great medieval Shrine of Our Lady. Our journey will be by a reconstructed train of the Wells and Walsingham Light Railway. A reconstruction of a historic narrow-gauge tank engine will pull our 19th-century carriages gently through the chalk and flinty downs to the market town of Little Walsingham, first settled in 1061. Our tour will take in the history of this place of pilgrimage, including the Abbey grounds, priory, Georgian courthouse and prison from which some inmates were sent to Australia!

We then continue to Norwich. After checking in to our hotel we shall go Roger Hickman’s Restaurant for dinner. (Overnight Norwich) BD

 

Day 11: Friday 15 June, Norwich – Mannington – Blickling Hall – Norwich

Mannington Hall & Gardens
Blickling Hall & Gardens
This is a day devoted to visiting grand country houses with gardens to match. We commence with the garden surrounding the 15th-century Mannington Hall, a three-storey moated manor house constructed in local flint stone, owned by the Walpole family since 1740. June is Mannington’s ‘Month of Roses’ and roses feature throughout, especially in the Heritage Rose Garden, whose important collection of historic species reflects changing tastes in gardens and roses. There are lakes, follies and woodland walks to explore and morning tea in the ‘Rose Teahouse’.

Travelling on through the quiet roads of central Norfolk, we come to Blickling Hall, which is flanked by massive trimmed yew hedges. The house is a Jacobean masterpiece in red brick. Here we shall take a tour of the grounds that include glorious formal gardens with parterres, a fountain and extraordinary topiary. Beyond is a park with a lake and a summerhouse that takes the form of a Tuscan temple. The park offers fine vistas through its magnificent stands of trees. The current house, which we shall explore at the end of the afternoon, was built in 1620 by Sir Henry Hobart; the Hobarts later became Earls of Buckingham. Blickling, however, has a longer history. A precursor of the present house was owned by Geoffrey Boleyn, grandfather of Anne Boleyn, who was beheaded by order of her husband Henry VIII; local legend has it that on the anniversary of her execution her ghost rides up to the hall in a carriage drawn by headless horses guided by a headless coachman! (Overnight Norwich) B

 

Day 12: Saturday 16 June, Norwich

 

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery
Norwich Cathedral
“The finest provincial city in England,” declared John Julius Norwich, leading British architectural historian and writer. The unique city of Norwich lies on two rivers, and has kept its labyrinthine medieval plan, encompassing thirty-two medieval churches and a dazzling colourful market. Norwich gave its name to a famous school of painters, and the city has six museums, including the only ‘museum of mustard’ in the country! Norwich is, moreover, one of the best-preserved cities in Britain. Fortified by the Saxons in the 9th century, it became a prosperous market town when Flemish settlers came here in the 12th century, and was the second most important city of England until the Industrial Revolution in the 1800s.

We begin our day at the Norwich Museum and Gallery, which is housed in a dramatic location, the keep of a Norman castle (1160) occupying a high mound in the very heart of the city. In the Gallery we will be introduced to work of the Norwich School of watercolour artists, including John Sell Cotman, the Chromes, John Thirtle and George Vincent, who portrayed life in Norwich itself and in the surrounding countryside in the first half of the 19th century.

After lunchtime at leisure we shall have a guided tour of Norwich Cathedral, one of the most beautiful cathedrals of England, which was begun in the 11th century. This masterpiece in the Romanesque and late Gothic style has a dramatic stone spire, the second tallest in England after Salisbury. It also has many treasures such as the largest number of fine roof bosses anywhere in Christendom. At the end of the afternoon you will be given time to explore the quaint shops in the medieval streets of Elm Hill and Tombland, the old Saxon marketplace. (Overnight Norwich) B

 

Day 13: Sunday 17 June, Norwich – Lowestoft – Norwich

Somerleyton Hall & Gardens, Lowestoft
Today we are off to the Suffolk coast for a visit to a working country estate near Lowestoft that has an Australian garden connection. Somerleyton Hall was originally a Jacobean manor but was remodelled in 1844 when it was transformed into a fine early Victorian hall in the Anglo-Italian style. The Crossley family who made these changes still resides here, operate its farm, and presents the history of the site with flourish, as you will see! W.A. Nesfield, the formal revivalist landscaper, remodelled the garden in the Victorian period. He laid out the great parterre and the balustraded terraces in the 1840s. The vast yew hedge maze also dates from this time, as do the walled garden and the fully functioning Victorian vegetable garden. George Brunning and his brother Charles, who migrated to Melbourne in 1853 where they set up and operated Brunnings Nurseries, both trained and worked as gardeners at Somerleyton Hall. Those who have a copy of the Australian Gardener published by Brunnings will know the impact this family has had on the Australian nursery trade and practical gardening. At Somerleyton we shall see where they learnt their trade. On arrival we will tour the house, then take lunch at the tearooms, after which one of the horticultural staff will take us on a garden tour. (Overnight Norwich) B

 

Day 14: Monday 18 June, Norwich – East Ruston – Ludham – Wroxham – Norwich

East Ruston Old Vicarage Gardens
The Dutch House Gardens, Ludham
Boat Cruise of The Broads, Wroxham
Today we visit a garden created by two men over the past twenty-five years, begun after they acquired a run down Edwardian Vicarage with no garden. Today it features in 1001 Gardens to see before you die. Situated two kilometres from the sea, it has an absorbing, exotic atmosphere and features a series of gardens, including a Sunken Garden, Dutch Garden, Tropical Border, Mediterranean Garden and Walled Garden. Alan Gray and Graham Robeson created these gardens and Alan will guide us through them. They are a plants person’s paradise! A morning tea an delicious lunch will be included in this inimitable garden experience.

We then visit a smaller scale garden at Ludham, a typical broadland village near the river Ant. The present owner will show us around this long, narrow garden of approx two and a half acres that leads through marsh and wood to Womack Water. Designed and planted originally by the painter Edward Seago, it has recently been replanted. Seago (1910-1974), who grew up in East Anglia, was very much influenced by the Norwich School. Despite being called ‘a very English painter’, he developed an international reputation for his landscapes, seascapes and townscapes.

To complete the day we drive to Wroxham where we board our boat to cruise the Broads and experience first hand the setting of Arthur Ransom’s children’s adventure stories Swallows and Amazons. We sail along the river Bure and into the network of lakes known as the Norfolk Broads. The Broads were regarded as natural elements until the 1960s when Dr Joyce Lambert proved that they were, in fact, artificial, having emerged through the flooding of early peat excavations. The Romans first exploited the rich peat beds of the area for fuel, and in the Middle Ages the local monasteries began to excavate the ‘turbaries’ (peat diggings) as a business, selling fuel to Norwich and Great Yarmouth. When sea levels rose the pits began to flood. Despite the construction of windpumps and dykes, the flooding continued and resulted in the today’s typical Broads, with their reed beds, grazing marshes and wet woodland. (Overnight Norwich) BL

 

Bury St Edmunds – 6 nights

 

Day 15: Tuesday 19 June, Norwich – Otley Hall – Bury St Edmunds

Otley Hall and Gardens
Walking tour of Bury St Edmunds, including St. Edmundbury Cathedral & Abbey Garden
Tour & Evening Performance at the Theatre Royal (subject to performance schedules)
Today, after a short coach drive, we arrive at Otley Hall, a stunningly beautiful 16th-century house surrounded by a moat. This family home is set in ten acres of gardens in the tranquil Suffolk countryside near Ipswich. The house is recognised as one of the most perfect examples of unspoiled late medieval architecture in England. Unequalled in Suffolk are the Great Hall and Linenfold Parlour, both of which look out onto a rose garden. Our guide will show us a wealth of notable features, including a cross or screens passage, richly carved beams, superb Linenfold panelling, and 16th-century wall paintings celebrating the marriage of Robert Gosnold III to Ursula Naunton (1559). The building’s profile is inflected with lofty chimneys, and especially noteworthy are the herringbone brickwork and vineleaf pargetting.

Our guided tour continues into Otley Hall gardens that were placed sixth in a poll recently undertaken by The Independent of the ‘Top 50 Best British Gardens to Visit’. The garden came second in the ‘gardens with significant architecture’ category. In addition, there are historically accurate recreations here, designed by Sylvia Landsberg, author of The Medieval Garden. These include an orchard, a herb, and a knot garden. The ten acres of gardens at Otley Hall provide a feast for the senses with their exquisite blend of wild and cultivated terrain. Francis Inigo Thomas (1866-1950), for example, contributed interesting elements including an H-canal, nutteries, a croquet lawn, rose garden and a moat walk. Conservation is an important part of the gardeners’ program here. They have encouraged growth of wild flowers and hedges, and have taken particular care to preserve the habitats of native wildlife. We shall be treated here to a ploughman’s lunch.

After lunch we drive on to Bury St Edmunds where we will take a tour of the city that is rich in archaeological and historic treasures. Here in the 9th century St. Edmund became the last king of East Anglia. The Danes murdered him because of his Christian faith, and after his burial the town became a place of pilgrimage. For many years St. Edmund was the patron saint of England. We shall see the ruins of the great abbey built in his honour. It was here in 1214 that the Archbishop of Canterbury met with the Barons of England who swore that they would force King John to honour the dictates of the Magna Carta. The Abbey Gardens include an Old English rose garden, a water garden and a garden for the blind, where fragrance takes the place of sight.

If time permits, we shall visit Moyse’s Hall. Built around 1180, it houses a collection of artefacts from the Bronze Age, as well as Roman pottery and Anglo-Saxon jewellery.

We take a tour of the Theatre Royal, focusing on the early history and architecture of the Theatre Royal and on the provincial circuit theatre in East Anglia in the late eighteenth and early 19th century. The Theatre Royal was designed and built in 1819 by William Wilkins (1778-1839) who also designed the National Gallery, London. With many of its original features still intact, it is the best example of a Regency playhouse in the United Kingdom and one of the most beautiful, intimate and historic theatres in the world. Although the playhouse was only originally used for short seasons before it fell into decay, it was still able to boast the world premier of ‘Charlie’s Aunt’. Now beautifully restored, the theatre has initiated a special project to present often forgotten plays of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. We explore the whole building; auditorium, stage, and backstage. After time at leisure for dinner we shall attend a musical performance at the Theatre Royal (subject to performance schedules). (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) BL

 

Day 16: Wednesday 20 June, Bury St Edmunds – Framlingham Castle – Stowmarket – Sudbury – Bury St Edmunds

Framlingham Castle
Helmingham Hall Gardens, Stowmarket
‘Chestnuts’ private garden
Framlingham Castle, in Suffolk, is one of the most important and beautiful medieval castles in the British Isles. Bigod, second Earl of Norfolk, built it in about 1190 on the site of an earlier timber castle. Mary Tudor was one of its occupants. In the summer of 1553, with a large encampment of followers, she waited here for the results of the succession following the death of her brother, Edward VI. We shall visit the castle, climb onto its curtain wall, and walk along the ramparts through the thirteen towers that form its formidable defenses. The walls of the castle offer commanding views of the surrounding Suffolk countryside. We shall then have some time for lunch at leisure and take a quick look round the small market town of Framlingham.

We shall then drive for about thirty minutes along Suffolk roads to Helmingham Hall Gardens. It is hard to exaggerate the effect this beautiful park, with its red deer, and the spectacular moated hall constructed in mellow patterned red brick with its famous gardens, will have on you. The whole combines to give an extraordinary impression of beauty and tranquility. A classic parterre flanked by hybrid musk roses lies before a stunning walled kitchen garden with exquisite herbaceous borders and beds of vegetables interspersed by tunnels of sweet peas, runner beans and gourds. On the other side lies a herb and a knot garden behind which is a rose garden of unsurpassable beauty. The subtle colour combinations in all these are in immaculate taste. The influence of the well-known garden designer Xa Tollemache, is clearly visible; the parterre was redesigned in 1987 and the new rose garden to east of the coach house was created in 1982, together with the knot and herb garden. We may need a cup of tea in the Coach House to restore our equilibrium.

To complete the day we travel for a short distance to a small private garden, ‘Chestnuts’. The garden is very restful, with places to sit and relax and bring our day to a gentle moment of repose, before returning to our hotel in Bury St Edmunds. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) B

 

Day 17: Thursday 21 June, Bury St Edmunds – Lavenham – Bury St Edmunds

Guided tour of Lavenham, including the Guildhall of Corpus Christi
Afternoon at leisure in Bury St Edmunds
This morning we visit the village of Lavenham, once a vibrant, prosperous Suffolk wool town. The legacy of its past wealth is reflected in the buildings that have survived. We shall visit the Guildhall of Corpus Christi, one of the finest surviving timer-framed buildings in Britain. The Guildhall was the economic hub of what was once the fourteenth richest town in England. Built around 1530, it was one of the last buildings to be erected before the cloth industry collapsed. Fascinating exhibitions here give you insights into local history and traditional farming practices, as well as the area’s medieval cloth industry. An interesting walled garden grows plants that produce traditional dye colours, which are bright even by today’s standards. Our guided walk around the village where so many Tudor timber framed buildings have miraculously survived will take in the vast parish church of St. Peter & St. Paul. Clothiers built this great church to celebrate the end of the Wars of the Roses in 1485. Quaint streets will lead us into enchanting medieval prospects, including the market place, the Old Wool Hall, Tudor shops and Woolstaplers. In the afternoon we return to Bury St Edmunds for time at leisure. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) B

 

Day 18: Friday 22 June, Bury St Edmunds – Elmstead Market – Long Melford – Bury St Edmunds

The Beth Chatto Gardens, Elmstead Market
Long Melford
Melford Hall (optional visit)
Beth Chatto has become one of the great gardening writers of our time and enjoys an international reputation after winning ten gold medals at Chelsea Flower Show. She and her husband began establishing gardens at Elmstead Market in Essex during 1960 when the site was an overgrown wasteland between two farms. Faced with all kinds of difficult conditions Beth and Andrew Chatto set out to find homes for many of the plants they wished to grow. With dry and damp soil in both sun and shade, they were able to put into practice the underlying principles of what is now referred to as ‘ecological gardening’. We have booked a one-hour guided tour but also have reserved an hour of leisure time so you can wander and explore. Adjoining the gardens is the nursery providing those keen gardeners among us with the opportunity to check out plants that they might have seen growing in the gardens. There are over two thousand different types of plants, predominately herbaceous perennials, bulbs and a selection of shrubs and climbers. Although purchasing plants is not practical, we can talk to the knowledgeable nursery staff about their growing conditions and care. We will be at leisure to take lunch at the ‘Nursery Tearoom’.

To complete our day we travel to the charming village of Long Melford, where we will visit the fine church. From the village we will spy a dramatic skyline of tall chimneystacks and fanciful octagonal turrets belonging to Melford Hall (visit optional), one of the finest and most satisfying Elizabethan houses in the East of England. It stands beside the River Chad, at the northern end of a village noted for its wide village green that leads up to a great perpendicular style church. Melford Hall is a mellow red brick house largely of the 16th century. It incorporates part of a medieval building held by the Abbots of Bury St Edmunds. They had used it as a place for pleasure and relaxation from before 1065 until 1539. Melford Hall’s subsequent owner, Sir William Cordell, was a ‘new man’ of his time, and one of the most hospitable country gentlemen in Suffolk. He entertained Queen Elizabeth I at Melford Hall in 1578. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) B

 

Day 19: Saturday 23 June, Bury St Edmunds – Ipswich – Flatford – East Bergholt – Dedham – Bury St Edmunds

Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich
Guided walk of Flatford (1½ hrs)
Constable Country Walk from Flatford to East Bergholt (1½ hrs)
Afternoon tea at the 16th-century ‘Essex Rose Tea Room’, Dedham
Today we make a short journey to the county town of Ipswich. You will discover something of Ipswich’s past when we visit the beautiful Christchurch Mansion. Our main purpose in coming here, however, is to see the biggest collection of paintings by Thomas Gainsborough and John Constable outside of London, along with collections of other artists inspired by the beautiful landscapes of East Anglia. There are also period rooms such as the sumptuous Georgian Saloon and the humbler Victorian wing with its displays of children’s toys and dolls houses.

We travel a little way to eat lunch at the tearoom in Flatford, site of the famous Flatford Mill, before our Constable Country Walk. John Constable (1776-1837) was born in Suffolk and is known principally for his landscape paintings of Dedham Vale, the area surrounding his home, which he invested with an intensity of affection. “I should paint my own places best”, he wrote to his friend John Fisher in 1821, “painting is but another word for feeling”. His most famous paintings include Dedham Vale (1802) and The Hay Wain (1821) the colourism and open brush stroke of which, when the painting was exhibited in Paris, were to have a revolutionary influence upon French artists such as Delacroix. Although his paintings are now among the most popular and valuable British paintings, he was never financially successful and did not become a member of the establishment until he was elected to the Royal Academy at the age of fifty-two. He sold more paintings in France than in England. Constable rebelled against the demand that artists compose from the imagination rather than depict nature with immediacy. He told Leslie, “When I sit down to make a sketch from nature, the first thing I try to do is to forget that I have ever seen a picture”. We begin our tour of Flatford from Bridge Cottage, before exploring the rest of this delightful town. The second leg of this walk takes us outside the village itself, as we make our way through the countryside to East Bergholt. Our tour of painting sites immediately around Flatford will include scenes made famous in The Hay Wain, Boatbuilding and Flatford Mill. Our guide will be armed with reproductions of the paintings, so you can make comparisons with the scenes today (remarkably similar). We have time for tea at the ‘Essex Rose Tearoom’ in Dedham before we return to our hotel at Bury St Edmunds. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) BL

 

Day 20: Sunday 24 June, Bury St Edmunds – Saffron Walden – Audley End – Bury St Edmunds

Market town of Saffron Walden
Audley End House and Gardens
Farewell Dinner
Today we venture into the county of Essex and begin by exploring the enigmatic sounding town of Saffron Waldon. In the medieval period Saffron Walden was primarily concerned with the wool trade. In the 16th and 17th centuries, however, the saffron crocus (Crocus sativus) came to be grown throughout the area. The precious saffron extracted from the flower’s stigmas was used in a variety of ways – in medicines, as a condiment, as a perfume, as an aphrodisiac, and as an expensive yellow dye. The town, originally known as Chipping Walden, thus took the name Saffron Walden. By the end of the 18th century brewing had replaced saffron as the main crop in the district; local malt and barley supplied more than thirty maltings and breweries here by the 1830s.

Our other purpose for travelling into Essex is to visit one of the great country house that monarchs and aristocrats alike have used for over four hundred years as a symbol of their wealth, status and power, as well as for their pleasure. This is Audley End, a fitting climax to our tour. Henry VIII gave Walden Abbey to Sir Thomas Audley, who transformed it into his mansion, Audley End. His is grandson Thomas, first Earl of Suffolk, rebuilt this mansion between 1603 and 1614. The new Audley End was truly palatial in scale, but Suffolk fell from power after 1618. Charles II bought the house in 1668 and used it as a base for attending the Newmarket races. By the 1680s, Sir Christopher Wren was warning of the need for major repairs. The cost of these caused William III to return Audley End to the Suffolk family. When the Suffolk line died out in 1745, the Countess of Portsmouth bought the house for her nephew and heir, Sir John Griffin Whitwell, the fourth Baron Howard de Walden and first Baron Braybrooke.

Today, the house’s interior largely reflects the tastes of the third Baron Braybrooke, who inherited it in 1825. He installed his extensive picture collection here and filled the rooms with rich furnishings. The fourth Baron Braybrooke’s natural history collection also remains an appealing feature of the house. After nearly thirty years in store, a rare set of English tapestries by the Soho weaver Paul Saunders has been conserved and displayed in the Tapestry Room. They depict figures in a landscape with ruined buildings and were originally supplied to Audley End in 1767.

Audley’s park and the fine Victorian gardens are just as glorious as its interiors. An artificial lake, created with water from the River Cam, runs through delightful 18th century parkland. The Classical Temple of Concorde, built in 1790 in honour of George III, and the restored 19th century formal parterre garden, dominate views from the back of the house. We will see Robert Adam’s ornamental garden buildings, and the Elysian Garden cascade. If all this sumptuous living is too rich for you then a sobering visit to the historic kitchen and dry laundry might be to your taste. You will have time to lunch here in the Tea Room located in the Servants Hall. After lunch we shall visit the thriving organic walled 19th-century kitchen garden, with its box-edged paths, trained fruit and fifty-two metre long vine house – still as it was in its Victorian heyday. We then make our way back to our hotel at Bury St Edmunds for our farewell dinner. (Overnight Bury St Edmunds) BD

 

Day 21: Monday 25 June, Bury St Edmunds – Heathrow Airport

Morning at leisure
Departure transfer to Heathrow Airport
Today you may have a morning to read the papers or take a leisurely stroll around town, now that the tour program has come to an end. The coach will depart from our hotel around midday for those who wish to travel to London’s Heathrow Airport for flight connections. B

 

Landscapes, Art & Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence & the Cévennes National Park 2018

Landscapes, Art & Gardens of the Côte d’Azur, Provence & the Cévennes National Park 2018

 

21-day Cultural Garden Tour of Southern France

Overnight Menton (8 nights) • Aix-en-Provence (3 nights) • Avignon (6 nights) • Florac (3 nights)

 

Tour Highlights

Travel in May to view spring’s colourful wildflowers and enjoy chestnut groves and picturesque stone villages in the UNESCO-listed Cévennes National Park.

Delight in the finest gardens of the Côte d’Azur, including Serre de la Madone and the Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh. By private invitation, visit the Clos du Peyronnet.

Near Grasse visit four private gardens, by special appointment: the gardens of the Villa Fort France originally planted by Lady Fortescue in the 1930s; Joanna Millar’s private gardens at Domaine du Prieuré; Le Vallon du Brec; and Le Mas des Pivoines.

In Provence explore a host of private gardens: Jardins d’Albertas, Pavillon de Galon, Clos de Villeneuve, the hilltop gardens of La Carméjane and Le Clos Pascal by Nicole de Vésian, Le Petit Fontanille, and Nicole Arboireau’s intimate Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre.

Visit contemporary masterpieces by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières, such as the Jardin de La Noria outside Uzès.

Meet tree sculptor Marc Nucera, who will show us his atelier and experimental garden south of Avignon, and one of France’s most famous private gardens, Mas Benoît, laid out by sculptor, garden designer and land artist Alain-David Idoux.

Meet landscape designer Dominique Lafourcade and study her work with a visit to the gardens of the Abbey Sainte-Marie de Pierredon and to one of her new creations near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence.

View the designs by Michel Semini in Mas Theo, the private courtyard gardens of fashion magnate Pierre Bergé, lifelong companion of Yves Saint Laurent, in Saint-Rémy.

See the paintings, sculpture and furniture of the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, a mansion set in extensive gardens; and the nearby Villa Grecque Kérylos, a luxurious re-creation of an ancient Grecian dwelling.

Enjoy a range of museums devoted to modernists like Matisse and Picasso, visit Cézanne’s studio, the chapels painted by Matisse and Cocteau and the Maeght Foundation containing an exceptional collection of 20th-century works.

Explore Provence’s Roman heritage at the Pont du Gard, at the huge medieval Papal Palace, Avignon, and in Arles, whose museum features a 31-metre-long Roman boat discovered beneath the Rhône in 2011.

Cruise through the precipitous Gorges du Tarn, a limestone canyon carved by the Tarn River and dotted with medieval castles.

Visit the antique market of L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and the colourful food stalls of Uzès.
Combine culinary delights with an evening of classical music under France’s oldest magnolia tree at the Château de Brantes.

Savour haute cuisine at Mauro Colagreco’s Restaurant Mirazur, perched above the Mediterranean, and at La Petite Maison de Cucuron with Michelin-star chef Eric Sapet in the Luberon Ranges.

Stay in carefully chosen hotels including the Hotel Napoléon, with gardens by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières; and a lovely family hotel, Hotel des Gorges du Tarn, in the mountainous village of Florac.

 

Tour Itinerary

 

Menton – 8 nights

 

Day 1: Sunday 6 May, Arrive Nice – Transfer to Menton

Introductory Meeting
Welcome Dinner
On arrival at Nice’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach and travel west along an awesome coastline where the pre-Alps plunge almost sheer into the sea, to the port town of Menton. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Hotel Napoléon, Menton. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information.

For the next 8 nights we stay at the 4-star Hotel Napoléon, located just across the road from the beach and only a ten-minute slow walk to the old town of Menton. In the hotel’s private off-street courtyard, an exotic garden designed by Eric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières hides a small paved area. For Ossart and Maurières, hotel gardens “must be able to satisfy each client’s need for privacy and yet welcome people in groups. As much as the interior decoration, the gardens participate in the overall feel of the place and must be designed around an original idea or theme. Finally, they must be attractive in all seasons, whether as places to relax in or simply to be seen from windows”. This evening we enjoy a welcome meal at a local restaurant overlooking Menton’s Garavan Bay. (Overnight Menton) D

 

Day 2: Monday 7 May, Menton

Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh
Guided tour of Menton, including the Salle des Mariages
Jean Cocteau Museum, Menton
We start the day with a visit to the sub-tropical botanical garden of Val Rahmeh, laid out in 1905 for Lord Radcliffe, Governor of Malta. In 1957 Miss May Sherwood Campbell acquired the property and a second garden, now accessed by a bridge, and created a pond with water hyacinths, water lilies, and papyrus. In 1966 she donated her property to the nation, and today it is owned by The French Museum of Natural History. A guided tour will reveal a wonderful array of lush plantings.

Menton occupies a natural amphitheatre dominated by Mount Agel and the Gorbio and St. Agnes Heights. Ruined fortresses clinging to its surrounding cliffs testify to the town’s deep, turbulent history. Here we shall study the work of one of the coast’s greatest creators, the famous artist and film-maker Jean Cocteau. Cocteau first came upon Menton in 1955 while vacationing at Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat. He fell in love with its high-cliffed coastal charms and began the next year, at the request of the mayor, to redecorate the town hall’s Salle des mariages with frescoes and furnishings all with a theme of ‘Love’.

Nearby we also visit the new Jean Cocteau Museum which includes 990 works by Cocteau. All of the artist’s key periods are represented, from the first self-portraits of the 1910s up to the “Mediterranean” period towards the end of his life. There are drawings, prints, paintings, ceramics, tapestries, jewellery, books and manuscripts and 172 photographs relating to Cocteau. There are also works by fellow artists Picasso, Modigliani, Di Chirico and others. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 3: Tuesday 8 May, Menton – Coursegoules – Menton

Le Vallon du Brec (private garden, by special appointment)
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we travel to Coursegoules to visit Le Vallon du Brec, situated at an altitude of 1000 metres, in the backcountry of Nice. Designed by its owners, photographer and painter Yan and Jean Grisot, this 20,000-square-metre garden is divided in two parts. One, planted with botanical varieties from China, Japan, North America, contrasting with old roses and irises, is dotted with wooden sculptures. The second half is wild prairies on old farming terraces dating back to the 11th century. This large garden has been awarded the status of ‘Jardin Remarquable’ by the French Ministry of Culture and Environment. We return to Menton for an afternoon at leisure. (Overnight Menton) B

 

Day 4: Wednesday 9 May, Menton

Clos du Peyronnet, Menton (private garden, by special appointment)
Serre de la Madone, Menton
Dinner at Restaurant Mirazur, Menton
This morning we visit one of the garden highlights of the region, the Clos du Peyronnet. Created by Mr and Mrs Derick Waterfield (and still tended by their son’s nephew), the Clos du Peyronnet was established around a Belle Époque Italianate villa in the Garavan (gardé du vent: ‘sheltered from the wind’), on terraces between vertical cliffs and the sea. The villa façade has been engulfed by a Wisteria sinensus (Chinese wisteria). Oreopanax, catalpa and jacaranda give way to a wet grotto, terraces of heat-loving plants such as hibiscus and solanum, architectural cypresses, and a water garden designed to afford glimpses of the Mediterranean below.

This afternoon we visit Serre de la Madone, designed in the 1920s by Lawrence Johnston, creator of the world-famous Hidcote Garden in the Cotswolds, England. Johnston was interested in acclimatising a large variety of exotic species to this inimitable environment. La Serre de la Madone is a secluded paradise with double curving steps, fountains, pools, classical statuary, green garden rooms, a Moorish patio and orangeries for tender exotic plants. Johnston employed 12 gardeners to tend his 7 hectares of terraces that boast an almost bewildering variety of plants from throughout the world.

This evening we dine at the Restaurant Mirazur, which enjoys spectacular views of Menton’s old town and harbour. Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco excels in original Mediterranean-style dishes, using wild herbs, edible flowers and the freshest vegetables obtained from the restaurant’s garden. (Overnight Menton) BD

 

Day 5: Thursday 10 May, Menton – Villefranche-sur-Mer – Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat – Beaulieu-sur-Mer – Menton

Chapelle Saint-Pierre by Jean Cocteau, Villefranche-sur-Mer
Villa Ephrussi, Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat
Villa Grecque Kérylos, Beaulieu-sur-Mer
This morning we drive out to Cap-Ferrat, a narrow peninsula extending far out to sea. Our first visit is to the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, painted by Jean Cocteau at Villefranche. The ornamentation of the Chapelle Saint-Pierre, a jewel of the modern symbolist art, was a dream cherished for a long time by Cocteau that he finally realised in 1957. He supervised the ceramicists and stonecutters who worked on his project. The chapel evinces a simple, humble fervor reminiscent of small Romanesque churches. It simultaneously represents St. Peter’s life, the village dear to Cocteau’s childhood, and the artist’s friendship for the fishermen to whom the chapel was dedicated.

The road to Cap-Ferrat offers wonderful views of the Mediterranean. The Cap itself was one of the most fashionable resorts of the twentieth century and is associated with such luminaries and eccentrics as Somerset Maughan, who lived in the Villa Mauresque, and Léopold II of the Belgians, who established the world’s most important private botanical gardens there. In 1926, Baroness Béatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild chose a site here for her enormous villa and garden – Villa Île de France. The eclecticism of her garden, named after the famous ship and tended during her residence by gardeners in sailors’ uniforms, reflects the syncretic mix of styles that made the Riviera an important avant-garde centre in the early twentieth century. We shall take a guided tour of the villa’s first floor that includes terracotta sculptures by Clodion, a Meissen China Room and a Tapestry Room whose furniture by Jacob is upholstered with Beauvais tapestries. We shall then tour the villa’s seven exquisite gardens, which include patios, waterfalls, ponds, floral borders, shady walks and rare species of trees. The garden ensemble comprises Florentine, Spanish, formal French and exotic gardens, as well as rose and rock gardens.

After lunch in the villa’s tearoom, we visit the Grecian Villa Kérylos, one of the most extraordinary sites on the French Riviera. It was built in the early 1900s, in the Belle Époque era, and is a unique and extremely luxurious re-creation of an ancient Grecian dwelling, complete with wall decorations and furniture. It was built as the tribute to Greek civilisation by two great Hellenophiles, Théodore Reinach, an archaeologist and patron of the arts, and the architect Emmanuel Pontremoli who based the design on the remains of noble houses from the 2nd century BC on the Island of Delos. Everything inside, from the arrangement of rooms to the details of the décor, was designed to recreate the atmosphere of a luxurious Grecian villa. From the garden around the villa there are fine views of the Cap-Ferrat peninsula, dotted with magnificent mansions. The garden contains a pleasing mixture of typically Greek plants: olive trees and vines, pomegranate and carob trees, acanthus and myrtle, oleanders and irises, pine and cypress trees, palm trees and papyrus which all help create a Grecian look and feel in the bright Mediterranean sunshine. (Overnight Menton) BL

 

Day 6: Friday 11 May, Menton – Grasse – Châteauneuf-Grasse – Menton

Le Mas des Pivoines, Grasse (private garden, by special appointment)
Lunch at Restaurant Le Mas des Géraniums, Opio
Jardin de la Villa Fort France, Châteauneuf-Grasse (private garden, by special appointment)
Our first visit is to a garden located in the countryside near Grasse. Le Mas des Pivoines is owned by Marcel and Lucile Barrault, who have been developing this 1.5-hectare garden since 1998. The topography of the site allows a succession of different gardens: olive grove, lavender fields, mix-borders of Mediterranean plants, separated from each other by arbours covered with roses or vine creepers. Two large, flat areas are connected by a set of terraces. The dry stone retaining walls are lined up with iris and plants adapted to the dry conditions, leading to recently landscaped park. A creek runs at the lower part of the land. From mid-April, venerable tree peonies such as the double-pink Duchesse de Morny start blooming. These are followed by tree and herbaceous peonies such as the Golden Isles and Hana-Kisoi, roses, shrubs spring flowers, irises, perennials and so on. This is a constantly evolving garden where one can find some ancient remains including basins, canals, arbours, mass of fallen rocks, gazebos and big box-hedges.

We lunch among olive, fig and lime trees at Le Mas des Géraniums, a typical Provençal farm located on Opio’s hill. In this peaceful and beautiful setting, we shall enjoy a light lunch prepared by the owners, Colette and Michel Creusot.

Just a short drive away is the garden of Villa Fort France. The original owners, Lady Winifred Fortescue and her husband, Sir John, an archivist and military historian, bought it in 1935. Lady Fortescue wrote a best-selling account of her struggles to create her home there entitled Perfume from Provence, which was illustrated by A.A. Milne. She followed this success with two further books written when she moved to Opio: Sunset House and Trampled Lilies (which recounts her time during the war years). The rose garden she created was expanded to form the current garden by Jeanne Gruniaux, who continued to advise the present owners, Pierre and Valérie de Courcels, until her death. The de Courcels have added their own deft, artistic touches to create a lovely garden full of colour, much of which comes from a superb use of annuals (poppies, larkspur, love-in-the-mist and aquilegia plus a sweet pea hedge). (Overnight Menton) BL

 

Day 7: Saturday 12 May, Menton – Tourrettes-sur-Loup – Saint-Paul de Vence – Vence – Menton

Domaine du Prieuré, Tourrettes-sur-Loup (private garden, by special appointment)
The Maeght Foundation, Saint-Paul-de-Vence
Matisse’s Chapelle du Rosaire, Vence
Today we drive through some of the finest scenery in the south of France. We first travel up to Tourrettes-sur-Loup, where we visit the private garden of Joanna Millar, recently acclaimed as ‘the grand dame’ of Riviera gardening. Joanna’s roses will be in full flower, as will the irises that she grows in serried ranks among a fine collection of other native and exotic plants.

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

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

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

 

Day 8: Sunday 13 May, Menton – Cap d’Antibes – Antibes – Nice – Menton

Scenic drive, Cap d’Antibes
Château Grimaldi – Musée Picasso, Antibes
Provençal Food Market, Cours Masséna, Antibes
Matisse Museum, Nice
This morning we tour the Cap d’Antibes, a beautiful peninsula with a winding road that reveals stunning views around every corner; we shall take in the grand panorama at the highest point of the cape, the Plateau de la Garoupe.

We visit the port town of Antibes, which attracted many writers, such as Graham Greene, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, as well as artists like Picasso. Our walking tour includes a visit to Antibes’ Provençal food market on the Cours Masséna. We also visit the Château Grimaldi, a mix of 12th and 16th-century architecture, which houses the Musée Picasso. Picasso used the castle as his studio for a time in 1946. In addition to his paintings, it holds a fine collection of the master’s ceramics.

After lunchtime at leisure in Antibes we drive to Cimiez, site of a small Roman city just oustide of modern-day Nice. It is more famous, however, for its museum devoted to France’s greatest modern painter, Henri Matisse, who lived in Nice from 1917 to his death in 1954. We shall view the paintings in the museum that span his career, from the very early Still Life with Books (1890) to his Rococo Armchair (1947) and Blue Nude (1952). (Overnight Menton) B

 

Aix-en-Provence – 3 nights

 

Day 9: Monday 14 May, Menton – Fréjus – Bouc-Bel-Air – Aix-en-Provence

Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre, Fréjus (private garden, by special appointment)
Jardins d’Albertas, Bouc-Bel-Air (private garden, by special appointment)
This morning we drive to Fréjus, built upon the remains of an ancient harbour where Octavian (Augustus) moored ships captured from Cleopatra’s fleet at the Battle of Actium. Our main interest is not Fréjus’ Roman remains, however, but the Jardin la Pomme d’Ambre of Madame Nicole Arboireau, chief exponent of the Provençal cottage garden. Nicole Arboireau’s garden contrasts vividly with the foreigners’ gardens you have hitherto encountered. She has set herself the task of nurturing the Provençal tradition of the small garden in which local plants are propagated. We will explore this lovely small domain, learning much about the traditions of gardening in this region, and enjoy a delicious Provençal buffet, prepared by Nicole herself. Nicole’s delightful book Jardins de Grands-Mères describes the gardens of grandmothers, with their special secrets revealed.

Following our visit, we continue to Aix-en-Provence, where we shall be based for the next three nights. En route we shall visit the Jardins d’Albertas at Bouc-Bel-Air. The city of Aix-en-Provence occupies a site previously inhabited by Celts, Greeks and Romans. It rose to prominence as capital of the County of Provence and then the royal city of the House of Anjou. Under René of Anjou it was a centre of Italian and French culture. Absorbed by the French monarchy at the end of the 15th century, it became the home of the Parlement de Provence, a status it lost during the French Revolution. The Marquis Jean-Baptiste d’Albertas, first president of the Provence Audit Office, decided in 1751 to create a garden to the south of the city at Bouc-Bel-Air. The craze for gardening in mid-18th-century France meant that the domain was laid out before the house. In fact, this country retreat never gained its house. The garden, which includes a kitchen garden, is laid out somewhat like Villandry in the Loire. Its formal parterres have a profusion of sculpture set against powerful vistas. It has been maintained since the 18th century by the Albertas family, which has taken great pains to maintain its original state. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

Day 10: Tuesday 15 May, Aix-en-Provence – Valensole – Aix-en-Provence

Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole (private garden, by special appointment)
Atelier Cézanne, Aix-en-Provence
Orientation walk of Aix-en-Provence
This morning we drive north of Aix to the Clos de Villeneuve, Valensole. This bastide was constructed in the first half of the 18th century. Jean-Baptiste de Villeneuve, seigneur of Esclapon, who was descended from an ancient Provençal family, laid out its basic form. His garden still occupies three terraces with seven basins and fountains from the 18th and 19th centuries. The late owner André de Villeneuve, has, over the last 30 years, created the present garden on the original terraces, around the early basins. Parterres planted in the tradition of the French formal garden, an alley of 100-year-old chestnut trees, a huge basin on the lowest terrace, and a view beyond to purple la