Day 1 Monday May 25, 2015 Depart
We start our holiday with a flight to Milan.
Day 2 Tuesday May 26, 2015 Como
We drive north to Como, on the shore of Lake Como, where we stay for four nights. We will be joined by the group that travelled on the pre-tour to the Chelsea Flower Show and Winchester.
Day 3 Wednesday May 27, 2015 Como
This morning we take the picturesque road around the shore of Lake Como to Bellagio, nominated as one of the most beautiful villages in the world. We will have time to explore the town before Helen guides us on a visit to the gardens of Villa Melzi. The semi-classical villa stands on the shores of the lake, among gardens studded with majestic trees and ancient statues. We return to Como for an afternoon free to relax, shop in Como or take a ferry ride on Lake Como to view the spectacular scenery and fabulous lakeside villas. This evening we will have an included dinner, so group members can get to know each other.
Day 4 Thursday May 28, 2015 Como
Today we visit Lake Maggiore, heading to the beautiful town of Stresa from where we take a private boat across to Isola Bella, the most spectacular of the Borromean Islands. The magnificent villa is surrounded by one of the most dramatic 17th-century gardens in Italy, with 10 terraces rising like a ship’s prow in the reflecting waters of the lake. Masses of roses and perfumed plants set among superb statues and fountains make this a garden to remember. We visit the nearby island, Isola Madre, so very different, with its lush sub-tropical planting of ornamental trees and shrubs, in a parkland style of the early 19th century.
Day 5 Friday May 29, 2015 Como
A scenic trip along the west shore of Lake Como brings us to the picturesque village of Tremezzo and Villa Carlotta. This elegant 18th-century villa has its own landing place on Lake Como and beautiful views over the lake. It was given as a wedding present to Carlotta, Duchess of Saxe-Meiningen, who, with her husband, created the landscaped gardens and began the botanical collection. Around the house, an 18th-century formal layout has lemon arbours on the terraces, tall camellia hedges and flower beds to suit the architecture. This afternoon, we visit Villa Balbeinello, one of the jewels of the lake, located on a small promontory and accessed by boat. Steep steps lead from the landing to an avenue of candelabra-pruned plane trees and the loggia, garlanded with creeping fig. The villa perches high above Lake Como and is filled with an astounding personal collection of furniture, rare reverseglass paintings, ancient artefacts, Flemish tapestries and more. This evening the tour manager will meet in the lobby those wishing to dine with the group.
Day 6 Saturday May 30, 2015 Venice
Today we head towards Venice, the fabled La Serenissima. On the journey we will visit the Pojega gardens of Villa Rizzardi, a masterpiece of Italian design. A memorable feature is the green amphitheatre, the largest in Italy. After lunch in Verona, the setting for Romeo and Juliet, we visit Giardino Giusti. This is one of the most famous renaissance gardens in Italy, its terraces ascending the hill, and an oasis of peace and calm. The elaborate geometric parterres, maze, statues, fountains, avenue of cypresses and grotto are superbly maintained. A final climb leads to the belvedere for a panoramic view over Verona. We continue to the Veneto area, before transferring to our hotel in Venice by motor launch.
Day 7 Sunday May 31, 2015 Venice
This morning’s sightseeing tour of Venice with a local guide will introduce you to this fabled city. We visit the iconic Piazza San Marco and its grand basilica; see the Grand Canal, the Doge’s Palace and learn about Venice’s history and culture. The rest of the day will be free for independent exploration, perhaps experience a gondola ride or get a bird’s eye view of Venice from one of the bell towers, or just wander the entrancing maze of streets and canals, window-shopping and people-watching. The tour manager will meet in the lobby those wishing to dine with the group this evening, or you may like to take in a concert.
Day 8 Monday June 1, 2015 Venice
A day spent exploring some of the beautiful hidden gardens of Venice. We meet our guides, members of the Venice Garden Club, who will provide entry to some very special and beautiful private gardens.
Day 9 Tuesday June 2, 2015 Venice
This morning we catch a vaporetto to enjoy a silver-service morning tea and visit the gardens of the exclusive Hotel Cipriani on the island of Guidecca. The hotel is noted for its beautiful gardens and superb views over the lagoon to the Doge’s Palace, as well as its exclusive clientele. The rest of the day and evening is at leisure.
Day 10 Wednesday June 3, 2015 Paris
This morning we fly to Paris. In the afternoon we visit the Chateau de Bagatelle on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne. In addition to the noted rose garden with its fragrant and colourful collections of shrub and climbing roses, there are rose trial beds, as well as a waterlily pool, grotto, potager and iris and peony gardens. Those wishing to dine together can meet in the lobby, where the tour manager will suggest good value restaurants for dinner.
Day 11 Thursday June 4, 2015 Paris
This morning we visit the Musee de l’Orangerie to view Monet’s extraordinary cycle of waterlily paintings known as the Nympheas, which were the main focus of Monet’s artistic production during his last thirty years. They depict his waterlily pond at Giverney, which we will visit while on the river cruise. We will then visit the green wall at the Musee de Quai Branley, designed by Patrick Blanc. We return to our hotel for an afternoon free for individual exploration. In the evening we will attend the famous Moulin Rouge show with dinner included. This fantastic show is a stunning mix of glamour and traditional Parisian style.
Day 12 Friday June 5, 2015 Paris
Today we travel west of Paris to visit Chateau de Versailles, the extraordinary palace set in the grand formal garden designed for Louis XIV. In the grounds of Versailles, we visit the Grand Trianon and the Petit Trianon with its romantic landscape of meandering paths, streams, rustic bridges and lake. We then visit Le Hameau, featuring rustic thatched cottages grouped around a lake surrounded by woodland. One thatched cottage has a potager of tomatoes, French beans and poppies. Helen will ensure we make the most of the romantic grounds before we return to Paris in the late afternoon.
Day 13 Saturday June 6, 2015 Paris
This morning will be free for individual activity, before we are transferred to the five-star Swiss Sapphire and shown to our well-equipped cabins. Accommodating just 118 guests, this luxury riverboat boasts sumptuous bedding and unlimited complimentary beverages including regional wine, beer, spirits and soft drinks, as well as entertainments, fitness centre and complimentary internet. The rest of the day is free to explore the ship or go ashore to explore Paris.
Day 14 Sunday June 7, 2015 Seine Cruise
Today we will enjoy the scenery of Normandy as we meander along the Seine, seeing quiet villages and rural life slip by, part of the magic of the riverscape.
Day 15 Monday June 8, 2015 Seine Cruise
This morning we awake in Rouen, the capital of Lower Normandy, ready to enjoy a sightseeing tour with a local guide. We visit the Old Town with its narrow streets, many lined with medieval timber-framed houses. We visit the Cathedral Notre-Dame built in the 13th century, one of the finest achievements of the French gothic period, and Place du Vieux-Marche, where Joan of Arc, aged only nineteen, was burned at the stake. We return to the ship for lunch and to continue our cruise along the Seine.
Day 16 Tuesday June 9, 2015 Seine Cruise
This morning we disembark for visits to two wonderful gardens. We travel to visit Le Clos du Coudray, winner of the third prize for the “Best Park in France 2006”. Covering 20,000 square metres, it has a stream winding through a series of themed gardens, including a rose garden, potager and a shady garden with fabulous hostas and a national collection of epimediums. In the afternoon, the group will visit the wonderful Jardin Plume owned by Sylvie and Patrick Quibel. This garden has been named France’s best modern garden, and is one of Helen’s favourites. The Quibels have been able to combine classical formality with natural planting. Splashes of bright flowers float amid the greens of the summer garden. The potager is crowded with fruit, vegetables and flowers.
Day 17 Wednesday June 10, 2015 Seine Cruise
Our journey this morning takes us for a visit to Les Jardins de Castillon, winner of the Garden of the Year in 2009, awarded by the Association of Garden Journalists. It is a stunning garden, largely designed by Colette and Hubert Sainte-Beuve. It offers an exuberance of colour and texture with herbaceous borders, clematis and strewn arbours complementing the planting and clever terracing. We return to the ship for lunch and to enjoy the enchanting scenery as we sail along the river.
Day 18 Thursday June 11, 2015 Seine Cruise
Awakening this morning, we find the ship has moored at delightful Vernon to allow a visit to Claude Monet’s house and beautiful garden at nearby Giverny. This garden, with its ponds and waterlilies and its Japanese bridge, appears in many of the artist’s paintings. Another section of the garden has a more formal layout, featuring espaliered apples and pears and abundant plantings of roses, perennials and annuals in colour themes. It has been magnificently restored and gives a vivid impression of Monet’s inspiration. Helen will make sure that we get the most out of this garden.
Day 19 Friday June 12, 2015 Paris
This morning we arrive back in Paris. We will enjoy a sightseeing tour with a local guide, including Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Tuileries and a drive along the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. This afternoon is free to explore Paris individually. This evening is the Captain’s Dinner, which features specialities of the regions through which we have travelled. We say goodbye to the friends we have made on the ship.
Day 20 Saturday June 13, 2015 Departure
We disembark the ship this morning and we are transferred to the airport for our flight to Australia.
Day 21 Sunday June 14, 2015 Australia
We arrive in Australia this evening and tour arrangements conclude.
PRE-TOUR to London for the Chelsea Flower Show and great gardens of southern England
Day 1 Tuesday May 19, 2015 Departure
We depart Australia on our flight to London Heathrow.
Day 2 Wednesday May 20, 2015 London
On arrival we travel to our well-located hotel by private coach. After time to freshen up, we meet our London Blue Badge guide for a tour of the main sights of exciting London, such as Buckingham Palace, Whitehall, Trafalgar Square, The Strand, St Paul’s Cathedral and the Tower of London. The afternoon and evening will be free for you to relax or enjoy London’s many attractions as you choose. The tour manager will meet in the lobby those wishing to dine with the group, to go to a nearby restaurant for dinner.
Day 3 Thursday May 21, 2015 London
The highlight of our time in London will be our visit to the famous Chelsea Flower Show. Chelsea is the main event in the English horticultural calendar and boasts amazing displays of the world’s best flowers and plants, dozens of show gardens created by leading designers, and everything to do with the garden. Helen will ensure that you get the most from this wonderful show. We return to our hotel early afternoon, with an optional drop-off at Harrods for those who would like to visit this iconic store. Tonight we’ll enjoy a welcome dinner to get to know members of the tour and Helen Young.
Day 4 Friday May 22, 2015 London
Today we visit Capel Manor Gardens, with 30 acres and more than 60 gardens and landscapes to explore, surrounding a Georgian manor house. It contains some previous gold-medal winning show gardens from Chelsea. We continue our day with a visit Mr and Mrs Raworth’s garden in West London. This is a true collectors’ garden, with some rare and unusual plants. Among its many features are impressive hedges of privet, yew and hornbeam, which enclose various rooms, a formal knot garden and a sunken Mediterranean garden, full of interesting small plants. The tour manager will meet those wishing to dine with the group or you might like to catch one of the many splendid London shows.
Day 5 Saturday May 23, 2015 Winchester
This morning we visit the renowned garden at Sissinghurst Castle, created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband, Harold Nicolson. This romantic garden is one of the outstanding gardens of the world. Helen will make sure that you get the most out of this inspiring garden. We continue to Winchester. The remainder of the day will be free for individual activity. You may wish to visit Winchester Cathedral, begun in 1097 as a Benedictine Monastery. Jane Austen’s grave is in the cathedral.
Day 6 Sunday May 24, 2015 Winchester
We travel to nearby Heale Gardens. It is an idyllic garden with mature yew hedges, much of it designed by Harold Peto. You will see the red bridge which straddles a tributary of the Avon River and the thatched tea house brought from Japan. We continue to West Green House Garden designed by the Australian gardener, Marilyn Abbott. We will enjoy a light lunch prior to viewing the garden. A series of delightful walled gardens surround the 18thcentury West Green House. In the outstanding potager, Marilyn mixes edibles and ornamentals, with chards and leeks beside tulips and fritillaries.
Day 7 Monday 25 May, 2015 Winchester
We travel west today, first visiting Longstock Park Water Garden. The seven acres of this superb water garden, created by John Spedan Lewis in 1948, are fed by the River Test. This creates islands connected by narrow bridges and causeways and features gunnera, swamp cypress, royal fern and giant waterlilies. We continue our garden visiting at the Manor House. This is the most authentic Gertrude Jekyll garden in existence, with every plant laid out as prescribed by her original plans. The garden will be at its peak at the time of our visit. Helen will take the group on a tour of delightful Manor House to explain Jekyll’s visionary design and her use of reds, yellows, greys and blues.
Day 8 Tuesday 26 May, 2015 Como
This morning we travel to the airport for our flight to Milan. On arrival in Milan we will meet other members of our group, joining the main tour to travel to Como