Ionian Odyssey

Ionian Odyssey – Landscapes, Literature and Gardens of the Ionian Islands with Trisha Dixon

 

09–21 June 2019 (13 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

Embark on a journey with landscape photographer Trisha Dixon to the Ionian islands of Kefalonia, Ithaca, Paxos and Corfu, which abound with elegant gardens, stunning landscapes, historic castles and aristocratic villas.

In Kefalonia, visit a selection of private gardens and admire the crumbling remains of Venetian castles. On Ithaca, see the landscapes that inspired Homer and his modern Greek successor, the poet Constantine Cavafy.

Then continue to Corfu, Venice’s Mediaeval stronghold against the Ottomans. Later, British dominion added another layer to the local culture, and the result is an island that boasts exquisite villas, charming landscape gardens and impressive Venetian fortresses. Visit a selection of public and private gardens and spend time exploring the natural wilderness of Paxos.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• Explore Kefalonia, an island of lush forests and dramatic cliffs, and Ithaca, home of Odysseus and muse of Cavafy
• Spend five days on Corfu, visiting private gardens, stunning villas and proud fortresses from the island’s period under Venetian rule
• Visit Paxos, a true hidden gem of the Ionian Sea
• Immerse yourself in Ionian culture in the islands’ winding lanes, walled gardens and relaxed tavernas serving fresh seafood cuisine

 

ITINERARY

Saturday 08 June 2019 / Depart Australia/New Zealand

Depart Australia or New Zealand in the evening on suggested Qatar Airways flights to Athens via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

 

Sat 09 Jun / Arrive Athens

Arrive in Athens in the early afternoon on suggested flights and make your way to the hotel for check-in. At 17:30 join Trisha and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by a special welcome dinner. (D)

 

Mon 10 Jun / Athens – Kefalonia

In the morning, check out of the hotel and transfer to Athens Airport for a flight to Kefalonia (flight included in tour price).
On arrival in Kefalonia, the largest of the Ionian Islands, transfer to the hotel in Fiskardo, our base for the next three nights. Enjoy some time at leisure before dinner. (BD)

 

Tue 11 Jun / Kefalonia

Travel south to the capital city of Kefalonia, Argostoli, set alongside a deep bay. Visit the Argostoli Botanical Garden, which presents wild and endemic species of the Ionian Islands in a natural setting. After lunch, discover the Monastery of St Andreas, founded during the Byzantine era, and visit its ecclesiastical museum including a large collection of frescos and panel icons. Continue to the Venetian Castle of Saint George standing on a hilltop. Originally built by the Byzantines in the 12th century and largely improved by the Venetians in later centuries, the castle was the capital of Kefalonia until 1757, before it was transferred to present-day Argostoli.  (BL)

 

Wed 12 Jun / Kefalonia (Ithaca)

Today, journey by ferry to the island of Ithaca, steeped in myth and history. Famous as the home of Odysseus, the island of Ithaca – and particularly the journey to the island as a metaphor for the struggles of life – inspired Homer in the 8th century BC and his modern Greek successor, the early 20th century poet Constantine Cavafy who is considered to have revived the tradition of Greek poetry.
Explore the island, visiting the Homeric sites and enjoying astonishing scenery such as beautiful beaches with clear blue water, lush green valleys and quaint mountain villages. Return to Kefalonia in the afternoon. (BL)

 

Thu 13 Jun / Kefalonia

This morning, visit the picturesque port of Fiskardo with two-storey houses painted in traditional pastel colours with dark red tiled rooftops. After lunch at a local restaurant, discover Dafnoudi Cove, a small hidden rocky beach with crystal clear waters.  (BL)

 

Fri 14 Jun / Kefalonia – Paxos

Check out of the hotel in the early morning and transfer to Kefalonia Airport for a flight to Corfu (flight included in tour price). On arrival in Corfu, transfer by boat to the untamed island of Paxos, covered in tall olive trees. Arrive at the hotel and enjoy some time at leisure. Dinner tonight is at the hotel. (BD)

 

Sat 15 Jun / Paxos

Today, explore the small island of Paxos by private boat and discover this true hidden gem of the Ionian Sea, stopping at different coves to swim in its clear water. Lunch is on board.
Continue to the tiny neighbouring island of Antipaxos, so named because it lies ‘opposite Paxos’. Return to Paxos port in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

Sun 16 Jun / Paxos – Corfu

Check out of the hotel and visit Paxos Museum, located in the charming port town of Gaios and learn about the history of the island. Then, enjoy stunning views of the island during an orientation tour by coach, stopping along the way in picturesque villages and traditional olive presses. In the afternoon, transfer by boat to Corfu and check in to the hotel, our base for the next five nights. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

Mon 17 Jun / Corfu

This morning, discover the Old Town of Corfu. Located in a strategic position at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea, the Old Town was built between two ancient fortresses and remains a fine example of Venetian and Byzantine art with elegant mansions and imposing buildings.
Then, depart for Gastouri and enjoy a private garden visit followed by lunch. Here, our host, a garden writer, will reveal the secrets of gardening in a Mediterranean climate. Enjoy some time at leisure to continue your exploration of the extensive property at your own pace. (BL)

 

Tue 18 Jun / Corfu

Travel to the north of the island and visit a private garden before enjoying lunch in a traditional beachside taverna near Kalami. In the afternoon, enjoy some time at leisure to swim at Kalami Beach and see the house of mid-20th century British expatriate authors Gerald and Lawrence Durrell. Return to Corfu town in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

Wed 19 Jun / Corfu

This morning, visit a selection of private gardens before travelling to Pelekas. In Pelekas, discover another lovely property on an exclusive garden tour by our friendly local host before enjoying some sunset drinks at her home. Dinner tonight is at a local taverna. (BD)

 

Thu 20 Jun / Corfu

Discover Mon Repos Palace standing on Analipsis Hill, where the ancient town of Corfu was located. Built in 1826 by the British Commissioner Frederic Adams, this grand palace is surrounded by a magnificent garden of approximately 100 hectares and was the birthplace of Prince Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh – who is still affectionately known in his adopted British homeland as ‘Phil the Greek’. Then, travel south to the village of Boukari and celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell lunch with Trisha and fellow travellers. After some time at leisure in Boukari, return to Corfu town. (BL)

 

Fri 21 Jun / Depart Corfu

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. Make your way to Corfu Airport for suggested morning flights to Athens, connecting with suggested Qatar Airways flights to Australia or New Zealand via Doha. 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)

 

Note: At time of publication (October 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.

Iberian Kaleidoscope

Iberian Kaleidoscope
GARDENS, LANDSCAPES AND CUISINES OF SPAIN AND PORTUGAL
with Sandy Pratten

 

17 May – 01 June 2019 (16 days)

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

Discover the proud traditions of Madrid, whose palaces, boulevards and churches display the opulence of an empire that once stretched across the globe. Then heard northwards to Asturias and Galicia, two regions whose distinctive cultures and cuisines add a fascinating dimension to the kaleidoscope that is Iberia.

In Portugal, discover Oporto, home of the country’s most famous export – port wine – and explore the gentle slopes of the winding Douro River. Then head southwards through the ancient university city of Coimbra before arriving in Lisbon, where the grand historic gardens and palaces of Sintra present a magical visual tapestry of colours and textures.

 

 

At a Glance…

• Marvel at the grand palaces and gardens of Madrid, Spain’s stately capital
• Admire the stunning scenery and villages of Spain’s verdant north coast
• Wonder at the spectacular Romanesque cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, culmination of the 800km pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago
• Explore the winding lanes of Porto’s Ribeira District, whose orange-roofed buildings stretch along the gentle Douro River
• Soak up the relaxed pace of Lisbon, the elegant Portuguese capital, and atmospheric Sintra

 

Note: At time of publication (July 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.</i>

This tour is organised by the Foundation & Friends of the Botanic Gardens in partnership with Renaissance Tours.

 

 

ITINERARY…

 

Thursday 16 May 2019 / Depart Australia

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

 

Fri 17 May / Arrive Madrid

 

Arrive in Madrid in the mid-afternoon (if travelling on suggested flights) and make your way to the hotel for check-in.

At 18:00, join Sandy and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by a special welcome dinner. (D)

 

Sat 18 May / Madrid

 

Begin your exploration of Madrid with a morning walking tour of Old Madrid, including the Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Oriente and the beautiful 17th century arcaded square, the Plaza Mayor. Also explore the picturesque Plaza de la Villa nearby.

After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Sabatini Gardens. The gardens form part of the Royal Palace and are constructed in a formal Neoclassic style with symmetric geometrical patterns.

Then, continue to the Royal Botanical Gardens declared an Artistic Garden in 1942, including the largest herbarium in Spain with more than a million botanical specimens. Discover the Terrace of the Laurels, housing a bonsai collection designed by the award-winning landscape architect Fernando Caruncho. (BL)

 

Sun 19 May / Madrid (Aranjuez)

 

Enjoy a full-day tour to the royal town of Aranjuez.Visit the Jardin del Principe (Prince’s Garden), created by King Carlos IV between 1789 and 1808. This large landscape garden follows the English and French fashion from the late 18th century with the delightful Narcissus Fountain and the beautifully constructed Pond of the Chinescos.

After lunch, visit the Royal Palace and Gardens. The palace’s most distinctive feature is the predominance of white and red on its façade. The gardens display a wide variety of styles but also remain a perfect example of the Spanish Renaissance. Return to Madrid in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

Mon 20 May / Madrid – Oviedo

 

This morning, transfer to Madrid train station for a high-speed train trip to León.

On arrival in León, transfer to the Cathedral of León and visit this fine example of soaring 13th century Gothic architecture renowned for its magnificent stained-glass windows.

After lunch at a local restaurant, continue to the beautiful city of Oviedo in the Asturias region. Arrive in the late afternoon at the hotel for check-in. (BL)

 

Tue 21 May / Oviedo

 

In the morning, enjoy a walking tour of Oviedo. Walk through the maze of streets in the old town and view the impressive Cathedral, the city’s most distinctive building. Continue to the Campo de San Francisco, a beautiful sprawling park at the heart of Oviedo.

Transfer to Gijon and enjoy lunch in this beautiful coastal city in northern Spain. Explore the Atlantic Botanic Gardens, a perfect example of the variety of plants and vegetation typically found in the Atlantic areas. Return to Oviedo in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

Wed 22 May / Oviedo – Santiago de Compostela

 

Depart Oviedo to the pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela. Santiago de Compostela is situated in the region of Galicia, an autonomous community in the far north-western reaches of Spain. Since the 9th century, this location has been one of the most important pilgrimage destinations for Christians and is the culmination of the celebrated pilgrimage route of the Camino de Santiago, the ‘Way of St James’.

Arrive in the afternoon and check in to our historical boutique hotel. After some time at leisure, visit the Cathedral of Santiago, which towers over the city and has welcomed pilgrims since the 11th century. (BD)

 

Thu 23 May / Santiago de Compostela

 

This morning, discover the Pazo de Oca, known as the ‘Galician Versailles’. This ‘pazo’ (manor house) is a beautiful French-style garden with magnificent specimens of camellias, magnolias, maples and an avenue of lime trees.

Visit the Pazo de Santa Cruz de Rivadulla, an English-style garden housing 200 plant species and a singular ensemble formed by more than 500 olive trees.

After lunch, enjoy some time at leisure to further explore Santiago de Compostela. Then, explore the Pazo de San Lorenzo located in an old Mediaeval monastery. One of the highlights of the garden is an incredible boxwood parterre, creating a dense labyrinth. (BL)

 

Fri 24 May / Santiago de Compostela – Pontevedra

 

Depart from Santiago de Compostela for Pontevedra, visiting several interesting gardens en route. Explore the Pazo de Fefinans, containing a historical vineyard and a hectare of Albariño wine grapes.

In the afternoon, visit the Pazo de la Saleta and Pazo Quinteiro da Cruz, two different private gardens among the best botanical gardens on the ‘Route of the Camellias’. With a humid climate, mild temperatures and fertile soil, Galicia offers the optimum conditions for the growth of the flower, with nearly 8,000 varieties of Camellia japonica and Camellia sasanqua.

Arrive in Pontevedra and check in to the Parador de Pontevedra, an impressive 16th century Renaissance palace, followed by dinner. (BD)

 

Sat 25 May / Pontevedra

 

Continue your exploration of the Pontevedra region’s gardens and visit the Pazo de Rubianes, recognised as an International Camellia Garden of Excellence. Started in the late 17th century, this historical Galician garden houses more than 4,000 specimens of camellias and other unique botanical species.

After some time at leisure in Pontevedra, explore Pazo de Lourizan, a major botanic installation located on a 54-hectare property. The arboretum, a botanical garden created in 1949, houses exotic and native species.
(BD)

 

Sun 26 May / Pontevedra – Porto

 

Travel from Pontevedra to Porto and stop en route in the Spanish city of Vigo. Visit the gardens of the Museum of Quinones de León, divided into five distinct parts including a rose garden, French and English gardens.

After a lunch at a local restaurant, travel to Portugal and visit the Quinta do Alão, a 17th century quinta (estate) presenting an important botanic collection.  Arrive in Porto in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

Mon 27 May / Porto

 

Located on a magnificent site near the mouth of the Douro River, Porto is an ancient port steeped in history and tradition. Enjoy a morning walking tour of the historic centre, a prominent feature of which is the stunning interior and exterior decoration in azulejos (glazed tiles). At the nearby São Bento Station, most of the atrium is covered with a work of around 20,000 tiles alluding to the history of transport and of Portugal itself.

In the afternoon, visit Quinta de Villar d’Allen, one of the few surviving leisure manors that surrounded the city of Porto in the 18th and 19th centuries. Continue to Serralves Park located near the Museum of Contemporary Art. The park contains an important arboreal collection with more than 230 native and exotic species. Return to the hotel. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

Tue 28 May / Porto

 

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

After lunch, explore the Paço de São Cipriano near Guimarães, a historical manor belonging to the same family since the 15th century. The property features an enchanting lush green garden with box trees, roses and camellias. (BL)

 

Wed 29 May / Porto – Lisbon

 

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

Stop in the city of Coimbra, the former capital nowadays renowned for its university, the oldest academic institution in the Portuguese-speaking world and one of the oldest in Europe. Visit the Botanical Garden of the University of Coimbra created in 1772. Providing a peaceful and inviting atmosphere, the garden presents a diverse collection of Portuguese and exotic species, a result of 15th century maritime expansion and curiosity towards the plants discovered in new lands. Arrive in Lisbon in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

Thu 30 May / Lisbon

 

Begin your exploration of Lisbon with an orientation walking tour of the Baixa area, the commercial heart of Lisbon. Totally rebuilt after the earthquake of 1755, the Baixa is one of Europe’s first examples of town planning. The area contains magnificent plazas, connected by wide avenues lined with grand 18th century buildings. Explore the Alfama neighbourhood, Lisbon’s oldest district and Bairro Alto, the city’s bohemian haunt of artists and writers.

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

Continue to the privately-owned Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira. Built in 1640, it is still one of the most beautiful residences in Lisbon, containing splendid rooms with 17th and 18th century decorative tiles, frescoed panels and oil paintings. However, it is most famous for its formal gardens with some of the country’s finest tiles, depicting hunting, battles and religious scenes. (BL)

 

Fri 31 May / Lisbon (Sintra)

 

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

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

Continue to Quinta da Regaleira. Built in the early 1900s, Regaleira consists of a palace and chapel in a mixture of Roman, Gothic, Renaissance and Manueline architectural styles, surrounded by a luxurious park featuring lakes, tunnels, grottoes, wells, and fountains. Following the visit, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell lunch with Sandy and fellow travellers.

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

 

Sat 01 Jun / Depart Lisbon

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

For those returning home today, make your way to Lisbon Airport for suggested Qatar Airways flights to Australia or New Zealand via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour. (B)

Gardens of 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)

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

 

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

 

 

**Waitlisted. Now accepting bookings for 2020. **

 

ITINERARY

 

The following itinerary describes a range of gardens and estates which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure in 2019. 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. Meals included in the tour price and are indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=Lunch and D=evening meal.

 

 

Oxford – 5 nights

 

Day 1: Tuesday 14 May, London Heathrow – Oxford

Arrive London Heathrow and transfer to Oxford
Introduction & Welcome Dinner

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

 

Day 2: Wednesday 15 May, The Cotswolds

Private visit of Sezincote House and Gardens
Market town of Moreton-in-Marsh
Guided tour of Bourton House Gardens with the Head Gardener, Paul Nicholls
Stow-on-the-Wold

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

Midday we travel to the northern Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-Marsh, where there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the high street, which has many elegant 18th-century inns and houses, including the Redesdale Market Hall.

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

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

 

Day 3: Thursday 16 May, Oxford – Banbury – Lower Wardington – Oxford

Broughton Grange, Banbury
Pettifers Garden, Lower Wardington

We begin today 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.”(Overnight Oxford) BL

 

Day 4: Friday 17 May, Oxford – Througham Court – Highgrove – Oxford

Private Guided tour of Througham Court Gardens with Dr Christine Facer Hoffman
Highgrove House: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens (subject to confirmation in 2018)

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

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

 

Day 5: Saturday 18 May, The Cotswolds

Hidcote Manor
Kiftsgate Court Gardens
Village of Bibury

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

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

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

 

Day 6: Sunday 19 May, Oxford & Steeple Ashton

Rousham House and Gardens
Guided tour of the University of Oxford Botanic Gardens with Dr Alison Foster, Senior Curator
Magdalen College and its award-winning gardens

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

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

 

 

Royal Tunbridge Wells – 1 night

 

Day 7: Monday 20 May, Oxford – West Green House Gardens – Sevenoaks – Royal Tunbridge Wells

West Green House Gardens: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens
Ightham Mote, Sevenoaks

We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 60kms south to the Hart District of Northern Hampshire to visit West Green House Gardens that surround a lovely 18th-century house. These are the creation of an Australian, Marylyn Abbott. One could possibly call this a ‘biographical garden’ in the sense that it is a very personal creation based upon Marylyn’s early love of gardens, inculcated by her mother and 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. Her gardens appear in many publications, in one of which (The Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden Finder 2007) Charles Quest-Ritson has stated:

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

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

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

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

 

 

London – 3 nights

 

Day 8: Tuesday 21 May, Royal Tunbridge Wells – Great Dixter – Sissinghurst – London

Great Dixter House & Gardens
Sissinghurst Castle Gardens

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

We next drive to Sissinghurst Castle Garden, one of England’s greatest garden delights. Sissinghurst was the garden of poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, journalist, MP and diplomat, and is possibly the most influential of all 20th-century gardens. Built around the remnants of an Elizabethan castle, of which the tower remains a central garden feature, the garden is divided into distinct spaces where a formality established by Nicolson is clothed by a romantic planting style pursued by Sackville-West. 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 London where we shall spend the next three nights at St Martins Lane hotel. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 9: Wednesday 22 May, Chelsea Flower Show

The Chelsea Flower Show (Members Day)
The Garden Museum

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

In the mid afternoon we visit the nearby Garden Museum, which has recently been redeveloped and showcases an impressive collection and temporary exhibitions in its galleries. The museum, founded by Rosemary Nicholson in 1977, is housed in a former church and features a medieval tower with a view to Westminster. In what was formerly St Mary’s at Lambeth, this building dates back to the medieval era and is Britain’s only museum of garden history art and design. (Overnight London) B

 

Day 10: Thursday 23 May, London

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew – with Richard Barley, Director of Horticulture at Kew Gardens
Farewell Lunch at the Botanical Restaurant, Kew Gardens
Afternoon at leisure

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

Our day concludes with a farewell lunch at the Botanical Restaurant, housed in Museum No. 1 with stunning views to Palm Lake. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore London at your leisure. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 11: Friday 24 May, London, Tour Ends

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

 

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

 

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 in Spanish Culture

Gardens in Spanish Culture

 

**Filling**

 

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 Emirates 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. Check in to the hotel, reputed to be one of the country’s oldest inns dating back to the 13th century, with 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 and arrive at the hotel, which was originally built to house draughtsmen working on Salisbury Cathedral. Dinner is at the hotel. (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, and 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 a delectable Parade of Puddings. (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. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant. 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)

 

 

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

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

 

**2 rooms 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

 

**3 rooms 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

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

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 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.

Begin in the Lakes District where Italy meets the Alps, and the long glacial lakes of Maggiore and Como are studded with Renaissance villas and English-style gardens once the domain of counts and cardinals.

Then travel to Puglia on the heel of the Italian Peninsula and explore the Mediterranean-style gardens around Alberobello and Lecce. Stroll through groves of grapes, olives, figs and almonds, and visit botanical gardens featuring holm oaks, rare grasses and tropical plants.

 

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

 

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 – DEPART BARI
Transfer from Alberobello to Bari Airport.

Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Bari Airport at 11:00 for flights departing from 13:00 onwards. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements. (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)

 

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)

 

Cultural Landscapes of the Midi-Pyrénées & the Dordogne

Cultural Landscapes of the Midi-Pyrénées & the Dordogne with Adrian Mialet

 

NOTE: CLOSING SOON – SMALL GROUP

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.

•  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 newly opened 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.

 

 

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: Tuesday 11 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 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: Wednesday 12 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: Thursday 13 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. 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: Friday 14 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.

The rest of the afternoon will be at leisure to explore this beautiful city for yourself. (Overnight Albi) B

 

Day 5: Saturday 15 September, 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 have lunch 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: Sunday 16 September, 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 Church 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 been 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: Monday 17 September, 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, Saint 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 Saint 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, 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: Tuesday 18 September, 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: Wednesday 19 September, Sarlat – Les Eyzies de Tayac – Rouffignac – Sarlat

Musée National de la Préhistoire, Les Eyzies

Abri Pataud, Les Eyzies

Prehistoric cave of Rouffignac

For over a century the Dordogne has been celebrated for its magnificent painted caves from the Late Pleistocine, what archaeologists call Late Paleolithic (40,000-10,000 BC). At this time humans were sufficiently technologically advanced to survive the extreme cold of the Last Ice Age in this region, and to hunt the huge herds of animals that roamed it. For 25,000 years in this region of limestone plateaux and verdant valleys, humans decorated caves with engravings, sculptures and paintings, depicting all kinds of animals in extraordinary, vividly naturalistic detail. Around 10,000 BC the climate ameliorated and the magnificent cave decorations cease, possibly because the great herds of bison, deer and other animals that man had hunted – and depicted – moved further north to new pastures that had been freed from the retreating ice cover.

This morning we visit the Musée National de la 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.

Our last 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. (Overnight Sarlat) B

 

Day 10: Thursday 20 September, 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 the 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. Before 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 11: Friday 21 September, 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

 

Condat-sur-Vézère – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Saturday 22 September, Sarlat – Vézac – Beynac-Cazenac – Condat-sur-Vézère

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 continue to Montignac where we shall reside for the next 3 nights. 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. (Overnight Montignac) BD

 

Day 13: Sunday 23 September, Montignac – Thonac – St-Léon-sur-Vézère – Lascaux – Montignac

Château de Losse, Thonac

St-Léon-sur-Vézère

Lascaux Caves IV

We begin this morning with a visit to 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

We then drive along the Vézère Valley up to the picturesque village of St-Léon-sur-Vézère where we shall have a picnic lunch by the river.

In the afternoon we return to Montignac. Here we will visit the recently opened (2016) new facsimile of the world famous painted caves, Lascaux IV, 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 1500 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 14: Monday 24 September, 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 head 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 before driving to the picturesque village of Saint-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: Tuesday 25 September, Montignac – 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: Wednesday 26 September, 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

 

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)

 

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

AT A GLANCE…

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

 

ITINERARY

THURSDAY 03 MAY 2018

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

 

FRI 04 MAY / ARRIVE ROME

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

 

SAT 05 MAY / ROME

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

 

SUN 06 MAY / ROME – SORRENTO

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

 

MON 07 MAY / SORRENTO

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

 

TUE 08 MAY / SORRENTO

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

 

WED 09 MAY / SORRENTO – RAVELLO

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

 

THU 10 MAY / RAVELLO

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

 

FRI 11 MAY / RAVELLO – CATANIA

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

 

SAT 12 MAY / CATANIA

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

 

SUN 13 MAY / CATANIA

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

 

MON 14 MAY / CATANIA – SYRACUSE

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

 

TUE 15 MAY / SYRACUSE

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

 

WED 16 MAY / SYRACUSE – VALLETTA

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

 

THU 17 MAY / VALLETTA

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

 

FRI 18 MAY / VALLETTA

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

 

SAT 19 MAY / DEPART VALLETTA

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

 

POST TOUR EXTENSION ITINERARY

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

 

SATURDAY 19 MAY 2018 / VALLETTA – VICTORIA

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

 

SUN 20 MAY / VICTORIA

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

 

MON 21 MAY / VICTORIA – VALLETTA

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

 

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.

 

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.

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 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 16 May, Aix-en-Provence – Cucuron – Aix-en-Provence

Pavillon de Galon, Cucuron (private garden, by special appointment)
Lunch at La Petite Maison de Cucuron, Cucuron
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we travel north of Aix-en-Provence to the Pavillon de Galon, a restored 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. After lunch, we return to Aix, where the remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Aix-en-Provence) BL

 

Avignon – 6 nights

 

Day 12: Thursday 17 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 18 May, Avignon – Sorgues – 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 19 May, Avignon – Eygalières – Noves – Mouriès – Avignon

Mas Benoît, Eygalières (private garden, by special appointment)
Atelier of Marc Nucera, Noves (by special appointment)
Gardens of the Abbey Sainte-Marie de Pierredon – designed by Dominique Lafourcade, Mouriès (private garden by special appointment)
Today we are privileged to meet with Marc Nucera, renowned tree sculptor and ‘shaper’. Marc started his career as the student and disciple of the professor, sculptor and then garden designer and Land Art practitioner Alain-David Idoux. Although Idoux died tragically young, he left behind a legacy of ground-breaking design.

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

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

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

This afternoon is dedicated to visiting the gardens of the Abbey Sainte-Marie de Pierredon, one of Dominique Lafourcade’s best design. The recently renovated abbey is nestled in the heart of the regional national park of Alpilles. Amid cypresses, lavender fields, olive and almond trees sits the 12th-century Pierredon chapel with its bell tower, the last original bell-tower remaining in any of the abbeys founded by the Chalais monks. In 2004, Dominique Lafourcade laid out the gardens and created perspectives supported by lavender, roses and even edible flowers, planted in harmony with the natural environment. She introduced long wisterias to soften the austere lines of the abbey. (Overnight Avignon) BL

 

Day 15: Sunday 20 May, Avignon – L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue – Gordes – Bonnieux – 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 by a duo of professional harp and flute musicians. (Overnight Avignon) BLD

 

Day 16: Monday 21 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 22 May, Avignon – Saint Etienne du Grès – Saint-Rémy-de-Provence – Avignon

Le Petit Fontanille, Saint Etienne du Grès (private garden, by special appointment)
Mas Theo, the Provençal garden of Pierre Bergé at Saint-Rémy-de-Provence (private garden, by special appointment)
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.

A highlight of our tour is a visit to Saint-Rémy where we visit Mas Theo, the town courtyards of fashion magnate Pierre Bergé, lifelong companion of Yves Saint Laurent. Named after the brother of Vincent Van Gogh (the artist lived for a year at the nearby asylum), the gardens were created in 1992 by Michel Semini, a sought-after landscape architect whose clients included many Parisian fashion and film people.

We end the day with a private visit with master landscape architect Dominique Lafourcade to one of her recent creations near Saint-Rémy-de-Provence. (Overnight Avignon) B

 

Florac – 3 nights

 

Day 18: Wednesday 23 May, Avignon – Uzès – Florac

Wednesday market of medieval village of Uzès
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 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) BD

 

Day 19: Thursday 24 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. Nineteenth-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 25 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 26 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

 

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show 2018

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show 2018 with Richard Heathcote

 

**1 ROOM REMAINING – BOOK NOW**

 

Tour Highlights

This cultural garden tour of England led by Richard Heathcote combines a day at the renowned Chelsea Flower Show with some of England’s finest gardens such as Rousham, Hidcote, Kiftsgate, Bourton, Sezincote, Great Dixter and Sissinghurst.

Immerse yourself in the lovely medieval city of Oxford and visit Magdalen College gardens.
Study the development of the English country house from 17th-century Rousham House to 20th-century Great Dixter.

Visit private gardens such as Througham Court Gardens and HRH The Prince of Wales’ Highgrove House Gardens*.

Make a special visit to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, with Richard Barley, Director of Horticulture.

Explore Australian Marylyn Abbott’s award-winning West Green House Gardens; and Ightham Mote, a wonderful example of a small medieval moated manor house, perfectly located within a peaceful garden surrounded by woodland.

Wander through picturesque Cotswold villages including Stow-on-the-Wold.

Enjoy a farewell meal at the Kew Gardens Orangery Restaurant.

* Note: we are unable to confirm a number of the private garden visits until February 2018.

 

Tour Overview

Richard Heathcote leads this exciting program that combines a day at the renowned Chelsea Flower Show and visit to the Chelsea Physic Gardens with a tour to some of England’s finest country houses and gardens. Restored Bourton House won the prestigious HHA/Christie’s ‘Garden of the Year Award’ in 2006. Sezincote’s oriental gardens complement S.P. Cockerell’s fascinating ‘Indian’ house. Scientist and architect Christine Facer Hoffman has appended to her 17th-century house her own experimental garden that creates spatial narratives based upon number sequences found in nature. Rousham’s interiors are extraordinarily well preserved; it’s been owned by the Dormer family since 1635 and has fine landscaped gardens laid out by William Kent. Great Dixter is famous for its plantings established by Christopher Lloyd and Sissinghurst is the beloved masterpiece of Vita Sackville West. At West Green House Gardens Marylyn Abbott has reconciled her Australian gardening heritage, dominated by brilliant light, with England’s softer, more muted atmosphere. Ightham Mote, meanwhile, is a wonderful example of a small medieval moated manor house, located within a peaceful garden surrounded by woodland. In these and other fine gardens we explore the initial influence of Italian formalism, 18th-century reactions against formal Italian and French modes by English landscape gardeners, the reversion to more formal styles in the second half of the 19th century, and the personal influences of that century’s famous garden designers. Special highlights include a planned visit to Highgrove, where HRH The Prince of Wales has created some of the most inspired and innovative gardens in the United Kingdom and a tour of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew with Richard Barley, Director of Horticulture. In Oxford we visit the Oxford Botanic Garden, the oldest botanic garden in Britain (founded in 1621), featuring inspiring herbaceous borders and glasshouses, and the award-winning gardens of 550 year-old Magdalen College. We also enjoy lovely Cotswold villages such as Stow-on-the-Wold, stately Tunbridge Wells, and learn about the development of the English country house.

 

10 days in England

Overnight Oxford (5 nights) • Royal Tunbridge Wells (1 night) • London (3 nights)

 

Oxford – 5 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 16 May, London Heathrow – Oxford

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

 

Day 2: Thursday 17 May, The Cotswolds

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

Midday we travel to the northern Cotswolds town of Moreton-in-Marsh where there will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore high street which has many elegant 18th-century inns and houses including the Redesdale Market Hall.

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

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

 

Day 3: Friday 18 May, Oxford – Througham Court – Highgrove – Oxford

Private Guided tour of Througham Court Gardens with Dr Christine Facer Hoffman
Highgrove House: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens (subject to confirmation in 2018)
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 77kms south to the county of Gloucestershire. Here, Througham Court, a 17th-century Jacobean house with 6 acres of formal/informal landscape overlooks a peaceful Cotswold valley. Christine Facer Hoffman, scientist and landscape architect, describes her private garden as “a personal ‘laboratory’ to experiment with new ideas, materials and planting combinations.” Developed since 2000, contemporary areas have been artfully embedded in the Cotswold architect Norman Jewson’s 1930’s Arts and Crafts masterpiece, which features magnificent yew topiary and dry stone wall terracing. Hoffman has stated that her contemporary ‘fragments’ are inspired by scientific discoveries and theories. She uses mathematical number sequences found in nature to create a symbolic and metaphorical narrative so that the gardens may be ‘read’ by the visitor. They recently featured in the RHS publication The Garden magazine and in Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden Secrets on BBC 2.

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

 

Day 4: Saturday 19 May, The Cotswolds

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

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

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

 

Day 5: Sunday 20 May, Oxford & Steeple Ashton

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

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

 

Royal Tunbridge Wells – 1 night

 

Day 6: Monday 21 May, Oxford – West Green House Gardens – Sevenoaks – Royal Tunbridge Wells

West Green House Gardens: Lunch & Guided tour of Gardens
Ightham Mote, Sevenoaks
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 60kms south to the Hart District of Northern Hampshire to visit West Green House Gardens that surround a lovely 18th-century house. These are the creation of an Australian, Marylyn Abbott. One could possibly call this a ‘biographical garden’ in the sense that it is a very personal creation based upon Marylyn’s early love of gardens, inculcated by her mother and 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. Her gardens appear in many publications, in one of which (The Royal Horticultural Society’s Garden Finder 2007) Charles Quest-Ritson has stated:

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

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

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

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

 

London – 3 nights

 

Day 7: Tuesday 22 May, Royal Tunbridge Wells – Great Dixter – Sissinghurst – London

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

We next drive to Sissinghurst Castle Garden, one of England’s greatest garden delights. Sissinghurst was the garden of poet and writer Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson, journalist, MP and diplomat, and is possibly the most influential of all 20th-century gardens. Built around the remnants of an Elizabethan castle, of which the tower remains a central garden feature, the garden is divided into distinct spaces where a formality established by Nicolson is clothed by a romantic planting style pursued by Sackville-West. 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 London where we shall spend the next three nights at The Bailey’s Hotel London, a 4-star hotel set in an elegant 19th-century town house and centrally located in Kensington. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 8: Wednesday 23 May, Chelsea Flower Show

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

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

 

Day 9: Thursday 24 May, London

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

Our day concludes with a farewell lunch at the grand Orangery Restaurant, housed in a magnificent 18th-century Grade 1 listed building with stunning views over the gardens. The remainder of the afternoon is free for you to explore London at your leisure. (Overnight London) BL

 

Day 10: Friday 25 May, London, Tour Ends

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

 

Chelsea Flower Show & Country Gardens

Chelsea Flower Show & Country Gardens

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

 

May 19, Friday – Arrive in London at Heathrow Airport
May 20, Saturday – Farleigh Wallop, Stonehenge
May 21, Sunday – Cothay Manor, Plaz Metaxu
May 22, Monday – Iford Manor, Special Plants Nursery, Veddw
May 23, Tuesday – Daylesford House, Broughton Grange, Pettifers
May 24, Wednesday – Hidcote, Kiftsgate
May 25, Thursday – Olympic Park, Chelsea Flower Show
May 26, Friday – Sissinghurst, Great Dixter
May 27, Saturday – Departure for home or continue travels on your own

 

 

FULL ITINERARY

 

Day 1, May 19, Friday – ARRIVE IN LONDON

Tour participants will independently arrange travel to Heathrow Airport and have the opportunity to get settled before the garden tour starts on Thursday. We’ll gather in the hotel bar to get acquainted at 6:00 PM for Welcome Cocktails.

 

Day 2, May 20, Saturday – FARLEIGH WALLOP, STONEHENGE

Our tour begins with a visit to the private garden at Farleigh Wallop. This three-acre walled garden was redesigned in the 1980’s by Georgia Langton and has been described as “an exemplary modern garden in the classic tradition.” We’ll stroll through an ornamental kitchen garden, a formal rose garden, and a wild rose and sculpture garden. We’ll also want to wander through the greenhouse filled with exotic treasures and check out the mirror pool at the end of a serpentine yew-lined walk. By the time we leave, perhaps we’ll know what the English mean by “modern” and “classic” and this knowledge may spark insights into other gardens on our tour.

Next we’ll visit Stonehenge which dates back to prehistoric times and has fascinated archaeologists and the general public for centuries. Who built the circles of monumental, upright, standing stones — some sarsens and some bluestones — and for what purpose? The builders left no known written records, so speculation abounds. In the 12th century, Geoffrey of Monmouth theorized that Stonehenge was a memorial to Britons killed by Saxons – and that the wizard Merlin had the stones brought from Giant’s’ Ring, a stone circle with magic powers located in Ireland. Others thought Stonehenge was erected as a Druid temple, and still others believe it was an astronomical computer used to predict eclipses. And then there’s the contingent who are certain it’s a landing pad for ancient space aliens. We’ll end the day with a fascinating discussion, for sure. Dr. Spock, anyone?

 

Day 3, May 21, Sunday – COTHAY MANOR, PLAZ METAXU

Today, we’ll start at Cothay Manor which is thought by many to be the finest example of a small, moated, medieval manor house in England. The gardens surrounding the house were originally laid out in the early 20th century but were completely remade into a series of rooms by the current owners Alistair and Mary-Anne Robb in the 1990’s. The result is a magical, plantsman’s paradise.

Our next visit is to Plaz Metaxu, a garden created by its owner, Alasdair Forbes. It is among the most unconventional gardens you’ll ever see. Situated in a small valley, the garden has been described as a meditation on the valley as a landform expressed through references to Greek myths. It’s intellectual, provocative, symbolic, and one of the most unusual modern gardens in the UK or anywhere else. Garden critic Tim Richardson has written, “Plaz Metaxu is one of the very few gardens that is worthy of being mentioned in the same breath as the late Ian Hamilton’s Little Sparta in Scotland.” High praise, indeed!

 

Day 4, May 22, Monday – IFORD MANOR, SPECIAL PLANTS NURSERY, VEDDW

Lovely Iford Manor, an Italianate garden in the beautiful countryside near Bath, is our first garden today. It was created in the early 20th century by the architect Harold Peto who had made Iford Manor his home. Peto recognized that the surrounding steep valley made an ideal backdrop for the kind of garden architecture he liked. Using the topography, he created ascending terraces with every level having its own mood enhanced by handsome statues and ornaments collected on his travels to Italy. We’ll make sure to pause on each level to take in the bucolic views over the countryside.

Veddw House Garden is a must-see Welsh garden designed by a husband and wife team, writer Anne Wareham and photographer Charles Hawes. Using traditional hedging to create structure, Wareham and Hawes have infused these intimate spaces with modern ideas and plantings. A visual highlight is the Pool Garden with its dark water reflecting the undulating hedges rising up the slope. A definite photo op you won’t want to miss.

 

Day 5, May 23, Tuesday – DAYLESFORD HOUSE, BROUGHTON GRANGE, PETTIFERS

Our visit to Daylesford House will give us a peek into a traditional well-run English estate. Known for being perfectly maintained and organic, the gardens have most recently been augmented by Rupert Golby, one of those rare designers who is little known in the gardening world (he has no website) but highly sought after as satisfied clients spread the word about his excellent designs. We’ll want to spend time in the walled garden, a true potager that Golby redesigned and which provides the produce for the estate’s products. Seeing the Secret Garden for tender exotics is a must, as well as the Anglo-Indian orangery and it’s companion sculpture, a line of full size woven elephants. There are also glasshouses, lakes, waterfalls, a scented walk, a pool garden, and a woodland. We’ll be sorry to leave such a gorgeous estate.

At Broughton Grange, we’ll explore a captivating design by Tom Stuart-Smith. Part of a larger 19th century garden, a major renovation in 2000 transformed a former paddock into an ambitious 6-acre walled garden. Three themed terraces traverse a slope and open to the surrounding rural landscape. We’ll see masses of perennials and grasses punctuated with topiary, a modern boxwood parterre based on leaves, beech tunnels, pleached lime squares, and a rill carrying water into a large stone tank. The scale of Stuart-Smith’s 21st century design is a bold step away from typical English garden rooms. Elsewhere at Broughton Grange is a knot garden, a huge arboretum, a spring walk, a woodland, a stumpery, a bamboo grove, a rose garden…… and don’t forget to see the Mediterranean plantings!

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

 

Day 6, May 24, Wednesday – HIDCOTE, KIFTSGATE

Starting in 1907, Lawrence Johnston, a talented plantsman with a strong sense of design, created Hidcote, considered by many to be a masterpiece. A series of hedged, intimate, outdoor rooms, each with its own individual character, are linked by narrow passageways that eventually lead to lawns and views to the countryside beyond. Throughout, Johnston used a vast variety of plants, many found on his plant collecting trips. It’s noteworthy that Hidcote with its themed garden rooms changed how gardens were made in England and is still influencing garden makers today.

A visit to Kiftsgate Court Gardens is not complete without an understanding of how 3 generations of women in one family have shaped the garden and made it into a beloved treasure. The garden was started in the 1920s by Heather Muir who boldly employed an intuitive approach to creating gardens instead of using a more formalized plan. In the 1950’s, Muir’s daughter, Diany Binny, continued the evolution of the garden by introducing a semicircular pool to the lower level, commissioning sculptural features, and opening Kiftsgate for public enjoyment for the first time. Today, Anne Chambers, daughter of Binny and granddaughter of Muir, shapes the garden. Her new Water Garden is a contemporary oasis and evidence of her desire to bring the garden into the 21st century.

 

Day 7, May 25, Thursday – OLYMPIC PARK, CHELSEA FLOWER SHOW

This morning we’ll visit Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the site of the 2012 London Olympic Games. Our visit will focus on the gardens near the permanent sporting venues where plantings were based on native plant communities and arranged in a style similar to the naturalism of Dutch planting master Piet Oudolf. This innovative approach is now being emulated by gardeners and designers around the world.

Each year the Chelsea Flower Show attracts gardeners and designers from every corner of the world. Held in the middle of London at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, the show consistently displays design excellence with its competitions for Best in Show, Best Fresh Garden and Best Artisan Garden. Listen to Andy Sturgeon, last year’s Best in Show winner, talk about his show garden in this short video. Not to be missed is the Great Pavilion where nurseries and plant societies exhibit the best and newest in international horticulture. We’ll be tired but inspired when we return to our hotel.

 

Day 8, May 26, Friday – SISSINGHURST, GREAT DIXTER

We begin our last day together at Sissinghurst Castle Gardens. These gardens are treasures today thanks to the commitment, imagination and marriage of writer Vita Sackville-West and diplomat Harold Nicolson. In the 1930s, he laid out the gardens’ architecture and she filled it with lush, romantic plantings. Suggest change to two sentences as: Besides exploring the series of intimate garden rooms, make sure you climb the tower and take in the panoramic views from the top. From this vantage point, it’s easy to see why thousands of garden lovers consider a pilgrimage to Sissinghurst an absolute must.

We end our tour at Great Dixter, perhaps the best known and most loved of all English gardens. It exists as a living testament to the life and passions of the late owner, plantsman, and writer, Christopher Lloyd. Head gardener Fergus Garrett, who worked for Lloyd during the last years of his life, carries on the tradition of experimentation that Lloyd started. Although the structure of this garden is early 20th century, the spirit of the plantings is most certainly contemporary. Under Garrett’s leadership, the garden is being developed and maintained to such a high level that you are unlikely find any other garden like it. Great Dixter is a visionary, exuberant, plant lover’s haven. Expect to see contemporary planting design at its best.

 

Day 9, May 27, Saturday – 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 7:30 AM for those with flights leaving at 11:00 AM or later. Or you can take the train or taxi on your own from hotel to the airport.

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

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

 

**FILLING FAST – BOOK NOW**

 

Tour Highlights

• Join Sabrina Hahn, horticulturalist, garden designer and expert gardening commentator on ABC 720 Perth, to tour the gardens of five distinct regions of Italy. Sabrina will be accompanied by award-winning artist David Henderson, who brings a profound knowledge of European art to ASA tours.

• Enjoy the magic of northern lakeside and island gardens including Villa Carlotta, Villa del Balbianello, Isola Bella and Isola Madre.

• Meet Paolo Pejrone, student of Russell Page and currently Italy’s leading garden designer. With him, view his own garden, ‘Bramafam’ and, by special appointment, the private Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa – one of Italy’s most splendid examples of garden design.

• View Paolo Pejrone’s work during private visits to the estate of the Peyrani family and the beautiful Tenuta Banna.

• See the work of Russell Page with an exclusive visit to the private gardens of Villa Silvio Pellico.

• Visit intimate urban gardens in Florence and Fiesole including Le Balze, designed by Cecil Pinsent; Villa di Maiano (featured in James Ivory’s film A Room with a View); and the Giardini Corsini al Prato.

• Ramble through the historical centres of lovely old cities like Turin, Lucca, Siena, Florence and Perugia, and encounter masterpieces of Italian art in major churches and museums.

• Gaze out onto the Mediterranean from the spectacularly situated Abbey of La Cervara.

• Enjoy delicious meals in the verdant surrounds of a number of private Tuscan and Umbrian villas including Villa di Geggiano and Villa Aureli; and at Ristorante Sibilla in Tivoli.

• Explore the great Renaissance garden designs at Villa La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato; and Villa Gamberaia at Settignano, described by Edith Wharton in her book Italian Villas and Their Gardens (1904).

• Marvel at the meeting of culture and nature during an exclusive visit to Paolo Portoghesi’s stunning gardens at Calcata.

• Appreciate historic masterpieces like Villa Lante, Villa d’Este, Tivoli, and the Giardini di Ninfa.

• Take a private tour of the gardens of Palazzo Patrizi and delight in its variety of roses.

• Visit the gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia with designs by Dan Pearson and Stuart Barfoot, considered one of Italy’s most beautiful private gardens.

• Experience fine dining overlooking the sparkling Mediterranean at Michelin-starred The Cesar Restaurant, located within the opulent mansion of the late J. Paul Getty.

 

 

23-day Cultural Garden Tour of Italy

 

Overnight Moltrasio (2 nights) • Stresa (2 nights) • Turin (4 nights) • Lucca (2 nights) • Florence (4 nights) • Siena (2 nights) • Perugia (1 night) • Viterbo (1 night) • Rome (4 nights)

Moltrasio – 2 nights

 

Day 1: Monday 30 April, Arrive Milan – Transfer to Moltrasio
  • Refreshments on arrival at hotel
  • Como: Introductory walking tour and time at leisure
  • 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. At the hotel, light refreshments will be served for those who have arrived on the ‘designated’ flight and any other group members wishing to join them. Those who wish to visit Como will then meet and transfer there by public ferry. In Como, there will be an introductory walking tour, followed by time at leisure. We return to our Moltrasio hotel to complete the check-in process at 3.00pm. The group will meet again at 6.30pm 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 1 May, 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 2 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 3 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 4 May, Stresa – Poirino – Turin
  • Tenuta Banna, Poirino (exclusive private visit)

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 5 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 6 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 7 May, Turin – Villar Perosa – Revello – Moncalieri – Turin
  • Program hosted by garden designer Paolo Pejrone (Gardens of Casa Agnelli & Bramafam)
  • Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2018)
  • Bramafam, Paolo Pejrone’s private experimental garden (exclusive private visit)
  • Private Garden of Silvana and Alberto Peyrani (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed in 2018)

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 8 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 9 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 Eveningat 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 10 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 Borgonuova 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 11 May, Florence – Fiesole – Florence
  • Villa Medici in Fiesole
  • Villa Le Balze
  • 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 12 May, Florence
  • Palazzo Corsini al Prato: Visits to the garden & palazzo; Refreshments
  • Palazzo Davanzati (Museum of the Ancient Florentine House) incl. special access to 2nd & 3rd floor apartments
  • 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.

A counterpoint to the noble Palazzo Corsini, the Palazzo Davanzati was built by the Davizzi family, and was subsequently the home of the Davanzati family, whose coat of arms remains on the building’s facade. It dates to an era in which wealthy Florentine families such as the Medici, Strozzi, Rucellai and Davanzati dominated the European banking sector and textile trade. The house is now a museum, set up as a fourteenth-century home. A visit enables us to gain an insight into the domestic world of a Florentine merchant family.  On display are household tools from the 14th to 19th centuries, linen chests and fine ceramics, a rare, painted 15th-century cabinet, looms, spinning wheels, lacework, and more. Special access to the second and third floors of the palace allows us to see the kitchen, located at the top of the house, as well as the frescoed bedroom known as the Chatelain of Vergy, which contains a desco da partopainted by ‘Lo Scheggia’, brother of the more famous Masaccio.

The afternoon is at leisure to explore Florence’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Florence) B

 

Day 14: Sunday 13 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 14 May, Florence – Settignano – Pianella – Siena
  • Villa Gamberaia, Settignano
  • Villa di Geggiano, Pianella – including buffet lunch (exclusive private visit)
  • Optional evening excursion to Siena’s town centre

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

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. For those wishing to dine in Siena, there will be an optional evening excursion into the city centre. (Overnight Siena) BL

 

Day 16: Tuesday 15 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 16 May, Siena – Chianciano Terme – Castel del Piano Umbro – Perugia
  • Villa La Foce, Chianciano Terme (by special appointment)
  • 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 17 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 18 May, Viterbo – Vignanello – Calcata – Rome
  • Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello
  • Gardens of Paolo Portoghesi, Calcata (exclusive private visit)

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.

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

 

Day 20: Saturday 19 May, Rome – Ninfa – Cisterna – Rome
  • Giardini di Ninfa
  • Private Gardens of Torrecchia Vecchia

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 20 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 21 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

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 Michelin-starred 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 22 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

 

Gardens of the Atlantic – Portugal and Madeira

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

 

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

 

AT A GLANCE…

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

 

ITINERARY

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Afternoon at leisure. (B)

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

Dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

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

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

Dinner tonight at the hotel. (BD)

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History & Birdlife Cruise

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

 

Itinerary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Birdlife of the British Isles

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

 

Small Ship (100 guest) Cruising with Botanica

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

 

Highlights

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

 

Included

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

 

Experiences: History, Gardens, Music, Birdlife

 

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

Southport Flower Show

Southport Flower Show

 

Victoria Park, Southport, UK

 

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

 

Southport Flower Show Display Gardens:

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

 

Southport Flower Show Plant Societies

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

 

Southport Flower Show Garden Roadshow

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

 

Southport Flower Show Amateur Growers

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

 

Southport Flower Show Grand Floral Marquee

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

 

Southport Flower Show Ladies Day

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

Gardens in Spanish Culture with Professor Tim Entwisle

Gardens in Spanish Culture with Professor Tim Entwisle

 

18 days in Spain

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

 

Tour Highlights

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

 

Itinerary

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

 

Seville – 3 nights

Day 1: Monday 8 May, Arrive Seville

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

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

Day 2: Tuesday 9 May, Seville

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 3: Wednesday 10 May, Seville

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

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

 

Córdoba – 2 nights

Day 4: Thursday 11 May, Seville – Córdoba

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

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

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

Day 5: Friday 12 May, Córdoba

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

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

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

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

 

Ronda – 1 night

Day 6: Saturday 13 May, Córdoba – Ronda

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

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

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

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

 

Granada – 3 nights

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

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

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

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

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

Day 8: Monday 15 May, Granada

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

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

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

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

Day 9: Tuesday 16 May, Granada

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

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

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

 

Toledo – 2 nights

Day 10: Wednesday 17 May, Granada – Toledo

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

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

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

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

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

Day 11: Thursday 18 May, Toledo

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

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

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

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

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

 

Jarandilla de la Vera – 2 nights

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Segovia – 1 night

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

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

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

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

 

Madrid – 3 nights

Day 15: Monday 22 May, Segovia – Madrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Day 18: Thursday 25 May, tour ends, Madrid

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

Chatsworth Flower Show

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show 2017

 

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show location

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

Chatsworth House
Bakewell
Derbyshire
DE45 1PP

 

RHS Chatsworth Flower Show dates and times:

Wednesday 6 June 2018 to Saturday 9 June opening times: 10am to 6.30pm

Sunday 10 June opening: 10am to 5pm.

 

Chatsworth Flower Show highlights

The Chatsworth Flower Show will celebrate gardens and garden design, especially new and innovative designers by bringing their ideas to the gardening public.

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

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

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

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

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show

 

Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London SW3 4SL

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

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Show Gardens

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

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

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

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

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Artisan Garden

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

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Fresh Gardens

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

 

The Great Pavilion Floral Marquee

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

 

Garden products

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

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

Malvern Autumn Show

Malvern Autumn Show 2016

 

Open 9am-6pm each day

 

Malvern Autumn Show main attractions

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

Garden Masterpieces of England and the Chelsea Flower Show

 

2017 Waitlisted – Now accepting bookings for the 2018 tour

 

Tour Itinerary

 

Oxford – 5 nights

Day 1: Wednesday 17 May, London Heathrow – Oxford

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

 

Day 2: Thursday 18 May, The Cotswolds

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Day 4: Saturday 20 May, The Cotswolds

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

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

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

 

Day 5: Sunday 21 May, Oxford & Steeple Ashton

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

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

 

 

Royal Tunbridge Wells – 1 night

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

London – 3 nights

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

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

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

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

 

Day 8: Wednesday 24 May, Chelsea Flower Show

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

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

 

Day 9: Thursday 25 May, London

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

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

 

Day 10: Friday 26 May, London, Tour Ends

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

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

 

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

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

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

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

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

 

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

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

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

 

Other special features include:

•  Blooming Beds

•  Garden Hideaways

•  children’s activities

•  The Vineyard, dedicated to English wine

•  entertainment in the Bandstand

 

RHS Tatton Park Opening times

Thursday-Saturday – 10am to 6,30pm

Sunday – 10am – 5pm

 

 

Piet Oudolf & The Dutch Wave

Piet Oudolf & The Dutch Wave

 

NOW 15% off special offer – BOOK TODAY!

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

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

 

FULL ITINERARY

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Bordeaux Gardens, Chateaux, History and Wine

Bordeaux Gardens, Chateaux, History and Wine

 

Itinerary

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Highlights

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

 

Included

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

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

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

 

Itinerary

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

M.S. Island Sky

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

 

Highlights

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

 

Included

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

 

Experiences: Wildflowers, Private Gardens, History & Ancient Architecture

 

This tour can be combined with:

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

 

Chelsea Fringe – the alternative garden festival

Chelsea Fringe

 

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

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

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

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