Leura Gardens Festival 2018

Think Spring! Think Leura Gardens Festival 2018

 

The Leura Gardens Festival celebrates cold climate gardening. In its 54th year and in an exciting departure from previous festivals, this year’s event will be held for six days over two long weekends in September and October.

 

Diary dates

 

The festival runs on Saturday, September 29  Sunday, September 30,  Monday October 1  AND Friday October 5, Saturday October 6 and Sunday October 7. Note there will be no festival from Tuesday October 2 to Thursday October 4.

 

Highlights

 

In addition to beautiful new gardens for visitors to enjoy, there will be a selection of old favourites, all maintaining the high standards of past festivals.

The Upper Blue Mountains in the spring is a feast of new growth. With masses of flowers, gorgeous bulbs and an amazing variety of cold climate plants as well as wonderful deciduous trees that will just be coming into their full glory. As gardens at their very best in spring, the Leura Gardens Festival has always been a magnet for visitors seeking not only to enjoy the beauty that is on show, but also seeking inspiration for their own gardens.

Festival highlights include the daily Music in the Garden performances, the art show featuring works painted in the gardens during the festival, and excellent bargains from the festival’s plant sales centre.

More details of this not-to-be missed event for garden lovers are available at www.leuragardensfestival.com.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

Tour Highlights

 

 

Award-winning Australian landscape architect Jim Fogarty leads this contemporary garden tour of Southern England. We visit magnificent gardens near Oxford, Bath, Winchester, Brighton and Windsor, concluding with a visit to the RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show with fireworks on the celebrated preview evening.
Discover exemplary gardens that showcase the modern romantics style of contemporary colour schemes and perennial herbaceous borders by some of the world’s greatest garden designers.
Be treated to a selection of England’s finest contemporary private gardens designed by Tom Stuart-Smith including the gardens at Broughton Grange, Brockhampton Cottage, Grendon Court, Moor Hatches Garden, and his very own gardens at Serge Hill & The Barn.
Learn how some of the most iconic English gardens continue to inspire modern designers when we visit Hidcote Manor, Kiftsgate, Great Dixter, Vita Sackville-West’s Sissinghurst, & the Manor House Garden by Gertrude Jekyll.
Visit Alasdair Forbes’ incredible modern garden at Plaz Metaxu; a concept garden of poetic symbolism.
Wander through Piet Oudolf’s gardens at the world-famous Hauser and Wirth, whose art gallery and sculptures are set amongst swathes of new perennials by Oudolf, pioneer of the Dutch Wave movement.
Compare naturalistic planting by Piet Oudolf and the minimalist design of Christopher Bradley-Hole in two unique gardens at Bury Court.
Join Juliette Mead for a delightful home-cooked lunch at Moor Hatches, a Tom Stuart-Smith garden rarely opened to the public.
Enjoy a special visit to Crockmore House Gardens and meet the owner, The Honourable Julia Kirkham, including a visit to Orchard Dean Nursery that supplied many of the plants.
Visit Througham Court Garden, Dr Christine Facer’s ‘laboratory’ and enjoy a modern garden inspired by science.
After visiting Tintern Abbey, view Anne Wareham’s modern Veddw Gardens located in the Welsh borders; full of big confident sweeps of plants and patterns of hedging.
Be inspired by the exemplary plantings at Pettifers Garden, Bramdean House, the work of Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe at Shute House, & Marylyn Abbott’s West Green House & Gardens.
Meet Mark Straver, owner of Hortus Loci nursery and learn about growing plants for some of the world’s greatest designers at RHS shows.
Spend the morning with Andy Sturgeon, one of Britain’s most acclaimed contemporary garden designers and discover what inspires his incredible garden designs.
Wander the swathes of herbaceous perennials as Sussex Prairie Garden as well as Henrik Gerritsen’s Dutch influenced plantings at Waltham Place that were sourced from Piet Oudolf’s own nursery in the Netherlands.
Learn about the botanicals used in the process of distilling Gin at the Bombay Sapphire Distillery and explore the eclectic shopping in laneways of Brighton.

 

15-day Garden Tour of England

 

Overnight Oxford (3 nights) • Bath (3 nights) • Winchester (2 nights) • Brighton (3 nights) • Windsor (3 nights)

 

Oxford – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Thursday 20 June, London Heathrow Airport – Oxford

Arrive London Heathrow Airport and transfer to Oxford
Welcome Meeting
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Heathrow Airport on 20 June. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to Oxford, where we spend the next three nights. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at the hotel in Oxford, or alternatively at the Heathrow Airport Arrivals Hall to join the coach transfer– please contact ASA to arrange a suitable meeting time. In the evening there will be a short Welcome Meeting at the hotel. (Overnight Oxford)

 

Day 2: Friday 21 June, Oxford – Banbury – Lower Wardington – Oxford

Broughton Grange, Banbury
Pettifers Garden, Lower Wardington
Welcome Dinner at The Quod, Oxford
We begin our tour of contemporary gardens with a visit to Broughton Grange, which has received much attention since opening under the National Garden Scheme (NGS) in 2004. The gardens are set in 350 acres of parkland, farmland, and open meadow, with a style of planting that owes its origins to the Victorian era. The gardens’ development accelerated in 2001, when acclaimed landscape designer Tom Stuart-Smith, who has been awarded eight RHS Chelsea Flower Show gold medals including three Best in Show awards, was commissioned to transform a 6-acre field into a walled garden. This impressive new garden features three individually themed terraces and has been designed with consideration to the surrounding rural landscape. Broughton Grange now represents one of the most significant private contemporary gardens in Britain. Broughton Grange is the first of a selection of Tom Stuart-Smith gardens included in the tour. A ploughman’s lunch will be provided after our guided tour of the gardens.

After lunch, we explore the innovative Pettifers Gardens, where head gardener Polly Stevens will provide us with a guided tour. The tour will describe not only the interesting and surprising plant combinations, but also how this garden has undergone changes made by the owner and designer, the Honourable Mrs. Gina Price, since the early 1990s, when she began to design the garden. Combined with friendship and advice from Diany Binney at Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Pettifers has today developed a reputation as one of the must-see English country gardens. Adorned with herbaceous perennials, this garden is guaranteed to please in the peak of English summer. RHS judge and media personality James Alexander-Sinclair described the garden in Gardens Illustrated magazine as “undoubtedly one of the most exciting and delightful gardens in the country.”

Our dinner destination is the Quod Restaurant and Bar in Oxford. An ASA favourite, the Quod will be the perfect location for the group to formally sit down together for a welcome meal and compare notes from the day with tour leader and leading garden designer Jim Fogarty. (Overnight Oxford) BLD

 

Day 3: Saturday 22 June, Oxford – Bibury – Chipping –Campden – Oxford

Village of Bibury, the Cotswolds
Hidcote Manor, Chipping Campden
Kiftsgate Court Gardens, Chipping Campden
Our day commences with a drive through the Cotswolds visiting the village of Bibury, described by William Morris as “the most beautiful village in the Cotswolds.”

Later in the morning, we undertake a self-guided tour of the delightful National Trust property, Hidcote Manor. Hidcote is a significant garden, and one of England’s most influential gardens of the 20th century. It was designed in the English Arts and Craft style by Major Laurence Johnston as a series of garden rooms each with a different character and theme and each separated from each other by walls and hedges. We will explore how and why Hidcote remains as one of the world’s most influential gardens.

Located less than a kilometre away, we take a short walk to Kiftsgate Court Gardens, sometimes referred to as the ‘twin’ of Hidcote. After sitting down to lunch in the tearooms, we will hear the story of Kiftsgate’s three generations of women gardeners: Heather Muir, Diany Binny and Anne Chambers. Heather Muir created the gardens in the 1920’s. From the mid-50’s, Diany Binny continued to add to the garden by creating the semi-circular pool in the lower garden and redesigning the ‘white sunk garden.’ One of the finest accomplishments of its current owner, Anne Chambers, is the new ‘abstract modern’ water garden. (Overnight Oxford) BL

 

Bath – 3 nights

 

Day 4: Sunday 23 June, Oxford – Througham – Tintern – Devauden – Bath

Througham Court: private tour with Dr Christine Facer Hoffman (exclusive private visit)
Sunday lunch at the Anchor Inn and visit to Tintern Abbey
Veddw House, Devauden
We depart Oxford early this morning and travel 77kms south to the county of Gloucestershire. Here, we visit Througham Court, a 17th-century Jacobean house with 6 acres of formal and informal gardens, and receive a private tour by the garden’s owner and designer, Dr Christine Facer Hoffman. Hoffman, scientist and landscape architect, describes her private garden as “a personal laboratory to experiment with new ideas, materials and planting combinations.” Developed since 2000, contemporary areas have been artfully embedded in the Cotswold architect Norman Jewson’s 1930’s Arts and Crafts masterpiece. Hoffman has stated that her contemporary ‘fragments’ are inspired by scientific discoveries and theories. She uses mathematical number sequences found in nature to create a symbolic and metaphorical narrative so that the gardens may be ‘read’ by the visitor. Througham Court has been described by The Sunday Times as “one of England’s most remarkable gardens” and has featured on Alan Titchmarsh’s Garden Secrets on BBC 2.

Crossing the border to Wales after a bit more than an hour’s drive, we visit scenic Tintern Abbey. Located on the Wye river, Tintern Abbey is one of Wales’ most significant ruins sites. The Abbey dates back to the 12th century, and in later years inspired William Wordsworth’s poetry. For lunch, we will dine at the Anchor Inn, a short walk from the Abbey.

Following lunch, we will visit the theatrical Veddw House Garden, designed by the owners Anne and Chris Wareham. Anne Wareham, describes herself as a ‘bad-tempered’ gardener, but this has not stopped the garden from making the list of Alan Titchmarsh’s pick of 10 Best British Gardens. The owners don’t follow a style guide, rather they operate by their own rules. Veddw is quirky and ambitious, and a guided tour will help explain the back story to the creatively cut formal hedges and the more informal planting style that has made Veddw famous. (Overnight Bath) BL

 

Day 5: Monday 24 June, Bath – Brockhampton – Upton Bishop – Bath

Brockhampton Cottage: the Private Garden of Peter & Ravida Clay (exclusive private visit)
Grendon Court, Upton Bishop: the Private Garden of Mark & Kate Edwards (exclusive private visit)
Brockhampton Cottage, Designed by Tom Stuart-Smith, is located in Herefordshire atop a hill with a view to the south and west of unspoiled countryside. Owned by the visionary Peter Clay, who as a co-owner of the biggest gardening website in the UK (Crocus.co.uk) comes with pedigree in the British horticultural industry, the garden has been created in the modern romantic style with herbaceous borders set over a series of terraced spaces with wild flower meadows beyond. This beautifully designed & constructed garden blends into the distant views over the Herefordshire valleys and will not disappoint.

Just across the road is Grendon Court, a garden also designed by Tom Stuart-Smith. Created over two levels this garden comprises a mix of mass planted perennials combined with ornamental flowering grasses, providing a variety of texture and colour and year-round interest. Owner of Grendon Court, Kate Edwards, will put on a two-course lunch for us at her garden, and together with Peter Clay from Brockhampton Cottage, will explain to the group the fascinating story of how both gardens were created. (Overnight Bath) BL

 

Day 6: Tuesday 25 June, Bath – Witheridge near Tiverton – Somerset – Bath

Plaz Metaxu, Witheridge near Tiverton: Private Garden of Alasdair Forbes Esq. (exclusive private visit)
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Plaz Metaxu, meaning “the place that is in between” is a modern garden at Coombe House designed by Alasdair Forbes that pushes the boundaries of garden design. The creation of the garden is clearly very personally inspired but it also draws elements of Greek mythology, Taoism and Buddhism. Learning about the various themes and sculptures will give the group an understanding of Alasdair Forbes’ passion for the classics and will be a fascinating educational journey for contemporary garden enthusiasts.

Piet Oudolf is a Dutch garden designer who has been credited with leading the global wave of the ‘New Perennial Movement,’ a naturalistic artist driven planting style that relies on swathes of perennial plants and ornamental grasses providing an ever-changing landscape through the seasons. Today we will visit one of his famous gardens, the 1.5 acre garden at Hauser & Wirth that includes ‘Oudolf Field’ – a large perennial meadow to the north of the farmyard and new gallery buildings. The garden bears some resemblance to a traditional English classic garden, but is softened by use of modern herbaceous borders, and swathes of perennials, which loosens the overall effect. There is also a mix of old and new architectural styles, with the original buildings of the site and the new gallery. We will be introduced to the work of Piet Oudolf, the project design, and some of the details of the planting at the gallery. We will also visit the Radic Pavilion where we will be introduced to the style and work of the architect, Laplace & Co., founded in 2004 in Paris by Luis Laplace and Christophe Comoy. (Overnight Bath) BL

 

Winchester – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Wednesday 26 June, Bath – Shaftesbury – West Amesbury – Winchester

Shute House, Shaftesbury
Moor Hatches, West Amesbury: home-made lunch at the Private Garden of Juliette Mead & Guy Leech (exclusive private visit)
This morning we tour south from Bath to visit the gardens of Shute House, originally designed by Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe in the late 1960s. Thirty years later, Sir Geoffrey Jellicoe was tempted out of retirement to revitalise the gardens for its new owners, in what would become his final project. The gardens include waterfalls, canals and rills that run through a series of atmospheric ‘rooms.’ Current owners John and Suzy Lewis continue to maintain the gardens. There is certainly a formal feel to Shute House gardens, but the inclusion of contemporary sculptures mixes an element of playfulness to the formality.

After a light lunch, we pay a visit to another of Tom Stuart-Smith’s creations, Moor Hatches. This is a contemporary family garden with a swimming pool that has been widely photographed and published. Access to Moor Hatches is provided by application only and it is a rare privilege to be welcomed into this garden. (Overnight Winchester) BL

 

Day 8: Thursday 27 June, Winchester – Upton Grey – Hook – Whitchurch – Winchester

The Manor House Garden, Upton Grey
Hortus Loci Nursery, Hook: Private Tour with Mark Straver
West Green House Gardens, Hook: Private tour with owner and designer Marylyn Abbott
Bombay Distillery, Whitchurch
The Manor House garden was designed and planted in 1908 and 1909 by Gertrude Jekyll and is said to be the most accurately and fully restored of her gardens. Jeckyll (1843-1932) was an influential British garden designer often described as a premier influence in the world of garden design. Thanks to her association with the English architect, Edwin Lutyens, Jekyll was half of one of the most influential and historical partnerships of the Arts and Crafts movement. Jeckyll was one of the first to explore the use of colour and texture in planting designs that remains relevant today.

The garden at the Manor House consists of a formal garden with herbaceous borders in colours running from cool colours at either end to bright hot colours in the centre, a wild garden, a rose lawn, planted drystone walls, as well as bowling and tennis lawns. The house gardens are surrounded by a nuttery, kitchen garden, and orchard. The 15th century Manor House was altered by Ernest Newton in 1903-1905 for Charles Holme, founder of the leading Arts and Crafts magazine The Studio.

Later in the morning, we will visit Hortus Loci, a wholesale plant nursery that sources plants for high-profile landscape designers. Since starting in 2011, Hortus Loci have supplied plants to many gold medal gardens at RHS Chelsea Flower Show & RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show. The owner & director, Mark Straver will provide us with a personal tour and give some background to some of the challenges with supplying plants for RHS shows. Previously, as head buyer for Crocus, Mark was integral in sourcing the plants for the gold medal winning Australian Garden presented by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2011, designed by Jim Fogarty. With Hortus Loci, Mark sourced and supplied the plants for ‘Essence of Australia’ presented by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show 2014, designed by Jim Fogarty, that was awarded a gold medal and the Tudor Rose Award for Best in Show. The tour will be followed by a light lunch on site at the Hobo.co garden café.

West Green House Gardens, created by acclaimed garden designer and writer, Marylyn Abbott, is one of England’s finest manor house gardens, marrying neo-classical style with contemporary design. These are the creation of an Australian, Marylyn Abbott. The gardens are a personal creation based upon Marylyn’s early love of gardens, inculcated by her mother and grandmother when she was growing up in Australia (Marylyn masterminded the famous Australian garden, ‘Kennerton Green’). At West Green House she has reconciled her Australian gardening heritage, dominated by brilliant light, with England’s softer, more muted atmosphere. Marylyn is a prolific writer; her latest book The Resilient Garden, in keeping with her experience reconciling very different gardening environments, discusses a collection of plants that will acclimatise to both Mediterranean and cool temperate gardens. The garden includes a walled garden, a potager garden, perennial borders, the ‘Paradise Water Garden’ and the contemporary ‘Garden of the Five Bridges.’ With unfolding garden rooms opening up to more informal garden areas, the garden includes follies and touches of humour.

Our day will finish with a visit and tour of the Bombay Sapphire Distillery, where we will learn about the role that botanicals play in the process of making gin. In recent years, gin has undergone a revival of interest with a new generation keen to learn about the variety of herbs, spices and fruits used to make versions of this traditional drink. The award-winning sustainability measures in design and construction are at the heart of this state-of-the art distillery. (Overnight Winchester) BL

 

Brighton – 3 nights

 

Day 9: Friday 28 June, Winchester – Bramdean – Farnham – Brighton

Bramdean: Private Garden of Victoria Wakefield (exclusive private visit)
Bury Court, Farnham: designed by Piet Oudolf & Christopher Bradley-Hole
Bramdean House is a 5-acre plantsman’s garden famous for its herbaceous perennial borders. The formal gardens comprise a progression of three compartments laid out on rising ground and aligned on the north front of the house. A central doorway opens from the house with an axial grassed path that is flanked by the widely photographed deep herbaceous borders, planted in mirror image on either side of the path. Although traditional in style, we will explore the connection between traditional herbaceous English borders and the style of planting used in the natural style plantings of today’s more contemporary English gardens.

After morning tea at Bramdean, and a short drive north with South Downs National Park on our right, we arrive at The Barn at Bury Court for a guided tour. The gardens at Bury Court are contemporary in style and include gardens designed by Piet Oudolf & Christopher Bradley-Hole. The courtyard garden was created by owner John Coke in collaboration with Piet Oudolf and reflect Oudolf’s passion for the naturalistic style and feature ornamental grasses and hardy perennials.

The front garden at Bury Court was added later, and was designed by leading landscape minimalist Christopher Bradley-Hole. Bradley-Hole has won multiple gold medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show, including Best in Show, and his designs work on mathematically harmonious proportions that often form the backbone to his gardens. Providing a contrast to the courtyard garden, this garden is designed around a formal grid pattern of rusted steel-edged beds and gravel paths. The garden is planted with swathes of tall grasses mixed with carefully selected flowering perennials to create a dream-like meadow feel. At its tranquil heart is a reflective pool and simple but innovative seating area. (Overnight Brighton) BL

 

Day 10: Saturday 29 June, Brighton – Brighton and surrounds – Brighton

Spend the morning with Andy Sturgeon, one of UK’s leading garden designers
Explore Brighton including the famous Brighton ‘Lanes’
Today we will spend the morning with Andy Sturgeon who is one of the UK’s leading garden designers. He is a published author, journalist and broadcaster, and an active commentator in the international garden design sector. His modern designs are a fusion of traditional materials and contemporary styling which have become known for their timeless architectural qualities, innovative planting and sculptural characteristics. Andy has exhibited several times at RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show and has won seven gold medals at RHS Chelsea Flower Show as well as twice being awarded the coveted ‘Best in Show’ award. The Sunday Times and House and Garden Magazine place Andy in the Top Ten list of landscape designers in Britain. Andy Sturgeon & Jim Fogarty are both design directors of Garden Design Asia and have travelled together and exhibited extensively at international garden shows in Japan, Korea, Malaysia & Singapore.

In the afternoon we will have free time to explore the sites of Brighton. ‘The Lanes’ are a collection of narrow alleyways in in the city of Brighton famous for their many small shops that include antique & jewelry shops as well as cafes, restaurants and bars.

 

Day 11: Sunday 30 June, Brighton – Northiam – Cranbrook– Brighton

Great Dixter House and Gardens, Northiam
Sissinghurst Castle Garden, Cranbrook
Today is a day of iconic English gardens. The Lloyd family developed Great Dixter early in the 20th century from an original design by Sir Edwin Lutyens. Today it is more famous for the plantings established by Christopher Lloyd documented in his many classic gardening books. The residence comprises a mid 15th-century hall house, typical of the Weald of Kent, to the south side of which a second, early 16th-century yeoman’s house was grafted. Lutyens enjoyed using local materials and retained farm buildings like oast houses, cowsheds, barns and outbuildings. Around these he designed his garden, featuring a sunken garden, topiary and yew hedges. Christopher Lloyd managed Great Dixter from the 1950s and was noted for his innovative approach and introduction of concepts like the mixed border and meadow garden, and his replacement of the rose garden with schemes using less fashionable plants like cannas and dahlias. We will investigate his full range of planting schemes. Although Lloyd is no longer present in the garden his gardener Fergus Garrett has achieved what some consider even better results in recent years. Great Dixter was chosen by Alan Titchmarsh as one of his 10 Best British Gardens and is widely acclaimed by plantsmen and women worldwide.

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

 

Windsor – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Monday 1 July, Brighton – Henfield – Molesey – Windsor

Sussex Prairie Garden, Henfield
RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show, Molesey
Sussex Prairie Garden is a large 8 acre garden featuring swathes of herbaceous perennials. Opened in 2009, it is Britain’s largest “Prairie,” or “Naturalistic,” garden and is the work of the owners Paul & Pauline who enlisted help from family and friends to plant as many as 35,000 plants. Sussex Prairie features large groupings of each plant variety in muted colours that complement the surrounding landscape. Guests at Sussex Prairie will be provided with a picnic lunch as well as an explanation of what is meant by ‘naturalistic planting’ and advice for enthusiastic planters.

In the early afternoon we drive to Windsor to check into the Royal Windsor Hotel for the final two nights of the tour. During the afternoon, we will have time to rest as the exciting Royal Horticultural Society Hampton Court Palace Flower Show awaits us in East Molesey in Sussex. This is the largest of all the RHS shows and is said to be the largest garden show in the world. With more space than RHS Chelsea, RHS Hampton Court offers more interactive displays and has fast become one of the most enjoyable RHS shows for keen gardeners. We will visit the show on the exclusive Preview Evening from 5pm which will provide us with a sneak peak of one of England’s most loved events on the Garden calendar. Our tour leader, Jim Fogarty, having won Best in Show at RHS Hampton Court in 2014, will be able to provide expert commentary and give an insight into what it takes to exhibit at the world’s largest garden show. As well as meeting exhibitors and viewing show gardens & floral displays, we will see contemporary and highly expressive conceptual gardens and world gardens. Choose to dine at the Champagne & Seafood Restaurant or at the abundance of food courts and food trucks for something more relaxing. The Preview evening includes live music and entertainment with the culmination being the incredible musical fireworks finale in the twilight sky at 10pm. With Hampton Court Palace providing a spectacular backdrop, this will be a night to remember. (Overnight Windsor)BLD

 

Day 13: Tuesday 2 July, Windsor – Henley-on-Thames – White Waltham – Windsor

Crockmore House, Henley-on-Thames: designed by Christopher Bradley-Hole (exclusive private visit)
Waltham Place: designed by Henk Gerritsen
Christopher Bradley-Hole’s design at Crockmore House Garden was high on our list when planning this itinerary. The garden was constructed in 1999 and planted in 2000. Bradley-Hole, a master at creating contemporary landscapes, has cleverly used a series of curves that forms the basis of the design, extending the curves out as far as the fields using ornamental grasses to seamlessly blend with the landscape beyond. The garden has become immensely popular with photographers as well as students of Landscape Architecture and design worldwide. The Honourable Julia Crockmore, who owns this flamboyant, ambitious, and modern garden, will provide us with lunch, and will personally show us around the gardens. Ms Crockmore graduated from the Oxford College of Garden Design in 2005 with a post-graduate in residential landscape architecture.

Later in the afternoon, we are taken to Waltham Place, a biodynamic and organic farm that includes a series of walled gardens. As is always the case with biodynamic philosophy, the gardeners at Waltham place have worked with nature to produce the many different facets of the gardens. The gardens include a Japanese Garden, a Butterfly Garden, a Kitchen Garden, Friar’s Walk and much more. The Dutch garden designer Henk Gerritsen, renowned for the Priona gardens in the Netherlands, was commissioned in 1999 to transform the formal gardens using his principles of natural plantings reflecting his idea that nature is not symmetrical but irregular, free and whimsical. Driven to impress visitors with a garden free of fertilisers and pesticides, without the endless battle against weeds and predators, a need arose to find suitable plants robust enough. These he found via the celebrated garden designer and plants man Piet Oudolf. Many of the plants in the ornamental gardens at Waltham Place have been introduced through Piet Oudolf’s nursery in the Netherlands. (Overnight Windsor) BL

 

Day 14: Wednesday 3 July, Windsor – Bedmond– Windsor

Serge Hill, Bedmond: Private Garden of Tom Stuart-Smith (exclusive private visit). The Barn, Bedmond: Private Garden of Tom Stuart-Smith (exclusive private visit)
Farewell meal at local restaurant
The tour finishes with an exclusive visit to two of Tom Stuart-Smith’s very own private gardens, Serge Hill & The Barn. Both providing diverse examples of Stuart-Smith’s work, each of the gardens displays unique characteristics. Serge Hill is where Tom grew up and has been in Tom Stuart-Smith’s family since 1927, when his grandfather purchased the estate. This is a walled garden that began as mainly a vegetable growing area, but has now developed colourful rose borders with a variety of inspiring colour combinations in the planting. The Barn, in contrast, features naturalistic planting and was created by Tom and his wife Sue in the 1980s. Thanks to their tireless and creative work, the garden has grown from an ‘arable field’ into a fully mature garden, with incredible and inspiring displays of modern colour. (Overnight Windsor) BD

 

Day 15: Thursday 4 July, Depart Windsor

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

Cherry Blossom and the Art of the Japanese Garden

Cherry Blossom and the Art of the Japanese Garden

Highlights

 

Travel with John Patrick, landscape architect, author and former presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia when Japan’s countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious cherry blossom.
Visit a diverse range of Japan’s traditional gardens, including Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) & Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple) in Kyoto, Isuien Garden in Nara and Kenrokuen Garden in Kanazawa. We also visit a number of small gardens by special appointment.
Explore some of Japan’s splendid art collections, including Tokyo’s Suntory Museum of Art and the National Museum, the National Treasure Museum in Nara, and the magnificent collection of kimonos at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum at the foot of Mt Fuji.
Visit the Jiyu Gakuen School in Tokyo, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright when he lived in Japan.
Experience Japan’s unique culture at a tea ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple in Kyoto and lunch at the delightful teahouse of Happoen Garden in Tokyo.
View the great Buddha at Nara’s impressive Todai-ji Temple, the world’s largest timber building.
Explore the historic Kiso Valley, witnessing the distinctive wooden architecture of the Edo era.
Stay one night in Nara in a Ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn (or at the heritage Nara Hotel offering western-style accommodation).
Sample an array of traditional cuisine types, including shabu-shabu, teppan-yaki, oskashi and kaiseki.
Kazumasa Kubo, an internationally renown master of ikebana and artistic flower arranging, will give a special private demonstration of his work in Tokyo

 

Overview

 

The tour has been timed to visit Japan when its countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious cherry blossom. In historic centres like Kyoto and Nara and in Tokyo you’ll discover how Japan’s gardens can be experienced on many levels and are renowned for subtly combining artifice and nature, blurring the boundaries between garden and landscape. Some gardens are tiny and minimalist, conveying subtle meanings through ingenious combinations of moss, stones, rock and water. Others are grand, framing rich palaces and temples like Tokyo’s Imperial Palace Garden. In Kyoto we combine garden visits with expressions of traditional Japanese culture like tea ceremonies, geisha rituals and cuisine. Kyoto gardens include such extensive, ancient temple and garden complexes as Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoan-ji – the famed Dragon Peace Temple. Throughout, garden visits are also combined with an appreciation of Japan’s traditional architecture and great museums to enrich your understanding of Japanese aesthetics. In 8th-century capital Nara, architectural treasures, great collections and fine gardens include the Todai-ji Temple, the world’s largest timber building, Kofuku-ji Temple with a five-storey pagoda and treasure trove of Buddhist statues; we also visit Nara National Museum. At Kanazawa we explore traditional construction techniques at Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi Samurai Residence and Higashichaya District’s many old Samurai houses. Kanazawa’s Kenrokuen Garden is the ‘garden of the six sublimities’. In Tokyo highlights include Happoen Garden where ladies in kimonos serve lunch in a delightful teahouse before we stroll through the gardens viewing 200 year-old bonsai trees. Rikugien Garden (c. 1700) is utterly Japanese, with manicured grass, artfully contorted pine trees held up by wooden supports, wooden tea houses, crooked rustic bridges over gurgling streams and a lake filled with carp and tiny turtles. Tokyo National Museum and Suntory Museum of Art offer masterpieces to further inspire you. We also make a very special day tour to villages in Kiso Valley, carefully preserved monuments to Japan’s feudal past, and stroll Japan’s greatest natural symbol, Mt Fuji.

 

15-Day Cultural Garden Tour of Japan

 

Overnight Tokyo (1 night) • Kawaguchiko (1 night) • Matsumoto (2 nights) • Kanazawa (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Nara (1 night) • Kyoto (2 nights) • Tokyo (3 nights)

 

Tokyo – 1 night

 

Day 1: Wednesday 27 March, Arrive Tokyo
Arrival transfer for those travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Welcome Evening Meal
After our arrival at Narita Airport those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private to the Hotel New Otani Tokyo. This hotel stands within a beautiful traditional Japanese garden originally designed for the daimyo (feudal lord) Kato Kiyomasa Lord of Kumamoto in Kyustiu over four hundred years ago. This garden is well worth strolling through and will introduce you to many facets of the Japanese gardens we shall visit in the coming weeks. Tonight we enjoy a welcome evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight Tokyo) D

 

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

 

Day 2: Thursday 28 March, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

Sankei-en Garden
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
Today we depart Tokyo by coach and travel west to the iconic Mt Fuji, the largest volcano in Japan. This is Japan’s highest peak at 3776m. It last erupted in 1707 and forms a near perfect cone. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most important landmark, which stands for the nation’s identity. It has been pictured countless times, not least in Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1826 – 1833).

On the way to Mount Fuji we visit the beautiful Sankei-en Garden, a spacious Japanese style garden in southern Yokohama, in which are set a number of historic buildings from across Japan. There is a pond, small rivers, a profusion of flowers and wonderful scrolling trails. The garden, built by Hara Sankei, was opened to the public in 1904. Among the historic buildings in the park are the elegant residence of a daimyo (feudal lord), several tea houses, and the main hall and three storied pagoda of Kyoto’s old Tomyoji Temple.

In Kawaguchiko we will visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. When the artist Itchiku Kubota was young, he encountered an example of ‘Tsujigahana’ at the Tokyo National Museum. ‘Tsujigahana’ was a technique used in dying kimonos during the 15th and 16th century, an art that was later lost. Kubota-san revived the art and created a series of kimonos decorated with mountain landscapes in all four seasons and Mount Fuji. These kimonos are displayed in a breathtaking setting. The main building is a pyramid-shaped structure supported by 16 Hiba (cypress) wooden beams more than 1,000 years old. Other parts of the museum, displaying an antique glass bead collection, are constructed of Ryukyu limestone. The museum’s unique architecture is set against a lovely garden and red pine forest. Tonight we dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Kawaguchiko) BD

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Nagoya. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kawaguchiko.

 

Matsumoto – 2 nights

 

Day 3: Friday 29 March, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

Fifth Station of Mt Fuji
Nakamachi Street and Kurassic-kan
Matsumoto Rising Castle
We start our day with a visit to the Fifth Station (Kawaguchi-ko) at the Fuji Five Lakes, and from here we can enjoy a spectacular view of the snow-capped peak (weather permitting). A gentle stroll will allow us to identify some of the native flora of this region of Japan.

We then travel to Matsumoto. On arrival in the town, we walk through the historic Nakamachi-dori, a street lined with white-walled traditional inns, restaurants and antique shops. Here we visit the Nakamachi Kurassic-kan, an historic sake brewery with black-beamed interiors and traditional plaster-work outside. We cross the river to walk along the market street Nawate-dori before arriving at Matsumoto-jo, the imposing castle approached across a moat. Matsumoto-jo was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodeled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Day 4: Saturday 30 March, Matsumoto – Kiso Valley – Matsumoto

Tsumago
Magome
Nagiso Town Museum
Today we drive out of Matsumoto and head to the Kiso Valley for a taste of how Japan looked prior to urbanisation. Developed by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as one of the five main highways linking his capital Edo (Tokyo) with the rest of Japan, the valley contains eleven post towns and some of them have been preserved as a virtual museum of the feudal past.

As we follow the valley we’ll enjoy features of the Nakasendo route, including Kiso Fukushima, the location of a major barrier, but today the gateway to the sacred mountain of Ontake.

Tsumago was a ghost town 30 years ago, with its traditional Edo-era houses on the point of collapse. Its restoration sparked the idea of cultural preservation in Japan. The pedestrian-only street is similar to that once encountered by lords and their samurai centuries ago. The highlight of Tsumago is Okuya Kyodokan, a folk museum inside a designated post inn, where the daimyo’s (feudal lord) retinue rested. On the opposite side of the street the Kyu-honjin is where the daimyo used to stay. We will also visit Magome, which means ‘horse-basket’, because this is where travellers were forced to leave their horses before tackling the mountainous roads ahead.

Our final visit for the day is to the Nagiso Town Museum. Opened in 1995, the Museum has three divisions: Tsumago Post Town Honjin, a sub-honjin, and a history museum. (A honjin is a temporary residence for a lord or dignitary to stay in when traveling to and from the shogunate capital of Edo.) The present building of the subhonjin was built in 1878 utilising Japanese cypress throughout, a type of wood proscribed for ordinary construction during the Edo period (1600 –1868). The History Museum contains historical materials of Nagiso Town and history of the trust organisation dedicated to the preservation of historic towns, villages, and neighborhoods. From here we return to Matsumoto, where you can explore the city on your own and enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Kanazawa – 1 night

 

Day 5: Sunday 31 March, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts
Nomura Samurai Residence
Higashi-Chayamachi District
This morning we travel by coach to Nagano, where we board the new Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa. The Japanese visit Kanazawa in droves but perhaps because of its remote location and very cold winters few foreigners make the journey to experience its rich cultural legacies.

On arrival we visit the Prefectural Arts Museum & Craft Centre located at the edge of the gardens and designed to harmonise with its landscape. The museum was established to showcase the fine arts and crafts of Ishikawa, a Prefecture whose culture of fine arts and traditional crafts compares with that of Tokyo and Kyoto. Highlights of its collection include feudal daimyo utensils using the Kaga Makie technique and a huge range of Kutani porcelain collection from Ko-kutani (Old Kutani). The museum also exhibits works by numerous ‘living national treasures’ whose works relate in some way to Ishikawa Prefecture.

The feudal atmosphere of Kanazawa still lingers in the Nagamachi district where old houses of the Nagamachi Samurai line the streets that once belonged to Kaga Clan Samurais. The T-shaped and L-shaped alleys are distinct characteristics of the feudal town, and the mud doors and gates of the houses remain the same as they were 400 years ago. The houses with their samurai windows (bushimado) and mud walls under the yellow Kobaita wooden roofs, which were protected from snow by straw mats (komo), evoke a bygone era. We shall visit the Nomura Samurai Family Residence to develop fort a Samurai’s daily life was like during the feudal period. The garden inside the Nomura Residence has trees that are over 400 years old as well as various beautiful lanterns.

Across the Asano River is the district of Higashi-Chayamachi, Kanazawa’s most famous geisha district. Many of the tall wooden-latticed houses on the narrow streets are still used by geisha for high-class entertainment as they have done since 1820 when the area was established as a geisha quarter. You can take tea (without geisha) at Shima House for a chance to experience its refined and elegant atmosphere. Like Kyoto’s Gion, this district has been designated as one of Japan’s cultural assets. (Overnight Kanazawa) B

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Kyoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kanazawa.

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 6: Monday 1 April, Kanazawa – Kyoto

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa
Gion District, Kyoto
Our first destination this morning is Kanazawa Castle, the seat of power of the local Maeda clan, hereditary feudal lords (daimyo) of the Kaga province from 1583. Burnt down on a number of occasions, only the superb Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya samurai dwelling house survive from the original construction.

Kenrokuen Garden is Kanazawa’s prime attraction and one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Korakuen (Okayama) and Kairakuen (Mito). Kenrokuen was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and there has been a garden on the site since the late 1600s. The original garden, begun by the fifth Maeda lord, Tsunonori Maeda, was called Renchi tei but it was almost entirely burnt out in 1759. It was restored in the 1770s and in 1822 became known as Kenrokuen, a name that means, ‘the garden of six sublimities’ or, ‘a garden combining the six aspects of a perfect garden’. These six features were what the Chinese traditionally believed were necessary for the ideal garden – spaciousness and seclusion, artifice and antiquity, water-courses and panoramas: all these characteristics are to be found in the 25 acres of this beautiful garden.

We then transfer to the train station to take the train south the Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the late 8th century (circa 794 AD) until 1868, when the court was moved to Tokyo. It is home to 17 World Heritage Sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, yet much of the city centre is modern. One of the finest of its contemporary buildings is its dramatic railway station.

We begin our exploration of Kyoto with a glimpse of a vanishing world – the district of Gion, home to geisha houses and traditional tea houses. Although the number of geishas has declined over the last century the area is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. To experience the traditional Gion, we stroll along Hanami-koji, a street lined by beautiful old buildings including tea houses where you may be able to glimpse a geisha apprentice. Contrary to popular belief Gion is not a red-light district, nor are geishas prostitutes. Geishas are young girls or women extensively trained as entertainers and skilled in a number of traditional Japanese arts such as classical music and dance as well as the performance of the exacting rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 7: Tuesday 2 April, Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Daitoku-ji Buddhist Complex incl. the Ryogen-in
Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple)
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens, including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. Our first visit in Kyoto is to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). During the 15th century the Chinese Sung Dynasty exercised an enormous influence in Japan as artists, poets and Zen priests were gathered together by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun (1358-1409). Yoshimitsu began construction of the Golden Pavilion just before he retired in 1394, handing power to his nine-year-old son so that he could move to his estate. Little of his work remains but we can sense the character of the garden in its pond, rockwork and extensive plantings.

The pavilion at Kinkaku-ji recalls Sung period architecture but it is a recreation, having been burned down in the 1950s. The present building is an exact replica except that where Yoshimitsu proposed only to gild the ceiling of the third storey with gold; now the whole building is gilded. Yoshimitsu positioned his palace on the edge of a lake. The ground floor was a reception room for guests and departure point for leisure boating, the first storey was for philosophical discussions and panoramic views of the lake while the upper floor acted as a refuge for Yoshimitsu and was used for tea ceremonies. The size of the gardens is increased visually by the water’s convoluted edge, the use of rocks and clipped trees and by visually ‘borrowing’ a distant view of Mt Kinugasa that creates a sense of gradation between foreground, middleground and deep distance.

We next visit Daitoku-ji, a large complex of Zen temples with prayer halls, religious structures and 23 sub-temples with some of the most exquisite gardens in Kyoto, some quite small, including raked gravel gardens and, in the Daisen-in, one of the most celebrated small rock gardens in Japan. The Japanese consider Daitoku-ji one of the most privileged places to study and it is associated with many of Japan’s most famous priests. Unlike many of the larger public Buddhist temples of earlier sects, the Rinzai sect monasteries were intimate, inward looking and remained isolated from the outside world.

The temple received imperial patronage and thus grew out from its centre in an organic way. A transition occurred as the complex expanded from a formal centre to semiformal and informal precincts. The central north-south walkway is most formal with wide paths to accommodate processions and ceremonies, while to the side are sub-temples with gates. As you walk through one of these gates you immediately come upon a less formal world with narrow paths, turns and walkways. The temple site contains a number of notable gardens including Daisen-in, Korin-in, Koho-an, Hogo and Ryogen-in.

We conclude the day with a visit to Ryoan-ji – the Dragon Peace Temple. No other garden in the world is so simple, elegant and refined. The garden comprises 15 rocks in a sea of raked gravel surrounded by a compacted mud wall coated in oil that is in itself a national treasure. The garden dates from 1500 as part of a temple of the Renzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple burned but was reconstructed in its original form. The garden constitutes the supreme example of a dry garden where gravel and rock symbolise plant and water elements. Indeed, apart from the moss on the rocks, no other plants grow in it. The meaning of the garden remains unknown. It might symbolise islands in a sea, mountains seen through clouds or tigers and cubs crossing a river, but this doesn’t matter since this is a garden to encourage contemplation, the enclosing wall separating the visitor from the world outside, and the verandah creating a horizontal boundary. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 8: Wednesday 3 April, Kyoto

Renge-ji Temple
Shisen-do Temple
Lunch at the Grand Prince Hotel
Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)
Today we will visit a number of Kyoto’s great gardens. Our first visit for the day is to Renge-ji, a diminutive garden that captures the essence of Japanese gardens with a central pond surrounded by plantings linking to the hillside beyond. Stones, bridge and plantings are all reflected on the water-surface, giving a sense of spaciousness.

Shisen-do is an intimate garden, of personal taste rather ostentatious public display. Its street walls mask the tranquillity and beauty to be found within. Raked sand, clipped azaleas and the tree covered hillsides of Higashiyama form the main components of this garden designed by Ishikawa Jozan (1583–1672). Clipped azaleas give way to natural vegetation beyond the garden boundary but it is the close harmony between the indoor spaces of the pavilion and the garden beyond that is most striking. The verandah offers a transition between its dark interior and the light-filled garden.

Following lunch at the Grand Prince Hotel we visit Ginkaku-ji. Originally constructed as the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435–1490), the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) became a Zen temple upon his death. The garden is complex, comprising two distinct sections, a pond area with a composition of rocks and plants, and a sand garden with a truncated cone – the Moon-Viewing Height – suggesting Mt Fuji, and a horizontal mound – the Sea of Silver Sand – named for its appearance by moonlight. An educational display at the garden contains good moss and weed moss to allow you to tell the difference. (Overnight Kyoto) BL

 

Nara – 1 night

 

Day 9: Thursday 4 April, Kyoto – Nara

Nara Park (Nara-koen) including the temples of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji
Isuien Garden
Traditional Japanese bath (optional)
We leave Kyoto by coach for the ancient Japanese city of Nara, the national capital prior to Kyoto. During this period Buddhism became firmly established in Japan under the patronage of nobles who sponsored the buildings and works of art that we shall visit.

Our first destination is to the impressive Todai-ji, founded in 745 by Emperor Shomu. Although rebuilt following a fire in 1709 to two-thirds of its original size it neverheless remains the largest timber building in the world. Two seven-metre tall guardian gods flank the entrance, (known as the nandai-mon), to the great Buddha Hall, the Daibutsu-den, which houses the 15-metre tall bronze statue of the great Buddha. The original casting was completed in 752, when an Indian priest stood on a special platform and symbolically opened its eyes by painting on the Buddha’s eyes with a huge brush. This ceremony was performed before the then retired Emperor Shomu, his wife Komio and the reigning Empress Kogen, together with ambassadors from China, India and Persia. Your visit will be a truly amazing experience.

We then visit the wonderful Nara-koen complex. It contains a five-storey pagoda, part of the Kofuku-ji founded in 669, a fine collection of Buddhist statues in the kokuhokan (National Treasure Building) and a 15th-century hall to the north of the pagoda. The kokahokan is a treasure trove of early Buddhist statues and although it is not large, each piece has been carefully chosen as a masterpiece of its style and period.

Our final visit is to the small Isuien garden, a traditional Japanese garden notable for its extensive use of moss and its exquisite tea pavilion. From here you might like to stroll through some of Nara’s historic streets or try a traditional Japanese bath (sento: public bath; onsen: hot spring bath). The traditional Japanese-style inn we are staying in tonight provides open-air communal baths using hot spring water and affords a wonderful view of Kofuku-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda, which is illuminated at night. Tonight we dine in a traditional style at the Ryokan Asukasou on Japanese kaiseki dishes. (Overnight Nara) BD

Note: We will leave our main luggage at the hotel in Kyoto during our 1 night stay in Nara. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Nara

 

Kyoto – 2 nights

 

Day 10: Friday 5 April, Nara – Kyoto

Treasures of the Nara National Museum
Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple
Horyu-ji Temple
Our first visit today is to the Nara National Museum noted for its collection of Buddhist art, including images, sculpture, and ceremonial articles.

Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple was built in the 19th year of the Tempyo era (747) by Empress Komyo as an offering of thanksgiving when Emperor Shomu recovered from an eye disease. It now constitutes a single hall enshrining a powerful image of Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha, surrounded by clay sculptures of 12 guardians called Juni Shinsho, the Yakushi Nyorai’s protective warriors. In Japanese sculpture and art, the warriors are almost always grouped in a protective circle around the Yakushi Nyorai; they are rarely depicted as single figures. Many say they represent the 12 vows of Yakushi; others believe the 12 were present when the historical Buddha introduced the ‘Healing Sutra’; others claim that they offer protection during the 12 daylight hours, or that they represent the 12 months and 12 cosmic directions, or the 12 animals of the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

The grounds of Horyu-ji Temple house the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, dating from the Asuka Period (mid 6th – beginning of 8th c.AD). Throughout the 187,000-square-metre grounds are irreplaceable cultural treasures, bequeathed across the centuries and continuing to preserve the essence of eras spanning the entire journey through Japanese history since the 7th century. Horyu-ji contains over 2,300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, including nearly 190 that have been designated as National Treasures or important Cultural Properties. In 1993 Horyu-ji was selected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage as a unique storehouse of world Buddhist culture. Following this visit we transfer by coach to Kyoto. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 11: Saturday 6 April, Kyoto

Tenryu-ji Temple
Saiho-ji (or ‘Koke-dera’ – moss temple)
Nanzen-ji (Hojo and Konchi-in)
Nishiki-koji Covered Market
We first visit the Tenryu-ji. It dates from the period of shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1339) who commissioned the priest Muso Kokushi, one of Japan’s best known garden designers who also designed the moss garden at Saiho-ji to create this garden. Kokushi’s work modified an estate of Emperor Gosaga from 1270. He changed its form to include an Heian-style pond garden with popular, contemporary Chinese aspects. These included most notably a group of seven vertical rocks near the rear shore of its pond. These contrast markedly with Japanese rock work that takes a more horizontal form. This is one of the earliest gardens to show shakkei, the incorporation of borrowed landscape into a garden’s design.

Saiho-ji Temple has the oldest major garden of the Muromachi Period. Originally designed to represent the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) of Amida Buddhism, this so-called ‘strolling garden’ is set in a dark forest and is designed for meditation. It was re-designed by a Zen Buddhist priest, Muso Soseki, who also designed the Tenryu-ji garden in Kyoto, when it passed to the Zen Buddhist sect. The chief feature of the garden is the ‘golden pond’ with pavilions scattered on its shore and connected by a path that allows controlled views of the garden. The pond is shaped like the Japanese character for ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. It is divided by islands connected by bridges. The mosses, which give the garden its alternative name (Koke-dera – ‘moss temple’) were established as an economy measure after the Meiji restoration (1868).

Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. It was founded in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama, and was rebuilt several times after devastating fires. At the entrance to the complex one passes through the huge Imperial gate, built in 1628 by Todo Takatora, and into the complex with its series of sub-temples. We will see the hojo, or abbot’s quarters, which is notable for both it’s beautiful golden screen paintings and the tranquil sand and rock garden. We will also explore the sub-temple Konchi-in which was added to the complex in 1605.

In the late afternoon we shall walk through the traditional 17th-century Nishiki-koji covered market, which has for centuries been the focus of food shopping in the city. You may wish to try Japanese pickled vegetables or purchase teapots and teabowls from a traditional vendor. By contrast we will visit a Japanese electrical store where you will see Japanese consumerism at its height. Spread over five storeys, this extraordinary store offers every imaginable electrical item. We will end the day in the fashionable gallery and restaurant area. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 7 April, Kyoto – Tokyo

Heian Shrine
Tofuku-ji
Tea Ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple
We begin the day with a visit to one of the newest religious sites in Kyoto, the Heian Shrine, which boasts the largest torii (sacred gate) in Japan and lovely gardens. The shrine was built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s 1100th anniversary and to honour its founder, Emperor Kammu and also to celebrate the culture and architecture of the city’s Heian-past. It is constructed on the site of the original Heian Hall of State but is a smaller and somewhat imperfect recreation of this earlier building. Four gardens surround the main shrine buildings on the south, west, middle and east, covering an area of approximately 33,000 square metres. The gardens are designated as a national scenic spot representative of Meiji-era (1868–1912) garden design.

We then visit the superb Tofuku-ji Hojo, a garden designed in 1939 by Shigemori Mirei. This will be familiar to many who have read books on Japanese gardens for it combines 20th-century design with elements from Japanese tradition. Mirei implements subtle, restrained design themes such as chequer-boards of stone in moss to allow the natural form and colour of maples on the surrounding hills to make full impact.

We end our visit to Kyoto with a visit to the Kodai-ji Temple to experience a tea ceremony. We then transfer to the station and take the JR Super Express train to Tokyo. (Overnight Tokyo) B

 

Day 13: Monday 8 April, Tokyo

Jiyu Gakuen School
Suntory Museum of Art
Shabu Shabu Lunch at Kisoji Restaurant
Rikugien Garden
We begin our day with a visit to the Jiyu Gakuen School. This is a beautifully preserved building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1921, one of 12 buildings the American designed during the two years he lived in Japan. Only three of Wright’s buildings survived the 20th century, and we shall be taken on a tour of this very special building.

The Suntory Museum of Art was founded in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district in 1961 as the cultural arm of a famous distillery. ‘Beauty in Everyday Life’ has been the theme of the Museum since its establishment when the then President of Suntory, Keizo Saji, developed what is now a 3,000-piece collection containing one National Treasure and 12 Important Cultural Properties among its priceless ceramics, folding screens, kimonos, lacquer ware, textiles and glasswork. Its aim is to relate old things to the new, present beauty over time, and to represent beauty without regard for cultural frontiers of countries and races.

To enhance this philosophy of fusing the ‘traditional’ with the ‘contemporary’, the Museum relocated in 2007 to its current Tokyo Mid-town location to be part of the art district known as Roppongi art triangle. Architect Kengo Kuma, whose aim was to create ‘a Japanese-style room in the city’, designed its new home using new technology and traditional Japanese design elements. The architect’s signature vertical lattice design covers the exterior, while the interior features a sliding 10-metre-high lattice that controls the flow of light. Natural materials like laminated paulownia wood for the interior lattice, washi for the atrium walls, and recycled whiskey barrel wood (a connection to the Suntory distillery) for the flooring create a feeling of warmth throughout the building.

We take a break in the middle of the day to enjoy a lunch at the traditional Kisoji Restaurant whose specialty is shabu-shabu: thin slices of beef cooked in boiling water at your table and dipped in sauce.

Our last garden visit today is to the Rikugien garden which is all that a traditional Japanese garden should be: manicured grass, artfully contorted pine trees held up by wooden supports, wooden tea houses and moss-encrusted stone lanterns, crooked rustic bridges over gurgling streams, a lake filled with carp and tiny turtles. Built around 1700 by Yanagisawa Yoshiyasu, grand chamberlain of the fifth shogun, Rikugien means ‘six poems garden’ and reproduces in miniature 88 scenes from famous poems. While some traditional Japanese gardens are meant to be contemplated from a fixed spot, Rikugien is a typical example of a so-called ‘strolling garden’ and we will meander through the network of walking paths as we enjoy the afternoon. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

 

Day 14: Tuesday 9 April, Tokyo

Tokyo National Museum
Happoen Garden
Demonstration by Kazumasa Kubo of the Japanese art of flower arranging
Farewell Lunch at Happoen Gardens Teahouse
Koishikawa-korakuen Garden
Ginza Shopping Area
Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. The museum holds over 110,000 objects, which include more than 87 Japanese National Treasures and 610 Important Cultural Property holdings. The museum’s collections focus on ancient Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road but there is also a large collection of Greco-Buddhist art.

Meaning ‘beautiful from any angle’, the Happoen garden lives up to its name. On arrival we shall be given a demonstration in Japanese flower arranging by internationally renown master Kazumasa Kubo, who has studied the tradition of ikebana, and adapted it into his own style. Following a farewell lunch at the garden’s delightful tea house, where ladies in kimono will serve you matcha (green tea) and okashi (variety of snacks), a stroll through the gardens will reveal 200 year old bonsai trees, a stone lantern said to have been carved 800 years ago, and a central pond.

In the afternoon we visit a rare surviving 17th-century strolling garden, located in the west of the city. Koishikawa-korakuen was designed in part by Zhu Shun Shui, a Ming dynasty refugee from China, and the garden recreates both Japanese and Chinese landscapes. Here we will find waterfalls, ponds, stone lanterns, a small lake with gnarled pines and humped bridges.

We finish our day with a visit to Ginza. When Tokugawa Ieyasu moved his capital to Edo in 1590, Ginza was swampland. In 1612 the area was filled in and the silver mint was built here giving Ginza (‘Silver Place’) its current name. The area was completely destroyed by fire in 1872 after which the Meiji government ordered it rebuilt in red brick to the designs of English architect Thomas Waters. This new incarnation seems to have set its course for all things Western and modern, turning the area into one of Tokyo’s great shopping-centres. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

 

Day 15: Wednesday 10 April, Depart Tokyo

Imperial Palace Plaza
Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple
Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our last morning in Japan begins with a visit to the Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza, the home of the reigning emperor of Japan and his family. We will enter via the Nijubashi, where two picturesque bridges span the moat. The Higashi Gyoen, or East Garden, was opened to the public in 1968 and provides an attractive environment in which to stroll and relax.

During our travels we have encountered many traditional and historic temples and explored the variety of gardens that play such an important role in the complex. Our program concludes with a visit to the Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple. This is a newly built modern temple in the lively heart of Tokyo. Here we will see the skill by which the architects have utilised the precious space available, and how the traditional components of a temple complex have been reinterpreted in a contemporary structure. In place of a small stroll garden using moss or stone or sand, here bamboo is used to create a green space for contemplation in this busy metropolis.

At the conclusion of the visit participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private coach to the Narita Airport for their flight home. B

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden

 

Tour Highlights

 

Travel with Jim Fogarty, award-winning landscape architect and author, on this tour of Japan in Autumn, when Japan’s countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious colour.
Visit a diverse range of Japan’s traditional gardens including: Kinkaku-ji (the Golden Pavilion) & Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple) in Kyoto, Isui-en in Nara, Kenroku-en in Kanazawa and Koraku-en in Okayama. We also visit a number of small gardens by special appointment.
Explore some of Japan’s splendid art collections, including Tokyo’s Suntory Museum of Art and the National Museum, the National Treasure Museum in Nara, and the magnificent collection of kimonos at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum at the foot of Mt Fuji.
Visit the Jiyu Gakuen School in Tokyo, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright when he lived in Japan.
Accompanied by architect Riccardo Tossani, visit a private Tokyo residence that he designed.
Experience Japan’s unique culture at a tea ceremony at Kodai-ji in Kyoto and lunch at the delightful teahouse of Happo-en in Tokyo.
View the great Buddha at Nara’s impressive Todai-ji complex, the world’s largest timber building.
Explore the historic Kiso Valley, witnessing the distinctive wooden architecture of the Edo era.
Stay one night in Nara in a ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn (or in western-style accommodation at the Nikko Nara Hotel).
Sample an array of traditional cuisine types, including shabu-shabu, teppan-yaki, oskashi and kaiseki.
Conclude with a visit to the Adachi Museum of Art, where a collection of contemporary Japanese art is harmoniously set within one of the most beautiful and admired contemplative gardens in the country.

 

Tour Overview

 

The tour has been timed to visit Japan when its countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious autumnal colour. In Tokyo and in historic centres like Kyoto and Nara we’ll discover how Japan’s gardens can be experienced on many levels and are renowned for subtly combining artifice and nature, blurring the boundaries between garden and landscape. Some gardens are tiny and minimalist, conveying subtle meanings through ingenious combinations of moss, stones, rock and water. Others are grand, framing rich palaces and temples like Tokyo’s Imperial Palace Garden. In Tokyo, highlights include Happo-en where ladies in kimonos serve lunch in a delightful teahouse before we stroll through the gardens viewing 200-year-old bonsai trees. Tokyo National Museum and Suntory Museum of Art offer masterpieces to inspire you, and we will explore examples of contemporary garden design and landscaping in this most modern city. In Kyoto we combine garden visits with expressions of traditional Japanese culture like tea ceremonies, geisha rituals and cuisine. Kyoto gardens include such extensive, ancient temple and garden complexes as Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoan-ji – the famed Dragon Peace Temple. Throughout, garden visits are also combined with an appreciation of Japan’s traditional architecture and great museums to enrich our understanding of Japanese aesthetics. In 8th-century capital Nara, architectural treasures, great collections and fine gardens include the Todai-ji, the world’s largest timber building, Kofuku-ji with a five-storey pagoda and treasure trove of Buddhist statues; we also visit Nara National Museum. At Kanazawa we explore traditional construction techniques at Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi Samurai Residence and Higashichaya District’s many old Samurai houses. Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en is the ‘garden of the six sublimities’. We also make a very special day tour to villages in Kiso Valley, carefully preserved monuments to Japan’s feudal past, and stroll Japan’s greatest natural symbol, Mt Fuji. Our tour finishes with a visit to the Adachi Museum of Art. In addition to its stunning collection of contemporary Japanese art, the museum is renowned for its beautiful contemplation garden which visitors enjoy through large picture windows.

 

16-day Cultural Garden Tour of Japan in Autumn

 

Overnight Tokyo (3 nights) • Kawaguchiko (1 night) • Matsumoto (2 nights) • Kanazawa (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Nara (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Matsue (1 night)

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 13 November, Arrive Tokyo

Arrival transfer for those travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza
Koishikawa Koraku-en Garden
Light Dinner
After our arrival in Tokyo those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred in a private vehicle to the Hotel New Otani Tokyo. This hotel stands within a beautiful traditional Japanese garden originally designed for the daimyo (feudal lord) Kato Kiyomasa, Lord of Kumamoto in Kyustiu over four hundred years ago. This garden is well worth strolling through and will introduce you to many facets of the Japanese gardens we shall visit in the coming weeks.

After time to rest at the hotel, we begin our tour with a visit to the Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza, the home of the reigning emperor of Japan and his family. We enter via the Nijubashi, where two picturesque bridges span the moat. The Higashi Gyo-en, or East Garden, was opened to the public in 1968 and provides an attractive environment in which to stroll and relax.

We then visit a rare surviving 17th-century strolling garden, located in the west of the city. Koishikawa Koraku-en was designed in part by Zhu Shun Shui, a Ming dynasty refugee from China, and the garden recreates both Japanese and Chinese landscapes. Here we find waterfalls, ponds, stone lanterns, a small lake with gnarled pines and humped bridges.

Tonight we enjoy a light dinner together at our hotel. (Overnight Tokyo) D

 

Day 2: Thursday 14 November, Tokyo

Suntory Museum of Art
Happo-en Garden
Welcome Lunch at Happo-en Gardens Teahouse
Residence ‘R’ with Riccardo Tossani
The Suntory Museum of Art was founded in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district in 1961 as the cultural arm of a famous distillery. ‘Beauty in Everyday Life’ has been the theme of the museum since its establishment when the then President of Suntory, Keizo Saji, developed what is now a 3000-piece collection containing priceless ceramics, folding screens, kimonos, lacquer-ware, textiles and glasswork. Its aim is to relate old things to the new, present beauty over time, and to represent beauty without regard for cultural frontiers of countries and races.

To enhance this philosophy of fusing the ‘traditional’ with the ‘contemporary’, the museum relocated in 2007 to its current Tokyo Mid-town location to be part of the art district known as the Roppongi art triangle. Architect Kengo Kuma, whose aim was to create ‘a Japanese-style room in the city’, designed its new home using new technology and traditional Japanese design elements. The architect’s signature vertical lattice design covers the exterior, while the interior features a sliding 10-metre-high lattice that controls the flow of light. Natural materials like laminated paulownia wood for the interior lattice, washi for the atrium walls, and recycled whiskey barrel wood (a connection to the Suntory distillery) for the flooring create a feeling of warmth throughout the building.

Meaning ‘beautiful from any angle’, the Happo-en garden lives up to its name. Following a Welcome Lunch at the garden’s delightful teahouse, where ladies in kimono will serve you matcha (green tea) and okashi (variety of snacks), a stroll through the gardens will reveal 200-year-old bonsai trees, a stone lantern said to have been carved 800 years ago, and a central pond.

Our final visit today is to a private Tokyo residence designed by architect Riccardo Tossani, who will personally show us his work, explaining the concepts and influences. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

 

Day 3: Friday 15 November, Tokyo

Jiyu Gakuen School
Tokyo National Museum
Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple by Yutaka Kawahara Design Studio
We begin our day with a visit to the Jiyu Gakuen School. This is a beautifully preserved building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1921, one of 12 buildings the American designed during the two years he lived in Japan. Only three of Wright’s buildings survived the 20th century, and we shall be taken on a tour of this very special building.

Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. The museum, which holds over 110,000 objects, focuses on ancient Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road. There is also a large collection of Greco-Buddhist art.

During our travels we’ll encounter many traditional and historic temples and explore a variety of gardens that play such an important role in these complexes. This afternoon we visit a contemporary temple – the Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple by Yutaka Kawahara Design Studio. Completed in 2013, in the lively heart of Tokyo, this Buddhist complex is intended to represent the ‘Gokuraku’ or ‘Paradise in the Sky’ and is comprised of the three traditional structures associated with Buddhist architecture – the vihara (monastery), the stupa (pagoda), and the shrine – stacked one atop the other in response to its compact site. In place of a small stroll garden using moss, stone or sand, here bamboo is used to create a green space for contemplation in this busy metropolis. (Overnight Tokyo) B

 

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

 

Day 4: Saturday 16 November, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

Sankei-en (Sankei’s Garden)
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
Today we depart Tokyo by coach and travel west to the iconic Mount Fuji, the largest volcano in Japan. This is Japan’s highest peak at 3776 metres. It last erupted in 1707 and forms a near perfect cone. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most important landmark, which stands for the nation’s identity. It has been pictured countless times, not least in Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1826-1833).

On the way to Mount Fuji we visit the beautiful Sankei-en, a spacious Japanese-style garden in southern Yokohama, in which are set a number of historic buildings from across Japan. There are a pond, small rivers, a profusion of flowers and wonderful scrolling trails. The garden, built by Hara Sankei, was opened to the public in 1904. Among the historic buildings in the park are the elegant residence of a daimyo (feudal lord), several teahouses, and the main hall and three storied pagoda of Tomyo-ji, the abandoned temple of Kyoto.

In Kawaguchiko we will visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. When the artist Itchiku Kubota was young, he encountered an example of ‘Tsujigahana’ at the Tokyo National Museum. ‘Tsujigahana’ was a technique used in dying kimonos during the 15th and 16th century, an art that was later lost. Kubota-san revived the art and created a series of kimonos decorated with mountain landscapes in all four seasons and Mount Fuji. These kimonos are displayed in a breathtaking setting. The main building is a pyramid-shaped structure supported by 16 Hiba (cypress) wooden beams more than 1000 years old. Other parts of the museum, displaying an antique glass bead collection, are constructed of Ryukyu limestone. The museum’s unique architecture is set against a lovely garden and red pine forest. Tonight we dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Kawaguchiko) BD

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Matsumoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kawaguchiko.

 

Matsumoto – 2 nights

 

Day 5: Sunday 17 November, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

Fifth Station of Mt Fuji
Nakamachi Street and Kurassic-kan
Matsumoto Rising Castle
Japan Ukiyo-e Museum
We start our day with a visit to the Fifth Station (Kawaguchi-ko) at the Fuji Five Lakes, where, weather permitting, we can enjoy spectacular views of the snow-capped peak. A gentle stroll will allow us to identify some of the native flora of this region.

We then focus upon Matsumoto and its surrounds for the next two days. On arrival in the town, we walk through the historic Nakamachi-dori, a street lined with white-walled traditional inns, restaurants and antique shops. Here we visit the Nakamachi Kurassic-kan, an historic sake brewery with black-beamed interiors and traditional plaster-work outside. We cross the river to walk along the market street Nawate-dori before arriving at Matsumoto-jo, the imposing castle approached across a moat.

Matsumoto-jo was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodeled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains.

We end our day with a visit to the Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, a privately owned art museum that houses the world’s largest collection of Japanese woodblock prints (ukiyo-e). The Sakai family started collecting ukiyo-e in the mid-19th century and subsequent generations built an outstanding corpus of historic and contemporary works. They established the museum in 1982.(Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Day 6: Monday 18 November, Matsumoto – Kiso Valley – Matsumoto

Narai
Tsumago
Magome
Nagiso Town Museum
Today we drive out of Matsumoto and head to the Kiso Valley for a taste of how Japan looked prior to urbanisation. Developed by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as one of the five main highways linking his capital Edo (Tokyo) with the rest of Japan, the valley contains eleven post towns and three of them, Narai, Tsumago and Magone, have been preserved as a virtual museum of the feudal past.

At Narai we see distinctive wooden buildings with window shutters and renji-goshi latticework. We shall visit the Kashira-ningyo where colourfully painted dolls and toys are still made. Nakamura House dates from the 1830s and was the home of a merchant who manufactured combs, one of the area’s specialties. You will have time to visit this and explore side streets where there are temples and shrines and the famous Kiso-no-Ohashi, an arched wooden bridge that crosses the Narai-gawa.

As we follow the valley we’ll enjoy features of the Nakasendo route, including Kiso Fukushima, the location of a major barrier, but today the gateway to the sacred mountain of Ontake.

Tsumago was a ghost town 30 years ago, with its traditional Edo-era houses on the point of collapse. Its restoration sparked the idea of cultural preservation in Japan. The pedestrian-only street is similar to that once encountered by lords and their samurai centuries ago. The highlight of Tsumago is Okuya Kyodokan, a folk museum inside a designated post inn, where the daimyo’s (feudal lord) retinue rested. On the opposite side of the street the Kyu-honjin is where the daimyo used to stay.

Our third village stop is Magome, which means ‘horse-basket’, because this is where travellers were forced to leave their horses before tackling the mountainous roads ahead.

Our final visit for the day is to the Nagiso Town Museum. Opened in 1995, the museum has three divisions: Tsumago Post Town Honjin, a sub-honjin, and a history museum. (A honjin is a temporary residence for a lord or dignitary to stay in when travelling to and from the shogunate capital of Edo.) The present building of the subhonjin was built in 1878 utilising Japanese cypress throughout, a type of wood proscribed for ordinary construction during the Edo period (1600-1868). The History Museum contains historical materials of Nagiso Town and history of the trust organisation dedicated to the preservation of historic towns, villages, and neighbourhoods. From here we return to Matsumoto, where you can explore the city on your own and enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Kanazawa – 1 night

 

Day 7: Tuesday 19 November, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts
Nomura-ke (restored samurai residence & house garden)
Higashi-Chayamachi District
This morning we travel by coach to Nagano, where we board the new Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa, considered one Japan’s best-preserved Edo-period cities. The Japanese visit Kanazawa in droves but perhaps because of its remote location and very cold winters few foreigners make the journey to experience its rich cultural legacies.

On arrival we visit the Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts, which showcases the fine arts and crafts of Ishikawa, a Prefecture whose culture of fine arts and traditional crafts compares with that of Tokyo and Kyoto. Highlights of the collection include feudal daimyo utensils using the Kaga Makie technique, Kutani porcelain from Ko-kutani (Old Kutani) and Wajima lacquer-ware.

The feudal atmosphere of Kanazawa still lingers in the Nagamachi district, where old houses of the Nagamachi Samurai line the streets that once belonged to Kaga Clan Samurais. The T-shaped and L-shaped alleys are distinct characteristics of the feudal town, and the mud doors and gates of the houses remain the same as they were 400 years ago. The houses with their samurai windows (bushimado) and mud walls under the yellow Kobaita wooden roofs, which were protected from snow by straw mats (komo), evoke a bygone era.

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the scale and dispensation of land to samurai families who lived in this district, and others in the city, was a fairly accurate indicator of rank. One of the larger Nagamachi estates was assigned to Nomura Denbei Nobusada, a senior official in the service of the first feudal lord of the Kaga domain. The reforms that accompanied the Meiji Restoration in 1868 decimated the lifestyles of the socially privileged. The samurai, whose social class was nulified, not only had their stipends terminated, but their estates were also appropriated by the state. Consequently, the Nomura family, whose considerable land holdings dated back 12 generations, lost their home and were reduced to turning a section of the remaining part of their property over to the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. Though they were discouraged from public displays of ostentation, merchant families and those of former samurai were not prohibited from commissioning the construction of exquisite gardens.

We visit the restored residence of Nomura, displaying the lifestyle and artifacts of the era, and explore its garden which features trees that are over 400 years old. Broad, irregularly shaped stepping stones provide access to the inner garden whose attractive entrance is flanked by a Chinese maple tree with leaves that turn a brilliant red in autumn.

Across the Asano River is the district of Higashi-Chayamachi, Kanazawa’s most famous geisha district. Many of the tall wooden-latticed houses on the narrow streets are still used by geisha for high-class entertainment as they have done since 1820 when the area was established as a geisha quarter. You can take tea (without geisha) at Shima House for a chance to experience its refined and elegant atmosphere. Like Kyoto’s Gion, this district has been designated as one of Japan’s cultural assets. (Overnight Kanazawa) B

Note: Our luggage will be transported directly from Matsumoto to our hotel in Kyoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kanazawa.

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 8: Wednesday 20 November, Kanazawa – Kyoto

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Kenroku-en, Kanazawa
Train from Kanazawa to Kyoto
Gion District, Kyoto
Our first destination this morning is Kanazawa Castle, the seat of power of the local Maeda clan, hereditary feudal lords (daimyo) of the Kaga province from 1583. Burnt down on a number of occasions, only the superb Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya samurai dwelling survive from the original construction.

Kenroku-en is Kanazawa’s prime attraction and one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Koraku-en (Okayama) and Kairaku-en (Mito). Kenroku-en was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and there has been a garden on the site since the late 1600s. The original garden, begun by the fifth Maeda lord, Tsunonori Maeda, was called Renchi tei but it was almost entirely burnt out in 1759. It was restored in the 1770s and in 1822 became known as Kenroku-en, a name that means ‘the garden of six sublimities’ or, ‘a garden combining the six aspects of a perfect garden’. These six features were what the Chinese traditionally believed were necessary for the ideal garden – spaciousness and seclusion, artifice and antiquity, water-courses and panoramas: all these characteristics are to be found in the 25 acres of this beautiful garden.

We then transfer to the train station to take the train south to Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the late 8th century (c.794 AD) until 1868, when the court was moved to Tokyo. It is home to 17 World Heritage Sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, yet much of the city centre is modern. One of the finest of its contemporary buildings is its dramatic railway station.

We begin our exploration of Kyoto with a glimpse of a vanishing world – the district of Gion, home to geisha houses and traditional teahouses. Although the number of geishas has declined over the last century the area is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. To experience the traditional Gion, we stroll along Hanami-koji, a street lined by beautiful old buildings, including teahouses, where you may be able to glimpse a geisha apprentice. Contrary to popular belief Gion is not a red-light district, nor are geishas prostitutes. Geishas are young girls or women extensively trained as entertainers and skilled in a number of traditional Japanese arts such as classical music and dance as well as the performance of the exacting rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 9: Thursday 21 November, Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Daitoku-ji Buddhist Complex incl. the Ryogen-in
Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple)
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens, including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. Our first visit in Kyoto is to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). During the 15th century the Chinese Sung Dynasty exercised an enormous influence in Japan as artists, poets and Zen priests were gathered together by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun (1358-1409). Yoshimitsu began construction of the Golden Pavilion just before he retired in 1394, handing power to his nine-year-old son so that he could move to his estate. Little of his work remains but we can sense the character of the garden in its pond, rockwork and extensive plantings.

The pavilion at Kinkaku-ji recalls Sung period architecture but it is a recreation, having been burned down in the 1950s. The present building is an exact replica except that where Yoshimitsu proposed only to gild the ceiling of the third storey with gold; now the whole building is gilded. Yoshimitsu positioned his palace on the edge of a lake. The ground floor was a reception room for guests and departure point for leisure boating, the first storey was for philosophical discussions and panoramic views of the lake while the upper floor acted as a refuge for Yoshimitsu and was used for tea ceremonies. The size of the gardens is increased visually by the water’s convoluted edge, the use of rocks and clipped trees and by visually ‘borrowing’ a distant view of Mt Kinugasa that creates a sense of gradation between foreground, middleground and deep distance.

We next visit Daitoku-ji, a large complex of Zen temples with prayer halls, religious structures and 23 sub-temples with some of the most exquisite gardens in Kyoto, some quite small, including raked gravel gardens and, in the Daisen-in, one of the most celebrated small rock gardens in Japan. The Japanese consider Daitoku-ji one of the most privileged places to study and it is associated with many of Japan’s most famous priests. Unlike many of the larger public Buddhist temples of earlier sects, the Rinzai sect monasteries were intimate, inward looking and remained isolated from the outside world.

The temple received imperial patronage and thus grew out from its centre in an organic way. A transition occurred as the complex expanded from a formal centre to semiformal and informal precincts. The central north-south walkway is most formal with wide paths to accommodate processions and ceremonies, while to the side are sub-temples with gates. As you walk through one of these gates you immediately come upon a less formal world with narrow paths, turns and walkways. The temple site contains a number of notable gardens including Daisen-in, Koto-in, Koho-an, Hogo and Ryogen-in.

We conclude the day with a visit to Ryoan-ji – the Dragon Peace Temple. No other garden in the world is so simple, elegant and refined. The garden comprises 15 rocks in a sea of raked gravel surrounded by a compacted mud wall coated in oil that is in itself a national treasure. The garden dates from 1500 as part of a temple of the Renzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple burned but was reconstructed in its original form. The garden constitutes the supreme example of a dry garden where gravel and rock symbolise plant and water elements. Indeed, apart from the moss on the rocks, no other plants grow in it. The meaning of the garden remains unknown. It might symbolise islands in a sea, mountains seen through clouds or tigers and cubs crossing a river, but this doesn’t matter since this is a garden to encourage contemplation, the enclosing wall separating the visitor from the world outside, and the verandah creating a horizontal boundary. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 10: Friday 22 November, Kyoto

Renge-ji
Shisen-do
Lunch at the Beaux Sejours, Grand Prince Hotel
Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)
Today we will visit a number of Kyoto’s great gardens. Our first visit for the day is to Renge-ji. The temple is known for its garden, which reflects the beauty of seasonal change. Autumn when the maple leaves change colour, is the best season to visit. Capturing the essence of Japanese gardens, it includes a central pond surrounded by plantings linking to the hillside beyond. Stones, bridge and plantings are all reflected on the water-surface, giving a sense of spaciousness.

The intimate gardens of Shisen-do are considered masterworks of Japanese gardens. Its street walls mask the tranquillity and beauty to be found within. Raked sand, clipped azaleas and the tree covered hillsides of Higashiyama form the main components of this garden designed by Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672). Clipped azaleas give way to natural vegetation beyond the garden boundary but it is the close harmony between the indoor spaces of the pavilion and the garden beyond that is most striking. The verandah offers a transition between its dark interior and the light-filled garden.

Following lunch at the Grand Prince Hotel’s Beaux Sejours restaurant, we visit Ginkaku-ji. Originally constructed as the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-1490), the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) became a Zen temple upon his death. The garden is complex, comprising two distinct sections, a pond area with a composition of rocks and plants, and a sand garden with a truncated cone – the Moon-Viewing Height – suggesting Mt Fuji; and a horizontal mound – the Sea of Silver Sand – named for its appearance by moonlight. An educational display at the garden contains good moss and weed moss to allow you to tell the difference. (Overnight Kyoto) BL

 

Nara – 1 night

 

Day 11: Saturday 23 November, Kyoto – Nara

Nara Park (Nara-koen) including the temples of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji
Isui-en Garden
Traditional Japanese bath (optional)
We leave Kyoto by coach for the ancient Japanese city of Nara, the national capital prior to Kyoto. During this period Buddhism became firmly established in Japan under the patronage of nobles who sponsored the buildings and works of art that we shall visit.

Our first destination is to the impressive Todai-ji, founded in 745 by Emperor Shomu. Although rebuilt following a fire in 1709 to two-thirds of its original size it nevertheless remains the largest timber building in the world. Two seven-metre tall guardian gods flank the entrance, (known as the nandai-mon), to the great Buddha Hall, the Daibutsu-den, which houses the 15-metre-tall bronze statue of the great Buddha. The original casting was completed in 752, when an Indian priest stood on a special platform and symbolically opened its eyes by painting on the Buddha’s eyes with a huge brush. This ceremony was performed before the then retired Emperor Shomu, his wife Komio and the reigning Empress Kogen, together with ambassadors from China, India and Persia.

We then visit the wonderful Nara-koen complex. It contains a five-storey pagoda, part of the Kofuku-ji founded in 669, a fine collection of Buddhist statues in the kokuhokan (National Treasure Building) and a 15th-century hall to the north of the pagoda. The kokahokan is a treasure trove of early Buddhist statues and although it is not large, each piece has been carefully chosen as a masterpiece of its style and period.

Our final visit for the day is to the small Isui-en, a traditional Japanese garden notable for its extensive use of moss and its exquisite tea pavilion. This garden is a kaiyushiki teien (strolling) style design that allows the visitor to easily walk through the garden and view it from many different angles.

From here you might like to stroll through some of Nara’s historic streets or try a traditional Japanese bath (sento: public bath; onsen: hot spring bath). The traditional Japanese-style inn we are staying in tonight provides open-air communal baths using hot spring water and affords a wonderful view of Kofuku-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda, which is illuminated at night. Tonight we dine in a traditional style at the Ryokan Asukasou, which serves Japanese kaiseki dishes. (Overnight Nara) BD

Note: We will leave our main luggage at the hotel in Kyoto during our 1 night stay in Nara. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Nara

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 24 November, Nara – Kyoto

Treasures of the Nara National Museum
Shin-Yakushi-ji
Horyu-ji
Our first visit today is to the Nara National Museum, noted for its collection of Buddhist art, including images, sculpture and ceremonial articles.

Shin-Yakushi-ji is a Buddhist temple built in the 19th year of the Tempyo era (747) by Empress Komio as an offering of thanksgiving when Emperor Shomu recovered from an eye disease. It now constitutes a single hall enshrining a powerful image of Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha, surrounded by clay sculptures of 12 guardians called Juni Shinsho, the Yakushi Nyorai’s protective warriors. In Japanese sculpture and art, the warriors are almost always grouped in a protective circle around the Yakushi Nyorai; they are rarely depicted as single figures. Many say they represent the 12 vows of Yakushi; others believe the 12 were present when the historical Buddha introduced the ‘Healing Sutra’; others claim that they offer protection during the 12 daylight hours, or that they represent the 12 months and 12 cosmic directions, or the 12 animals of the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

The grounds of Horyu-ji house the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, dating from the Asuka Period (mid-6th-beginning of 8th century AD). Throughout the 187,000-square-metre grounds are irreplaceable cultural treasures, bequeathed across the centuries and continuing to preserve the essence of eras spanning the entire journey through Japanese history since the 7th century. Horyu-ji contains over 2300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, including nearly 190 that have been designated as National Treasures or important Cultural Properties. In 1993 Horyu-ji was selected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage as a unique storehouse of world Buddhist culture. Following this visit we transfer by coach to Kyoto. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 13: Monday 25 November, Kyoto

Tenryu-ji
Saiho-ji (or ‘Koke-dera’ – moss temple)
Nanzen-ji
Nishiki-koji Covered Market
We first visit the Tenryu-ji, which dates from the period of shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1339). He commissioned the priest Muso Kokushi – one of Japan’s best known garden designers, who also designed the moss garden at Saiho-ji – to create this garden. Kokushi’s work modified an estate of Emperor Gosaga from 1270. He changed its form to include an Heian-style pond garden with popular, contemporary Chinese aspects. These included most notably a group of seven vertical rocks near the rear shore of its pond. These contrast markedly with Japanese rock work that takes a more horizontal form. This is one of the earliest gardens to show shakkei, the incorporation of borrowed landscape into a garden’s design.

Saiho-ji has the oldest major garden of the Muromachi Period. Originally designed to represent the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) of Amida Buddhism, this so-called ‘strolling garden’ is set in a dark forest and is designed for meditation. It was re-designed by a Zen Buddhist priest, Muso Soseki, who also designed the garden of Tenryu-ji in Kyoto, when it passed to the Zen Buddhist sect. The chief feature of the garden is the ‘golden pond’ with pavilions scattered on its shore and connected by a path that allows controlled views of the garden. The pond is shaped like the Japanese character for ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. It is divided by islands connected by bridges. The mosses, which give the garden its alternative name (Koke-dera – ‘moss temple’) were established as an economy measure after the Meiji restoration (1868).

Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. It was founded in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama, and was rebuilt several times after devastating fires. At the entrance to the complex one passes through the huge Imperial gate, built in 1628 by Todo Takatora, and into the complex with its series of sub-temples. We will see the hojo, or abbot’s quarters, which is notable for both it’s beautiful golden screen paintings and the tranquil sand and rock garden. We will also explore the sub-temple Konchi-in which was added to the complex in 1605.

In the late afternoon we shall walk through the traditional 17th-century Nishiki-koji covered market, which has for centuries been the focus of food shopping in the city. You may wish to try Japanese pickled vegetables or purchase teapots and teabowls from a traditional vendor. Nearby is a Japanese electrical store that show Japanese consumerism at its height. Spread over five storeys, this extraordinary store offers every imaginable electrical item. We will end the day in the fashionable gallery and restaurant area. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 14: Tuesday 26 November, Kyoto

Heian Shrine
Tofuku-ji
Tea Ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple
We begin the day with a visit to one of the newest religious sites in Kyoto, the Heian Shrine, which boasts the largest torii (sacred gate) in Japan and lovely gardens. The shrine was built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s 1100th anniversary and to honour its founder, Emperor Kammu and also to celebrate the culture and architecture of the city’s Heian-past. It is constructed on the site of the original Heian Hall of State but is a smaller and somewhat imperfect recreation of this earlier building. Four gardens surround the main shrine buildings on the south, west, middle and east, covering an area of approximately 33,000 square metres. The gardens are designated as a national scenic spot representative of Meiji-era (1868-1912) garden design.

We then visit the superb Tofuku-ji Hojo, a garden designed in 1939 by Shigemori Mirei. This will be familiar to many who have read books on Japanese gardens for it combines 20th-century design with elements from Japanese tradition. Mirei implements subtle, restrained design themes such as chequer-boards of stone in moss to allow the natural form and colour of maples on the surrounding hills to make full impact.

We end our visit to Kyoto with a visit to the Kodai-ji Temple to experience a tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Matsue – 1 night

 

Day 15: Wednesday 27 November, Kyoto – Okayama – Matsue
Kouraku-en, Okayama
Adachi Museum of Art
Farewell Dinner at a Local Restaurant
Today we depart Kyoto and travel by train to Okayama where we visit another of the country’s so-called ‘Three Great Gardens of Japan’, Kouraku-en. This garden dates from the Edo period when the daimyo (feudal lord) Ikeda Tsunamasa ordered its construction in 1687. Completed in 1700, it has retained its overall appearance with only a few minor changes made over the centuries. The garden was used for entertaining guests and also as a retreat for the daimyo.

In the afternoon we travel by train to Matsue, where we shall visit the Adachi Museum of Art, located in the rural landscape of the Sinmane region. This is a contemporary art museum set within a large garden, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. The museum was founded by Adachi Zenko who felt a strong resonance between the sublime sensibility of the Japanese-style garden and the paintings of Yokoyama Taikan whose work he collected. This is a contemplation garden which visitors observe from various carefully designed points within the museum. Each season reveals itself through different aspects of the garden, and during our visit we can expect the hills that form the backdrop to the vista before us to be a blaze of autumnal colour while vivid reds enliven the foliage of the garden. After checking in to our hotel, we shall enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Matsue) BD

Note: As we will be travelling by train today, our luggage will be transferred directly to the Matsue hotel

 

Day 16: Thursday 28 November, Depart Matsue

Izumo Shine
Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo
This morning we travel from Matsue to the nearby town of Izumo to visit the Izumo-taisha, one of the oldest and most important Shinto shrines in Japan. Its foundation date is not known, but it was already a well established religious complex in the 10th century. The complex comprises of multiple prayer halls and sanctuaries. The artistic and archaeological treasures form this area are displayed next door to the shrine at the Shimane Museum of Ancient Izumo.

After lunchtime at leisure we transfer to Izumo Airport for our flights home. B

Spring Gardens of Victoria with Julie Kinney

Spring Gardens of Victoria – Private Gardens of Daylesford and Mount Macedon with Julie Kinney

 

24 October – 02 November 2018 (10 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

In the springtime, joyous blossoms bedeck the charming towns of rural Victoria and the gardens of Daylesford and Mount Macedon.

 

AT A GLANCE…

 

• Visit a dozen private gardens in the Daylesford and Mount Macedon areas and meet some of the gardeners themselves
• Experience spring at Stonefields with a guided tour led by Paul Bangay
• Enjoy a picnic at Hanging Rock, the eerie setting for Peter Weir’s 1975 film
• Explore specialist nurseries at The Garden of St Erth, stocking cottage flower and vegetable seeds in an 1860s miner’s homestead and Lambley’s Nursery, a world leader in sustainable planting for dry climates
• Enjoy a special tour of the gardens and working horse stud at Swettenham Stud in Nagambie
• Go antiquing at the vast Newlyn Antiques and Gardens (or pick up a heritage apple or pear tree), and savour regional cuisine amongst gardens and in traditional country restaurants

Note: At time of publication (February 2018), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2 to 3 months prior to visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary

 

ITINERARY…

 

 WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER 2018 / MELBOURNE – LANCEFIELD

 

Meet Julie and fellow travellers at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia at the Russell Court entrance at 10:00am. (Russell Court is an extension of Russell Street at the rear of Federations Square.) Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

Depart Melbourne for The Cottage at Bolobek, considered one of the finest private gardens of Australia. Once the home of Lady Joan Law-Smith, the walled rose garden, ornamental lake, woodland and crab-apple walk are some of the delights hidden within Bolobek’s garden spaces. Enjoy an introduction and tour of the garden, followed by lunch with a selection of produce from Bolobek’s veggie patch.

Travel next to Cope-William Winery for a visit to their contemporary art gallery and gardens. In the afternoon, check in to your hotel, and later enjoy a special welcome dinner. (LD)

 

TUE 25 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

Start today with a visit to Ard Choille Heritage Gardens. Its exotic trees and shrubs encapsulate the atmosphere of a 19th century garden, with its notable inclusion of a rare 19th century metal shade house.

Following a tour of the gardens, enjoy lunch in the Gardens of Tieve Tara. With a fern glade, rose arbour, and two lakes complemented by a Monet-styled bridge, the garden foliage and flowers present a vibrant display of spring colours.

After lunch, depart for the private gardens of Dreamthorpe, with its romantic surroundings of elegant oak trees, wisteria and a secluded lake. Arrive back at your hotel for a late afternoon wine tasting in the on-site cellar. Later, enjoy dinner at a local restaurant in Lancefield, a village in the Macedon Ranges where pastoral heritage charm blends with a lively arts scene. (BLD)

 

FRI 26 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

After breakfast, travel to the formal gardens of Sunnymeade, the 2017 winner of a Melbourne Cup Australian gardens competition. Explore its unique garden rooms, which includes a Persian-styled garden and Gothic-style building, and find a collection of rare and unusual perennials in Sunnymeade’s small nursery.

Continue to Swettenham Stud at Nagambie, located on the Goulburn River, for a tour of the gardens and the surrounding buildings. (B)

 

SAT 27 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

Spend a morning at the local Lancefield farmers’ market, discovering local produce, plants and crafts.

Next, have a picnic at Hanging Rock, made famous as the setting of the 1975 film, with a walk around the unusual rock formations, created by years of erosion on this extinct volcano.

In the afternoon head to Chapman Hill Olives for a visit of the working olive grove and gardens. (BLD)

 

SUN 28 OCT / LANCEFIELD – HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

Check out from your hotel for an exploration of The Garden of St Erth, where over 3,000 plant varieties with a focus on drought tolerant flowers are showcased, along with the garden’s Diggers Club nursery. Travel to Lavandula Swiss Italian Farm for lunch and a tour of the historic 1850s stone farmhouse.

Later, visit Newlyn Antiques, with its vast collection of pottery, glassware, jewellery and furniture spread across three 19th century buildings. Nestled between, amongst landscaped grounds, is Newlyn’s cottage nursery specialising in Heritage varieties of irises, apples and pears. (BL)

 

MON 29 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

This morning, depart for The Garden of Lixouri and Hedgehogs garden, with a photo stop en route at the Malmsbury viaduct. Rarely open to the public, Lixouri’s Mediterranean-style garden combines an established olive grove with soft flowering natives. Next door, the private garden of Hedgehogs features rambling roses, soft garden paths and cottage plantings.

After lunch, explore the township of Castlemaine at leisure, with its historic ‘Gold Rush’ streetscape, before returning to Hepburn Springs. (BL)

 

TUE 30 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

Begin today with a morning at leisure in the town of Daylesford, known for its historic streetscapes, art studios, cosy cafés and boutique stores.

Then head to Lambley Nursery, where a featured range of frost-hardy plants are world renowned for their sustainability and dry climate aptitude. Return to your hotel, stopping en route for a visit to Overwrought Garden Art store, for a wander through their garden filled with local art and metalwork designs. Arrive in the late afternoon in time for optional spa treatments (additional cost). Dinner at a local hotel. (BD)

 

WED 31 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

Today, visit the private garden Meadowbank, owned by photographer Simon Griffiths, known for his images in cooking and gardening books by Maggie Beer and Paul Bangay. Travel to Rosebery Hill for a tour of the gardens, which include a quirky topiary, an avenue of poplar trees, rare plants and a century-old Cork Oak.

Explore the Kyneton Botanic Gardens at leisure and then visit the private garden of Scotsman’s Hill, an acre of winding garden sitting atop an old bluestone quarry with views across the countryside. (B)

 

THU 01 NOV / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

Travel this morning to Stonefields for a tour of this garden led by its creator and famed landscape designer Paul Bangay.

Explore the gardens at The Convent Gallery in Daylesford, with its unique art pieces hidden amongst the greenery. Then, wander through the Wombat Hill Botanic Garden at leisure, established in the 1860s atop Daylesford’s extinct volcano, with views across the Macedon Ranges countryside.

In the evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

FRI 02 NOV / DEPART MELBOURNE

 

Check out from the hotel and return to Melbourne.

Tour arrangements conclude either upon arrival at Melbourne airport at 11:00 for flights departing from 13:00 onwards, or in Melbourne city at midday. (B)

Atacama to Patagonia: Chile’s Natural World

Atacama to Patagonia: Chile’s Natural World

 

Tour Highlights

 

  • Join John Patrick, horticulturalist, garden designer and presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, and Dr Rudolf Thomann, a natural scientist, to explore Chile’s unique flora and fauna.
  • Visit public gardens and enjoy privileged access to private gardens that both reflect Chile’s lively contemporary garden culture.
  • Visit the eccentric houses of Chile’s greatest poet, the colourful Pablo Neruda, and hear marvellous stories which inspired Isabel Allende.
  • Explore the rainbow-hued UNESCO World Heritage Listed coastal town of Valparaíso.
  • Visit Santiago’s great Museum of Pre-Columbian Art to explore the rich cultural history of Central and South America, and the Padre LePaige Archaeological Museum with its superb collection from the ancient cultures of the Atacama region.
  • Discover the fascinating geology of the Atacama Desert – a high-altitude 1,200km expanse of dunes, plains, high peaks, and active volcanoes – with visits to Moon Valley in the Salt Mountain Range, the ancient village of Tocanao, Atacama Salt Flat and the famous flamingos of Chaxa Lagoon.
  • Enjoy the awesome natural beauty of Chile’s southern Lake District, visiting the magnificent Parque Nacional Volcán Villarrica which features a glorious mix of lakes and three volcanoes.
    Take a swim in the Termas Geométricas, a Japanese-inspired labyrinth of hot springs hidden in the lush Chilean forest.
  • Learn about the Mapuche community at Curarrehue’s ‘Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm’ – enjoy their culture of music, dance, and colourful costumes.
  • Cruise Lago Todos Los Santos to view three stunning but totally different volcanoes – Orsorno, Puntiagudo and Tronador.
  • Spend 2 days in the Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia – a wilderness of scrubland, ridges, rivers, lakes and lagoons and the eponymous torres (towers) of the Paine Massif; a highlight is our excursion to see the icebergs on Lago Grey.
  • Visit vibrant artists’ markets, and sample distinctive cuisine and enjoy the fine wines for which Chile is famed.

 

21-day Flora & Fauna Tour of Chile
Overnight Santiago (4 nights) • Zapallar (2 nights) • Viña del Mar (2 nights) • San Pedro de Atacama (2 nights) • Santiago (1 night) • Pucón (2 nights) • Puerto Varas (3 nights) • Torres del Paine National Park (3 nights) • Santiago (1 night)

 

Optional Extension to Easter Island
Overnight Hanga Roa (4 nights) • Santiago (1 night)

 

Itinerary

 

Santiago – 4 nights

Day 1: Sunday 14 October, Arrive Santiago

Arrival transfer for participants arriving on the ‘ASA designated’ flight
Short Orientation Walk & Light 2-course dinner
Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated flight’ are scheduled to arrive into Santiago in the late afternoon. After clearing customs we transfer by private coach to our the Hotel Cumbres Lastarria, located in the Barrio Lastarria. Following check-in and time to freshen up after the long journey, there will be a short orientation walk in the hotel’s historic precinct followed by a light evening meal. (Overnight Santiago) D

 

Day 2: Monday 15 October, Santiago

Morning private garden visits (to be confirmed)
Mercado Central de Santiago
Walking tour of historic Santiago incl. Plaza de Armas, Parque Forestal & Cerro Santa Lucía
Welcome Dinner at a local restaurant
We spend the morning visiting some private gardens selected by our local Chilean expert. These visits will be by special invitation and will introduce you to some of the very latest the country has to offer in garden design that exploit Chile’s unique climate, landscapes and flora.

We return by coach to the city where we tour the Mercado Central and have time at leisure for lunch. Santiago’s fish market is housed in a 19th-century building featuring a beautiful cast-iron roof. Amongst its many stalls are numerous small restaurants serving a variety of fresh Chilean seafood dishes.

After lunch we embark on a walking tour of the city. We begin at the centre of Santiago’s social life, the Plaza de Armas, which is surrounded by heritage buildings, including the Metropolitan Cathedral, the old post office, and the National Historical Museum. We continue past the Palacio de Bellas Artes to the Parque Forestal by the Mapocho River, where we encounter buildings dating from 1520 to the present day. The park was founded as the setting for the Fine Arts Museum. It was designed by George Dubois in a picturesque, naturalistic (English) style with plants imported from Europe and Argentina. Its romantic lake has disappeared but its magnificent six rows of Platanus X hispanica (London Plane) frame views to nearby Cerro San Cristóbel.

We continue to Santa Lucía Hill, so named because Spanish conquistador Pedro de Valdivia took this strategic hill from its native defenders on the well-known female saint’s day. Between 1872 and 1874, it was transformed into a public promenade. In 1936, the German landscape designer Oscar Prager completed a project for the southern slope that descends to the Almeda, Santiago’s main avenue. The gardens, with their ramps and stairs, provide a valuable civic amenity.

We return to our hotel to rest and freshen up before heading to a local restaurant for our welcome dinner. (Overnight Santiago) BD

 

Day 3: Tuesday 16 October, Santiago

Viña Santa Rita: picnic lunch & wine-tasting
Cable Car to Cerro San Cristóbal
Pablo Neruda’s House: ‘Casa Museo La Chascona’
This morning we drive to the Viña Santa Rita, one of Chile’s premier wine estates, located in the verdant valleys of the Maipo wine-making region. We will walk through the vineyards and wine cellars and learn about the processes of traditional Chilean wine production. The winery, covering more than 3,000 hectares, also features the historic ‘Bodega 1′ and ‘Bodega de los 120 patriotas’ which are considered a national treasure. Whilst enjoying the glorious view of the sculpted gardens we will taste some of the vineyard’s wines, which include merlot, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and cabernet franc. We then drive to Cerro San Cristóbal, the second-highest hill of the city (850m). A ride on the cable car affords magnificent broad panoramas of the city.

Next, we visit ‘La Chascona’, the Santiago home of Chile’s most famous poet, the Nobel Laureate, Pablo Neruda (1904-1973). His house is a triumph of artistic flourishes and includes a very broad, eccentric collection, including works of maritime art. It is located in the historic Bellavista district – home to an important arts community. (Overnight Santiago) BL

 

Day 4: Wednesday 17 October, Santiago

Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino
Barrio Lastarria neighbourhood
Jardín Botánico Chagual
Parque Bicentenario
This morning we visit the Museo Chileno de Arte Precolombino (Chilean Museum of Pre-Columbian Art), founded by the Chilean architect and antiquities collector Sergio Larraín García-Moreno. The museum displays García-Moreno’s magnificent private collection from the major pre-Columbian Central American, Intermediate / Isthmo-Colombian (Panama etc.), Caribbean, Amazonian and the Andean cultures acquired over the course of nearly 50 years. Housed in the Palacio de la Real Aduana (1805-1807), the museum underwent extensive renovations and reopened in 2014. The collection, which ranges over 10,000 years, includes exhibits of art, sculpture, pottery, textiles and jewellery. Highlights include pieces from the Inca and Aztec empires, and the 7,000-year-old Chinchorro mummies discovered in 1983.

We then transfer to the vibrant Barrio Lastarria, a lovely historic neighbourhood in the city centre, known for its bohemian flavour and diverse cultural activity such as festivals and live performances; it has many theatres, museums, restaurants and bars. The precinct developed around the Church of the True Cross soon after Pedro de Valdivia’s Conquest of Chile. Old houses, recently restored, occupy its winding streets and the Plaza Mulato Gil de Castro.

Following a light lunch, we visit the Chagual Botanical Garden, located in the Parque Metropolitano near the Cerro San Cristóbal. It occupies 84 acres and is still in the early stages of planning and development. The aim is to recreate central Chile’s unique ecosystems featuring special collections of endangered, medicinal and other significant plants such as those with special botanical or economic value. Of particular interest, it will feature plants native to Chile’s ‘Mediterranean’ climatic zone like those of southeastern and southwestern Australia, California and the South African Cape. The Melbourne Botanic Gardens and Kings Park, Perth, have been assisting with advice on this project. The flora of Chile is diverse and spectacular and these gardens are named after the eye-catching chagual (puya chilensis) which is indigenous to the region.

We end the day with a visit to the Parque Bicentenario, a communal city garden with interesting landscape design by Teodoro Fernández L. Architects. The park is located next to ‘Sanhattan’, the popular ironic sobriquet given to Santiago’s ‘high-end’ financial district. Spread over 30 hectares along the eastern bank of the Mapocho River, it includes over 4,000 trees of which more than 1,300 are native species. (Overnight Santiago) BL

 

Zapallar – 2 nights

 

Day 5: Thursday 18 October, Santiago – Parque Nacional La Campana – Zapallar

Parque Nacional La Campana
Time at leisure in Zapallar
This morning we depart Santiago and drive to the Chilean coast. On the way we visit Parque Nacional La Campana which occupies the highest part of Chile’s coastal mountain range (cordillera). Charles Darwin climbed Cerro La Campana (1,800m) in 1845. The park, which features rugged coastal scenery, features the finest remaining stands of Chilean palm (Jubaea chilensis). The palms occur here among typical matorral vegetation, with soap-bark tree (Quillaja saponaria), Lithraea caustica, Adesmia arborea, and others. These palms, which grow to a height of 25 metres, first flower at the age of 60, and can live for 1,000 years. The genus was named after Juba II, a Berber king and botanist. The common name refers to the past use of the sap from the trunk of this palm to produce a fermented beverage. The sap is also boiled down into a syrup and sold locally as miel de palma. Although described somewhat disdainfully by Charles Darwin as a ‘very ugly tree’, many consider the Chilean wine palm J. chilensis to be one of the most impressive palms in the world.

After a picnic lunch we continue on to Zapallar where there will be time at leisure to explore the town before we enjoy a group dinner at a waterfront restaurant. Zapallar is a quaint, elegant seaside resort built along steep hills on a protected horseshoe bay between rugged, steep cliffs and rocky precipices. It offers majestic views and has many historic mansions that now sit side-by-side with contemporary homes. A Mediterranean micro-climate allows the cultivation of the many attractive gardens that have always adorned the town. (Overnight Zapallar) BLD

 

Day 6: Friday 19 October, Zapallar – Los Vilos – Zapallar

Morning private garden visit (to be confirmed)
Reserva Ecologica El Puquén, Los Molles
Following a visit to a private garden (arrangements to be confirmed), we explore the dramatic coastal El Puquén Ecological Reserve, with rugged cliffs, unusual geological formations including a volcanic cave, ancient middens, fossil zones and an interesting endemic flora (lúcumo and wild papayo). The park is home to interesting fauna, including chilla foxes (South American grey foxes), quiques (a yellow-grey animal with back spots, similar to a skunk), eagles, harmless snakes and the cururo – a species of small endemic rodent that lives underground. (Overnight Zapallar) BLD

 

Viña del Mar – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Saturday 20 October, Zapallar – Papudo – Quillota – Viña del Mar

Private garden visits (arrangements to be confirmed)
This morning we plan to visit private gardens in the area outside of Zapallar. In the afternoon we continue our journey to the resort beach town of Viña del Mar, known popularly as ‘The Garden City’. (Overnight Viña del Mar) BL

 

Day 8: Sunday 21 October, Viña del Mar – Valparaíso – Viña del Mar

Funicular ‘El Peral’ ride to Conception Hill, Valparaíso
Cerro Alegre and merchant houses, Valparaíso
House museum of poet Pablo Neruda, ‘La Sebastiana’, Valparaíso
National Botanical Garden (‘Saltpeter Park’), Viña del Mar (to be confirmed)
Our first visit this morning is to colonial Valparaíso, one of Chile’s most captivating cities, noted for its colourful history as a major port and its rich artistic, literary and political traditions. It is also physically very colourful, with extraordinary brightly painted houses crammed up against each other along the city’s steep slopes. The city’s fascinating blend of past and present has caused it to be listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It looks out across a wide bay with the upper parts of the town reached by stairs, narrow streets and funicular railways.

We ride the funicular ‘El Peral’ up Conception Hill which commands excellent views to the port. We then visit the port itself and the city centre and stroll through some of the avenues leading to the scenic point, Cerro Alegre. The dwellings here were once owned by foreign merchants who began building around 1840.

After time at leisure for lunch we continue to another former home of the poet Pablo Neruda, ‘La Sebastiana’. It is shaped like the hull of a ship and its contents reflect Neruda’s love of the sea. From the poet’s desk there is a spectacular view of the Pacific; he is thought to have written many poems about the natural world seated here.

We next drive to the garden originally known as ‘Saltpeter Park’ at Viña del Mar. This oasis, covering an area of 395 hectares with more than 3,000 species of flora, was originally commissioned by nitrate baron Pascual Baburizza, and was created by the French landscape gardener George Dubois. The park was donated to the Nitrate and Iodine Company so as to assure its survival. In 1951 this corporation donated the park to the Chilean State; its name was changed to ‘National Botanical Garden’. It serves both an educational and scientific purpose, and is an excellent place to go walking, thanks to its stony paths, ponds and woodlands. Highlights of the garden include one of the few documented collections of the extinct Toromiro of Easter Island (Sophora Toromiro), a collection of plants from the Juan Fernandez archipelago, a Cactarium with 60 Chilean species, and collections of Chilean Myrtaceae, ‘bosque valdiviano‘ (Valdivian forest) plants, medicinal plants and fuchsias. (Overnight Viña del Mar) B

 

San Pedro de Atacama – 2 nights

 

Day 9: Monday 22 October, Viña del Mar – Santiago – Calama – San Pedro de Atacama

Morning flight from Santiago to Calama
Parque para la Preservación de la Memoria Histórica de Calama
Valle de la Luna & Cordillera de la Sal, Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos
This morning we drive back to Santiago and board a flight to Calama, which marks the northern end of the Atacama Desert. From here we drive 103 kilometres southeast to San Pedro de Atacama which will be our base from which to explore the desert. En route we pass the memorial dedicated to victims of human rights violations. Students, communists, socialists, union members, indigenous people—ideological threats to Augusto Pinochet’s vision of fascism and free market economics, were arrested, murdered and thrown into mass graves throughout the country. The murdered of Chile were buried in the Atacama Desert, for example, during what was known as the Caravan of Death of 1973. The Pinochet regime’s depredations inspired Sting’s famous protest song They Dance Alone (Cueca Solo: 1987), referring to mourning Chilean women (arpilleristas) who dance the Cueca, Chile’s national dance, carrying photographs of their disappeared loved ones.  (Watch on Youtube)

In the afternoon we drive to the Valle de la Luna (‘Moon Valley’). Its extraordinary landscape of strange rock formations is part of the protected nature sanctuary, Reserva Nacional Los Flamencos, in the Salt Mountain Range. The valley forms a depression surrounded by jagged spines of salt-encrusted hills, with an immense sand dune running between two ridges, resulting in unbelievable moon-like scenery. We also view the canyon and small dunes of the Cordillera de la Sal (‘Salt Mountain Range’). (Overnight San Pedro de Atacama) BD

 

Day 10: Tuesday 23 October, San Pedro de Atacama

Agro-ecological tour of Toconao village
Quebrada de Jeréz
Salara de Atacama & Flamingos of Laguna Chaxa, Los Flamencos National Reserve
We begin today with an agro-ecological tour of Toconao village, located between the Andes Mountain Range and the Atacama Salt Lake. The horizon here is dominated by very high volcanoes. This little colonial village dates back 12,000 years; there is evidence of 10,000-year-old human presence in the area, making it an area of great historical and archaeological significance. It features picturesque stone houses made from local liparita stone (pumice) extracted from the local quarry, and the old church of San Lucas with its distinctive 18th-century bell tower. The sweet waters of this small oasis support a variety of fruit trees such as Easter pears, plums, quinces and grapes, as well as a wide range of vegetables. The town also features small handicraft workshops whose products include woven products made from alpaca wool. From Toconao we travel to the Jerez Canyon through which runs the Toconao River.

After lunch at a local restaurant we visit the Atacama Salt Flat; at 3,000 sq km, this is one of the world’s largest salt flats. It is also home to the famous flamingos of Chaxa Lagoon, part of the Soncor, a section of the Salar de Atacama in the Los Flamencos National Reserve. In this high, desert landscape, framed by mountains of nearly 6,000 metres, the Soncor provides a breeding ground for a wide variety of species including Chilean and Andean flamingos that use it as an important nesting site, the Andean avocet, the yellow-billed teal, the crested duck, the puna plover and Baird’s sandpiper. Various plant species grow around the edges of the lagoon, such as Distichlis spicata, Ephedra and cachiyuyo (a species of the genus Atriplex), among others. We will observe flamingos in the lagoon in which they feed and breed. (Overnight San Pedro de Atacama) BL

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

Day 11: Wednesday 24 October, San Pedro de Atacama – Calama – Santiago

Church of San Pedro
Padre LePaige Archaeological Museum
Afternoon flight from Calama to Santiago
We spend the morning visiting San Pedro de Atacama, a small isolated oasis town of modest pisé dwellings. The Atacamaño (or Kunza) culture flourished here. The earliest site dates from 9,600 BC, when cave-dwelling hunters arrived from the altiplano. There’s evidence of camelid domestication about 4,800 years ago; the San Pedro culture formed 3,000 years ago, succeeded by the more sophisticated Classic Atacameño culture 2,000 years ago. This reached its peak in the 12th century and ended with the arrival of the Incas around 1450. It was a vital resting place on the northern trade routes through the desert.

San Pedro has a beautiful small white 18th-century colonial church with a picturesque bell tower. The church is surprisingly long, with rustic vaulting of cactus wood slats and algarrobo beams bound with leather. Inside, naïve statues of saints clothed in fine satins stand on the reredos.

To the northeast of the plaza lies the modern Padre LePaige Archaeological Museum that holds superb exhibits from the Inca and other periods in the region’s pre-Columbian history. Father Gustave LePaige (1903-80) was a Belgian Jesuit priest who came to Chile in 1952. He was based in San Pedro from 1955 until his death, dedicating himself to building this archaeological collection; we shall enjoy a commentary on these exhibits by a local archaeologist. The Atacaman Desert is so arid that most artefacts are notably well-preserved. Highlights include the treasury of beaten gold bands dating from 500-900 AD, red and black ceramics of the Classic Atacameño culture, Inca ceramics with images of the sun, textiles and various mummies.

In the late morning we return to Calama for an early light lunch before taking our flight to Santiago. (Overnight Santiago) BL

 

Pucón – 2 nights

 

Day 12: Thursday 25 October, Santiago – Temuco – Curarrehue – Pucón

Morning flight from Santiago to Temuco
Mapuche community & Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm, Curarrehue
Private gardens of Hotel Antumalal
This morning we fly south to Temuco, the capital of the Araucanía Region, in Chile’s very beautiful Lakes District.

On arrival we drive to the Mapuche community in the town of Cuerarrehue, which is surrounded by high, sharp peaks. The Mapuche are a group of indigenous inhabitants of south-central Chile and southwestern Argentina, including parts of Patagonia. Mapuche is a collective term describing a wide-ranging ethnicity composed of various groups who shared a common social, religious and economic structure, and a common linguistic heritage as Mapudungun speakers. Today this group makes up over 80% of the indigenous peoples in Chile; their culture is documented as early as 600 BC.

We shall visit the museum and cultural centre, ‘Aldea Intercultural Trawupeyüm’, which presents Mapuche culture and that of the community of Curarrehue. The museum is housed in a modern interpretation of a mountain ruka, a traditional circular Mapuche dwelling oriented to the east. It includes displays of handicrafts, Mapuche cooking and a program of experimental music.

While in Curarrehue we also enjoy a traditional lunch, which usually includes famous sopaipillas (fried pastry) served with special homemade pebre (a sauce of onion, tomato, garlic and herbs).

After lunch we continue to Pucón where we visit the private gardens of Hotel Antumalal. Designed by the Chilean architect Jorge Elton in the 40s, and influenced by the Bauhaus style, it is considered one of the most famous hotels of the Lakes District. It hosted Queen Elizabeth on her tour of Chile in 1968. The gardens, spread over 5 hectares, offer panoramic views of Lake Villarrica and include five waterfalls with natural volcanic rock pools, a vegetable garden and an array of native vegetation.

In the early evening we arrive at the Villarrica Park Lake Hotel, where we shall be based for two nights. (Overnight Pucón) BLD

 

Day 13: Friday 26 October, Pucón

Parque Nacional Volcán Villarrica
Termas Geométricas: time to relax and enjoy a swim in the thermal pools
We spend the day visiting the magnificent Parque Nacional Villarrica, witnessing the stunning natural beauty of Chile’s southern Lake District. The park, which features a glorious mix of lakes and three volcanoes (Villarrica, Quetrupillánd and Lanín), includes a number of very good walking trails, which lead through the forest, meandering past alpine lakes and deep canyons. The park is also home to the rare Araucaria araucana (monkey puzzle tree), a protected species, of which specimens may live for over 1,000 years and takes five centuries just to reach maturity. We shall visit the south side of the Villarrica volcano which features a dense forest of these trees.

We end the day with a visit to the Termas Geométricas, a Japanese-inspired labyrinth of hot springs hidden in the lush Chilean forest. Suspended over a flowing stream, a maze of red planks winding through the forest, lead to the various pools. There are 17 pools in total, each fed directly from a natural hot spring via wooden pipes. Next to each pool is a small hut/changing room made of the same redwood as the paths. Each hut has grass planted on the roof, giving the whole facility a timeless feel, almost as if they are some extension of the natural backdrop. The complex rests at the bottom of a canyon, and mists rise from the warm waters in a nearly constant fog. Between the Japanese-styled architecture and the Chilean nature, few places in the world can claim quite such a perfect harmony of nature and design. There will be ample time to relax and enjoy a swim in the thermal pools. (Overnight Pucón) BL

 

Puerto Varas – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Saturday 27 October, Pucon – Valdivia – Puerto Varas

Valdivia city tour
Calle-Calle River Cruise: Wetlands of the Carlos Andwandter Nature Sanctuary, San Sebastián de la Cruz Fort/Isla Mancera
Today we visit one of Chile’s most beautiful historic cities, Valdivia, founded by the Spanish conquistador Don Pedro de Valdivia (1497-1553) in 1522. This southern city was of great strategic significance to the Spanish Empire. Its proximity to the Strait of Magellan made it a mandatory shelter on the route to meet the Peruvian viceroyalty. It was also rich in gold and timber and located on the largest navigable river network in the country. The Calle-Calle, Cau Cau, Cruces and Valdivia Rivers which run through this river port invest it with particular charm.

We shall tour the city, visiting the river market and the Torreón del Canelo, a watchtower used by the Spanish as protection against the Mapuches and pirates. It was built in the 17th century and restored by Ambrosio O´Higgins in the 18th century. Many of Valdivia’s houses are in German styles, built by migrants. We shall see San Francisco Church, the Cathedral and the Plaza de la República, with a giant arbour under which citizens enjoy the shade.

We also visit Teja Island, where we see the Universidad Austral de Chile campus and Valdivia’s Botanical Gardens, which display a rich variety of native and exotic species, including panaceas, cedars, ‘mediterráneos’, coihues, cypresses, laurel, tree ferns, poplars, acacias and plants from the Magellan and Valdivian forests. We continue to the traditional Kunstmann Brewery where we can taste the most diverse kinds of famous Valdivian hand-brewed beers.

We shall then embark on a cruise along the Calle-Calle River where we will encounter sea lions and view a number of Spanish Forts; Niebla, Fuerte Corral, and Fuerte Mancera. We shall journey through the wetlands of Carlos Andwandter Nature Sanctuary. This area was declared a Nature Sanctuary in 1981, and in the same year it was included in the ‘Convention on Wetlands of International Importance’. It was formed by an earthquake which submerged the area in 1960; agricultural land subsided to a depth of 1 to 2 metres. Subsequently it was colonised by vegetation, which made a home for aquatic fauna, especially birds. There are at present 119 species living in the wetland and adjoining areas. Amongst others there are black-necked swans, coots, coscoroba swans, marsh crows, coypu and river otters.

We shall also view the San Sebastián de la Cruz Fort/Isla Mancera, one of the seventeen Spanish fortresses built in the area from the 17th century, as well as the San Pedro de Alcántara Fort and the Corral Fort.

Mid-afternoon we continue our drive to Puerto Varas where we shall be based for three nights. Our hotel is within walking distance of the beach and offers panoramic views of Llanquihue Lake and the Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. (Overnight Puerto Varas) BLD

 

Day 15: Sunday 28 October, Puerto Varas – Frutillar – Puerto Varas

German Colonial Museum, Frutillar
Amphitheatre (Teatro del Lago), Frutillar
Time at leisure
Today we drive south to the lakeside resort of Frutillar, located on Llanquihue Lake near the Osorno Volcano. This was Chile’s first German migrant town. Frutillar is famous for its music festival ‘Las Semanas Musicales de Frutillar’ that came into being in 1968. A particular characteristic of Frutillar is its houses German-style houses. There are beautiful gardens in the town. We shall visit the German Colonial Museum and the amphitheatre (Teatro del Lago) where the famous music festival is held.

We shall return to the hotel by mid-afternoon to enjoy some time at leisure. (Overnight Puerto Varas) B

 

Day 16: Monday 29 October, Puerto Varas – Peulla (island on Todos los Santos Lake) – Puerto Varas

Petrohué Falls, Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park
Catamaran Cruise from Petrohué to Peulla on Lago Todos Los Santos
La Villa Ecológica de Peulla
Today we visit the Vicente Pérez Rosales National Park which not only contains the loveliest of Chile’s lakes, but also three stunning but totally different volcanoes – Osorno, Puntiagudo and Tronador. With up to 4 metres of annual precipitation, the park is covered with dense evergreen forrest, notably coihue. Lago Todos Los Santos is surrounded with olivine, coihue and other trees.

We depart early in the morning by bus from Puerto Varas to Petrohué, enjoying views of the Osorno Volcano, which dominates the region. On arrival we make a brief visit to the Petrohué Falls, which flow down volcanic rock chutes etched by lava. From Petrohué we board a catamaran for a 2-hour cruise across the green waters of Lago Todos Los Santos to the ecological town of Peulla. If visibility allows, we shall see the snow-capped Osorno Volcano, the Puntiaguado hill and the Tronador (extinct volcano) from our boat.

On arrival at Peulla we visit the Ecological Villa which is a paradise for nature enthusiasts and lunch at the Peulla Hotel. In the mid-afternoon we return to Puerto Varas. (Overnight Puerto Varas) BL

 

Torres del Paine – 3 nights

 

Day 17: Tuesday 30 October, Puerto Varas – Puerto Montt – Punta Arenas – Puerto Natales – Torres del Paine

Flight from Puerto Montt to Punta Arenas
Museo Nao Viktoria
Today we drive to Puerto Montt to take our flight south to Punta Arenas located in the heart of Chilean Patagonia. From here we drive north to the vast Torres del Paine National Park.

En route we visit the Museo Nao Viktoria, which contains replicas of the ships that contributed to the discovery and colonisation of the area or have a special and historic heritage significance for the Magallanes Region of Chile. The replicas were built using traditional shipbuilding techniques. A highlight of the collection is the full-size replicas of historic ships which include the Nao Victoria, James Caird, Schooner Ancud and HMS Beagle. HMS Beagle, a British Navy brig-sloop, was converted into an exploration vessel. The most famous of her three voyages was the second (1831-1836) under the command of Captain Robert FitzRoy (1805-1865). On board was the young Charles Darwin. (Overnight Torres del Paine National Park) BLD

 

Day 18: Wednesday 31 October, Torres del Paine National Park

Excursion to the National Park’s Waterfalls and Lookout points
Torres del Paine National Park (Parque Nacional Torres del Paine) encompasses the great Cordillera del Paine, glaciers, lakes and rivers. The park, which lies in a transition zone between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonian Steppes, is located 112 kilometres north of Puerto Natales and 312 kilometres north of Punta Arenas. Paine means ‘blue’ in the native Tehuelche (Aonikenk) language and is pronounced PIE-na. Out of the grasslands of the Patagonian Steppe, with its herds of grazing guanacos (which are akin to llamas), soar the distinctive torres (towers) – three grey granite peaks of the Paine mountain range or Paine Massif which form part of the tapering spine of the Andes. They rise up to 2,800m above sea level, and are joined by the Cuernos del Paine. The Park’s well-known lakes include Grey, Pehoé, Nordenskiöld, and Sarmiento. Its glaciers, including Grey, Pingo and Tyndall, belong to the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.

Today’s excursion will begin at the Forestry Corporation Visitors Centre to gain an overview of this biosphere reserve. We then visit the Salto Grande where a short walk takes us to the imposing waterfall, and where we can view the Paine Grande Mountain. We also visit the Lago Nordenskjöld viewpoint, the Amarga Lagoon and the Paine River Falls, as well as encountering panoramic views of the Torres del Paine. Today’s lunch will be a picnic taken at Laguna Azul. (Overnight Torres del Paine National Park) BLD

 

Note: Today you have the option of taking a more strenuous trek through the Torres del Paine National Park, with the arrangements made by the hotel.

Day 19: Thursday 1 November, Torres del Paine National Park

Walk along Grey beach with views of the iceberg
Boat Excursion across Lago Grey to the Grey Glacier
The focus of today is a visit to the Grey Glacier, one of Torres del Paine’s most spectacular glaciers, and Lago Grey that it fills, one of its most beautiful lakes. On the approach to Lago Grey we cross a rickety bridge over a fast-flowing stream, then journey through dense forest. We then emerge from the trees onto what looks like a shingle beach overlooking the lake itself. Lago Grey is bordered by a moraine, the result of debris deposited by the glacier, and an iceberg graveyard. If the weather is fine, we shall take a 3-hour boat trip out on the lake. As we travel across the water, Glacier Grey comes into view in the distance. A wide, bluish wall sandwiched between bare rock plateaux, its façade is a mass of jagged, eroding ice. (Overnight Torres del Paine National Park) BLD

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

Day 20: Friday 2 November, Torres del Paine National Park – Punta Arenas – Santiago

Manantiales Estancia
‘Asado patagonico’, Patagonian lamb BBQ
Afternoon flight from Punta Arenas to Santiago
Today we drive back to Punta Arenas. En route we visit a traditional Patagonian estancia (ranch) where the owner will explain the traditions of Patagonian sheep farming and horse breeding. We also enjoy a traditional Patagonian lamb asado (barbecue) before taking an afternoon flight back to Santiago. (Overnight Santiago) BL

 

Day 21: Saturday 3 November, Depart Santiago

Departure transfer for travellers taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our program finishes in Santiago. Participants travelling on the ‘designated flight’ will be transferred to the airport to take our flight home to Australia. Participants electing to travel on the ASA optional extension program to Easter Island will also be transferred to the airport to commence their program B

 

Optional Extension Program to Easter Island: Hanga Roa, Easter Island – 4 nights

 

Day 1: Saturday 3 November, Santiago – Hanga Roa, Easter Island

Morning flight to Easter Island
This morning you will be transferred to the airport to take the flight to Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, to use its Polynesian name. The rich and unique culture and archaeology of this island led to it being named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1995, and much of the island is now a national park.

Rapa Nui is one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world – the nearest inhabited land is Pitcairn Island located over 2,000 kilometres away! Rapa Nui was settled by Polynesian people between 700 and 1100 AD. A thriving culture developed on the island and we will see much evidence of this in the monumental statues called moai, that are found throughout the island. It is estimated that this small island had a population of up to 15,000 people, but this thriving civilisation was greatly weakened by the gradual deforestation of the island and extinction of natural resources, brought about by human activity, overpopulation and the introduction of the Polynesian rat. When Dutch explorers first encountered the island on Easter Day in 1722 the population was approximately 3,000 people, but this dropped to just 111 in 1877, as the indigenous people struggled to survive introduced European diseases such as typhoid and smallpox, and brutal raids by Peruvian slavers. Today Rapa Nui’s population is 6,000 residents, of which 60% are of indigenous descent.

On arrival in the island at 1325hrs you will be transferred to the hotel for check in and lunch. We then take a short orientation tour of the island’s only town, Hanga Roa, then visit Museo Antropológico Sebastian Englert, a fascinating museum named after the Bavarian missionary priest who lived here from 1935 until his death in 1969. Fr Sebastian was a keen scholar and he devoted himself to the language, oral traditions and archaeology of the Rapa Nui indigenous culture.

Late this afternoon we drive to Ahu Tahai, an archaeological site a short distance from the town where we shall enjoy our first encounter with the island’s famous moai at sunset.

This site was restored in 1974 and comprises three platforms (ahu) with moai. The statues of the ahu Ko Te Riku have restored eyes and headdresses (pukaos) and give a vivid impression of the splendid and imposing nature of the Rapa Nui culture. (Overnight Hanga Roa) B

 

Day 2: Sunday 4 November, Easter Island

Ahu Vaihu
Rano Raraku
Ahu Tongariki
Ahu Te Pito Kura
This morning we first visit Vaihu where we will find eight moai lying face down in the same position they were left when they were deliberately toppled around the time of European discovery of the island. The decimation of the population saw the loss of much of the island’s cultural heritage, and the reason for the decline of the indigenous culture in the century before European arrival is an area of debate. It is believed that the moai are manifestations of a powerful ancestor cult and the means by which the living could communicate with the dead. In the later pre-European decades, the statue building practice gave way to the Bird Man Cult where the medium to communicate with the ancestors was a human chosen through competition. It is believed that is was during this phase that the moai were deliberately toppled. However, the obvious care by which the statues were lowered face-down to the ground has led scholars to suggest another theory, that the statues were lowered so they could not witness the struggles of the Rapa Nui in the 18th century.

We next travel to Rano Raraku, a volcanic crater within the Rano Raraku National Park that supplied almost all the stone for the island’s moai. Within the quarry are a number of incomplete statues. It appears that some of these were never intended to the separated from the rock from which they are carved, being located in inaccessible areas high on the outside of the crater walls, or much larger than any moai found that had been transported away. There are also several standing statues at Rano Raraku that were not deliberately pushed over. They do not have hollowed out eyes or headdresses and they are partially buried to the shoulders in the spoil from the quarry.

Our route continues to two further ahu – Ahu Tongariki, a 220-metre-long platform with 15 majestic statues with their backs to the sea, and Ahu Te Pito Kura, a complex with a huge toppled moai and nearby the sacred magnetic stone known as ‘Tita’a hanga ‘o te henua’, or ‘navel of light’.

In the mid-afternoon we return to Hanga Roa where the rest of the afternoon is at leisure.

Return to hotel in mid-afternoon, and the rest of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Hanga Roa) BL

 

Day 3: Monday 5 November, Easter Island

Ahu Akivi
Puna Pau
Afternoon at Leisure
Evening meal with demonstration of traditional dances
This morning we visit Ahu Akivi, a platform with 7 identical moai restored to their standing position. Unlike other examples we have seen, these statues face outwards towards the ocean, although the site is located inland. The site served as a celestial observatory and dates to the 16th century. During the Spring Equinox they directly face sunset, and during the Autumn Equinox they have their backs to the sunrise.

We then visit Puna Pau, the small volcanic crater where the red scoria stone used for the moai headdress were quarried.

We return to the hotel for an afternoon at leisure before we enjoy a group evening meal with a demonstration of traditional Rapa Nui dances. (Overnight Hanga Roa) BD

 

Day 4: Tuesday 6 November

Rano Kau extinct volcano
Orongo Ceremonial Village
Ahu Vinapu
Cave of Ana Kai Tangata petroglyphs
Our first stop this morning is the extinct volcano of Rano Kau, which forms the southwestern headland of the island. The crater lake is one of just three natural water sources on the island, and the crater, which is a mile in diameter, has its own microclimate. On the crater’s edge we find the ruined ceremonial village of Orongo, containing a collection of low, windowless round-walled buildings that were restored to their current state in the 1970s. Orongo was a centre of the birdman cult. Competitors had to make the dangerous crossing through the surf to the nearby islet of Motu Nui and find an egg of the migratory sooty tern, then climb up the steep, jagged cliff-face to Orongo. The site has many petroglyphs with representations of tangata manu (birdmen).

After a visit to Ahu Vinapu where we find one of the larger moai on the island in a platform that faces towards the sunrise on the winter solstice, we continue to the cave of Ana Kai Tangata. Being a volcanic island there are many lava tubes and cave networks and Ana Kai Tangata is one of the most accessible. Here we find splendid rock with paintings in red white and black depicting the sooty tern and also boats, including European vessels. Some scholars suggest that for the indigenous people of Rapa Nui the island was the whole world and only the migratory birds could come and go. When Europeans arrived in their large ships, the Rapa Nui may have believed they were messengers from beyond, arriving and disappearing in the ocean like the birds. (Overnight Hanga Roa) B

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

Day 5: Wednesday 7 November, Easter Island – Santiago

Morning at leisure
This morning is at leisure. In the early afternoon we transfer to the airport for our flight back to Santiago, arriving at 2140hrs. On arrival in the capital we will be transferred to the hotel. (Overnight Santiago) B

 

Day 6: Thursday 8 November, Depart Santiago

Departure transfer for travellers taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour ends in Santiago. Participants travelling on the designated group flight will be transferred to the airport. B

 

Let’s Visit Spain and Morocco

Let’s Visit Spain and Morocco with Kim Woods Rabbidge

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Mon 16 April Arrive Barcelona

Arrive at Barcelona, group transfer to your hotel in the heart of the city (Individual transfers can be arranged on request). The remainder of the day is at leisure.

 

Day 2 Tue 17 April Barcelona

Day excursion in Costa Brava. We explore the terraced, botanical gardens of Cap Roig, extending from the castle to the sea. On the way back, in Lloret de Mar, we visit Santa Clotilde Garden perched on a cliff-top. (B)

 

Day 3 Wed 18 April Barcelona

Enjoy a city tour in Barcelona visiting Gaudi’s amazing Sagrada Familia & the Palau de la Música Catalana. Evening is at leisure. (B)

 

Day 4 Thu 19 April Barcelona-Casablanca-Marrakech

Leave Barcelona this morning on a flight to Casablanca, Morocco. After traveling by air-conditioned coach to Marrakech, our next form of transport will be calèches (horse-drawn carriages) to Marjorelle Gardens where vivid colours contrast with the villa’s bright blue façade. As dusk falls wander through Djemma El Fna square amongst jugglers, story-tellers, snake charmers and acrobats performing beneath the magnificent, illuminated backdrop of the Koutoubia Mosque. (B, D)

 

Day 5 Fri 20 April Marrakech

Morning tour to the Bahia Palace, the Menara Gardens, the Medrasa and souks (market). The Menara gardens, with a backdrop of the ancient Atlas Mountains, were built in the 12th century by the Almohad ruler Abd al-Mu’min. Lunch at Terrasses d’Epices in the heart of the Medina.

After evening drinks at the famous Mamounia Hotel enjoy a lavish Moroccan feast at the renowned Yacout restaurant. (B, L, D)

 

Day 6 Sat 21 April Marrakech-Ourika Valley-Marrakech

Sip refreshing mint tea in the herbal gardens of Ourika Valley. After lunch return to Marrakech via the Saffron Gardens where you’ll discover the processes of saffron production. Be tempted with herbal teas and Moroccan pastries. (B, L, D)

 

Day 7 Sun 22 April Marrakech-Beni Mellal-Fes

Travel to Fez through the Atlas Mountains, lunch on route in Beni Mellal. We’ll pass Berber villages of Imouzer and Ifrane, and arrive in Fes late afternoon. (B, L, D)

 

Day 8 Mon 23 April Fes

Rich in traditional culture, we’ll explore the UNESCO world-heritage listed medinas of Fes, the oldest of Morocco’s Imperial cities, and the country’s symbolic heart. Visit new town, Fes J’did, the old Kasbah des Cherarda, the souqs, the Royal Palace and the Blue Gate.

Lunch at a local restaurant before visiting the famous cobalt blue pottery of Fes and we also learn about colourful, tribal Moroccan carpets. (B, L, D)

 

Day 9 Tue 24 April Fes-Tangier

On route to Tangier we stop at Volubilis, the largest and best preserved Roman ruins in Morocco. Then onto the magnificent Imperial City Meknes where we’ll lunch before continuing to Tangier. (B, L, D)

 

Day 10 Wed 25 April Tangier

This morning learn about this fascinating port city with special visits to the American Legation Museum, followed by lunch at a local restaurant.

You’re free this afternoon to wander into the Kasbah where Betty Hutton (Woolworths Heiress) lived, and soak up the history and exotic tales associated with the Continental Hotel. (B, L, D)

 

Day 11 Thu 26 April Tangier-Algeciras-Ronda

After breakfast we transfer to Tangier Med port. We’ll take a ferry across the Gibraltar Strait entering Spain, through Algeciras Port. Our coach will be waiting to take us to Ronda, where we spend the rest of the afternoon enjoying the atmosphere of this captivating town. (B)

 

Day 12 Fri 27 April Ronda-Granada

This morning we’ll be escorted through Rhonda. We’ll visit the Puente Nuevo, Bullring Square, Casa del Rey Moro and Palacio del Marqués de Salvatierra.

On route to Granada, we’ll visit the beautiful, historical Jardín Botánico de la Concepción in Málaga. (B, D)

 

Day 13 Sat 28 April Granada

With our guide, this morning we’ll explore the world famous Alhambra, described by Moorish poets as ‘a pearl set in emeralds’, and the more recent gardens of the Generalife. Afterwards, we’ll relax over lunch in a local restaurant, then enjoy a leisurely afternoon. (B, L)

 

Day 14 Sun 29 April Granada-Seville

Today we visit Corral del Carbón, then the Royal Chapel of Granada and adjacent Cathedral. After lunch, we’ll depart for Sevilla, where you can either relax, wander, or shop. (B, L)

 

Day 15 Mon 30 April Seville

Walking shoes on for a visit to the Cathedral, and gardens surrounding Alcázar, of Seville, developed by Moorish Muslim kings, and still used as a residence of Spain’s Royal family.

Afterwards, we’ll lunch in a local restaurant. Evening at leisure. (B, L)

 

Day 16 Tue 01 May Seville

Today we take a panoramic tour in Seville: Torre del Oro, Real Maestranza, Expo del 92, Expo del 29, Plaza de España y Parque de María Luisa. Evening is at leisure. (B)

 

Day 17 Wed 02 May Seville-Cordoba

Depart by coach to Cordoba. Enjoy a walking tour of the Patios of the Zona Alcazar Viejo, San Basilio District of Córdoba, including entrance to the Cathedral (former mosque). Evening at leisure. (B, D)

 

Day 18 Thu 03 May Cordoba

Today we will visit the Synagogue, Great Mosque, Alcázar of Córdoba Gardens, Palacio de Viana and Córdoba Patios. Afternoon at leisure. (B)

 

Day 19 Fri 04 May Cordoba-Madrid

Transfer to the train station for the high speed train to Madrid. Check in to your hotel located in the heart of the old city. The reminder of the day at leisure. (B)

 

Day 20 Sat 05 May Madrid-Segovia-Madrid

A full day excursion to UNESCO World Heritage Segovia, a city that demonstrates Roman architectural mastery. Visit the famous Alcázar and La Granja de San Ildefonso to see the baroque palace that was built for Philip V. of Spain and set in gardens in the French formal style with fountains. (B)

 

Day 21 Sun 06 May Madrid

Enjoy a full day city tour in Madrid and visit to the Prado Museum before our farewell dinner. (B, D)

 

Day 22 Mon 07 May Depart Madrid

After breakfast, group transfer to airport (Individual transfers can be arranged on request). (B)

 

Autumn on Monaro

Autumn on Monaro – Art, Gardens and History of the High Country with Trisha Dixon

 

23–27 April 2018 (5 days)

 

Explore the historic homesteads, private gardens and artists’ studios of the Monaro Plateau at the height of its autumnal glory, where art, horticulture and history come together.

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Explore the historic houses and gardens of the Monaro, including Hazeldean Merino Stud, Micalago Station, Curry Flat and Shirley
• Visit the gardens and studio of renowned Australian contemporary artist Imants Tillers
• Enjoy a poignant commemoration of ANZAC Day in Jindabyne
• Extend your experience with a tour to the 2018 Canberra International Music Festival, attending at least six performances of music ranging from established classical works to exciting world premieres

 

ITINERARY

MONDAY 23 APRIL 2018 / ARRIVE CANBERRA

Arrive in Canberra and make your way to the hotel. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
In the evening, join Trisha and fellow travellers for a special welcome dinner. (D)

 

TUE 24 APR / CANBERRA – JINDABYNE

After breakfast, travel south to Micalago Station, a historical pioneer homestead and the location of multiple film sets including My Brilliant Career in 1979, for a guided tour around the garden and a visit to the site where George Lambert painted his iconic The Squatter’s Daughter. After lunch at the estate, continue to Jindabyne in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains, our base for the next three nights.
The evening is at leisure. (BL)

 

WED 25 APR / JINDABYNE

In the mid-morning, join Jindabyne locals for a special Anzac Day commemorative service in Banjo Paterson Park, where mounted horsemen and women from the Snowy Mountains honour their ancestors who enrolled in the Light Horse Regiment. Following the service and morning tea at the Community Centre, travel to Wild Brumby distillery to enjoy a lunch of local produce, set amongst sculptured gardens and a working raspberry farm. Then continue to Bullocks Flat for an exploratory walk along historic trails, past the relics of a 1910s steam engine once used for sawmilling and the homestead of Dr. Bullock himself, tracing the Thredbo River.
Return to the hotel for the remainder of the afternoon and evening at leisure. (BL)

 

TUE 26 APR / JINDABYNE AND MONARO

Today, explore three private gardens of historical significance in the Monaro region. Start at Curry Flat, where the late 19th century homestead maintains its original features, situated within a beautifully appointed garden complete with sundial rose garden and reflecting pond.
Continue to Shirley, for lunch within the garden established by one family across three generations. Recently redesigned by leading landscaper Paul Bangay, the garden displays a love of European sensibilities with its formal parterres, expansive lawns, secret gardens, opulent autumn foliage and spectacular lake.
In the afternoon travel to Hazeldean, a property over 150 years old where century-old elms encircle the homestead and create an English-style parkland. Courtyard gardens, traditional plantings, stone terracing and vistas of Monaro Plains all complement this tranquil setting. (BL)

 

FRI 27 APR / JINDABYNE – COOMA – CANBERRA

Check out from the hotel and return to Canberra. En route, visit the studio and garden of contemporary artist Imants Tillers. As one of Australia’s most significant contemporary artists, his work reflects a continued interest in the idea of place, landscapes and contemporary culture.
For those departing Canberra today, tour arrangements conclude either upon arrival at Canberra airport at 15:00 for flights departing from 17:00 onwards, or in Canberra city at 15:30.
For those joining our 2018 Canberra International Music Festival tour, tour arrangements commence in central Canberra at 17:00. (B)

 

Singapore and Garden Festival

Singapore and the Singapore Garden Festival 2018

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Sat 21 July Arrive in Singapore
Our tour commences from the hotel. A brief orientation of the city once you’ve settled into your hotel. Welcome dinner tonight. (D)

 

Day 2 Sun 22 July Singapore Botanic Garden

Transfer for a top-of-the-world experience as the Singapore Flyer, the World’s Largest Observation Wheel, takes us 165 metres into the sky. With 360-degree views, we’ll get our surroundings into perspective and enjoy panoramic views of Singapore and beyond. Then we visit the beautiful UNESCO World Heritage-listed Singapore Botanic Gardens – a star destination for both travellers and local residents. With a rich history, it is home to an array of botanical attractions and a plant collection highly regarded around the world. We also look at the extraordinary ‘orchid story’ at the National Orchid Garden. Since 1928 the garden has been developing orchid hybrids, which has led to a nationally important industry. We will look at the growing process of one of the world’s great collections. This evening soak in the beautiful experience of music and patterns of dancing light in Garden Rhapsody at Gardens by the Bay. Watch the iconic, towering Supertrees transform as the visual sensory extravaganza brings a touch of magic. (B)

 

Day 3 Mon 23 Jul Fort Canning Park-Hort Park-Little India

We’ll enjoy a short early morning visit to nearby Fort Canning Heritage Tree Trail and historic place, once home to the royalty of Singapore, with WW II sites and magnificent trees, in the heart of the city. Then we head to Hort Park, a 9-hectare site used as an education facility for Singapore gardeners. It has a range of specialised gardens, sales facilities, and educational tours. Afterwards we’ll explore Serangoon Road, Little India’s central strip that boasts a plethora of jewellery shops, traditional Indian tailors, everything-must-go fashion outlets, fresh fruit and veg stalls, Chinese liquor stores, beauty salons, and of course, row upon row of delicious curry houses. (B)

 

Day 4 Tue 24 Jul Gardens by the Bay

Today’s destination, Gardens by the Bay, offers breath-taking waterfront views. The multi-award winning horticultural destination spans 101 hectares of reclaimed land. This extraordinary project, opened 4 years ago, is a complex of outdoor gardens and glasshouses on a massive scale. Advised by the Eden Project in the UK, it covers both tropical and temperate to cool climate specialist gardens. (B)

 

Day 5 Wed 25 Jul Singapore Zoo

Visit Singapore’s award-winning wildlife park to see animals roaming freely in natural habitats. White tigers, pygmy hippos, and even naked mole rats – get up close with the wildlife in the appealing Singapore Zoo. Set in 26-hectares, it is home to over 300 species of mammals, birds and reptiles, and has been providing exciting wildlife experiences to visitors for over 40 years.
Rejuvenate your senses over lunch at Bollywood Veggies in the beautiful Kranji Countryside; then visit Kranji War Memorial that honours the men and women from Britain, Australia, Canada, Sri Lanka, India, Malaya, the Netherlands and New Zealand who died in the line of duty during World War II. (B, L)

 

Day 6 Thu 26 Jul Singapore Garden Festival

We’ll spend today immersed in the grandeur of the Singapore Garden Festival, one of the world’s much-awaited floral fetes. We’ll be treated to creations from leading international landscape and garden designers, florists and horticulturists, including many familiar names from the Chelsea Flower Show, Philadelphia Flower Show, Floriade (Holland), Melbourne International Flower & Garden Show, and Laman (Malaysia). It is the foremost global garden show in the tropics showcasing, under one roof, creations from the top, award-winning garden and floral designers. Farewell dinner tonight. (B, D)

 

Day 7 Fri 27 Jul Depart Singapore

Tour arrangements finish after breakfast. Make your own way to airport for departure flight. (B)

 

Sardinia & Sicily: Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins & Vibrant Culture

Garden Tour – Sardinia & Sicily: Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins & Vibrant Culture

 

Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins and Vibrant Culture

 

TOUR ITINERARY:

Day 1 Tue 08 May Arrive Naples
Mediterranean pines and the volcano Mount Vesuvius are the iconic landmarks of Naples – the city with a terrific history, listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Check in to the hotel before our welcome dinner. (D)

 

Day 2 Wed 09 May Caserta
The Royal Palace of Caserta, erected during the 18th century, is the largest royal residence in the world. You will discover this monumental complex created by the Bourbon King Charles III in the mid-18th century to rival Versailles and the Royal Palace in Madrid. Afterwards, you will be transferred to Naples airport for your flight to Palermo. (B, L)

 

Day 3 Thu 10 May Palermo
In the morning you will take a walking tour through the charming city of Palermo, including the traditional street markets and in the afternoon discover the beautiful Villa Tasca. After the visit continue to Monreale to visit the cathedral and the garden. (B, L)

 

Day 4 Fri 11May Bagheria and Palermo
Today you will have the privilege to visit one of the most charming Villas of Bagheria, and meet its owner: the Princess Vittoria Alliata di Villafranca e Valguarnera. Journalist, writer and the only Italian translator of J.R. Tolkien, she will open the doors of her house and garden, Villa Valguarnera, for an exclusive tour and lunch. In the afternoon, the Director of the Botanical Garden of Palermo will take you on a private tour of this urban oasis. To conclude the day, you will visit the Palazzo Alliata di Pietratagliata, a prestigious gothic building erected around the second half of the fifteenth Century. (B, L)

 

Day 5 Sat 12 May Palermo and Agrigento
In the morning you will meet with Massimiliano Marafon Pecoraro, Researcher in the Department of Historic and Artistic Studies at the University of Palermo who will show you the secrets behind one of the most striking buildings of Palermo: the Palazzina Cinese (The Chinese Palace). Afternoon transfer to Agrigento. (B)

 

Day 6 Sun 13 May Agrigento and Ragusa
Today, visit one of the most outstanding examples of Greater Greece art and architecture: the Valle dei Templi (Valley of the Temples). Included in the UNESCO Heritage Site list, the area is the largest archaeological site in the world with its 1,300 hectares. The Valley includes remains of seven temples, all in Doric style, including the Temples of Concordia, Hera and Zeus. After visiting the Greek temples you can enjoy a moment of relaxation, or a stroll along the ruins of a historic garden from 500 B.C.: the Giardino della Kolymbetra. (B, L)

 

Day 7 Mon 14 May Ragusa and Modica
Today’s walking tour will explore two symbols of the Sicilian Baroque: Ragusa and Modica. The next stop will be Modica, a small gem that lies nestled in a deep valley.(B)

 

Day 8 Tue 15 May Taormina
This morning we enjoy a walking tour of the Florence Trevelyan garden. This unique garden is the second biggest tourist attraction in Taormina. After the morning walk you will visit some of the most characteristics monuments of the town, including the Greek-Roman amphitheatre, you will have free time to enjoy the atmosphere of this Sicily’s most famous touristic destinations. The rest of the day is free. (B)

 

Day 9 Wed 16 May Siracusa
This morning you will say farewell to Taormina and travel to Siracusa. En route, visit to Villa San Giuliano and lunch. (B, L)

 

Day 10 Thu 17 May Siracusa
The day will start with a visit to the island of Ortigia, the historical heart of Siracusa. The tight lanes are pleasant for strolling, so you will wander down narrow medieval lanes, Baroque palaces and churches. In the afternoon you will visit the Neapolis Archeological Park which includes the Greek theatre, and the Roman amphitheatre. Afternoon is at your leisure. (B)

 

Day 11 Fri 18 May Catania-Cagliari
It’s time to say goodbye to Sicily and fly to Sardinia. You will land in Cagliari, the main city of the island. You will be met on arrival and transported to the hotel, to relax and freshen up. (B, D)

 

Day 12 Sat 19 May Cagliari
During this walking tour around the old town of Cagliari we will evoke the crucial events that took place in the most important city of Sardinia. In the afternoon the Landscape Architect Maurizio Usai will wait for you in his own private garden, La Pietra Rossa. He will guide you in an exclusive tour of his garden that he started to create when he was 17 years old. Extremely passionate about roses, his private collection counts over 250 varieties. (B)

 

Day 13 Sun 20 May Barumini-Oristano-Bosa
In the morning you will leave Cagliari and travel north-west to Bosa. A first stop will be the prehistoric archaeological site of ‘Su Nuraxi’. A second stop will be the nursery ‘I campi’ in Milis, specialized in drought tolerant plants and gardens. Continue to Oristano and Bosa. (B, L)

 

Day 14 Mon 21 May Alghero
Alghero is one of Sardinia’s most beautiful medieval cities: with its animated historic centre is a terrific place to hang out. In the afternoon you will visit the Neptune’s Grotto. Within the grotto, tourists can visit a 120-metre-long saltwater lake. (B)

 

Day 15 Tue 22 May Stintino and Asinara Isand
Fine, white sand, breathtaking panoramas, waters that range from hues of azure to turquoise, and one of the most beautiful seascapes of the entire Mediterranean: welcome to Stintino, renowned touristic destination on Sardinia’s north-western extremity. It started out as a fishermen’s village, when the Island of Asinara was made a penal colony. Isolated for almost a century, it has become an oasis of rare and sometimes-almost-extinct species of plants and animals, such as the white albino donkey. (B)

 

Day 16 Wed 23 May Telti
Today you will have the pleasure to meet again the Landscape Architect Maurizio Usai who will guide you through a beautiful private garden: Il giardino dei Fontanili. After lunch and a visit to the small town Tempio, you will continue to Olbia, where you can finally relax after a hectic few days of sightseeing. (B, L)

 

Day 17 Thu 24 May Olbia
In the morning you will take a walking tour for discovering every hidden corner of this old town, including the oldest Romanic church in Sardinia (San Simplicio) and the Archaeologic Museum where you will learn about the early Greek foundation of Olbia. In the afternoon you will meet again with the Landscape Architect Maurizio Usai who will take you for a private and exclusive tour of Villa Certosa, a 168-acre estate formerly owned by the ex-Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Farewell dinner tonight. (B, D)

 

Day 18 Fri 25 May Depart Olbia
Your tour ends after breakfast. (B)

 

‘Eden Unearthed’ at Eden Gardens

Eden Unearthed, Sydney

 

Eden Gardens in Macquarie Park in Sydney is the venue for an exciting exhibition called Eden Unearthed, the largest collection of commissioned temporal artworks in Australia.

Eden Unearthed combines the talents of both established and developing artists to create works that respond to the site specifically, working with the garden to interpret it in a unique and exciting way.

A selection of our many exhibiting artists:

Leon Kluge – an award-winning landscape designer from South Africa/New Zealand, with his work ‘Hidden Truth‘, which explores how the roots that connected us with nature, the environment and a love for the world’s biodiversity are being torn away, exposing man’s lust for material wealth.

Ainslie Murray – with ‘Human Hostilities‘ which looks at the use of bird spikes on buildings as devices that we employ to control the way in which species interact with built forms in architecture and landscape architecture. It addresses the use of bird spikes as an act of ‘kindness’ within an overarching context of hostility, and explores the tensions between these ideas.

 

Emma Mattson, with ‘Moss Balls‘, an installation of a hanging sphere, created by smaller spheres. They will be balls of replicated moss created using thread and yarn.

Pamela Lee Brenner and Johannes Muljana with ‘Fly Away‘, a work similar in appearance to a dandelion seed head, where the “space” within it makes it appear to “float” whilst being invisibly tethered so that it does not blow away.

Leanne Thompson with ‘Sound Line for Compos Mentis‘ which plays with layers of meanings present in the word sound: from water that joins land forms to waves of vibration we can hear. However, the key concept ties an awareness of the intricate connections linking water cycle to functional ecosystem processes.

Margarita Sampson – ‘Homes for Better Living‘, a series of small sculptures extrapolates plant structures into architectural forms, referencing the graphic style of initial notebook sketches.

Veronica Richterova – ‘Cactus‘, a series of sculptures that reuse plastic bottles to creatively reinterpret naturalistic themes that also draw attention to the increasing production of plastic packaging, often unnecessary, all over the world.

 

‘Eden Unearthed’ at Eden Gardens

FREE entry

Open every day 31 August 2017 to 28 February 2018, from 9am to 5pm (excepting public holidays of Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Day, and Australia Day)

Plenty of onsite parking

307 Lane Cove Road
Macquarie Park NSW 2113
Phone: 02 9491 9900
info@edengardens.com.au

For tickets to the special champagne and canapé launch of Eden Unearthed on Thursday 31 August 4.30-7.30pm, click HERE. All tickets $20

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)

 

Celebrating Gardens and Roses

Celebrating Gardens and Roses of Japan with Sophie Thomson

 

TOUR ITINERARY:

 

Day 1 Wed 25 Oct Arrive Tokyo

On arrival in Tokyo, make your own way to your hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure.

 

Day 2 Thu 26 Oct Tokyo

After breakfast we visit the Kyosumi Garden. In the afternoon, we visit Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa for a taste of traditional Japan. Senso-ji is one of the very popular temples in Tokyo while the Asukusa area that surrounds it provides a wonderful variety of snacks, restaurants and souvenir shopping. In the afternoon, we will visit the historic Imperial Palace East Gardens, an oasis of calm in the middle of this giant city. Edo Castle was once the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. The old site of the castle now makes up the park and garden areas. Later we marvel at skyscraper views from the heights of iconic Tokyo Tower. Welcome dinner tonight. (B, D)

 

Day 3 Fri 27 Oct Tokyo

Today we will take an excursion to Keisei Rose Garden and Sakura Rose Garden.
Keisei Rose Garden has over 1600 rose varieties and 10,000 plants. This rose garden is owned by the Japanese agent for many international commercial rose breeders, including the infamous French rose breeder Meilland. Sakura Rose Garden is a municipal rose garden with an emphasis on heritage roses. (B)

 

Day 4 Sat 28 Oct Tokyo-Atami-Hakone

We escape Tokyo and journey by private coach to Hakone via Atami. Hopefully weather permitting we will get an excellent view of Mount Fuji. We will visit Akao Herb & Rose Garden in Atami. Continue travel to Hakone, where we will visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum, home to over 120 permanent Japanese and Western sculptures, in a garden setting. (B, D)

 

Day 5 Sun 29 Oct Hakone-Nagoya-Takayama

Transfer to Odawara station for bullet train to Takayama via Nagoya. Arrive in Takayama, we will visit Kusakabe Folk Crafts Museum. This building dating from the 1890s showcases the striking craftsmanship of traditional Takayama carpenters. Tonight enjoy a Hida beef dinner. (B, D)

 

Day 6 Mon 30 Oct Takayama

Work off your breakfast with a relaxing walking tour of the morning market. Take a walking tour around the downtown area. Many of the old town streets date from the Edo Period and are perfect for people who love to browse. Then we take an excursion to the remote mountains of Honshu to visit the UNESCO listed Shirakawa-go Village, famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. It is a fairytale walk back in time with quaint original cottages, water wheels and paddy fields. Return to Takayama for overnight. (B)

 

Day 7 Tue 31 Oct Takayama-Kani-Nagoya-Okayama

Today we travel by coach to visit the Flower Festival Commemorative Park in Kani which has over 7000 varieties of roses and 30,000 plants. The garden has two main sections with their own themes. The first is the Rose Theme Garden which contains 14 themed gardens such as the Fragrant Rose Garden, the Royal Rose Garden and the Blue Rose Garden. The second is the World Rose Garden with roses gathered from all over the world and planted by country. Then we take coach to Nogoya station for our train to Okayama. (B, D)

 

Day 8 Wed 01 Nov Okayama

We will visit Adachi Museum of Art, established in 1970, based on the private collection of Zenko Adachi. Works collected include Japanese paintings by famous painters such as Taikan Yokoyama, Shiho Sakakibara and Shunso Hishida. The museum’s gardens are also famous. A true lover of gardens, Adachi collected each of the pines and stones for the garden himself from around the country, creating a beautiful garden filled with his own passion. (B, L)

 

Day 9 Thu 02 Nov Okayama-Kyoto

After breakfast, we visit the magnificent Okayama Castle, nicknamed “Crow Castle” because of its very black colour. Then we explore the colourful and expansive Koraku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan that celebrates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden. Later we travel by bullet train to Kyoto. (B)

 

Day 10 Fri 03 Nov Kyoto

Today we visit Gio-ji Temple. It presides over a magnificent grove of thick magical moss that just about begs you to lie down on it (you are strictly forbidden), straight out of a fairytale. Then we head to the picturesque Arashiyama District for a relaxing walk through the peaceful Bamboo Forest. (B)

 

Day 11 Sat 04 Nov Kyoto

Today we will experience a truly Japanese cultural event, a tea ceremony at Kodaiji Temple, one of the most well-known temples in Japan. Then visit the peaceful Ryoan-ji Temple home to the famous Zen rock garden. It is fortunately right next door to Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), another treasure! (B)

 

Day 12 Sun 05 Nov Kyoto

This morning we visit the I M Pei-designed Miho Museum in Shiga Prefecture. The building is a work of art in itself, as it sits in perfect harmony with an incredible mountain landscape. It is best known for its Shigaraki pottery as well as an incredible collection of artworks belonging to the founder of the museum, Koyama Mihoko, one of the richest women in Japan, and her daughter Hiroko. Afternoon is at your leisure. Farewell dinner tonight. (B, D)

 

Day 13 Mon 06 Nov Depart Kyoto

Our tour ends after breakfast. Make your own way to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

Iran and the Legendary Silk Road by Private Train

Iran and the Legendary Silk Road by Private Train with Jennie Churchill

 

HIGHLIGHTS OF YOUR JOURNEY

• An exciting first time itinerary combining Iran, east to west, with the Silk Road
• Unique combination of two comfortable private trains with 4 different categories: Orient Silk Road Express and Persian Explorer
• Unforgettable immersion in centuries of Central Asian, Persian and Islamic history
• Ten extraordinary UNESCO World Heritage Sites
• Warm and welcoming people
• Samarkand’s massive, mosaic-tiled Registan Square
• Among Bukhara’s thousand monuments, experience its architectural masterpiece the Mire-e-Arab Madrasah
• The ruins of Merv rising from the desert
• Iran’s holiest city Mashhad
• Wind towers of the desert city Yazd, stronghold of Zoroastrians
• Five of the nine UNESCO World Heritage listed Persian Garden complexes
• The vast Maidan of Isfahan, the world’s second largest Square
• Shiraz, gentle city of poets and gardens
• The magnificent ruins of Persepolis, once powerful capital of the world’s largest empire
• Museums and palaces of Tehran
• Markets, bazaars and traditional crafts including the making of silk fabric and carpets

 

TOUR ITINERARY

Day 1 Sat 16 September Arrival in Tashkent
Flight from your airport of departure to Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan.
Overnight: Grand Mir Hotel (or similar).

Day 2 Sun 17 September Tashkent
The green oasis of the Steppe, Tashkent is Central Asia’s hub. We traverse centuries: from the C16th Kukeldash Madrasah, Soviet-era architecture to contemporary Independence Square, the Amir Timur museum and Tashkent Metro’s beautiful artwork. Depending on the schedule, settle in for an evening performance at the famous Navoi Opera Theatre. Afterwards your private train Orient Silk Road Express departs for Samarkand.
Overnight on board. Breakfast (B), lunch (L) and dinner (D)

Day 3 Mon 18 September Samarkand
After breakfast we arrive in Samarkand, for centuries a powerful political, economic and cultural centre on the Silk Road. Founded in the C7th BC, this extraordinary city reached its peak during Amir Timur’s C14th rule. Discover magnificent Central Asian Islamic architecture: the huge Registan Square with its mosaics and blue-tiled domes, necropolis Shah-e-zende and the excavation sites of Afrosiab, the oldest existing evidence of this ancient city.
Overnight: Hotel Registan Plaza (or similar). (BLD)

Day 4 Tue 19 September Samarkand
The ancient rural town of Urgut has one of Uzbekistan’s busiest and most traditional markets and the Chor-Chinor garden’s 1,000 year old trees. Back in Samarkand, there’s much more to discover: the observatory of Ulug Beg, C15th ruler and remarkable astronomer, the enormous Bibi Khanum Mosque and Timur’s resting place in the Gur Emir Mausoleum. In the evening, your train departs for Bukhara.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 5 Wed 20 September Bukhara
Journey through the red sands of the Kyzyl Kum desert to Bukhara, a fascinating city more than 2,500 years old. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed old city still boasts around one thousand monuments. We visit the Kaljan Minaret, Labi-Hauz Ensemble, the architectural masterpiece Mire-e-Arab Madrasah, and the beautiful Samanid Mausoleum. The day ends with a tour through the massive earthen Fortress Ark and a dance performance in a madrasah.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 6 Thu 21 September Merv
Our train crosses into Turkmenistan, the somewhat mysterious and least visited country in Central Asia. Towards morning, we arrive at the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site of Merv. Once a glorious metropolis famous for its exports, scholars, culture and gardens, the city was destroyed in 1221 by Ghengis Khan’s son. Merv’s astounding remnants rise from the desert among ancient ruins: the Mausoleum of Sultan Sanjar, Kyz Kala Fortress and historic mud brick ice-houses. Late in the evening our train arrives in the capital of Turkmenistan, Ashgabat.
Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn (or similar). (BLD)

Day 7 Fri 22 September Ashgabat and Nisa
A morning drive takes us to the ancient city of Nisa, former flourishing capital of the Parthian state. Later, a guided tour of Ashgabat introduces this distinctive and rather bizarre modern-day capital. Hollywood meets Stalin in a rapidly transforming city flush with new-found oil wealth. Artefacts from Nisa and Merv in the National Museum provide further insight into a country where great science, art, architecture and spirituality countered an often-violent history.
Overnight: Hotel Ak Altyn (or similar). (BLD)

Day 8 Sat 23 September Mashhad
After breakfast, a bus ride takes us across the border to Mashhad, Iran’s holiest and second-largest city. One of the seven holy sites of the Shiite Islam – and the only one in Iran – Mashhad is the site of the mausoleum of the eighth Shiite Imam, Ali ibn Musa ar-Reza. This beautiful and massive shrine complex, with its dazzling intricate blue tiles, gold domes, minarets and fountain-cooled courtyards, commemorates the AD 817 martyrdom of Imam Reza. Attracting around 20 million pilgrims each year, the shrine features one of Iran’s most comprehensive art collections.
Overnight: Hotel Homa (or similar). (BLD)

Day 9 Sun 24 September To Yazd
Around noon, we leave Mashhad on our private train, the Persian Explorer, and journey across the desert to Yazd.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 10 Mon 25 September Yazd to Isfahan
We arrive in Yazd, Iran’s most exciting desert city, early morning. Wedged between two deserts, Yazd is regarded by UNESCO as one of the oldest cities on earth. It is also the centre of Zoroastrianism in Iran. Yazd’s old, sun-dried mud brick city skyline is dominated by badgirs (wind towers), the tallest sitting in the UNESCO-listed Bagh-e Dolat Abad, described as ‘the quintessence of the Persian garden’. We visit the Zoroastrian fire temples and, rising from the desert just outside the city, former burial sites the Towers of Silence. A visit to the Yazd Water Museum explains the desert city’s Qanat water supply system. Back on board, we take lunch as we travel towards Isfahan.
Overnight: Hotel Kowsar/Abbasi (or similar). (BLD)

Day 11 Tue 26 September Kashan
Often bypassed by tourists, Kashan is one of the most alluring destinations in Iran. A full day exploring this oasis city north of Isfahan includes the exquisitely decorated, turquoise and gold Sultan Amir Ahmad Bathhouse, the Tabatabei House, one of Kashan’s architecturally-significant C19th merchant houses, and Bagh-e Fin, the oldest extant garden in Iran, its classic Persian design dating to the C16th rule of Shah Abbas 1.
Overnight: Hotel Kowsar/Abbasi (or similar). ( BLD)

Day 12 Wed 27 September Isfahan
Our time in this elegant jewel of ancient Persia centres on its heart – the vast, beautifully-proportioned, Savafid Dynasty Maidan or Imam Square, once the site of trading, assembling troops, polo games and celebrations. We visit a number of the monumental buildings bordering this UNESCO World Heritage Site: Masjed-e Imam (Imam Khomeini Mosque), the Ali Qapu Palace and its veranda overlooking the Square, and the Lotfullah Mosque, once a private mosque for the Safavid royal families. A short walk brings us to Chehel Sotun (Pavilion of Forty Pillars) with its huge reflecting pool, shady gardens and wonderful fresco museum. In the ancient historic centre we visit the Jameh Mosque, a stunning illustration of Iranian Islamic architecture over twelve centuries.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 13 Thu 28 September Shiraz
With the verses of much-loved poets Hafez and Sa’adi top of mind, a visit to Bagh-e Eram reminds us this is the city of the Persian paradise garden. The hustle and bustle of the Old Town Vakil bazaar is fun and entertaining (stock up on excellent Iranian saffron) and contrasts with the calm interiors of the elegant Nasir-al-Molk (Pink) Mosque. Its mesmerising decorations are more than matched by the dazzling mirrored tiles of the Shah Cheragh Mausoleum, the third most venerated pilgrimage site in Iran.
Overnight: Chamran Grand Hotel (or similar). (BLD)

Day 14 Fri 29 September Pasargadae & Persepolis
At the site of his victories east of the great Zagros Mountains, the Persian King Cyrus the Great built his capital city of Pasargadae. I am Cyrus the King, an Achaemenian, states the inscriptions on pillars and reliefs of the audience hall of the Residence. The sprawling archaeological site, which includes the King’s mausoleum, also contains remnants of the garden he created at Pasargadae 2,500 years ago. The oldest extant garden layout in the world, it can still be ‘read’ among the remains. We travel an hour by bus to our next destination, the magnificent ruins of Persepolis, founded by Darius 1 in the early years of the C6th BC. His Achaemenid empire was the largest the world had ever seen, extending from Egypt to Pakistan, with Persepolis its capital. The vast part-artificial platform above the plains holds an extraordinary complex of ruins, with royal palaces, reception halls, apartments, walls covered by sculpted friezes, gigantic winged bulls and monumental stairways – all burned and looted by the Greeks of Alexander the Great in 330 BC. Nearby is the impressive Naqsh-e-Rostam necropolis of the Achaemenids. A short bus ride brings us to our private train, destination Tehran.
Overnight on board. (BLD)

Day 15 Sat 30 September Tehran
Arriving in Tehran, we farewell our charming train staff before spending a day out of the busy city centre. First stop, a guided tour of the Iranian National Botanic Garden, with the Alborz Mountains as backdrop. The garden’s 150 hectares sit at 1300 metres, with different landscapes designed to represent Iran’s diverse flora. Just 40km to the north-east of Tehran city lies the Khojir National Park, one of the oldest protected areas in the world with stunning views to the stratovolcano Mount Damavand. Khojir is renowned for its high biodiversity and as an important base for migratory birds. Dinner will be served in the Milad Tower, the sixth tallest telecommunication tower in the world.
Overnight: Hotel Laleh (or similar). (BLD)

Day 16 Sun 1 October Tehran
The Iranian capital is rich with museums. We explore the glories and excesses of the Qajar emperors in the lavish Golestan Palace and take a journey through history at the Archaeological Museum. A short walk away is the Glass and Ceramics Museum, with exhibits spanning centuries of workmanship by Iranian artisans. The rest of the day is yours to enjoy. A visit to see the glittering collection of gemstones and jewellery at the Treasury of National Jewels is highly recommended, as is time spent in Park-e Laleh or another of Tehran’s beautiful parks.
Overnight: Hotel Laleh (or similar). (BLD)

Day 17 Mon 2 October End of journey
Airport transfer for individual departure.

 

INCLUSIONS

• 6 overnights on Private Train according to the booked category (Day 1-7 with Orient Silk Road Express; Day 8 – 15 Persian Explorer)
• 10 overnights in hotels
• All meals according to program (B = breakfast, L = lunch, D = dinner)
• Full sightseeing program including all entrance fees as per the itinerary
• Airport transfers arrival in Tashkent and departure from Tehran
• Private air-conditioned coach for sightseeing side trips
• Tour Leader Jennie Churchill
• English-speaking Train Tour Director
• Experienced local guides
• Doctor on board
• All gratuities for guides and drivers throughout the trip
• Visas for Iran, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan

Gardens, Villages & Châteaux of Normandy and Brittany 2018

Gardens, Villages & Châteaux of Normandy and Brittany 2018 with Deryn Thorpe

 

Tour Highlights

Led by Deryn Thorpe, this cultural garden tour explores the gardens, agricultural landscapes, villages, towns and great monuments of two of France’s most beautiful and historic regions: Normandy and Brittany.

An introduction to the wide range of gardens in French history, featuring visits to medieval monastic gardens, grand Renaissance estates, and intimate modern creations.

Private gardens (several listed as ‘Jardin Remarquable’), many visits will be hosted by their owners.

Special visit to the private gardens of La Datcha (to be confirmed closer to the date) – created some 25 years ago as a picturesque folly for Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint-Laurent, with gardens designed by Madison Cox.

Work inspired by the great André Le Nôtre at the Château Champ de Bataille and Château de Sassy, and the influences of Edwin Luytens and Gertrude Jekyll at Le Bois des Moutiers.

Le Jardin du Vastérival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza, containing one of the finest plant collections in France.

The beautiful, unspoilt northern coast of Brittany with its deep-cut inlets and inland wooded valleys enjoys an exceptional climate due to the Gulf Stream. Here, we explore the Jardins de Kerdalo with a rich collection of plants and shrubs, and the private manor house garden, Le Jardin du Pellinec. Further inland, Le Grand Launay boasts a beautiful modern garden built around an old castle.

A journey ‘in the footsteps of the Impressionists’, to Monet’s garden at Giverny, the coast he painted, and the port town of Honfleur; the Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux (Le Havre) containing one of the most extensive collections of Impressionist paintings in France.

Visits to major monuments such as the Abbeys of St-Georges de Boscherville and Mont Saint-Michel; Romanesque and Gothic Cathedrals such as Notre-Dame (Rouen) and St-Étienne (Caen).

The megalithic site on the south coast of Brittany in Carnac, where we examine the largest Neolithic alignment in the world (3500-3000 BC).

The Bayeux Tapestry Museum, containing the 11th-century embroidered cloth depicting the Norman conquest of England.

Explore a rich variety of village architecture in a number of ‘Les Plus Beaux Villages de France’ including the pretty half-timbered houses of Lyons-la-Forêt and Dinan, the medieval stone houses of St-Céneri-le-Gérei, the walled towns of Vannes and Saint-Malo, and the charming washhouses of Pontrieux.

Sampling of French regional produce, with visits to specialist local markets; tastings of Normandy’s Livarot, Pont l’Évêque cheeses, apple juice and calvados, and Brittany’s crêpes, seafood, the famous custard cake, ‘Far Breton’ and the ‘Kouign-Amann’ (cross between a croissant and a palmier).

Fine dining in renowned urban and rustic restaurants including historic restauran La Couronne,

 

 

21-day Cultural Garden Tour of Normandy & Brittany

 

Overnight Rouen (6 nights) • Honfleur (2 nights) • Bayeux (3 nights) • Bagnoles-de-l’Orne (2 nights) • Vannes (2 nights) • Perros-Guirec (3 nights) • Saint-Malo (2 nights)

 

Rouen – 6 nights

 

Day 1: Saturday 1 September, Paris CDG – Lyons-la-Forêt – Rouen

 

Afternoon tea in Lyons-la-Forêt village
Introductory Meeting
Welcome Dinner

 

Today we set out from Paris Charles-de-Gaulle Airport to the magnificent regional city of Rouen, to begin our journey through the gardens, great houses, villages and historic monuments of Northern France.

En route we stop in Lyons-la-Forêt, one of France’s most picturesque villages, for an afternoon tea in the Hôtel Les Lions de Beauclerc. Most of its houses, many of which have façades featuring intricate wooden frames, are from the 17th century, but Lyons was once a Roman settlement and afterwards site of a castle built by Henry I of England, son of William the Conqueror. Kings were attracted to the region by its magnificent hunting grounds in the nearby beech forest. Lyons also has an excellent covered market from the 18th century, which was used in both Jean Renoir’s and Claude Chabrol’s films of Madame Bovary. We shall also pass the house of one of France’s greatest musicians, Ravel. Ravel, Debussy and Erik Satie all derived inspiration from Normandy’s beautiful landscapes.

After stopping in Lyons-la-Forêt we continue our journey to Rouen, arriving in the evening. After checking into our hotel, and some time at leisure, we shall have a brief introductory meeting followed by a welcome dinner at the Brasserie Paul, near our hotel. (Overnight Rouen) D

 

Day 2: Sunday 2 September, Rouen – Saint-Martin-de-Boscherville – St Pierre-de-Manneville – Rouen
Romanesque Abbey of St Georges-de-Boscherville
Manoir et Parc de Villers, St Pierre-de-Manneville
Orientation walk of Rouen
Evening meal at restaurant La Couronne

 

Our excursion from Rouen takes us first to the Abbey St Georges-de-Boscherville. A Celtic shrine existed here for several centuries until in the 7th century a chapel dedicated to St George was built over it. In the 11th century the great chamberlain Raoul de Tancarville founded here a college for canons that was transformed into a magnificent Benedictine abbey. We shall visit the abbey with its fine Romanesque carvings and explore its garden, dedicated to plants believed by the monks to cure souls.

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

We then return to Rouen for an orientation tour of this beautiful historic city. The city grew up as an important centre of Roman Gaul, called ‘Rotomagus’, a derivation of the Celtic name ‘Ratuma’. It became an important ecclesiastical centre from the 3rd century and part of the Duchy of Normandy and then the Norman kingdom (1066), until lost to the French by King John in 1204. Rouen surrendered to Henry V of England in 1419 after a protracted siege, but was reclaimed by France in 1449. By the end of the 15th century it had become a centre of the French Renaissance.

Rouen has some of the finest Gothic architecture in France. The façade of its cathedral fascinated Monet, who painted it at different times of the day. Other churches include the 15th-century church of St Ouen and the church of St Maclou (1437), both notable examples of French flamboyant architecture. The Gros-Horloge is a Renaissance pavilion containing a 15th-century clock, and the Tour Jeanne d’Arc is where the saint was imprisoned before her execution. The Hôtel de Bourgheroulde (1501-37) is the best example of the city’s medieval domestic architecture.

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

 

Day 3: Monday 3 September, Rouen – Buchy – Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy – Montmain – Rouen
Buchy village market
Le Jardin de Valérianes, Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy
Les Jardins d’Angélique, Montmain

 

A second day trip from Rouen takes us first to the small village of Buchy, where we shop for our lunch in the Monday market. Like so many local markets in Normandy, Buchy’s Monday market features exclusively local produce. Many of local farms specialise in organic products. The medieval covered market hall has fixed wooden tables that were originally butchers’ blocks.

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

Next, we travel to Montmain to visit the Jardins d’Angélique, which comprise two wonderful gardens. Originally created by Gloria and Yves Le Bellegard in memory of their daughter Angelica, the two separate gardens are distinct in character. South of the manor house is a formal garden with walkways and clipped hedges, Italianate in style with box-edged beds of perennials and ornamental grasses, punctuated by yew topiary and a central fountain. It is designed to complement not only the rear elevations of the house, but to provide marvellous panoramas of the surrounding countryside. To the north is a flowing ‘English-style’ garden: dreamy, romantic, with grassy paths winding between hundreds of shrubs, plants and trees.

In the late afternoon we return to Rouen, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) B

 

Day 4: Tuesday 4 September, Rouen – Giverny – Auzouville-sur-Ry – Rouen
Monet’s House and Gardens, Giverny
Le Jardin Plume, Auzouville-sur-Ry

 

This morning we depart Rouen for Giverny, in the heart of Normandy, where the great Impressionist Claude Monet lived for forty-three years. We visit the artist’s beautiful home and garden, a dominant theme of his later paintings, created when as an old man he was unable to travel. The water-lily pond and wisteria-covered Japanese bridge were of his own design and his favourite motifs. Monet’s house, ‘Le Pressoir’, and its gardens have been faithfully restored and opened to the public. Our visit to his house will include a stroll through the garden with its thousands of flowers, including the Nympheas. We cross the Japanese bridge hung with wisteria to a dreamy setting of weeping willows and rhododendrons. Monet’s studio barge floated on the pond. In September the lawns are typically full of pink colchicums. The dahlias are eye-catching, and there are usually roses and nasturtiums in bloom at the house garden. No wisteria flowers, but the vine covers the bridge, and the pond is surrounded by greenery and impatiens.

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

 

Day 5: Wednesday 5 September, Rouen – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Tourville-sur-Arques – Rouen
The Shamrock Garden, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Le Bois des Moutiers, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Church & Sailor’s cemetery, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Château de Miromesnil, Tourville-sur-Arques

 

Today we head north to the coastal village of Varengeville-sur-Mer where we shall visit two gardens owned by the Mallet family.

We will start with Le Bois des Moutiers. The residence and garden have been in the family’s possession since 1898. At that time, a young English architect, Edwin Luytens, who was to become famous for his houses and for the layout and architecture of imperial New Delhi, was asked to modify both the residence and the garden. Luytens designed Munstead Wood for Gertrude Jekyll, and the influence of both of these great English designers is evident in the gardens of Le Bois des Moutiers. The influence of Gertrude Jekyll is seen everywhere, including the design and plantings of the front garden, which slopes toward the sea.

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

We then head back to the village to visit the second garden of the Mallet family, the Shamrock Garden. Created in 1984 by Corinne Mallet, it displays a wonderful Hydrangea Collection including 2000 plants from over 1200 varieties. It has been since given the status of French National Collection .

In the late afternoon we continue to the Château de Miromesnil at Tourville-sur-Arques, a splendid 17th-century (Louis XIII) château, where Guy de Maupassant was born. It is located within a large plantation dominated by a two hundred-year-old cedar of Lebanon, and contains a very fine kitchen garden. Its vegetable plots are surrounded by a bewildering variety of flowers. The park is enclosed by old brick walls and features fruit trees, rose trees, magnolias, arborescent peonies and a magnificent variety of clematis. Following dinner at the Château de Miromesnil we return to Rouen for the night. (Overnight Rouen) BD

 

Day 6: Thursday 6 September, Rouen – Le Neubourg – Rouen
Château Champ de Bataille, Le Neubourg
Afternoon at leisure in Rouen

 

This morning we depart Rouen and travel south to Le Neubourg to visit the Château Champ de Bataille, belonging to interior decorator Jacques Garcia. Garcia has completely renovated the 18th-century castle and gardens over the past 20 years. The château boasts a magnificent garden based in part on the classic French style and heavily influenced by drawings by the French designer Le Nôtre – hence its inclusion in Monty Don‘s first programme of his new BBC2 series, French Gardens, which aired on 1 February 2013. Monty was exploring Gardens of Power and Passion in and around Paris, with emphasis on those designed by André Le Nôtre, the son of Louis XVIII’s gardener at Les Tuileries. The original gardens at Champ de Bataille fell into disrepair and had virtually disappeared when the present owner, Jacques Garcia, took it upon himself to recreate a garden in the grounds of the château. An outline plan of the former gardens had survived, which revealed the basic outline and terraces of the missing garden. This was used only as a general guideline, rather than copied slavishly. The resulting garden (which was begun in 1993 and took 12 years to complete) is a masterful blend of classical French and Italian design and inspiration, with modern influences. Parterres, follies, classical temples, fountains, lakes – 43 hectares of park and garden in all, crowned by a stunning view that stretches over a mile down the garden from the main terrace of the Château du Champ de Bataille.

After a light lunch in restaurant Le Café Garcia, located in the former stables of the château, we return to Rouen for an afternoon at leisure. (Overnight Rouen) BL

 

Honfleur – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Friday 7 September, Rouen – Varengeville-sur-Mer – Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer – Honfleur
L’Etang de Launay, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Lunch at Le Piment Bleu, Varengeville-sur-Mer
Le Jardin du Vastérival, Ste Marguerite-sur-Mer

 

This morning we leave Rouen to visit L’Etang de Launay, the recently created private gardens of Jean-Louis Dantec, with its highly-pruned specimen trees leading to a lake and ponds, with extensive woodland planting beyond. Only 20 years in the making, this very private garden has already gained a reputation as one of the finest woodland gardens in Europe.

After a lunch at Le Piment Bleu, located in the grounds of the Château de Varengeville, we drive to Marguerite-sur-Mer to visit the gardens of Vastérival, residence of the late Princess Sturdza. Vastérival is acclaimed as containing one of the finest plant collections in all France. The gardens are very informal, consisting of some twenty acres surrounded by a natural woodland. Cleverly designed paths wander throughout the garden, through the rich under plantings of the woodlands, and issue into glades with countless surprises. The garden is world-famous for its collections of rhododendrons, hydrangeas, maples, birches, viburnums and camellias.

In the late afternoon we make our way to the old trading and fishing port of Honfleur, situated at the mouth of the Seine, where we shall spend two nights. (Overnight Honfleur) BL

 

Day 8: Saturday 8 September, Honfleur – Le Havre – Honfleur
Morning at leisure: Old Port of Honfleur and Saturday Market
Musée d’Art Moderne André Malraux, Le Havre

 

This morning there will be time at leisure to explore Honfleur, with its old, picturesque port, characterised by its houses with slate-covered frontages, painted by many artists including Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin and Claude Monet. Honfleur is also famous for its Saturday market, taking place around the lovely Sainte Catherine church, the largest timber church in France.

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

 

Bayeux – 3 nights

 

Day 9: Sunday 9 September, Honfleur – Bénerville-sur-Mer – Ouilly-le-Vicomte – Mézidon-Canon – Bayeux
La Datcha – the private gardens of Pierre Bergé, Bénerville-sur-Mer (subject to confirmation closer to the date)
Château de Boutemont, Ouilly-le-Vicomte
Château de Canon, Mézidon-Canon

 

This morning we depart Honfleur and travel south to Bénerville-sur-Mer for a very special visit to the private gardens of La Datcha (subject to confirmation closer to the date) – created some 25 years ago as a picturesque folly for Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent by designer Jacques Grange.

This weekend retreat is nestled in a garden that Bergé calls “one of the most important parts of the house”. The American garden designer Madison Cox enclosed the site with a stockade fence and forested the perimeter with oak, ash, maple, and dogwood trees. His chef d’oeuvre is the hydrangea walk, where more than 60 varieties of the luxurious shrub – Saint Laurent’s beloved Proust compared its fading blossoms to “bouquets of dead turquoises” – bloom spectacularly in late summer and fall, when Bergé and his guests use the retreat most. “La Datcha was already beautiful, but Madison knew how to make it into a paradise”, the businessman confides, adding, with a look of unmistakable pride, “It’s like no place else on earth” (by Robert Murphy, Condé Nast, March 2014).

We continue our exploration of Normandy with a visit to the Château de Boutemont. Dating back to the 12th century, this fortified half-timbered manor is a great example of  castles built along the coastline after the Norman victory of Hastings in 1066. It is today surrounded by an 11-hectare park listed as ‘Jardin Remarquable’. The French gardens designed by Achille Duchène at the beginning of the 20th century have since been completed by landscape architect Georges Hayat’s creations, including a Renaissance Italian garden, rose trees-decorated arches and a small ‘scent garden’.

Our final visit for the day is to the gardens of the Château de Canon, residence of M. Alain de Mezerac. Here, an 18th-century house is surrounded by contemporary gardens and a park, created by Jean-Baptise-Jacques Elie de Beaumont and his wife Anne-Louise. The family has owned this property since the Middle Ages. Their alteration of the house to the Neoclassical style, which brought on a lawsuit, resulted in a splendid two-storey structure, while pavilions and statuary in the garden landscape are English in style.

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

 

Day 10: Monday 10 September, Bayeux – Brécy – Bayeux
Cathedral Notre-Dame & historic centre of Bayeux
Bayeux Tapestry Museum
Château de Brécy, St-Gabriel-Brécy

 

Our program begins today with a walking tour of Bayeux’s historic centre and fine Cathedral of Notre-Dame. This gem of Norman architecture was consecrated on 14 July 1077 by Bishop Odo of Conteville, in the presence of his illustrious brother, William the Conqueror, Duke of Normandy and King of England.

Mid-morning, we visit the special museum dedicated to the Tapisserie de Bayeux which chronicles the Norman invasion of England. This Anglo-Saxon work, presented by la Reine Mathilde (Queen Matilda, wife of William the Conqueror), to Bishop Odo in c.1080, was inspired by manuscript scrolls and the continuous narratives of the antique columns of Trajan and Marcus Aurelius in Rome. It chronicles events from the promise of Harold Godwin to bequeath his kingdom to William to the death of the Saxon king on the field at Hastings; it is fascinating for its detailed depictions of arms and the 11th-century methods and machinery of warfare.

After lunch at leisure, we drive to the Château de Brécy, residence of M. and Mme Didier Wirth. This will be a perfect introduction to the formal French garden; intimate in scale and exquisite in detail. Set in a wooded hamlet, the château would resemble a Norman farmhouse were it not for the pedimented entrance. The house dates from the 17th century, when it belonged to the Le Bas family, friends and associates of the great French architect after whom the distinctive pitched roof is named, François Mansart. The house bears many hallmarks of Mansart’s architecture. The garden, which is immediately behind the house, consists of five terraces, fine stone work, elegant parterres, pools, topiary and wrought-iron gates that provide views into Normandy’s countryside. (Overnight Bayeux) B

 

Day 11: Tuesday 11 September, Bayeux – Saint-Maurice-en-Cotentin – Castillon-Plantbessin – Bayeux
Le Jardin de la Bizerie, Saint-Maurice-en-Cotentin
Les Jardins de Plantbessin, Castillon

 

This morning we drive across the Cotentin Peninsula to visit the private gardens of La Bizerie. Benefiting from the Cotentin micro-climate, Jérôme Goutier has transformed a damp valley into a unique garden, filled with mediterranean plants as well as semi-tropical species usually found in the southern hemisphere.

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

 

Bagnoles-de-l’Orne – 2 nights

 

Day 12: Wednesday 12 September, Bayeux – Caen – Bagnoles-de-l’Orne
Fine Arts Museum, Caen
Abbaye-aux-Hommes & its abbatial church St Étienne, Caen

 

This morning we depart Bayeux to visit the excellent small art museum  of Caen (with works by Van der Weyden, Perugino, Poussin and Veronese), which is built within the ruined walls of William the Conqueror’s castle.

After lunch at leisure in Caen, we explore the Abbaye-aux-Hommes, and its church St Étienne. This masterpiece of Romanesque church architecture, which survived the 1944 Allied bombardment, was begun by William the Conqueror as his mausoleum. One reason for the finesse of this building, which influenced many later Romanesque churches, was the abundance of good building stone in the region.

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

 

Day 13: Thursday 13 September, Bagnoles-de-l’Orne – Sassy – St-Céneri-le-Gérei – St-Christophe-le-Jajolet – Bagnoles-de-l’Orne
Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei village & lunch at the Auberge de la Vallée
Jardins et Terrasses du Château de Sassy, Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet

 

A day trip today takes us to yet more lovely Norman villages and gardens. We begin with a visit of the village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei. In the 6th century an Italian anchorite, Céneri, established a hermitage here and this grew into the village of Saint-Céneri which is now considered one of the most beautiful villages of France. In the 19th century, its stone houses, Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes of the 12th and 14th centuries and its small stone bridge attracted many artists, including Camille Corot, Gustave Courbet and Eugène Boudin. We shall have lunch at the charming Auberge de la Vallée and take a guided tour of the village before making our way to Saint-Christophe-Le-Jajolet.

We drive through the majestic Forêt d’Écouves to the gardens and terraces of the Château de Sassy. This is a spectacular formal garden, a benchmark of the French formal style, featuring clipped yews. It was designed in the first decades of the 20th century by the famous Achille Duchêne for Etienne d’Audriffet. The designer took his inspiration from the great Le Nôtre, who was responsible for the gardens of Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte. The garden, which rolls out like a great carpet below an 18th-century château, is located in the Pays d’Argentan between hedged farmlands and the vast plains of the north. Its strict formality beautifully counterpoints a pastoral landscape of hedges and clumps of fruit trees where thoroughbred horses graze. A deep perspective of terraces with intricate broderies (‘boxwood embroideries’) planted in the shapes of Arabesques passes tiers of moats and features a round pool. A lovely small pavilion flanked by two monumental fastigiate yews and rows of shaped lindens forms the perspective’s centrepiece. (Bagnoles-de-l’Orne) BLD

 

Vannes – 2 nights

 

Day 14: Friday 14 September, Bagnoles-de-l’Orne – St-Biez-en-Belin – Vannes
Le Jardin d’Atmosphère du Petit Bordeaux, Saint-Biez-en-Berlin

 

Today we drive out of Normandy toward the Maine region. Our first visit is to Le Jardin d’Atmosphère du Petit Bordeaux, in the town of Saint-Biez-en-Belin. This delightful garden was voted the ‘Preferred garden of the French’ in the Pays-de-Loire region in 2014 by viewers of the France 2 television channel. It was also awarded the ‘Jardin Remarquable’ label in 2007 by the French Minister of Culture. This private garden, which covers 1.5 hectares, has been created since 1987. A wonderfully mature garden, it is full of trees under planted with hydrangeas, day lillies, hostas, ancient roses, acers and dogwood. Every season has its own interest and two large ponds provide focal points in the garden. There are more than 4000 different plants including collections of Acers, Hydrangeas, Cornus (including the beautiful Cornus kousa ‘Salomi’), roses and grasses.

After a picnic lunch we travel west to the south coast of Brittany. Nestled in the Gulf of Morbihan, in one of the world’s most beautiful bays, Vannes boasts all the discreet charm of a fortified town with two thousand years of history. There you will have the opportunity to sample Far Breton and Kouign-Amann – two of the region’s famous specialities. Far Breton is a traditional custard cake with prunes, while Kouign-Amann (pronounced ‘queen a-mahn’), is made with flaky, buttery, caramelised pastry. (Overnight Vannes) BL

 

Day 15: Saturday 15 September, Vannes – Carnac – Auray – Vannes
Guided tour of Carnac: stone alignments and circles
Lunch at Crêperie Saint Sauveur, Auray
Guided tour of the walled town of Vannes incl. Saint-Pierre Cathedral

 

This morning we travel to Carnac to explore the largest Neolithic alignment in the world (3500-3000 BC), with almost 3000 upright stones arranged in 11 almost parallel lines over several kilometres, and consider the various explanations which have been offered for their purpose and function.

We then head for lunch to the pretty town of Auray which features the picture-postcard ancient quarter of St-Goustan, with its delightful 15th and 16th-century houses. The bend in the River Loch was a natural setting for the town and it soon became one of the busiest ports in Brittany. In 1776, Benjamin Franklin landed here on his way to seek the help of Louis XVI in the American War of Independence. Here we shall eat together at a local crêperie. The word crêpe is French for pancake and is derived from the Latin crispus meaning ‘curled’.  Crêpes originated in Brittany and were once called galettes, meaning flat cakes.

We return to Vannes in the afternoon for a guided tour of its remarkable old quarter, home to the impressive Saint-Pierre Cathedral. We also take a walk along the town’s ramparts. These 13th-century fortifications, which were regularly remodelled until the 17th century, provide wonderful views of the city’s formal gardens and its cathedral. (Overnight Vannes) BL

 

Perros-Guirec – 3 nights

 

Day 16: Sunday 16 September, Vannes – Pont-Aven – Les Monts d’Arrée – Perros-Guirec
Pont-Aven Museum
Eco-musée des Monts d’Arrée, Natural Regional Park of Armorique

 

This morning we leave Vannes for Pont-Aven, a small and picturesque Breton village which owes its fame to the artistic life that flourished here between 1860 and the mid-20th century. There we shall visit the world’s first gallery devoted to the work of the Pont-Aven School. Reopened in 2016 after having been completely renovated, the museum hosts paintings from post-Impressionist Gauguin and his fellow-artists. You will then have time at leisure to explore the village, walk along the River Aven and sample the town’s ‘galettes’ – butter biscuits invented here in 1920.

From Pont-Aven we continue our journey inland, travelling through the Natural Regional Park of Armorique. We shall drive up to the highest and oldest hills of Brittany, Les Monts d’Arrée, stopping in the town of Saint-Rivoal where we shall visit the eco-museum and be introduced to the Park’s unique fauna and flora by our local guide.

In the late afternoon we continue to our hotel located outside the town of Perros-Guirec, on the northern coast of Brittany at the centre of the ‘Coast of Pink Granite’. The combination of pink rocks, blue sea and a few islands on the horizon make this area very picturesque. While based in Perros-Guirec we shall visit a number of private gardens as we journey through the area’s rocky coastline, deep-cut inlets and inland wooded valleys. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BLD

 

Day 17: Monday 17 September, Perros-Guirec – Trédarzec – Penvénan – Perros-Guirec
Les Jardins de Kerdalo, Trédarzec
Lunch at L’Abri des Barges, Trédarzec
Jardins de Pellinec, Penvénan

 

We begin this morning with a visit to the gardens of Kerdalo. The garden, in a valley near the Brittany coast, was the subject of a book by its owner-designer, Prince Peter Wolkonsky: “Kerdalo: Un Jardin d’Exception” (Paris, 1995). He began to create the garden in 1965. Originally a manor farm in its enclosed valley with natural springs, the formal garden merges into a wooded valley with a lake, pools and grotto with a rich collection of trees and shrubs. Since his death in 1997, his daughter Isabelle and her husband Timothy have restored the garden. They both trained as horticulturalists at RHS Garden Wisley.

A short drive will take us to L’Abri des Barges, a friendly bistro housed in a 16th-century mill overlooking the Jaudy estuary. The chef, a former food photographer, specialises in dishes made from local seafood and seasonal vegetables.

After lunch we explore a private manor house garden, Le Jardin du Pellinec. Inspired by the gardens at Kerdalo, the seven-acre garden on the Pellinec estuary that has excellent soils was started in 1997. The microclimate has enabled Monsieur Jean to grow a huge diversity of plants laid out in visual harmony. The view is ever changing; at high tide, the sea laps at the garden edges, creating a spectacular sight. This superb garden was awarded 1st prize ‘Bonpland’ in 2008. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BL

 

Day 18: Tuesday 18 September, Perros-Guirec – Ploëzal – Guingamp – Lanrivain – Pontrieux – Perros-Guirec
Château de la Roche-Jagu, Ploëzal
Lunch at leisure in Guingamp
Le Grand Launay, Lanrivain
Boat tour of Pontrieux’s washhouses

 

This morning we travel to Ploëzal to visit Le Château de La Roche-Jagu, which is surrounded by a contemporary garden in a magnificent setting overlooking the River Trieux. Inspired by medieval gardens, it features a kitchen garden, a medicinal garden and a flower garden. There are wonderful walks in the woodlands, where you can find areas of palms and camellias and water features.

Following some time at leisure for lunch in the market town of Guingamp we continue our journey inland to Le Grand Launay, a remarkable garden located in Lanrivain featuring a unique design, perfectly shaped topiary and beautiful hedging. The garden was designed by its owners, Jean and Jacqueline Shalit, in collaboration with the landscape designer Gael Boedec. Their work resulted in a beautiful, modern garden with mostly green plants and some white climbing hydrangea here and there. The garden itself is built around an old castle which gives it a specific charm. One of the most fascinating parts of the garden is the so-called ‘garden of temptation’, where boxwood snakes climb the apple tree as in the garden of Eden.

In the late afternoon we return to Perros-Guirec via the small town of Pontrieux, which is nestled deep in an estuary. Listed as one of the ‘small cities of character’ in Brittany, the town features fifty or so beautifully restored and flower-decked washhouses which adorn the banks of the River Trieux. We take a short tour by boat to view these charming washhouses and dine at a local restaurant. (Overnight Perros-Guirec) BD

 

Saint-Malo – 2 nights

 

Day 19: Wednesday 19 September, Perros-Guirec – Mûr-de-Bretagne – Bazouges-la-Pérouse – Saint-Malo
Les Jardins du Botrain, Mûr-de-Bretagne (subject to confirmation closer to the date)
Château de la Ballue, Bazouges-la-Pérouse

 

This morning we depart Perros-Guirec for Les Jardins du Botrain, located outside the small town of Mûr-de-Bretagne. Inspired by English garden design, this romantic garden in the centre of Brittany is a place of relaxation and contemplation. Surrounding an 18th-century manor house with its unique apiary, the gardens consist of many rooms, including a Japanese garden, a rose garden, an iris garden, an area of hostas, acers, a pond and even a small lake.

We then drive east toward the Château de la Ballue, located between Brittany and Normandy, in a unique rural setting with mild hills and woods. This 17th-century château, which once welcomed guests such as Balzac and Victor Hugo, is surrounded by dramatic theatrical gardens. When the castle was built in 1620, it was surrounded by Italian-style gardens. They were abandoned in 1942 and could have remained fields of potatoes if the editor Claude Arthaud had not bought the property in the 1970s. Thanks to his inspiration the architects Paul Maymont and François Hébert-Stevens created a classic garden and a mannerist garden before the gardens were discovered again by Marie-France Barrière and Alain Schrotter. The new owners have redesigned and reinterpreted the gardens with a modern twist. There are neat traditional geometric terraces, and a lush fernery and scented groves.

In the late afternoon we continue to the port city of Saint-Malo. Encircled by its strong granite ramparts, this corsair city was destroyed in August 1944, but has been so well restored that its centre exudes an austere yet characterful harmony.  (Overnight Saint-Malo) BL

 

Day 20: Thursday 20 September, Saint-Malo – Mont-Saint-Michel – Dinan –  Saint-Malo
Mont Saint-Michel
Time at leisure to explore the medieval town of Dinan
Farewell Dinner

 

One of the highlights of the tour is a visit to the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel, which perches upon a great, isolated granite cone rising from the Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, the sands of which are bared at low tide. There are quicksands here from which, according to a depiction in the Bayeux Tapestry, Harold Godwin saved some Norman soldiers. Believed by the Celts to be a resting place to which the departed were ferried on an invisible boat, it became the site of a hermitage after an apparition of St Michael to St Aubert, Bishop of Avranches (708). A Carolingian church was built in the 10th century, followed by a Romanesque basilica in the 17th century. Count Richard I of Normandy established a Benedictine Abbey here in 966 and it became a major seat of learning in the 11th century. It was progressively fortified in the Middle Ages. We shall visit the small village below the Mount and then participate in a tour of the Abbey, visiting its church, refectory, ancient scriptorium, and cloister.

In the early afternoon we drive to Dinan, for some time at leisure. Once a fortified stronghold of the Dukes of Brittany, Dinan is one of the prettiest and best-preserved towns in the region. It’s noted for its ‘maisons à piliers’, medieval half-timbered houses built on stilts over the sidewalks. For centuries the town has served as a hub of cultural and commercial activity, from the original merchants and traders to today’s artists and craftspeople. The centre of town is dominated by an impressive castle and surrounded by ramparts. The 2700 metres of ramparts once protected the medieval citadel, which spread over thirty hectares. The ramparts were built in the 13th century when Dinan became a duchy and were continually improved until the Wars of Religion of the 16th century, after which they lost their defensive role. You may wish to take a lovely circular walk along the ramparts, starting from the castle. In the late afternoon we return to Saint-Malo, where we enjoy a farewell dinner in a local restaurant. (Overnight Saint-Malo) BD

 

Day 21: Friday 21 September, Saint-Malo – Paris. Tour Ends.
Transfer to Paris CDG airport

 

Our tour ends today with a coach transfer from Saint-Malo to Paris Charles de Gaulle airport, via Rennes TGV station. B

 

Autumn Colours of Japan

Autumn Colours of Japan

– Classical and contemporary gardens of northern Japan with Helen Young

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

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

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

 

AT A GLANCE…

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

 

ITINERARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Late afternoon arrival and overnight in Sapporo. (BLD)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gardens, Art & Fall Foliage: New England, New York & Pennsylvania 2018

Gardens, Art & Fall Foliage: New England, New York & Pennsylvania with Sabrina Hahn in 2018

 

Tour Overview

Enjoy New England in the golden Fall, exploring awesome natural landscapes like the White Mountains National Forest and wending our way through picturesque rural landscapes ‘so absolutely beautiful that they should not be left out-of-doors’ (Mark Twain). We visit many of North America’s most significant and beautiful gardens, including the Rockefellers’ Kykuit, and Naumkeag. Many gardens we visit, like Joe Valentine and Paula Hunter’s ‘Juniper Hill Farm’ in Francestown and Michael Gordon’s garden in Peterborough, are privately owned and will be opened exclusively for us through the generosity of our American colleagues. Spend time with experts including ecologist Chris Lewey (White Mountains), and author and landscape designer Gordon Hayward. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s footsteps we explore Rhode Island’s grand mansions, including the Vanderbilts’ Marble House, and later near Philadelphia, we enjoy Pierre Samuel du Pont’s Longwood. We encounter the work of classic landscape designers, Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles Adam Platt, Beatrix Farrand and Marian Cruger Coffin; and the very latest groundbreaking designs including New York’s ‘High Line’ and the stunning new Barnes Collection building. The Barnes and the Clark Institute are two of America’s most important private art collections. Visits to these, and Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Russell Wright’s Manitoga, Edith Wharton’s famous estate, The Mount, important sculpture gardens, villages once home to Melville and Steinbeck, and landscapes made famous by The Hudson River School, all reflect a major tour theme: the interaction of art, literature, landscape and gardening. Awesome landscapes, grand and intimate houses and gardens, wonderful art collections, groundbreaking landscaping innovations and the gorgeous golden landscapes of a New England Fall, together effervesce to create an ‘embarrassment of riches’.

 

20-day Cultural Garden Tour of East Coast USA

Overnight Boston (4 nights) • Jackson (2 nights) • Deerfield (2 nights) • Stockbridge (2 nights) • Tarrytown (2 nights) • East Hampton (1 night) • New York (3 nights) • Philadelphia (3 nights)

 

Boston, MA – 4 nights

 

Day 1: Tuesday 25 September, Arrive Boston

Welcome Meeting and Orientation
Participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Boston in the late afternoon. After clearing Passport Control and Customs we transfer to our hotel, located in the heart of historic Back Bay. If you are not taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight please meet your fellow tour members at the Lenox Hotel, or ask ASA to organise a private transfer for you. (Overnight Boston)

 

Day 2: Wednesday 26 September, Boston

Guided walking tour of Mount Auburn Cemetery
Guided walking tour of Harvard University, incl. Glass Flower Exhibit and Museum of Natural History
Museum of Fine Arts (MFA)
Welcome Dinner
This morning we depart our hotel for Cambridge, which has played a pivotal role in America’s intellectual, literary and general cultural history. We first visit Mount Auburn Cemetery, that from the beginning was the preferred resting place for famous Bostonians. Inspired by Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, Mount Auburn has the character of an early 19th-century English garden, with gardenesque plantings to suit.

Later this morning we take a walking tour of Harvard University that includes a visit to the Glass Flowers Exhibit in the Museum of Natural History. This is a unique collection of over 3000 models created by glass artisans Leopold Blaschka and his son Rudolf. The commission began in 1886 and continued for 50 years. The collection represents more than 830 plant species.

This afternoon we visit the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), whose collection contains approximately 450,000 objects ranging from Renaissance and Baroque masters’ works to notable examples of Native American crafts. American decorative arts in general are liberally represented, especially those from New England in the years before the Civil War. The MFA is home to one of the world’s most extensive collections of Asian art under one roof — its Japanese art collection is the most sensational outside of Japan. The MFA emphasises their focus on traditions outside of the Western canon, and three important galleries within the Museum explore the art of Oceania, Africa and the ancient Americas. However, it by no means ignores Europe, and there is a considerable amount of attention paid to the Impressionist movement. Along with canvases by Renoir, Manet, Pissarro and American painters Childe Hassam and Mary Cassatt, the museum contains the largest acquisition of works by Claude Monet (around 38) outside of France. This evening we gather for a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Boston) BD

 

Day 3: Thursday 27 September, Boston – Bristol – Newport – Boston

Blithewold Mansion, Gardens & Arboretum, Bristol
Marble House, Newport
The Breakers, Newport
We drive this morning to Rhode Island, to visit some of America’s most extraordinary houses and gardens. This is the world of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, evoking a past of overwhelming luxury and conspicuous consumption. Newport’s 2.5-mile Bellevue Avenue is lined with the houses of America’s ‘Gilded Age’ elite: the Astors, Vanderbilts, Pierpoint Morgans and others who made Newport Rhode Island their summer home. Mansions along the avenue include: Isaac Bell House, Kingscote, The Elms, Chateau-sur-Mer, Rosecliff (The Great Gatsby and True Lies were filmed here), the Astors’ Beechwood, and horticulturalist and art collector Doris Duke’s Rough Point. A number of gardens here represent the Country Place era, an important period (c.1890-1930) in the development of landscape architecture, when wealthy Americans commissioned extensive gardens for their country estates, emulating gardens they had seen on their European travels. Some of America’s greatest early landscape architects were involved: Frederick Law Olmsted, Charles Adam Platt, Beatrix Farrand and Marian Cruger Coffin.

We first visit Blithewold, a large summer estate with grand views of Narragansett Bay. It is one of the most fully developed and authentic examples of Country Place era properties. The Van Wickle family’s 45-room Queen Anne Blithewold mansion (1896) is filled with family heirlooms. It is framed by a series of lovely gardens ranging in character from the mysterious to the exotic, and from the poetic to the workmanlike. The gardens and greenhouse hold an exceptional collection of rare and unusual plants and specimen trees. A whimsical stonework project gives a unique aura that is romantic, yet fresh and inspiring. In 2010 Blithewold was nominated one of the ‘Best 5 Public Gardens in New England’.

We next visit two monumental houses of the Vanderbilt family, William Kissam Vanderbilt’s (1849-1920) Marble House and Cornelius Vanderbilt II’s (1843-1899) The Breakers. William and Cornelius were both grandsons of the shipping and railroad magnate, ‘Commodore’ Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877), who created the New York Central Railroad.

Marble House (1888-1892) was a social and architectural landmark that set the pace for Newport’s subsequent transformation from a quiet summer colony of wooden houses to a resort of opulent stone palaces. William Kissam’s wife, Alva Vanderbilt, was a society hostess who envisioned Marble House as her ‘temple to the arts’.

Architect Richard Morris Hunt based his design for Marble House on the Petit Trianon at Versailles. Upon its completion, Vanderbilt gave the house to his first wife, Alva, as a 39th birthday present. After William’s death, Alva reopened Marble House and built a Chinese Tea House on the cliffs where she hosted rallies in support of votes for women. She sold the house to Frederick H. Prince in 1932. The Preservation Society of Newport County acquired the house in 1963 from the Prince estate. In 2006, Marble House was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The Breakers (1982-1895) is the grandest of Newport’s summer ‘cottages’ and a symbol of the Vanderbilt family’s social and financial pre-eminence in turn of the century America. Cornelius Vanderbilt II had purchased a wooden house called ‘The Breakers’. In 1892 this house burnt down and Cornelius commissioned architect Richard Morris Hunt to design a villa to replace it. Hunt directed an international team of craftsmen and artisans to create a 70-room Italianate ‘palazzo’ inspired by the 16th-century palaces of Genoa and Turin. Allard and Sons of Paris assisted Hunt with furnishings and fixtures, Austro-American sculptor Karl Bitter designed relief sculpture, and Boston architect Ogden Codman decorated the family quarters. The Vanderbilts’ youngest daughter, Gladys, inherited the house on her mother’s death in 1934. In 1972, the Preservation Society purchased the house from her heirs and today it is designated a National Historic Landmark. (Overnight Boston) BL

 

Day 4: Friday 28 September, Boston

Boston Common
Private Gardens of Beacon Hill (Hosted by the Beacon Hill Garden Club)
Private Houses of Beacon Hill (Hosted by the Beacon Hill Circle of Charity)
Boston Freedom Trail (optional)
This morning we walk from our hotel, through Boston Common up into the residential community of Beacon Hill. Boston Common, a beautiful English-style park, takes its name from the land’s original use as common pasture for horses and cattle.

The charming historic region of Beacon Hill is bounded by Cambridge Street on the north, Somerset Street to the east, Beacon Street on the south, and Storrow Drive to the west. The Massachusetts State House (1795), designed by the architect Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844), with its lustrous gilded dome, is a prominent landmark on Beacon Street just across from the Boston Common.

Fifty years after the construction of the State House, several wealthy Bostonians, including Bulfinch, formed an association to develop the area known as the ‘South Slope’, as an elegant residential community suitable for elite residents, dubbed ‘Boston Brahmins’. Between 1800 and 1850, although a few stately free-standing mansions were built on the South Slope, most of the homes constructed here were brick row houses, with either flat or bow fronts, built in the Federal style popularised by Bulfinch, or the Greek Revival style, inspired by an interest in everything Greek that swept across America during the 19th century. South Slope has charming brick sidewalks, gaslights, some cobblestoned streets, homes with tall narrow windows, sometimes with purple glass, doors with elaborate brass knockers, wrought iron railings, flower boxes, and beautiful hidden gardens. Over the years, most of the wealthy residents moved away from Beacon Hill to the suburbs. Their houses have been converted to apartments or condominiums for professionals who work close by. Since the area was legislated as a historic district in 1955, concerted efforts have been made to preserve its period architecture.

This morning’s program will be hosted by the Beacon Hill Garden Club, who have kindly arranged for us to visit a number of ‘hidden gardens’. We shall explore the challenges of urban gardening, especially within a heritage precinct. Many of Beacon Hill’s charming old houses had walled yards behind them, used in the 19th century for laundry lines, woodsheds, outhouses, and trash pits. Later residents recognised the potential of these compact outdoor spaces and converted them into pleasant little gardens.

After some time at leisure for lunch, we continue with an historic walking tour of Beacon Hill, led by a representative from the Beacon Hill Circle of Charity. A highlight will be visits to the interiors of three private homes, not open to the public.

In the late afternoon there is an option to walk a section of Boston’s famous ‘Freedom Trail’. Sites include the New State House, Park Street Church, the Granary Burying Ground, the King’s Chapel, the site of the first public school, the Old Corner Bookstore, the Old South Meeting Hall, the Old State House, the site of the Boston Massacre, and Faneuil Hall. The evening is at leisure. (Overnight Boston) B

 

Jackson, NH – 2 nights

 

Day 5: Saturday 29 September, Boston – White Mountains – Jackson

Kancamagus Scenic Byway (also known as ‘The Kanc’)
Franconia Notch
Aerial Tramway to the Summit of Cannon Mountain
Dinner at the Wentworth Hotel
This morning we depart Boston and drive northwest to the White Mountains. Here we will meet Chris Lewey, a local ecologist and guide who will accompany the group during our stay in this beautiful part of the world, introducing us to the extraordinary and diverse flora and fauna to be found here.

We drive north through famous Franconia Notch, with some of the most spectacular scenery in New England. In Franconia Notch State Park we take the Aerial Tramway to the summit of Cannon Mountain. We shall enjoy a smooth, comfortable ride, viewing awesome alpine panoramas, up to where the spruce and fir are dwarfed and weather-beaten, and then observe alpine plants on a short summit walk. On a clear day you can see the mountains of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, New York and Canada!

We will then travel along the Kancamagus Highway, where our journey down this scenic byway will include a couple of short walks; our guide will present and ‘interpret’ the forest for you whilst allowing you time for photography. The route travels through some 70 kilometres of remote National Forest between Conway and Lincoln.

Mid-afternoon we continue our journey to Jackson, in the heart of the White Mountains. Tonight we enjoy a special dinner at the boutique Wentworth Hotel. (Overnight Jackson NH) BD

 

Day 6: Sunday 30 September, White Mountains National Forest

Mount Washington
Crawford Notch
Today we travel to the highest peak in the northeastern United States, Mount Washington. On arrival at the base of the mountain we will be welcomed by the manager, Howie Wemyss, before transferring into a smaller vehicle for our drive to the summit, where we’ll learn about the alpine flora in this extraordinary landscape at 6288 feet. We will have the special opportunity to visit the Mount Washington Weather Station and see the observation room, the living quarters and talk to the people who work here, as well as visit the Summit Museum and see the Mount Washington Post Office (the highest post office in the East!).

From Mt. Washington we turn south on Route 302 through Crawford Notch State Park, source of the Saco River and another wonderful scenic area, remote even from villages. (Overnight Jackson NH) B

Note: If the weather on Mount Washington is poor and a visit to the summit is not possible, an alternative program will be arranged.

 

Deerfield, MA – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Monday 1 October, Jackson – Francestown – Hancock – Peterborough – Deerfield

Private Gardens of Joe Valentine and Paula Hunter – Juniper Hill Farm, Francestown
Lunch at Hancock Inn
Private Garden of Michael and Betsy Gordon, Peterborough
We depart early this morning, and journey south to the private residence of Joe Valentine and Paula Hunter in Francestown. Their Juniper Hill Farm gardens surround an 18th-century saltbox house and farmstead that are much as they were 200 years ago. Juniper Hill remains a working farm and home to some of the world’s most endangered breeds of livestock. The 2 acres surrounding the farm might best be described as ‘country formal.’ There is a courtyard garden reminiscent of those at farmhouses in Provence, a formal lilac garden, a boxwood parterre leading into a woodland walk, a whimsical wildflower meadow, a tranquil Mediterranean-inspired ‘clipped green’ garden, a formal potager and a pool house modelled after the Arts and Crafts garden pavilion at Hidcote Manor, Gloucestershire. Scattered throughout the garden are over 150 boxwoods representing 11 different varieties. Because winter interest was an important consideration in the original layout of the garden, strong architectural lines have become a design element. The garden has been featured in several regional and national magazines and the home has been a cover feature in New Hampshire Home magazine. These gardens are also beautifully featured on Joe’s blog, at www.juniperhillfarmnh.com/p/gardens.html.

Next, we drive to the lovely rural town of Hancock, located in southwest New Hampshire, where we shall lunch at the Hancock Inn.

From Hancock we journey south to visit a gem of a small garden in Peterborough, owned by Michael and Betsy Gordon. It’s a superb example of how to garden a small space. Michael Gordon, both plantsman and garden designer, has played a significant role in developing a number of the beautiful gardens and public spaces in the region of Peterborough, New Hampshire. His own small village garden was designed to be an extension of the house. The house and garden are situated on a hill and the garden is terraced on three levels. The two upper levels are laid out formally with yew and boxwood hedges. The lowest level, a work in progress, is an informal woodland garden. The garden is planted with a mixture of unusual trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals, and bulbs, selected primarily for their interesting foliage and textures. For further information see also Michael’s gardening blog, ‘Gardener’s Eye‘, which chronicles both his personal garden and the public gardens he works on in Peterborough.

From Peterborough, we travel further south to our charming hotel in Deerfield, Massachusetts. Located on the main street of this historic village, the inn has been welcoming guests since 1884. Tonight we dine together at our lodgings. (Overnight Deerfield) BLD

 

Day 8: Tuesday 2 October, Deerfield – Westminster West – Deerfield

Private Gardens of Gordon and Mary Hayward, Westminster West
Afternoon at leisure to explore historic Deerfield
Evening Talk by Gordon Hayward: Fine Painting as Inspiration for Garden Design
Since 1984, Gordon and Mary Hayward have been developing a garden around their 220-year-old farmhouse in Westminster West. It is divided into several areas: six rectangular island beds with crab apples under-planted with hardy geraniums, a brick walk garden divided by a central pergola, and a woodland garden. A copper beech tunnel links these to the Long Borders, a pair of 80 x 10 foot mixed borders with a post-and-beam gazebo at the end of a lawn path, an outdoor dining area, a four-quadrant herb garden, and a pool garden built on the remains of a 200-year old barn and an abandoned silo base. The Paddock, on the north side of the house, is a lawn area with topiary enclosed by stonewalls built by Dan Snow. Throughout are richly planted terracotta pots and garden ornaments. The most recent addition is a 20-tree orchard of apples, plums, pears and cherries, along with a renovated spring garden that follows the relaxed style of a densely planted meadow. The Haywards’ garden is the subject of their book, The Intimate Garden (2005).

The afternoon is at leisure for you to explore historic Deerfield, an authentic 18th-century New England village in the Connecticut River Valley of Massachusetts, and one of the settings for the 1994 film version of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women. There will be time to visit a number of beautifully restored museum houses with period architecture and furnishings.

After checking into our hotel Gordon Hayward will give a lecture entitled Fine Painting as Inspiration for Garden Design. His lecture is based on the theme of his 10th book on garden design, Art and the Gardener. His talk will help link our local garden encounters with the nearby Clark Art Institute, which we shall visit on Wednesday. In Art and the Gardener, Hayward explores the visual language garden designers share with painters and artists such as Thomas Cole, Camille Pissarro, Piet Mondrian, Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet, Henri Matisse, Gustav Klimt and Vincent Van Gogh. Hayward explains how to choose your garden style, the relationship between house and garden, its overall composition and colour, specific design principles, and the roles trees play in a garden. (Overnight Deerfield) BD

 

Stockbridge, MA – 2 nights

 

Day 9: Wednesday 3 October, Deerfield – Williamstown – Stockbridge

The Mohawk Trail & The Green Mountains, Southern Vermont
Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown
Naumkeag, Stockbridge
This morning we view the Fall foliage of Southern Vermont as we make our leisurely way south through the Mohawk Trail and Green Mountains to Williamstown. Here we shall visit the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, one of America’s best collections of American painting and sculpture and a breathtaking corpus of French Impressionists that Clark collected whilst living in Europe in the early 20th century; you will see many very familiar works and wonder how one private collector could possibly have amassed such an extraordinary corpus of masterpieces.

In the afternoon we visit Naumkeag, a typical country estate of the ‘Gilded Age’ with a gracious Shingle Style house, magnificent gardens, and panoramic views. Stanford White, of the famous architectural firm of McKim, Mead, & White, who designed many of America’s greatest buildings like the New York Public Library and the West Wing of the White House, designed this family home for Joseph Choate, a leading 19th-century attorney. The house is a masterpiece, with extraordinary views of Monument Mountain, and a stunning collection of gardens created by Joseph Choates’ daughter, Mabel Choate and Fletcher Steele over 30 years. The gardens include the Blue Steps, a series of deep blue fountain pools flanked by 4 flights of stairs and a grove of white birches. There are also the Afternoon Garden, Tree Peony Terrace, Rose Garden, Evergreen Garden, and Chinese Garden.

In the late afternoon we continue our journey to Stockbridge, a charming historic town where we will stay at the Red Lion Inn. (Overnight Stockbridge) BD

 

Day 10: Thursday 4 October, Stockbridge – Lenox – Stockbridge

The Mount – Edith Wharton’s Home, Lenox
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge
The Mission House, Stockbridge
This morning we drive to the nearby town of Lenox to visit The Mount, novelist Edith Wharton’s ‘first real home’ where we shall take a tour of both the house and grounds. Wharton planned the house and its sumptuous interiors, applying the principles in her own book, The Decoration of Houses, and designed the garden, and in this grand home she sat in bed every morning and wrote books like The House of Mirth, The Fruit of the Tree and The Custom of the Country. Henry James, who travelled with Wharton in Europe and was a frequent guest at The Mount, described it as “an exquisite and marvelous place, a delicate French château mirrored in a Massachusetts pond”.

The 100-acre-property included a drive lined with sugar maple trees, an English-style meadow, an American suburban lawn, gravel walks, an elaborate rock garden, fountains and terraces with views over the lake, as well as a working farm. Wharton’s design includes a rock garden with grass steps, a landscape feature rarely seen in America. Wharton’s niece, Beatrix Farrand, designed the kitchen garden. Wharton lived here in summer and fall between 1903 and 1908, overseeing improvements and fresh plantings and once wrote that “it looks, for a fleeting moment, like a garden in some civilized climate”. The estate has recently undergone a massive restoration. Trees were revitalised or replaced and nearly 3000 annuals and perennials planted in the flower garden, the crown jewel of the four-year restoration of the formal landscape. The Italianate walled garden and its rustic rock pile fountain have been completely restored.

Following a boxed lunch provided by The Mount, we return to Stockbridge to explore the wonderful work of 20th-century artist and illustrator, Norman Rockwell. His art has been hugely popular in America and often appears in American films. Rockwell wrote extensively about art and depicted in his pictures the main street of Stockbridge, once an Indian Mission and now a lovely village.

The final visit for the day is to The Mission House, built in 1739 by Reverend John Sergeant. Landscape architect Fletcher Steele later created a Colonial Revival garden including the Dooryard Garden, a kitchen garden, an orchard garden, and a grape arbor. (Overnight Stockbridge) BL

 

Tarrytown, NY – 2 nights

Day 11: Friday 5 October, Stockbridge – Garrison – Tarrytown

Manitoga (Russel Wright Design Center), Garrison
Union Church of Pocantico Hills
We spend the morning making our way from Stockbridge to the Hudson Valley. A contemporary testament to the harmonious coexistence of nature and architecture, Russel Wright’s Manitoga nestles amidst the woodlands of the Hudson River Valley. Wright (1904-1976), a famous industrial designer whose legacy continues in the successful Russel Wright Studios (New York and Burbank, California), acquired the 75-acre property in 1942. He built a house and studio directly into the side of a former quarry, collectively referred to as ‘Dragon Rock.’ Manitoga, whose name means ‘place of great spirit’, is an integrated landscape encompassing his modernist, open design house and studio and grounds. Wright blurred the traditional boundaries between interior and exterior by walling his house and studio with huge areas of glass that bring the surrounding woodland into interior spaces, and by incorporating materials found on the site. Innovative construction methods and details exemplify his philosophy of domestic efficiency and economy of space. In 2001 the not-for-profit Manitoga, Inc. acquired ownership of the property, initiated its conservation, and opened the site to the public.

We shall explore this beautiful light-filled house and the surrounding woodland before continuing to our hotel in Tarrytown. En route we visit the Union Church, an unassuming country church that happens to contain a stained glass window by Henri Matisse, his last work before his death in 1954, and nine windows by Marc Chagall. (Overnight Tarrytown) B

 

Day 12: Saturday 6 October, Tarrytown – Sleepy Hollow – Tarrytown

Kykuit, the Rockefeller Estate, Sleepy Hollow
Lunch at Philipsburg Manor
The Hudson River Valley was the site of the first Dutch settlement in America (1610). It saw French and Indian wars and was one of the major regions of clashes during the Revolution. It has seen such conflict that it’s been dubbed ‘America’s Rhine’. This morning we explore superb Kykuit Estate, a hilltop paradise that was home to four generations of Rockefellers. The Estate, a monumental Neo-Palladian house set in grand formal terraced gardens, holds an extensive collection of sculpture and a collection of classic vehicles from horse-drawn carriages to cars. A light lunch will be served at Philipsburg Manor, an 18th-century farming, milling, and trading center owned by the Philipses. (Overnight Tarrytown) BL

 

East Hampton, NY – 1 night

 

Day 13: Sunday 7 October, Tarrytown – East Hampton

Long House Reserve
Pollock-Krasner House
This morning we drive to LongHouse Reserve, located in East Hampton. The reserve is a 16-acre garden with established lawns, ornamental borders, plant collections and outdoor sculpture, planned by the internationally recognised textile designer, Jack Lenor Larsen. The gardens include a collection of over 90 sculptures, including ceramics and bronzes by Toshiko Takaezu and bronzes by Costantino Nivola. Other well-known sculptures include Blue Cobalt Spears by Dale Chihuly; The Fly’s Eye Dome, designed by Buckminster Fuller; Play it By Trust by Yoko Ono; Reclining Figure by Willem de Kooning; Irregular Progression by Sol LeWitt; and a gravity-defying kinetic sculpture by Takashi Soga. Overlooking lotus-filled Peter’s Pond stand two black figures, Rabdomante by Magdalena Abakanowicz and, at the end of David’s walk, Tumbling Women by Eric Fischl.

We then drive to the nearby Pollock-Krasner House. In 1945 Jackson Pollock and his new wife, artist Lee Krasner, purchased this small homestead using a loan from Pollock’s mentor Peggy Guggenheim. Lee had a studio area in the back parlour, and Jackson painted in an unheated upstairs bedroom. In June 1946, he had the barn moved from behind the house to the north side of the property and renovated it as his studio and it is here that Pollock produced his most famous paintings, including Autumn Rhythm (Metropolitan Museum of Art), Convergence (Albright-Knox Art Gallery), Blue Poles (National Gallery of Australia) and Lavender Mist (National Gallery, Washington DC). (Overnight East Hampton) BL

 

New York, NY – 3 nights

 

Day 14: Monday 8 October, East Hampton – Westbury – New York

Old Westbury Gardens
This morning we drive to Westbury to visit the large and traditional house and garden, Old Westbury. This grand mansion was built by John S. Phipps, the son of a steel baron, for his British wife Margarita and their four children. Phipps employed English architect George A. Crawley to design the mansion, which is furnished throughout with English antiques and decorative arts. The house sits within 200 acres of woodlands, formal gardens and landscaped grounds.

At the conclusion of our visit, we shall travel to New York to the Hotel Beacon located on the historic Upper West Side, which will serve as our base for the next 3 nights. (Overnight New York) BL

 

Day 15: Tuesday 9 October, New York

Guided tour: Lower Manhattan
Afternoon at leisure
This morning we will take the subway down to Lower Manhattan for a long and gentle walk that will pass many well-known sites including Wall Street, the 9/11 Memorial, Trinity Church and City Hall. The afternoon is at leisure for you to further explore the city’s museums and monuments. (Overnight New York) B

 

Day 16: Wednesday 10 October, New York

The Frick Collection
The High Line
Lunch in the Garden Room of The Park restaurant
We commence this morning with an audio-guided tour of the Frick Collection, housed in the former home of Henry Clay Frick (1849-1919). This is one of the preeminent small art museums of the US, featuring well-known masterpieces by major European artists, as well as numerous works of sculpture and porcelain, 18th-century French furniture, Limoges enamel and Oriental rugs. It also includes the 1913-14 ‘Fifth Avenue’ garden with its Neoclassical urns and limestone façade, the ‘Garden Court’ designed by John Russell Pope to replace the open carriage court of the original residence; and the soft and intimate ‘Seventieth Street Garden’, designed by Russell Page in 1977.

After this visit we continue by public transport to Gansevoort Street, where we commence our tour of the High Line, a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side. The High Line is owned by the City of New York and maintained and operated by Friends of the High Line. During our walk, we shall make a diversion to The Park for lunch. Designed by Eric Goode and Sean MacPherson, this legendary restaurant includes a spectacular 400-square-foot garden room that has Japanese Maple trees and wisteria vines. (Overnight New York) BL

 

Philadelphia, PA – 3 nights

 

Day 17: Thursday 11 October, New York – Wayne – Philadelphia

Chanticleer Garden, Wayne
We depart New York this morning for Philadelphia, making a detour in Wayne to visit Chanticleer, often referred to as ‘the most romantic, imaginative, and exciting public garden in America’. Adolph Rosengarten, Sr, head of the chemical company Rosengarten and Sons, bought the land on which the garden was created in 1912. Most of the floral and garden development that today surrounds the beautiful gamble roofed white house has been effected since 1990. ‘The garden is a study of textures and forms, where foliage trumps flowers, the gardeners lead the design, and even the drinking fountains are sculptural’. Seven horticulturists are each responsible for the design, planting, and maintenance of a particular area. The areas are continually evolving, each with a unique feel, yet joined together visually and spatially as one complete unit. There are lawns, woods, flower gardens, courtyards, a Ruin Garden and adjacent dry gardens, as well as the ‘Old Tennis Court’ gardens. The character is predominantly English – with an Arts and Crafts American accent. (Overnight Philadelphia) B

 

Day 18: Friday 12 October, Philadelphia – Brandywine Valley – Philadelphia

Mt Cuba Center, Hockessin, Delaware
Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square
This morning we travel to the historic Brandywine Valley of southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware, home to a wonderful assortment of world-class museums and gardens.

Our first visit is to the Mt Cuba Center, located in Hockessin, Delaware, where Mrs Lammot du Pont Copeland founded this centre as her home. In 1935 the Copelands built a Colonial Revival manor house they named ‘Mt. Cuba’ and soon afterwards, with the assistance of designer Thomas W. Sears, began developing the original agricultural landscape into a series of garden spaces. In the 1950s, the Copelands hired Marian C. Coffin to design the Round Garden, which has a swimming pool in the shape of a Maltese cross at its centre. Seth Kelsey designed the woodland wildflower gardens in the 1960s. The Copelands took a particular interest in plants native to the Appalachian Piedmont region. From the time they moved in until Mrs. Copeland’s death in 2001, the gardens grew in both the number of individual plants and the diversity of appropriate species. Today, the Mt Cuba Center that maintains the gardens is dedicated to the study, conservation and propagation of native plants of this region. It is recognised as having the region’s finest woodland wildflower gardens.

Our day concludes with a visit to Longwood Gardens, one of the premier arboretums in the country. The Peirce family acquired the land now occupied by the gardens from William Penn in around 1700; they named it Long Woods. Two members of the family, Joshua and Samuel Peirce, began planting exotic trees there in 1798. The industrialist Pierre Samuel du Pont acquired ‘Peirce’s Park’ in 1906, and renamed it Longwood. He drew inspiration from contemporary books and visits to European gardens and the garden grew by the addition of major features, but without an overall plan. The gardens now occupy 1050 acres (425 hectares) and contain extensive collections of native, tropical, and subtropical plants, totalling some 11,000 different varieties. There is a Flower Garden, a Sundial Garden, a Rose Garden, an Italian Water Garden (modelled on the Villa Gamberaia, Italy) and a Fountain Garden. DuPont was particularly interested in fountains and used them in his musical entertainments, in the manner of Versailles. The conservatory houses 4 acres of indoor garden. In the late afternoon we return to Philadelphia, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Philadelphia) BL

 

Day 19: Saturday 13 October, Philadelphia

Walking tour of historic Philadelphia
The Barnes Foundation, Parkway Museum District
Farewell Dinner
We spend the morning on a walking tour of historic Philadelphia. In the afternoon we transfer to the new Barnes Foundation located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, for an audio-guided tour of their collection. Located on 4.5 acres, the vast two-storey building houses the Foundation’s art collection in an exhibition space that replicates the scale, proportion, and configuration of the original galleries in Merion. Designed by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, it is described as a ‘gallery in a garden, a garden in a gallery.’ Boasting a textured grey-and-gold Ramon limestone exterior and a glass canopy that glows at night, the building is a breathtaking addition to the Parkway Museum District. It includes a number of sustainable features, including a green roof and a 40,000 gallon rainwater cistern to water the Olin-designed gardens. But the true draw is the Barnes Collection, arguably America’s finest collection of Impressionist and Modernist works, including 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes and 59 Matisses, along with works by Manet, Degas, Seurat, Titian and Picasso. This collection will deepen your understanding of the European landscape tradition that has enriched American landscape painting and gardening. This evening we enjoy a farewell dinner at one of Philadelphia’s local restaurants. (Overnight Philadelphia) BD

 

Day 20: Sunday 14 October, Depart Philadelphia

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour ends in Philadelphia. 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 USA. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B

 

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden 2018

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden 2018, with Jim Fogarty

 

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Tour Overview

The tour has been timed to visit Japan when its countryside explodes into symphonies of glorious autumnal colour. In Tokyo and in historic centres like Kyoto and Nara we’ll discover how Japan’s gardens can be experienced on many levels and are renowned for subtly combining artifice and nature, blurring the boundaries between garden and landscape. Some gardens are tiny and minimalist, conveying subtle meanings through ingenious combinations of moss, stones, rock and water. Others are grand, framing rich palaces and temples like Tokyo’s Imperial Palace Garden. In Tokyo, highlights include Happo-en where ladies in kimonos serve lunch in a delightful teahouse before we stroll through the gardens viewing 200-year-old bonsai trees. Tokyo National Museum and Suntory Museum of Art offer masterpieces to inspire you, and we will explore examples of contemporary garden design and landscaping in this most modern city. In Kyoto we combine garden visits with expressions of traditional Japanese culture like tea ceremonies, geisha rituals and cuisine. Kyoto gardens include such extensive, ancient temple and garden complexes as Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion), Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) and Ryoan-ji – the famed Dragon Peace Temple. Throughout, garden visits are also combined with an appreciation of Japan’s traditional architecture and great museums to enrich our understanding of Japanese aesthetics. In 8th-century capital Nara, architectural treasures, great collections and fine gardens include the Todai-ji, the world’s largest timber building, Kofuku-ji with a five-storey pagoda and treasure trove of Buddhist statues; we also visit Nara National Museum. At Kanazawa we explore traditional construction techniques at Kanazawa Castle, Nagamachi Samurai Residence and Higashichaya District’s many old Samurai houses. Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en is the ‘garden of the six sublimities’. We also make a very special day tour to villages in Kiso Valley, carefully preserved monuments to Japan’s feudal past, and stroll Japan’s greatest natural symbol, Mt Fuji. Our tour finishes with a visit to the Adachi Museum of Art. In addition to its stunning collection of contemporary Japanese art, the museum is renowned for its beautiful contemplation garden which visitors enjoy through large picture windows.

 

16-day Cultural Garden Tour of Japan in Autumn

Overnight Tokyo (3 nights) • Kawaguchiko (1 night) • Matsumoto (2 nights) • Kanazawa (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Nara (1 night) • Kyoto (3 nights) • Matsue (1 night)

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 14 November, Arrive Tokyo

Arrival transfer for those travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza
Koishikawa Koraku-en Garden
Light Dinner
After our arrival in Tokyo those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred in a private vehicle to the Hotel New Otani Tokyo. This hotel stands within a beautiful traditional Japanese garden originally designed for the daimyo (feudal lord) Kato Kiyomasa, Lord of Kumamoto in Kyustiu over four hundred years ago. This garden is well worth strolling through and will introduce you to many facets of the Japanese gardens we shall visit in the coming weeks.

After time to rest at the hotel, we begin our tour with a visit to the Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza, the home of the reigning emperor of Japan and his family. We enter via the Nijubashi, where two picturesque bridges span the moat. The Higashi Gyo-en, or East Garden, was opened to the public in 1968 and provides an attractive environment in which to stroll and relax.

We then visit a rare surviving 17th-century strolling garden, located in the west of the city. Koishikawa Koraku-en was designed in part by Zhu Shun Shui, a Ming dynasty refugee from China, and the garden recreates both Japanese and Chinese landscapes. Here we find waterfalls, ponds, stone lanterns, a small lake with gnarled pines and humped bridges.

Tonight we enjoy a light dinner together at our hotel. (Overnight Tokyo) D

 

Day 2: Thursday 15 November, Tokyo

Suntory Museum of Art
Happo-en Garden
Welcome Lunch at Happo-en Gardens Teahouse
Residence ‘R’ with Riccardo Tossani
The Suntory Museum of Art was founded in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district in 1961 as the cultural arm of a famous distillery. ‘Beauty in Everyday Life’ has been the theme of the museum since its establishment when the then President of Suntory, Keizo Saji, developed what is now a 3000-piece collection containing priceless ceramics, folding screens, kimonos, lacquer-ware, textiles and glasswork. Its aim is to relate old things to the new, present beauty over time, and to represent beauty without regard for cultural frontiers of countries and races.

To enhance this philosophy of fusing the ‘traditional’ with the ‘contemporary’, the museum relocated in 2007 to its current Tokyo Mid-town location to be part of the art district known as the Roppongi art triangle. Architect Kengo Kuma, whose aim was to create ‘a Japanese-style room in the city’, designed its new home using new technology and traditional Japanese design elements. The architect’s signature vertical lattice design covers the exterior, while the interior features a sliding 10-metre-high lattice that controls the flow of light. Natural materials like laminated paulownia wood for the interior lattice, washi for the atrium walls, and recycled whiskey barrel wood (a connection to the Suntory distillery) for the flooring create a feeling of warmth throughout the building.

Meaning ‘beautiful from any angle’, the Happo-en garden lives up to its name. Following a Welcome Lunch at the garden’s delightful teahouse, where ladies in kimono will serve you matcha (green tea) and okashi (variety of snacks), a stroll through the gardens will reveal 200-year-old bonsai trees, a stone lantern said to have been carved 800 years ago, and a central pond.

Our final visit today is to a private Tokyo residence designed by architect Riccardo Tossani, who will personally show us his work, explaining the concepts and influences. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

 

Day 3: Friday 16 November, Tokyo

Jiyu Gakuen School
Tokyo National Museum
Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple by Yutaka Kawahara Design Studio
We begin our day with a visit to the Jiyu Gakuen School. This is a beautifully preserved building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1921, one of 12 buildings the American designed during the two years he lived in Japan. Only three of Wright’s buildings survived the 20th century, and we shall be taken on a tour of this very special building.

Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. The museum, which holds over 110,000 objects, focuses on ancient Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road. There is also a large collection of Greco-Buddhist art.

During our travels we’ll encounter many traditional and historic temples and explore a variety of gardens that play such an important role in these complexes. This afternoon we visit a contemporary temple – the Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple by Yutaka Kawahara Design Studio. Completed in 2013, in the lively heart of Tokyo, this Buddhist complex is intended to represent the ‘Gokuraku’ or ‘Paradise in the Sky’ and is comprised of the three traditional structures associated with Buddhist architecture – the vihara (monastery), the stupa (pagoda), and the shrine – stacked one atop the other in response to its compact site. In place of a small stroll garden using moss, stone or sand, here bamboo is used to create a green space for contemplation in this busy metropolis. (Overnight Tokyo) B

 

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

 

Day 4: Saturday 17 November, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

Sankei-en (Sankei’s Garden)
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
Today we depart Tokyo by coach and travel west to the iconic Mount Fuji, the largest volcano in Japan. This is Japan’s highest peak at 3776 metres. It last erupted in 1707 and forms a near perfect cone. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most important landmark, which stands for the nation’s identity. It has been pictured countless times, not least in Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1826-1833).

On the way to Mount Fuji we visit the beautiful Sankei-en, a spacious Japanese-style garden in southern Yokohama, in which are set a number of historic buildings from across Japan. There are a pond, small rivers, a profusion of flowers and wonderful scrolling trails. The garden, built by Hara Sankei, was opened to the public in 1904. Among the historic buildings in the park are the elegant residence of a daimyo (feudal lord), several teahouses, and the main hall and three storied pagoda of Tomyo-ji, the abandoned temple of Kyoto.

In Kawaguchiko we will visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. When the artist Itchiku Kubota was young, he encountered an example of ‘Tsujigahana’ at the Tokyo National Museum. ‘Tsujigahana’ was a technique used in dying kimonos during the 15th and 16th century, an art that was later lost. Kubota-san revived the art and created a series of kimonos decorated with mountain landscapes in all four seasons and Mount Fuji. These kimonos are displayed in a breathtaking setting. The main building is a pyramid-shaped structure supported by 16 Hiba (cypress) wooden beams more than 1000 years old. Other parts of the museum, displaying an antique glass bead collection, are constructed of Ryukyu limestone. The museum’s unique architecture is set against a lovely garden and red pine forest. Tonight we dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Kawaguchiko) BD

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Matsumoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kawaguchiko.

 

Matsumoto – 2 nights

 

Day 5: Sunday 18 November, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

Fifth Station of Mt Fuji
Nakamachi Street and Kurassic-kan
Matsumoto Rising Castle
We start our day with a visit to the Fifth Station (Kawaguchi-ko) at the Fuji Five Lakes, where, weather permitting, we can enjoy spectacular views of the snow-capped peak. A gentle stroll will allow us to identify some of the native flora of this region.

We then focus upon Matsumoto and its surrounds for the next two days. On arrival in the town, we walk through the historic Nakamachi-dori, a street lined with white-walled traditional inns, restaurants and antique shops. Here we visit the Nakamachi Kurassic-kan, an historic sake brewery with black-beamed interiors and traditional plaster-work outside. We cross the river to walk along the market street Nawate-dori before arriving at Matsumoto-jo, the imposing castle approached across a moat.

Matsumoto-jo was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodeled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Day 6: Monday 19 November, Matsumoto – Kiso Valley – Matsumoto

Narai
Tsumago
Magome
Nagiso Town Museum
Today we drive out of Matsumoto and head to the Kiso Valley for a taste of how Japan looked prior to urbanisation. Developed by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as one of the five main highways linking his capital Edo (Tokyo) with the rest of Japan, the valley contains eleven post towns and three of them, Narai, Tsumago and Magone, have been preserved as a virtual museum of the feudal past.

At Narai we see distinctive wooden buildings with window shutters and renji-goshi latticework. We shall visit the Kashira-ningyo where colourfully painted dolls and toys are still made. Nakamura House dates from the 1830s and was the home of a merchant who manufactured combs, one of the area’s specialties. You will have time to visit this and explore side streets where there are temples and shrines and the famous Kiso-no-Ohashi, an arched wooden bridge that crosses the Narai-gawa.

As we follow the valley we’ll enjoy features of the Nakasendo route, including Kiso Fukushima, the location of a major barrier, but today the gateway to the sacred mountain of Ontake.

Tsumago was a ghost town 30 years ago, with its traditional Edo-era houses on the point of collapse. Its restoration sparked the idea of cultural preservation in Japan. The pedestrian-only street is similar to that once encountered by lords and their samurai centuries ago. The highlight of Tsumago is Okuya Kyodokan, a folk museum inside a designated post inn, where the daimyo’s (feudal lord) retinue rested. On the opposite side of the street the Kyu-honjin is where the daimyo used to stay.

Our third village stop is Magome, which means ‘horse-basket’, because this is where travellers were forced to leave their horses before tackling the mountainous roads ahead.

Our final visit for the day is to the Nagiso Town Museum. Opened in 1995, the museum has three divisions: Tsumago Post Town Honjin, a sub-honjin, and a history museum. (A honjin is a temporary residence for a lord or dignitary to stay in when travelling to and from the shogunate capital of Edo.) The present building of the subhonjin was built in 1878 utilising Japanese cypress throughout, a type of wood proscribed for ordinary construction during the Edo period (1600-1868). The History Museum contains historical materials of Nagiso Town and history of the trust organisation dedicated to the preservation of historic towns, villages, and neighbourhoods. From here we return to Matsumoto, where you can explore the city on your own and enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

 

Kanazawa – 1 night

 

Day 7: Tuesday 20 November, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa
Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts
Nomura-ke (restored samurai residence & house garden)
Higashi-Chayamachi District
This morning we travel by coach to Nagano, where we board the new Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa, considered one Japan’s best-preserved Edo-period cities. The Japanese visit Kanazawa in droves but perhaps because of its remote location and very cold winters few foreigners make the journey to experience its rich cultural legacies.

On arrival we visit the Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts, which showcases the fine arts and crafts of Ishikawa, a Prefecture whose culture of fine arts and traditional crafts compares with that of Tokyo and Kyoto. Highlights of the collection include feudal daimyo utensils using the Kaga Makie technique, Kutani porcelain from Ko-kutani (Old Kutani) and Wajima lacquer-ware.

The feudal atmosphere of Kanazawa still lingers in the Nagamachi district, where old houses of the Nagamachi Samurai line the streets that once belonged to Kaga Clan Samurais. The T-shaped and L-shaped alleys are distinct characteristics of the feudal town, and the mud doors and gates of the houses remain the same as they were 400 years ago. The houses with their samurai windows (bushimado) and mud walls under the yellow Kobaita wooden roofs, which were protected from snow by straw mats (komo), evoke a bygone era.

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), the scale and dispensation of land to samurai families who lived in this district, and others in the city, was a fairly accurate indicator of rank. One of the larger Nagamachi estates was assigned to Nomura Denbei Nobusada, a senior official in the service of the first feudal lord of the Kaga domain. The reforms that accompanied the Meiji Restoration in 1868 decimated the lifestyles of the socially privileged. The samurai, whose social class was nulified, not only had their stipends terminated, but their estates were also appropriated by the state. Consequently, the Nomura family, whose considerable land holdings dated back 12 generations, lost their home and were reduced to turning a section of the remaining part of their property over to the cultivation of fruit and vegetables. Though they were discouraged from public displays of ostentation, merchant families and those of former samurai were not prohibited from commissioning the construction of exquisite gardens.

We visit the restored residence of Nomura, displaying the lifestyle and artifacts of the era, and explore its garden which features trees that are over 400 years old. Broad, irregularly shaped stepping stones provide access to the inner garden whose attractive entrance is flanked by a Chinese maple tree with leaves that turn a brilliant red in autumn.

Across the Asano River is the district of Higashi-Chayamachi, Kanazawa’s most famous geisha district. Many of the tall wooden-latticed houses on the narrow streets are still used by geisha for high-class entertainment as they have done since 1820 when the area was established as a geisha quarter. You can take tea (without geisha) at Shima House for a chance to experience its refined and elegant atmosphere. Like Kyoto’s Gion, this district has been designated as one of Japan’s cultural assets. (Overnight Kanazawa) B

Note: Our luggage will be transported directly from Matsumoto to our hotel in Kyoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kanazawa.

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 8: Wednesday 21 November, Kanazawa – Kyoto

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Kenroku-en, Kanazawa
Train from Kanazawa to Kyoto
Gion District, Kyoto
Our first destination this morning is Kanazawa Castle, the seat of power of the local Maeda clan, hereditary feudal lords (daimyo) of the Kaga province from 1583. Burnt down on a number of occasions, only the superb Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya samurai dwelling survive from the original construction.

Kenroku-en is Kanazawa’s prime attraction and one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Koraku-en (Okayama) and Kairaku-en (Mito). Kenroku-en was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and there has been a garden on the site since the late 1600s. The original garden, begun by the fifth Maeda lord, Tsunonori Maeda, was called Renchi tei but it was almost entirely burnt out in 1759. It was restored in the 1770s and in 1822 became known as Kenroku-en, a name that means ‘the garden of six sublimities’ or, ‘a garden combining the six aspects of a perfect garden’. These six features were what the Chinese traditionally believed were necessary for the ideal garden – spaciousness and seclusion, artifice and antiquity, water-courses and panoramas: all these characteristics are to be found in the 25 acres of this beautiful garden.

We then transfer to the train station to take the train south to Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the late 8th century (c.794 AD) until 1868, when the court was moved to Tokyo. It is home to 17 World Heritage Sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, yet much of the city centre is modern. One of the finest of its contemporary buildings is its dramatic railway station.

We begin our exploration of Kyoto with a glimpse of a vanishing world – the district of Gion, home to geisha houses and traditional teahouses. Although the number of geishas has declined over the last century the area is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. To experience the traditional Gion, we stroll along Hanami-koji, a street lined by beautiful old buildings, including teahouses, where you may be able to glimpse a geisha apprentice. Contrary to popular belief Gion is not a red-light district, nor are geishas prostitutes. Geishas are young girls or women extensively trained as entertainers and skilled in a number of traditional Japanese arts such as classical music and dance as well as the performance of the exacting rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 9: Thursday 22 November, Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Daitoku-ji Buddhist Complex incl. the Ryogen-in (Dragon Peace Temple)
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens, including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. Our first visit in Kyoto is to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). During the 15th century the Chinese Sung Dynasty exercised an enormous influence in Japan as artists, poets and Zen priests were gathered together by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun (1358-1409). Yoshimitsu began construction of the Golden Pavilion just before he retired in 1394, handing power to his nine-year-old son so that he could move to his estate. Little of his work remains but we can sense the character of the garden in its pond, rockwork and extensive plantings.

The pavilion at Kinkaku-ji recalls Sung period architecture but it is a recreation, having been burned down in the 1950s. The present building is an exact replica except that where Yoshimitsu proposed only to gild the ceiling of the third storey with gold; now the whole building is gilded. Yoshimitsu positioned his palace on the edge of a lake. The ground floor was a reception room for guests and departure point for leisure boating, the first storey was for philosophical discussions and panoramic views of the lake while the upper floor acted as a refuge for Yoshimitsu and was used for tea ceremonies. The size of the gardens is increased visually by the water’s convoluted edge, the use of rocks and clipped trees and by visually ‘borrowing’ a distant view of Mt Kinugasa that creates a sense of gradation between foreground, middleground and deep distance.

After lunch we continue to Daitoku-ji, a large complex of Zen temples with prayer halls, religious structures and 23 sub-temples with some of the most exquisite gardens in Kyoto, some quite small, including raked gravel gardens and, in the Daisen-in, one of the most celebrated small rock gardens in Japan. The Japanese consider Daitoku-ji one of the most privileged places to study and it is associated with many of Japan’s most famous priests. Unlike many of the larger public Buddhist temples of earlier sects, the Rinzai sect monasteries were intimate, inward looking and remained isolated from the outside world.

The temple received imperial patronage and thus grew out from its centre in an organic way. A transition occurred as the complex expanded from a formal centre to semiformal and informal precincts. The central north-south walkway is most formal with wide paths to accommodate processions and ceremonies, while to the side are sub-temples with gates. As you walk through one of these gates you immediately come upon a less formal world with narrow paths, turns and walkways.

The temple site contains a number of notable gardens including Daisen-in, Koto-in, Koho-an, Hogo and the most famed of Kyoto’s gardens, Ryogen-in – the Dragon Peace Temple. No other garden in the world is so simple, elegant and refined. The garden comprises 15 rocks in a sea of raked gravel surrounded by a compacted mud wall coated in oil that is in itself a national treasure. The garden dates from 1500 as part of a temple of the Renzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple burned but was reconstructed in its original form. The garden constitutes the supreme example of a dry garden where gravel and rock symbolise plant and water elements. Indeed, apart from the moss on the rocks, no other plants grow in it. The meaning of the garden remains unknown. It might symbolise islands in a sea, mountains seen through clouds or tigers and cubs crossing a river, but this doesn’t matter since this is a garden to encourage contemplation, the enclosing wall separating the visitor from the world outside, and the verandah creating a horizontal boundary. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 10: Friday 23 November, Kyoto

Renge-ji
Shisen-do
Teppan-yaki lunch at the Beaux Sejours, Grand Prince Hotel
Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)
Today we will visit a number of Kyoto’s great gardens. Our first visit for the day is to Renge-ji. The temple is known for its garden, which reflects the beauty of seasonal change. Autumn when the maple leaves change colour, is the best season to visit. Capturing the essence of Japanese gardens, it includes a central pond surrounded by plantings linking to the hillside beyond. Stones, bridge and plantings are all reflected on the water-surface, giving a sense of spaciousness.

The intimate gardens of Shisen-do are considered masterworks of Japanese gardens. Its street walls mask the tranquillity and beauty to be found within. Raked sand, clipped azaleas and the tree covered hillsides of Higashiyama form the main components of this garden designed by Ishikawa Jozan (1583-1672). Clipped azaleas give way to natural vegetation beyond the garden boundary but it is the close harmony between the indoor spaces of the pavilion and the garden beyond that is most striking. The verandah offers a transition between its dark interior and the light-filled garden.

Following lunch at the teppan-yaki grill at the Grand Prince Hotel’s Beaux Sejours restaurant, we visit Ginkaku-ji. Originally constructed as the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435-1490), the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) became a Zen temple upon his death. The garden is complex, comprising two distinct sections, a pond area with a composition of rocks and plants, and a sand garden with a truncated cone – the Moon-Viewing Height – suggesting Mt Fuji; and a horizontal mound – the Sea of Silver Sand – named for its appearance by moonlight. An educational display at the garden contains good moss and weed moss to allow you to tell the difference. (Overnight Kyoto) BL

 

Nara – 1 night

 

Day 11: Saturday 24 November, Kyoto – Nara

Nara Park (Nara-koen) including the temples of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji
Isui-en Garden
Traditional Japanese bath (optional)
We leave Kyoto by coach for the ancient Japanese city of Nara, the national capital prior to Kyoto. During this period Buddhism became firmly established in Japan under the patronage of nobles who sponsored the buildings and works of art that we shall visit.

Our first destination is to the impressive Todai-ji, founded in 745 by Emperor Shomu. Although rebuilt following a fire in 1709 to two-thirds of its original size it nevertheless remains the largest timber building in the world. Two seven-metre tall guardian gods flank the entrance, (known as the nandai-mon), to the great Buddha Hall, the Daibutsu-den, which houses the 15-metre-tall bronze statue of the great Buddha. The original casting was completed in 752, when an Indian priest stood on a special platform and symbolically opened its eyes by painting on the Buddha’s eyes with a huge brush. This ceremony was performed before the then retired Emperor Shomu, his wife Komio and the reigning Empress Kogen, together with ambassadors from China, India and Persia.

We then visit the wonderful Nara-koen complex. It contains a five-storey pagoda, part of the Kofuku-ji founded in 669, a fine collection of Buddhist statues in the kokuhokan (National Treasure Building) and a 15th-century hall to the north of the pagoda. The kokahokan is a treasure trove of early Buddhist statues and although it is not large, each piece has been carefully chosen as a masterpiece of its style and period.

Our final visit for the day is to the small Isui-en, a traditional Japanese garden notable for its extensive use of moss and its exquisite tea pavilion. This garden is a kaiyushiki teien (strolling) style design that allows the visitor to easily walk through the garden and view it from many different angles.

From here you might like to stroll through some of Nara’s historic streets or try a traditional Japanese bath (sento: public bath; onsen: hot spring bath). The traditional Japanese-style inn we are staying in tonight provides open-air communal baths using hot spring water and affords a wonderful view of Kofuku-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda, which is illuminated at night. Tonight we dine in a traditional style at the Ryokan Asukasou, which serves Japanese kaiseki dishes. (Overnight Nara) BD

Note: We will leave our main luggage at the hotel in Kyoto during our 1 night stay in Nara. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Nara

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 25 November, Nara – Kyoto

Treasures of the Nara National Museum
Shin-Yakushi-ji
Horyu-ji
Our first visit today is to the Nara National Museum, noted for its collection of Buddhist art, including images, sculpture and ceremonial articles.

Shin-Yakushi-ji is a Buddhist temple built in the 19th year of the Tempyo era (747) by Empress Komio as an offering of thanksgiving when Emperor Shomu recovered from an eye disease. It now constitutes a single hall enshrining a powerful image of Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha, surrounded by clay sculptures of 12 guardians called Juni Shinsho, the Yakushi Nyorai’s protective warriors. In Japanese sculpture and art, the warriors are almost always grouped in a protective circle around the Yakushi Nyorai; they are rarely depicted as single figures. Many say they represent the 12 vows of Yakushi; others believe the 12 were present when the historical Buddha introduced the ‘Healing Sutra’; others claim that they offer protection during the 12 daylight hours, or that they represent the 12 months and 12 cosmic directions, or the 12 animals of the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

The grounds of Horyu-ji house the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, dating from the Asuka Period (mid-6th-beginning of 8th century AD). Throughout the 187,000-square-metre grounds are irreplaceable cultural treasures, bequeathed across the centuries and continuing to preserve the essence of eras spanning the entire journey through Japanese history since the 7th century. Horyu-ji contains over 2300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, including nearly 190 that have been designated as National Treasures or important Cultural Properties. In 1993 Horyu-ji was selected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage as a unique storehouse of world Buddhist culture. Following this visit we transfer by coach to Kyoto. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 13: Monday 26 November, Kyoto

Tenryu-ji
Saiho-ji (or ‘Koke-dera’ – moss temple)
Nanzen-ji
Nishiki-koji Covered Market
We first visit the Tenryu-ji, which dates from the period of shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1339). He commissioned the priest Muso Kokushi – one of Japan’s best known garden designers, who also designed the moss garden at Saiho-ji – to create this garden. Kokushi’s work modified an estate of Emperor Gosaga from 1270. He changed its form to include an Heian-style pond garden with popular, contemporary Chinese aspects. These included most notably a group of seven vertical rocks near the rear shore of its pond. These contrast markedly with Japanese rock work that takes a more horizontal form. This is one of the earliest gardens to show shakkei, the incorporation of borrowed landscape into a garden’s design.

Saiho-ji has the oldest major garden of the Muromachi Period. Originally designed to represent the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) of Amida Buddhism, this so-called ‘strolling garden’ is set in a dark forest and is designed for meditation. It was re-designed by a Zen Buddhist priest, Muso Soseki, who also designed the garden of Tenryu-ji in Kyoto, when it passed to the Zen Buddhist sect. The chief feature of the garden is the ‘golden pond’ with pavilions scattered on its shore and connected by a path that allows controlled views of the garden. The pond is shaped like the Japanese character for ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. It is divided by islands connected by bridges. The mosses, which give the garden its alternative name (Koke-dera – ‘moss temple’) were established as an economy measure after the Meiji restoration (1868).

Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. It was founded in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama, and was rebuilt several times after devastating fires. At the entrance to the complex one passes through the huge Imperial gate, built in 1628 by Todo Takatora, and into the complex with its series of sub-temples. We will see the hojo, or abbot’s quarters, which is notable for both it’s beautiful golden screen paintings and the tranquil sand and rock garden. We will also explore the sub-temple Konchi-in which was added to the complex in 1605.

In the late afternoon we shall walk through the traditional 17th-century Nishiki-koji covered market, which has for centuries been the focus of food shopping in the city. You may wish to try Japanese pickled vegetables or purchase teapots and teabowls from a traditional vendor. By contrast we will visit a Japanese electrical store where you will see Japanese consumerism at its height. Spread over five storeys, this extraordinary store offers every imaginable electrical item. We will end the day in the fashionable gallery and restaurant area. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Day 14: Tuesday 27 November, Kyoto

Heian Shrine
Tofuku-ji
Tea Ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple
We begin the day with a visit to one of the newest religious sites in Kyoto, the Heian Shrine, which boasts the largest torii (sacred gate) in Japan and lovely gardens. The shrine was built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s 1100th anniversary and to honour its founder, Emperor Kammu and also to celebrate the culture and architecture of the city’s Heian-past. It is constructed on the site of the original Heian Hall of State but is a smaller and somewhat imperfect recreation of this earlier building. Four gardens surround the main shrine buildings on the south, west, middle and east, covering an area of approximately 33,000 square metres. The gardens are designated as a national scenic spot representative of Meiji-era (1868-1912) garden design.

We then visit the superb Tofuku-ji Hojo, a garden designed in 1939 by Shigemori Mirei. This will be familiar to many who have read books on Japanese gardens for it combines 20th-century design with elements from Japanese tradition. Mirei implements subtle, restrained design themes such as chequer-boards of stone in moss to allow the natural form and colour of maples on the surrounding hills to make full impact.

We end our visit to Kyoto with a visit to the Kodai-ji Temple to experience a tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

 

Matsue – 1 night

 

Day 15: Wednesday 28 November, Kyoto – Okayama – Matsue

Kouraku-en
Farewell Dinner
Today we depart Kyoto and travel to Okayama where we visit another of the country’s so-called ‘Three Great Gardens of Japan’, Kouraku-en. This garden dates from the Edo period when the daimyo (feudal lord) Ikeda Tsunamasa ordered its construction in 1687. Completed in 1700, it has retained its overall appearance with only a few minor changes made over the centuries. The garden was used for entertaining guests and also as a retreat for the daimyo.

In the afternoon we travel to Matsue, where we shall enjoy a farewell dinner. (Overnight Matsue) BD

 

Day 16: Thursday 29 November, Depart Matsue

Adachi Museum of Art
Our last visit for the tour is the Adachi Museum of Art, located in the rural landscape of the Sinmane region. This is a contemporary art museum set within a large garden, considered by many to be one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. The museum was founded by Adachi Zenko who felt a strong resonance between the sublime sensibility of the Japanese-style garden and the paintings of Yokoyama Taikan whose work he collected. This is a contemplation garden which visitors observe from various carefully designed points within the museum. Each season reveals itself through different aspects of the garden, and during our visit we can expect the hills that form the backdrop to the vista before us to be a blaze of autumnal colour while vivid reds enliven the foliage of the garden.

After lunchtime at leisure we transfer to Matsue Airport for our flights home. B

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

 

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

 

Japan – Land of Beauty

Japan – Land of Beauty

 

TOUR OVERVIEW

To visit Japan is to step into another world, an enchanting one in which beauty is prized. Beauty comes in many forms, not only in the perfect gardens and exquisite flowers, but also in the country’s natural areas – the mountains and forests. There is beauty too in Japan’s cultural practices, architecture and many forms of art.
We will see so much of it on this varied tour, from Mt Fuji and the Shibazakura Festival of Moss Phlox, the Moss garden in Saiho-Ji Temple, the Bamboo Forest, world famous gardens, and wonderful bonsai, to the modern sculpture parks, World Heritage village of Shirakawa-go and Gokayama in the mountains, the Golden Temple, and ancient castles.
We will travel by air conditioned coach and by bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto, experience a traditional tea ceremony and enjoy nights spent in modern Japanese style spa accommodation.

 

TOUR ITINERARY

Day 1 Sun 07 May Sydney-Tokyo
Overnight flight with Qantas to Tokyo.

Day 2 Mon 08 May Arrive Tokyo
On arrival in Tokyo, you will be met and transferred to your hotel. The first visit on our tour will be to the historic Imperial Palace East Gardens, an oasis of calm in the middle of this giant city. Edo Castle was once the residence of the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled Japan from 1603 to 1867. The old site of the castle now makes up the park and garden areas.
Later we marvel at skyscraper views from the heights of iconic Tokyo Tower.
We will spend two nights in Tokyo.
Welcome dinner tonight. (Dinner)

Day 3 Tue 09 May Tokyo-Omiya-Tokyo
Today we enter the private world of the bonsai experts and visit Omiya Bonsai Village. Multiple bonsai nurseries and a superb bonsai art museum are situated along the district’s peaceful paths. In the afternoon, we visit Senso-ji Temple and Asakusa for a taste of traditional Japan. Senso-ji is one of the very popular temples in Tokyo while the Asakusa area that surrounds it provides a wonderful variety of snacks, restaurants and souvenir shopping. (Breakfast)

Day 4 Wed 10 May Tokyo-Hakone-Kawaguchiko
Journey by private coach to Hakone, the city famous for the view of nearby Mt. Fuji. We will visit the Hakone Open-Air Museum, home to over 120 permanent Japanese and Western sculptures, in a garden setting.
Continue travel to Kawaguchiko, where we will stay for two nights in Japanese style. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 5 Thu 11 May Kawaguchiko
Throughout Japan’s spring season different flowers take the stage, from blossom, azaleas and wisteria, to roses and hydrangeas. Today we will celebrate Shibazakura, moss phlox, whose name translates as ‘grass cherry’, at Japan’s largest Shibazakura festival called “Fuji Shibazakura Matsuri”. The festival gives insight into real Mount Fuji beauty as well as the natural beauty of Japan in spring. Approximately 800,000 Shibazakura, covering 2.4 hectares of land, burst into life and carpet the ground in shades of pink and white.
Later we visit the excellent Itchiku Kubota Art Museum devoted to kimono artist Itchiku Kubota. With a panoramic view of Itchiku’s beloved Mount Fuji, the museum permanently showcases some of his artistic creations and invites visitors to discover the artist who created them.
There is also an opportunity for us to take a ride on Kachikachi-yama Ropeway. The gondolas take us to the hilltop with breathtaking views of Mt. Fuji and Lake Kawaguchi. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 6 Fri 12 May Kawaguchiko-Matsumoto-Takayama
Today we will travel to Matsumoto and visit the impressive fortress – Matsumoto Castle, one of Japan’s most visually stunning castle completed in 1593 and one of the twelve complete original castles still in existence in Japan. Matsumoto Castle was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodelled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains.
Continue by coach to Takayama, for a two night stay. (Breakfast)

Day 7 Sat 13 May Takayama
Work off your breakfast with a relaxing walking tour of Takayama Old Town, and the Kusakabe Folkcraft Museum, including the cultural heart of the town, and the morning market. Many of the old town streets date from the Edo Period and are perfect for people who love to browse.
Tonight enjoy a Hida beef dinner. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 8 Sun 14 May Takayama-Kanazawa
Travel by coach to Kanazawa, stopping en route in the remote mountains of Honshu to visit the UNESCO listed Shirakawa-go Village and Gokayama. Declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1995, they are famous for their traditional gassho-zukuri farmhouses, some of which are more than 250 years old. Here we will see a fairy tale walk back in time with quaint original cottages, water wheels and paddy fields.
We will stay in Kanazawa for two nights. (Breakfast)

Day 9 Mon 15 May Kanazawa
Today we are off to Kanazawa Castle and Kenroku-en Garden, one of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan. The Japanese say Kenroku-en means having six factors: spaciousness, tranquillity, artifice, antiquity, water courses and a magnificent view, and they are right!
Nomura Family House shows us just how the Samurai would have lived in times past. It evokes a sense of what old Japan and, best of all, its exquisite gardens might have been like. It is an absolute joy. Many of us will be inspired by the imaginative opportunities that could apply even to our own backyards.
We also visit Higashi Chaya district, a traditional place of feasts and entertainment, where geisha have been entertaining people since the Edo period. (Breakfast)

Day 10 Tue 16 May Kanazawa-Okayama
Travel by bullet train to Okayama.
We will wander through the Bikan area of Kurashiki, a time warp into ancient feudal times. With a distinct and stunningly beautiful architectural design, you’ll see a central canal crossed by traditional curved bridges, and lined by fascinating shops, eateries and museums.
Overnight in Okayama. (Breakfast)

Day 11 Wed 17 May Okayama-Naoshima Island-Okayama
In the morning, as a change of pace, we take a day excursion to the Benesse Art Site on Naoshima Island, home to a collection of some of the world’s most inspiring art, architecture and outdoor sculptures.
Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city, our visit to the Lee Ufan and Cichu Art Museums is akin to a spiritual experience; the synergy between art, nature and architecture is exquisite.
Return to Okayama for overnight. (Breakfast)

Day 12 Thu 18 May Okayama-Kyoto
After breakfast we will explore the colourful and expansive Koraku-en Garden, another of the “Three Great Gardens” of Japan that celebrates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden. Then we cross the Asahi River to view the magnificent Okayama Castle, nicknamed “Crow Castle” because of its very black colour.
In the afternoon we travel by bullet train to Kyoto where we will stay for 4 nights. (Breakfast)

Day 13 Fri 19 May Kyoto
After breakfast, we visit the garden of Saiho-ji Temple, acclaimed by many as Kyoto’s most beautiful garden. It is especially famous for its moss garden.
Then visit the peaceful Ryoan-ji Temple home to the famous Zen rock garden. This UNESCO World Heritage site in Kyoto encourages contemplation while enjoying the simplicity of carefully arranged boulders amidst raked pebbles that resemble ripples of the sea.
It is fortunately right next door to Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion), another treasure! This Buddhist temple’s main buildings is famous for its top two floors completely covered in gold leaf overlooking a pond and surrounded by a beautiful garden. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 14 Sat 20 May Kyoto
A more relaxing day. We head to the picturesque Arashiyama District for a relaxing walk through the peaceful Bamboo Forest.
Later we will experience a truly Japanese cultural event, a tea ceremony at Kodaiji Temple, one of the most well-known temples in Japan. (Breakfast)

Day 15 Sun 21 May Kyoto
Today is at your leisure. You may decide to enjoy the excellent shopping in Kyoto, or visit more of the city’s many sights.
Enjoy our special farewell dinner tonight. (Breakfast/Dinner)

Day 16 Mon 22 May Kyoto-Tokyo-Sydney
Transfer to airport for flight to Tokyo and connect your overnight flight home. (Breakfast)

Day 17 Tue 23 May Arrive Sydney
Arrive Sydney in the morning.
To enquire or book this tour, please contact
Opulent Journeys 1300 219 885
Email: tony@opulentjourneys.com.au

Gardens of South Africa

Gardens of South Africa – Gardens, Landscapes, Wildlife and Wine with Sandy Pratten

 

Flanked by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and the Indian Ocean on the east, South Africa is rich in indigenous flora, exceptional gardens, stunning natural landscapes and diverse cultures.

Begin in vibrant Johannesburg before embarking on a journey to explore the unique flora and fauna, and dramatic landscapes and cultures of this fascinating country. Drive along one of the world’s most remarkable coastal stretches, the famed ‘Garden Route’. Discover the unique Cape Dutch architecture, magnificent wine estates and spectacular gardens in the magnificent Cape Winelands. End in glorious Cape Town, shadowed by iconic Table Mountain and renowned for its rich history, lively cultural life and more exceptional private and botanical gardens.

 

AT A GLANCE…

  • Visit a wonderful selection of private and botanical gardens including Kirstenbosch, Brenthurst, Vergelegen, Stellenberg, Cellars-Hohenort and Babylonstoren
  • Learn about the fascinating Cape floral kingdom, recognised as one of the world’s six Floral Kingdoms
  • Drive from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town along the scenic Garden Route and Little Karoo
  • Discover the unique Cape Dutch architecture, wine estates and majestic scenery of the Cape Winelands
  • Extend your tour in with an authentic post-tour safari at a luxury game lodge

 

ITINERARY

TUE 03 OCTOBER 2017 2017 / AUSTRALIA – JOHANNESBURG

Suggested departure from Australia on Qantas flight to South Africa departing Sydney at 11.50am arriving in Johannesburg the same day at 5.00pm. Renaissance Tours can assist you with your travel arrangements.

 

WED 04 OCT / JOHANNESBURG

Begin your exploration of the complex nature of South Africa with a morning visit to Soweto, South Africa’s largest and most vibrant so-called ‘township’. Visit Freedom Square, the historical Regina Mundi church where many of the Truth and Reconciliation Commissions hearings took place in the 1990s under the chairmanship of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and the former home of Nelson and Winnie Mandela in Vilakazi Street.

After lunch, continue to the fascinating and poignant Apartheid Museum, the country’s pre-eminent museum dealing with 20th century South Africa.

Return to the hotel in the late afternoon, with the remainder of the evening at leisure. (BL)

 

THU 05 OCT / JOHANNESBURG

After breakfast visit Brenthurst Gardens, one of South Africa’s most magnificent private gardens. Located on Parktown Ridge, the gardens are attached to Brenthurst Estate, which has been owned by the Oppenheimer family since 1904. The so-called ‘Little Brenthurst’ homestead was designed by colonial architect Sir Herbert Baker in the so-called ‘Cape Dutch’ style. The 48-acre park of woodland, formal and informal gardens has evolved over time with the help of a succession of remarkable gardeners. Since 2001 Strilli Oppenheimer has implemented numerous organic, ecologically-friendly garden practices, gradually adapting the planting to its Highveld setting, introducing indigenous grass and endemic plants.

After lunch, continue to the Garden of St Christopher, an estate that seamlessly integrates Italian garden design with contemporary English border planting. Spend time wandering through the many facets of this garden including highlights such as the classical pergola and formal parterre, as well as an oval reflection pond and azalea bowl. (BL)

 

FRI 06 OCT / JOHANNESBURG

Embark on a half-day guided walking tour of a selection of historic private homes and gardens in Parktown and Westcliff, two of Johannesburg’s oldest and most established suburbs and home to the former domains of the so-called ‘Randlords’ of the gold mining boom of the early 1900s. Some homesteads were designed by Sir Herbert Baker, who also designed both the Union Buildings in Pretoria and the government buildings in New Delhi. Lunch is at a hotel situated on Westcliff with sweeping views over Johannesburg’s verdant northern suburbs. The remainder of the afternoon and evening is at leisure. (BL)

 

SAT 07 OCT / JOHANNESBURG – KNYSNA

Early-morning check-out of the hotel and transfer to Johannesburg airport for a short flight to Port Elizabeth. Drive along the famous coastal ‘Garden Route’ through the beautiful Tsitsikamma National Park, famous for its towering yellowwood trees and dramatic coastline. Lunch is at the Storms River Mouth. In the late-afternoon arrive in Knysna, a picturesque historical coastal town in the heart of the Garden Route famous for its lagoon – and oysters! (BLD)

 

SUN 08 OCT / KNYSNA

Enjoy a leisurely day of sightseeing in and around Knysna including the dramatic Knysna Heads and lagoon, and visit the wonderful gardens of the Belvidere Estate on the shore of the lagoon. Comprising a historic manor, church and ‘village’, Belvidere Estate is a nature-lover’s paradise with more than 270 bird species. This evening is at leisure. (BL)

 

MON 09 OCT / KNYSNA – OUDTSHOORN

Drive from Knysna along the spectacular coastal road with dramatic scenery via Wilderness to George. Visit the Garden Route Botanical Garden, which plays an important role in both the conservation and raising of awareness of the Cape floral kingdom, one of the richest and yet one of the most threatened floral kingdoms on earth.

After lunch, drive over the dramatic Outeniqua mountains to the town of Oudtshoorn in the so-called ‘Little Karoo’, once the booming capital of the world’s ostrich feather industry during Edwardian times. Dinner is at the hotel. (BLD)

 

TUE 10 OCT / OUDTSHOORN

A pre-dawn start this morning for a unique experience to observe meerkats in their natural environment before returning to the hotel for breakfast. In the late morning leave the hotel again to visit a historic ostrich farm and homestead, and later the magnificent Cango Caves, a cultural and natural landmark in South Africa. Return to the hotel in the afternoon for dinner later that evening. (BD)

 

WED 11 OCT / OUDTSHOORN – FRANSCHHOEK

Leave Oudtshoorn for a full-day drive along the scenic Route 62 through the Little Karoo passing through quaint country towns including Calitzdorp, Ladismith, Barrydale and Montagu. After lunch continue through dramatic mountain scenery to Franschhoek, stopping briefly at the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden for an insight into the unique vegetation of this part of the world. Arrive in the early evening in the charming village of Franschhoek, nestled in a rich and fertile valley among towering mountains. Dinner is at the hotel. (BLD)

 

THU 12 OCT / FRANSCHHOEK

Enjoy a full day in the magnificent Cape Winelands, starting with a tour of Franschhoek, founded in 1688 by the French Huguenots and now synonymous with South Africa’s wine industry. Continue to the glorious oak tree-lined university town of Stellenbosch, South Africa’s second oldest European settlement after Cape Town. Then visit the historical Boschendal wine estate and gardens for a wine tasting and lunch under the oak trees. The estate’s internationally-acclaimed rose garden was designed by Gwen Fagan, an authority on old gardens at the Cape, and features many of the original roses that were cultivated at the Cape and in the East Indies. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

FRI 13 OCT / FRANSCHHOEK

This morning we first visit the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, a place of expansive vistas, scents and the sounds of nature, with tranquil groves, hidden paths and lush indigenous vegetation. Continue to the fascinating Babylonstoren estate. Dating back to 1692, Babylonstoren is a historic Cape Dutch farm that boasts one of the best preserved farmyards in the Cape. Its fascinating garden is divided into 15 sections that comprise fruit, vegetables, berries, bees for pollinating, indigenous plants, fragrant lawns and more. A secluded path runs along the stream where thousands of clivias flower in spring. The garden also boasts a plethora of trees of historical and botanical importance.

After lunch, return to Franschhoek stopping (time permitting) at the historical farm of La Motte for a brief tour of the Pierneef art museum. Arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

SAT 14 OCT / FRANSCHHOEK – CAPE TOWN

Depart Franschhoek this morning for Cape Town. En route, visit the Vergelegen Estate (meaning “situated far away”), founded in 1700 and world-renowned for its exquisite gardens. As well as extensive gardens, Vergelegen is home to many significant trees, the most important of which are five historic camphor trees, believed to have been planted in 1700 by Governor Van der Stel and declared National Monuments in 1942. There is also an Old English Oak, over 300 years old and believed to be the oldest living oak tree in Africa, while the “Royal” Oak was planted in 1928 from an acorn originating from the last of King Alfred’s oak trees at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.

After a picnic lunch under the trees, continue to Cape Town, stopping en route (time permitting) at Vergenoegd wine estate to see the famous ‘march of the ducks’. Arrive in the Mother City in the late afternoon. This evening is at leisure. (BL)

 

SUN 15 OCT / CAPE TOWN

This morning enjoy a city tour of Cape Town, starting with a cable car ride up Table Mountain (weather permitting), followed by a visit to the Castle of Good Hope, which now houses a collection of historical items relating to the Dutch East India Company. Then visit the Company’s Garden, situated on the site of Governor Jan van Riebeeck’s vegetable garden established in 1652 to supply fresh produce to the company’s ships bound for the East.

Then drive to the Cellars-Hohenort estate in the historical Constantia Valley. Originally known as Klaasenbosch Farm, Cellars-Hohenort was the sprawling estate that belonged to the chief surgeon of the Dutch East India Company in 1693.

 

After lunch, enjoy a guided walk through the estate’s award-winning gardens, which in 2010 garnered the Relais & Châteaux Garden Award for their exceptional appearance. The gardens around the hotel reflect the property’s long history, with trees dating back hundreds of years, while there are more than 2,500 roses in the gardens. Immaculately maintained, the different sections of the gardens display some of the Cape’s best indigenous flora.

Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. This evening is at leisure. (BL)

 

MON 16 OCT / CAPE TOWN

After breakfast, visit Stellenberg, widely regarded as one of the most beautiful Cape Dutch historic homesteads in the Cape Peninsula, with its balanced design, classical decoration, and renowned, spectacular gardens.

Then continue to the glorious Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, and for the beauty and diversity of the Cape flora it displays. Covering 1,300 acres, Kirstenbosch grows only indigenous South African plants and supports a diverse fynbos (Afrikaans for ‘fine bush’) flora and natural forest. The cultivated gardens display collections of South African plants, particularly those from the winter rainfall region of the country.

Continue to Cape Point Nature Reserve, where Cape Point is perceived to be where the Atlantic and Indian oceans ‘meet’. The reserve is a floral treasure with over one thousand different species of Cape fynbos.

We will enjoy a farewell lunch at the restaurant, from where the views over the ocean and surrounding mountains are stunning.

Return to Cape Town via the dramatic Chapman’s Peak Drive hugging the Atlantic seaboard, South Africa’s ‘Riviera’. (BL)

 

TUE 17 OCT / DEPART CAPE TOWN

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. If you are returning home today, transfer to Cape Town International Airport in the early afternoon for flights to Johannesburg to connect with a Qantas flight in the early evening to Sydney. (B)

 

WED 18 OCT / ARRIVE AUSTRALIA

Arrive in Australia.

 

PRICING

PRICES in $AUD

Per person, twin-share AUD 7,500
Single supplement* AUD 1,250
Deposit (per person) at time of booking AUD 500
Final payment due 31 July 2017
*Single travellers may request to share. Please advise at time of booking.

Tour Code GD1704

 

Fitness level: Moderate

Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.

Suggested Airline: Qantas

Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.

Visa: Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa for South Africa.

 

Tour price includes:

  • Accommodation in centrally located hotels with private facilities and breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner). Wines with meals
  • Transportation throughout in comfortable air-conditioned coaches
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

 

Tour price does not include:

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours for assistance)
  • Transfers on arrival and departure (taxis are readily available)
  • Items of a personal nature (e.g. telephone, laundry, mini-bar, taxis etc.)
  • Travel insurance (recommended)
  • Airport porterage

 

Your hotels

Johannesburg – Crowne Plaza Johannesburg – The Rosebank****+

Knysna – Protea Hotel Knysna Quays****

Oudtshoorn – Oudtshoorn Inn***

Franschhoek – Le Franschhoek****

Cape Town – Winchester Gardens****+

 

  1. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted

 

POST-TOUR EXTENSION+

17–20 October 2017 (4 days)

Safari in the Sabi Sabi Game Reserve

 

Escape to another world and reconnect with nature in the stunning Sabi Sabi Game Reserve, considered by many to be the premier wildlife reserve in South Africa and adjacent to the Kruger National Park.

Your home for three nights, the four-star deluxe Umkumbe Safari Lodge is located in the Sabi Sand Game Reserve on the banks of the seasonal Sand River, and perfectly situated in one of the best ‘Big Five’ game viewing destinations in Africa.

Enjoy a personal, authentic South African safari experience with game drives by jeep in the early-morning and late-afternoon and walking safaris during the day led by qualified rangers for an unforgettable experience of walking amongst wildlife surrounded by the smells and sounds of Africa. Alternatively relax around the pool, be pampered in the lodge’s spa or take lazy afternoon naps.

 

TOUR EXTENSION ITINERARY

TUE 17 OCT 2017 / CAPE TOWN – SABI SABI GAME RESERVE

Morning flight from Cape Town to Nelspruit where you will be met by your English-speaking driver and be taken to the lodge. In the late afternoon, meet your ranger and depart on an afternoon game drive. The drive starts at a leisurely pace while your ranger explains what possible sightings could be made. Throughout the game drive, your ranger will keep you occupied with interesting facts about the animals you are likely to encounter as well as about the plant and bird life of the area.

Return to the lodge after sundown and enjoy a traditional South African-style dinner. There are two dining areas, one being the ‘boma’ (open fire) and the other an outdoor area under a thatch roof covering. (BD)

 

WED 18 AND THU 19 OCT / SABI SABI GAME RESERVE

One both of these two days, rise as the day dawns for a cup of coffee or tea before setting out on a morning game drive. The African bush is at its most active in the early morning and there is the chance of seeing some of the large cats like lion, leopard, cheetah and wild dogs coming to the end of their night-time hunting spree or feeding on a kill from the previous night.

Return to the lodge around 9am for breakfast. For the more energetic, after breakfast there is the option of a morning bush walk. The walk is an opportunity to experience the bush at close quarters. All walking safaris are led by qualified, armed rangers. They will point out and explain things like animal tracks and interesting facts about the bush. Otherwise you can also remain at the lodge and enjoy the morning at leisure.

After lunch, escape the worst of the day’s heat and maybe enjoy a nap or a refreshing swim in the pool.

Afternoon tea is served around 4pm after which you will embark on an afternoon game drive. As the day would have been warm, the chance of game sightings near rivers and water holes is greater.

Return to the lodge after sundown and enjoy dinner under the stars. Fall asleep to the intoxicating sounds of the African bush at night time. (BLD daily)

 

FRI 20 OCT / SABI SABI GAME RESERVE – JOHANNESBURG – AUSTRALIA

After an early-morning game drive, return to the lodge for breakfast. Then, gather your bags and check out and transfer to Nelspruit airport for your flight to Johannesburg. If you are returning to Australia today, most flights depart Johannesburg in the early evening arriving in Australia the following afternoon. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with all your travel arrangements including flights and any additional nights’ accommodation.

 

 

 

Bundanoon Garden Ramble

Bundanoon Garden Ramble 2016

 

Bundanoon NSW, the home to Garden Ramble, is the ‘Quintessential Southern Highlands Experience’ and the perfect village alternative to larger towns such as Bowral, Mittagong and Moss Vale…the perfect place to relax & unwind. With a population of just under 3000 our quaint village is the northern gateway to Morton National Park where you can walk for miles and take in the breathtaking scenery it has to offer.

Now in its 20th year, the Bundanoon Garden Ramble on 22 and 23 October 2016 once again promises to be an enjoyable event attracting visitors from all parts of the state and beyond.

Open from 9.30am to 4.30pm both days, 8 private gardens will showcase their diversity ranging from large country gardens down to small town blocks. There will be plenty to see and do, thanks to the dedicated garden owners who spend months prior to the weekend preparing their beautiful gardens in anticipation of the many visitors.

Refreshments will be available in some of the gardens and visitors can also lunch in one of the many town cafes. There will be a market in the hall where plants and gifts are available for purchase and the Bundanoon History Group will mount an exhibition in the old goods shed. A display of old farm machinery will be set up in the main street. A Gypsy Wagon made by the garden owner will display a collection of old linen and lace.

 

Open gardens in 2016

•  Spinning Hill Farm – 5 Evelyn Avenue

•  Jean Flora — 11 Evelyn Avenue

•  Idle a Wile – 2 Penrose Road

•  Bonnie Doon – 46 Greasons Road

•  81 Coalmines Road

•  Fern Creek – 2 Ferndale Road

•  Applegate Cottage – 3 William Street

•  Birdsong – 13 William Street

 

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

Robertson Open Gardens

Robertson Open Gardens

 

Robertson garden owners will open seven private gardens for visitors. Set among rolling hills amidst the stunning country scenery, these beautiful gardens range from large country gardens to smaller town gardens and are guaranteed to inspire gardener visitors. Five of the gardens are large country gardens on the outskirts of Robertson, with three in the village. These gardens demonstrate all the beauty of gardening in the Southern Highlands. Wide open spaces with smaller intimate gardens, walks and wonderful displays of dramatic plantings, including parterres, knot gardens, pergolas with climbing roses and wisteria. Fabulous conifers combine with deciduous and evergreen trees to highlight the design elements of these interesting gardens.

 

All gardens are open 10am to 4pm on both days, and tickets are on sale at all gardens.

$5 each garden, or $20 for all gardens

 

Robertson Open Gardens 2017 includes:

This year there are five new gardens:

The Kaya is a 6 acre garden of a horticulturist and a botanical artist. It is an outstanding garden of exceptional design and wonderful plant combinations, with a gravelled parterre showcasing purple and grey foliage plants including arches of trimmed ‘Crimson Century’ maples and wisteria covered pergolas.

 

The Secret Garden is a large country garden with several garden rooms with both formal and more relaxed styles, featuring a fountain garden, a birch walk and large expanses of lush green lawn. There are banks of rhododendrons and azaleas, a cherry blosssom walk, a vegetable potager and a number of espaliered fruit trees.

 

Deirdre’s Garden is a smaller lovely formal garden planned by the previous owner, a horticulturist. Fir trees, magnolia and waratahs make a stunning first impression. A formal rose garden screened by a 2 metre high Pittosporum hedge includes several statues. Deciduous trees include cherry trees, magnolias and maples and in the native garden kangaroo paws and waratahs are sheltered by gums and native shrubs.

 

Dragon Farm is a splendid country garden with spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. From the top of the hill there is a fabulous view to the lake with a delightful Celtic knot garden featuring Buxus hedging surrounding white Meidiland roses on the side of the hill above the lake. Many species of deciduous trees grow throughout the garden including two large chestnut trees and a birch grove. Dotted throughout the garden wonderful statuary can be seen.

 

The Garden The framework of our garden was created in 1974 by the original owners of the block bought by them when the subdivision was first done.  It was apparently an empty block and they planted it fully with a wide variety of plants and trees. Rhododendrons, camellias, azaleas, roses, maples and a large number of conifers which were to serve as hedges.  When we bought the block in 2001 the garden was not just established but heavily overgrown as they had been unable to spend the time necessary to care for it.

The conifer hedges had not been hedged and in fact dwarfed most of the other plants.  The front hedge of cyrus pines were huge with little vegetation on them.  After a substantial cull we found that many of the plants that had been dwarfed had survived albeit they were in need of a lot of care.  We commenced with a new Camellia sasanqua hedge in the front with over 60 plants in 4 inch pots.  They looked more like a hair transplant but in the 13 years they have been in they have blossomed into a wonderful hedge.

 

And back again in 2017, two very popular Robertson gardens:

 

The Moorings is a 100 acre farm with a 4 acre garden surrounding a restored/ rebuilt 1870’s house. The present garden is basically a foliage garden with specific areas dedicated to conifers, azaleas, camellias, and rhododendrons amidst three lawn areas. Many trees and shrubs are close clipped in a variety of shapes. A rose garden, a hydrangea garden, a vegetable garden, and a small orchard are also featured as well as a summer house and a small “lake”. Everywhere in the garden presents spectacular views of the countryside. Throughout the garden beautiful sculptures can be seen.

 

The Willows is a 5 acre property with extensive established gardens.  Mature trees include maples, crabapples, cherries, ginkgo and a Davidia under planted with camellias, azaleas, Pieris and Kalmia.  The rear garden contains a Japanese style conifer island, plus a mini arboretum of rare and unusual trees.  A large bonsai collection greenhouse with orchids, tuberous begonias and Streptocarpus.  There will be nursery stock for sale especially plants suitable for bonsai and a horticulturist will be on hand to answer your questions.

 

And there’s more!

There will be art work on display from our local artists, and stop and buy plants at the Robertson Garden Club’s large plant stall.

 

Over the weekend there are many attractions to be seen in Robertson. Browse the local galleries, antique shops and visit The Old Cheese Factory’s large collectable stalls. Have coffee at the local cafes and pop into Robertson Village Woodworks. Check out the local market on Sunday. Picnic among the beautiful waratahs at the Heritage Railway Station where the Fettlers Shed will have an art exhibition and the museum will be open. Visit Robertson’s Nature reserve where you can wander through remnants of Yarrawa brush and rainforest.

 

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

Treecycle

Treecycle

 

Treecycle is a special exhibition that celebrates the 200th Birthday in 2016 of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney featuring timber from trees that were once growing in one of three botanic gardens.

Trees in the Sydney Garden and also the Australian Botanic Garden Mount Annan and the Blue Mountain Botanic Garden Mount Tomah follow a dynamic cycle of planting, growth and decay. During normal garden maintenance and rejuvenation, trees are pruned, or felled and replaced leaving a legacy of beautiful and often unique timber.

Artisans have created a wide range of beautiful objects from these timbers, from decorative objects to functional items like clocks, furniture and even musical instruments.

Curated by Leon and Ginny Sadubin.

 

All works are for sale, some by silent auction on opening night of Thursday, 11 August 2016.

Location: Moore Room and Palm House, Royal Botanic Garden Sydney

Free entry, suitable for all ages.

 

Treecycle artisans:

 

Melissa Allen, David Muston, Howard Archbold, Takashi Nishiura, Russell Beardmore Tim Noone, Elise Cameron-Smith, Darren Oates, Colen Clenton, Garry Olson, Holly Cope, Ben Percy, Nick Coyle, Michael Purdy, Brian Dawson, Richard Raffan, Dale Dryen, Ginny Sadubin, Phoebe Everill, Leon Sadubin, Mikey Floyd, Bob Scott, Charlie Gillings, Anthony Springford, Minky Grant, David Springford, Alby Johnston, Hugh Springford, Hape Kiddle, Nick Statham, Gayl Leake, Peter Stibilj, Graham Mandelson, Isao Takezawa, Will Matthysen, Christian Timbs, Harry McInnis, David Upfill-Brown, Stuart Montague, John Van der Kolk, Isabelle Moore, Grant Vaughan, Aidan Morris, Warwick Wright, Thirston Morris

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

Melbourne Garden DesignFest

Melbourne Garden DesignFest 2016

 

Melbourne’s Garden DesignFest in 2016 offers the opportunity to visit more than 40 professionally designed gardens on two weekends during the spring peak of November:

 

Melbourne Garden DesignFest first weekend:

November 12 and 13, 2016 – city gardens throughout Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula

 

Melbourne Garden DesignFest second weekend:

November 19 and 20, 2016 – country gardens in Euroa, Ballarat, Bendigo, Macedon Ranges, West Gippsland and Geelong.

 

Spend an intoxicating weekend seeing gardens designed by such famous designers as Robert Boyle, Lisa Ellis, Rick Eckersley, Paul Bangay, Richard Bellemo, Eugene Gilligan, Jamie Clapham, Deborah Hambleton and many more.

The range of 2016 gardens has a range of both city/suburban gardens, and regional Victorian gardens. So that it’s possible to get to so many gardens over such a wide geographical area, the event is being held over two weekends, one for the gardens in and near Melbourne, and one for the regional gardens. You will find something for everyone, from small inner city gardens, to suburban gardens, to broad acre country gardens.

The garden designers will be in their gardens over the weekend to chat with visitors about the design principles, materials and plant choices they have applied to meet the particular characteristics of the site and the client’s brief.

 

The Melbourne DesignFest 2016 list of designers and their designed garden includes:

 

Gardens open 12-13 November 2016 – Melbourne and Mornington Peninsula

 

Lisa Ellis – 27 Carnarvon Road, Caulfield North

Robert Boyle – 15 Riverside Road, Ivanhoe

Jamie Clapham – 67 Albany Road, Toorak

Inge Jabara – 20 Melton Avenue, Carnegie

Paddy Milne – TBA

Mark Pedley – 210 Were Street, Brighton East

Diane Beddison – 62 Bryson Street, Canterbury

Sue Meli – 72 Dalton Street, Gisbourne

Stephen Read – 2 Euston Street, Malvern

Sandra McMahon – 73 Pascoe Avenue, Kilsyth

Paul Pritchard – 111 Rathmines Street, Fairfield

Betsy-Sue Clarke – 108 Sackville Street, Kew

Richard Bellemo – 4 Glan Avon Road, Hawthorn

Carolyn and Jobie Blackman – 272 Domain Road, South Yarra

Eckersley Garden Architecture – 21 Rochester Road, Canterbury

Andrew Murray and Julie Daniel – 15 Myrtle Grove, Blackburn

Mark Vanden Boom – 8 Trafalgar Street, Mont Albert

Eugene Gilligan – 14 Merriwee Crescent, Toorak

Tom Remfry – display garden at 4 Villa Mews, Vermont

 

 

Gardens open 12-13 November Mornington Peninsula

 

Eugene Gilligan – 24 Morell Street, Mornington

Ben McDonald – 187 Ocean Beach Road, Sorrento

Clive Abben – 33 Deakin Drive, Mount Martha, AND 7 Douglas Court, Rye

Steve Taylor – 14 Tallis Drive, Mornington

Eckerlsey Garden Architecture – 371 Musk Creek Road, Flinders

 

 

Gardens open 19-20 November 2016 – country Victoria

 

Paul Bangay – 267 Longwood Gobur Road, Creightons Creek

Roy Roberts – 8 Brewster Street, Woodend

David Musker – 125 Palmer Road, Jindivick

Deborah Hambleton – 33 Clowes Street, Malmsbury

Richard Bellemo – 357 Remembrance Drive, Cardigan

Kylie Rose Blake – 35 Pre-Emptive Road, Scarsdale

Robert Boyle – 142 Longwood Gobur Road, Longwood

Gail van Rooyen – 948 Top Road, Terip Terip

Eckersley Garden Architecture – 224 Longwood Mansfield Road, Creightons Creek

Christian Jenkins – 70 High Ridge Drive, Clifton Springs

Peter Shaw – 48 Harvey Street, Anglesea

Stephen Read – 221 Noble Street, Newtown

Lee Adams – 123 Neale Street, Flora Hill, AND 328 Nankervis Road, Mandurang

 

You can find all the details about each of the gardens and the designers, as well as more photos on the GardenDesignFest website

For those unfamiliar with Melbourne or who don’t want the worry of a long day’s drive there are Garden DesignFest guided bus tours to gardens on both weekends. The tour means you can fit in even more gardens and still have a relaxing day out. Our knowledgeable guides will provide background information on each of the gardens and its designer, and commentary and discussion about the gardens.

Garden DesignFest is organised and managed by Rotary volunteers and all of the funds received are donated to charity. Over the previous 6 DesignFest events we have raised almost $400,000 for charity. In 2016, we will be allocating proceeds to the three major charities: the Monash Children’s Hospital, Sporting Chance kids cancer foundation and also the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s research into Friedreich Ataxia.

Japanese and South Korean Spring Gardens and Culture Cruise

Japanese and South Korean Spring Gardens and Culture Cruise

 

Itinerary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The MS Caledonian Sky

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

 

Japanese Spring Blooms

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

 

Highlights

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

 

Included

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

 

Great Gardens of China: From Classical to Contemporary

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

 

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

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

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

 

AT A GLANCE…

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

 

ITINERARY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ASA Lecture Series – Melbourne

ASA Lecture Series – Melbourne

 

MELBOURNE LECTURE SERIES 2016

 

Venue: Theatre, Lauriston Girls’ School, 38 Huntingtower Road, Armadale 3143.

For all lectures, places are limited and people wishing to attend are advised to book well in advance. Each day offers 2 lectures, allowing time for a Q&A session at the conclusion of each lecture.

Bookings: Please book online, or contact ASA on: (03) 9822 6899, Freecall 1800 645755 (outside Melbourne Metro) or email: info@asatours.com.au

 

DAY 1: SATURDAY 9 JULY

Lecture 1 | 1.00 – 1.50pm

Ancient Kingdoms of Southern India – by Em. Prof Bernard Hoffert

Few buildings anywhere match the spectacle of the temple complexes of the South. Vast enclosures with narrow streets, directing the way to prayer, sadus offering blessings beneath giant gate-towers alive with carved and painted images, idols with throngs of worshippers winding through the temple maze to the sanctuary. South India has long been a bastion of Hinduism, triumphing over Buddhist and Jain teachings and expressing its gods and myths in vast temples covering as much as 150acres. But all faiths have left their legacy in temples and towns built by the great dynasties which supported them. South India records the history of faith and conquest in stone and art, across millenia and this is the story Ancient Kingdoms and Empires of Southern India tells.

Lecture 2 | 2.20 – 3.10pm

Art and Charity in Venice – by Em. Prof Bernard Hoffert

The great Scuole, or charitable institutions of Venice, provided care for the needy and ill, looked after the interests of different crafts and professions, found jobs for foreign workers and supported communities from abroad. Their contribution underpinned the great financial success of the Republic and allowed merchants and artisans, excluded from government since the 13th century, to contribute to the development and status of the city. In doing so they commissioned the great artists of the day to decorate and embellish their meeting halls and churches; Tintoretto, Bellini, Carpaccio, Tiepolo, Lazzarini, Mansueti and others all created masterpieces to express their influence and deeds. This lecture focuses on the contribution of the Scuole and their art with particular attention to the Scuola Grande de San Rocco and its masterpieces by Tintoretto.

 

DAY 2: SATURDAY 30 JULY

Lecture 1 | 1.00 – 1.50pm – by Dr Christopher Gribbon

– The Tale of Diocletian’s Palace, Split, Croatia –

The Roman Emperor Diocletian (ruled AD 284-305) brought the Empire back from the brink of collapse, introduced financial and administrative reforms and oversaw one of the largest persecutions of Christians. But after two decades in the top job, he’d had enough. So he built himself a retirement home fit for an emperor – an immense palace, at a beautiful spot on the Adriatic coast, with monumental architecture in the latest style.

Three hundred years later, most of the Roman Empire had fallen to invaders. Refugees from the “barbarians” sought shelter in what had been Diocletian’s palace. Within the palace buildings, they created a thriving new town, which became the important port of Split (now in Croatia) and was subsequently fought over by Byzantines, Venetians and Hungarians, among others.
Join Dr Christopher Gribbin as he explores this fascinating site, where much of Diocletian’s palace is still preserved, side-by-side with mediaeval homes, churches and palaces.

Lecture 2 | 2.20 – 3.10pm – by Em. Prof Frank Sear

– Mosaics of Norman Sicily –

After Palermo was conquered by Robert Guiscard and his brother Roger de Hauteville in 1072 it became a royal capital which flourished under successive Norman kings as a centre of enlightenment and toleration. Many of the most beautiful monuments of the city and its surroundings date from this period, when architectural and decorative elements from eastern and western cultures were adopted and combined. In particular glorious, glittering mosaics were used to adorn churches, chapels and royal apartments. This lecture will explore the extraordinary and rich mosaic decoration of Norman Sicily found at Monreale, Cefalu and in Palermo.

 

DAY 3 – SATURDAY 6 AUGUST

Lecture 1 | 1.00 – 1.50pm – by Iain Shearer

– Persepolis: Imperial power, colour, decoration and sculpture –

“All the World’s a stage, And all the men and women merely players…” William Shakespeare ‘As You Like it’ Act II Scene VII
An aphorism that Darius the Great instinctively understood 2000 years before Shakespeare wrote a truth that is today but a misunderstood newspaper cliche. After seizing the Achaemenid throne and largest land empire of the ancient world in 521 BC, under somewhat murky circumstances, the new King of Kings began construction of an imperial capital befitting the glory of the Chosen of Ahura Mazda. This lecture will examine the inherent theatricality of Darius’s palace-city of Persepolis – added to by all his successors until the site’s destruction in 329 BC at the hands of Alexander the Great. The glorious utilisation of sculpture, colour and luxury at Persepolis was designed to convey the Achaemenid’s own sense of themselves as saviours of the world and this lecture will bring some of their unseen splendour back to vivid life.

Lecture 2 | 2.20 – 3.10pm – by Dr Alex McKay

– Kyrgyzstan: The Silk Road between the Pamirs and the Tien Shan –

While Kyrgyzstan is one of the most mountainous countries on earth, its fertile valleys were an important part of the ancient Silk Road. The Fergana valley was especially renowned in early China for its “Heavenly Horses” and since gaining its independence from the USSR in 1991, Kyrgyzstan has become central Asia’s only democracy. Learn about the history, culture and natural beauty of this spectacular land.

 

DAY 4 – SATURDAY 13 AUGUST

Lecture 1 | 1.00 – 1.50pm

Gardens, Art & Fall Foliage in the USA – by John Patrick

This talk explores the blending of gardens with art that is such a characteristic element of garden design. Modernist designers in the years immediately after the Second World War contributed strongly to this tradition, none more so than the famed fabric designer Jack Lennor Larsen who in his garden in the Hamptons displays an ever changing and always exciting collection of sculpture. Past participants have been thrilled to see that Jack’s garden approach extends into his house where ceramics by leading twentieth century ceramicists including Lucie Rie and Hans Coper are part of the house’s remarkable decoration. Russell Wright’s Manitoga was revolutionary in its day and today shows a collection of his domestic wares. Outside the old quarry that his home is perched against is the setting for experimental contemporary art displays. Wright and Larsen may not be familiar names to all but the Rockefeller name brings immediate recognition. Nelson Rockefeller loved sculpture more than almost any other art. His collection transformed the garden at Kykuit acting as an exemplar for inclusion of sculpture in a garden setting.

Lecture 2 | 2.20 – 3.10pm

Drawing on Japanese influences in Garden Design – by Jim Fogarty

The earliest recorded Japanese gardens were created for recreation and aesthetic pleasure and are mentioned briefly in the first chronicle of Japanese history, published in 720 AD. However it is the more widely known gardens of Buddhist temples, designed for contemplation and meditation, that have captured the minds of gardeners the world over. In this presentation we will explore the core garden design principals of entrance & enclosure, the principals of Feng Shui & the Zen ideology of viewing a garden and the psychology of designing for flow and movement through a garden. Importantly we will explore the potential of how you can adapt these nuances into your own garden design.

 

DAY 5 – SATURDAY 20 AUGUST

Lecture 1 | 1.00 – 1.50pm

The Mysteries of Paris: An urban landscape of dream and desire – by Prof. Chris McAuliffe

While Paris is famed as the City of Light, many artists and writers have preferred to explore its darker corners. For romantics, surrealists and radical bohemians, Paris is a city of mysteries, dreams and uncanny experiences. In the mid-nineteenth century, the poet and critic Charles Baudelaire wrote of the flâneur, the urban drifter spying on the rough drama of street life. By the 1930s, surrealists wandered arcades and backstreets in the hope that chance encounters might reveal the le merveilleux quotidien — strange and marvellous irruptions of the unconscious in daily life. After World War II, this Freudian poetics of the streets was recast as ‘psychogeography’ by the Situationist movement. No longer merely an architectural or geographical space, Paris was mapped as a landscape of psychic intensities and navigated by playful, drifting bohemians. In all of this, artists and poets sought the secret life of Paris; its forgotten quarters, its nocturnal life, its irrational and unpredictable character. This lecture will explore Paris’ subconscious, guided by some of the city’s most challenging artists.

Lecture 2 | 2.20 – 3.10pm

An Englishman’s home is a Welsh castle – by Richard Heathcote

This talk explores the uses that castles served both for suppressing the Welsh and in dominating the landscape as the homes of various nobility through the ages. You will hear about Powys, Prince Charles’ favourite castle where he has his own bedroom, and Caernavon where he was crowned Prince of Wales. Penryn, on the other hand, was the home of the Kings of the slate industry who exported to the world and with proceeds built a modern castle for their home. Gwydir reveals its owner’s romantic restoration journey from a ruined heap to lovingly restored medieval castle.

 

DAY 6 – SATURDAY 27 AUGUST

Lecture 1 | 1.00 – 1.50pm

Bulgaria: Treasure house of the Balkans – by Iain Shearer

Bulgaria’s 20th century was both bleak and bloody and this has obscured a western understanding of the glorious culture that emanated from this centre of civilisation for 2 over millennia. One of the wealthiest of Roman provinces and a heartland of the later Byzantines, both Latin and Greek-speaking imperial powers absorbed the earlier culture of Thrace and Greek colonies that respectively occupied the mountainous interior and Black Sea coast. This lecture will link the early history of Bulgaria through the rise of Orthodox Christian medieval kingdoms, to the modern era, revealing a cornucopia of cultural treasures.

Lecture 2 | 2.20 – 3.10pm

Algeria and the M’zab Valley: Pearl of the Maghreb – by Iain Shearer

A hidden valley-sanctuary for a persecuted sect located in the deep Sahara of central Algeria, the M’Zab valley holds 5 fortress towns that until the beginning of the 20th century were entirely closed to outsiders: Islamic Algerians and French Christians alike. Today, the “Moazabites” are a dynamic minority community with a reputation for hard work and strict religious and social custom. This lecture will locate the history of the M’Zab people within the extraordinary mosaic of Algerian history: Numidian Berber kings and one of the wealthiest of all Roman provinces; home of Church Father St Augustine and a dynamic Christian past; Vandals and the end of Imperium; a great Byzantine stronghold of Justinian; jewel of Islamic dynasties, Ottomans, and Barbarossa the Corsair; to Colonial French rule, Albert Camus, and Independence.

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)

 

Best of the US West

Garden and landscape tour to Utah, Arizona and New Mexico, USA in 2017

 

The spectacular landscapes of south west USA are renowned – from Utah’s Zion and Bryce National Parks and Arizona’s Grand Canyon to the dramatic spring cactus flowering and hummingbirds of the Sonoran Desert.

Join Jennie Churchill on a wide‑ranging tour that takes us from these extraordinary national parks and wilderness areas to sophisticated private and botanic gardens, the Phoenix architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright to Walpi and the Taos Pueblo, two of America’s oldest continuously inhabited Native American villages. We finish in Santa Fe, New Mexico’s 1610 capital and a city famous for its exceptionally well‑preserved Pueblo adobe architecture, vibrant arts community and galleries, excellent museums and great food and wine.

From Phoenix to Santa Fe, this is a one‑off tour that celebrates nature on a vast scale, the designed environment, flora and fauna, contemporary and Native American culture and art, iconic architecture and history.

To book this exciting tour, download the booking form brochure.

Crookwell Garden Festival

Crookwell Garden Festival 2016

 

The 2016 Crookwell Garden Festival will be held over the weekend of Saturday, 5th and Sunday 6th of November, 2016.

At this time of year visitors can enjoy roses blooming as well as the beauty of flowering trees and cold-climate plants all set within the wonderful rolling green hills of the Upper Lachlan Shire in NSW, only 45km north-west of Goulburn and an hour from Canberra.

As with our highly successful inaugural Crookwell Garden Festival held last year, we will have a good variety of gardens open for viewing by visitors, both within the township of Crookwell and in the nearby countryside.

A popular feature of last year’s Festival was the Garden Lover’s Market, and we’ll be running it again on Saturday, 5th November at St. Bartholomew’s church hall and grounds in Denison Street, Crookwell.

As with the 2015 Crookwell Garden Festival, 25% of proceeds from the 2016 Festival will go towards a local charity.

Details of the gardens are available on the gardens page of our website: Crookwell Gardens Festival

Given the popularity of the 2015 Festival, we suggest intending visitors for 2016 book their accommodation well in advance. Visit the Upper Lachlan Shire website for your options: Visit Uppper Lachlan Shire

Paris and Normandy Gardens in Summer

Paris and Normandy Gardens in Summer 2016

 

AT-A-GLANCE ITINERARY

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

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

 

FULL ITINERARY

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Leura Gardens Festival 2017

Leura Gardens Festival

 

Think Spring … Think Leura

The 2017 Leura Gardens Festival will be held from Saturday 30 September – Sunday 8 October inclusive.

Gardens are open from 9.30 am – 4.30 pm daily.

The 2017 Leura Gardens Festival will feature 11 beautiful spring gardens for the price of $25 per person to visit all gardens, or $8 per individual garden. There are two new gardens to the festival, four are returning after a break including visitor favourites The Braes and Ewanrigg, and also on show are many wonderful old favourites which draw visitors back year after year.

The full list of gardens will be available on our website

There is a Festival bus available from Leura Station from 9.30 am until the close of gardens. This follows a set route and stops at all gardens throughout the day. On the two weekends of the Festival (30 September-1-2 October and 7-8 October) which are the busiest times, two buses will be running to ensure our visitors can comfortably access all gardens. These buses will be evenly spread to minimise time delays. The cost of an all day bus ticket is $5 per person during the week days of the Festival and $10 per person during the weekends.

Gardens are open from 9.30 am – 4.30 pm daily.

 

Autumn & The Art of the Japanese Garden

Autumn & The Art of the Japanese Garden

 

2017 Waitlisted – Now accepting bookings for 2018 tour

Itinerary

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

Day 1: Wednesday 8 November, Arrive Tokyo

Arrival transfer for those travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza
Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
Welcome Evening Meal
After our arrival at Narita Airport those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private to the Hotel New Otani Tokyo. This hotel stands within a beautiful traditional Japanese garden originally designed for the daimyo (feudal lord) Kato Kiyomasa Lord of Kumamoto in Kyustiu over four hundred years ago. This garden is well worth strolling through and will introduce you to many facets of the Japanese gardens we shall visit in the coming weeks.

After time to rest at the hotel, we shall embark on an afternoon program. We begin with a visit to the Japanese Imperial Palace Plaza, the home of the reigning emperor of Japan and his family. We will enter via the Nijubashi, where two picturesque bridges span the moat. The Higashi Gyoen, or East Garden, was opened to the public in 1968 and provides an attractive environment in which to stroll and relax.

We then visit a rare surviving 17th-century strolling garden, located in the west of the city. Koishikawa-korakuen was designed in part by Zhu Shun Shui, a Ming dynasty refugee from China, and the garden recreates both Japanese and Chinese landscapes. Here we will find waterfalls, ponds, stone lanterns, a small lake with gnarled pines and humped bridges.

Tonight we enjoy a welcome evening meal at our hotel. (Overnight Tokyo) D

Day 2: Thursday 9 November, Tokyo

Suntory Museum of Art
Happoen Garden
Welcome Lunch at Happoen Gardens Teahouse
Residence ‘R’ with Riccardo Tossani
The Suntory Museum of Art was founded in Tokyo’s Marunouchi district in 1961 as the cultural arm of a famous distillery. ‘Beauty in Everyday Life’ has been the theme of the Museum since its establishment when the then President of Suntory, Keizo Saji, developed what is now a 3,000-piece collection containing one National Treasure and 12 Important Cultural Properties among its priceless ceramics, folding screens, kimonos, lacquer ware, textiles and glasswork. Its aim is to relate old things to the new, present beauty over time, and to represent beauty without regard for cultural frontiers of countries and races.

To enhance this philosophy of fusing the ‘traditional’ with the ‘contemporary’, the Museum relocated in 2007 to its current Tokyo Mid-town location to be part of the art district known as Roppongi art triangle. Architect Kengo Kuma, whose aim was to create ‘a Japanese-style room in the city’, designed its new home using new technology and traditional Japanese design elements. The architect’s signature vertical lattice design covers the exterior, while the interior features a sliding 10-metre-high lattice that controls the flow of light. Natural materials like laminated paulownia wood for the interior lattice, washi for the atrium walls, and recycled whiskey barrel wood (a connection to the Suntory distillery) for the flooring create a feeling of warmth throughout the building.

Meaning ‘beautiful from any angle’, the Happoen garden lives up to its name. Following a farewell lunch at the garden’s delightful tea house, where ladies in kimono will serve you matcha (green tea) and okashi (variety of snacks), a stroll through the gardens will reveal 200 year old bonsai trees, a stone lantern said to have been carved 800 years ago, and a central pond.

Our final visit today is to a private Tokyo residence designed by architect Ricardo Tossani who will personally show us his work, explaining the concepts and influences. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

Day 3: Friday 10 November, Tokyo

Jiyu Gakuen School
Tokyo National Museum
Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple
We begin our day with a visit to the Jiyu Gakuen School. This is a beautifully preserved building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1921, one of 12 buildings the American designed during the two years he lived in Japan. Only three of Wright’s buildings survived the 20th century, and we shall be taken on a tour of this very special building.

Established in 1872, the Tokyo National Museum is the oldest and largest museum in Japan. The museum holds over 110,000 objects, which include more than 87 Japanese National Treasures and 610 Important Cultural Property holdings. The museum’s collections focus on ancient Japanese art and Asian art along the Silk Road but there is also a large collection of Greco-Buddhist art.

During our travels we will encounter many traditional and historic temples and explored the variety of gardens that play such an important role in the complex. Today we will have the opportunity to visit a contemporary temple – the Ekouin Nenbutsudo Temple. This is a newly built modern temple in the lively heart of Tokyo. Here we will see the skill by which the architects have utilised the precious space available, and how the traditional components of a temple complex have been reinterpreted in a contemporary structure. In place of a small stroll garden using moss or stone or sand, here bamboo is used to create a green space for contemplation in this busy metropolis. (Overnight Tokyo) B

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

Day 4: Sunday 11 November, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

Sankei-en Garden
Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
Today we depart Tokyo by coach and travel west to the iconic Mt Fuji, the largest volcano in Japan. This is Japan’s highest peak at 3776m. It last erupted in 1707 and forms a near perfect cone. Mount Fuji is arguably Japan’s most important landmark, which stands for the nation’s identity. It has been pictured countless times, not least in Katsushika Hokusai’s Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji (1826 – 1833).

On the way to Mount Fuji we visit the beautiful Sankei-en Garden, a spacious Japanese style garden in southern Yokohama, in which are set a number of historic buildings from across Japan. There is a pond, small rivers, a profusion of flowers and wonderful scrolling trails. The garden, built by Hara Sankei, was opened to the public in 1904. Among the historic buildings in the park are the elegant residence of a daimyo (feudal lord), several tea houses, and the main hall and three storied pagoda of Kyoto’s old Tomyoji Temple.

In Kawaguchiko we will visit the Itchiku Kubota Art Museum. When the artist Itchiku Kubota was young, he encountered an example of ‘Tsujigahana’ at the Tokyo National Museum. ‘Tsujigahana’ was a technique used in dying kimonos during the 15th and 16th century, an art that was later lost. Kubota-san revived the art and created a series of kimonos decorated with mountain landscapes in all four seasons and Mount Fuji. These kimonos are displayed in a breathtaking setting. The main building is a pyramid-shaped structure supported by 16 Hiba (cypress) wooden beams more than 1,000 years old. Other parts of the museum, displaying an antique glass bead collection, are constructed of Ryukyu limestone. The museum’s unique architecture is set against a lovely garden and red pine forest. Tonight we dine together at the hotel. (Overnight Kawaguchiko) BD

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Matsumoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kawaguchiko.

Matsumoto – 2 nights

Day 5: Sunday 12 November, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

Fifth Station of Mt Fuji
Nakamachi Street and Kurassic-kan
Matsumoto Rising Castle
We start our day with a visit to the Fifth Station (Kawaguchi-ko) at the Fuji Five Lakes, and from here we can enjoy a spectacular view of the snow-capped peak (weather permitting). A gentle stroll will allow us to identify some of the native flora of this region of Japan.

We then focus upon Matsumoto and its surrounds for the next two days. On arrival in the town, we walk through the historic Nakamachi-dori, a street lined with white-walled traditional inns, restaurants and antique shops. Here we visit the Nakamachi Kurassic-kan, an historic sake brewery with black-beamed interiors and traditional plaster-work outside. We cross the river to walk along the market street Nawate-dori before arriving at Matsumoto-jo, the imposing castle approached across a moat.

Matsumoto-jo was founded by the Ogasawara clan in 1504 but it was another lord, Ishikawa, who remodeled the fortress in 1593 and built the imposing black five-tier donjon that is now the oldest keep in Japan. From the top of the tower we enjoy spectacular views of the town and surrounding mountains. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

Day 6: Monday 13 November, Matsumoto – Kiso Valley – Matsumoto

Narai
Tsumago
Magome
Nagiso Town Museum
Today we drive out of Matsumoto and head to the Kiso Valley for a taste of how Japan looked prior to urbanisation. Developed by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu as one of the five main highways linking his capital Edo (Tokyo) with the rest of Japan, the valley contains eleven post towns and three of them, Narai, Tsumago and Magone, have been preserved as a virtual museum of the feudal past.

At Narai we see distinctive wooden buildings with window shutters and renji-goshi latticework. We shall visit the Kashira-ningyo where colourfully painted dolls and toys are still made. Nakamura House dates from the 1830s and was the home of a merchant who manufactured combs, one of the area’s specialties. You will have time to visit this and explore side streets where there are temples and shrines and the famous Kiso-no-Ohashi, an arched wooden bridge that crosses the Narai-gawa.

As we follow the valley we’ll enjoy features of the Nakasendo route, including Kiso Fukushima, the location of a major barrier, but today the gateway to the sacred mountain of Ontake.

Tsumago was a ghost town 30 years ago, with its traditional Edo-era houses on the point of collapse. Its restoration sparked the idea of cultural preservation in Japan. The pedestrian-only street is similar to that once encountered by lords and their samurai centuries ago. The highlight of Tsumago is Okuya Kyodokan, a folk museum inside a designated post inn, where the daimyo’s (feudal lord) retinue rested. On the opposite side of the street the Kyu-honjin is where the daimyo used to stay.

Our final village stop is Magome, which means ‘horse-basket’, because this is where travellers were forced to leave their horses before tackling the mountainous roads ahead.

Our final visit for the day is to the Nagiso Town Museum. Opened in 1995, the Museum has three divisions: Tsumago Post Town Honjin, a sub-honjin, and a history museum. (A honjin is a temporary residence for a lord or dignitary to stay in when traveling to and from the shogunate capital of Edo.) The present building of the subhonjin was built in 1878 utilising Japanese cypress throughout, a type of wood proscribed for ordinary construction during the Edo period (1600 –1868). The History Museum contains historical materials of Nagiso Town and history of the trust organisation dedicated to the preservation of historic towns, villages, and neighborhoods. From here we return to Matsumoto, where you can explore the city on your own and enjoy dinner at a traditional restaurant. (Overnight Matsumoto) B

Kanazawa – 1 night

Day 7: Tuesday 14 November, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts
Nomura Samurai Residence
Higashi-Chayamachi District
This morning we travel by coach to Nagano where we shall board the new Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa, considered one Japan’s best-preserved Edo-period cities. The Japanese visit Kanazawa in droves but perhaps because of its remote location and very cold winters few foreigners make the journey to experience its rich cultural legacies.

On arrival we visit the Prefectural Arts Museum & Craft Centre located at the edge of the gardens and designed to harmonise with its landscape. The museum was established to showcase the fine arts and crafts of Ishikawa, a Prefecture whose culture of fine arts and traditional crafts compares with that of Tokyo and Kyoto. Highlights of its collection include feudal daimyo utensils using the Kaga Makie technique and a huge range of Kutani porcelain collection from Ko-kutani (Old Kutani). The museum also exhibits works by numerous ‘living national treasures’ whose works relate in some way to Ishikawa Prefecture.

The feudal atmosphere of Kanazawa still lingers in the Nagamachi district where old houses of the Nagamachi Samurai line the streets that once belonged to Kaga Clan Samurais. The T-shaped and L-shaped alleys are distinct characteristics of the feudal town, and the mud doors and gates of the houses remain the same as they were 400 years ago. The houses with their samurai windows (bushimado) and mud walls under the yellow Kobaita wooden roofs, which were protected from snow by straw mats (komo), evoke a bygone era. We shall visit the Nomura Samurai Family Residence to develop fort a Samurai’s daily life was like during the feudal period. The garden inside the Nomura Residence has trees that are over 400 years old as well as various beautiful lanterns.

Across the Asano River is the district of Higashi-Chayamachi, Kanazawa’s most famous geisha district. Many of the tall wooden-latticed houses on the narrow streets are still used by geisha for high-class entertainment as they have done since 1820 when the area was established as a geisha quarter. You can take tea (without geisha) at Shima House for a chance to experience its refined and elegant atmosphere. Like Kyoto’s Gion, this district has been designated as one of Japan’s cultural assets. (Overnight Kanazawa) B

Note: Our luggage will be transported separately to our hotel in Kyoto. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Kanazawa.

Kyoto – 3 nights

Day 8: Wednesday 15 November, Kanazawa – Kyoto

Kanazawa Castle, Kanazawa
Kenrokuen Garden, Kanazawa
Gion District, Kyoto
Our first destination this morning is Kanazawa Castle, the seat of power of the local Maeda clan, hereditary feudal lords (daimyo) of the Kaga province from 1583. Burnt down on a number of occasions, only the superb Ishikawa Gate and the Sanjikken Nagaya samurai dwelling house survive from the original construction.

Kenrokuen Garden is Kanazawa’s prime attraction and one of the three most famous gardens in Japan, along with Korakuen (Okayama) and Kairakuen (Mito). Kenrokuen was once the outer garden of Kanazawa Castle and there has been a garden on the site since the late 1600s. The original garden, begun by the fifth Maeda lord, Tsunonori Maeda, was called Renchi tei but it was almost entirely burnt out in 1759. It was restored in the 1770s and in 1822 became known as Kenrokuen, a name that means, ‘the garden of six sublimities’ or, ‘a garden combining the six aspects of a perfect garden’. These six features were what the Chinese traditionally believed were necessary for the ideal garden – spaciousness and seclusion, artifice and antiquity, water-courses and panoramas: all these characteristics are to be found in the 25 acres of this beautiful garden.

We then transfer to the train station to take the train south the Kyoto. Kyoto was the capital of Japan from the late 8th century (circa 794 AD) until 1868, when the court was moved to Tokyo. It is home to 17 World Heritage Sites, 1600 Buddhist temples and 400 Shinto shrines, yet much of the city centre is modern. One of the finest of its contemporary buildings is its dramatic railway station.

We begin our exploration of Kyoto with a glimpse of a vanishing world – the district of Gion, home to geisha houses and traditional tea houses. Although the number of geishas has declined over the last century the area is still famous for the preservation of forms of traditional architecture and entertainment. To experience the traditional Gion, we stroll along Hanami-koji, a street lined by beautiful old buildings including tea houses where you may be able to glimpse a geisha apprentice. Contrary to popular belief Gion is not a red-light district, nor are geishas prostitutes. Geishas are young girls or women extensively trained as entertainers and skilled in a number of traditional Japanese arts such as classical music and dance as well as the performance of the exacting rituals of a Japanese tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 9: Thursday 16 November, Kyoto

Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
Daitoku-ji Buddhist Complex incl. the Ryogen-in (Dragon Peace Temple)
Kyoto is notable for its extraordinary diversity of Japanese gardens including many of the finest traditional temple gardens. Our first visit in Kyoto is to the Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-ji). During the 15th century the Chinese Sung Dynasty exercised an enormous influence in Japan as artists, poets and Zen priests were gathered together by Yoshimitsu, the third Ashikaga shogun (1358 – 1409). Yoshimitsu began construction of the Golden Pavilion just before he retired in 1394, handing power to his nine-year-old son so that he could move to his estate. Little of his work remains but we can sense the character of the garden in its pond, rockwork and extensive plantings.

The pavilion at Kinkaku-ji recalls Sung period architecture but it is a recreation, having been burned down in the 1950s. The present building is an exact replica except that where Yoshimitsu proposed only to gild the ceiling of the third storey with gold, now the whole building is gilded. Yoshimitsu positioned his palace on the edge of a lake. The ground floor was a reception room for guests and departure point for leisure boating, the first storey was for philosophical discussions and panoramic views of the lake while the upper floor acted as a refuge for Yoshimitsu and was used for tea ceremonies. The size of the gardens is increased visually by the water’s convoluted edge, the use of rocks and clipped trees and by visually ‘borrowing’ distant a view of Mt Kinugasa that creates a sense of gradation between foreground, middleground and deep distance.

After lunch we continue to Daitoku-ji, a large complex of Zen temples with prayer halls, religious structures and 23 sub-temples with some of the most exquisite gardens in Kyoto, some quite small, including raked gravel gardens and, in the Daisen-in, one of the most celebrated small rock gardens in Japan. The Japanese consider Daitoku-ji one of the most privileged places to study and it is associated with many of Japan’s most famous priests. Unlike many of the larger public Buddhist temples of earlier sects, the Rinzai sect monasteries were intimate, inward looking and remained isolated from the outside world.

The temple received imperial patronage and thus grew out from its centre in an organic way. A transition occurred as the complex expanded from a formal centre to semiformal and informal precincts. The central north-south walkway is most formal with wide paths to accommodate processions and ceremonies while to the side are sub-temples with gates. As you walk through one of these gates you immediately come upon a less formal world with narrow paths, turns and walkways.

The temple site contains a number of notable gardens including Daisen-in, Koto-in, Koho-an, Hogo and the most famed of Kyoto’s gardens, Ryogen-in – the Dragon Peace Temple. No other garden in the world is so simple, elegant and refined. The garden comprises 15 rocks in a sea of raked gravel surrounded by a compacted mud wall coated in oil that is in itself a national treasure. The garden dates from 1500 as part of a temple of the Renzai sect of Zen Buddhism. The temple burned but was reconstructed in its original form. The garden constitutes the supreme example of a dry garden where gravel and rock symbolise plant and water elements. Indeed, apart from the moss on the rocks, no other plants grow in it. The meaning of the garden remains unknown. It might symbolise islands in a sea, mountains seen through clouds or tigers and cubs crossing a river, but this doesn’t matter since this is a garden to encourage contemplation, the enclosing wall separating the visitor from the world outside, the verandah creating a horizontal boundary. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 10: Friday 17 November, Kyoto

Renge-ji Temple
Shisen-do Temple
Teppan-yaki lunch at the Beaux Sejours, Grand Prince Hotel
Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)
Today we will visit a number of Kyoto’s great gardens. Our first visit for the day is to Renge-ji, a diminutive garden that captures the essence of Japanese gardens with a central pond surrounded by plantings linking to the hillside beyond. Stones, bridge and plantings are all reflected on the water-surface, giving a sense of spaciousness.

Shisen-do is an intimate garden, of personal taste rather ostentatious public display. Its street walls mask the tranquillity and beauty to be found within. Raked sand, clipped azaleas and the tree covered hillsides of Higashiyama form the main components of this garden designed by Ishikawa Jozan (1583–1672). Clipped azaleas give way to natural vegetation beyond the garden boundary but it is the close harmony between the indoor spaces of the pavilion and the garden beyond that is most striking. The verandah offers a transition between its dark interior and the light-filled garden.

Following lunch at the teppan-yaki grill at the Grand Prince Hotel’s Beaux Sejours restaurant we visit Ginkaku-ji. Originally constructed as the retirement villa of the Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (1435–1490), the Ginkaku-ji (Silver Pavilion) became a Zen temple upon his death. The garden is complex, comprising two distinct sections, a pond area with a composition of rocks and plants, and a sand garden with a truncated cone – the Moon-Viewing Height – suggesting Mt Fuji, and a horizontal mound – the Sea of Silver Sand – named for its appearance by moonlight. An educational display at the garden contains good moss and weed moss to allow you to tell the difference. (Overnight Kyoto) BL

Nara – 1 night

Day 11: Saturday 18 November, Kyoto – Nara

Nara Park (Nara-koen) including the temples of Todai-ji and Kofuku-ji
Isuien Garden
Traditional Japanese bath (optional)
We leave Kyoto by coach for the ancient Japanese city of Nara, the national capital prior to Kyoto. During this period Buddhism became firmly established in Japan under the patronage of nobles who sponsored the buildings and works of art that we shall visit.

Our first destination is to the impressive Todai-ji, founded in 745 by Emperor Shomu. Although rebuilt following a fire in 1709 to two-thirds of its original size it neverheless remains the largest timber building in the world. Two seven-metre tall guardian gods flank the entrance, (known as the nandai-mon), to the great Buddha Hall, the Daibutsu-den, which houses the 15-metre tall bronze statue of the great Buddha. The original casting was completed in 752, when an Indian priest stood on a special platform and symbolically opened its eyes by painting on the Buddha’s eyes with a huge brush. This ceremony was performed before the then retired Emperor Shomu, his wife Komio and the reigning Empress Kogen, together with ambassadors from China, India and Persia. Your visit will be a truly amazing experience.

We then visit the wonderful Nara-koen complex. It contains a five-storey pagoda, part of the Kofuku-ji founded in 669, a fine collection of Buddhist statues in the kokuhokan (National Treasure Building) and a 15th-century hall to the north of the pagoda. The kokahokan is a treasure trove of early Buddhist statues and although it is not large, each piece has been carefully chosen as a masterpiece of its style and period.

Our final visit for the day is to the small Isuien garden, a traditional Japanese garden notable for its extensive use of moss and its exquisite tea pavilion. From here you might like to stroll through some of Nara’s historic streets or try a traditional Japanese bath (sento: public bath; onsen: hot spring bath). The traditional Japanese-style inn we are staying in tonight provides open-air communal baths using hot spring water and affords a wonderful view of Kofuku-ji Temple’s five-storey pagoda, which is illuminated at night. Tonight we dine in a traditional style at the Ryokan Asukasou on Japanese kaiseki dishes. (Overnight Nara) BD

Note: We will leave our main luggage at the hotel in Kyoto during our 1 night stay in Nara. An overnight bag will be needed for use in Nara

Kyoto – 3 nights

Day 12: Sunday 19 November, Nara – Kyoto

Treasures of the Nara National Museum
Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple
Horyu-ji Temple
Our first visit today is to the Nara National Museum noted for its collection of Buddhist art, including images, sculpture, and ceremonial articles.

Shin-Yakushi-ji Temple was built in the 19th year of the Tempyo era (747) by Empress Komyo as an offering of thanksgiving when Emperor Shomu recovered from an eye disease. It now constitutes a single hall enshrining a powerful image of Yakushi Nyorai, the Healing Buddha, surrounded by clay sculptures of 12 guardians called Juni Shinsho, the Yakushi Nyorai’s protective warriors. In Japanese sculpture and art, the warriors are almost always grouped in a protective circle around the Yakushi Nyorai; they are rarely depicted as single figures. Many say they represent the 12 vows of Yakushi; others believe the 12 were present when the historical Buddha introduced the ‘Healing Sutra’; others claim that they offer protection during the 12 daylight hours, or that they represent the 12 months and 12 cosmic directions, or the 12 animals of the 12-year Chinese zodiac.

The grounds of Horyu-ji Temple house the world’s oldest surviving wooden structures, dating from the Asuka Period (mid 6th – beginning of 8th c.AD). Throughout the 187,000-square-metre grounds are irreplaceable cultural treasures, bequeathed across the centuries and continuing to preserve the essence of eras spanning the entire journey through Japanese history since the 7th century. Horyu-ji contains over 2,300 important cultural and historical structures and articles, including nearly 190 that have been designated as National Treasures or important Cultural Properties. In 1993 Horyu-ji was selected by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage as a unique storehouse of world Buddhist culture. Following this visit we transfer by coach to Kyoto. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 13: Monday 20 November, Kyoto

Tenryu-ji Temple
Saiho-ji (or ‘Koke-dera’ – moss temple)
Nanzen-ji
Nishiki-koji Covered Market
We first visit the Tenryu-ji. It dates from the period of shogun Ashikaga Takauji (1339) who commissioned the priest Muso Kokushi, one of Japan’s best known garden designers who also designed the moss garden at Saiho-ji to create this garden. Kokushi’s work modified an estate of Emperor Gosaga from 1270. He changed its form to include an Heian-style pond garden with popular, contemporary Chinese aspects. These included most notably a group of seven vertical rocks near the rear shore of its pond. These contrast markedly with Japanese rock work that takes a more horizontal form. This is one of the earliest gardens to show shakkei, the incorporation of borrowed landscape into a garden’s design.

Saiho-ji Temple has the oldest major garden of the Muromachi Period. Originally designed to represent the Western Paradise (or Pure Land) of Amida Buddhism, this so-called ‘strolling garden’ is set in a dark forest and is designed for meditation. It was re-designed by a Zen Buddhist priest, Muso Soseki, who also designed the Tenryu-ji garden in Kyoto, when it passed to the Zen Buddhist sect. The chief feature of the garden is the ‘golden pond’ with pavilions scattered on its shore and connected by a path that allows controlled views of the garden. The pond is shaped like the Japanese character for ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. It is divided by islands connected by bridges. The mosses, which give the garden its alternative name (Koke-dera – ‘moss temple’) were established as an economy measure after the Meiji restoration (1868).

Nanzen-ji is one of the most famous Rinzai Zen temples in Japan. It was founded in 1291 by Emperor Kameyama, and was rebuilt several times after devastating fires. At the entrance to the complex one passes through the huge Imperial gate, built in 1628 by Todo Takatora, and into the complex with its series of sub-temples. We will see the hojo, or abbot’s quarters, which is notable for both it’s beautiful golden screen paintings and the tranquil sand and rock garden. We will also explore the sub-temple Konchi-in which was added to the complex in 1605.

In the late afternoon we shall walk through the traditional 17th-century Nishiki-koji covered market, which has for centuries been the focus of food shopping in the city. You may wish to try Japanese pickled vegetables or purchase teapots and teabowls from a traditional vendor. By contrast we will visit a Japanese electrical store where you will see Japanese consumerism at its height. Spread over five storeys, this extraordinary store offers every imaginable electrical item. We will end the day in the fashionable gallery and restaurant area. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 14: Tuesday 21 November, Kyoto

Heian Shrine
Tofuku-ji
Tea Ceremony at Kodai-ji Temple
We begin the day with a visit to one of the newest religious sites in Kyoto, the Heian Shrine, which boasts the largest torii (sacred gate) in Japan and lovely gardens. The shrine was built in 1896 to commemorate the city’s 1100th anniversary and to honour its founder, Emperor Kammu and also to celebrate the culture and architecture of the city’s Heian-past. It is constructed on the site of the original Heian Hall of State but is a smaller and somewhat imperfect recreation of this earlier building. Four gardens surround the main shrine buildings on the south, west, middle and east, covering an area of approximately 33,000 square metres. The gardens are designated as a national scenic spot representative of Meiji-era (1868–1912) garden design.

We then visit the superb Tofuku-ji Hojo, a garden designed in 1939 by Shigemori Mirei. This will be familiar to many who have read books on Japanese gardens for it combines 20th-century design with elements from Japanese tradition. Mirei implements subtle, restrained design themes such as chequer-boards of stone in moss to allow the natural form and colour of maples on the surrounding hills to make full impact.

We end our visit to Kyoto with a visit to the Kodai-ji Temple to experience a tea ceremony. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Matsue – 1 night

Day 15: Wednesday 22 November, Kyoto – Okayama – Matsue

Kourakuen Garden
Today we depart Kyoto and travel to Okayama where we will visit another of the country’s so-called ‘Three Great Gardens of Japan’, Kourakuen. This garden dates from the Edo period when the daimyo (feudal lord) Ikeda Tsunamasa ordered its construction in 1687. Completed in 1700, it has retained its overall appearance with only a few minor changes made over the centuries. The garden was used for entertaining guests, and also as a retreat for the diamyo.

In the afternoon we travel to Matsue where we shall enjoy a Farewell evening meal. (Overnight Matsue) BD

Day 16: Thursday 23 November, Depart Matsue

Adachi Museum of Art
Our last visit for the tour is the Adachi Museum of Art, located in the rural landscape of the Sinmane region. This is a contemporary art museum set within a large garden, considered by many to one of the most beautiful gardens in Japan. The museum was founded by Adachi Zenko who felt a strong resonance between the sublime sensibility of the Japanese-style garden and the paintings of Yokoyama Taikan whose work he collected. This is a contemplation garden which visitors observe from various carefully designed points within the museum. Each season reveals itself through different aspects of the garden, and during our visit we can expect the hills that form the backdrop to the vista before us to be a blaze of autumnal colour while vivid reds enliven the foliage of the garden.

After lunchtime at leisure we will transfer to Matsue Airport for our flights home.

Festival des Architectures Vives

Festival des Architectures Vives (the Lively Architecture)

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

The access is completely free and open to all.