Natural Landscapes & Gardens of Morocco

Tour Highlights

•This tour, led by John Patrick, horticulturalist, garden designer and former presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia is a feast of splendid gardens, great monuments and natural landscapes of Morocco.
•In Tangier, with the assistance of François Gilles, the UK’s most respected importer of Moroccan carpets, spend two days visiting a variety of private gardens and learn about the world of Moroccan interiors.
•While based in a charming dar in Taroudant for 5 days, view the work of French landscape designers Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart, exploring their garden projects designed for a dry climate.
•View the stunning garden of Umberto Pasti, a well-known Italian novelist and horticulturalist, whose garden is a ‘magical labyrinth of narrow paths, alleyways and walled enclosures’.
•Visit the gardens of the late Christopher Gibbs, a British antique dealer and collector who was also an influential figure in men’s fashion and interior design in 1960s London. His gorgeous cliff-side compound is set in 14 acres of plush gardens.
•Enjoy lunch at the private residence of interior designer Veere Grenney.
•In Marrakesh, visit Yves Saint Laurent Museum, Jardin Majorelle, the Jardin Secret, the palmeraie Jnane Tamsna, André Heller’s Anima, Beldi Country Club and take afternoon tea in the gardens of La Mamounia – one of the most famous hotels in the world.
•Explore the work of American landscape architect, Madison Cox, with a visit to Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé’s private gardens of the Villa Oasis and gardens of the Yves Saint Laurent Museum in Marrakesh.
•Wander through the UNESCO World Heritage-listed medinas of Fes and Tetouan.
•Delight all your senses in Marrakesh’s teeming, colourful souqs, with their textiles, jewellery, carpets, carved woodwork, acrobats, snake charmers, letter writers and fortune tellers.
•Journey across the pre-Sahara and through huge date palm plantations of verdant oasis river valleys.
•Encounter the rich urban architecture of Andalusian mosques and madrasas, and desert mud-brick qasbas and villages.
•Cross Morocco’s majestic Middle, High and Anti Atlas mountain ranges and past small Berber mountain villages.
•Eat fine local food in old palaces whilst listening to exquisite Andalusian music.
•Stay in charming riads in Fes and in Marrakesh – lovingly restored by local artisans and located in the medina.

22-day Cultural Garden Tour of Morocco

Overnight Rabat (1 night) • Tangier (3 nights) • Chefchaouen (1 night) • Fes (3 nights) • Merzouga (1 night) • Tineghir (1 night) • Ouarzazate (1 night) • Marrakesh (5 nights) • Taroudant (5 nights)

Overview

This 22-day cultural garden tour of Morocco is led by John Patrick, former presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and expert in Australian and Mediterranean gardens. The tour explores the dynamic relationship between Morocco’s unique and diverse environments and the country’s gardening traditions. It focuses on five key themes: the tradition of the Andalusian courtyard garden; the cultivation of date plantations and palmeraies in the desert and in the south around Marrakesh; the creation of ecologically sustainable desert gardens; the cultivation of gardens and plantations in high mountain locations, and the innovations of expatriates in garden design. We travel from the rich, well-watered coastal plain across the Atlas mountains to the arid pre-Sahara, and then south for our five-day program to study landscape design projects by Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart and the ecology of the Taroudant region. In the grand, medieval Imperial cities of Fes and Marrakesh we will be introduced not only to traditional ‘Andalusian’ courtyard gardens but also to the latest in garden design. In cosmopolitan Tangiers, Morocco’s equivalent of the Côte d’Azur, we explore the wonderful houses and gardens of international expatriates. Beyond the Atlas Mountains we encounter rich palm oases that follow rivers as they snake through the empty desert. These extraordinary ‘rivers of green’ are complemented by luscious vegetable gardens in small villages. Here we learn how precious water is shared amongst the village farmers. We stay in a desert house before crossing the High Atlas to Marrakesh, the red city of the south. Here we enjoy extraordinary gardens like that of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in which verdant plants contrast with vivid blue buildings. Further south we encounter powerful contrasts between lowland and mountain plantings, observing many of Morocco’s unique flora as well as imported and acclimatised specimens. We’ll also come to understand how traditional architecture relates to its garden armature, and how contemporary architects, gardeners and plantsmen have adapted traditional relationships to create new, fascinating environments. To complement this fascinating study of the relationship between diverse ecologies and garden design, we’ll learn about the unique history of Morocco, its artistic and architectural traditions. Fes is arguably the least changed medieval city in the world, with lovely 15th-century madrasas and funduks (caravanserai). In exploring Morocco’s vivid craft traditions, we’ll learn how traditional plant dyes are used in carpets, textiles, the colouring of leather and in painting. We’ll come to understand the vital influence of Iberia upon Morocco’s development and how the countries six great dynasties, the Idrissi, Almoravids, Almohads, Merinids, Sa’adi and Alawi have interacted with Mediterranean Europe. We’ll wander through souqs selling all manner of wares from fine copper to carved wood, textiles, ceramics and Morocco’s ubiquitous carpets and also have ample opportunities to sample Morocco’s fine cuisine in a number of carefully selected restaurants.

Preliminary Itinerary – Garden visits to be confirmed later in 2020

Rabat – 1 night

Day 1: Tuesday 14 April, Arrive Casablanca – Rabat
•Arrival transfer from Casablanca to Rabat
•Welcome Dinner at the Hotel

Our tour commences in Rabat. Upon arrival in Casablanca, participants taking ASA’s ‘designated’ flight will drive by private coach to our hotel in Rabat, the capital of Morocco. Those taking alternative flights should meet the group at Casablanca airport or at the Riad Kalaa and Riad Kalaa 2. Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at the hotel. (Overnight Rabat) D

Tangier – 3 nights

Day 2: Wednesday 15 April, Rabat – Tangier
•Royal Palace (exterior)
•Hassan Tower
•Marinid Necropolis of Chellah
•Welcome Drinks at the residence of Elena Prentice with interior designer François Gilles, Tangier

Rabat is situated on the southern bank of the Bu Regreg River, across from the town of Salé. A Roman town existed in the vicinity but modern Rabat is a Muslim foundation. The name ‘Rabat’ comes from the Arabic word ribat, which means a fort on the Islamic frontier, usually manned by Muslims as a religious duty. Such a fort existed on the site of modern Rabat by the 10th century. Rabat’s earliest monuments built after the Romans, however, date from the Almohad period (1147-1248). The Almohads expanded the settlement by building a qasba (kasbah), or fortress, during the reign of ‘Abd al-Mu’min, the second leader of the Almohad movement. ‘Abd al-Mu’min’s grandson, Ya’qub al-Mansur, transformed Rabat into his capital by constructing a six-kilometre defensive wall around the town, and initiating the construction of the huge Hassan Mosque.

We begin today with a visit to the Hassan Mosque and view the exterior of the Royal Palace. The official residence of King Hassan II of Morocco, this sumptuous building is constructed upon the ruins of an 18th-century palace. It is surrounded by vast lawns with various trees and brilliantly coloured flower beds.

All that remains of the Hassan Mosque is a series of huge columns from its hypostyle prayer hall and the huge Hassan Tower, originally the mosque’s minaret. The vast size of the Hassan Mosque gives a measure of the ambition of its founder, the Almohad Caliph Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur; when he died, the mosque, which would have been the largest in the world, was never completed. The minaret (1195-1196), stands to the north of the mosque’s forecourt on an axis with its mihrab in order to emphasise the mosque’s orientation. It was meant to be one of the highest minarets in the world, although its upper section was never built. The Hassan Tower, with the beautiful decorative screen-work on its upper façade, provided the model for the Giralda of Seville and the minaret of the Kutubiyya Mosque in Marrakesh. The mausoleum of Muhammad V, an example of modern Moroccan architecture, is located at the south end of the Hassan Mosque site.

We then visit the Chellah, a medieval fortified necropolis built on the ruins of the Roman town. Inside are beautifully landscaped gardens with hundreds of flowers that come into bloom during springtime. The result is an amazing variety of scents. We may also view Roman ruins and the remains of a small mosque and madrasa.

Following lunch at a local seafood restaurant we drive from Rabat to Tangier where we shall spend the next three nights at the Hotel El Minzah. Built in the 1930s, this beautiful hotel is decorated in the traditional Moorish style and is surrounded by ample gardens.

Tangier is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in Morocco. Founded by the Phoenicians (c.1100 BC) it was subsequently incorporated into the Roman Empire as Tingis, capital of the province of Mauretania Tingitania. With Rome’s decline (4th century AD) it became the only surviving Roman town of any consequence in Morocco. Temporarily lost during the Vandal invasions, Tingis was recaptured by the Byzantines in the 6th century.

In the late 7th century, Tingis was captured by Muslim armies and transformed into the garrison and port of Tangier. It served as a stepping-stone for Muslim attacks on the Iberian peninsula (Spain & Portugal). When the Castilians and Portuguese eventually reconquered Iberia and began attacking north Africa, Tangier became a regular victim of Portuguese raids and was finally captured late in the 15th century. The Portuguese monarchy ceded it to Britain in the 17th century as part of the dowry of Catharine of Braganza, wife of Charles II. But the expense of retaining Tangier against constant Muslim attacks persuaded the British to withdraw in 1684 and Tangier again became a Muslim city. Morocco’s ‘Alawi dynasty added new defences and a qasba and Tangier became a small port trading with Cadiz and other Spanish ports. In the 19th century, Tangier became the ‘City of the Consuls’, the residence of European diplomats and it became an ‘international zone’ in the early 20th century during the French Protectorate. Tangier gained a shady reputation for espionage, prostitution and drug-smuggling. Since Independence in 1956 the city has been gradually re-integrated into the Moroccan cultural mainstream, although it still has a large expatriate community, especially of writers, artists and gardeners.

This evening we enjoy welcome drinks with François Gilles. François is a London-based interior designer who has been sourcing Moroccan textiles for over 30 years. American expatriate Elena Prentice is kindly opening her house and garden overlooking the Strait of Gibraltar to host the welcome event. Elena Prentice is a painter and has exhibited extensively in museums and important collections worldwide, and has taught at The National Academy of Design in New York. She also ran the American Legation Museum, in Tangier, which we visit tomorrow. We return to the Hotel El Minzah for our evening meal. (Overnight Tangier) BLD

Day 3: Thursday 16 April, Tangier
•Cape Malabata
•American Legation
•Palace Moulay Hafid, Mersha
•Lunch at the Hôtel Nord-Pinus
•Dar Al Makhzan Museum
•Jalobey, private garden of Mounira el Alami (to be confirmed in 2020)

When, in 1923, Tangier was declared an international zone the city began to attract artists, poets, and philosophers, much as the Côte d’Azur did on the other side of the Mediterranean. Henri Matisse, William S. Burroughs, Jean Genet, Paul and Jane Bowles, Tennessee Williams, Patricia Highsmith and Allen Ginsberg were all inspired by Tangier. Foreign residents, many of them artists, today own some of its most stylish homes. Foreign residents include the American painter Elena Prentice, the Italian interior designer Roberto Peregalli and the American garden designer Madison Cox. “It is alarming,” Truman Capote wrote, “the number of travellers who have landed here on a brief holiday, then settled down and let the years go by”.

In the company of François Gilles, we begin the day at Cape Malabata, located 6 miles east of Tangier, for a morning view (with the sun behind us) of the Strait of Gibraltar.

Returning to the heart of Tangier, we take a short tour through the old town where traces of Tangier’s intimate relations with Europe abound. Many consular buildings, such as the American Legation, dot its narrow streets and its architectural styles bear witness to ongoing northern Mediterranean influence.

The American legation is an elaborate Moorish-style building of stuccoed masonry. This complex structure contains the two storey mud and stone building presented to the United States in 1821 by Sultan Moulay Suliman. The first property acquired abroad by the United States government, it housed the United States Legation and Consulate for 140 years, the longest period any building abroad has been occupied as a United States diplomatic post.

Today it is the Tangier American Institute for Moroccan Studies, a museum and cultural centre for the study of Morocco and Morocco-United States relations. The museum holds an impressive display of paintings that give a view of the Tangerine past through the eyes of its artists, most notably Scotsman James McBey, whose hypnotic painting of his servant girl, Zohra, has been called the Moroccan Mona Lisa. There is also a wing dedicated to the expatriate writer and composer Paul Bowles.

We then visit the renovated Palace Moulay Hafid, considered the most beautiful historical monument in Tangier. Also known as the ‘Palace of Italian institutions’, Moulay Hafid’s palace is today admired for its beautiful garden with old trees, its large patio with a gorgeous marble fountain and stucco salons.

This palace was built in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries by Sultan Moulay Hafid. He wanted his palace to be a masterpiece of Moorish architecture also known for its beautiful gardens. The namesake of the palace, the sultan, never lived in his grand palace as he was forced into exile in France upon signing the treaty of Fez on 30 March 1912. This treaty would see Morocco become a French protectorate, and Moulay Hafid’s abdication and forced exile to France. The sultan did however demand the completion of this palace as a condition of his signing the deed of protectorate and construction was completed in late 1912.

Following lunch at Hôtel Nord-Pinus, a renovated pasha’s palace overlooking Tangier’s old port, we visit the Dar Al Makhzan Museum of Moroccan Arts located in the ‘Alawi governor’s residence and its Andalusian garden. Then we visit the garden of Jalobey with its current owner Mounira el Alami. In the early 30ths, artists Marguerite et James McBey bought a house and a large dilapidated garden on the Old Mountain Road overlooking Tangier and the Straits of Gibraltar. They restored the house and the garden and renamed it “Jalobey” from an amalgam of their own names. (Overnight Tangier) BL

Day 4: Friday 17 April, Tangier
•Cape Spartel Lighthouse
•Private gardens of Umberto Pasti
•Private gardens of the late Christopher Gibbs
•Lunch at the private residence of Veere Greeney
•Afternoon tea at the private residence of Daniel Aron

We spend another day with François Gilles visiting private gardens in the lush hills of the area known as la Montagne. It is here that foreign home owners such as Madison Cox tend their magnificent gardens; Tangier is a landscaper’s paradise because just about any plant will thrive.

We begin with a short drive to Cape Spartel, which lies 14 kilometres west of Tangier. This is the northwestern extremity of Africa’s Atlantic Coast. A dramatic drive takes us through la Montagne and over the pine-covered headland to the Cape Spartel Lighthouse.

In the Nouvelle-Montagne we visit the stunning residence and garden of Umberto Pasti, a well-known Italian novelist and horticulturalist. Pasti’s garden is a magical labyrinth of narrow paths, alleyways and walled enclosures. Plants of eucalyptus, palms and bitter orange trees provide peaceful shade from the burning rays of the Moroccan sun. Lush vegetation, fountains and frog song are the only sign of life in this world of tranquility.

Nearby, in the Vieille-Montagne (‘old mountain’), we visit the private gardens of the late Christopher Gibbs, a British antique dealer and collector who was also an influential figure in men’s fashion and interior design in 1960s London. His gorgeous cliff-side compound, which is set in 14 acres of plush gardens, includes a century-old water garden. Garden designer Sabrina Hahn describes the garden as: “A lovely free flowing garden with lots of greenery, palms, murraya and iceberg roses hedging and spring flowering perennials. Pots are filled with geranium Maderense, hollyhocks and gaura.”

Across the road, lunch will be served at the private residence of Veere Greeney, a New Zealand born interior designer, whose garden provides a unique view of Gibraltar. In this garden, long paved avenues are edged with very old transplanted olive trees. Hardy perennials like sage, helichrysum, perennial salvias euphorbia and large urns are filled with geraniums and annuals.

We finish the day with a visit to the garden of award-winning French photographer Daniel Aron, known for his visuals of the Hermes brand and work for Harper’s Bazaar (USA), Vogue France, House and Garden (USA) and Elle (France). (Overnight Tangier) BL

Chefchaouen – 1 night

Day 5: Saturday 18 April, Tangier – Tetouan – Chefchaouen
•Medina of Tetouan
•The Royal Artisan School, Tetouan (Dar Sanaa)
•Old Town of Chefchaouen

Today we travel along the picturesque mountain road from Tangier to Chefchaouen, a small town nestling in a deep, narrow valley at the western end of the Rif mountains, where we spend the night.

We break our journey in the city of Tetouan, situated on the slopes of the fertile Martil Valley. Tetouan, from the Berber word tit’ta’ouin means ‘springs’, which explains the greenery of the town, its many fountains, its flowering gardens and its surrounding fertile plains. The city was of particular importance from the 8th century onwards as it served as the main point of contact between Morocco and Andalusia. After the Spanish Reconquest, the town was rebuilt by Andalusian refugees who had been expelled by Isabella and Ferdinand (1492). This is reflected in its art and architecture, which reveal clear Andalusian influences.

Tetouan’s ancient walled medina is a UNESCO World Heritage site whose houses reflect a rich aristocratic tradition. Their tiled lintels, wrought-iron balconies, courtyard gardens and extravagant interiors have a lot in common with the old Muslim quarters of Córdoba or Seville. Despite subsequent conquests, the medina has remained largely intact and one of the most complete in Morocco. Inside the medina proper are most of Tetouan’s food and crafts souqs, including the Souk el-Hots where Berber rugs and foutas (woven cotton cloth) are sold. Throughout Morocco we will find carpets, textiles and leather that are dyed with natural pigments that are derived from indigenous plants. Deftly woven carpets, expertly crafted leatherwork, intricately carved woodwork, superbly tooled metal work, colourful tiles and exquisite ceramics are all to be found in Tetouan. We visit Dar Sanaa, the Royal Artisan School where local children are apprenticed to masters for 4 years of intense training in traditional artisan work (this school is typically closed on weekends, but we can still visit its workshops).

‘Chefchaouen’ is a Berber name, meaning ‘two horns’, which refers to two rocky peaks that dominate the town. The town was founded in the 15th century by a descendant of the Prophet, called Mawlay ‘Ali ibn Rashid, and refugees from Spain who sought to create a mountain stronghold where they would be safe at last from the Christians. Around 1760 Sultan Mohammed Ben Abdallah (Mohammed III) ordered the Jewish families to move into the medina, their mellah (walled Jewish quarter of a city) taking in the area that today encompasses the southern quarter between the qasba and Bab el Aïn. Until this century, Chefchaouen was completely closed to Europeans, who risked their lives if they tried to enter its gates.

The Hispanic origin of Chefchaouen’s inhabitants is clearly evident in the architecture of this little town which has much in common with villages of southern Spain. Small, whitewashed ochre houses with balconies, windows covered by ornate metal grilles, tiled roofs and Andalusian-style courtyards, pile up upon one another. Chefchaouen’s famous shades of blue arose when the Jews added indigo into the whitewash to contrast the mellah against the traditional green of Islam. The town’s stone-built Friday mosque resembles rural Spanish churches. The focus of town life is the central plaza where the inhabitants promenade in the balmy dusk air. In the early evening there will be an optional walk to explore the old town of Chefchaouen. (Overnight Chefchaouen) BLD

Fes – 4 nights

Day 6: Sunday 19 April, Chefchaouen – Volubilis – Fes
•Roman Site of Volubilis

Today we travel south from Chefchaouen to Fes via Volubilis. The Roman city of Volubilis was built in the 1st century BC on the site of earlier Prehistoric and Phoenician settlements when Morocco and Algeria were incorporated into the Roman Empire as the client kingdom of Mauretania. The kingdom was ruled by Juba II, the Roman-educated son of its vanquished Berber ruler. Juba II was a classmate of both Octavian and Cleopatra Selene, daughter of Antony and Cleopatra. When Octavian became Augustus, he married Juba II to Cleopatra Selene, and made them client rulers of Mauretania. They founded two capitals: Caesarea in Eastern Algeria and Volubilis in Morocco. The wealth of Volubilis was based on local production of grain, olive oil and copper which were exported to the rest of the empire.

In 40 AD Caligula had Juba’s son, Ptolemy, assassinated. Mauretania went into revolt only to be formally annexed to Rome and made into the directly-governed province of Mauretania Tingitania. The wealth of Volubulis’ agricultural hinterland ensured its ongoing importance to the Romans. Despite the shrinking Roman presence in Morocco from the 3rd century onwards, Volubilis probably remained partly Romanised until the 7th century.

We visit the ruins of Volubilis, which is set in broad wheat bearing plains as it was in the Roman period. Its monuments include the well-preserved Basilica and Arch of Caracalla and there is a fine collection of very important Roman mosaic floors. We also explore the House of Orpheus, the Baths of Gallienus, the Forum, the Temple of Saturn and a number of houses. From Volubilis we travel southeast into the fertile Sais plain to the city of Fes, where we shall spend the next few nights. (Overnight Fes) BLD

Introduction to Fes

Fes is the oldest of Morocco’s imperial cities and is still its historic religious and cultural centre. Fes is actually composed of three discrete entities: Fes al-Bali (old Fes), wedged into the narrow valley of the Wad Fes (River Fes); Fes al-Jadid (New Fes), originally a royal complex; and the Ville Nouvelle (New Town), the modern French-built section of the city.

Fes al-Bali, was founded by Idris I around 799. His son, Idris II made Fes his capital in 809 and its population was swelled by immigrants from other Arabo-Islamic lands. Fes soon became an important centre for religious scholarship, commerce and artisanship. Fes benefited from its position at the juncture of land trade routes to and from al-Andalus (Islamic Spain), sub-Saharan Africa and the Islamic east.

The 11th-12th century Almoravid dynasty conquered North Morocco and incorporated Muslim Spain into its empire. Although the Almoravids founded Marrakesh as their capital in 1070, they also built mosques, baths, funduqs (multi-storey lodging houses for merchants and their wares), and fountains in Fes. Many Hispano-Muslim artisans moved to Fes to work on Almoravid buildings, which were renowned for their stuccowork decoration.

After 1154 the Almohads gave the city new walls which still define the limits of Fes al-Bali to the present day. The Qarawiyyin Mosque could now hold approximately 20,000 worshippers. The Qarawiyyin is quite different to Hispano-Muslim mosques and medieval European cathedral architecture for despite its vast size it hides within the narrow streets of the city and has no defined exterior or monumental façade.

In the 1240s the Marinid dynasty replaced the Almohads and fought against the Christians in Spain. Moroccan rulers henceforth dedicated themselves to holy war (jihad) against the aggressive Christians. Much of Fes’ exquisite architecture dates from the Marinid period (13th-15th century). They amalgamated Moroccan and Hispanic elements in a style subsequently known as ‘Andalusian’, which remains dominant in Fes and other Moroccan cities to this day. The Marinids built the royal complex of Fes al-Jadid which included palaces, mosques and residential quarters for the sultan’s troops. They commissioned a series of palaces and funduqs in Fes al-Bali and introduced the ‘madrasa’ or theological college to Morocco, constructing a series of wonderful madrasas in Fes. These madrasas have a central courtyard, a prayer hall, and several storeys of student rooms wrapped around the courtyard and prayer hall. They are all decorated in the distinctive registers of carved cedarwood, stuccowork, and mosaic tile, a hallmark of the Moroccan Andalusian style. The Marinids also created the shrine of Idris II.

In the 15th century Morocco broke up into small principalities ruled by strong men able to resist Spanish and Portuguese aggression. Fes’ cultural and commercial life was nevertheless enriched by Jewish and Hispano-Muslim migrants fleeing Spain. Fes consequently maintained its religious and cultural importance despite the 16th-century Sa’di dynasty’s choice of Marrakesh as their capital. The ‘Alawi sultans also recognised the importance of Fes and added palaces, fortifications and the Jewish quarter (mellah).

Day 7: Monday 20 April, Fes
•Burj al-Janub
•Al-Andalus Mosque
•Sahrij Madrasa
•The Dyers’ Street
•The Tanneries
•Souqs of Fes
•Museum Dar Batha
•Lunch at Le Jardin des Biehn
•Dinner at La Maison Bleue

We start today with a visit to the Burj al-Janub, or South Tower, which gives a panoramic view of Fes from the alternate side to the North Tower. We then explore Fes al-Bali visiting the al-Andalus quarter; Marinid madrasas in the city; areas of artisanal production and the souqs, or markets.

In Fes al-Bali we visit the Dar Batha Museum, a collection of antique Moroccan woodwork, marblework and other craftwork housed in a converted ‘Alawi palace. This museum contains the original carved wood doors of some of Fes’ madrasas and a marble doorway from the Sa’di palace in Marrakesh, along with many other artefacts which demonstrate Moroccan adaptation of Hispano-Muslim styles. The palace’s garden shaded with citrus trees and perfumed with orange blossom, red roses and sweet-scented jasmine, provided a serene escape from the bustling medina. Its layout is based on the principles of charbagh – a Persian-style garden where the quadrilateral layout is divided by walkways or flowing water that intersect at the garden’s centre. In Persian, char means ‘four’ and bagh means ‘garden’. This highly structured geometrical scheme, became a powerful metaphor for the organisation and domestication of the landscape, itself a symbol of political territory. The gardens were restored by landscape architect, Carey Duncan in 2005. Duncan worked with Cotecno and Architect Raffael Gorjux from Italy recreating the Andalusian Garden while keeping existing large trees, but replanting the undergrowth which was either bare or overtaken by weeds, and revitalising the existing planting.

The al-Andalus quarter lies on the eastern side of the Wad Fes, and has its own great mosque with a dramatic monumental gateway with a horseshoe arch. One of the most beautiful Marinid madrasas in Morocco, the Sahrij Madrasa, is located close by. The small, perfectly proportioned courtyard of the madrasa is tiled with turquoise-tinted tiles whose colour is picked up and reflected by the large central pool. This intimate space is enclosed by carved wood screens.

From the Sahrij we descend to the river and cross to the Qarawiyyin quarter of the city to see the street of the dyers and the tanneries. Every morning, when the tanneries are at their most active, cascades of water pour through holes that were once the windows of houses. Here, hundreds of skins lie spread out on the rooftops to dry, while amid the vats of dye and pigeon dung tanners treat the hides. The rotation of colours in the honeycombed vats follows a traditional sequence – yellow (supposedly ‘saffron’, in fact turmeric), red (poppy), blue (indigo), green (mint) and black (antimony) – although vegetable dyes have largely been replaced by chemicals, to the detriment of workers’ health. This ‘innovation’ and the occasional rinsing machine aside, there can have been little change here since the sixteenth century, when Fes replaced Córdoba as the pre-eminent city of leather production.

During the day we break for lunch at Le Jardin des Biehn, a large Andalusian garden in the middle of the medina, scented by Isfahan roses, jasmine, orange blossom and bergamot. The gardens, surrounded by a former 20th-century summer palace, were redeveloped by Michel Biehn. Its quadrants are divided by mosaic paths, with tingling streams and fountains, and include flowers, aromatic herbs, fruits and vegetables.

Dinner tonight will be at La Maison Bleue restaurant, a traditional Moroccan residence built in 1915 by Sidi Mohammed El Abbadi, a judge and astronomer. (Overnight Fes) BLD

Day 8: Tuesday 21 April, Fes
•Palace and Andalusian Gardens of Fes, including the Jnane Sbil Garden (Bou Jeloud Garden)
•Lunch at Restaurant NUR
•Bu ‘Inaniyya Madrasa
•Qarawiyyin Mosque (exterior)
•Shrine of Mawlay Idris II (exterior)
•‘Attarin Madrasa
•Fondouk el-Nejjarine

Fes was one of the first cities in the world to build a water distribution network which enabled it to develop the art of gardening. This morning we return to Fes’ medina for a walking tour which explores the city’s palaces and Andalusian gardens.

The 19th-century Jnane Sbil Park (formerly Bou Jeloud Gardens), covering an area of 7.5 hectares, underwent 4 years of extensive renovations and was reopened in 2012. Renovations works included the rehabilitation of its old and ingenious hydraulic systems (including fountains, seguias, channels and norias), restoration of the central boulevard and bamboo garden, as well as the creation of the Garden of Scents. The Oued Fes (Fes river) and the Oued Jawahir (river of pearls) flowed through the garden; a water wheel remains as a reminder of how the medieval city provided power to its craftsmen and their workshops.

From Jnane Sbil Gardens we proceed through the vividly decorated Bab Bou Jeloud Gate to Fes al-Bali, unique in its maintenance of an urban plan dating to the ninth century. The narrowness of its steep, winding streets means that motor vehicles may not enter and donkeys, mules and handcarts still transport food and merchandise around the city. Many of the religious, domestic and commercial structures lining the streets date to the fourteenth century, providing a unique insight into the physical experience of living in a medieval city.

Midday we dine at Restaurant NUR which operates as a venue for an intriguing new visiting-chef-in-residence project. Each visiting chef is invited to create a daily menu based on seasonal produce sourced from Fes’s central market or nearby farms. The restaurant is owned by Stephen di Renza, a former fashion director for Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman, who divides his time between Fes and Marrakesh where he is the creative director for the Jardin Majorelle.

Following lunch we visit the 14th-century Bu ‘Inaniyya Madrasa and the ‘Attarin Madrasa, built around 1325. The ‘Attarin is a relatively small and intimate madrasa decorated with rich tile work. Both madrasas served as residences for students at the great mosques of Fes rather than as teaching centres.

We also visit the Qarawiyyin Mosque and the shrine of Mawlay Idris II. The two buildings form the sacred core of the city, and the prestigious markets for perfumes, spices and silk garments are located nearby adding pungency and fragrance to the air. Although non-Muslims may not enter these buildings, we can view their interiors through their gateways.

Finally we visit the Fondouk el-Nejjarine, home to the Museum of Wooden Arts and Crafts which showcases the skill of woodcarvers and artists both in the embellishments of the building and the intricately decorated items on display. Various types of timber are used in Moroccan woodcarving, including oak, mahogany, acacia and cedar, with the latter being one of the most popular, most likely due to its availability in Morocco, particularly in the Middle Atlas regions, but also because of its durability, warm shades of color and its texture which is particularly suited to carving. Declared a national monument in 1916, the funduq was originally built in the 18th century as a caravanserai (roadside inn) where travellers could rest before continuing their, sometimes arduous, journey. These buildings, which are found throughout Morocco, were typically built in a square or rectangular shape around an inner courtyard, usually with a fountain in the middle creating an oasis from the Moroccan heat. (Overnight Fes) BL

Merzouga – 1 night

Day 9: Wednesday 22 April, Fes – Ifrane – Midelt – Merzouga
•Ifrane
•Midelt

Today we travel from Fes to Merzouga, on the edge of the Sahara, through the Middle Atlas mountains. We shall pass through Ifrane, a small mountain town built by the French to escape the summer heat of the plains. The town is famous for its luscious gardens. Just outside Ifrane we drive through huge cedar forests, second only to those of Lebanon. These forests provided the wood to be carved into the magnificent decoration of Moroccan monuments. From Ifrane we will drive to Midelt through some of Morocco’s most magnificent scenery in which broad high plains are framed everywhere by snow-capped mountains.

Midelt, where we eat lunch, marks the start of one of the main routes through the eastern High Atlas mountains to the Sahara. This route was carved through the mountains by the Wad Ziz, a river which snakes south alongside the road. As we drive south the cedars and oaks of the north gradually give way to barren rock, clusters of date palms marking water sources, and finally the sand of the desert. We emerge from the mountains into the fertile Ziz Valley down which vast numbers of date palms stretch to the horizon like brilliant green rivers; dates are a Moroccan staple and one of the country’s major exports, (Overnight Merzouga) BLD

Tineghir – 1 night

Day 10: Thursday 23 April, Merzouga – Rissani – Erfoud – Tineghir
•Dawn Camel Excursion (Optional)
•Tomb of Mawlay ‘Ali al-Sharif, Rissani
•Rissani Market
•Moroccan khettara

After an optional dawn excursion to the sand dunes of Merzouga to watch the sunrise, we depart for Rissani, the capital of the province of Tafilalt and ancestral home of the ‘Alawi dynasty. Rissani lies alongside the ruins of the early Islamic town of Sijilmassa which controlled Moroccan trade with sub-Saharan Africa from the early 8th century until the 14th century. Sijilmassa’s vast ruins reflect the wealth of this medieval city, but by the 16th century it was no more than one of a number of fortified mud-brick villages (qsars). These mud-brick villages are composed of many small houses wedged together whose outer walls form a continuous outer rampart through which a single ornate portal provides access to the village. The modern town of Rissani, constructed this century, itself grew out of the largest set of local qsars.

The ‘Alawi dynasty’s founder Mawlay ‘Ali al-Sharif died a hero fighting the Portuguese in North Morocco. His tomb in Tafilalt became a local shrine, set amid date palms, irrigation canals and brilliant green qsar gardens. We shall visit the mausoleum of Mawlay ‘Ali al-Sharif (gardens only) and the Ksar Oulad Abdelhalim, a restored 18th-century kasbah or fortified house. In Rissani’s Thursday market, we may view wandering traders, nomads, Berbers and Arab desert dwellers who come to sell all kinds of clothing, wares, plants, spices and vegetables, and animals.

After lunch in Erfoud, we take the Tinjdad road west to the town of Tineghir at the mouth of the Tudgha Gorge. This road marks the start of the Route of the Qasbas, so-called because of the many fortified houses, or qasbas, which line its edges. Along the way we stop to view part of the 300-kilometre network of khettara (qanat) – subsurface irrigation channels which were excavated in the Tafilalt basin beginning in the late 14th century. More than 75 of these chains provided perennial water following the breakup of the ancient city of Sijilmassa. Khettara continued to function for much of the northern oasis until the early 1970s, when new technologies and government policies forced changes. (Overnight Tineghir) BLD

Ouarzazate – 1 night

Day 11: Friday 24 April, Tineghir – Tudgha Gorge – Taourirt – Ouarzazate
•Tudgha Gorge
•Qsars of Tineghir
•Qasba de Taourirt

Near Tineghir the High Atlas meets the Jabal Saghru, a small massif which is part of the Anti Atlas range. The deep gorges of Tudgha and Dades mark the fault line between these two mountain ranges. Both gorges were carved out of the rock by torrents of melt water from the peaks above them. As they widen, small terraces of crops line each watercourse and villages cling to their sides, placed above the line of the torrential meltwaters which can close the gorges in spring. Here the mud-brick is the same brilliant red as the soil, creating a striking contrast to the rich green crops.

This morning we head up the spectacular Tudgha Gorge. En route we shall take a leisurely walk through one of the rich, cultivated areas nestling on the banks of the Wad Tudgha. We then return to Tineghir to visit the qsar (fortified village) and have lunch. After our meal we shall take the Route of the Qasbas and continue west.

This afternoon we visit the Qasba of Taourirt located in the town of Ouarzazate. Built late in the 19th century, the qasba became important in the 1930s when the local Glawi dynasty’s powers were at their peak. The qasba was never actually resided in by the Glawi chiefs but rather by their second tier of command, including their sons and cousins and their massive entourages of extended family members, servants, builders, and craftsmen. The qasba has close to 300 rooms grouped in more than 20 riads (apartments). (Overnight Ouarzazate) BLD

Marrakesh – 5 nights

Day 12: Saturday 25 April, Ouarzazate – Ait Ben Haddu – Marrakesh
•Ksar of Ait Ben Haddu
•Tiz n’Tishka Pass

This morning we drive to Ait Ben Haddu, one of the fortified villages under control of the Glawi family in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Located in the foothills of the High Atlas, Ait Ben Haddu is the most famous qsar in the Ounila Valley, and a striking example of southern Moroccan architecture. This fortified village in its dramatic landscape is regularly used as settings for films.

This afternoon we cross the High Atlas by way of the Tiz n’Tishka Pass to Marrakesh, leaving behind the landscapes of the pre-Sahara with its pisé qasbas and qsars, the verdant palm groves of the Ziz valleys, and the rocky drama of the gorges. (Overnight Marrakesh) BLD

Introduction to Marrakesh

Marrakesh is the 3rd imperial city we visit, founded in 1070 by the Almoravid Abu Bakr. He chose the site because it was well watered and flat: perfect as a camping ground for the Almoravid army, composed of nomads from the Sahara. Marrakesh began as the perfect springboard for the Almoravid conquest of North Morocco, but it soon became the Almoravid capital by virtue of its location on the trans-Saharan trade route.

After the Almoravids had conquered much of Spain, a period of cultural and artistic exchange ensued bringing the sophisticated urban culture of al-Andalus (Iberia) to Marrakesh. All that remains of Almoravid Marrakesh is an exquisite qubba, (domed chamber), which may indicate the site of the lost Almoravid great mosque of Marrakesh.

In 1147 Marrakesh fell to the Almohads, who then captured North Morocco, Muslim Spain, and North Africa as far as Tunis. The most famous Almohad ruler, Ya’qub al-Mansur, builder of the Qasba of the Udaya and Hassan Tower in Rabat and the Giralda of Seville, constructed a spectacular Almohad great mosque (1190), sister to the great mosques of Rabat and Seville here. The mosque soon became known as the Kutubiyya, or Booksellers’ Mosque, as a result of the book market which grew up in its shadow.

The minaret of the Kutubiyya is one of the most important extant Almohad buildings as the only Almohad minaret which has survived intact. Like the Hassan Tower, the minaret’s façades are decorated with intricate screen work, punctuated on the upper levels with small windows. It is crowned with a small domed pavilion surmounted with a gold spike holding three gold balls and a crescent, and gives an impression of how the Hassan Tower would have looked. Ya’qub al-Mansur also enclosed the city in a new set of walls punctuated by gateways, of which the most important is the Bab Agnaou. The Almohads also constructed the suburban Menara Gardens with their huge central pool and olive groves as a place for recreation and physical training of the Almohad army.

The Marinids showed little interest in Marrakesh but nevertheless commissioned the Bin Yusuf or Yusufiyya Madrasa here. Like Morocco’s other Marinid madrasas, the Yusufiyya has a central courtyard leading to a prayer hall flanked by students’ cells.

The Sa’di dynasty added palaces, shrines and mosques to Marrakesh. The greatest Sa’di sultan, Ahmad al-Mansur al-Dhahabi, embellished the Sa’di tomb complex and renovated the Yusufiyya Madrasa. The Sa’di reproduced Andalusian stucco work in marble from Italy.

Fes, Meknes, Rabat and Marrakesh all became ‘Alawi capitals when this dynasty supplanted the Sa’adi. Many ‘Alawi sultans loved Marrakesh and built palaces and gardens here. Mawlay ‘Abd al-Rahman (1822-1859) restored the Agdal gardens and his son, Sidi Muhammad sponsored agricultural projects in the area. His grandson’s minister, Mawlay al-Hassan (1873-1894), built the Bahia and Dar Si Sa’id palaces.

Day 13: Sunday 26 April, Marrakesh
•Bahia Palace & courtyard gardens
•Sa’di Tombs
•Bab Agnaou
•Kutubiyya Mosque
•Le Jardin Secret (See Youtube video)
•La Mamounia: historical gardens and afternoon tea

This morning we visit the 19th-century Bahia Palace, a fine example of Andalusian-style architecture. This was previously the home of Grand Vizier Si Moussa in the 1860s and embellished from 1894 to 1900 by slave-turned-vizier Abu ‘Bou’ Ahmed. The name ‘Bahia’ means ‘palace of the beautiful.” There are 160 different rooms in the palace which sprawl out in an open, rambling fashion. Decorations take the form of subtle stucco panels, zellij decorations, tiled floors, smooth arches, carved cedar ceilings, shiny marble (tadlakt) finishes and zouak painted ceilings. It has three beautiful courtyard gardens, rich with intoxicating roses, jacaranda, jasmine, orange blossom and pomegranates.

We also see the Sa’di Tombs. Sultan Ahmed al Mansour constructed the Sa’di Tombs in Marrakech during his rule of Morocco (16th century) as a burial ground for himself and some 200 of his descendants. The most significant chamber in the tombs is the Hall of Twelve Columns. Here rests the Sultan Ahmed el Mansour and his entire family. This chamber has a vaulted roof, Italian marble columns, beautifully decorated cedar doors and carved wooden screens. Inside the inner mausoleum lies Mohammed esh Sheikh, founder of the Sa’di dynasty, as well as the tomb of his mother. The tombs are surrounded by a small garden with richly coloured and scented roses.

We end the morning visiting the 12th-century, horseshoe-arched Bab Agnaou and the Kutubiyya Mosque. The Almohad Bab Agnaou is one of the 19 gates of Marrakesh. The Kutubiyya Mosque, Marrakesh’s largest, is ornament with curved windows, a band of ceramic inlay, pointed merlons, and decorative arches. It was completed under the reign of the Almohad Caliph Yaqub al-Mansur (1184-1199).

Following lunch at the La Maison Arabe’s renowned restaurant ‘Les Trois Saveurs’, we visit Le Jardin Secret, a public garden designed by English landscape architect, Tom Stuart-Smith. The garden is located on the former site of the Riad of the Governor of the medina in the 19th century. Described by Tom Stuart-Smith: “Part of the garden is a faithful reconstruction of an Islamic garden that could have existed in Marrakech in the 19th century. The smaller garden has been largely reconfigured and is a more romantic interpretation of a Moroccan garden, full of the sorts of flowers and colour that would not be found in the more traditional garden. The west courtyard has a citrus grove with underplanting of Stipa tenuissima, California poppy, Lavender and Tulbaghia.”

We end the day with a visit to the gardens of La Mamounia one of the most famous hotels in the world (1929) and beloved of Winston Churchill. Its vast gardens are cared for by 40 gardeners who twice a year plant 60,000 annuals to enhance its grounds. They garden has immaculately mown grass under citrus and olive orchards, a desert garden, a rose garden and a tropical garden as well as many fountains. At the back of the 15-hectare garden there is a herb and kitchen garden whose produce is used in the hotel’s daily meals. We will be served Moroccan style afternoon tea in the garden. (Overnight Marrakesh) BL

Day 14: Monday 27 April, Marrakesh
•Gardens of Jnane Tamsna with Gary Martin and Meryanne Loum-Martin
•Yusufiyya Madrasa
•Jama’ al-Fana’

This morning we transfer to Jnane Tamsna. Owned by ethnobotanist Gary Martin and his wife Meryanne Loum-Martin, this beautifully designed boutique guesthouse boasts a magnificent botany collection. It is set in the Palmeraie area of Marrakesh where tens of thousands of palm trees create shade for other plants to prosper, providing the atmosphere of an oasis. The free-flow approach (there are no formal lawns), adds to the ambience with grounds that encourage aromatic herb gardens, olive groves, lemon trees, vegetable plots and flower beds. The organic gardens are spread over nearly 9 hectares, and are watered constantly by traditional groundwater flow (khettara) and drip irrigation, while the air is naturally scented by gardenia, jasmine and white bougainvillea. We enjoy a visit of the garden and the estate before sitting for lunch.

In the afternoon we visit the religious heart of old Marrakesh where the Almoravid Qubba, the Yusufiyya Madrasa and Yusufiyya Mosque stand, probably on the site of the original Almoravid great mosque of Marrakesh. We shall also walk through the old medina visiting the city’s fascinating souqs. Marrakesh’s souqs are renowned for their vast size and the quality and variety of crafted goods on sale there. As in other Moroccan cities, each different craft can be found in its own particular street or alley: we shall see streets dedicated to gold jewellery, silver, cedar wood carving, silk robes, textiles, leather slippers, copper utensils, ceramics, rugs and carpets. The market area is covered by reed lattices whose dappled shade shelters the alleys from the hot southern sun.

We walk through the old city to its commercial and recreational heart, the Jama’ al-Fana’, an extraordinary public arena lined with booths selling fresh orange and grapefruit juice, nuts and sweets. In the centre a number of stalls offer snacks and meals of infinite variety, and numerous people provide public services and entertainments. Dentists, preachers, acrobats, black musicians from the Gnawa religious brotherhood, letter writers, snake charmers and story tellers all mingle in the Jama’ al-Fana’ from dusk late into the night. This square is very dear to the people of Marrakesh, a place to meet and promenade. This is evening is at leisure. You may wish to stay on in the Jama’ al-Fana’ to enjoy its extraordinary atmosphere. (Overnight Marrakesh) BL

Day 15: Tuesday 28 April, Marrakesh
•Jardin Majorelle and Musée d’Art Berbère
•Villa Oasis: the private garden of Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé (to be confirmed in 2020)
•Yves Saint Laurent Museum
•Afternoon at leisure

Marrakesh, perhaps known best for its souqs (markets), squares and spices, also has many lush gardens. Green spaces have always been an integral part of life in Marrakesh. The city’s gardens have also inspired many artists, fashion designers and writers over the years. The British writer Osbert Sitwell said Marrakesh “is the ideal African city of water-lawns, cool, pillared palaces and orange groves.” Matisse, Delacroix, Yves Saint Laurent, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Jean-Paul Getty visited too, finding inspiration and spending long periods in the city.

Early this morning we visit the Jardin Majorelle, created by the French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) and later owned by Yves Saint Laurent. The garden presents a cacophony of pink bougainvillea, blush-coloured water lilies, and a vast array of cacti. The inner walls are painted a vibrant ‘Majorelle’ blue, named after the garden’s founder. Majorelle’s art-deco studio houses a Berber Art Museum which displays valuable ceramics, weapons and magnificent jewellery, textiles, carpets, woodwork and other treasures. We also, by special invitation, will visit the gardens of Villa Oasis, Yves Saint Laurent’s private home adjoining the Jardin Majorelle. The garden was designed by Madison Cox.

Located right next to the Jardin Majorelle is the Yves Saint Laurent Museum dedicated to the work of the French fashion designer. This new museum houses an important selection from the Fondation Pierre Bergé – Yves Saint Laurent’s impressive collection, which comprises 5,000 items of clothing, 15,000 haute couture accessories as well as tens of thousands of sketches and assorted objects. The museum’s landscaped areas are also designed by Madison Cox.

The remain of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Marrakesh) B

Day 16: Wednesday 29 April, Marrakesh – Ourika Valley – Marrakesh
•Private gardens of Dar Azaren, Tnine Ourika
•Anima Garden
•Beldi Country Club, lunch and garden

Today we drive thirty kilometres south of Marrakesh to visit the secluded retreat of Dar Azaren, owned by Liliane Fawcett. This dar (house), set in 6.5 hectares, is nestled within olive groves and walled gardens, and offers spectacular views of the High Atlas Mountains. The grounds and gardens, conceived by Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart, blend subtle plantations of fragrant flowers and sculptural cacti with local crops. The colours of the landscape using the grey santolina, mauve lantana and enormous Kalanchoe set a dramatic scene.

We then visit the nearby newly opened Anima, one of the most beautiful and imaginative gardens in Morocco. Austrian multi-media artist André Heller’s opulent, two-hectare botanical garden is a magical place of sensuality and wonder. It combines unusual sculptures with flowers and plants, paying homage to local traditions and fauna, as well as incorporating modern Western elements.

We return to Marrakesh to dine at the Beldi Country Club, set in a breathtaking landscape. After lunch, we visit the gardens, the 15 acres of gardens are filled with palms, olive and fruit trees, pampas grasses and 15,000 rose bushes. It also features 2 reflection pools.

The remainder of the day is at leisure. (Overnight Marrakesh) BL

Taroudant – 5 nights

Day 17: Thursday 30 April, Marrakesh – Ouirgane – Taroudant
•Lunch at Domaine de la Roseraie, Ouirgane
•Dar Al Hossoun

Today we journey south to Taroudant, following one of the most spectacular routes in Morocco. It winds its way up and then down through the High Atlas, above the beautiful valleys and past isolated villages, eventually reaching the Tizi-n-Test pass, with its breathtaking views across the Souss Valley to the Anti Atlas.

We break for lunch in Ouirgane, a small village surrounded by stunning greenery, red-earth hills and pine forests. Lunch will be served in the Domaine de la Roseraie, which is set in the middle of 25 hectares of flower beds, olive trees, orchards and, as the name suggests, plenty of rose bushes. Winding paths through the estate offer unique views over the Toubkal range. (Mt Toubkkal is the highest peak in the Atlas mountains, and in North Africa, at 4137 metres).

We continue south along windy roads to Taroudant, known as the ‘pearl of the Souss Valley’. Here our group will stay at Dar Al Hossoun, designed by Arnaud Maurières and Éric Ossart.

For over 25 years, Maurières and Éric Ossart have been designing gardens in France and throughout the Mediterranean region. When they moved to southern Morocco they realised the importance of designing low-maintenance gardens for a dry climate. Since 2002, they have been working to create gardens in the olive groves to the west of Taroudant. Their work focuses on preserving areas of unspoiled natural wilderness, designing and building gardens and rammed-earth houses that have by stages added an entirely new neighbourhood to the city.

In the company of Ollivier Verra, owner of Dar Al Hossoun, we take a tour of Dar Al Hossoun before dinner.

Dar Al Hossoun was Ossart & Maurières’ very first build, one of the most widely publicised examples of their work as landscape architects. Surrounded by a garden that served originally as a test bed to study plant performance in the arid, pre-Saharan environment of the Souss Valley, the property boasts hundreds of species of plants proved to be drought-tolerant, plus an impressive 500-metre-square sunken garden for fragile species not usually found in this region. (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

Day 18: Friday 1 May, Taroudant
•Dar Igdad and L’Orange Bleue
•Dar Deboules
•Dar Carlhian
•Tour of Taroudant’s secret gardens by horse & carriage
•Dar Zahia
•Palais Salam
•Dar Ali
•Dar Sidi Hussein
•Dinner at Dar Sidi ou Sidi, the private home of Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart

Today we continue our discovery of Ossart & Maurières’ finest gardens in the Hossoun olive grove.

The Dar Al Hossoun build prompted the construction of the two adjoining properties, Dar Igdad and L’Orange Bleue, which marked Ossart & Maurières’ very first venture into steppe planning: with groups of grasses, drought-tolerant shrubs (grown mainly from seeds collected in Madagascar and Mexico) and succulents featuring a rich collection of opuntia (prickly pear).

Dar Igdad, meaning ‘the house of the birds’ in Berber, was begun in 2007 on the site of a former olive grove. Like Dar Al Hossoun, it is surrounded by high earthen walls in a rich mahogany colour, against which still stand many of the grove’s original multi-trunked trees. The garden, which featured in Garden Illustrated by Louisa Jones, is drought tolerant. The most spectacular part, a vast meadow, appears natural but is actually composed of species from similar biotopes from all over the world, like American agaves and African euphorbias that grow among the meadow’s Sahara grasses.

At Dar Deboules and Dar Carlhian, we see Ossart & Maurières’ most recent designs. Both gardens offer an unusually broad range of steppe plants, making it possible to track growth from planting to maturity. In the Dar Deboules, a range of new plants are used. Dar Carlhian is the very last house and garden designed by Ossart & Maurières in Morocco. This lighter and more economical garden display wild plants imported from the Mexican pampa.

Following a buffet lunch in the sunken garden of Dar Al Hossoun, we take a tour of Taroudant’s secret gardens by horse and carriage.

Taroudant, a walled Berber market town, lies just south of the High Atlas and to the north of the Anti Atlas. It gained commercial and political importance thanks to its position at the heart of the fertile Souss Valley. The Sa’adi made it their capital for a short time in the 16th century before moving on to Marrakesh. The 7.5 kilometres of ramparts surrounding Taroudant are among the best-preserved pise (reinforced mud) walls in Morocco. As the sun moves across the sky their colour changes from golden brown to the deepest red.

Built in the 16th and 17th century, a string of mighty defensive towers create the gates of the city. One of the most commonly used of these gates is the impressive, triple-arched Bab el-Kasbah, approached along an avenue of orange trees. Beyond and to the right past an olive press stands another gate, Bab Sedra that leads to the old qasba quarter – a fortress built by Moulay Ismail in the 17th century that is now the poorest part of town.

At the heart of this ancient city lies the medina, home to traditional Moroccan houses with interior gardens or courtyards, many of them built or restored by Ossart and Maurières. These are the riads for which Morocco is famous – havens of freshness usually exclusively reserved for their owners, and now ours to discover on this enchanting tour.

We visit first Dar Zahia’s lush courtyards. Then enjoy some tea at Palais Salam, the former Pasha’s residence, before visiting Dar Ali, Empress Farah’s house. Then we visit Sidi Hussein, the house of five courtyards. This is one of Ossart and Maurières’ most ambitious projects in the medina. It is composed of several buildings, each one arranged around an amazing inner garden but all built in different styles to reflect the changing face of Taroudant architecture. The site was formerly occupied by badly dilapidated houses that were demolished to free up some 1000 square metres of building space.

Dinner will be served in the Dar Sidi ou Sidi, the private home of Arnaud Maurières and Eric Ossart, tucked away deep in the souq, at the heart of the old town. The house, a fine example of Taroudant vernacular architecture, features a terrace-planted botanic garden housing Ossart and Maurières’ private plant collection.

Dinner is followed by a screening (with commentary) of Frédéric Wilner’s film Jardins d’Eden (Gardens of Eden). (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

Day 19: Saturday 2 May, Taroudant – Tiout Oasis – Taroudant
•Tiout Oasis and the Anti Atlas
•Dar El Nour
•Dar El Ahbab

In the company of Ollivier Verra, we subdivide into two groups to take two small coaches on a scenic drive through the Souss Valley to the fertile oasis of Tiout, located on the northern edge of the Anti Atlas mountains.

In the Souss Valley we’ll witness the tremendous contrast between commercially farmed irrigated cash crops (such as oranges, maize or bananas) and subsistence farming of arid land including the strange sight of goats grazing in the native argania (trees). Argania spinosa, endemic to the semi-desert Sous Valley and the Algerian region of Tindouf, is a source of argan oil used for dipping bread, on couscous, salads, and in natural cosmetics. In Morocco, arganeraie forests now cover some 8280 square kilometres, designated as a UNESCO biosphere reserve.

The Tiout Oasis, formed by a now dried-up ancient lake, is probably the westernmost of all the oases that have survived from antiquity. It provides a perfect demonstration of the traditional custom of sharing irrigation water and also reflects the diverse richness of sub-Saharan arable farming. Our excursion includes a guided tour led by a local farmer, a visit to women argan oil cooperative, with lunch under Berber canvas at the heart of the oasis.

We return to the Hossoun valley to visit Dar El Nour and Dar Ahbab. These two houses and gardens were specifically designed for a relatively small plot of land, focusing on the affinity between rammed-earth buildings and natural swimming pools. The gardens appear wild, but do in fact contain at least 200 different species of carefully selected plants.

Tonight we dine together at Dar Ahbab. We return to Dar Al Hossoun for a screening of Jacques Becker’s Ali Baba et les 40 voleurs (Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) – a 1954 film shot in Taroudant, starring French actor and singer Fernandel. (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

Day 20: Sunday 3 May, Taroudant
•Dar Crouzet
•Visit to the souq and ramparts
•La Tour des Faucons, lunch and garden
•Les Jardins de Andrew
•Palais Oumensour, dinner

This morning we visit two gardens located in the outskirt of Taroudant. We start with a visit to Dar Crouzet, in the Hossoun neighbourhood. Here, oval and round buildings are surrounded by tall plants and trees.

We transfer to the medina. Today, Taroudant is an important hub in southern Morocco well known for its handicrafts, jewellery design, Berber crafts and woodwork. Within the walled inner city there are two main squares – Place Assarag (Place Alaouyine) and Place Talmoklate (Place en Nasr) – which mark the centre of town, with the main souq area between them. The pedestrian area of Place Assarag is the centre of activity, and comes alive in late afternoon as the sun’s heat eases off and people come out to promenade. Lately it has seen the return of performers such as storytellers, snake charmers and musicians – as in Marrakesh’s Jemaa el-Fnaa, but on a smaller scale.

Then we head for La Tour des Faucons (The Falcon’s Villa). Welcomed by Karl Morsher, the owner and designer, we visit his contemporary style villa and tower, as well as the renovated farmhouse and its extensive grounds of palm and olive trees (producing their own organic olive oil) and exotic flower-filled gardens. We enjoy our lunch at La Tour des Faucons.

In the afternoon we visit Les Jardins de Andrew. Andrew is an eccentric British collector with a taste for whimsical constructions. Andrew’s garden, located outside the ramparts, is punctuated by fanciful creations that lend an air of mystery to their lush surroundings. Ossart and Maurières describe their work thus: “using the same plants as at Dar Igdad, we laid out here a very formal garden corresponding exactly to the architecture of the house. Keeping in mind the advice of the great Brazilian designer Roberto Burle Marx, we used the right plant in the right place, whether rare or commonplace, native or exotic. We often use bold swaths of the same plant to get different moods even in this relatively small garden”.

Close to the souq, we enjoy our dinner in the beautiful Palais Oumensour and its lush patio.

We return to our riad, Dar Al Hossoun, for a screening of the film La Route des cédrats (‘The Citron Trail’) directed by Izza Genini (with commentary). (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

Day 21: Monday 4 May, Taroudant – Afensou and the upper valley of the Oued Ouaer – Taroudant
•Claudio Bravo palace and gardens
•Lunch in traditional Berber house
•Trek across high plateaux to study flora found at medium altitude around Imoulass
•High-altitude garden designed by Éric Ossart and Arnaud Maurières, Afra
•Farewell Dinner at Dar Al Hossoun

Today, we spend the morning visiting the Claudio Bravo palace and gardens. Chilean painter Claudio Bravo spent his last years building an enormous palace in Taroudant in which to house his collections. The gardens surrounding the palace are equally enormous and are arranged around a large pond that provides water for citrus and banana trees; the interior gardens were designed by Ossart and Maurières.

Taroudant stands at the foot of the Western High Atlas Mountains, which reach a maximum elevation at Djebel Aoulim of 3400 metres. In the upper valleys are ancient mud brick and pisé villages nestling in high-altitude oases – traditional settlements planted with palm trees, olive groves and even walnut trees in the highest villages. The tracts of land in between them provide an ideal habitat for a wealth of native flora.

Following lunch in a traditional Berber house, we trek across the high plateau (nothing too demanding) through thickets of thuja (a tree of the coniferous family, close to cedar, which grows only in Morocco, specifically in the Atlas Mountains, used by artisans for making tables, boxes etc) and the flora found at medium altitude around Imoulass (Callitris articulate, Polygala balansae, Thymus saturejoïdes, Salvia taraxifolia, Chamacytisus albidus, etc).

In the village of Afra we visit Ossart & Maurières’ high-altitude garden – the perfect location for hundreds of different plant species, including some rare specimens.

We return to our riad for a farewell meal at Dar Al Hossoun. (Overnight Taroudant) BLD

Day 22: Tuesday 5 May, Taroudant – Agadir, Tour Ends.
•Airport transfer for those taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight

This morning we shall transfer to Agadir airport in order to board our domestic flight to Casablanca. Group members taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the airport for the flight home. Those not taking this flight can use a taxi or contact ASA to arrange a private transfer. B

NOTE: The detailed itinerary provides an outline of the proposed daily program. Participants should note that the daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in opening hours, road conditions, flight schedules etc. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents. Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B= breakfast, L= light lunch or picnic lunch and D= evening meal.

Belgium and the Rhine Valley: Tradition and Innovation in Art & Garden Design

Tour Highlights

•Led by Sandra McMahon and Diane Perelsztejn, this tour is a feast of splendid classic and contemporary private gardens, great museums and natural landscapes of Belgium, Southern Netherlands and the Rhine Valley.
•View the work of leading Flemish designers and horticulturalists including Daniël Ost, Erik Dhont, and Piet Blanckaert.
•By special invitation explore the private gardens of Jacques Wirtz featured in Monty Don’s Around the World in 80 Gardens and Marc Moris.
•By special invitation visit Domain Hemelrijk, the former home of Robert and Jelena de Belder who designed their private garden with their close friend, Russell Page.
•Meet landscape architect Chris Ghyselen, known for his use of fine grasses and perennials, who will show us his own private garden.
•Explore classic Dutch country gardens, and designs by Mien Ruys at the 14th-century Kasteel van Oostkerke which features flower-filled gardens, moats and polder meadows.
•Learn about the New German Style: at Hermannshof where Cassian Schmidt has developed one of the finest and most exciting modern gardens in Europe; and at HORTVS the garden of Peter Janke, a rising star in German landscape design.
•View the abundant rose collections in the traditional ‘kasteel’ gardens of Hex, and Coloma, the latter containing over 3000 varieties.
•View the great Gothic churches, town halls and merchant palaces of Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp.
•In Antwerp, Brussels and Bruges visit world-class collections of paintings, sculptures and drawings; we view works by Peter Paul Rubens, Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Frans Hals, Peter Bruegel, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Anthony van Dyck and René Magritte.
•Explore the Art Deco home of David and Alice van Buuren; the private house and studio of Art Nouveau Architect, Victor Horta; and the house and studio of Rubens with a garden inspired by his painting The Walk in the Garden.
•Spend two nights in the charming medieval town of Durbuy; walk through the Forest of the Ardennes, and view ancient dolmens and menhirs in the neighbouring village of Wéris.
•Take a cruise from Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein; this UNESCO World Heritage listed stretch of the Upper Middle Rhine Valley is dotted with castles, historic towns and vineyards.
•Enjoy fine food, dining at the 2-star Michelin restaurant Le Chalet de la Forêt, in Brussels, after taking the aperitif in its vegetable garden where Erik Dhont combines landscaping with art and the use of abstract forms.

21-day Cultural Garden Tour of Belgium and the Rhine Valley

Overnight Antwerp (5 nights) • Bruges (3 nights) • Ghent (2 nights) • Brussels (3 nights) • Durbuy (2 nights) • Maastricht (1 night) • Boppard (2 nights) • Rüdesheim am Rhein (2 nights)

Overview

This tour, led by Sandra McMahon, director of Melbourne’s important studio, Gardenscape Design, and multi award-winning Belgian documentary filmmaker Diane Perelsztejn, explores the contemporary renaissance of garden design in Belgium, the Southern Netherlands, and the Rhine Valley. We visit a diversity of private gardens by leading Flemish designers such Jacques Wirtz, Daniël Ost, Erik Dhont, Piet Blanckaert, Marc Moris and Dutch master Mien Ruys, and spend time with landscape architect, Chris Ghyselen, in his private garden noted for its use of fine grasses and perennials. We visit Domain Hemelrijk, the former home of Robert and Jelena de Belder who designed their private garden with their close friend, Russell Page. We learn about the New German Style: at Hermannshof where Cassian Schmidt has developed one of the finest and most exciting modern gardens in Europe; and at HORTVS the garden of Peter Janke, a rising star in German landscape design. The Northern Renaissance flowered in the great paintings of Flemish and German artists like Jan van Eyck and Joachim Patinir, who set their figures in wondrous landscapes, paralleling the region’s leadership in Renaissance and Baroque gardening. We explore the emergence of Northern Art in Antwerp’s and Bruges’ fine collections and in masterpieces like Van Eyck’s Ghent Altarpiece. We also encounter Peter Paul Rubens’ own studio and garden, and the emergence of Art Nouveau and Surrealism in architectural masterpieces of Victor Horta and René Magritte’s extraordinary paintings. The tour visits grand castles and country houses, wonderful historic towns like Antwerp, Ghent and Bruges, beautiful medieval villages like Durbuy and fairytale castles perched on mountain tops along the Rhine Valley. We enjoy fine food, dining at the 2-star Michelin restaurant Le Chalet de la Forêt, in Brussels, after taking the aperitif in its vegetable garden where Erik Dhont combines landscaping with art and the use of abstract forms. We explore the lovely forest of the Ardennes and end our tour with a cruise down one of the Rhine’s most beautiful stretches, recognised in UNESCO’s World Heritage listing.

Antwerp – 5 nights

Day 1: Wednesday 3 June, Brussels – Antwerp
•Arrival Transfer for participants arriving on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
•Short Orientation

Our tour commences in Antwerp. Participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive into Brussels in the mid-afternoon. Upon arrival we transfer by private coach to the Hotel ‘t Sandt in Antwerp. If you are travelling independently, please make your own way to the hotel or contact ASA for assistance with a private transfer.

Time permitting, we will take a short orientation walk around the hotel precinct. (Overnight Antwerp)

Day 2: Thursday 4 June, Antwerp – Berlaar-Gestel – Lier – Antwerp
•‘Morishof’: private garden of Marc Moris, Berlaar-Gestel
•‘t-Kranske’: City garden renovated by Marc Moris, Lier
•Private garden design by Erik Dhont, Lier (to be confirmed)
•Welcome Dinner at the Sir Anthony Van Dijck Restaurant

“Flanders was once the leading horticultural nation of Europe. In the sixteenth century the Antwerp humanists turned Flanders into a centre of botany. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries dozens of fruit varieties were created and the rarest plants grown and improved. But … war and foreign occupation put an end to this thriving garden culture. In recent years we have witnessed a remarkable revival of gardening and beautiful new gardens are now once more [being] created”.

Today we are introduced to the work of two of Belgium’s leading landscape designers, Marc Moris and Erik Dhont. Marc Moris founded Groep Moris in 1986. Considered a master of simplicity, he has acquired a reputation for designing gardens which have an air of maturity. Part of the secret to his success has been his 25ha nursery where he grows solitary trees and large shrubs which are up to 100 years old, and which are allowed to develop as naturally as possible. This makes his plants particularly suitable for the ‘timeless’ gardens which he creates. This morning we visit ‘Morishof’, Marc Moris’ private domain, located in the small picturesque village of Gestel. His 3ha garden includes a vegetable garden, a meadow, natural swimming pool and a flower garden; Gestel itself is surrounded by four castles.

In the nearby town of Lier we visit ‘t-Kranske, a monastic complex restored by Marc Moris. Originally an 18th-century convent, it later became a school which built additional classrooms over the courtyard. As part of his renovation, Marc Moris cleared the courtyard and developed a 6000m2 city garden. Key elements of the original convent including the main chapel were also restored. We shall tour the gardens and visit the flower shop of resident artist Raf Verwimp.

Erik Dhont is an internationally renowned landscape architect. Based in Brussels, his portfolio includes a huge range of projects: private and public gardens, urban developments, farms and restoration work. One of his projects in Lier involved the restoration of an early 19th-century park. Today this private garden, which we hope to visit, includes an extensive collection of shrubs and flowering trees, ancient garden follies and a spectacular walk of cut flowers among flowing box hedges.

Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at the Sir Anthony Van Dijck Restaurant located in the medieval quarter of Antwerp. (Overnight Antwerp) BD

Day 3: Friday 5 June, Antwerp – Schoten – Essen – Antwerp
•Private garden of Jacques Wirtz, Schoten – featured in Monty Don’s Around the World in 80 Gardens
•Private garden designed by Jacques Wirtz
•Domain De Hemelrijk, Essen
•Museum aan de Stroom (exterior only) and Antwerp’s historic port

This morning we visit the private garden of the late Jacques Wirtz, the world-renowned Belgian landscape architect who, in his innovative gardens, enhanced his sculptural treatment of boxwood and yew hedges by drawing on his deep knowledge of plants and flowers. Wirtz, whose career began when he opened a flower nursery in 1946, would ultimately be compared to André Le Nôtre, the French landscape architect who designed the magnificent gardens of Versailles. His son, Martin, who is now CEO of Wirtz International, has kindly agreed to show us the family’s private garden. Nearby we also visit another private garden designed by his father.

From Schoten we travel north to the small town of Essen located just south of the Netherlands border. After lunch at Restaurant Kiekenhoeve we visit the private arboretum and gardens of De Hemelrijk, home to the De Belder family since 1961. These private gardens were designed by Jelena and Robert De Belder together with their close friend, the internationally renowned garden designer Russell Page, who regularly stayed here. Page’s close association with the De Belders explains the uniqueness of this garden in his oeuvre, for it was not designed as a formal project but rather evolved informally during his sojourns there; often a section to be developed on a particular day would be sketched out roughly at breakfast. The result has been described as ‘a natural looking, idealistic, Arcadian landscape’.

During our return drive to Antwerp we make a short diversion to view the impressive exterior of Museum aan de Stroom (MAS). This extraordinary ultramodern tower, composed of great blocks separated by undulating glass walls, was designed by the acclaimed Rotterdam firm Neutelings-Riedijk Architecten. Across from the MAS is Antwerp’s Port Authority which includes the new Port House designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, and the Red Star Line Museum designed by New York architects Beyer Blinder Belle. A short visit to the rooftop of the MAS provides panoramic views of the city and its historic port. (Overnight Antwerp) BL

Day 4: Saturday 6 June, Antwerp
•Rubens’ House
•Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekathedral (Cathedral of Our Lady)
•The Royal Museum of Fine Arts Antwerp (KMSKA) (subject to reopening in 2020)

This morning we visit the house and studio that the great 17th-century artist, Peter Paul Rubens, built for himself. Rubens was not only a famous painter but also a great humanist and diplomat. Having garnered great wealth, he was able to build this palatial house, living here and working in his adjacent studio. He entertained Europe’s royalty and aristocracy in the house, displaying his impressive art collection in a beautiful art room. We visit the house, the workshop and Rubens’ charming garden inspired by his painting The Walk in the Garden (c. 1631).

We also visit the Cathedral of Our Lady. Four of Rubens’ most important paintings, including the Raising of the Cross and his Descent from the Cross, embellish this vast seven-nave Gothic cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In the afternoon we visit KMSKA, a world-class museum due to open in 2020 after extensive renovations. The collection of paintings, sculptures and drawings, dating from the 14th to the 20th centuries, includes work by Jan van Eyck, Rogier van der Weyden, Hans Memling, Frans Hals, Jan Brueghel the Elder, Peter Paul Rubens, and his pupil Anthony van Dyck. (Overnight Antwerp) B

Day 5: Sunday 7 June, Antwerp – Hoeven – Schijf – Vrasene – Antwerp
•Tielens and Tielens, Hoeven
•De Jorissenhoeve, Schijf
•De Wiedenhof, Vrasene

This morning we drive across the border to visit two private Dutch gardens. We first visit the garden of Albert Tielens in Hoeven. Albert is a passionate gardener; his work is characterised by straight lines and circles which are perfectly balanced by sumptuous plantings. Within the garden lies a fifty-metre long swimming pond lined with mixed borders. Avenues of pear, lime and maple trees divide the peaceful lawns, and to the rear of the garden is a vliedberg – an artificial hill surrounded by a canal. Such man-made hills were climbed in order to escape rising flood waters.

In the neighbouring village of Schijf we visit De Jorissenhoeve, an historic 19th-century farmhouse owned by garden designer Ineke Lambregts. This garden ‘flows’ between verdant ‘rooms’: stunning flower court with scented roses, herb garden, heritage vegetable garden, water features, woodland garden, and the pasture where very contented Lakenvelder cows graze.

From Schijf we return to East Flanders to visit De Wiedenhof, the private garden of Leo and Suzanne Laureyns-Wynter. This long, relatively narrow garden (150 x 25m), a brilliant innovation in design, has been laid out by the owners in a most unconventional way. The length of the garden is emphasised by two 90m-long grass strips with superbly maintained pleached hornbeam hedges forming a powerful framework for sumptuous seasonal plantings. In summer we will see roses, iris and many other perennials. (Overnight Antwerp) BL

Bruges – 3 nights

Day 6: Monday 8 June, Antwerp – Oosteekloo – Damme – Sijsele – Bruges
•Bijsterveld, Oosteekloo
•Medieval village of Damme
•Kasteel van Oostkerke, Damme
•Private garden of Katrien Vandierendonck, Sijsele

Today we travel to West Flanders, visiting three very different private gardens. Outside the historic village of Oosteekloo lies Bijsterveld, an old walled farm that once belonged to a 14th-century Cistercian Abbey. Its wall, lined with majestic pollarded willows, encloses a 2.5-acre romantic garden originally created by artist Nina Balthau in 1988. A series of hedged enclosures leads to arches which groan under roses, and to meadows that erupt in sheets of wildflowers. A walking path gives access to the lovely old canals which surround the farm. Birgit Rouseré purchased the garden in 2013 and has continued to develop it with the assistance of landscape architect Steven De Bruycker.

From Oosteekloo we journey to the picturesque medieval village of Damme which lies 6kms northeast of Bruges. Before the Zwijn inlet silted, this village served as the customs point and outer port of Bruges and thus enjoyed great importance and prosperity. There will be time at leisure for lunch and to explore the village, which features a magnificent Gothic Town Hall, the impressive Church of Our Lady, and the canals that are lined with magnificent wind-twisted poplars.

Oostkerke Castle in Damme had lain in ruins for hundreds of years before Allison Campbell-Roebling and her husband Baron Joseph Van Der Elst, with the help of the great Dutch landscape architect Mien Ruys, restored it to its former glory. Mien Ruys was a specialist in hardy plants; she also had a special feeling for the use of axes and perspectives. The result is an idyllic combination of intimate spaces and grandiose avenues. Separate gardens, including a private courtyard, a Maria garden and a rose garden, combine harmoniously with surrounding polder meadows. Footpaths have been laid out on the foundations of the old ramparts, and the ancient moats have been excavated to form an important section of the current garden. The gardens, which have undergone further restoration under the direction of André Van Wassenhove and Maurice Vergote, are considered to be one of the most beautiful gardens of West Flanders.

Our final visit today is to the private garden of Katrien Vandierendonck, an internationally celebrated floral designer. We visit this gentle and welcoming artist in her own idyllic 7500 m2 garden. Here numerous garden ‘rooms’, a huge Wisteria arch, pond and flower borders, harmonize perfectly with the surrounding landscape. At the end of the visit we will be treated to afternoon tea with delicious home-baked waffles.

From the village of Sijsele we continue to Bruges, the capital of West Flanders. One of a few canal-based northern cities, it is often referred to as ‘The Venice of the North’. The historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site. (Overnight Bruges) B

Day 7: Tuesday 9 June, Bruges
•Private gardens designed by landscape architect Piet Blanckaert
•Onze-Lieve-Vrouwekerk (Church of our Lady)
•Saint John’s Hospital & the Hans Memling Museum
•Canal Cruise of Bruges

We spend the morning visiting private gardens designed by internationally acclaimed landscape architect Piet Blanckaert, who is based in Bruges. His recent projects include the Flanders Fields Memorial Garden, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, which is located at Wellington Barracks adjacent to Buckingham Palace, London.

This afternoon we take a walking tour of Bruges. We begin with a visit to the Church of Our Lady, the interior of which is a treasure house of art. In the choir behind the high altar are the tombs of Charles the Bold, last Valois Duke of Burgundy, and his daughter, Mary. Their gilt bronze full-length effigies lie on polished slabs of black stone. The most celebrated treasure of the church is, however, Michelangelo’s Bruges Madonna (1504), a marble sculpture of the Virgin and Child probably originally sculpted for Siena Cathedral.

We next visit the St John’s Hospital Complex, which also includes the small Hans Memling Museum. Hans Memling (1430-1494), who was born in Germany, worked in Bruges from 1465, and was closely associated with the Knights Hospitaller. One of this museum’s greatest treasures is his late masterpiece, The Shrine of St Ursula, a carved and gilded wooden reliquary containing panel inserts painted by the master.

Until around 1600, Bruges was an important Hanseatic League port city linked to the sea by the Zwijn canal. Other canals were dug to facilitate the passage of goods to this canal and thence to its commercial outpost, the aforementioned harbour at Damme. We conclude the afternoon with a short canal cruise. This evening we dine together at a local restaurant. (Overnight Bruges) BD

Day 8: Wednesday 10 June, Bruges – Oedelem – Beernem – Bruges
•Private garden of André Van Wassenhove, Assebroek
•Private garden of landscape designer, Chris Ghyselen, Oedelem
•‘Boereweg’ in Beernem: Chris Ghyselen’s first garden design
•A new cottage garden, designed by Chris Ghyselen

This morning we visit a private city garden designed by the late André Van Wassenhove, a well-known landscape architect who was based in Bruges. We then travel to the rural municipality of Beernem where we will be joined by Chris Ghyselen who will show us his own private garden. Chris Ghyselen’s parents’ garden was designed by Van Wassenhove, whose use of perennials inspired the young man. After training as a landscape architect, Chris worked with Van Wassenhove for six months before forming his own landscape company in 1984. Known for his use of fine grasses and perennials, Ghyselen enjoys the combination of strong structure, often using hedges, with informal planting. Chris’s 4500m² garden is located on a cliff that extends from Oedelem to Ursel. The presence of clay in combination with compost and sand allows plants to grow very well here. The garden, created in two phases, features playful hedges, water features, and a double border of high and small perennials. There is also a swimming pond and a flower meadow. The use of many grasses provides a perfect transition to the surrounding landscape.

In the afternoon we visit two other gardens by Chris Ghyselen: a new cottage garden, and ‘Boereweg’, Chris’s first design project created over 30 years ago. Owned by Rita and green journalist, Marc Verachtert, an original farmyard and garden were developed into a spacious garden of 8000m². By using low hedges, Chris was able to preserve open character of the farm garden. The house has two terraces: one with a pond, the other with a view of a perennial ‘room’. Various other garden ‘rooms’ contain an orchard, a nut garden with vegetables and cut flowers, and an animal meadow with pollarded willows. (Overnight Bruges) BL

Ghent – 2 nights

Day 9: Thursday 11 June, Bruges – Deinze – Ghent
•Ooidonk Castle
•Cathedral of St Bavo, Ghent

Today we depart Bruges and travel to Ghent, the capital of East Flanders. Our journey takes us Ooidonk Castle, near the city of Ghent. The moated castle stands stately, strong and sumptuous, set on a bend of the river Leie. We take a private visit to this medieval fortress, rebuilt in 1595, widely considered as one of Belgium’s finest castles and often called the ‘Chambord of Flanders’. It is a unique example of the Hispanic-Flemish architectural style that emerged during the Renaissance, and is still the living home to Count and Countess Henry t’Kint de Roodenbeke and their three young sons. The salons are filled with original paintings, engravings and antiques including 17th-century cabinets, 18th-century Beauvais tapestries and Delft porcelain.

The castle is surrounded by nearly four acres of magical landscaped gardens in the French style. In the summer, roses adorn the garden beds, supplemented by orange trees. Red beech avenue and age-old oaks are planted together in groups of five. A bridge leads to a formal English park, laid out around a 19th-century pavilion.

This afternoon we visit the monumental masterpiece of Flemish art, the huge 24-panel altarpiece, the Adoration of the Mystic Lamb, in Ghent’s Cathedral of St Bavo. This great work was begun by Hubert van Eyck (c.1390-1426) and completed after his death by Jan van Eyck in 1432. Commissioned for the chapel in which it still stands by a wealthy alderman in 1420, the painting is arguably the greatest work of the Northern Renaissance. It is a triumph of the use of thin oil glazes to bathe scenes in a rich luminous atmosphere and of the naturalism that represented a giant step forward from the rigid style of Gothic religious art. Its vast intricacy is spellbinding. St Bavo’s other treasures include Rubens’s recently restored Conversion of St Bavo (1623) and the magnificent funerary monument of Bishop Anton Triest by François and Hieronymus II du Quesnoy. The Romanesque crypt holds a wealth of religious antiquities, vestments, sculptures, and paintings. (Overnight Ghent) B

Day 10: Friday 12 June, Ghent – Temse – Ghent
•Full day visiting gardens designed by Daniël Ost (to be confirmed)
•De Uil (The Owl), Temse

Daniël Ost began his working life as a florist; he is now celebrated throughout Europe and Japan as the world’s leading floral artist. His company, Gardens Daniel Ost, however, is about much more than floral art: his design team is highly sought after for projects, from roof terraces in Tokyo to public and private gardens all over Europe. Daniël will accompany us (or if unavailable his General Manager) for a full day in Ghent, as we visit four of his gardens, including the garden of Huis De Uil in the Fonteinstraat, the former residence of artist Karel Aubroeck (1894-1986), now the home of interior designer Marc Massa and Roger Liekens. This garden is noted for its beautiful wild shadow garden and a particularly stylized south garden. (Overnight Ghent) B

Brussels – 3 nights

Day 11: Saturday 13 June, Ghent – Gaasbeek – Sint-Pieters-Leeuw – Brussels
•Baljuwshuis, Gaasbeek: Private garden designed by Erik Dhont (to be confirmed)
•Rose Garden of Kasteel Coloma, Sint-Pieters-Leeuw
•Brussels: Orientation Walk

Erik Dhont is internationally renowned for his free and sensitive interpretations of historic garden design. Based in Brussels, he has created a number of spectacular private gardens throughout Belgium and Europe. He has also undertaken numerous large-scale projects including the gardens designed for the Musée Picasso in Paris (2014) and the 55-acre park for fashion designer Dries Van Noten. Outside Brussels, in the town of Gaasbeek, he designed a contemporary maze of hedges and trees to embellish a 17th-century manor house, which we hope to visit.

This afternoon we visit the internationally renowned rose gardens of Kasteel Coloma which contain approximately 3000 varieties of roses and 30,000 rose bushes. Originally built as a fortress in the 16th century, the estate was later transformed into a lusthuis (Flemish country residence). Its gardens are divided into several areas. The first incorporates a traditional geometric structure with varieties of red and white roses planted in designs representing the herarldry of Sint-Pieters-Leeuw. The second garden, which offers fine views over Coloma, displays roses cultivated by Flemish horticulturalists. The third rose garden traces the evolution of the rose from the 18th century to the present with roses from all over the world. There is also a Japanese rose garden, an area devoted to 400 long-stemmed rose bushes, and a rose orchard with more than 125 varieties of rambling and climbing roses.

We spend three nights based in a charming boutique hotel in the historic centre of Brussels. On arrival there will be an optional short orientation walk to Brussels’ Grand Place. (Overnight Brussels) B

Day 12: Sunday 14 June, Brussels
•Musée Victor Horta
•The Royal Museums of Fine Arts of Belgium: Musée Magritte
•Time at leisure

Brussels was the cradle of Art Nouveau, which spread across the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. John Julius Norwich has described its Belgian inventor and most famous exponent, Victor Horta, as ‘undoubtedly the key European Art Nouveau architect’. Horta, for example, inspired Hector Guimard, France’s most important exponent of Art Nouveau, who applied Horta’s whiplash design in his work for the Paris Métro.

We first visit the Musée Victor Horta, located in Horta’s private house and studio. Built between 1898 and 1901, the two buildings making up the museum exemplify Art Nouveau at its height. Their utterly exquisite, finely detailed interior decoration has largely been retained, with the mosaics, stained glass, and wall decorations forming a harmonious and elegant whole.

After a coffee break we move to the museum dedicated to Brussels’ most famous modern artist, the Surrealist painter René Magritte. The Musée René Magritte, displaying some 200 original paintings, drawing and sculptures mostly donated by the artist’s wife Georgette and by his principal collector, Irene Hamoir Scutenaire, is the world’s largest collection of his work. We explore all phases of Magritte’s oeuvre, especially that in which incongruous, fantastic subject matter is presented in a style of crisp realism.

The remainder of the day is at leisure. You may wish to continue exploring the wonderful world of Brussels’ Royal art collections. The old masters’ section reflects the vibrant artistic traditions of south Flanders. Artists represented include Rogier van der Weyden, Petrus Christus, Dirk Bouts, Hans Memling, Hieronymus Bosch, Lucas Cranach, Gerard David and Pieter Brueghel the Elder, whose Fall of the Rebel Angels and The Census at Bethlehem are collection highlights. Other later masters include Flemish Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck and Jacques Jordaens, and works from the Dutch, French, Italian and Spanish schools, including masterpieces by Rembrandt, Vouet, Claude, Ribera and Tiepolo. (Overnight Brussels) B

Day 13: Monday 15 June, Brussels
•Arboretum Kreftenbroek Foundation
•Chalet de la Forêt: Lunch & vegetable garden designed by Erik Dhont
•Musée David et Alice van Buuren: House and garden

We begin this morning with a visit to the Arboretum Kreftenbroek. In the fall of 1980 Etienne and Rose-Marie Van Campenhout purchased a dilapidated farm in Rhode St Genèse on the outskirts of Brussels. The following spring they began the huge task of renovating the farm and transforming its waist-high wild growth into a garden. They later purchased adjacent land that has enabled the creation of a magnificent series of gardens. This sublime series of green spaces begins in front of the house in what is known as the natural garden, the main focal point of which is a small pond. Behind the house is a more classically designed garden with a canopied alley of apple trees linking two large Louis XVI urns. From here open areas, intimate green ‘rooms’, an alternating serpentine pond and an elegant staircase lead to the final goal; the valley garden designed by Jacques Wirtz. This most recent garden links the slopes of the valley, with focal points of hedges, trees, water and sculpture.

At midday we dine at the 2-star Michelin restaurant, Chalet de la Forêt. We take the aperitif in the structured vegetable garden designed for Chef Pascal Devalkeneer by Erik Dhont. This is a magnificent garden of diverse flavours and mixed styles. The English-style flowerbeds of herbaceous plants are organised by colour and are divided into plots in the style of French gardens. Surrounding plots of vegetable gardens specimens of local rustic varieties such as plum trees, mirabelle plum trees and apple trees together recreate a natural Belgian habitat.

We end our day with a visit to the extraordinary house bought in 1928 by the banker and art patron David van Buuren. While its exterior is typical of the so-called Amsterdam School, its interior decoration presents a feast of Art Deco by Belgian, French and Dutch designers. Van Buuren and his wife Alice Piette collected rare furniture, carpets, stained-glass windows, sculptures and masterpieces of painting from the 15th to the 19th century. Along with a historical collection including two Brueghels there are works by Fantin-Latour, Ensor, van Gogh, Signac, Van Dongen and Max Ernst. Van Buuren was also the only patron of van de Woestyne, the precursor of surrealism; the house possesses 32 of his paintings. The gardens, which cover 1.5 hectares, were initially designed by Jules Buyssens, one of the main theorists of the distinctive Belgian Picturesque Garden movement. Between 1927 and 1928 Buyssens created a geometrical ‘Picturesque Garden’ to reflect the Art Deco style of the house. “Its main characteristics were, by the creation of different levels and viewpoints, to give in a confined space an evocation of a variety of natural forms: a wild garden, water and bog gardens, a rock garden, a walled garden, a fernery and herbaceous border. His ingenuity in the use of water is illustrated by a stream which trickles around the site.” In 1969 the Brussels designer, René Pechère, enlarged the gardens with the addition of the ‘Garden of the Heart’ and the ‘Labyrinth’. (Overnight Brussels) BL

Durbuy – 2 nights

Day 14: Tuesday 16 June, Brussels – Wépion – Dinant – Durbuy
•Le Sous-Bois, Wépion
•Gardens of Annevoie
•The provincial town of Dinant

We spend the day in the Meuse Valley visiting a private garden, the garden of a beautiful château and the lovely provincial town of Dinant.

Outside Wépion we visit Le Sous-Bois, a private garden designed by owners Philippe Taminiaux and Karine Fonsny. This 35-acre garden, which includes an English garden and over 100 varieties of climbing roses, affords sweeping views of the Meuse Valley. From the entrance gate a path leads through a pine forest, in which views repeatedly open up. Biodiversity reigns supreme in this garden: from the expanses of shade-loving plantings to long, lushly planted borders that lead the visitor deep into the garden. Mixed borders incorporate not only perennials, but shrub roses and a huge variety of other shrubs grown for their foliage colours and textures.

Our second visit is to the Jardins d’Annevoie in the Haute-Meuse, a region of forests and rivers. The gardens of Annevoie combine the splendour and majesty of the French formal style harmoniously with English romantic whimsy and Italian refinement. As we walk through these 250-year-old water gardens they will reveal their great diversity of cascades and fountains, majestic hundred-year old trees, trimmed hornbeam lanes and false grottoes.

From Annevoie we journey to the pretty, historic riverside town of Dinant, home of people as diverse as Adolphe Sax (inventor of the saxophone) and Joachim Patinir (the ‘inventor’ of landscape painting in Western Europe). Here we shall have time at leisure to explore the village. You may wish to visit the Collegiate Church of Our Lady or the Citadel, walk across the Charles de Gaulle Bridge with its giant futuristic saxophone sculptures, or even visit the Adolphe Sax House Museum.

From Dinant we travel east into the province of Luxembourg, the southernmost province of Wallonia. Relatively sparsely populated, about 80% of the province is covered by the densely wooded Forest of Ardennes. (Overnight Durbuy) BLD

Day 15: Wednesday 17 June, Durbuy – Wéris – Durbuy
•Nature walk to view the Wéris megaliths (6kms, 2.5hrs)
•The Maison des Mégalithes, Wéris
•Afternoon at leisure

Durbuy, nestled on the banks of the Ourthe River, is considered one of the most charming medieval towns of Wallonia. It is composed of tiny cobbled streets, timber-frame houses and a castle; it has also been home to generations of award-winning chefs. The town provides an excellent base from which to explore the Ardennes, a mountainous region of extensive forests of broadleaf and fir, rich in fauna and flora, with steep-sided valleys carved by swift-flowing rivers. Amongst its greenery lie picturesque villages, castles, forts and citadels.

This morning we enjoy a guided six-kilometre walk to the village of Wéris. A member of Les Plus Beaux Villages de Wallonie, this village is well known for its half-timbered houses of limestone or sandstone, and its megaliths, including dolmens (chambered tombs) and menhirs (standing stones) which date from 3000 BC. Whilst in Wéris we visit the Maison des Mégalithes which traces the history of the region’s megalithic sites.

This afternoon is free for you to explore Durbuy at leisure. (Overnight Durbuy) B

Maastricht – 1 night

Day 16: Thursday 18 June, Durbuy – Heers – Stokrooie – Maastricht
•Kasteel van Heks (Hex Castle), Heers
•Dina Deferme, Stokrooie

This morning we visit Hex Castle to view its world-famous rose collection. The 18th-century castle was built by Count Charles-François de Velbrück, an enlightened ruler, an advocate of liberal thought and patron of education. Originally built on a hilltop as a hunting pavilion, it was surrounded by 12 acres of formal gardens, inspired by French models including a rose garden, a Chinese garden, and a vegetable garden. De Velbrück later added a landscape park inspired by Capability Brown. The original formal Renaissance garden, which was restored by Jacques Wirtz, includes a Nut Garden and a walled vegetable garden. Today Hex is privately owned by Count Ghislain d’Ursel who carefully maintains the estate. The celebrated rose garden contains an exceptional assortment of about 250 varieties, of which the oldest were planted in the original garden. In 2003 the Garden of Roses was granted the Award of Garden Excellence by the World Federation of Rose Societies.

At midday we continue north to a wonderful 4-hectare romantic garden with an English touch, constructed around a restored farmhouse. Here, landscape architect and boarder specialist, Dina Deferme, has created a unique atmosphere using plant combinations which change colour every month. The garden, which also includes a natural pond, a shadow garden and herb garden, offers magnificent views over the surrounding countryside. Dina is author of several books including Magie van een tuin (Magic of a garden).

In the late afternoon we drive to Maastricht, located on the River Meuse in the Southern Netherlands. (Overnight Maastricht) BL

Boppard – 2 nights

Day 17: Friday 19 June, Maastricht – Neusse – Hilden – Boppard
•Museum Insel Hombroich, Neusse
•HORTVS Peter Janke Gartenkonzepte, Hilden

We begin this morning with a visit to the Museum Insel Hombroich, located in the North Rhine-Westphalia region of Germany. Art and nature unite in perfect harmony at this beautifully designed private modern art museum, scattered across eleven permanent pavilions, (‘chapels in the landscape’) set within a 25-acre nature park. Landscape designer Bernhard Korte resisted the temptation to restore the gardens of the Rosa Haus (‘Pink House’), an overgrown industrialist’s villa which was built in 1816. Instead, he created a mesmerising arcadian landscape of meadows punctuated by remnant old trees and overgrown box plants, which have long since ceased to be pruned or clipped. The valuable art collection includes Persian sculptures, Khmer art and Chinese figures dating back to the Han period placed side by side with the works of Gotthard Graubner, Jean Fautrier, Franz Arp, Constantin Brancusi, Alexander Calder, Eduardo Chillida, Gustav Klimt, Henri Matisse and Kurt Schwitters.

From Neusse we drive north of Hilden to visit HORTVS, the garden and nursery of Peter Janke, who is a rising star in German landscape design. From childhood he studied plant communities in the wild, and later was inspired by the work of Beth Chatto, with whom he studied. He is that rare combination: a true plant collector with an excellent design eye. Set on 14,000m2, the garden contains over 4,000 plant varieties grown without irrigation. Throughout, there is a very strong sense of structure and rhythm, yet it is in no way a ‘formal’ planting.

In the late afternoon we drive to the beautiful small town of Boppard located in the UNESCO heritage-listed Middle Rhine. (Overnight Boppard) BLD

Day 18: Saturday 20 June, Boppard – Eltz – Braubach – Boppard
•Eltz Castle
•Medieval town of Braubach
•Marksburg Castle, Braubach
•Time at leisure

This morning we drive through the forest to Eltz Castle, a medieval fairytale castle nestled in the hills above the Moselle River. Eltz Castle is considered the German knights’ castle par excellence. It is still owned by a branch of the same family (the Eltz family) that have lived there since the 12th century, 33 generations ago and was never destroyed, so many of its original furnishings still remain in situ. The castle is surrounded on three sides by the Eltzbach River, a tributary on the north side of the Moselle. It is on a 70-metre (230 ft) rock spur, along an important Roman trade route between rich farmlands and their markets. To reach Eltz Castle, we take a short walk through the Eltz Forest, protected since 2000 as a nature reserve of 300 hectares of forest and an arboretum for its rich variety of indigenous and foreign tree species. The castle counts myths and great art as part of its history. For example, Victor Hugo, the great Romantic poet, wrote enthusiastically about the castle. William Turner, the English painter and inventor of the Rhine Romanticism, was a regular visitor and painted the castle from many different angles.

Then we drive to the beautiful small city of Braubach that nestles below its grand castle on the right bank of the Rhine. You will have lunchtime at leisure to explore its picturesque streets lined with half-timbered old houses before we drive up to Marksburg Castle that occupies a dramatic high spur above the town. In 1276 King Rudolf of Habsburg made Braubach a free city under Count Gottfried of Eppstein. Count Eberhard I of Katzenelnbogen bought the city and castle in 1283. Until 1479, his descendants constantly altered the castle. We shall take a guided tour of the castle before returning to Boppard for the night. (Overnight Boppard) BD

Rüdesheim am Rhein – 2 nights

Day 19: Sunday 21 June, Boppard – Rüdesheim am Rhein
•Cruise along the Rhine Gorge: Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein

Today we cruise along the Rhine Gorge (Upper Middle Rhine Valley), a UNESCO World Heritage region, from Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein. This 65-kilometre stretch of the Rhine between Koblenz and Bingen with its castles, half-timbered medieval villages and vineyard terraces, graphically illustrates the long history of human involvement with this dramatic and varied natural landscape. It is intimately associated with history and legend; the poetry and prose of some of Germany’s finest writers, Brentano, von Schlegel and Heine were inspired by this landscape. We shall take a cruise along the Rhine from the town of Boppard to Rüdesheim am Rhein. (Overnight Rüdesheim am Rhein) BL

Day 20: Monday 22 June, Rüdesheim am Rhein – Weinheim – Rüdesheim am Rhein
•Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof, Weinheim
•Afternoon at leisure in Rüdesheim am Rhein
•Farewell Dinner

This morning we drive to the charming medieval hilltop town of Weinheim to visit Sichtungsgarten Hermannshof, a renowned experimental botanical and trial garden encompassing 6 acres of centuries-old rolling parkland. A mecca for plantspeople and garden designers from around the world, it is considered by many to be one of the finest and most exciting modern gardens in Europe. Director Cassian Schmidt is internationally recognised for his work using natural plant communities as models for sustainable plant combinations in urban environments and private gardens. His work is at the forefront of the New Perennial movement. The garden contains over 2500 different types and species of perennials and a number of notable trees.

This afternoon we return to Rüdesheim am Rhein where there will be time to explore this winemaking town with its cobbled streets lined with historic buildings. In the evening we gather for a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Rüdesheim am Rhein) BD

Day 21: Tuesday 23 June, Rüdesheim am Rhein – Frankfurt Airport
•Morning at leisure
•Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

The tour finishes in Rüdesheim am Rhein. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer to the Frankfurt Airport to take their flight home to Australia in the early afternoon. If you wish to extend your stay in Germany please contact ASA for further information. B

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

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

Tour Highlights

•Join Deryn Thorpe, award-winning print and radio garden journalist, to tour the gardens of five distinct regions of Italy. Deryn 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 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 Villa di Geggiano in Tuscany and Villa Aureli in Umbria.
•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 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 27 April, Arrive Milan – Transfer to Moltrasio
•Welcome 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 27 April. Those arriving on this flight will be transferred by private coach to Moltrasio. If you are travelling independently, you should meet the group at the Grand Hotel Imperiale. Private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged for those arriving independently; please contact ASA for further information.

Grand Hotel Imperiale is situated on the shores of Lake Como with panoramic views of the Grigne Mountains. We shall meet in the evening for a brief introduction to the tour, followed by a light dinner at the hotel’s La Cascata restaurant. (Overnight Moltrasio) D

Day 2: Tuesday 28 April, Moltrasio – Tremezzo – Bellagio – Moltrasio
•Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo
•Villa Melzi, Bellagio (optional)
•Villa del Balbianello, Bellagio
•Welcome Dinner, Imperialino restaurant

This morning we cruise across Lake Como to 18th-century Villa Carlotta, a garden with a huge botanical collection and a traditional Italian formal design, unlike most lake gardens that were heavily influenced by the more fluid layouts of English landscape gardening; it thus has a wide variety of architectural features – parterres, stairways, ponds, fountains, etc. In April and May Villa Carlotta offers a sea of multi-coloured azaleas shaped in high, rounded cushions alongside the garden paths.

During the lunch break there will be some time at leisure to visit Villa Melzi (optional).

This afternoon we visit Villa del Balbianello, an exquisite villa set in woods of pine, soaring cypress and oak with pollarded plane trees and manicured lawns and flowerbeds. Facing the promontory of Serbelloni, from the Lavedo point it boasts unparalleled views down the three branches of the lake. The first villa was built in 1540, but was later moved to a new site inland to protect it from flooding. Cardinal Durini erected a casino with a loggia in 1790, open to the sun and breezes; today it is trellised with Ficus pumila (creeping fig) and flanked by a library and music room.

This evening we meet in the hotel’s Imperialino restaurant for our Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Moltrasio) BD

Stresa – 2 nights

Day 3: Wednesday 29 April, 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 30 April, 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 1 May, Stresa – Turin
•Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli

This morning we make our way south from Stresa to Turin, Italy’s first capital city after unification and home to the House of Savoy. Here 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, was a renowned style icon, garden designer, author and photographer, as well as art collector. She passed away only recently, in February 2019, at the age of 91. 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. (Overnight Turin) BL

Day 6: Saturday 2 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 an 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 3 May, Turin – Revello – Moncalieri – Turin
•Bramafam, Paolo Pejrone’s private experimental garden (exclusive private visit with owner & designer Paolo Pejrone)
•Villa Silvio Pellico –Private tour of the gardens and part of the Villa with the owners & lunch (exclusive private visit)

We are particularly privileged today to meet Italy’s leading landscape architect, Paolo Pejrone, and visit 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.

Villa Silvio Pellico is 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 and a private tour of this extraordinary property. (Overnight Turin) BL

Day 8: Monday 4 May, Turin – Villar Perosa/Moncalieri – Poirino– Turin
•Gardens of Casa Agnelli at Villar Perosa or Private Garden of Silvana and Alberto Peyrani (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)
•Tenuta Banna, Poirino (exclusive private visit)

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.

Please note that the visit to the gardens of Casa Agnelli cannot be confirmed until 2-4 weeks prior to our tour’s departure. In the event that they cannot be visited, we shall visit Moncalieri to view 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.

The private estate of Tenuta Banna is owned by Marchese and Marchesa Spinola and is home to the Spinola-Banna Foundation for Art. In the 1990s Paolo Pejrone 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. (Overnight Turin) B

Lucca – 2 nights

Day 9: Tuesday 5 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 6 May, Lucca
•Orientation tour of Lucca incl. Cathedral of San Martino, Basilica San Frediano and the Piazza del Mercato
•Palazzo Pfanner
•Afternoon at leisure
•Recital of Italian Opera at the church of San Giovanni

Lucca is one of the most beautiful of all Italian cities, with city walls graced by grand plantations of trees and one of the finest sets of Romanesque churches in Italy. We visit the Cathedral of St. Martin, with a lovely Jacopo della Quercia tomb, and view the spectacular façade of the church of San Michele, made up of complex blind galleries with capricious sculptures of beasts. San Michele 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 many by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), a native of Lucca, in the church of San Giovanni. (Overnight Lucca) B

Florence – 4 nights

Day 11: Thursday 7 May, Lucca – Camigliano – Capannori – San Piero a Sieve – Florence
•Villa Torrigiani, Camigliano
•Lunch at a Tuscan osteria
•Medici Castello del Trebbio, San Piero a Sieve

During the Renaissance, the wealthy merchant families of Tuscany built grand villas on the plains of Lucca. We visit 17th-century Villa Torrigiani, named after the camellia that was introduced to the gardens in the early 18th century. The garden’s Baroque layout, attributed to André Le Nôtre, features symmetrical reflecting pools in front of the villa. Most outstanding is the secret garden (Giardino di Flora), with regular beds, topiary and pools. The garden features 19th-century trees, magnificent magnolias, cypresses and umbrella pines. The 18th-century avenue of cypresses leading to the villa from the village of Borgonuovo reflects the past grandeur of estates in this region.

We eat a traditional Tuscan lunch at nearby osteria before continuing our journey eastward toward Castello il Trebbio in San Piero a Sieve.

“Set on a hilltop in the Apennines north of Florence, a few kilometres west of San Piero a Sieve, Castello del Trebbio is one of the oldest villas built by the Medici, who came from the Mugello and chose their native region for their first villas. The head of the Medici clan, Giovanni di Bicci, owned the property from the late 14th century, and upon his death in 1428, the villa was inherited by Cosimo the Elder, who commissioned Michelozzo di Bartolomeo to rebuild the original castle.

The walled garden set on two terraces 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 8 May, Florence – Fiesole – Florence
•Villa Medici in Fiesole
•Villa Le Balze (to be confirmed)
•Lunch at Fattoria di Maiano
•Villa di Maiano: Guided tour of the Villa
•Villa di Maiano: Guided tour of the gardens with landscape architect Marco Battaggia

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. We shall also visit the the gardens with prominent Italian landscape architect Marco Battaggia. (Please note that Arch. Battaggia’s presence will be confirmed approximately one week before the visit). (Overnight Florence) BL

Day 13: Saturday 9 May, Florence
•Palazzo Corsini al Prato: Visits to the garden & palazzo; Refreshments
•Afternoon at leisure

We begin our day with a visit to to the Giardino Corsini al Prato, a Florentine urban garden that illustrates the deep connection between nature, science and beauty in the Renaissance sensibility. Alessandro Acciaioli, a passionate 16th-century botanist, conceived the garden. Unable to finish his residence, he was forced to sell the property to Filippo di Lorenzo Corsini, who completed the Italian garden that remains unchanged to this day. Completely concealed from the street by the façade of the palazzo, this urban garden reveals pink and red rock roses, peonies, cherry trees and lavender along with elegant lemon urns and a central axis of solemn marble statues. After our tour of the gardens, Princess Giorgiana Corsini has kindly arranged for us a tour of her palace, followed by refreshments.

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

Day 14: Sunday 10 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 11 May, Florence – Settignano – Pianella – Siena
•Villa Gamberaia, Settignano
•Villa di Geggiano, Pianella – including buffet lunch (exclusive private visit)

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

This afternoon we cross to the opposite side of the Sienese hills to the enchanting Villa Geggiano. Here, centuries-old cypress, potted lemons and clipped box hedges adorn a garden boasting a unique ‘greenery theatre’, late Baroque sculptures, a kitchen garden with topiary art and a semi-circular fishpond that forms an elegant terrace overlooking Siena. The villa itself contains original 13th-century furnishings. A small chapel faces the garden. Lunch features crostini with porcini mushrooms and truffles, pasta, various locally cured meats and Pecorino cheeses, followed by plum jam tart, all washed down with Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico, mineral water and coffee.

In the afternoon we continue to our hotel on the outskirts of Siena, a villa surrounded by gardens. (Overnight Siena) BL

Day 16: Tuesday 12 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 13 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

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, where 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 14 May, Perugia – Bagnaia – Viterbo
•Orientation Walk, Perugia, including Cathedral & Fontana Maggiore
•Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, Perugia
•Villa Lante, Bagnaia

This morning we take a gentle orientation walk of Perugia, including visits to its Cathedral and Fontana Maggiore. We then visit the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria to view masterpieces including works by Perugino.

Our next stop is the great garden of Villa Lante. 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 15 May, Viterbo – Calcata – Vignanello – Rome
•Gardens of Paolo Portoghesi, Calcata (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)
•Castello Ruspoli, Vignanello

This morning we visit the private garden of distinguished architect and scholar Paolo Portoghesi. The garden reinterprets Baroque elements and Borrominian forms, and fuses geometry with nature to produce a garden which is both spectacularly modern and at the same time, reverent toward the traditions upon which it draws.

Castello Ruspoli occupies the site of a mid-9th century Benedictine convent later converted to a military stronghold. Ortensia Baglioni transformed it into a villa, designed by the great architects Sangallo and Vignola, and succeeding generations created one of Italy’s most beautiful parterres, composed of hedges of bay, laurel and box, which articulate a vast rectangular space. The Princess Ruspoli today maintains the gardens. (Overnight Rome) B

Day 20: Saturday 16 May, Rome – Ninfa – Cisterna – Rome
•Giardini di Ninfa
•Tenuta di Torrecchia Vecchia (exclusive private visit; to be confirmed)

We depart this morning at approximately 8.00am for the Giardini di Ninfa. The magnificent gardens of Ninfa, south of Rome, are some of the most remarkable in all of Italy. Today, their gates will open for a special private visit for our group. The town of Ninfa is but a memory of a once prosperous medieval commune owned by the Caetani family since the mid-13th century. In the early 20th century the family began to regenerate its ruins, taking advantage of a microclimate greened by rich spring water. Thousands of species were introduced from all over the world under the guidance of botanical experts. Lelia Caetani, the last of her ancient family, died in 1977 and bequeathed her property to the Caetani Foundation, which 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 17 May, Rome – Tivoli – Rome
•Villa d’Este, 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.

After time at leisure for lunch in Tivoli, we return to Rome, arriving at approximately 3.00pm. The rest of the afternoon and the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Rome) B

Day 22: Monday 18 May, Rome – Castel Giuliano – Palo Laziale – 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 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 is 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 make a short visit to the museum and say our farewells as we return to Rome. (Overnight Rome) BL

Day 23: Tuesday 19 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

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. Each garden follows a spiritual and artistic tradition and demonstrates the incredible diverse artistry of the Japanese garden.
•Explore some of Japan’s splendid art collections, including Tokyo’s National Museum and Nara Museum, the Ukiyo-e Museum outside Matsumoto with an impressive woodblock collection, and the magnificent collection of kimonos at Itchiku Kubota Art Museum at the foot of Mt Fuji.
•Stroll along Kyoto’s charming Philosopher’s Walk and visit historic homes in Tokyo and Kanazawa.
•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 in Kanazawa 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.
•Walk the Kiso Valley’s historic Nakasendo Highway, passing through wooden groves and villages with the distinctive wooden architecture of the Edo era. Enjoy a reviving green tea in a wayside teahouse and enjoy the glorious views over the countryside.
•Stay one night in Nara in a ryokan – a traditional Japanese inn (or in western-style accommodation at the historic 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.

 

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 offers masterpieces to inspire you, and we will explore examples of contemporary garden design and landscaping in this most modern city. 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 the more intimate Isui-en and Yoshiki-en gardens. 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’ and this is the setting for our experience of a traditional tea ceremony. 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 4 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 5 November, Tokyo
•Suntory Museum of Art
•Happo-en Garden
•Lunch at Happo-en Gardens Teahouse
•Nezu Museum

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 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 day concludes with a visit to the Nezu Museum, showcasing traditional Japanese and Asian works of art once owned by Kaichiro Nezu, a railroad magnate and politician. Architect Kengo Kuma designed an arched roof that rises two floors and extends roughly half a block through the Minami Aoyama neighborhood. At any one time the vast space houses some of the collection’s 7,000 works of calligraphy, paintings, sculptures, bronzes, and lacquer ware. The purpose of our visit however, is to explore the building’s surroundings – one of Tokyo’s finest gardens with 5 acres of ponds, rolling paths, waterfalls, and teahouses. (Overnight Tokyo) BL

Day 3: Friday 6 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 7 November, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko
•Sankei-en (Sankei’s Garden)
•Fifth Station of Mt Fuji

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 3,776 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.

We then visit 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.

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 8 November, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto
•Itchiku Kubota Art Museum
•Nakamachi Street and Kurassic-kan
•Matsumoto Rising Castle
•Japan Ukiyo-e Museum

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 sixteen hiba (cypress) 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.

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 9 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 10 November, Matsumoto – Kanazawa
•Shinkansen Superexpress train to Kanazawa
•Nomura-ke (restored samurai residence & house garden)
•Ishikawa-ken History Museum
•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.

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 nullified, 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 artefacts 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. We also visit the Ishikawa-ken History Museum that is dedicated to the history of this prefecture.

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. 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 11 November, Kanazawa – Kyoto
•Kanazawa Castle (exterior)
•Kenroku-en, Kanazawa
•Tea Ceremony at Kenroku-en
•Ishikawa Prefectural Museum for Traditional Products and Crafts
•Train from Kanazawa to 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. Beside the garden is a former samurai residence where we shall partake in a traditional tea ceremony.

We also 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.

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.

In the evening you may choose to make an optional visit to the Gion district of Kyoto for a glimpse of a vanishing world – 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 12 November, Kyoto
•Kinkaku-ji (Temple of the Golden Pavilion)
•Ryoan-ji (Dragon Peace Temple)
•Daitoku-ji Buddhist Complex incl. the Ryogen-in

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 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.

We conclude the day with a visit 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 Ryogen-in. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Day 10: Friday 13 November, Kyoto
•Enko-ji
•Shisen-do
•Lunch at the Beaux Sejours, Grand Prince Hotel
•Renge-ji

Today we will visit a number of Kyoto’s great gardens. Our first visit for the day is to Enko-ji, located in northern Kyoto. A temple of the Rinzai Zen Sect, this temple was founded in 1601 and is particularly famous for the autumn colours of the maple trees in its beautiful garden. Visitors view the garden from the temple.

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 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. (Overnight Kyoto) BL

Nara – 1 night

Day 11: Saturday 14 November, Kyoto – Nara
•Isui-en Garden
•Yoshiki-en Garden
•Todai-ji Temple
•Kofuku-ji Temple
•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 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. Next door is Yoshiki-en, another historic garden names after the Yoshikigawa River that flows between the two gardens. Here we find three gardens – a pond garden, a moss garden and a tea ceremony garden.

After time at leisure for lunch we visit 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.

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 15 November, Nara – Kyoto
•Shin-Yakushi-ji
•Tointeien Garden
•Kofuku-ji Temple
•Horyu-ji

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.

We then transfer Tointeien, a strolling garden on the Nara Palace Site. The area was excavated in 1967 and completely reconstructed in preparation for being opened to the public in 1998. It’s layout and structures reflect both Chinese and Japanese styles.

A short distance away is Kofuku-ji, founded in 669. This complex contains a five-storey pagoda, 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.

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 16 November, Kyoto
•Tenryu-ji
•Nanzen-ji
•Philosopher’s Path
•Ginkaku-ji (Temple of the Silver Pavilion)

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.

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.

We stroll along the charming Philosophers Way – a footpath than follows a canal lines with cherry trees. It is named for Nishida Kitaro, one of Japan’s most famous philosophers, who walked this route to Kyoto University each day.

The Philosopher’s Path ends at 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) B

Day 14: Tuesday 17 November, Kyoto
•Heian Shrine
•Tofuku-ji
•Afternoon at leisure

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 1,100th 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.

The afternoon is at leisure to further this city’s rich culture. (Overnight Kyoto) B

Matsue – 1 night

Day 15: Wednesday 18 November, Kyoto – Okayama – Matsue
•Kouraku-en
•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 19 November, Depart Matsue
•Morning Exploration of Matsue
•Transfer to Izumo Airport

This morning we explore the small regional city of Matsue. In addition to its castle, Matsue has an attractive Samurai district and also the house museum of Lafcadio Hearn, one of the first western authors to write about Japanese culture. His books that introduced Japan to the western work include Glimpses of Unfamiliar Japan and a collection of legends Kwaidan Stories and Studies of Strange Things.

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

Gardens of New Caledonia with Julie Kinney

Gardens of New Caledonia with Julie Kinney
Landscapes, Gardens and Kanak culture of Grande Terre

18–26 October 2019 (9 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

Explore New Caledonia’s verdant Grande Terre, where a unique mixture of French and indigenous Kanak culture combines with stunning coastal landscapes and riotous tropical blossoms.

Begin in Nouméa, and discover a selection of private gardens on the island’s west, where French horticultural traditions express themselves through the abundance of Pacific island flora. Visit the Blue River Provincial Park, where endemic crested kagu birds (Rhynochetos jubatus) dart through the undergrowth, the striking Giant Fern Park and the tranquil gardens of the ANZAC Cemetery.

Then venture to the island’s east side, where the indigenous Kanak culture predominates, with its rich traditions of dance, song and totem carving. See extraordinary landscapes such as the rugged island of Poule Couveuse (‘Brooding Hen’), which nests upon the clear turquoise blue of the Pacific.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• Visit a selection of private gardens which combine French gardening heritage with luxuriant and colourful South Pacific flora
• Explore the Blue River Provincial Park, a treasure trove of biodiversity in its shrublands and tropical forests, and visit the luxuriant Giant Fern Park
• Marvel at diverse landscapes from the verdant central mountains to the coastal plains and the distinctive black limestone island of Poule Couveuse
• Discover indigenous Kanak culture at Nouméa’s striking JM Tjibaou Cultural Centre designed by Renzo Piano
• Learn about New Caledonia’s French colonial heritage with Nouméa’s elegant historic buildings and City Museum

 

ITINERARY

Friday 18 October 2019 / Arrive Nouméa

Depart Australia on suggested Qantas / Air Calin flights to Nouméa. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements. Arrive in Nouméa in the afternoon on suggested flights in time for a group transfer to the hotel at 16:45. At 19:00 join Julie and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing followed by a special welcome dinner. (D)

 

Sat 19 Oct / Nouméa

Begin your exploration of Nouméa with a morning tour of the capital city of the French Territory of New Caledonia. Surrounded by charming bays, the city sits on a hilly peninsula, offering spectacular landscapes and beautiful beaches on the Baie des Citrons and Anse Vata. Discover the combination of South Pacific hospitality and European elegance with well-preserved historic buildings including the City Museum and stroll through the lively and colourful Moselle Market.

After lunch at a local restaurant, explore the Tjibaou Cultural Centre. Designed by Renzo Piano, the centre features contemporary design and references to Kanak culture such as the ten modern buildings evoking Kanak traditional huts. Visit the museum and art centre which provide an engaging introduction to Kanak culture and society, and enjoy a walk in the landscaped park displaying native New Caledonian plants. (BL)

 

Sun 20 Oct / Nouméa

Today, enjoy a day trip to the scenic Blue River Provincial Park, located in the south part of the island of Grande Terre. Journey through diverse landscapes to reach the park, covering more than 9,000 hectares of bush, wetland and rain forest. Learn about the immense Kaori trees (Agathis spp.), native plants and grevillea, and also about the endemic crested kagu (Rhynocetus jubatus). Return to Nouméa in the late afternoon and enjoy an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

Mon 21 Oct / Nouméa – Bourail

Depart Nouméa and travel along the west coast to the highland region of La Tendea near Farino. Visit a selection of private gardens before exploring the Giant Fern Park. The park’s dense rainforest displays almost 500 plant species of which 70% are endemic. Discover its rich biodiversity, including an abundance of distinctive tree ferns. Continue to Bourail, arriving in the late afternoon. Check in to the hotel, our base for the next two nights. (BLD)

 

Tue 22 Oct / Bourail

This morning, enjoy a gentle walk and a visit to a private garden.
After lunch, visit the poignant ANZAC Cemetery, commemorating ANZAC and local forces who served in the South Pacific during World War II. New Caledonia’s advantageous geographical location was an important base for the New Zealand, Australian and American forces involved in the battle of the Pacific.mThe remainder of the afternoon is at leisure, with dinner at the hotel restaurant. (BLD)

 

Wed 23 Oct / Bourail – Hienghène

Depart the west coast and journey through the mountainous landscapes of the centre of the island. Enjoy breathtaking views of the coastal plain and plateau and travel down to the wild east side of the country. Arrive in Poindimié for lunch and enjoy a guided tour of a private garden. Continue to Hienghène, passing by massive black-stone cliffs, waterfalls, coral forests and lush tropical vegetation. Check-in to the hotel, followed by dinner. (BLD)

 

Thu 24 Oct / Hienghène

Today, enjoy a delightful boat trip in the Linderalique lagoon, cruising past wild islets and striking black limestone cliffs. These beautiful steep shapes are part of rock formations stretching over several kilometres from the Bay of Hienghène, including protected mangroves and local Kanak villages. After exploring a local inlet, return to the mainland to enjoy a traditional lunch. Return to hotel for the remainder of the afternoon at leisure. Tonight, learn about the Kanak culture and people, the largest ethnic people of the island, and enjoy a ‘Bougna’ for dinner, the traditional dish of the Kanak people. (BLD)

 

Fri 25 Oct / Hienghène – Nouméa

Enjoy a morning visiting traditional Kanak villages near Poindimié and discover their local customs, and the plants and animal species they use in local herbal medicine.Then, depart the west coast and transfer to Nouméa, with a late afternoon arrival at the hotel.
Tonight, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

Sat 26 Oct / Depart Nouméa

If you are returning home today, tour arrangements conclude with a group transfer from the hotel to Nouméa Airport for suggested Qantas/Air Calin flights to Australia. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour. (B)

Hills and Vales of South Australia with Julie Kinney

Hills and Vales of South Australia with Julie Kinney

Gardens, Art, History and Wine

 

12–20 September 2019 (9 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

From the Barossa Valley to McLaren Vale and the Adelaide Hills, explore the rich springtime offerings of South Australia’s gardens, art, produce and wine.

Travel north-east from Adelaide to the Barossa Valley stopping at Anlaby Station, the historic homestead of South Australia’s oldest Merino stud, and the estate of celebrated cook and author Maggie Beer. Visit colonial towns where established vineyards and architecture form the iconic image of this wine region, and delight in local produce at renowned farms.

In the Adelaide Hills, home of verdant and creative gardens, enjoy intimate tours of private gardens and discover herb and flower planting practices at the farm of skincare brand Jurlique.

In McLaren Vale, indulge in prestigious restaurants and wineries scattered throughout this Mediterranean-like valley.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• Discover the iconic historic houses, gardens and estates of the Barossa Valley
• Explore select private gardens of the Adelaide Hills, including the imaginative property Tickle Tank, a water tank turned into a home and garden
• Learn more about flower and herb harvesting on a tour of the Jurlique farm
• Admire sweeping landscapes of vineyards, wheat fields and orchards, awash with springtime colour
• Savour South Australia’s unique produce and wines, and enjoy a cooking demonstration at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop

 

ITINERARY

Thursday 12 September 2019 / Depart Adelaide – Barossa Valley

Meet Julie and fellow travellers at the Mayfair Hotel (45 King William Street, Adelaide) at 09:30am. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including additional nights’ accommodation before and after the tour.

Depart Adelaide for Al-Ru Farm in Sampson Flat for lunch and a tour of its generous gardens, containing sweeping lawns, ponds, arbours, rose gardens and a lake in a rural setting. In the afternoon, travel to Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop, founded by pre-eminent cook and writer Maggie Beer. Enjoy a private cooking demonstration using some of Beer’s signature ingredients including verjuice (unripe grape juice) and vino cotto (cooked grape must). Then, continue to Rowland Flat and check in to the hotel. Dinner is at a local restaurant. (LD)

 

Fri 13 Sep / Barossa Valley

This morning enjoy a tour of Anlaby Station, one of Australia’s great homesteads and one of the first grand rural properties of South Australia, located in the Barossa Valley region. It contains a four-hectare garden which is home to a variety of National Trust heritage trees and plants. Enjoy a tour of the garden, followed by lunch. After lunch, depart for Yalumba Winery, a prominent family-owned business which was founded in 1849 by Samuel Smith. Here, enjoy a wander around the lush gardens contained within its historical grounds.

We continue to Seppeltsfield for a tour of the estate, including the Jam Factory and Vasse Virgin, discovering some of the estate’s produce along the way. Arrive back at the hotel in the late afternoon for some time at leisure, followed by dinner at Seppeltsfield’s FINO Restaurant. (BLD)

 

Sat 14 Sep / Barossa Valley

After breakfast, travel to Angaston to visit the Vinters famers market a great place to view and taste the local produce of the Barossa Valley. Afterwards we will have some free time for lunch and to explore Angaston, one of the earliest established towns in the Barossa Valley. After lunch we, continue to the Barossa Sculpture Park located at Mengler’s Hill in the Barossa Ranges to view the abstract sculptures carved in local marble and granite. The site offers stunning views of the Barossa Valley. Return to the hotel for some time at leisure followed by dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

Sun 15 Sep / Barossa Valley – Hahndorf

Check out of the hotel in the morning and travel to Learbrook for a tour of the garden of horticulturalist Dr Margaret Burrell. Margaret is a close acquaintance of your tour leader, Julie Kinney. Next, visit Marble Hill House, a private estate which was the Vice-Regal summer residence of the Governor of South Australia between 1880 and 1955. Enjoy light lunch at Marble Hill House, before travelling to Hahndorf, first settled in the 19th century by Lutheran immigrants and today maintaining the unique history of being the oldest German settlement in Australia. On arrival in Hahndorf there will be a guided coach tour of the town before checking into the hotel. Dinner is at a local restaurant. (BLD)

 

Mon 16 Sep / Hahndorf

Begin the day with a tour of the delightful private garden of Sheringa. Featuring a rustic arch formed by the limbs of an old oak tree, the garden is adorned with seasonal plants including hellebores, crocus, cyclamen, clematis, aster, liliums and dahlias. Continue to the small town of Verdun located in the Adelaide Hills for lunch. After lunch, visit Kidman Flower Co, a family-owned native foliage and flower farm in the heart of the Adelaide Hills, for a tour and a hands-on flower-arranging demonstration, followed by afternoon tea. The evening is at leisure. (BL)

 

Tue 17 Sep / Hahndorf

This morning visit the The Cedars, the historic house and working studio of Australian landscape artist Sir Hans Heysen. The gracious old home is surrounded by a rambling cottage garden. Continue to delightful Tickle Tank, the home and garden of artist and gardener Irene Pearce, to discover the home constructed from concrete water tanks and adorned with mosaics. The quirky 450-square-metre garden features native grasses, herbs, roses and fruit trees. After a light lunch in the garden, return to the hotel for an afternoon and evening at leisure. (BL)

 

Wed 18 Sep / Hahndorf – McLaren Vale

Check out of the hotel for an exploration of the biodynamic Jurlique Farm, the home of one of Australia’s most prominent skin care brands. A variety of herbs, plants and flowers are grown using biodynamic practices of compost production and soil enrichment to create ingredients for their line of natural skin care products. In the afternoon travel to Coriole Vineyards for a short walk through the estate’s unique, multi-level Australian cottage garden, followed by lunch on the veranda. Check in to the hotel in the afternoon. The evening is at leisure. (BL)

 

Thu 19 Sep / McLaren Vale

Travel to Sophie’s Patch, a garden in Mt Barker owned by Sophie Thomson, a presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia. Enjoy a private tour of the garden in this 1.2-hectare property, which includes an organic vegetable patch and a large number of fruit and nut trees. En route stop at historic Strathalbyn for a walk through the ‘Soldiers Garden’ situated in the middle of this small Australian town followed by lunch. In the afternoon, visit Boat’s End for a tour of this drought-tolerant garden near the mouth of the Murray River, displaying a variety of Australian native and non-native plants that sustain themselves within the natural weather patterns of the area. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon followed by an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

Fri 20 Sep / McLaren Vale – Adelaide – Depart Adelaide

Check out of the hotel and travel to Denella Downs for a private tour of the gardens within this eight-hectare property. The garden contains forest pansies, magnolias, camellias, weeping Japanese maples and roses, and scattered around the garden is old farm equipment, which the owner loves to collect. Next, travel to the renowned d’Arenberg winery for a tour of the iconic d’Arenberg cube and a special farewell lunch with Julie and fellow travellers. After lunch, transfer to Adelaide Airport for flights departing from 16:00, or continue to the Adelaide CBD (transfer included in tour price), where tour arrangements conclude.

Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour. (BL)

 

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

Colours of South Africa

Colours of South Africa – Landscapes, Art, Gardens and Homesteads with Jean Wethmar

 

29 October – 12 November 2019 (15 days)

 

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

Flanked by the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans, South Africa is rich in stunning natural landscapes, exceptional gardens, exciting art and profound history.

Begin in vibrant Johannesburg, the world’s largest man-made ‘urban jungle’, which will be ablaze with the purple flame of jacaranda blooms, before embarking on a journey to explore the dramatic landscapes and cultures of this fascinating country. Drive along one of the world’s most remarkable coastal stretches, the famed ‘Garden Route’, and discover the unique Cape Dutch architecture, the magnificent wine estates, homesteads and gardens in the Cape Winelands.

End in glorious Cape Town, shadowed by iconic Table Mountain and renowned for its rich history, historic homesteads, exceptional gardens and lively artistic and cultural life, now crowned by the newly-opened Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• Revel in the art and culture of Johannesburg and Cape Town, two of Africa’s most vibrant cities
• Visit a wonderful selection of private and botanical gardens including Kirstenbosch, Brenthurst, Vergelegen, Stellenberg, Babylonstoren and Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden
• Drive from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town along the scenic Garden Route and Little Karoo
• Discover the unique architecture, wine estates, varied horticulture and majestic scenery of the Cape Winelands
• Extend your tour with a luxury stay at the spectacular Victoria Falls

 

ITINERARY

Tuesday 29 October 2019 / Australia/New Zealand – Johannesburg

Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qantas or Air New Zealand flights to Johannesburg. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

Arrive in Johannesburg in the late afternoon and transfer to the hotel. Join Jean and fellow travellers for a welcome drink at the hotel.

 

Wed 30 Oct / Johannesburg

Start the morning with talk by Jean, then begin your exploration of the complex nature of South Africa with a morning visit to Soweto, South Africa’s largest and most vibrant ‘township’. Visit Freedom Square, the historical Regina Mundi church where many of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission 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 31 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 ‘Little Brenthurst’ homestead was designed by colonial architect Sir Herbert Baker in the ‘Cape Dutch’ style. The 19-hectare 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, visit the Maboneng arts precinct, the ‘creative heart of Johannesburg’. In recent decades, Maboneng has led the inner-city artistic renaissance, and its private galleries and public art spaces embody the thriving energy of contemporary African art that was unleashed when the country was freed from the yoke of Apartheid. (BL)

 

Fri 01 Nov / 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 during 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. Enjoy an early afternoon tea 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. (BT)

 

Sat 02 Nov / Johannesburg – Knysna

In the 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.

After lunch, continue to Knysna, a picturesque historical coastal town in the heart of the Garden Route famous for its lagoon – and oysters! (BL)

 

Sun 03 Nov / Knysna

Enjoy a leisurely day of sightseeing in and around Knysna including the dramatic Knysna Heads and lagoon, historic jetty, and Leisure Isle. Then, visit Knysna Fine Art, one of South Africa’s leading art galleries, in the elegant heritage building of Thesen House. Knysna Fine Art has a particular focus on contemporary South African visual arts, but also exhibits tribal artwork, ceramics and photographs. After lunch, visit a private garden before returning to the hotel in the mid-afternoon for the remainder of the day at leisure. (BL)

 

Mon 04 Nov / Knysna – Oudtshoorn

Drive from Knysna past dramatic scenery along the spectacular coastal road. 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 ‘Little Karoo’, once the booming capital of the world’s ostrich feather industry during Edwardian times. Dinner is at the hotel. (BLD)

 

Tue 05 Nov / Oudtshoorn

This morning, awake early for a unique pre-dawn experience observing meerkats in their natural environment. After returning to the hotel for breakfast, visit a historic ostrich farm and homestead. Following lunch, visit the magnificent Cango Caves, a cultural and natural landmark in South Africa. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

Wed 06 Nov / Oudtshoorn – Franschhoek

Check out of the hotel and depart Oudtshoorn for a full-day drive along the scenic Route 62 through the Little Karoo, passing through quaint country towns.

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)

 

Thurs 07 Nov / 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 oak tree-lined university town of Stellenbosch, South Africa’s second oldest European settlement after Cape Town.

In the afternoon, visit the historical Boschendal wine estate and gardens for a wine tasting and lunch under the oak trees. Designed by Gwen Fagan, an authority on old gardens at the Cape, Boschendal estate’s internationally-acclaimed rose garden features many of the original rose varieties that were cultivated at the Cape and in the East Indies. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

Fri 08 Nov / Franschhoek

This morning, visit the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden, a place of expansive vistas, scents and 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. Divided into 15 sections, its fascinating garden comprises fruit, vegetables, berries, bees for pollinating, indigenous plants and fragrant lawns.

After lunch, return to Franschhoek stopping at the historical farm of La Motte for a brief tour of the Pierneef Art Museum. Arrive at the hotel in the early evening. (BL)

 

Sat 09 Nov / Franschhoek – Cape Town

Check out from the hotel this morning and depart Franschhoek for Cape Town. En route, visit the Vergelegen Estate (meaning “situated far away”), for a picnic lunch and tour of the estate. Founded in 1700 and world-renowned for its 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 Willem Adriaan van der Stel and declared National Monuments in 1942. There is also an English Oak, believed to be the oldest living oak tree in Africa at over 300 years old, while the estate’s ‘Royal Oak’ was planted in 1928 from an acorn originating from the last of King Alfred’s oak trees at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire.
Continue to Cape Town for a traditional afternoon tea and tour of the remarkable gardens of the world famous Mount Nelson Hotel before transferring to our hotel in Sea Point. The evening is at leisure. (BLT)

 

Sun 10 Nov / Cape Town

In the morning, enjoy a city tour of Cape Town, starting with a visit to the Castle of Good Hope, which 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.

After lunch, enjoy a guided tour of the newly-opened Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art. Since its inauguration in late 2017, the Zeitz MOCAA has firmly established Cape Town as the major centre for contemporary African art, including the works of African Diaspora artists worldwide. The museum is housed in a converted 1920s grain silo, with its new glass windows giving a ‘cathedral-like’ appearance to the building, and boasts over 100 galleries spread across nine floors. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. The evening is at leisure.
(BL)

 

Mon 11 Nov / 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 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 over 500 hectares, Kirstenbosch grows only indigenous South African plants and supports a diverse fynbos (‘fine bush’) flora and natural forest.

Travel down the coast to Kalk Bay and enjoy a special farewell lunch with Jean and fellow travellers, overlooking the ocean and surrounding mountains. Return to Cape Town via the dramatic Chapman’s Peak Drive, which hugs the Atlantic seaboard – South Africa’s ‘Riviera’.
(BL)

 

Tue 12 Nov / Depart Cape Town

For those tour members continuing on the post-tour to Victoria Falls*, check out from the hotel in the early morning and transfer to Cape Town Airport for a flight to Victoria Falls Airport.
For those not continuing on to the post-tour, check out from the hotel and transfer to Cape Town Airport (transfer included in tour price). Tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Cape Town Airport. Suggested departure on British Airways flights to Johannesburg to connect with suggested Qantas flights to Australia or New Zealand. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour. (B)

*Optional post-tour to Victoria Falls available, refer to tour brochure page 9.

Landscapes of the NSW South Coast with Trisha Dixon

Landscapes of the NSW South Coast with Trisha Dixon

From Sydney to Merimbula

 

01–08 April 2019 (8 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

Travel along the picturesque New South Wales South Coast from Sydney to Merimbula with garden writer and landscape photographer Trisha Dixon to discover the diverse gardens, landscapes and endemic species of this less-trodden part of the New South Wales coastline.

Explore the rich natural beauty of the South Coast while visiting select private gardens, artists’ studios and gourmet providores. Discover endemic and native plants at the exceptional Bodalla Estate on Horse Island and the superb Thubbul sculpture garden in Murrah Inlet and travel along the Mimosa Rocks coastline.
Near Eden, visit the thriving port of Boyd Town and walk along deserted beaches of Twofold Bay, following the ancient path of the Yuin people during their annual migration.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• Visit leading art galleries, wineries and outstanding gardens of the New South Wales South Coast
• Learn more about endemic and native plants while visiting the outstanding Bodalla Estate on Horse Island
• Explore exceptional private gardens including Thubbul sculpture garden, overlooking the ocean
• Enjoy a fine gourmet dinner at Rick Stein restaurant at Bannisters in Mollymook
• Travel south through the Mimosa Rocks National Park to the lovely beaches of Twofold Bay near Eden

 

ITINERARY

 

Monday 01 April 2019 / Depart Sydney

At 10:00 meet Trisha and fellow travellers at the Novotel Darling Square (17 Little Pier Street in Darling Harbour) and transfer to the Royal National Park. Established in 1879 as the world’s second-oldest national park, the Royal National Park is a natural haven with wetlands, eucalyptus forests, grassy woodlands, rainforests, scenic landscapes and sandstone cliffs.
Enjoy a scenic coastal drive along the Grand Pacific Highway to Kiama. Visit this picturesque harbour town and the famous blowhole that can spray water up to 25 metres in the air. The name of the town is derived from the Wadi Wadi word ‘Kiarama’ meaning ‘place where the sea makes a noise’. Tonight, enjoy a special welcome dinner with Trisha and fellow travellers.(D)

 

Tue 02 Apr / Kiama – Mollymook

This morning, travel to the delightful village of Berry and visit this historic country town with heritage buildings.
Then, continue to Bundanon Trust, overlooking the Shoalhaven River. This important art centre hosts over 4,000 items with more than 2,500 works by the Australian painter Arthur Boyd and the Boyd family dynasty, also including contemporary works by various artists-in-residence. Explore the art collection, and visit Arthur Boyd’s homestead and studio. Travel south to Mollymook, arriving in the late afternoon. Check in to the hotel, our base for the next three nights.
(BL)

 

Wed 03 Apr / Mollymook

Discover the charming historic town of Milton and continue to Cupitt’s Winery nearby, located in the Milton Hills with scenic views over the Budawang Ranges. Enjoy a special wine tasting to appreciate the particular characteristics of the region’s fine wine, followed by lunch. In the afternoon, visit a selection of private gardens before returning to Mollymook (BL)

 

Thu 04 Apr / Mollymook

This morning, visit a selection of gardens and artists’ studios and galleries near Mollymook.
Return to the hotel and enjoy an afternoon at leisure to appreciate the region’s beautiful beaches.
Dinner tonight is at the acclaimed Rick Stein at Bannisters restaurant, with dramatic cliff-top views over the South Coast shoreline. (BD)

 

Fri 05 Apr / Mollymook – Bermagui

Check out of the hotel and travel to Horse Island to discover the outstanding Bodalla Estate. From its origin as the property of 19th century pastoralist and industrialist Thomas Sutcliffe Mort to its present ownership by Trevor and Christina Kennedy, learn about this exceptional garden landscaped exclusively with native and endemic plants, and its elegant colonial era buildings. After lunch, enjoy a private garden visit near Tilba. Continue to Bermagui and arrive at the hotel in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

Sat 06 Apr / Bermagui

This morning, visit the superb Thubbul sculpture garden, home of well-known architect Philip Cox. Built in a series of pavilions connected by a walkway, this splendid sculpture garden is surrounded by an English-style garden and hectares of spotted gums overlooking the ocean and Murrah Inlet. After lunch at a local restaurant, travel through the Mimosa Rocks National Park and visit some private properties along the coastline before returning to Bermagui.
(BL)

 

Sun 07 Apr / Bermagui – Merimbula

Check out of the hotel and travel south to the thriving port of Boyd Town near Eden. Then, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell lunch with Trisha and fellow travellers. Enjoy an afternoon walk along the deserted beaches of Twofold Bay following the Bundian Way, an ancient path once used by the Yuin Indigenous people during their annual migration to the high country. In the late afternoon, continue to Merimbula for the last night of the tour. (BL)

 

Mon 08 Apr / Depart Merimbula

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

If you are returning home today, we suggest flights from Merimbula airport to either Sydney or Melbourne. Please speak to the hotel reception for a taxi to the airport nearby.
Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
(B)

 

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

 

 

Japanese Gardens, Art and Architecture with Genevieve Jacobs

Japanese Gardens, Art and Architecture with Genevieve Jacobs

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

Discover the timeless beauty of Japanese autumn gardens and contemporary art and architecture in the company of garden writer and Japanophile Genevieve Jacobs.

While Japan is renowned for its traditional garden culture, in recent decades the country has embraced the contemporary in striking art and architecture, often set in magnificent man-made spaces and dramatic natural environments.

From Tokyo to Kyoto, visit Japan’s most famous gardens, as well as ground-breaking art and architecture, including tranquil Takayama, Shinto shrines on Miyajima Island, landscape gardens in Kanazawa and contemporary art museums in Kyoto.

 

AT A GLANCE:

 

• Discover Tokyo’s fascinating combination of traditional landscape gardens and contemporary art museums
• Enjoy a change of pace in the unspoiled Edo era mountain town of Takayama and the enigmatic Shirakawa Valley
• Explore Hiroshima and Miyajima Island, known as the ‘Shrine Island’
• Visit some of Japan’s most famous landscape gardens, such as Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en Garden and Okayama’s Kōraku-en Garden
• In the former imperial capital of Kyoto, see Zen Buddhist temples, Shinto gardens and the Miho Museum of Contemporary Art
• Journey through picturesque countryside and savour Japan’s unique and refined cuisine

 

ITINERARY

 

Monday 04 November 2019 / Australia / New Zealand – Tokyo

 

Depart Australia or New Zealand in the morning on suggested Japan Airlines to Tokyo Narita Airport. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Arrive in Tokyo Narita Airport on suggested flights in time for a group transfer to the hotel at 18:30.

For those arriving on other flights, transfer to the hotel on shuttle limousine (included in tour price).

 

Tue 05 Nov / Tokyo

This morning, join Genevieve and fellow travellers for a welcome breakfast and briefing.

Visit the Imperial Palace East Gardens, part of the inner palace. The gardens are the former site of Edo Castle’s innermost circles of defence: the honmaru (main circle) and ninomaru (secondary circle).

Continue to Tokyo’s largest and most famous Shinto shrine, Meiji Jingu. Located in an evergreen forest of approximately 70 hectares in the middle of Tokyo, the shrine is dedicated to the divine souls of Emperor Meiji and his wife, Empress Shoken.

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

 

 

Wed 06 Nov / Tokyo

In the morning, explore the large public Ueno park situated in central Tokyo. The park grounds were originally part of Kaneiji Temple, a family temple of the ruling Tokugawa clan during the Edo period. Visit Tokyo National Museum located within the park, housing the largest collection of national treasures and important cultural items in the country.

After lunch, visit Koishikawa Kōraku-en Garden, one of Tokyo’s oldest Japanese gardens. This beautiful Japanese landscape garden represents famous Japanese and Chinese scenes in miniature, dating from the early Edo period.  Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

 

Thu 07 Nov / Tokyo – Takayama

Check out of the hotel in the early morning in advance of a high-speed train trip from Tokyo to Takayama (included in tour price).

On arrival, enjoy a walking tour of Takayama’s beautifully preserved old town. Many of the buildings and streets date back to the Edo period, with some open to visit, providing a glimpse behind the façade into the former living quarters of local merchants. Dinner is at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

 

Fri 08 Nov / Takayama

Travel to the mountainous region of Shokawa Valley and discover the traditional town of Shirakawa-go, much celebrated for its historic Minka houses. Remote and isolated from the rest of the world for hundreds of years, the region developed a specific architectural style with exceptionally strong thatched roofs houses to support the weight of snowfalls. Return to Takayama and enjoy an afternoon at leisure to further explore the city. (B)

 

 

Sat 09 Nov / Takayama – Kanazawa

Journey to Kanazawa, a city that has retained a strong cultural identity with traditional ceramics, lacquer and kimono production. Discover the picturesque Nagamachi district, formerly home to the region’s samurai, and continue to Omicho fish market for lunch.

In the afternoon, visit the innovative 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art and explore emerging new work in visual arts, design, craft, fashion, architecture and film.

Continue to the Higashi Chaya district, famous for its teahouses, well preserved buildings and narrow cobbled lanes. Dinner tonight is at a local restaurant.
(BLD)

 

 

Sun 10 Nov / Kanazawa

Today, explore the Kenroku-en Garden that used to be the outer garden of the Kanazawa castle. Kenroku-en Garden (the ‘garden of six elements’) combines the six attributes of a perfect Japanese garden. This strolling-style landscape garden is considered one of Japan’s most beautiful gardens, with seasonal floral displays, ponds, streams, stone lanterns and tea houses.

The remainder of the afternoon and the evening are at leisure to continue your exploration of Kanazawa at your own pace. (B)

 

 

Mon 11 Nov / Kanazawa – Hiroshima

Check out of the hotel and transfer to Kanazawa train station for a morning train to Hiroshima (included in tour price).

On arrival in Hiroshima, visit the Peace Memorial Park, created in memory of 06 August 1945 when the first atomic bomb in history was dropped on Hiroshima. Amongst the many memorials and museums in Peace Park are the Peace Memorial Museum, which surveys the history of Hiroshima and the advent of the atomic bomb, and the A-Bomb Dome, all that remains of the former Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall, one of the few buildings to remain standing. Enjoy some free time in the afternoon, followed by dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

 

Tue 12 Nov / Hiroshima (Miyajima Island)

Today, journey by train and ferry to the island of Itsukushima, popularly known as Miyajima (or ‘Shrine Island’). Itsukushima is perhaps most famous for the Itsukushima Shrine, established during Empress Suiko’s reign and today a UNESCO World Heritage-listed site. The shrine and its torii – the traditional Japanese gate found at the entrance or within Shinto shrines – are designed to withstand the Seto Inland Sea’s strong tides. Return to Hiroshima by ferry in the late afternoon. (BL)

 

 

Wed 13 Nov / Hiroshima – Okayama

Check out of the hotel and transfer to the Adachi Art Museum in Yasugi. Set within a superb and unique garden, the museum was built to house the collection of modern Japanese paintings, ceramics and sculptures of local businessman and collector Zenko Adachi.

Continue to the small city of Takahashi located in the mountains to the north of Okayama, for a visit to the Raikyu-ji Temple, a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect that dates back to 1504. The beautifully constructed garden within the temple grounds is a Penglai Zen ‘dry garden’ constructed by Kobori Enshu, one of the founders of the Japanese tea ceremony, who is renowned for his architecture, garden design, calligraphy and poetry. Arrive at Okayama and check in to the hotel. Enjoy dinner at a local restaurant. (BLD)

 

 

Thu 14 Nov / Okayama

This morning, visit Koraku-en Garden, one of the most famous landscape gardens in Japan (along with Kanazawa’s Kenroku-en). Koraku-en is a spacious garden that incorporates the typical features of a Japanese landscape garden, including a large pond, streams, walking paths and a hill that serves as a lookout point.

Then, continue to Okayama Castle. Also known as ‘crow castle’ due to its black exterior, Okayama Castle was built in 1597 in the style of the Azuchi-Momoyama period. The original castle was destroyed in the last year of World War II, but a reconstruction was made in 1966. Enjoy an afternoon at leisure to further explore the city. (B)

 

 

Fri 15 Nov / Okayama – Kyoto

This morning, depart Okayama for Kyoto. With its hundreds of temples and gardens, Kyoto was the imperial capital between 794 and 1868, and remains the cultural centre of Japan.

Discover the Arashiyama-Sagano area situated on the western outskirts of Kyoto. The area is known for its scenic beauty, narrow streets, old villas and temple compounds. Walk through the area’s vast bamboo groves before dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

 

Sat 16 Nov / Kyoto

Today, discover the elegant Nijō-jo Castle, built by the first Tokugawa Shōgun, a striking example of the splendid decorative luxury of the Momoyama period (1587–1615). Then visit the Kyoto Handicrafts Centre.

In the afternoon, visit the Ryōan-ji Temple, which houses the famous Zen rock garden. Ryōan-ji is the site of Japan’s famous rock garden consisting of a rectangular plot of pebbles surrounded by low earthen walls, with 15 rocks laid out in small groups on patches of moss. A feature of the garden’s design is that from any vantage point, at least one of the rocks is always hidden from the viewer.

Continue to the nearby Kinkaku-ji (Golden Pavilion) whose top two floors are completely covered in gold leaf. Built in 1397 as a villa for Shōgun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu, it has burned down numerous times throughout its history including twice during the Ōnin War, a civil war that destroyed much of Kyoto. It burned down once again in 1950, when it was set on fire by a fanatic monk. The present structure was rebuilt in 1955. (B)

 

 

Sun 17 Nov / Kyoto

This morning, visit the Kyoto National Museum for an introduction to the traditional arts of Japan. Continue to Sanjūsangen-dō, a uniquely shaped long hall rebuilt in 1251 to house its central image of the thousand-armed Bodhisattva Kannon, surrounded by 1,000 gilt bronze images of Kannon.

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

 

 

Mon 18 Nov / Kyoto

In the morning, visit Saihō-ji (Kokedera), an ancient temple said to have been established by the monk Gyōki during the Nara period (710 – 794), later restored and converted into a Zen temple by the monk Musō Soseki in 1339. The precincts are covered by more than 120 types of moss, resembling a beautiful green carpet, hence its other name, Kokedera, which literally means ‘Moss Temple’.

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

Continue to an indigo-dying workshop and discover the fascinating secrets of this valuable blue dye and the techniques used for centuries in Japanese textiles and handicrafts. (BL)

Note: Tickets to visit Saiho-ji (Kokedera) will be available only two months prior to the visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour of the garden as published, this is subject to change.

 

 

Tue 19 Nov / Kyoto

Today, spend the day at the fascinating Miho Museum nestled among the verdant Shigaraki Mountains. The museum houses the Shumei Family Collection of rare treasures from the ancient world and traditional Japanese art. This evening, celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a special farewell dinner with Genevieve and fellow travellers. (BLD)

 

 

Wed 20 Nov / Depart Kyoto

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

For those departing Kyoto today, make your way to Ōsaka Kansai Airport for suggested Japan Airlines flights to Australia or New Zealand.
Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour. (B)

 

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

 

 

Cherry Blossom and the Art of the Japanese Garden

Cherry Blossom and the Art of the Japanese Garden

 

**FILLING FAST – BOOK NOW**

Highlights

 

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

 

Overview

 

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

 

15-Day Cultural Garden Tour of Japan

 

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

 

Tokyo – 1 night

 

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

 

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

 

Day 2: Thursday 28 March, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

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

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

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

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

 

Matsumoto – 2 nights

 

Day 3: Friday 29 March, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kanazawa – 1 night

 

Day 5: Sunday 31 March, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 6: Monday 1 April, Kanazawa – Kyoto

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

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

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

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

 

Day 7: Tuesday 2 April, Kyoto

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 8: Wednesday 3 April, Kyoto

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

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

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

 

Nara – 1 night

 

Day 9: Thursday 4 April, Kyoto – Nara

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kyoto – 2 nights

 

Day 10: Friday 5 April, Nara – Kyoto

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

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

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

 

Day 11: Saturday 6 April, Kyoto

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

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

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

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

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 7 April, Kyoto – Tokyo

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

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

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

 

Day 13: Monday 8 April, Tokyo

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 14: Tuesday 9 April, Tokyo

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

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

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

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

 

Day 15: Wednesday 10 April, Depart Tokyo

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

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

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

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden

 

Tour Highlights

 

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

 

Tour Overview

 

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

 

16-day Cultural Garden Tour of Japan in Autumn

 

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

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 13 November, Arrive Tokyo

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

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

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

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

 

Day 2: Thursday 14 November, Tokyo

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

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

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

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

 

Day 3: Friday 15 November, Tokyo

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

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

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

 

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

 

Day 4: Saturday 16 November, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

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

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

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

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

 

Matsumoto – 2 nights

 

Day 5: Sunday 17 November, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kanazawa – 1 night

 

Day 7: Tuesday 19 November, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 8: Wednesday 20 November, Kanazawa – Kyoto

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

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

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

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

 

Day 9: Thursday 21 November, Kyoto

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 10: Friday 22 November, Kyoto

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

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

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

 

Nara – 1 night

 

Day 11: Saturday 23 November, Kyoto – Nara

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 24 November, Nara – Kyoto

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

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

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

 

Day 13: Monday 25 November, Kyoto

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

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

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

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

 

Day 14: Tuesday 26 November, Kyoto

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

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

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

 

Matsue – 1 night

 

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

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

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

 

Day 16: Thursday 28 November, Depart Matsue

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

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

Spring Gardens of Victoria with Julie Kinney

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

 

24 October – 02 November 2018 (10 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

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

 

AT A GLANCE…

 

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

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

 

ITINERARY…

 

 WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER 2018 / MELBOURNE – LANCEFIELD

 

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

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

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

 

TUE 25 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

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

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

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

 

FRI 26 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

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

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

 

SAT 27 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

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

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

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

 

SUN 28 OCT / LANCEFIELD – HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

 

MON 29 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

 

TUE 30 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

 

WED 31 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

 

THU 01 NOV / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

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

 

FRI 02 NOV / DEPART MELBOURNE

 

Check out from the hotel and return to Melbourne.

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

Atacama to Patagonia: Chile’s Natural World

Atacama to Patagonia: Chile’s Natural World

 

NOTE: CLOSING SOON – 3 PLACES REMAINING

Tour Highlights

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Itinerary

 

Santiago – 4 nights

Day 1: Sunday 14 October, Arrive Santiago

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

 

Day 2: Monday 15 October, Santiago

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 3: Tuesday 16 October, Santiago

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

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

 

Day 4: Wednesday 17 October, Santiago

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

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

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

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

 

Zapallar – 2 nights

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Viña del Mar – 2 nights

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

San Pedro de Atacama – 2 nights

 

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

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

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

 

Day 10: Tuesday 23 October, San Pedro de Atacama

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

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

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pucón – 2 nights

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 13: Friday 26 October, Pucón

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

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

 

Puerto Varas – 3 nights

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Torres del Paine – 3 nights

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

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

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

 

Day 21: Saturday 3 November, Depart Santiago

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 2: Sunday 4 November, Easter Island

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 3: Monday 5 November, Easter Island

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

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

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

 

Day 4: Tuesday 6 November

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

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

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

Day 5: Wednesday 7 November, Easter Island – Santiago

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

 

Day 6: Thursday 8 November, Depart Santiago

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

 

Let’s Visit Spain and Morocco

Let’s Visit Spain and Morocco with Kim Woods Rabbidge

 

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Mon 16 April Arrive Barcelona

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

 

Day 2 Tue 17 April Barcelona

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

 

Day 3 Wed 18 April Barcelona

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

 

Day 4 Thu 19 April Barcelona-Casablanca-Marrakech

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

 

Day 5 Fri 20 April Marrakech

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

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

 

Day 6 Sat 21 April Marrakech-Ourika Valley-Marrakech

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

 

Day 7 Sun 22 April Marrakech-Beni Mellal-Fes

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

 

Day 8 Mon 23 April Fes

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

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

 

Day 9 Tue 24 April Fes-Tangier

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

 

Day 10 Wed 25 April Tangier

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

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

 

Day 11 Thu 26 April Tangier-Algeciras-Ronda

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

 

Day 12 Fri 27 April Ronda-Granada

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

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

 

Day 13 Sat 28 April Granada

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

 

Day 14 Sun 29 April Granada-Seville

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

 

Day 15 Mon 30 April Seville

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

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

 

Day 16 Tue 01 May Seville

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

 

Day 17 Wed 02 May Seville-Cordoba

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

 

Day 18 Thu 03 May Cordoba

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

 

Day 19 Fri 04 May Cordoba-Madrid

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

 

Day 20 Sat 05 May Madrid-Segovia-Madrid

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

 

Day 21 Sun 06 May Madrid

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

 

Day 22 Mon 07 May Depart Madrid

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

 

Autumn on Monaro

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

 

23–27 April 2018 (5 days)

 

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

 

AT A GLANCE…

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

 

ITINERARY

MONDAY 23 APRIL 2018 / ARRIVE CANBERRA

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

 

TUE 24 APR / CANBERRA – JINDABYNE

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

 

WED 25 APR / JINDABYNE

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

 

TUE 26 APR / JINDABYNE AND MONARO

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

 

FRI 27 APR / JINDABYNE – COOMA – CANBERRA

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

 

Singapore and Garden Festival

Singapore and the Singapore Garden Festival 2018

 

Itinerary

 

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

 

Day 2 Sun 22 July Singapore Botanic Garden

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

 

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

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

 

Day 4 Tue 24 Jul Gardens by the Bay

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

 

Day 5 Wed 25 Jul Singapore Zoo

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

 

Day 6 Thu 26 Jul Singapore Garden Festival

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

 

Day 7 Fri 27 Jul Depart Singapore

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

 

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

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

 

Hidden Gardens, Classical Ruins and Vibrant Culture

 

TOUR ITINERARY:

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

‘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

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.

Autumn & the Art of the Japanese Garden 2018

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

 

**FILLING FAST – BOOK NOW**

 

Tour Overview

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

 

16-day Cultural Garden Tour of Japan in Autumn

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

 

Tokyo – 3 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 14 November, Arrive Tokyo

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

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

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

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

 

Day 2: Thursday 15 November, Tokyo

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

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

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

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

 

Day 3: Friday 16 November, Tokyo

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

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

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

 

Kawaguchiko – 1 night

 

Day 4: Saturday 17 November, Tokyo – Kawaguchiko

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

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

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

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

 

Matsumoto – 2 nights

 

Day 5: Sunday 18 November, Kawaguchiko – Matsumoto

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kanazawa – 1 night

 

Day 7: Tuesday 20 November, Matsumoto – Kanazawa

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 8: Wednesday 21 November, Kanazawa – Kyoto

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

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

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

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

Day 9: Thursday 22 November, Kyoto

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 10: Friday 23 November, Kyoto

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

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

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

 

Nara – 1 night

 

Day 11: Saturday 24 November, Kyoto – Nara

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Kyoto – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 25 November, Nara – Kyoto

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

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

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

 

Day 13: Monday 26 November, Kyoto

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

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

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

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

 

Day 14: Tuesday 27 November, Kyoto

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

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

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

 

Matsue – 1 night

 

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

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

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

 

Day 16: Thursday 29 November, Depart Matsue

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

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

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.