Gardens of New Zealand with Helen Young

Gardens of New Zealand with Helen Young

 

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

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

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

 

AT A GLANCE:

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

 

TOUR LEADER:

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

 

Friday 19 October 2018 / Arrive Christchurch

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

 

Sat 20 Nov / Christchurch

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

 

Sun 21 Oct / Christchurch – Greymouth

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

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

 

Mon 22 Oct / Greymouth – Blenheim

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

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

 

Tue 23 Oct / Blenheim

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

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

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

 

Wed 24 Oct / Blenheim

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

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

 

Thu 25 Oct / Blenheim – Wellington

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

 

Fri 26 Oct / Wellington

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

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

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

 

Sat 27 Oct / Wellington – New Plymouth

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Wed 31 Oct / New Plymouth – Hamilton – Auckland

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

 

Thu 01 Nov / Auckland

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

 

Fri 02 Nov / Depart Auckland

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

 

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

Spring Gardens of Victoria with Julie Kinney

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

 

24 October – 02 November 2018 (10 days)

 

HIGHLIGHTS…

 

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

 

AT A GLANCE…

 

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

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

 

ITINERARY…

 

 WEDNESDAY 24 OCTOBER 2018 / MELBOURNE – LANCEFIELD

 

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

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

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

 

TUE 25 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

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

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

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

 

FRI 26 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

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

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

 

SAT 27 OCT / LANCEFIELD

 

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

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

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

 

SUN 28 OCT / LANCEFIELD – HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

 

MON 29 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

 

TUE 30 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

 

WED 31 OCT / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

 

THU 01 NOV / HEPBURN SPRINGS

 

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

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

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

 

FRI 02 NOV / DEPART MELBOURNE

 

Check out from the hotel and return to Melbourne.

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

Atacama to Patagonia: Chile’s Natural World

Atacama to Patagonia: Chile’s Natural World

 

Tour Highlights

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Itinerary

 

Santiago – 4 nights

Day 1: Sunday 14 October, Arrive Santiago

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

 

Day 2: Monday 15 October, Santiago

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 3: Tuesday 16 October, Santiago

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

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

 

Day 4: Wednesday 17 October, Santiago

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

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

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

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

 

Zapallar – 2 nights

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Viña del Mar – 2 nights

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

San Pedro de Atacama – 2 nights

 

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

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

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

 

Day 10: Tuesday 23 October, San Pedro de Atacama

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

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

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Pucón – 2 nights

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 13: Friday 26 October, Pucón

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

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

 

Puerto Varas – 3 nights

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Torres del Paine – 3 nights

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

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

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

 

Day 21: Saturday 3 November, Depart Santiago

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 2: Sunday 4 November, Easter Island

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

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

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

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

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

 

Day 3: Monday 5 November, Easter Island

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

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

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

 

Day 4: Tuesday 6 November

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

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

 

Santiago – 1 night

 

Day 5: Wednesday 7 November, Easter Island – Santiago

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

 

Day 6: Thursday 8 November, Depart Santiago

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

 

Autumn Country Gardens of NSW with Julie Kinney

Autumn Country Gardens of NSW – Southern Highlands and Blue Mountains with Julie Kinney

 

Amble through some of Australia’s most beautiful gardens, where English design finds a home in the Australian landscape, as Autumn’s brush paints the leaves gold and crimson.

In the Southern Highlands, visit grand, cool-climate gardens, including the unique Red Cow Farm (‘a garden for all seasons’) and explore a selection of private gardens in this delightful region famous for its flower shows and kaleidoscope of autumnal colour. After a day in the gardens of Crookwell, continue to the city of Orange for a peek at some of the picturesque gardens of the Central West. Then ascend to the Blue Mountains where the spectacular gardens of Mayfield, Mount Wilson and the Everglades display all the blazing glory of the Autumn season.

 

AT A GLANCE:

• Spend three nights at the Hydro-Majestic Hotel in the Blue Mountains, a beautiful Art Deco building originally used as a hydropathic health spa

• Discover the private gardens of the Southern Highlands, from Wildes Meadow to Bundanoon, Bowral, Mittagong and Berrima

• Explore the Everglades, designed by Danish-born landscape gardener Paul Sorensen, and spend a day in the picturesque 19th century gardens of Mount Wilson

• Travel to Orange via Crookwell, and experience the hospitality of the best local gardeners, where each garden displays the personality of its owner

• Explore the 2.5 hectare Red Cow Farm, comprising some 20 different garden ‘rooms’ created around a simple 1820s cottage

• Wander through Mayfield Garden, a 64 hectare landscape garden set in the middle of a 2,000 hectare cattle farm

 

ITINERARY

MONDAY 23 APRIL 2018 / SYDNEY – BOWRAL

Meet Julie and fellow travellers at the Ibis Hotel Darling Harbour, 70 Murray Street, Pyrmont, Sydney at 10:00. (Pre-tour accommodation available at this hotel.)

Strike out for the Southern Highlands, travelling south along the coast on the Grand Pacific Drive. Turning inland, enjoy lunch in Robertson, formerly a major centre for cheese-making, and now known for its gardens.

Continue to Bowral, the largest town in the Southern Highlands, and once the summer retreat of the Sydney gentry. Enjoy a welcome dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (LD)

 

TUE 24 APR / BOWRAL

After breakfast, visit Carisbrooke Garden in Bowral, which reflects memories of a country homestead garden and includes a woodland of unusual trees, a rose garden, a ‘borrowed view’ of the golf course beyond the croquet lawn, and a trio of summer houses. Travel to Coombewood Garden in Mittagong and wander through avenues of trees in brilliant autumn tones in this 3.2-hectare garden developed over the last 30 years.

Enjoy free time for lunch at the Sturt Café and explore the Sturt Gallery, established in 1941 by the former Headmistress of Frensham School and now a centre of excellence for craft and design education.

After lunch, continue to Greenbrier Park for a tour of their garden which fuses English design and Australian native eucalypts, followed by a special wine tasting. Return to Bowral for dinner. (BD)

 

WED 25 APR / BOWRAL

In the morning, travel to Berrima for the ANZAC Day service held near the spreading branches of an oak tree planted in 1890 by then-Premier of NSW Sir Henry Parkes.

Continue to Milton Park for lunch and a visit to the private garden. Built in the beginning of the twentieth century by the Hordern family of retail and pastoral fame, the formal gardens at Milton Park were laid out by Mary Hordern in ‘The English School of Landscape’ and are considered amongst the finest in Australia. Australia’s oldest and largest Variegated Tulip tree, Weeping Beeches, Elms and oaks are a feature of this spectacular property.

In the afternoon, visit Harper’s Mansion, a historic Georgian-style homestead completed in 1834 for District Constable James Harper, and later used as a presbytery for the priests of St Francis Xavier. Its recently restored gardens replicate the original planting, replete with a wealth of early 19th century rose varieties.

After a visit to the private garden of Old Rose Cottage, return to Bowral for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

THU 26 APR / BOWRAL

After breakfast, depart for 5th Chapter Winery and Garden near Fitzroy Falls. Explore the Japanese and enclosed parterre gardens, flower beds, fountains and water features and taste their wine, evocative of the cool climate of the Southern Highlands. Visit the garden of Yarrawin in Burradoo, estate of the late philanthropist Paul Ramsay AO, where gracious English-style lawns stretch between plantings of eucalyptus.

Enjoy time in Bowral for lunch (own expense). After lunch, travel to Red Cow Farm near Sutton Forest, an abundant 2.5-hectare garden developed around a historic 1820s cottage. Red Cow Farm features 20 different garden ‘rooms’, including a monastery garden, an abbess’s garden, a cottage garden, a kitchen garden and other gardens themed around woodlands, beech trees, classic roses, lakes, bogs and orchards.

Return to Bowral for an evening at leisure. (B)

 

FRI 27 APR / BOWRAL – ORANGE

Check out from your hotel and travel to the town of Crookwell in the Southern Tablelands to explore a range of private gardens. Well known for its enthusiastic gardening culture, each garden in Crookwell displays the distinctive personality of its owner.

Following lunch at a local restaurant, visit another private garden in Crookwell, and then continue to Orange in the Central West.

Dinner at the hotel. (BLD)

SAT 28 APR / ORANGE

Spend a day in a selection of private gardens in and around Orange. The region is famous for its orchards, producing apples, pears and stone fruits, and its climate of warm summers, cool winters and evenly-spread rainfall also allows gardeners in Orange to grow a range of different flora and create unique and beautiful gardens of their own.

Dinner at a local restaurant. (BLD)

 

SUN 29 APR / ORANGE – BLUE MOUNTAINS

landscape garden set within a 5,000-hectare working cattle farm. One of the world’s largest privately-owned cool climate gardens, Mayfield boasts a water garden, a cascade, a walled kitchen garden, an orchard, a maze, a rose garden, a croquet garden, an aviary and a set of ‘deluxe hen houses’.

After a day exploring this magnificent garden, check in to the Hydro Majestic Hotel in Medlow Bath. First established as a hydropathic health spa, this beautiful hotel was built in a charming and unique amalgam of architectural styles encompassing Federation style and Art Deco.

Dinner at the hotel. (BLD)

 

MON 30 APR / BLUE MOUNTAINS

After breakfast, depart for a full-day tour to the gardens of Mount Wilson, which are lit up in a blaze of crimson and gold in the Autumn. Explore the estate of Bebeah, where neatly-clipped hedges of box and laurel frame elegant white gravel drives. Continue to Nooroo Garden, established in 1880 and home to a wealth of oaks, ash, beech, chestnut and maple trees. Wander through Merry Garth Garden, where native sassafras, coachwood, ferns and banksias meet beech trees, the orange-barked Chinese paperbark maple and the rare Rimu pine from New Zealand.

In the afternoon, visit Windyridge Garden, a landscape garden displaying a collection of sculptures amongst pin oaks, maples, copper beeches, ginkos and tupelos. (BL)

 

TUE 01 MAY / BLUE MOUNTAINS

In the morning, travel to Foggy Dew Garden in Leura, a small private garden with a wisteria arbour, laburnum walk, pond and a large rockery. Continue to the Everglades, one of Australia’s foremost heritage gardens, designed by Danish-born landscape gardener Paul Sorensen in the 1930s. Spanning 5.3 hectares, the Everglades combines traditional European-style terrace gardening with the distinctively Australian panorama of the Blue Mountains.

After lunch (own expense) and time to explore Leura, visit a private garden in Leura before returning to your hotel. In the evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Julie and fellow travellers. (BD)

 

WED 02 MAY / BLUE MOUNTAINS – SYDNEY

Check out from the Hydro Majestic Hotel and descend from the Blue Mountains to Sydney. On the way, explore the 252-hectare Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah, where the rich basaltic soil has nurtured Australia’s finest cool climate garden, featuring a wealth of native plants and Eurasian species such as oak and birch.

For those departing Sydney, tour arrangements conclude on arrival at Sydney airport at 15:00 for flights departing from 16:30 onwards.

For those remaining in Sydney, tour arrangements conclude on arrival in central Sydney at 16:00. (BL)

Note: At time of publication (April 2017), most but not all garden visits were confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2 to 3 months prior to visit. Therefore, while we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some changes to the itinerary.

 

Cultural Landscapes of the Midi-Pyrénées & the Dordogne

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

 

 

Tour Highlights

 

•  This tour, led by Adrian Mialet, travels across the great southern plain between the Pyrénées and the Massif Central, into the heavily wooded highlands of the Auvergne, and down the superb river valleys of the Lot, Tarn and Dordogne.

•  Discover the unique history of the Cathars and their cities and castles in Carcassonne and Albi.

•  Visit some of the grandest pilgrim churches, at Toulouse, Moissac, Conques and Périgueux, built on the great medieval pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.

•  Explore the Templar and Hospitaller territories and the Commanderie in Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon, the Knights’ headquarters dedicated to the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.

•  Tour through one of the most scenic and dramatic regions of France, dominated by the lovely river valleys of the Lot, Tarn and Dordogne.

•  Learn about the unique medieval frontier towns, bastides, such as Cordes-sur-Ciel, Najac, Sarlat and Monpazier.

•  Visit châteaux that were once medieval fortress castles but later became majestic palaces surrounded by fine gardens.

•  Visit Cro-Magnon in the Dordogne, where Homo sapiens was first identified.

•  See the spectacular cave paintings of the Late Stone Age in the caves of Rouffignac, Cougnac, Pech-Merle and newly opened Lascaux IV facsimile.

•  View the large prehistoric sculpted frieze at Abri de Cap Blanc.

•  Amble through the weekly village markets and taste the famous Périgord delicacies (truffle, foie gras).

•  Cruise along the Dordogne River on board replicas of traditional gabares.

•  Enjoy a falconry show at Château des Milandes.

•  Sample award-winning wines and enjoy lunch at Château Carbonneau near Saint-Emilion, a family-run winery with strong New Zealand ties.

 

 

16-day Cultural Tour of the Midi-Pyrénées & the Dordogne

 

Overnight Toulouse (2 nights) • Albi (3 nights) • Conques (1 night) • Saint-Jean-Lespinasse (1 night) • Sarlat (4 nights) • Montignac (3 nights) • Bordeaux (1 night)

 

Toulouse – 2 nights

 

Day 1: Tuesday 11 September, Arrive Toulouse

Orientation Walk

Basilica Saint-Sernin, Toulouse

Our tour commences in Toulouse. Upon arrival, participants on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be included in the group transfer to our hotel. People who have not taken ASA ‘designated’ flight should meet the group at the Grand Hôtel de l’Opéra situated in the centre of Toulouse.

In the afternoon we shall take an orientation walk in the vicinity of the hotel and visit the great pilgrim church of Saint-Sernin (1075-1096). After the abbey church at Cluny (destroyed during the French Revolution), Saint-Sernin was the largest Romanesque church in France. It was one of the five archetypal pilgrim churches on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, the others being Sainte-Foy at Conques, Saint-Martin at Tours, Saint-Martial de Limoges, and the great cathedral at Santiago. All these churches are aisled basilicas. In each, these aisles run down either side of the nave and around the transepts and semi-circular chevet. From the chevet of each church project chapels that once displayed saints’ relics. The aisles that ran right around the church allowed pilgrims to process through the building to see the relics in these chapels without disrupting services in the chancel. Saint-Sernin was constructed from a richly coloured red brick. Its nave, the longest on the pilgrim route, leads to a crossing topped by a magnificent Gothic tiered tower and spire. (Overnight Toulouse)

 

Day 2: Wednesday 12 September, Toulouse – Carcassonne – Toulouse

Château Comtal, Ramparts & Basilica of St Nazaire and St Celse, Carcassonne

Welcome Dinner

Today we drive southwest to what was once the medieval frontier between the Kingdom of France and the Spanish kingdom of Aragón, to Carcassonne, the walled city we shall visit. Before its integration into the French kingdom by Louis IX, Carcassonne was a stronghold of the Cathars, who were decimated by Simon de Montfort during the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229). Before the Crusade, Carcassonne, like many cities in this region, had been a centre of local power, jealous of its independence from larger hegemonies. Originally a Celtic settlement, then a Roman colonia (Carcasum), it became a Visigothic stronghold (508) that resisted the early Franks, was taken for a time by the Iberian Muslims (725), and had become the seat of a local county that often allied itself either to the counts of Barcelona or Toulouse. Fragments of Carcassonne’s Roman walls still exist, within the magnificent concentric rings of medieval ramparts defended by many towers. Louis IX founded a lower city across the River Aude from the original fortified city (1247), and even after it had lost importance as a bastion against Aragón (when the frontier moved further south) its towers and ramparts made the upper, older, city almost impregnable. During the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Prince destroyed Louis IX’s lower city, but could not take Carcassonne proper (1355).

Despite prosperity during the later Middle Ages as a centre of wool manufacture, Carcassonne slowly declined to provincial obscurity and its walls fell into such ruin that in the 19th century the French government considered dismantling them. Carcassonne’s mayor, the antiquary Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille, and the writer Prosper Mérimée, France’s first inspector of ancient monuments, protested, and the city was eventually restored in the 1850s and 1860s by the great Neo-Gothic architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Carcassonne’s restoration became a key moment in the growth of French, and therefore world, notions of conservation and preservation. Much of France’s medieval built heritage had either fallen into disrepair or had suffered depredations through countless wars and the French Revolution. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc – who also restored Notre-Dame de Paris and was then working on Saint-Sernin, Toulouse – performed the massive feat of bringing Carcassonne back to its medieval glory. Although he was criticised for giving the Carcassonne’s towers steep conical pinnacles that were uncharacteristic of a southern region without heavy snowfalls, his restoration is nevertheless seen as a masterpiece, albeit with touches of Romantic fantasy.

We shall explore Carcassonne’s ramparts and visit its Château Comtal (Count’s citadel) and the Basilica of St Nazaire and St Celse. There will be time at leisure for lunch and to allow you to further explore the city. Mid-afternoon we return to Toulouse and enjoy a Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Toulouse) BD

 

Albi – 3 nights

 

Day 3: Thursday 13 September, Toulouse – Moissac – Albi

Musée des Augustins, Toulouse

Cloisters of Saint-Pierre, Moissac

The morning in Toulouse will be spent exploring the town centre and visiting the Musée des Augustins. The Musée des Augustins, once a grand old Augustinian priory used as a residence and studio by Viollet-le-Duc when he worked on the restoration of Saint-Sernin, now holds a comprehensive collection of Romanesque and Gothic sculpture from the city’s churches.

In the afternoon we depart for Albi via Moissac, visiting the church of Saint-Pierre (1100-1150), which was once a Cluniac abbey. Moissac boasts a fine trumeau (door jamb) graced by the ethereal elongated figures of St Paul and the Prophet Jeremiah. Although much of the original monastery has been destroyed, its cloister remains. It has an important corpus of sculpted panels and capitals including figures in relief whose monumentality suggests that the artist, who also worked in Saint-Sernin, Toulouse, was inspired by antique sculpture, which was to be found in abundance in Southern France. (Overnight Albi) B

 

Day 4: Friday 14 September, Albi

Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d’Albi

Musée Toulouse-Lautrec

Les Jardins du Palais de la Berbie

Afternoon at leisure

We spend a full day in Albi, a city of red brick, reminiscent of Siena. It stands on the river Tarn, whose bed provided the clay for these bricks. We visit the Bishop’s palace – the Palais de la Berbie – which has a fine garden and houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, as well as Albi’s extraordinary, fortress-cathedral, Sainte-Cécile. The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, one of the finest museums devoted to a single artist in France, incorporates early paintings by the master and some of his most important images of Parisian life. There is also a collection of his posters and a section devoted to his lithography displaying many of his lithographic stones.

As late as the 12th century, the County of Toulouse was independent of the French crown. Its cities were wealthy and their merchants criticised the corruption of the Church. Many were Cathars, a name derived from the Greek word for ‘pure’. Cathars believed in the strict separation of good and evil in the world. They were divided into two groups: ordinary believers who worked in thriving cities like Albi and Toulouse, and ‘perfecti’ who separated themselves from the world, living lives of exemplary abstinence, which contrasted awkwardly with abuses within the Church. The French crown mounted the Albigensian Crusade (c.1208-1244) to destroy the Cathar ‘heresy’. Its hidden motive was to conquer the independent south and incorporate it into the French realm. The population of Albi was slaughtered and Bishop Bernard de Castanet (1240-1317) constructed the new Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile (1282-1330; porch 1519-1535) using riches confiscated from the Cathars. The building, with huge, smooth defensive walls and curved tower-buttresses (so that stones hurled by siege machines would glance off them) was designed like a fortress to remind the Albigensians of the authority of the Church whose dogmas they had questioned.

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

 

Day 5: Saturday 15 September, Albi – Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon – La Cavalerie – La Couvertoirade – Millau Viaduct – Albi

Templar and Hospitaller Circuit in the Larzac

Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon: the headquarters of a local Templar Commanderie

Templar and Hospitaller villages of La Cavalerie and La Couvertoirade

Millau Viaduct (time permitting)

The south of France was enriched by Mediterranean trade and pilgrimage to Santiago, but it was also a highly contested region, where the forces of the French and Spanish kingdoms, local potentates such as the Counts of Toulouse and Carcassonne, and religious groups like the Cathars, all vied for power. Another force in this region was the Knight Templar, originally dedicated to the succour of pilgrims in Jerusalem, which had been transformed during the Crusades into an aristocratic, military order. Many myths have been spun around the Templars, most of which, such as their involvement in occult practices, are apocryphal. They nevertheless constituted a powerful force in medieval Europe, amassing vast wealth that raised the jealousy of kings. The Templars, like the Knights Hospitaller (later Knights of Malta) attracted charitable donations, including vast tracts of land. Among their many activities was banking, and Philip IV (1268-1314), who was heavily indebted to them, had many arrested, tortured to produce false confessions, and burned at the stake as heretics. He also forced Pope Clement V to disband the Order in 1312.

We spend today exploring Templar territories in the Larzac region to the east of Albi, visiting Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon, their regional headquarters (commanderie), and their stunningly picturesque fortified village of La Couvertoirade. Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon occupies a deep valley between ridges of the Larzac. It is the best-preserved Templar commandery in France, having been established by the Order in 1159, and then taken over by the Hospitallers when Philip IV eliminated the Templars. La Couvertoirade, in a wildly beautiful setting, deep in the Larzac on the edge of the Cévennes National Park, was a Templar stronghold until the fall of the Order, when it also was taken over by the Knights Hospitaller who built the village’s curtain wall between 1439 and 1450. This wall still stands, and within it are a church, a small château, and a number of lovely old houses.

We shall also have lunch at a small restaurant in La Cavalerie, another fortified Larzac Templar site, halfway between Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon and La Couvertoirade.

We return to Albi in the late afternoon and, time permitting, make a brief stop to view the Millau Viaduct a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn. Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world. (Overnight Albi) BL

 

Conques – 1 night

 

Day 6: Sunday 16 September, Albi – Cordes-sur-Ciel – Najac – Conques

Bastides of Cordes-sur-Ciel & Najac

Today we drive north to the secluded town of Conques through the region of the Aveyron Gorges, visiting beautiful hill-top bastides, Cordes-sur-Ciel and Najac.

Bastides played a vital role in the emergence of France after the Dark Ages and the consolidation of royal power after the Albigensian Crusade. They also figured in the ensuing territorial struggle with the Plantagenets of England, the Hundred Years’ War. A bastide was a fortified village or town, usually of regular plan, in which the rural population was forced to reside so it could be defended as well as exploited by the crown or a feudal lord. Both the Plantagenet and French monarchies built bastides, and one of their later functions was as strongholds in the Hundred Years’ War. Before the advent of these very particular communities, the landscape of this heavily forested, under-populated region had only tiny, scattered, isolated settlements, abbeys or the strongholds of the local nobility. The bastides were therefore the ‘frontier towns’ or ‘colonies’ of the Middle Ages, which tamed the land. Although an ideal bastide has a grid plan centring on an arcaded market square, they in fact took many forms that depended upon topography, microclimate and available building materials.

The plan of Cordes, the very earliest bastide, does not conform to type. Its organic plan accommodated the urban fabric to the steep bluff upon which it was located. Its domestic architecture is distinctive to the region. Originally, its limited agricultural domain would have been surrounded by forest, for Cordes was founded in virgin territory. Its neighbour Najac, a fine, small bastide that occupies a craggy cliff, is dominated by a partly ruined château built by the villagers in 1253 on the orders of Alphonse de Poitiers. Najac’s 13th-century Church Saint-Jean, erected by the local population as a punishment for their Cathar beliefs, overlooks the village, while at the opposite end, the faubourg (medieval suburb or extension to the town) has the typical architecture of many bastides, with timber-framed houses and commercial arcades around an open area. Najac’s houses are so valued that they have been registered in a special catalogue.

After lunchtime in Najac, we turn east again into deep, heavily forested valleys formed by the river Lot to Conques, one of France’s greatest treasures. Tonight we stay in a delightful small hotel occupying a late medieval house next to Conques’ famous church. (Overnight Conques) BD

Saint-Jean-Lespinasse – 1 night

 

Day 7: Monday 17 September, Conques – Figeac – Saint-Jean-Lespinasse

Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Foy, Conques

Abbey Museum, Conques

Figeac

Conques owes its fame to the Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Foy (1031-1090) that, despite its isolation, became one of the most famous shrines on the medieval pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela (northern Spain). The church is one of five archetypal pilgrim basilicas, along with Saint-Sernin (Toulouse), Santiago de Compostela, Saint Martin (Tours: destroyed) and Saint-Martial (Limoges). It has a fine east-end with radiating chapels, a narrow, high nave with galleries, and a well-preserved coloured portal depicting the Last Judgement in vividly descriptive detail. The abbey was founded in 866 in a lonely, thickly wooded region of the Dordogne. It became an important station on the pilgrim route to Santiago from Le Puy because of the extraordinary popularity of the saint, martyred in 330 AD, whose relics were brought here in five centuries later. The adolescent girl Sainte Foy, like Saint George, was of obscure origins, but later became so popular that monuments to her were founded throughout Britain, continental Europe and the Near East. Her strange reliquary, fashioned in the form of an enthroned monarch, is the only surviving example of a form popular in the 11th century. It is housed in Conques’ Abbey Museum, which holds one of Europe’s best-preserved collections of medieval pilgrim art.

We shall spend the morning visiting the abbey church and the museum of Conques, and wandering through the small town viewing its lovely small houses.

After lunchtime we shall drive west through the old town of Figeac. Its old houses, many of which have turrets and typical Quercy open-fronted attics, cling to terraces on the steep valley sides above the river Célé. The town has a wonderful ensemble of merchant houses from the Renaissance and, in a medieval courtyard called Place des Ecritures, a large modern sculpture by the American artist, Joseph Kosuth. You will have time to wander through the town and see Figeac’s two churches, Saint-Sauveur and Notre-Dame-du Puy, both of which have Romanesque sections. We continue our journey north to our next accommodation, a small country hotel overlooking the Bave Valley outside the village of Saint-Jean-Lespinasse that is noted for its fine cuisine; we shall dine here tonight. (Overnight Saint-Jean-Lespinasse) BD

 

Sarlat – 4 nights

 

Day 8: Tuesday 18 September, Saint-Jean-Lespinasse – Montal – Autoire – Loubressac – Carennac – Sarlat

Château de Montal

Autoire

Loubressac

Carennac Church

Today we explore a château and two villages close to St Céré and then turn west along the valley of the Dordogne. Our route takes us through the heart of an ancient agricultural region with numerous beautiful châteaux, villages and Romanesque pilgrim churches. We begin at the Château de Montal whose powerful towers and picturesque profile give it the aspect of a fortress. Built in 1523-4, it is, however, a Renaissance palace similar to the great châteaux of the Loire, and the rich decoration of its stately façades reflects a political stability unknown earlier, when bastides were used to tame this part of France and when French and English armies fought each other for control of it. Of particular note are Montal’s portrait sculptures of Robert de Balsac, his wife Antoinette de Castelnau, and members of their family that grace the upper storeys of the courtyard façade. Within, the château has a magnificent central staircase and beautiful fittings, such as great ornamental fireplaces. After touring the château and its gardens, we continue our journey, travelling through Autoire, located at the head of the Gorge d’Autoire, a chasm running south from the Dordogne, to the nearby village of Loubressac where we break for a picnic lunch.

Near Loubressac, the Bave meets the Dordogne, whose south bank we follow to Carennac. Here we stop briefly to view the medieval tympanum over the doorway of the church. Carved tympana, often with graphic depictions of the Last Judgement, were a feature of Romanesque churches, presenting the faithful entering the shrine with awesome visions of Christ or terrifying views of eternal punishments meted out to sinners. You will be able to compare Carennac’s Last Judgement with those you have seen at Moissac and Conques, and will see how each has a very different style compared to its counterparts. From here we follow the Dordogne as it winds its way west and continue on to Sarlat-la-Canéda. (Overnight Sarlat) BL

 

Day 9: Wednesday 19 September, Sarlat – Les Eyzies de Tayac – Rouffignac – Sarlat

Musée National de la Préhistoire, Les Eyzies

Abri Pataud, Les Eyzies

Prehistoric cave of Rouffignac

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

This morning we visit the Musée National de la Préhistoire at Les Eyzies-de-Tayac situated in a restored château on a terrace overlooking a plane on which vast herds of reindeer and other beasts would have roamed in the Late Stone Age. The château, in fact, is located on the site of a Prehistoric settlement chosen, no doubt, for the excellent view it provided those scanning the plane for game. The museum holds, among other exhibits, an amazing collection of artefacts such as beautifully sculpted reliefs of animals.

Following lunch in Les Eyzies, we visit the excavation site of Abri Pataud, the only prehistoric site in the Dordogne to have been converted into a museum. It is situated 15 metres above the river Vézère at the foot of an imposing cliff that dominates the village of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.

Our last visit today is Rouffignac, a vast prehistoric cave which includes ten kilometres of galleries, two of which were frequented by Cro-Magnon artists. It’s also exceptional for its more than 150 depictions of mammoths. An electrical train takes us through. This is linear art: animals and signs outlined in magnanese dioxyde, or finely engraved, or finger-drawn where the wall’s surface is soft enough. The simplicity and accuracy of line here reveal the artist’s talent and expertise more in this cave, perhaps, than anywhere else. The Great Ceiling, one kilometre from the entrance, offers the viewer an unforgettable whirl of mammoths, bisons, and ibex. (Overnight Sarlat) B

 

Day 10: Thursday 20 September, Sarlat – Monpazier – Castelnaud-la-Chapelle – Sarlat

Orientation walk of Sarlat-la-Canéda

Bastide town of Monpazier & Thursday Market

Château des Milandes, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle incl. the Falconry Show

This morning we take a leisurely stroll of Sarlat-la-Canéda which will include a visit to the mysterious Lanterne-des-Mortes and the cathedral, and time to view its golden stone buildings. Sarlat-la-Canéda was largely a ruinous town until purposefully restored by the French government in the 20th century to act as a cultural focus for the Périgord-Noir region.

Next, we drive to the bastide of Monpazier, nominated one of ‘plus beaux villages de France’. It is not only the best-preserved bastide in the Dordogne, but is also considered the most typical example of a bastide in the entire south-west of France. King Edward I of England founded Monpazier in 1284 with the help of Pierre de Gontaut, Lord of Biron, and it was only during the reign of King Charles V of France (1366-1380) that it was taken by the French. In 1574 the Huguenot captain, Geoffroi de Vivans, took control of Monpazier and in 1594 it became a centre of the Peasant’s Revolt.

Despite the ravages of the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion, Monpazier has remained remarkably unchanged for 700 years. Monpazier’s urban core is perfectly quadrilateral in overall layout, its symmetrical, gridded plan covering an area of 400 x 220 metres. The town’s grid is crossed by four transverse streets, which divide it into rectangular precincts. Medieval and 17th-century houses surround the central Place des Cornières; originally, all of Monpazier’s houses were exactly the same size and separated from one another by narrow side alleys or androns to prevent the spread of fire. The ground floor of those surrounding the square form a continuous arcade, a feature typical of bastides, also seen in northern Italy and in Spanish cities and towns. Monpazier’s old market hall is intact; its 16th-century timber roof frame is supported by wooden pillars that rest on stone blocks. St Dominique’s Church was built in the 13th century and added to later. Its nave, with ribbed vaults, leads to a polygonal chevet. Monpazier’s 13th-century Chapter House, situated behind the church, once served as the tithe barn for stocking harvest produce requisitioned as taxes. This tithe house, as well as the town’s highly organised plan and characteristic architecture, all speak physically of the fact that bastides were created from scratch as centres of power and commerce by princes.

Our visit to Montpazier is timed for the Thursday market when you will be able to purchase ingredients for a picnic lunch. Walnuts are a local speciality and taste wonderfully fresh. You may wish to try the local walnut bread and tarts!

In the afternoon we visit the Château des Milandes in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, a turreted 15th-century château, flanked by hundred-year-old magnolia trees. Les Milandes affords one of the best views of the rolling hills and tiled-roof villages of the Dordogne Valley. The château was built in 1489 when Claude de Cardaillac begged her husband, the Lord of Castelnaud, to build her a house that, true to her wishes, has a very grand interior, with beamed ceilings, mullioned windows and stained-glass panels, and huge fireplaces.

Milandes’ modern fame stems from the fact that it became the home of Josephine Baker, a far cry from the slums of St Louis, USA, where at the age of 12 she had lived on the streets. Baker entered Vaudeville at 15, and soon became one of its most popular dancers, and a key player in the ‘Harlem Renaissance’. Baker fled the racism of the USA in 1925, and gained notoriety for her semi-nude performances at the Folies Bergère, becoming one of Europe’s most popular and richest music hall stars. This extraordinarily talented woman then augmented her music hall performances by becoming an important opera singer. During the war, she spied for her adopted country, assisted the Resistance, and earned two of France’s most important military honours, the Croix de Guerre and the Rosette de la Résistance. Charles de Gaulle also made her a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur. Baker was a civil rights activist, friend and associate of Martin Luther King Jr, and after his death was asked by his widow to lead the movement. Childless, she adopted 12 orphans from different countries. She bought Château des Milandes in 1947, and lived here with her French husband and adopted children. We shall tour her home, and see a number of memorabilia, including her famous banana skirt.

Milandes accommodates many birds of prey including buzzards, falcons and barn owls. Before touring the château and grounds we shall attend a Birds of Prey Show, presented by two falconers in the gardens in front of the castle. (Overnight Sarlat) B

 

Day 11: Friday 21 September, Sarlat – Grottes de Cougnac – Labastide-Murat – Pech-Merle – Sarlat

Grottes de Cougnac

Lunch at Hotel La Garissade, Labastide-Murat

Centre de Préhistoire du Pech-Merle

This morning we drive to two fascinating caves at the Grottes de Cougnac, one of which is important for its geology and the other for its fine paintings. You will see mammoth, ibex, human figures and three megaloceros (reindeer with huge antlers). Many of the painted forms take advantage of the natural shapes of the cave wall that may possibly even have suggested them. Some of the stalagmites and stalactites in the cave were deliberately broken at the time the paintings were executed. This suggests that the paintings were to be viewed from the other side of the chamber.

After lunch at Hotel La Garissade, a charming restaurant located in the small village of Labastide-Murat, we drive to Pech-Merle, where we visit a marvelous cave, with painted black outlines of aurochs, mammoth and spotted horses. The art here has been assigned to three distinct phases. To the earliest belong images of circles, dots and the outlines of hands; this phase also includes the ‘spotted horses’. The second phase includes figures made by finger-tracings on the ceiling as well as 40 black outline drawings. The last phase includes engravings, the most famous of which is a bear’s head. In the late afternoon we return to Sarlat, where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Sarlat) BL

 

Condat-sur-Vézère – 3 nights

 

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

Market Day at Sarlat-la-Canéda

Jardins de Marqueyssac, Vézac

Barge excursion along the Dordogne River

Village of Beynac-Cazenac

Saturday is market day in Sarlat-la-Canéda, which rivals Conques in the beauty of its medieval streetscapes. Our leisurely morning stroll will include participation in the market where you will be able to purchase ingredients for your picnic lunch in the gardens of Marqueyssac.

The Dordogne south of Sarlat-la-Canéda is littered with exquisite châteaux, bastides and churches. Our drive to the Château de Marqueyssac allows us to inspect this landscape more closely. Marqueyssac has extraordinary ‘hanging gardens’ named because of their position on a craggy promontory with breathtaking views over the surrounding valley. The château was founded in the late 17th century and has remained in the family ever since. In the 18th and 19th centuries a vast number of box trees, which lend themselves so well to topiary, were planted. Marqueyssac’s boxwood folly, along with a great variety of oaks, hornbeams, lime trees, Judas trees, viburnum, plantain, elms and cypresses, shares this inimitable setting with vegetable and flower gardens, fine cliff-top bastions, sinuous paths, and a grand allée derived from one family member’s fond memories of Italy.

We next drive to Beynac-Cazenac, a village which has managed to retain its medieval charm. The Château de Beynac, one of the great castles of the Périgord, dominates the north bank of the Dordogne River from a precipitous height and is defended on the north side by double walls. Crouching beneath its limestone cliff is a small village, once the home of poet Paul Eluard. During the Hundred Years’ War, the Dordogne River frequently marked the border between French and English territories: the fortress at Beynac, then in French hands was faced on the opposite bank of the river by the Château de Castelnaud held by the English.

We shall enjoy a cruise along the Dordogne River on board replicas of traditional gabarres (the Dordogne’s traditional flat-bottomed boats), passing some of the valley’s most beautiful castles along the way, and a local guide will provide a commentary on various aspects relating to the river, its history and its environment.

Following some time at leisure in the village of Beynac-Cazenac to wander through its narrow paved streets, we continue to Montignac where we shall reside for the next 3 nights. Montignac is dominated by a tall tower, the vestige of a fortress that was once the home of the counts of Périgord. Until recently a sleepy backwater, Montignac was transformed when the Lascaux caves were discovered. It is now a thriving small town with attractive medieval streets and houses, a 17th-century priory church and a local folk museum. (Overnight Montignac) BD

 

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

Château de Losse, Thonac

St-Léon-sur-Vézère

Lascaux Caves IV

We begin this morning with a visit to the Château de Losse. This castle owes its position, inhabited continuously since prehistory, to its strategic command of the valley. In the 13th century a Flemish family, the Loss, fortified the cliff above the river. Like so many French châteaux, it was transformed from a fortress to a country palace during the Renaissance. This was affected by Jean II de Loss who was one of François I’s pages and tutor to Henry IV. We shall visit the elegant Renaissance building and its large formal garden, all with magnificent views of the valley

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

In the afternoon we return to Montignac. Here we will visit the recently opened (2016) new facsimile of the world famous painted caves, Lascaux IV, the original having long since been closed to the public. This is the most famous and spectacular of all decorated caves, best-known perhaps for its 600 paintings of aurochs, horses, deer and a variety of signs; there are also almost 1500 engravings in the cave. Although we cannot visit the original, it is important to see this facsimile in order to gauge the quality of this pinnacle of cave art. (Overnight Montignac) BLD

 

Day 14: Monday 24 September, Montignac – Marquay – Eyrignac – St-Amand-de-Coly –Montignac

Abri de Cap Blanc, Marquay

Les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac

Saint-Amand-de-Coly: Fortified Church

This morning we head to the small village of Marquay to explore the Abri du Cap Blanc, a rock shelter that presents a large prehistoric sculpted frieze. Considered to be one of the best examples of Palaeolithic sculpture, the frieze is 13 meters long and includes carvings of horses, bison and deer.

Then we drive through lovely, often dramatic, countryside to Eyrignac, where Patrick Sermadiras de Pouzels de Lile has restored a formal 18th-century garden, a rarity in Périgord. Here, box, hornbeam and yew are clipped with an almost obsessive exactness to produce verdant architectural forms aligned along three vistas. Strong perspectives of sharply formed leafy structures are orchestrated in subtle tonal contrasts – between the fresh green of lawns, the glossy leaves of the box, the slightly translucent foliage of the hornbeam and the matt, almost black needles of the yew.

We enjoy lunch at the gardens’ terrace restaurant before driving to the picturesque village of Saint-Amand-de-Coly, which has an interesting 12th-century fortified church. The small walled village of Saint-Armand-de-Coly grew up around an Augustinian monastery first mentioned in a document of 1048. A monk from the Catalan monastery of Ripoll, later bishop of Vich, who made a journey around the monasteries of Périgord, wrote the 1048 text. He recorded that the monastery had grown up around the tomb of Saint-Armand, a young Limousine noble who came here as a hermit in the middle of the 6th century from the community of Genouillac (Terrasson). Saint Armand preached to the local population, and when he died was made a saint. The day of his death was fixed as 25th June. A small town grew up around the monastery, whose houses like the monastery itself, were constructed of Sarlaise stone, with typical lauze roofs. Little remains of the monastery and the high defensive walls that protected it and the town, but the magnificent early 12th-century fortified church remains. (Overnight Montignac) BLD

 

Bordeaux – 1 night

 

Day 15: Tuesday 25 September, Montignac – Périgueux – Pessac-sur-Dordogne – Bordeaux

Pilgrim cathedral of Saint-Front, Périgueux

Farewell Lunch and wine tasting at Château Carbonneau, Pessac-sur-Dordogne

Today we drive to Bordeaux via one of France’s most important medieval pilgrimage centres, Périgueux. Its Cathedral of Saint-Front, although very heavily restored in the 19th century, nevertheless is particularly interesting for its medieval domes. The use of domes to roof churches in this region resembles that at St Mark’s, Venice. It is typical of the ecclesiastical architecture of the Byzantine Empire rather than Western Europe. Saint-Front is actually composed of two earlier churches, separated by a high medieval bell tower.

We sample wines and eat lunch at one of the region’s wineries, Château Carbonneau, located between Saint-Emilion and Bergerac. Recently awarded International Best of Wine Tourism prize, this is a corner of New Zealand in the Sainte-Foy appellation, which is between Castillon and Bergerac. Now on the third generation of New Zealand owners (with a French husband however), and a New Zealand winemaker, they produce three types of wine: red, rosé and white. The 100-hectare plus estate is also a working farm, with cattle, forest and some beautiful Bernese mountain dogs. (Overnight Bordeaux) BL

 

Day 16: Wednesday 26 September, Bordeaux. Tour Ends.

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Our tour ends today in Bordeaux. Participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be included in the group transfer to Bordeaux airport. Participants wishing to extend their stay in France and Europe are advised to contact ASA for further information. B

 

Klein Bosheuwel Guesthouse

Klein Bosheuwel Guesthouse, Cape Town

 

Klein Bosheuwel is set on Bishopscourt Ridge overlooking the beautiful Constantia Valley near Cape Town, South Africa. The Constantia Valley is a wine-making region and also a cultural and historical centre for Cape Town.

Klein Bosheuwel Guesthouse is a combination of old world charm and luxury with many warm and cosy places to relax in. It is surrounded by a beautiful garden filled with an amazing variety of birdlife, insects, squirrels and many other shy little creatures. You can enjoy walking through our roses, discovering the scented herb patches and vibrant flower beds, There is also an ornamental pond and a sparkling sun-splashed salt water swimming pool.

Start your day with one of our famous breakfasts and then take an easy 5 minute walk to the world-renown Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – Klein Bosheuwel is the closest guest house to Kirstenbosch and guests receive a free entrance pass.

For a more active adventure, you can take a 2 hour walk to the top of Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain and enjoy spectacular views of Cape Town.

Klein Bosheuwel is only 15 minutes drive from Cape Town’s airport, its buzzing waterfront cafes and restaurants, and beautiful beaches.

Children are welcome at Klein Bosheuwel and they love playing with Feather, the Sheepdog.

 

Klein Bosheuwel
51A Klaassens Road
Bishopscourt
7708
Cape Town

Phone: +27 21 762 2323

Email: kleinbosheuwel@iafrica.com

Singapore Garden Festival 2018 with Helen Young

Singapore Garden Festival 2018 with Helen Young

 

Discover the luxuriant glory of the gardens of Singapore, from botanic gardens and nature walks to 21st century urban gardens and the Singapore Garden Festival, the most significant garden show in the tropics.

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Spend two days at Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Garden Festival, showcasing landscape, balcony and fantasy gardens – and of course a wondrous display of orchids

• Enjoy a luxurious 5-night stay in the 5 star Park Royal Hotel, the ‘Hotel in a Garden’, whose balconies and walkways are given over to verdant gardens planted with palms and other tropical species

• Wander through the 82-hectare Singapore Botanic Gardens and the National Orchid Garden, which boasts a collection of cultivars named after visiting world leaders

• Traverse the green belts linking the city’s national parks, oases of calm where Singaporeans come to walk with nature

• Cruise the Singapore River and observe the energetic modern metropolis from the languid calm of a riverboat

 

ITINERARY

FRIDAY 20 JULY 2018 / AUSTRALIA/NEW ZEALAND – SINGAPORE

Suggested mid-morning flights from Australia or New Zealand for mid-afternoon arrivals in Singapore. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

On arrival in Singapore, make your way to the hotel and check in. At 19:00, join Helen and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner. (D)

 

SAT 21 JUL / SINGAPORE

After breakfast, begin your exploration of Singaporean flora with a visit to the Botanic Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed tropical garden founded in 1859. Its extensive National Orchid Garden contains over 1,000 species, including cultivars dedicated to visiting dignitaries like Queen Elizabeth II, Emperor Akihito of Japan and Diana, Princess of Wales.

After free time for lunch, visit Fort Canning Park, once the residence of a 14th century Raja of Singapura, and now a hilltop park. Breathe in the heady aroma of nutmeg and cloves in the Spice Garden, a replica of the one established by Sir Stamford Raffles in the 1820s. Then return to your hotel for a guided tour of the hotel itself! The Park Royal Hotel contains 15,000 square metres of ‘sky gardens’, with palms and other tropical species cascading across four floors.

The evening is at leisure to enjoy the energy of Singapore on a Saturday night. (B)

 

SUN 22 JUL / SINGAPORE

Spend the day exploring the diversity of gardening in Singapore. Begin with a guided nature walk in Hort Park on Singapore’s Southern Ridges, which is connected to a network of other parks in the area by a system of bridges and raised walkways.

Continue to the Natural History Museum via the National University of Singapore.

In the afternoon, explore some of the ‘urban greening’ of Singapore with a walking tour of the horizontal and vertical gardens of the central city. Part of a concerted effort to bring nature into the heart of Singaporeans’ working and domestic lives, in recent years the city has seen luxuriant growth in the number of ‘garden walls’ and ‘garden roofs’ gracing everything from carparks to museums, malls and government ministries.

Return to the hotel in the late afternoon for an evening at leisure. Suggested dinner in the open-air hawker markets of Chinatown. (BL)

 

MON 23 JUL / SINGAPORE

Enjoy a full-day visit to the Singapore Garden Festival, located at Gardens by the Bay. The festival, now in its seventh iteration, is the world’s premier tropical garden show, exhibiting more than 400,000 plant specimens. Featuring landscape gardens, fantasy gardens, balcony gardens and more, the festival displays the best of Singaporean and international garden design. No floral exhibition in Singapore would be complete without a riotous display of the island’s most beloved blossom, and the Orchid Extravaganza sings a paean to Singapore’s national flower. Enjoy free time for lunch at the festival.
(Singapore Garden Festival dates subject to confirmation.)

Return to the hotel in the late afternoon, and in the evening, enjoy a leisurely cruise on the Singapore River followed by dinner at a local restaurant. (BD)

 

TUE 24 JUL / SINGAPORE

Return to Gardens by the Bay for an exploration of this unique site itself. Built on 101 hectares of reclaimed land and opened in 2012, Gardens by the Bay is testimony to the garden revolution which Singapore has experienced in recent decades.

The centrepiece is two huge, cooled conservatories, each around a hectare in size: a Flower Dome bursting with specimens from the Mediterranean, South Africa, Australia and South America, and a Cloud Forest replicating the cool, moist conditions of the mountain forests of Southeast Asia and South America. Outside, an elevated walkway runs through a grove of ‘supertrees’, 25- to 50-metre tall vertical gardens growing ferns, vines and bromeliads.

Enjoy a farewell lunch atop the Marina Bay Sands Resort, 57 floors above street level, with a spectacular panoramic view of the city, bay and gardens of Singapore.
Mid-afternoon return to the hotel for an evening at leisure. (BL)

 

WED 25 JUL / DEPART SINGAPORE

Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. For those departing Singapore today, Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements. (B)

Victoria’s Private Gardens and their Designers

Victoria’s Private Gardens and their Designers with Deryn Thorpe

 

Tour Highlights

With Deryn Thorpe, visit some of Victoria’s most beautiful gardens and meet the owners and the designers who created them.

Meet celebrity designer Paul Bangay who takes us through his own spectacular rural garden called Stonefields.

Rare plant collector, nurseryman and former Gardening Australia host, Stephen Ryan, will spend the day with the group showcasing the gardens of Mt Macedon. This will include a visit to his 25 year-old home garden ‘Tugurium’.

Spend a day with Deryn Thorpe and ABC Perth radio presenter, Sabrina Hahn at the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show.

View the work of Phillip Johnson, the only Australian designer to win a gold medal and a ‘Best In Show’ award for his landscape display at the Chelsea Garden Show; we visit Lubra Bend in the Yarra Valley and his own private garden in the Dandenong Ranges.

Meet award-winning Melbourne designer Jim Fogarty who introduces us to Cranbourne’s Australian Garden, gives us a talk on using indigenous plants, and shows us one of is inner-Melbourne design projects.

Tour the magnificent gardens at Cruden Farm with Michael Morrison who worked tirelessly with Dame Elisabeth Murdoch for more than four decades. Michael is co-author of the recently published Cruden Farm Garden Diaries.

Spend a day with landscape architect and former presenter for ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, John Patrick, who introduces us to a number of spectacular gardens of the Mornington Peninsula. John will also host us for lunch in his home garden.

 

11-day Cultural Garden Tour of Victoria

 

Overnight Ballarat (3 nights) • Melbourne (3 nights) • Flinders (2 nights) • Melbourne (2 nights)

 

Overview

Visit some of Victoria’s most beautiful gardens and meet the owners and the designers who created them.

This new tour visits some of Victoria’s most important gardens and interesting home gardens. What sets this tour apart is spending time with the home owners and designers who make the gardens come to life as they describe their struggles and triumphs. We also meet some of the garden leaders for ASA, who join the tour to show us their home gardens, gardens they have designed and share their knowledge of the Victorian design aesthetic and their own garden passions.

The tour travels to the Ballarat goldfields, Daylesford spa country, the green heart of the Macedon ranges, the picturesque Yarra Valley, fern glades and forests of the Dandenongs, Victoria’s award winning native garden at Cranbourne and coastal and inland areas of the Mornington Peninsula. The gardens in these areas are very different due to varying soils, climatic conditions and the desires and styles of the garden owner and designers, so they’ll be lots of variety.

We’ll see flowery cottage gardens, cool rainforest designs, grand estates, striking use of Australian plants, dry gardens, contemporary spaces, relaxed country gardens, coastal landscapes, an inner-city design and collector’s gardens and get to spend a day at the Melbourne Flower and Garden Show.

 

Ballarat – 3 nights

Day 1: Saturday 17 March, Arrive Melbourne – Ballarat

  • Coach journey from Melbourne airport to Ballarat
  • Cameron House – a florist’s garden
  • Welcome Dinner

Our private coach collects us at Melbourne airport and drives to Ballarat, a city with ornate architecture built during the prosperous days of the 1850s gold rush. First we visit Cameron House, a quirky home garden created by Greg Block, an ex-florist with a passion for form, texture and shape. Recycled garden materials including fronds and branches have been transformed into beautiful sculptures which enhance a garden overflowing with potted plants including a big collection of ferns, bonsai and topiary.

We drive to the historic Craig’s Royal Hotel, a grand boutique hotel, dating to the gold rush which will be our home for three nights.

Tonight we enjoy a welcome dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Craig’s Royal Hotel, Ballarat) D

 

Day 2: Sunday 18 March, Ballarat – Ascot – Creswick – Clunes – Coghills Creek – Ballarat

  • Begonia extravaganza at Robert Clark Conservatory
  • Lambley Nursery, the garden of horticulturalist David Glenn, Ascot
  • Pub lunch in historic Creswick
  • Free time in Goldfields streetscape of Clunes
  • Wine tasting at Eastern Peake Winery

We’ll walk through colourful bedding displays and beneath mature trees in the Ballarat Botanical Gardens to visit the spectacular autumn begonia display in the Robert Clark Conservatory. The showcase includes large flowered tuberous begonias in pots and pendulous varieties in baskets with perfect blooms in a rainbow of colours and forms.

We transfer to Lambley Nursery in Ascot, home of horticulturalist David Glen and his wife the artist Criss Canning. Their gardens have been created around an old farmhouse. David has learnt to work with Ballarat’s harsh climate and has transformed barren paddocks into a beautifully designed space overflowing with colour and structure. In autumn the spectacular display gardens which feature many salvias and dahlias are looking spectacular. The striking dry garden, which is watered no more than four times a year, will supply inspiration to those gardening with limited water. David is a plant breeder and his best known release is Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ and he also trials flowers, fruits and vegetables which are on display in his bountiful and beautiful edible garden which feeds his family.

From Ascot we travel to Creswick for a light lunch at The American Hotel. There will also be some time at leisure for a short stroll up and down the town’s historic streets.

In the afternoon we travel to Clunes which has streetscapes straight out of a colonial history book. The picturesque and laid-back town is the most original and intact gold town in Australia and we have free time to appreciate the well-preserved 19th-century architecture.

Our last stop is to Eastern Peake Winery for wine tasting. Set on a small plateau at Coghills Creek the boutique winery, which was established in 1983, has the granite outcrop of Mt Bolton as its dramatic backdrop. (Overnight Craig’s Royal Hotel, Ballarat) BL

 

Day 3: Monday 19 March, Ballarat – Denver – Daylesford – Trentham – Ballarat

  • Stonefields, designer Paul Bangay’s home garden
  • Spa town of Daylesford
  • Frogmore, the garden of a horticulturalist and a florist

The day is spent in the country and our first stop is the home of celebrity designer Paul Bangay, widely regarded as the foremost garden designer in Australia. For more than 25 years he has created timeless and elegant designs around the world. He will take us through his own spectacular rural garden called Stonefields and will talk to us about the process of design as he shows us through the garden’s series of elegant and formal garden rooms. They include an entry court, front courtyard with water rill, burgundy rose garden, white garden with formal pond, apple walk, mirror image back garden overlooking the countryside and relaxed woodland garden.

Next we visit the charming spa town of Daylesford and have time to wander the picturesque streets full of boutique shops and find a café for lunch.

In the afternoon we journey onto Frogmore Gardens which started in 2002 when florist Zena Bethell and horticulturalist Jack Marshall bought eight acres of land near Trentham. Three hectares adjoining the Wombat State Forest have been transformed into a spectacular garden and Jack will explain the ideas behind his plant combinations as he takes us on a tour to see beds overflowing with dramatic perennials and annuals in dramatic, colour-themed wide herbaceous borders. He also has a passion for grasses which move theatrically in the breeze in the drought tolerant, prairie-style gardens. (Overnight Craig’s Royal Hotel, Ballarat) B

 

Melbourne – 3 nights

 

Day 4: Tuesday 20 March, Ballarat – Macedon Ranges – Melbourne

  • Morning tea and tour of Tugurium, home garden of former Gardening Australia host Stephen Ryan
    Bolobek, a historic garden with designer flair
  • Lunch in the gardens of Bolobek
  • Alton Gardens Hill Station

We leave Melbourne for the green heart of the Macedon Ranges to visit the home garden of raconteur, rare plant collector, nurseryman and ASA garden leader Stephan Ryan. Stephen will show us through his 25 year-old home garden which includes a woodland area beneath a Eucalypt canopy, orchard with circular lawn, vegetable garden, perennial border and pond.

Stephen will spend the day with the group showcasing the gardens of Macedon.

We’ll meet Bridget Robertson who bought Bolobek, a historic working cattle property, with husband Hugh in 2006. This garden was laid out in the early 1900s and today demonstrates how a creative design style can be overlaid on an earlier garden landscape. Bolobek is on the Victorian Heritage Register because of the quality of its design, artistry and plantings. Bridget will share stories of the people that made the garden and we’ll admire its geometric design which focuses on attractive bark, soft green foliage and white flowers.

Following a light lunch at Bolobek, Stephen will lead us on a tour of Alton Gardens, an Australian terraced hill station around an 1870s home with an amazing collection of 600 trees, 24 of them on the National Trust Register of Significant Trees.

In the late afternoon we transfer to the Rydges Hotel in Melbourne, our home for three nights. (Overnight Rydges Melbourne) BL

 

Day 5: Wednesday 21 March, Melbourne

  • 24th Melbourne International Garden & Flower Show

It’s a ten minute stroll from our hotel to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden show, the biggest and best in the Southern Hemisphere and we’ll get there for 9am when the gates open. The show is ranked in the top five flower shows in the world and floral displays fill the world heritage listed Royal Exhibition Building.

Deryn will be joined by ASA garden leader Sabrina Hahn, best known as ABC Perth garden talkback presenter and for her weekly chat with Trevor Chappell on ABC Radio Overnights. Deryn and Sabrina will ensure you get the most from the show and will take ASA clients on a tour of the landscape displays which are created by some of Australia’s most talented landscape designers. They will introduce clients to the designers who will tell the group about the philosophy behind their designs and Deryn and Sabrina will highlight elements that we can incorporate in our own backyards. (Overnight Rydges Melbourne) B

 

Day 6: Thursday 22 March, Melbourne – Yarra Valley – Melbourne

  • Visit to Lubra Bend with design Phillip Johnson
  • Lunch and garden tour of Alowyn Gardens by its owner, John Van de Linde
  • Guided tour and afternoon tea at Dame Nelly Melba’s home, Coombe Estate

We spend the day in the Yarra Valley, firstly with Phillip Johnson, the only Australian designer to win a gold medal and a ‘Best In Show’ award for his landscape display at the Chelsea Garden Show.

At Lubra Bend Phillip has created sprawling wetlands from a dry garden by capturing water to sustain a network of billabongs which cascade down to the Yarra River. Land was recontoured and boulders selected and positioned by hand to create natural sculptures. Phillip will explain how the garden was created.

We’ll also hear about the creation of a garden from bare paddocks by owner, John Van de Linde from Alowyn Gardens. After three years clearing blackberry from paddocks and improving the soil the first tree was planted in 1999. The four acre gardens are designed along strong symmetrical lines and include a perennial border, a silver birch forest, edible garden, and a formal parterre garden leading through to a series of small courtyards and display gardens.

We leave the gardens and travel a short distance to Coombe Estate. In 1909, after twenty years singing around the world, Dame Nelly Melba created a home and seven acre garden that has been preserved in its original state. Our guided tour of Coombe Estate will take in the Italianate garden and pool, French style rose garden, English herbaceous border, Australian garden and kitchen garden, all surrounded by a 10-metre high hedge, running 700 metres around the garden’s perimeter that was recorded in paintings by Hans Heysen in 1914. (Overnight Rydges Melbourne) BL

 

Flinders – 2 nights

 

Day 7: Friday 23 March, Melbourne – Olinda – Cranbourne – Flinders

  • Designer Phillip Johnson takes us through his natural billabong garden
  • Jeremy Francis’ Cloudehill, a masterpiece garden in Olinda
  • Homely lunch at Seasons Restaurant
  • Designer Jim Fogarty gives us a tour of The Australian Garden at Cranbourne

We meet Phillip Johnson again today as he takes us through the home garden he created at Olinda which inspired his award-winning Chelsea garden in 2013 for Flemings Nurseries. His gorgeous garden has a sustainable billabong, surrounded by tree ferns, that doubles as a chemical free swimming pool. It has a waterfall, spa and is surrounded by garden featuring many indigenous plants.

Just down the road is Cloudehill where a maze of stone walls and jewel-like garden rooms are set within woodlands of historic cool climate trees. Over the last 25 years Jeremy Francis has created a garden on deep volcanic loam and a rainfall of 1.25 metres a year on a site that was formerly a cut flower nursery. Jeremy is a master gardener with an exquisite eye for detail and design. He will guide us to areas looking their best in autumn, including the tranquil water garden, the warm coloured perennial borders and two of Australia’s best Japanese maples. Keep an eye out for the detailed paving, few gardens do it as well as Cloudehill.

We’ll enjoy an old-fashioned, tasty lunch in Seasons Restaurant which has windows overlooking the gorgeous Cloudehill gardens.

In the afternoon we travel to Cranbourne where award-winning Melbourne designer Jim Fogarty, who is also a leader for ASA, takes us on a private tour of the multi-award winning Australian Garden. The garden shows the dramatic variety of Australian plants in an inspiring and immersive display of flora, landscapes, art and architecture. Set over 15 hectares the garden follows the journey of water from the arid inland landscapes of central Australia, along dry river beds and down mighty rivers to the coastal fringes of the continent.

Our tour will take in the dramatic red sand garden, rock pool waterways, Eucalypt walk and exhibition gardens all featuring Australian plants and Jim will use his designer eye to explain the design concept and plantings.

We drive to the Flinders Hotel, home for the next two nights. (Overnight Flinders Hotel) BLD

 

Day 8: Saturday 24 March, Flinders – Sorrento – Moorooduc – Flinders

  • Tour of Designer Fiona Brockhoff’s coastal home garden (to be confirmed)
  • Visit and lunch at The Garden Vineyard, one of Australia’s finest gardens
  • Rick Ekersley’s Musk Cottage (to be confirmed)

Talk on using indigenous plants in design by Jim Fogarty and Charles Solomon in the garden of Jim’s holiday home

We are joined today by landscape architect John Patrick, best known as presenter with ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, and leader for ASA. John will spend the day on the peninsula with us where our first visit is to a private garden in Sorrento.

Designer Fiona Brockhoff’s Sorrento garden called Karkalla, is more than 20 years old and showcases the importance of creating gardens in sympathy with the local environment. It is influential and much admired for the way it embraces its coastal location, modern aesthetic and sculptural use of Australian plants.

We continue to Moorooduc to visit the Garden Vineyard which features in Monte Don’s book and television program Around the World in 80 Gardens. Architects Sue McFall and her husband Darryl are the owners of one of Australia’s finest gardens. It was created in 1986 with many European plants but the plant palate has changed to suit our drying climate. There are several European-style rooms including a memorable silver garden, walled courtyard, a big perennial border and a formal area flanked by lilly pillys. The terrace overlooks a lawn that rolls down to a garden with only Australian plants and the adjoining lawns lawn lead to a display of maples in the glorious red foliage of autumn.

Designer Rick Eckersley’s sustainable garden, Musk Cottage, is on a ten acre block and was purchased to showcase a different way of creating gardens on the Mornington Peninsula. It combines Australian plants with others that suit a low maintenance, no-water garden. He describes it as a ‘multicultural melting pot’ of plants. Boggy areas have been transformed into a wetland in a garden that over the last ten years has continued to evolve and mature.

Jim Fogarty welcomes us to his holiday home in Flinders and is joined by Charles Solomon from Garawana Creative. Jim will talk about how the design was inspired by indigenous shapes of moving water and waterholes and will address the design challenges, including a small budget and a site that floods each winter.

Jim and Charles will explain some of the indigenous uses of the key plants in the garden. (Overnight Flinders Hotel) BL

 

Melbourne – 1 night

 

Day 9: Sunday 25 March, Flinders – Shoreham – Melbourne

  • Bagnols, a garden designed by Paul Bangay in Shoreham
  • Heronswood Gardens (to be confirmed)
  • Tour of Cruden Farm with garden manager Michael Morrison

Paul Bangay designed this garden to complement the French country manor design of the home. Built on a 1.5 hectare block with water views to Western Port and Bass Strait, the garden is divided into rooms and has an olive grove, dam, sunny lawn, shrubberies and paving beside a pergola supporting climbing roses. Paving is edged with lavender, garden beds made edged with box and an extravagant grassy staircase rises from a gravel boules court to a wide, flat lawn.

We will have lunch at historic Heronswood House where the vegetables and fruits served are heirloom selections picked straight from the gardens. Afterwards Deryn will take us on a tour of Diggers, a garden where edible plants replace many traditional ornamentals in the display gardens. Display gardens include ornamental vegetable borders and gardens with succulents and flowering perennials.

We travel to one of Australia’s best known gardens, Cruden Farm, which was given to the late Dame Elisabeth Murdoch in 1928 as a wedding present from her husband Sir Keith Murdoch. She cherished the farm at Langwarrin throughout her long life and created a fine garden with garden manager, Michael Morrison, who will lead us on a garden tour. We’ll take a stroll to the lake and walk through herbaceous borders, the picking garden, shrub walks and famous avenue of lemon scented gums that lead to the house before enjoying afternoon tea. (Overnight Rydges Melbourne) BL

 

Day 10: Monday 26 March, Depart Melbourne

  • Visit a Glen Iris garden with designer Jim Fogarty
  • Visit two design projects by Andrew Laidlaw
  • Light Lunch and a talk on design trends in the home garden of designer John Patrick
    Farewell dinner at Locanda

Today we learn more about the process of garden design when we reconnect with ASA leader Jim Fogarty who will take us through a private garden he designed in Glen Iris.

Jim will take us through the owner’s design brief and explain how he came up with an attractive and traditional design that followed the owner’s instructions. They said that they did not want a garden full of hedges and asked him to retain some of the mature trees, connect the front porch with the garden and reduced areas of red brick paving. We’ll get to see the results!

We then travel to the small, inner city home garden of landscape architect John Patrick, who will share his knowledge of Melbourne garden design trends and forecast the future of Australian garden design.

Today we also meet with Andrew Laidlaw who designed the Potter Foundation Children’s Garden in the Royal Botanic Gardens. Andrew has kindly agreed to show us two of his designs for residential homes in the Hawthorn area.

We have a farewell dinner tonight in a private dining area at Locanda in The Rydges Hotel. (Overnight Rydges Melbourne) BLD

 

Day 11: Tuesday 27 March, Depart Melbourne

  • Morning transfer to Melbourne airport
  • Today a transfer to the airport, departing the hotel at 11.00am, will be provided. B
  • Physical Endurance & Practical Information

 

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

 

This 11-day Cultural Garden Tour of Victoria involves:

  • A moderate amount of walking mainly during outdoor site visits, often up and down hills and/or flights of stairs and uneven terrain.
  • A moderate amount of coach travel, several on winding mountainous roads
  • The daily schedule generally involves an early-morning departure (between 8.00-8.30am), concluding in the late afternoon (between 5.00-5.30pm)
  • 4-star hotels with 4 hotel changes
  • You must be able to carry your own hand-luggage. Hotel porterage only includes 1 piece of luggage per person.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

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

 

Practical Information

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

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

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

 

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

 

AT A GLANCE…

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

 

ITINERARY

THURSDAY 03 MAY 2018

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

 

FRI 04 MAY / ARRIVE ROME

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

 

SAT 05 MAY / ROME

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

 

SUN 06 MAY / ROME – SORRENTO

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

 

MON 07 MAY / SORRENTO

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

 

TUE 08 MAY / SORRENTO

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

 

WED 09 MAY / SORRENTO – RAVELLO

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

 

THU 10 MAY / RAVELLO

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

 

FRI 11 MAY / RAVELLO – CATANIA

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

 

SAT 12 MAY / CATANIA

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

 

SUN 13 MAY / CATANIA

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

 

MON 14 MAY / CATANIA – SYRACUSE

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

 

TUE 15 MAY / SYRACUSE

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

 

WED 16 MAY / SYRACUSE – VALLETTA

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

 

THU 17 MAY / VALLETTA

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

 

FRI 18 MAY / VALLETTA

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

 

SAT 19 MAY / DEPART VALLETTA

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

 

POST TOUR EXTENSION ITINERARY

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

 

SATURDAY 19 MAY 2018 / VALLETTA – VICTORIA

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

 

SUN 20 MAY / VICTORIA

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

 

MON 21 MAY / VICTORIA – VALLETTA

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

 

Cultural Landscapes of the Midi-Pyrénées & the Dordogne

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

 

Tour Highlights

 

This tour, led by Adrian Mialet, travels across the great southern plain between the Pyrénées and the Massif Central, into the heavily wooded highlands of the Auvergne, and down the superb river valleys of the Lot, Tarn and Dordogne.

Discover the unique history of the Cathars and their cities and castles in Carcassonne and Albi.
Visit some of the grandest pilgrim churches, at Toulouse, Moissac, Conques and Périgueux, built on the great medieval pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.

Explore the Templar and Hospitaller territories and the Commanderie in Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon, the Knights’ headquarters dedicated to the pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem.

Tour through one of the most scenic and dramatic regions of France, dominated by the lovely river valleys of the Lot, Tarn and Dordogne.

Learn about the unique medieval frontier towns, bastides, such as Cordes-sur-Ciel, Najac, Sarlat and Monpazier – France’s most beautiful and historic villages and towns.

Visit châteaux that were once medieval fortress castles but later became majestic palaces surrounded by fine gardens.

Visit Cro-Magnon in the Dordogne, where Homo sapiens was first identified.

See the spectacular cave paintings of the Late Stone Age in the caves of Rouffignac, Cougnac, Pech-Merle and Lascaux IV facsimile.

View the large prehistoric sculpted frieze at Abri de Cap Blanc.

Amble through the weekly village markets and taste the famous Périgord delicacies (truffle, foie gras).

Cruise along the Dordogne River on board replicas of traditional gabares.

Enjoy a falconry show at Château des Milandes.

Sample award-winning wines and enjoy lunch at Château Carbonneau near Saint-Emilion, a family-run winery with strong New Zealand ties.

 

Tour Overview

Between the Pyrénées and the Massif Central lie three of France’s most beautiful river valleys: the Lot, Tarn and Dordogne. In southern Midi Pyrénées we explore great cities of Mediterranean France, strongholds of the Knights Hospitaller and Templars, and Carcassonne, city of the persecuted Cathars. We journey through pretty agricultural landscapes, deep forests and narrow river valleys to visit prehistoric caves, medieval fortified towns and castles, Romanesque churches, Renaissance châteaux and gardens. In Toulouse, Moissac and Conques we study fine pilgrim churches, and in Albi we visit the remarkable fortress-cathedral and Toulouse-Lautrec Museum. We journey to isolated medieval bastides (fortified towns) such as Najac, Cordes-sur-Ciel, Monpazier and Sarlat (home of a famous foie gras market), survivors of the Hundred Years’ War. We encounter a rich variety of domestic architecture, each town with its own distinctive atmosphere and picturesque dwellings. The delightful gardens of Eyrignac and Marqueyssac contribute colour and scent to the richness, variety and charm of this luscious region. At town markets we purchase food for picnics, and we enjoy a number of meals at traditional restaurants including wine-tasting and lunch at Château Carbonneau near Saint-Émilion. The region’s greatest archaeological wonders, its cave paintings, occupy the valley of the Vézère, a tributary of the Dordogne. At Abri de Cro-Magnon our own species, Homo sapiens, was first identified. Local specialists show us a number of caves, some with the most exquisite artworks ever created. We visit Rouffignac, Cougnac, Pech Merle, the recently opened state-of-the-art interpretation centre of Lascaux IV and the prehistoric sculpted frieze at Abri de Cap Blanc. We cruise the Dordogne River in replica gabares to understand how rivers shaped this land and witness a falconry show at the Château des Milandes. Througho­ut, we experience the rich world of medieval romantic love, troubadours and a passion for life so vivid in this region.

 

16-day Cultural Tour of the Midi-Pyrénées & the Dordogne

Overnight Toulouse (2 nights) • Albi (3 nights) • Conques (1 night) • Saint-Jean-Lespinasse (1 night) • Sarlat (4 nights) • Montignac (3 nights) • Bordeaux (1 night).

 

Toulouse – 2 nights

 

Day 1: Wednesday 27 September, Arrive Toulouse

Orientation Walk
Basilica Saint-Sernin, Toulouse
Our tour commences in Toulouse. Upon arrival, participants on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be included in the group transfer to our hotel. People who have not taken the ASA ‘designated’ flight should meet the group at the Grand Hôtel de l’Opéra situated in the centre of Toulouse.

In the afternoon we shall take an orientation walk in the vicinity of the hotel and visit the great pilgrim church of Saint-Sernin (1075-1096). After the abbey church at Cluny (destroyed during the French Revolution), Saint-Sernin was the largest Romanesque church in France. It was one of the five archetypal pilgrim churches on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela, the others being Sainte-Foy at Conques, Saint-Martin at Tours, Saint-Martial de Limoges, and the great cathedral at Santiago. All these churches are aisled basilicas. In each, these aisles run down either side of the nave and around the transepts and semi-circular chevet. From the chevet of each church project chapels that once displayed saints’ relics. The aisles that ran right around the church allowed pilgrims to process through the building to see the relics in these chapels without disrupting services in the chancel. Saint-Sernin was constructed from a richly coloured red brick. Its nave, the longest on the pilgrim route, leads to a crossing topped by a magnificent Gothic tiered tower and spire. (Overnight Toulouse)

 

Day 2: Thursday 28 September, Toulouse – Carcassonne – Toulouse

Château Comtal, Ramparts & Basilica of St Nazaire and St Celse, Carcassonne
Welcome Dinner
Today we drive southwest to what was once the medieval frontier between the Kingdom of France and the Spanish kingdom of Aragón, to Carcassonne, the walled city we shall visit. Before its integration into the French kingdom by Louis IX, Carcassonne was a stronghold of the Cathars, who were decimated by Simon de Montfort during the Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229). Before the Crusade, Carcassonne, like many cities in this region, had been a centre of local power, jealous of its independence from larger hegemonies. Originally a Celtic settlement, then a Roman colonia (Carcasum), it became a Visigothic stronghold (508) that resisted the early Franks, was taken for a time by the Iberian Muslims (725), and had become the seat of a local county that often allied itself either to the counts of Barcelona or Toulouse. Fragments of Carcassonne’s Roman walls still exist, within the magnificent concentric rings of medieval ramparts defended by many towers. Louis IX founded a lower city across the River Aude from the original fortified city (1247), and even after it had lost importance as a bastion against Aragón (when the frontier moved further south) its towers and ramparts made the upper, older, city almost impregnable. During the Hundred Years’ War, the Black Prince destroyed Louis IX’s lower city, but could not take Carcassonne proper (1355).

Despite prosperity during the later Middle Ages as a centre of wool manufacture, Carcassonne slowly declined to provincial obscurity and its walls fell into such ruin that in the 19th century the French government considered dismantling them. Carcassonne’s mayor, the antiquary Jean-Pierre Cros-Mayrevieille, and the writer Prosper Mérimée, France’s first inspector of ancient monuments, protested, and the city was eventually restored in the 1850s and 1860s by the great Neo-Gothic architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. Carcassonne’s restoration became a key moment in the growth of French, and therefore world, notions of conservation and preservation. Much of France’s medieval built heritage had either fallen into disrepair or had suffered depredations through countless wars and the French Revolution. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who also restored Notre-Dame de Paris and was then working on Saint-Sernin, Toulouse – performed the massive feat of bringing Carcassonne back to its medieval glory. Although he was criticised for giving the Carcassonne’s towers steep conical pinnacles that were uncharacteristic of a southern region without heavy snowfalls, his restoration is nevertheless seen as a masterpiece, albeit with touches of Romantic fantasy.

We shall explore Carcassonne’s ramparts and visit its Château Comtal (Count’s citadel) and the Basilica of St Nazaire and St Celse. There will be time at leisure for lunch and to allow you to further explore the city. Mid-afternoon we return to Toulouse and enjoy a Welcome Dinner. (Overnight Toulouse) BD

 

Albi – 3 nights

 

Day 3: Friday 29 September, Toulouse – Moissac – Albi

Musée des Augustins, Toulouse
Cloisters of Saint-Pierre, Moissac
The morning in Toulouse will be spent exploring the town centre and visiting the Musée des Augustins. The Musée des Augustins, once a grand old Augustinian priory used as a residence and studio by Viollet-le-Duc when he worked on the restoration of Saint-Sernin, now holds a comprehensive collection of Romanesque and Gothic sculpture from the city’s churches.

In the afternoon we depart for Albi via Moissac, visiting the church of Saint-Pierre (1100-1150), which was once a Cluniac abbey. Moissac boasts a fine trumeau (door jamb) graced by the ethereal elongated figures of St Paul and the Prophet Jeremiah. Above the trumeau is a Last Judgement in which Christ sits enthroned in kingly majesty, surrounded by the beasts and elders of the Apocalypse. The scene is based, not on St John’s apocalyptic vision, but on Matthew 25:31-46. Behind is a narthex and above this a tower room with a majestic, open dome-like structure created by powerful converging ribs; this is believed to be an architectural depiction of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Although much of the original monastery has been destroyed, its cloister remains. It has an important corpus of sculpted panels and capitals including figures in relief whose monumentality suggests that the artist, who also worked in Saint-Sernin, Toulouse, was inspired by antique sculpture, which was to be found in abundance in Southern France. (Overnight Albi) B

 

Day 4: Saturday 30 September, Albi

Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile d’Albi
Musée Toulouse-Lautrec
Les Jardins du Palais de la Berbie
Afternoon at leisure
We spend a full day in Albi, a city of red brick, reminiscent of Siena. It stands on the river Tarn, whose bed provided the clay for these bricks. We visit the Bishop’s palace – the Palais de la Berbie – which has a fine garden and houses the Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, as well as Albi’s extraordinary, fortress-cathedral, Sainte-Cécile. The Toulouse-Lautrec Museum, one of the finest museums devoted to a single artist in France, incorporates early paintings by the master and some of his most important images of Parisian life. There is also a collection of his posters and a section devoted to his lithography displaying many of his lithographic stones.

As late as the 12th century, the County of Toulouse was independent of the French crown. Its cities were wealthy and their merchants criticised the corruption of the Church. Many were Cathars, a name derived from the Greek word for ‘pure’. Cathars believed in the strict separation of good and evil in the world. They were divided into two groups: ordinary believers who worked in thriving cities like Albi and Toulouse, and ‘perfecti’ who separated themselves from the world, living lives of exemplary abstinence, which contrasted awkwardly with abuses within the Church. The French crown mounted the Albigensian Crusade (c.1208-1244) to destroy the Cathar ‘heresy’. Its hidden motive was to conquer the independent south and incorporate it into the French realm. The population of Albi was slaughtered and Bishop Bernard de Castanet (1240-1317) constructed the new Cathedral of Sainte-Cécile (1282-1330; porch 1519-1535) using riches confiscated from the Cathars. The building, with huge, smooth defensive walls and curved tower-buttresses (so that stones hurled by siege machines would glance off them) was designed like a fortress to remind the Albigensians of the authority of the Church whose dogmas they had questioned. You will have the rest of the afternoon at leisure to explore for yourself this beautiful city. (Overnight Albi) B

 

Day 5: Sunday 1 October, Albi – Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon – La Cavalerie – La Couvertoirade – Millau Viaduct – Albi

Templar and Hospitaller Circuit in the Larzac
Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon: the headquarters of a local Templar Commanderie
Templar and Hospitaller villages of La Cavalerie and La Couvertoirade
Millau Viaduct (time permitting)
The south of France was enriched by Mediterranean trade and pilgrimage to Santiago, but it was also a highly contested region, where the forces of the French and Spanish kingdoms, local potentates such as the Counts of Toulouse and Carcassonne, and religious groups like the Cathars, all vied for power. Another force in this region was the Knight Templar, originally dedicated to the succour of pilgrims in Jerusalem, which had been transformed during the Crusades into an aristocratic, military order. Many myths have been spun around the Templars, most of which, such as their involvement in occult practices, are apocryphal. They nevertheless constituted a powerful force in medieval Europe, amassing vast wealth that raised the jealousy of kings. The Templars, like the Knights Hospitaller (later Knights of Malta) attracted charitable donations, including vast tracts of land. Among their many activities was banking, and Philip IV (1268-1314), who was heavily indebted to them, had many arrested, tortured to produce false confessions, and burned at the stake as heretics. He also forced Pope Clement V to disband the Order in 1312.

We spend today exploring Templar territories in the Larzac region to the east of Albi, visiting Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon, their regional headquarters (commanderie), and their stunningly picturesque fortified village of La Couvertoirade. Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon occupies a deep valley between ridges of the Larzac. It is the best-preserved Templar commandery in France, having been established by the Order in 1159, and then taken over by the Hospitallers when Philip IV eliminated the Templars. La Couvertoirade, in a wildly beautiful setting, deep in the Larzac on the edge of the Cévennes National Park, was a Templar stronghold until the fall of the Order, when it also was taken over by the Knights Hospitaller who built the village’s curtain wall between 1439 and 1450. This wall still stands, and within it are a church, a small château, and a number of lovely old houses.

We shall also dine at a small restaurant in La Cavalerie, another fortified Larzac Templar site, halfway between Sainte-Eulalie de Cernon and La Couvertoirade.

We return to Albi in the late afternoon and, time permitting, make a brief stop to view the Millau Viaduct a cable-stayed road-bridge that spans the valley of the river Tarn. Designed by the French structural engineer Michel Virlogeux and British architect Norman Foster, it is the tallest bridge in the world. (Overnight Albi) BL

 

Conques – 1 night

 

Day 6: Monday 2 October, Albi – Cordes-sur-Ciel – Najac – Conques

Bastides of Cordes-sur-Ciel & Najac
Today we drive north to the secluded town of Conques through the region of the Aveyron Gorges, visiting beautiful hill-top bastides, Cordes-sur-Ciel and Najac.

Bastides played a vital role in the emergence of France after the Dark Ages and the consolidation of royal power after the Albigensian Crusade. They also figured in the ensuing territorial struggle with the Plantagenets of England, the Hundred Years’ War. A bastide was a fortified village or town, usually of regular plan, in which the rural population was forced to reside so it could be defended as well as exploited by the crown or a feudal lord. Both the Plantagenet and French monarchies built bastides, and one of their later functions was as strongholds in the Hundred Years’ War. Before the advent of these very particular communities, the landscape of this heavily forested, under-populated region had only tiny, scattered, isolated settlements, abbeys or the strongholds of the local nobility. The bastides were therefore the ‘frontier towns’ or ‘colonies’ of the Middle Ages, which tamed the land. Although an ideal bastide has a grid plan centring on an arcaded market square, they in fact took many forms that depended upon topography, microclimate and available building materials.

The plan of Cordes, the very earliest bastide, does not conform to type. Its organic plan accommodated the urban fabric to the steep bluff upon which it was located. Its domestic architecture is distinctive to the region. Originally, its limited agricultural domain would have been surrounded by forest, for Cordes was founded in virgin territory. Its neighbour Najac, a fine, small bastide that occupies a craggy cliff, is dominated by a partly ruined château built by the villagers in 1253 on the orders of Alphonse de Poitiers. Najac’s 13th- century Eglise Saint-Jean, erected by the local population as a punishment for their Cathar beliefs, overlooks the village, while at the opposite end, the faubourg (medieval suburb or extension to the town) has the typical architecture of many bastides, with timber-framed houses and commercial arcades around an open area. Najac’s houses are so valued that they have registered in a special catalogue.

After lunchtime in Najac, we turn east again into deep, heavily forested valleys formed by the river Lot to Conques, one of France’s greatest treasures. Tonight we stay in a delightful small hotel occupying a late medieval house next to Conques’ famous church. (Overnight Conques) BD

 

Saint-Jean-Lespinasse – 1 night

 

Day 7: Tuesday 3 October, Conques – Figeac – Saint-Jean-Lespinasse

Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Foy, Conques
Abbey Museum, Conques
Figeac
Conques owes its fame to the Benedictine Abbey of Sainte-Foy (1031-1090) that, despite its isolation, became one of the most famous shrines on the medieval pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela (northern Spain). The church is one of five archetypal pilgrim basilicas, along with Saint-Sernin (Toulouse), Santiago de Compostela, St Martin (Tours: destroyed) and Saint-Martial (Limoges). It has a fine east-end with radiating chapels, a narrow, high nave with galleries, and a well-preserved coloured portal depicting the Last Judgement in vividly descriptive detail. The abbey was founded in 866 in a lonely, thickly wooded region of the Dordogne. It became an important station on the pilgrim route to Santiago from Le Puy because of the extraordinary popularity of the saint, martyred in 330 AD, whose relics were brought here in five centuries later. The adolescent girl Sainte Foy, like St George, was of obscure origins, but later became so popular that monuments to her were founded throughout Britain, continental Europe and the Near East. Her strange reliquary, fashioned in the form of an enthroned monarch, is the only surviving example of a form popular in the 11th century. It is housed in Conques’ Abbey Museum, which holds one of Europe’s best-preserved collections of medieval pilgrim art.

We shall spend the morning visiting the abbey church and the museum of Conques, and wandering through the small town viewing its lovely small houses.

After lunchtime we shall drive west through the old town of Figeac. Its old houses, many of which have turrets and typical Quercy open-fronted attics known as Saint-Amand-de-Coly, cling to terraces on the steep valley sides above the river Célé. The town has a wonderful ensemble of merchant houses from the Renaissance and, in a medieval courtyard called Place des Ecritures, a large modern sculpture by the American artist, Joseph Kosuth. You will have time to wander through the town and see Figeac’s two churches, Saint-Sauveur and Notre-Dame-du Puy, both of which have Romanesque sections. We continue our journey north to our next accommodation, a small country hotel overlooking the Bave Valley outside the village of Saint-Jean-Lespinasse that is noted for its fine cuisine; we shall dine here tonight. (Overnight Saint-Jean-Lespinasse) BD

 

Sarlat – 4 nights

 

Day 8: Wednesday 4 October, Saint-Jean-Lespinasse – Montal – Autoire – Loubressac – Carennac – Sarlat

Château de Montal
Autoire
Loubressac
Carennac Church
Today we explore a château and two villages close to St Céré and then turn west along the valley of the Dordogne. Our route takes us through the heart of an ancient agricultural region with numerous beautiful châteaux, villages and Romanesque pilgrim churches. We begin at the Château de Montal whose powerful towers and picturesque profile give it the aspect of a fortress. Built in 1523-4, it is, however, a Renaissance palace similar to the great châteaux of the Loire, and the rich decoration of its stately façades reflects a political stability unknown earlier, when bastides were used to tame this part of France and when French and English armies fought each other for control of it. Of particular note are Montal’s portrait sculptures of Robert de Balsac, his wife Antoinette de Castelnau, and members of their family that grace the upper storeys of the courtyard façade. Within, the château has a magnificent central staircase and beautiful fittings, such as great ornamental fireplaces. After touring the château and its gardens, we continue our journey, travelling through Autoire, located at the head of the Gorge d’Autoire, a chasm running south from the Dordogne, to the nearby village of Loubressac where we break for a picnic lunch.

Near Loubressac, the Bave meets the Dordogne, whose south bank we follow to Carennac. Here we stop briefly to view the medieval tympanum over the doorway of the church. Carved tympana, often with graphic depictions of the Last Judgement, were a feature of Romanesque churches, presenting the faithful entering the shrine with awesome visions of Christ or terrifying views of eternal punishments meted out to sinners. You will be able to compare Carennac’s Last Judgement with those you have seen at Moissac and Conques, and will see how each has a very different style compared to its counterparts. From here we follow the Dordogne as it winds its way west and continue on to Sarlat-la-Canéda. (Overnight Sarlat) BL

 

Day 9: Thursday 5 October, Sarlat – Monpazier – Castelnaud-la-Chapelle – Sarlat

Orientation walk of Sarlat-la-Canéda
Bastide town of Monpazier & Thursday Market
Château des Milandes, Castelnaud-la-Chapelle incl. the Falconry Show
This morning we take a leisurely stroll of Sarlat-la-Canéda which will include a visit to the mysterious Lanterne-des-Mortes and cathedral, and time to view its golden stone buildings. Sarlat-la-Canéda was largely a ruinous town until purposefully restored by the French government in the 20th century to act as a cultural focus for the Périgord-Noir region.

Next, we drive to the bastide of Monpazier, nominated one of ‘plus beaux villages de France’. It is not only the best-preserved bastide in the Dordogne, but is also considered the most typical example of a bastide in the entire south-west of France. King Edward I of England founded Monpazier in 1284 with the help of Pierre de Gontaut, Lord of Biron, and it was only during the reign of King Charles V of France (1366-1380) that it was taken by the French. In 1574 the Huguenot captain, Geoffroi de Vivans, took control of Monpazier and in 1594 it became a centre of the Peasant’s Revolt.

Despite the ravages of the Hundred Years’ War and the Wars of Religion, Monpazier has remained remarkably unchanged for 700 years. Monpazier’s urban core is perfectly quadrilateral in overall layout, its symmetrical, gridded plan covering an area of 400 x 220 metres. The town’s grid is crossed by four transverse streets, which divide it into rectangular precincts. Medieval and 17th-century houses surround the central Place des Cornières; originally, all of Monpazier’s houses were exactly the same size and separated from one another by narrow side alleys or androns to prevent the spread of fire. The ground floor of those surrounding the square form a continuous arcade, a feature typical of bastides, also seen in northern Italy and in Spanish cities and towns. Monpazier’s old market hall is intact; its 16th-century timber roof frame is supported by wooden pillars that rest on stone blocks. St Dominique’s Church was built in the 13th century and added to later. Its nave, with ribbed vaults, leads to a polygonal chevet. Monpazier’s 13th-century Chapter House, situated behind the church, once served as the tithe barn for stocking harvest produce requisitioned as taxes. This tithe house, as well as the town’s highly organised plan and characteristic architecture, all speak physically of the fact that bastides were created from scratch as centres of power and commerce by princes.

Our visit to Montpazier is timed for the Thursday market when you will be able to purchase ingredients for a picnic lunch. Walnuts are a local speciality and taste wonderfully fresh. You may wish to try the local walnut bread and tarts!

In the afternoon we visit the Château des Milandes in Castelnaud-la-Chapelle, a turreted 15th-century château, flanked by hundred-year-old magnolia trees. Les Milandes affords one of the best views of the rolling hills and tiled-roof villages of the Dordogne Valley. The château was built in 1489 when Claude de Cardaillac begged her husband, the Lord of Castelnaud, to build her a house that, true to her wishes, has a very grand interior, with beamed ceilings, mullioned windows and stained-glass panels, and huge fireplaces.

Milandes’ modern fame stems from the fact that it became the home of Josephine Baker, a far cry from the slums of St Louis USA, where at the age of 12 she had lived on the streets. Baker entered Vaudeville at 15, and soon became one of its most popular dancers, and a key player in the ‘Harlem Renaissance’. Baker fled the racism of the USA in 1925, and gained notoriety for her semi-nude performances at the Folies Bergère, becoming one of Europe’s most popular and richest music hall stars. This extraordinarily talented woman then augmented her music hall performances by becoming an important opera singer. During the war, she spied for her adopted country, assisted the Resistance, and earned two of France’s most important military honours, the Croix de Guerre and the Rosette de la Résistance. Charles de Gaulle also made her a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur. Baker was a civil rights activist, friend and associate of Martin Luther King Jr, and after his death was asked by his widow to lead the movement. Childless, she adopted 12 orphans from different countries. She bought Château des Milandes in 1947, and lived here with her French husband and adopted children. We shall tour her home, and see a number of memorabilia, including her famous banana skirt.

Milandes accommodates many birds of prey, including buzzards, falcons and barn owls. After touring the château and grounds we shall attend a Birds of Prey Show, presented by two falconers in the gardens in front of the castle. (Overnight Sarlat) B

 

Day 10: Friday 6 October, Sarlat – Grottes de Cougnac – Labastide-Murat – Pech-Merle – Sarlat

Grottes de Cougnac
Lunch at Hotel La Garissade, Labastide-Murat
Centre de Préhistoire du Pech-Merle
This morning we drive to two fascinating caves at the Grottes de Cougnac, one of which is important for its geology and the other for its fine paintings. You will see mammoth, ibex, human figures and three megaloceros (reindeer with huge antlers). Many of the painted forms take advantage of the natural shapes of the cave wall that may possibly even have suggested them. Some of the stalagmites and stalactites in the cave were deliberately broken at the time the paintings were executed. This suggests that the paintings were to be viewed from the other side of the chamber.

After lunch at Hotel La Garissade, a charming restaurant located in the small village of Labastide-Murat, we drive to Pech-Merle, where we visit a marvelous cave, with painted black outlines of aurochs, mammoth and spotted horses. The art here has been assigned to three distinct phases. To the earliest belong images of circles, dots and the outlines of hands; this phase also includes the ‘spotted horses’. The second phase includes figures made by finger-tracings on the ceiling as well as 40 black outline drawings. The last phase includes engravings, the most famous of which is a bear’s head. In the late afternoon we return to Sarlat where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Sarlat) BL

 

Day 11: Saturday 7 October, Sarlat – Vézac – Beynac-Cazenac – Sarlat

Market Day at Sarlat-la-Canéda
Jardins de Marqueyssac, Vézac
Barge excursion along the Dordogne River
Village of Beynac-Cazenac
Saturday is market day in Sarlat-la-Canéda, which rivals Conques in the beauty of its medieval streetscapes. Our leisurely morning stroll will include participation in the market where you will be able to purchase ingredients for your picnic lunch in the gardens of Marqueyssac.

The Dordogne south of Sarlat-la-Canéda is littered with exquisite châteaux, bastides and churches. Our drive to the Château de Marqueyssac allows us to inspect this landscape more closely. Marqueyssac has extraordinary ‘hanging gardens’ named because of their position on a craggy promontory with breathtaking views over the surrounding valley. The château was founded in the late 17th century and has remained in the family ever since. In the 18th and 19th centuries a vast number of box trees, which lend themselves so well to topiary, were planted. Marqueyssac’s boxwood folly, along with a great variety of oaks, hornbeams, lime trees, Judas trees, viburnum, plantain, elms and cypresses, shares this inimitable setting with vegetable and flower gardens, fine cliff-top bastions, sinuous paths, and a grand allée derived from one family member’s fond memories of Italy.

We next drive to Beynac-Cazenac, a village which has managed to retain its medieval charm. The Château de Beynac, one of the great castles of the Périgord, dominates the north bank of the Dordogne River from a precipitous height and is defended on the north side by double walls. Crouching beneath its limestone cliff is a small village, once the home of poet Paul Eluard. During the Hundred Years’ War, the Dordogne River frequently marked the border between French and English territories: the fortress at Beynac, then in French hands was faced on the opposite bank of the river by the Château de Castelnaud held by the English.

We shall enjoy a cruise along the Dordogne River on board replicas of traditional gabarres (the Dordogne’s traditional flat-bottomed boats), passing some of the valley’s most beautiful castles along the way, and a local guide will provide a commentary on various aspects relating to the river, its history and its environment.

Following some time at leisure in the village of Beynac-Cazenac to wander through its narrow paved streets, we return to Salat where the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Sarlat) B

 

Condat-sur-Vézère – 3 nights

 

Day 12: Sunday 8 October, Sarlat – Rouffignac – Montignac – Lascaux IV – Montignac

Prehistoric cave of Rouffignac
Montignac
Lascaux IV
Our first visit today is Rouffignac, a vast prehistoric cave which includes ten kilometres of galleries, two of which were frequented by Cro-Magnon artists. It’s also exceptional for its more than 150 depictions of mammoths. An electrical train takes us through. This is linear art: animals and signs outlined in magnanese dioxyde, or finely engraved, or finger-drawn where the wall’s surface is soft enough. The simplicity and accuracy of line here reveal the artist’s talent and expertise more in this cave, perhaps, than anywhere else. The Great Ceiling, one kilometre from the entrance, offers the viewer an unforgettable whirl of mammoths, bisons, and ibex.

We then continue to the village of Montignac located on the Vézère River. Montignac is dominated by a tall tower, the vestige of a fortress that was once the home of the counts of Périgord. Until recently a sleepy backwater, Montignac was transformed when the Lascaux caves were discovered. It is now a thriving small town with attractive medieval streets and houses, a 17th century priory church and a local folk museum. Lunch will be served at the Hôtel Le Relais du Soleil d’Or whose main restaurant serves traditional Dordogne fare.

After lunch, we visit to the recently opened new facsimile of the world famous painted cave at Lascaux, the original having long since been closed to the public. This is the most famous and spectacular of all decorated caves, best-known perhaps for its 600 paintings of aurochs, horses, deer and a variety of signs; there are also almost 1,500 engravings in the cave. Although we cannot visit the original, it is important to see this facsimile in order to gauge the quality of this pinnacle of cave art. (Overnight Montignac) BLD

 

Day 13: Monday 9 October, Montignac – Les Eyzies de Tayac – St Léon-sur-Vézère – Thonac – Montignac

Musée National de Préhistoire, Les Eyzies
Abri Pataud, Les Eyzies
St Léon-sur-Vézère
Château de Losse
This morning we visit the Musée National de Préhistoire at Les Eyzies-de-Tayac situated in a restored château on a terrace overlooking a plane on which vast herds of reindeer and other beasts would have roamed in the Late Stone Age. The château, in fact, is located on the site of a Prehistoric settlement chosen, no doubt, for the excellent view it provided those scanning the plane for game. The museum holds, among other exhibits, an amazing collection of artefacts such as beautifully sculpted reliefs of animals.

Following lunch in Les Eyzies, we visit the excavation site of Abri Pataud, the only prehistoric site in the Dordogne to have been converted into a museum. It is situated 15 metres above the river Vézère at the foot of an imposing cliff that dominates the village of Les Eyzies-de-Tayac.

Next, we continue our journey south along the Vézère Valley to Thonac to visit the Château de Losse. This castle owes its position, inhabited continuously since prehistory, to its strategic command of the valley. In the 13th century a Flemish family, the Loss, fortified the cliff above the river. Like so many French châteaux, it was transformed from a fortress to a country palace during the Renaissance. This was affected by Jean II de Loss who was one of François I’s pages and tutor to Henry IV. We shall visit the elegant Renaissance building and its large formal garden, all with magnificent views of the valley. Before returning home we also make a brief stop in the picturesque village of St-Léon-sur-Vézère. (Overnight Montignac) BD

 

Day 14: Tuesday 10 October, Montignac – Marquay – Eyrignac – St Amand-de-Coly – Montignac

Abri de Cap Blanc, Marquay
Les Jardins du Manoir d’Eyrignac
Saint-Amand-de-Coly: Fortified Church
This morning we drive to the small village of Marquay to explore the Abri du Cap Blanc, a rock shelter that presents a large prehistoric sculpted frieze. Considered to be one of the best examples of Palaeolithic sculpture, the frieze is 13 meters long and includes carvings of horses, bison and deer.

Then we drive through lovely, often dramatic, countryside to Eyrignac, where Patrick Sermadiras de Pouzels de Lile has restored a formal 18th-century garden, a rarity in Périgord. Here, box, hornbeam and yew are clipped with an almost obsessive exactness to produce verdant architectural forms aligned along three vistas. Strong perspectives of sharply formed leafy structures are orchestrated in subtle tonal contrasts – between the fresh green of lawns, the glossy leaves of the box, the slightly translucent foliage of the hornbeam and the matt, almost black needles of the yew.

We enjoy lunch at the gardens’ terrace restaurant and visit, before driving to the picturesque village of St-Amand-de-Coly, which has an interesting 12th-century fortified church. The small walled village of Saint-Armand-de-Coly grew up around an Augustinian monastery first mentioned in a document of 1048. A monk from the Catalan monastery of Ripoll, later bishop of Vich, who made a journey around the monasteries of Périgord, wrote the 1048 text. He recorded that the monastery had grown up around the tomb of Saint-Armand, a young Limousine noble who came here as a hermit in the middle of the 6th century from the community of Genouillac (Terrasson). Saint Armand preached to the local population, and when he died was made a saint. The day of his death was fixed as 25th June. A small town grew up around the monastery, whose houses like the monastery itself, were constructed of Sarlaise stone, with typical lauze roofs. Little remains of the monastery and the high defensive walls that protected it and the town, but the magnificent early 12th century fortified church remains. (Overnight Montignac) BLD

 

Bordeaux – 1 night

 

Day 15: Wednesday 11 October, Condat-sur-Vézère – Périgueux – Pessac-sur-Dordogne – Bordeaux

Pilgrim cathedral of Saint-Front, Périgueux
Farewell Lunch and wine tasting at Château Carbonneau, Pessac-sur-Dordogne
Today we drive to Bordeaux via one of France’s most important medieval pilgrimage centres, Périgueux. Its Cathedral of Saint-Front, although very heavily restored in the 19th century, nevertheless is particularly interesting for its medieval domes. The use of domes to roof churches in this region resembles that at St Mark’s, Venice. It is typical of the ecclesiastical architecture of the Byzantine Empire rather than Western Europe. Saint-Front is actually composed of two earlier churches, separated by a high medieval bell tower.

We sample wines and eat lunch at one of the region’s wineries, Château Carbonneau, located between Saint-Emilion and Bergerac. Recently awarded International Best of Wine Tourism prize, this is a corner of New Zealand in the Sainte-Foy appellation, which is between Castillon and Bergerac. Now on the third generation of New Zealand owners (with a French husband however), and a New Zealand winemaker, they produce three types of wine: red, rosé and white. The 100-hectare plus estate is also a working farm, with cattle, forest and some beautiful Bernese mountain dogs. (Overnight Bordeaux) BL

 

Day 16: Thursday 12 October, Bordeaux. Tour Ends.

Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour ends today in Bordeaux. Participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be included in the group transfer to Bordeaux airport. Participants wishing to extend their stay in France and Europe are advised to contact ASA for further information. B

 

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

 

Country Gardens of New Zealand

Country Gardens of New Zealand – in the North and Sound Islands with Sandy Pratten

 

Dear Garden Lovers

I have just returned from New Zealand where everything is on a grand scale in horticulture, all set in a breathtaking landscape.

This tour travels from Auckland to Christchurch to explore a selection of hand-picked gardens in a range of settings, visit galleries and learn about their viticulture. After Gibbs Farm, an exciting private sculpture park, the next highlight will be the newly discovered PowerCo Taranaki Garden Spectacular in and around New Plymouth. Dominated by Mt Taranaki and surrounded by lush farmland, New Plymouth is a port city with a bubbling arts scene and some fabulous cafes.

Throughout the tour we will meet the garden owners, some generously welcoming us into their houses for lunch. In Wellington wander through the excellent national Te Papa Museum. Next, cross to the South Island by ferry to the Marlborough region, known for its vineyards and stunning gardens. Also experience the distinct biodiversity of flora and fauna offered by the west coast on the way to Christchurch. New Zealand is still a hidden gem, so close, yet so wonderfully different. It’s inspirational.

Sandy Pratten

 

AT A GLANCE…

• Visit a wonderful selection of private gardens – including many ‘Gardens of National Significance’
• Spend two full days at the PowerCo Taranaki Garden Festival
• Experience the Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park (Auckland) and Te Papa Museum (Wellington)
• Visit the botanical gardens of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch
• Enjoy the best of fine New Zealand hospitality, cuisine and wines

 

ITINERARY

WED 25 OCT 2017 / ARRIVE AUCKLAND
Suggested morning departure from Australia on Air New Zealand, Qantas or Emirates flights to Auckland. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist with these travel arrangements.

This evening join Sandy and fellow travellers for a welcome dinner in the hotel.
(D)

THU 26 OCT / AUCKLAND
Enjoy a day tour to the north of Auckland, beginning with a morning visit to Gibbs Farm on Kaipara Harbour. Alan Gibbs is one of New Zealand’s leading art collectors, and since 1991 has established a sprawling 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) sculpture park which contains the largest collection of large-scale outdoor sculptures in New Zealand.
After a picnic lunch return to Auckland, stopping at Mincher Gardens. A Georgian styled home is the centrepiece of this large rural garden set amongst the remnants of an old orchard. Behind the house is the formal area. To one side a cottage garden and whimsical garden shed lead to “kissing gates” which are romantically placed under trailing weeping willow.
Late afternoon return to your hotel.
(BPicnicL)

FRI 27 OCT / AUCKLAND
Spend the day in Auckland’s three major public and private gardens. In the morning visit Ayrlies, situated in the gently rolling country of east Auckland. This is one of New Zealand’s best known gardens, characterised by sweeping lawns and informal but detailed plantings by ponds and waterways.

Continue to the Auckland Botanic Gardens for lunch and an afternoon at leisure to explore this young botanic garden that has been created from gently contoured farmland. The mild temperate climate allows the gardens to display a wide variety of plants.

Finish with a visit to the Winter Garden at the Auckland Domain. Rare and spectacular plants in an ever-changing display can be seen in each of the two barrel-vaulted Victorian style glass houses.
(BL)

SAT 28 OCT / AUCKLAND – HAMILTON – NEW PLYMOUTH
Depart Auckland for a leisurely day’s drive to New Plymouth. En route, stop in Hamilton to visit the Hamilton Garden. Often (incorrectly) referred to as a ‘botanic garden’ Hamilton Garden is rather a collection of themed gardens, exploring different civilisations and recreating historically important garden styles from around the world.
In the afternoon continue to New Plymouth, your base for the next two days.
(BD)

SUN 29 – MON 30 OCT / NEW PLYMOUTH
New Plymouth is home to the annual ten-day PowerCo Taranaki Garden Spectacular (formerly the Taranaki Rhododendron & Garden Festival) which showcases some of New Zealand’s most stunning private and public gardens.

The festival features over 40 diverse and inspiring gardens, including many gardens of significance, new gardens and more than a dozen exciting events. Nearly all of the gardens are private gardens and are opened exclusively for the duration of the festival. The 2017 festival will take place 27 October – 05 November 2017.
The festival includes a mixture of free and paid events, including house and garden tours, celebrity chef demonstrations, guided walks, workshops and a diverse garden speaker series.
From the huge range of gardens and events on offer, Sandy and the festival organiser will choose a stimulating program over the three days spent here.
In addition to its beautiful parks and gardens, the city of New Plymouth is known for its sunny climate and art galleries. The conical shape of Mount Taranaki provides a dramatic backdrop to the city. Down at the waterfront are located Puke Ariki museum and heritage centre, and the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery/Len Lye Centre – New Zealand’s first and only museum of contemporary art.
(BLorD daily)

TUE 31 OCT / NEW PLYMOUTH – WELLINGTON
Depart New Plymouth for a, leisurely drive to Wellington. En route, stop for lunch and a visit to Nicki and Clive Higgie’s garden, Paloma, near Wanganui.

Awarded Garden of National Significance by the New Zealand Gardens Trust (NZGT) for the past seven years, the exotic gardens of Paloma are landscaped with plants from all over the world, and are presented as several distinct zones, including the Palm Garden, the Desert House, the Garden of Death, the Bamboo Forests, the Jardin Exotique, the Wedding Lawn and the two Arboreta.

In the afternoon continue to Wellington, arriving late afternoon.
(BL)

WED 01 NOV / WELLINGTON
Begin with an orientation tour of the vibrant city of Wellington, nestled around the harbour and surrounded by natural scenery. See the famous Beehive and Parliament Buildings, visit Saint Paul’s Cathedral and the Lady Norwood Rose Gardens within the Wellington Botanic Gardens.

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

Following lunch, return to Wellington for a visit to Te Papa Tongawera Museum, a fascinating centre dedicated to art, history and Maori culture.
(BL)

THU 02 NOV / WELLINGTON – BLENHEIM
Today enjoy the scenic crossing on the Interislander ferry between Wellington and Picton. After sailing out of the picturesque harbour of Wellington, cross Cook Strait before entering the magnificent Marlborough Sounds. The three hour journey between Wellington and Picton is considered one of the most spectacular cruises in the world.

Arrive in Picton and continue to Allan Scott Wines, the family owned winery established by Allan and Catherine Scott. Enjoy a wine tasting followed by lunch which is served in the European-style courtyard with its exceptional gardens and vistas to the vineyards beyond.

Late afternoon arrival at your hotel in Blenheim, your base for the next three nights.
(BL)

FRI 03 NOV / BLENHEIM
Begin your exploration of the Marlborough area and its gardens with Bankhouse Garden, one of the highlights of the Wairau Valley. Meander through the lower level into a shaded gully that hosts rhododendrons and bog plants. Continue towards the house and onto the upper level garden terraces where you find rambling roses and a variety of drought resistant plants.

Continue to Barewood garden for lunch and a tour. Recognised as a NZ Garden of National Significance, Barewood garden is designed to complement the 100 year old homestead, and features formal allees of hawthorn and malus, plantings of unusual trees and shrubs and a classic potager featuring espaliered fruit.

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

SAT 04 NOV / BLENHEIM
Begin with a visit to Huguette Michel’s Hortensia House. The Monet-inspired garden is informal in design and is loosely themed on blue and yellow, capturing an essence of serenity and reflecting the colours of the house. Huguette’s favourite shade of hydrangea is blue and these, along with lavenders, forget-me-not’s, love-in-a-mists and others provide the blue tones throughout the garden. Yellow is provided by varieties of roses, pansies, daisies, aquilegias and gazanias.

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

SUN 05 NOV / BLENHEIM – GREYMOUTH
Departing Blenheim travel via the old gold mining town of Murchison to the port town of Westport. After a break for lunch, continue down the scenic West Coast, stopping to see the fur seal colony at Cape Foulwind and the Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes.

Late afternoon arrival and overnight in Greymouth, known for its gold mining heritage, local brewery Monteiths and pounamu (New Zealand jade).
(BD)

MON 06 NOV / GREYMOUTH – CHRISTTCHURCH
Depart Greymouth for a very scenic morning’s drive over the Southern Alps to Christchurch. Climb to more than 900 metres through Arthur’s Pass National Park, before descending to Christchurch across the Canterbury Plain.

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

Late afternoon arrival at your hotel.
(BL)

TUE 07 NOV / CHRISTCHURCH
Today visit two outstanding gardens. First visit Broadfield NZ Landscape Gardens, a 3.5 hectare showcase garden established 20 years. Many natives are used formally and informally as are NZ raised varieties of azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, cherry cornus, maples, peony perennials, daffodils, lily, and roses. It includes a Kauri forest with over 100 trees and 100 species of other Kauri forest trees, shrubs, climbers and ferns.
Continue to the seaside town of Governor’s Bay for a farewell lunch.
This afternoon visit Ohinetahi, a well-structured, carefully designed garden created by architect Sir Miles Warren which consists of a number of formal rooms, of differing style and character. The garden houses an important sculpture collection and small art gallery. Hedges are used to shelter plants that would otherwise struggle in the high winds. Features include an herb potager, box-edged rose garden, herbaceous borders, Red Garden, gazebo, rectangular pond, arched bridge and statues. There are spectacular views down to Lyttleton Harbour.

Return to your hotel for an evening at leisure.
(BL)

WED 08 NOV / DEPART CHRISTCHURCH
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.

Most return flights to Australia depart in the afternoon or evening, allowing a further day of exploration at your leisure. If you would like to extend your stay in Christchurch or New Zealand, please talk to one of our dedicated travel team for options and prices.
(B)

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.

 

 

 

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History & Birdlife Cruise

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

 

Itinerary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Birdlife of the British Isles

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

 

Small Ship (100 guest) Cruising with Botanica

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

 

Highlights

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

 

Included

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

 

Experiences: History, Gardens, Music, Birdlife

 

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

Southport Flower Show

Southport Flower Show

 

Victoria Park, Southport, UK

 

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

 

Southport Flower Show Display Gardens:

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

 

Southport Flower Show Plant Societies

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

 

Southport Flower Show Garden Roadshow

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

 

Southport Flower Show Amateur Growers

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

 

Southport Flower Show Grand Floral Marquee

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

 

Southport Flower Show Ladies Day

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

Chelsea Flower Show

Chelsea Flower Show

 

Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London SW3 4SL

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

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Show Gardens

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

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

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

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

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Artisan Garden

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

 

Chelsea Flower Show’s Fresh Gardens

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

 

The Great Pavilion Floral Marquee

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

 

Garden products

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

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

Malvern Autumn Show

Malvern Autumn Show 2016

 

Open 9am-6pm each day

 

Malvern Autumn Show main attractions

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

Tropical Garden Fair Darwin

Tropical Garden Fair, Darwin

 

The Tropical Garden Fair in Darwin will feature:

•   celebrity landscape designer from Bali, Made Wijaya, in action over both days working on his new design project for the Garden

•   a huge plant market of luscious tropical plants

•   expert garden advice

•   floral displays

•   gourmet food and drink

•   live music

•   garden workshops

•   a garden-themed dress-up parade for kids at 11am on Saturday 13 August

•   Tea Party with Tinkerbell 11am Sunday 14 August

 

Location

 

George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens, 10am-4pm each day

Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

RHS Hampton Court Palace Flower Show

 

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

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

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

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

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

RHS Flower Show Tatton Park

 

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

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

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

 

Other special features include:

•  Blooming Beds

•  Garden Hideaways

•  children’s activities

•  The Vineyard, dedicated to English wine

•  entertainment in the Bandstand

 

RHS Tatton Park Opening times

Thursday-Saturday – 10am to 6,30pm

Sunday – 10am – 5pm

 

 

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

 

Bordeaux Gardens, Chateaux, History and Wine

Bordeaux Gardens, Chateaux, History and Wine

 

Itinerary

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Highlights

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

 

Included

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

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

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

 

Itinerary

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

M.S. Island Sky

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

 

Highlights

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

 

Included

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

 

Experiences: Wildflowers, Private Gardens, History & Ancient Architecture

 

This tour can be combined with:

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

 

Chelsea Fringe – the alternative garden festival

Chelsea Fringe

 

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

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

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

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

Garden Tours to China – find and compare

TEA TOUR OF CHINA WITH STEPHEN CARROLL

 

Once again Australian On-line tea company Tea Total and China’s foremost professional tour company Easy Tour China bring you the Tea Tour of China for 2016.

Forget the “get on get off” coach tour. This experience will immerse you in tea culture and production in areas and with people that other tours never reach. This Tea Tour has been developed personally by Tea Total and Easy Tour China over many years. The tea farmers and artists we visit are now our friends and we want to introduce them to you. This tour will take you to places that are not seen by any other group.

This tour is aimed at the tea professional and serious amateur alike. All major tea areas are covered from an agricultural, processing and production view and also the cultural and local mores that locate tea as the special and unique phenomenon that it is. As each tea needs to be appreciated for its special qualities you will learn the essentials and more to good tea brewing from across China.

We also take the opportunity to include special cultural experiences local to where we are visiting. This ensures that we capitalise on your journey and give you glimpses of Chinese life.

The complete tour is escorted with Tea Total Tea Master Stephen Carroll and local Easy Tour China English speaking guides with a knowledge and interest in Chinese tea and tea culture.

Group size is kept small to allow personal interaction, education and experience to make this a remarkable tour. The small size also means we may respond to particular requests from guests.

Once you experience our Tea Tour you will understand why we are so proud.

What some of our past guests have said:

Tea Total’s Tea Tour of China is an extraordinary, up-close and personal adventure into all the main tea-producing areas. Led by two extremely knowledgeable (and fun!) tea and travel experts who are joined by local guides, the tour exceeded all my expectations!
Candice.

As far as I’m concerned the Tea Tour China 2015 was a resounding success. Being able to sample yancha in Wuyishan, phoenix oolong in Guangdong and puerh in Yunnan was extraordinary. Highly recommended.”
Richard.

Itinerary

 

Day 1 Sat 11-June-16
Arrival / Xi’an. Your own arrangements for travel to Xi’an. Easy Tour China will assist if requested.
Program: Be met at the airport and transfer to your hotel for check in.
Evening: Meet with your fellow travelers and hear about the tour.
Xi’an is an undiscovered delight and the home of Fu Cha fermented tea. You will visit the Fu Cha factory and tea shops and learn about this unique tea. This ancient city needs exploring and our hotel is located right inside the old city walls. Xi’an began the Norther Tea Horse Road transporting tea to Russia and into Europe.
Accommodation (4*): 3 nights.

Day 2 Sun 12-June-16 (B, L)
Xi’an
Program: In the morning transfer to join the Tea Expo. After lunch, visit Ancient City Wall, Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Muslim Quarters.

Day 3 Mon 13-June-16 (B, L)
Xi’an
Program: In the morning visit The Terracotta Warriors and Horses Museum. In the afternoon, enjoy your free time at leisure in this ancient city, or taste tea with us in the many Tea Houses of Xi’an.

Day 4 Tue 14-June-16 (B, L)
Xi’an / Hangzhou
Program: In the morning, transfer (2hrs drive) to visit Famen Temple, you will see the excavated tea sets which were made circa 868-871AD. In the afternoon, transfer (1.5hrs drive) to visit Jingwei Fu Tea Factory. Have dinner, and then transfer to airport for night flight to Hangzhou. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in.
Accommodation (4*): 3 nights.

Day 5 Wed 15-June-16 (B, L)
Hangzhou.
Program: After breakfast, visit the Old Street with a Traditional Tea House still using the long spout tea pot the tea server is often called a Tea Doctor. Visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine (herbal) Pharmacy and then a traditional umbrella shop. In the afternoon, visit the traditional Arts and Crafts precinct followed by a cruise on the Grand Canal and then visit The Great Canal Museum. In the evening, enjoy the spectacular West Lake Water Show, this is a traditional Chinese story based on the “Tale of the White Snake”.

Day 6 Thu 16-June-16 (B, L)
Hangzhou.
Program: After breakfast, visit the world famous Tea Museum and Tea Research Center, Travel to the Longjin Tea Farms, taste and learn about this famous tea visit and the famous Dragon Well spring still used today for its high quality water.

Day 7 Fri 17-June-16 (B, L)
Hangzhou / Huangshan
Program: Pick up at the hotel and transfer to Huangshan (3.5hrs). Check in at hotel and later visit Tunxi Old Street. Sample tea at the many traditional tea shops, visit calligraphy and painting shops and other sites of cultural interest. There are special teas in this area as it is near to the Keemun Black tea producing areas, also many Oolongs of original production methods.
Accommodation (4*): 2 nights

Day 8 Sat 18-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan
Program: In the morning, visit the Base of Huangshan Maofeng Green Tea and participate in the tea-making process. In the afternoon we visit to Qiyun Taoist Mountain, ‘Cloud High Mountain’, one of the four sacred mountains of Taoism. Here we shall spend time with a Taoist tea monk to learn something of the Taoist culture and the importance of tea and tea production to their way of life.

Day 9 Sun 19-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan
Program: In the morning transfer to Huangshan. Huangshan is justly famous for its spectacular mountain scenery and views and is represented in many famous and historic ink paintings and scrolls. Take a cable car up to the mountain, then visit the Brush Pen Peak, Lion Peak, West Sea Grand Canyon and some other attractions. Down the mountain via Taiping cable car, transfer (1hr) to your hotel which located at Taiping Lakeside.
As we are so close to this mountain it was important to take a “Tea Break” day and experience this phenomenon of China’s cultural heritage.
Accommodation (5*): 2 nights

Day 10 Mon 20-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan
Program: In the morning a 1.5hr drive followed by a short walk to a tea production area making Taiping Houkui. The labour intensive production of this green tea assures its place as one of the Top Ten Teas of China. You will see tea plantations and processing on the way. After lunch, around 2hrs walking down the mountain through this area. Transfer back to hotel, enjoy the rest time at leisure.

Day 11 Tue 21-June-16 (B, L)
Huangshan / Wuyishan
Program: Transfer to the Railway Station, take high speed train to Wuyishan (1.5hr). Be met and then visit a Rock Tea production center and other selected producers for tea tastings and education.
Accommodations (4*): 3 nights

Day 12 Wed 22-June-16 (B, L)
Wuyishan
Program: After breakfast we drive to the Wu Yi Mountain Reserve. This UNESCO World Heritage site has spectacular scenery and is the birthplace of rock oolong tea. We shall walk Tianyou Mountain and punt along the Nine Bends River in a bamboo raft through “Oolong Mountains and Cliffs”.

Day 13 Thu 23-June-16 (B, L)
Wuyishan
Program: Walk through the rock tea gardens to Dahongpao where you will see the 350 year old mother bush. In this area you will see many small tea gardens growing different tea plant varieties and cultivars for producing oolong tea. Walking on to the Great Water Curtain Cave we shall visit Qing Shi Yan and Green Lion Rock. Later we shall visit tea factories to learn about the process of oolong production and sample their teas. Evening weather permitting, you will enjoy the outdoor theatrical performance “Impressions of Dahongpao”, one of the greatest shows in China.

Day 14 Fri 24-June-16 (B, L)
Wuyishan / Xiamen
Program: In the morning we visit Xiamei, an ancient tea Village and part of the old Tea Horse Route. From here for centuries tea was transported north by horse up in to Russia. This is still very much a working village with many tea shops. Have lunch at the village. In the afternoon we shall visit local tea producers to learn the art and skill of tea judging and cupping. Take late afternoon flight to Xiamen. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in
Accommodation (4*): 2 nights

Day 15 Sat 25-June-16 (B, L)
Xiamen
Program: In the morning, drive about 2hrs to Anxi, and the capital of Tieguanyin. Visit Xiping Village, the home of the original Tieguanyin bush; then visit Tieguanyin Cultural Garden and a Tea Factory for the history and production methods of Tieguanyin. Later today drive back to Xiamen. Xiamen is a spectacular city that was once a Portuguese port and retains that charm and character.

Day 16 Sun 26-June-16 (B, L)
Xiamen / Nanjing
Program: Drive 3hrs to Nanjing County to visit the Earth Tower (Tulou). Building commenced in the 12-13th centuries by the Hakka people as accommodation and fortification, the largest of these can house 800 people. Now a UNESCO World Heritage site. The area is also a tea growing area with cultivation on the mountain slopes. Stay overnight here and experience life in the Earth Towers.
Accommodation (4*): 1 night

Day 17 Mon 27-June-16 (B, L)
Nanjing / Chaozhou
Program: In the morning, drive to Chaozhou. Be met and transfer to have lunch and then visit the Kaiyuan Temple. We shall meet and spend time with Mr Wu, Provincial Cultural Master tea pot maker at his shop and studio. Chaozhou is the birth place of Gongfucha. Chaozhou tea pots are of a particular local clay and design to allow correct brewing and enhance the flavor of the local strip oolong teas. Mr Wu also stocks a large selection of Yixing tea pots and tea wares. As Chaozhou is also a leading porcelain area this is an ideal place to look at tea wares. Visit to the floating bridge, the city wall and other local sights if time permits.
Accommodation (4*):2 nights

Day 18 Tue 28-June-16 (B, L)
Chaozhou / Phoenix Mt tea tour.
Program: Following breakfast we drive to Phoenix Mountain (Fenghuang). Phoenix Mountain oolong tea are some of the most fragrant traditional oolongs still produced in China. We shall meet Mr Zheng, a renowned oolong tea farmer and processor. With him we shall spend the day learning about the farming, the processing and the tasting of these teas. Mr Zheng will take us to the original tea trees from the year 1200 (the Song Dynasty) from which many of his bushes are descended.

Day 19 Wed 29-June-16 (B, L)
Chaozhou / Guilin
Program: After breakfast take morning flight to Guilin. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in. After lunch we shall visit Mr Han junior and senior. Their knowledge of tea is unsurpassed. Sample their handcrafted teas and learn about ‘Tea In China’.
Accommodation (4*+): 2 nights

Day 20 Thu 30-June-16 (B, L)
Guilin / Yangshuo / Guilin
Program: After breakfast pick up at your hotel and drive 40mins to the Li River. Here we shall cruise for 3.5 hrs down the spectacular Li River surrounded by monumental karst mountains. We shall lunch on board. Arriving at Yangshuo we visit the local market and then drive back to Guilin (1.5hrs). Make sure you bring your tea and tea sets for drinking whilst on board.

Day 21 Fri 1-July-16 (B)
Guilin / Kunming
Program: After breakfast we shall visit a local, family run tea shop that specializes in Phoenix Mountain oolongs. Take the flight to Yunnan in the early afternoon. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in. Enjoy “Dynamic Yunnan” Show in the evening.
Accommodation (4*): 1 night

Day 22 Sat 2-July-16 (B, L)
Kunming / Jinghong
Program: After breakfast drive to the Lu Yu Tea House and Tea Culture Centre. Here we shall have a morning of introduction to Pu-er Tea culture. We shall have the opportunity to sample many types of pu-er tea and learn about this unique Chinese treasure. After lunch transfer to airport, take flight to Jinhong. Be met and transfer to hotel for check in.
Accommodation (5*): 3 nights

Day 23 Sun 3-July-16 (B, L)
Jinghong / Yiwu / Jinghong
Program: After breakfast, drive along a winding road through rubber plantation to Yiwu (4hrs). Arrive at Yiwu, walk along the Tea Horse Trail which begins in Yiwu village and goes all the way to Tibet, and see a small tea museum (opening times and days are not fixed). Visit local tea workshop where you drink tea and see the stone blocks used to press tea cakes and try your hand at pressing tea cakes. Drive up the mountains to see local aged tea trees and visit tea farmers. On the return road, visit Jinuo ethnic people and see the aged tea trees around village.

Day 24 Mon 4-July-16 (B, L)
Jinghong / Menghai / Menghun / Jinghong
Program: Drive to Menghun where we visit village of the Dai ethinic minority people, who still make paper in the traditional way with Mulberry tree bark. These products are mostly used for packing tea and tea products. Drive back to Jinghong via Mount Nannuo one of the most famous tea producing areas in Menghai. The Hani ethnic minority people have been producing tea here for 800 years and it is here we will meet the Hani and sample their tea. Return to Jinghong.
Evening: Group dinner and Big Goodbyes.
Day 25 Tue 5-July-16 (B)
Jinghong / Exit
Program: Morning transfer to airport for connecting flights to major exit cities of China. Your personal arrangements to your port of embarkation (Easy Tour China is able to assist with bookings). Don’t forget your big suitcase of memories and your head full of tea knowledge and skill!

Floralies Flower Show, Art, Tulips and the Seine River Cruise

Floralies Flower Show, Art, Tulips and the Seine River Cruise

Itinerary

 

Day 1. Arrive Amsterdam
Be met on arrival and transferred to your river ship for a Welcome Dinner at 6.30pm.
Seven Nights: aboard the luxurious river ship MS AmaStella (D)

Day 2. Amsterdam and Edam, Freedom of Choice
Today you have a choice of two touring options. Cruise through Amsterdam’s canals, then rejoin your ship and cruise to Volendam, a maze of fishermen’s houses built on poles with a unique open harbour. Others may choose to visit the gardens of Kasteel de Haar, a stunning late medieval castle and garden. After lunch enjoy a tour of Volendam Harbour before continuing to Edam for a walking tour of the Old Quarter. This evening there will be a very special lecture by Anna Pavord, author of The Tulip. (BLD)

Day 3. Arnhem, Freedom of Choice
This morning after breakfast, you will arrive into Arnhem where you will have a choice of two sightseeing activities. Your first option is to see the monument commemorating the Battle of Arnhem Bridge, made famous by the classic film A Bridge Too Far. You’ll also visit the Airborne Museum and learn more about the Battle of Arnhem, one of the major campaigns of World War II. Your second choice is a tour of the most stunning royal residence in Holland, Het Loo Palace, with lavishly furnished rooms and meticulously sculpted gardens. After your tour, return to the ship for lunch and cruise to Nijmegen where you can enjoy some free time. Enjoy scenic cruising this evening as you sail through the Netherlands en route to Belgium. (BLD)

Day 4. Antwerp, Freedom of Choice
On arrival in Antwerp, choose from a guided city tour or a tour taking you to sites associated with the famous Flemish Baroque artist, Peter Paul Rubens. You will also visit the Antwerp Cathedral, which houses two of Rubens’ most important works, The Elevation of the Cross and The Descent from the Cross. Enjoy the afternoon at your leisure to relax or take a Culinary Delights tour to sample waffles and chocolate. Alternatively, perhaps join an excursion to the beautiful city of Bruges with its stunning system of canals. During dinner, your ship will set out for the charming medieval city of Ghent. (BLD)

Day 5. Ghent, Freedom of Choice
Today you will have a choice of two touring options. The first option is to spend a full day to explore Floralies in Ghent. Floralies is the largest inside garden in the world with a surface area of 450,000 m² and exhibits more than 500,000 varieties of plants and flowers. Alternatively spend a half day at Floralies and then enjoy a visit to a beautiful private garden designed by Chris Gheyslen in the afternoon. (BD)

Day 6. Willemstad and Kinderdjik, Freedom of Choice
Cruise back to the Netherlands. This morning you may choose to visit the charming 400-year old town of Willemstad for a walking tour and private organ recital at the oldest Protestant church in the Netherlands. This afternoon, the touring options include a visit to Kinderdijk, a lovely region renowned for having the greatest concentration of windmills in the entire country. Another option is to take a day tour to Rotterdam and The Hague, visiting Westbroekpark with its superb rhododendrons and Delft’s Botanic Gardens. A third option is to visit the exhibition of the world-famous artist MC Escher, housed in the former Winter Palace of Queen Mother Emma of the Netherlands, and option four is to visit Mauritshaus, home of Johannes Vermeer’s Girl with a Pearl Earring. Tonight, enjoy a special onboard musical performance as the ship cruises to Schoonhoven. (BLD)

Day 7. Utrecht and Keukenhof Gardens
Cruise along the Amsterdam-Rhine Canal to Utretcht. Disembark and travel to Keukenhof Gardens, which encompasses over 70 acres of parkland. Relish the chance to admire the spectacular display of bulb flowers in bloom during a morning sightseeing excursion. Keukenhof also features several ponds, sculpture gardens, greenhouses and a windmill. Return to your ship for lunch. In the afternoon, enjoy an excursion to delightful Zaanse Schans, a small historic village just outside of Amsterdam. This evening enjoy a special Farewell Dinner whilst moored in Amsterdam. (BLD)

Day 8. Amsterdam Sightseeing
Disembark your ship early this morning to visit the world famous Aalsmeer Flower Markets. Afterwards we will visit a cut flower nursery to see some of the millions of flowers being grown for sale and export around the world. For lunch we will dine at De Kas, with its own greenhouses and garden near the restaurant, where they grow Mediterranean vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. This afternoon is free to explore Amsterdam, perhaps visit the newly renovated Rijksmusuem.
Stay: Amsterdam, Marriott Hotel or similar (BL)

Day 9. Amsterdam to Paris
Depart Amsterdam after breakfast and travel through the Dutch, Belgium and French countryside to Paris. Board our river ship for a Welcome Dinner.
Seven Nights: aboard the MS AmaLegro (BD)

Day 10. Vernon, Freedom of Choice
Spend the morning enjoying the scenery along the Seine as you cruise to the provincial town of Vernon. You will have free time to explore the town, and later, we visit Giverny and the home and gardens of Claude Monet. The artist lived here for more than four decades and immortalised his ponds and flower gardens in some of his most iconic paintings. Alternatively, you may choose to tour the palace and gardens of Chateau de Bizy. Inspired by Versailles, Chateau de Bizy was constructed as a royal chateau and is home to descendents of Emperor Napoleon. (BLD)

Day 11. Caudebec, Freedom of Choice
After a scenic morning cruise on the Seine, arrive in the old fishing village of Caudebec. You will have a choice of two tours. The first option is to visit Honfleur, a historic and picturesque port with pastel-coloured houses that was a favourite subject of artists such as Courbet, Boudin and Monet. As an alternative, choose the ‘Routes des Abbayes’ excursion spotlighting Normandy’s famous abbeys, more than 100 of which once covered this region. You will visit the ruined abbey in Jumièges as well as St. Wandrille, which is still a working monastery. Or you may wish to visit two gardens of major importance at Varengeville-sur-Mer, which is near Dieppe, Le Vasterival and Les Bois des Moutiers. (BLD)

Day 12. Normandy, Freedom of Choice
Today you may choose to visit the D-Day beaches and learn about the historic events of June 6, 1944. Another option is to visit Bayeaux, for a gardens and culture tour including a visit to the Bayeaux tapestry and visit Brecy garden, considered the most beautiful garden in Lower Normandy. A further option is to visit rural Normandy, which includes a visit to the Pays d’Auge famed for its apple orchards and the ‘Routes du Cidre’ the Cider Road. (BLD)

Day 13. Rouen Sightseeing
Enjoy a morning walk through this medieval city and see the imposing Notre Dame Cathedral, painted numerous times by Monet, and the square where Joan of Arc was martyred. Afterwards, you will have free time to explore Rouen, perhaps sampling some delicious cheeses. This afternoon you will have the opportunity to visit the spectacular garden Le Jardin Plume, just outside of Rouen, or Jane Webster’s Chateau Bosgouet. Afterwards enjoy scenic cruising on the Seine to Les Andelys. (BLD)

Day 14. Les Andelys
A stroll along the river in Les Andelys offers beautiful views of the Seine Valley’s dramatic white cliffs, centuries-old half-timbered houses, and the hilltop ruins of Château Gaillard. This former stronghold of Richard the Lionheart changed hands a number of times during the Hundred Years’ War. Athletically-inclined guests may enjoy hiking up to visit the ruins of this historic castle before we continue our cruise to Conflans. (BLD)

Day 15. Malmaison, Freedom of Choice
Today you have a choice of two excursions. Visit Château Malmaison, former home of Napoleon and Josephine, including the Château’s interior, gardens and museum. Alternatively, travel to Auvers-sur-Oise, a town famous for the Impressionist painters who lived there in the 19th century, such as Paul Cézanne and Camille Pissarro. Your Artists’ Walk tour will include many sites associated with their work, including the Auberge Ravoux, former home of Vincent van Gogh. The ship departs this afternoon for Paris, arriving in the early evening. (BLD)

Day 16. Paris, Disembark Ship
Depart the ship after breakfast this morning. (B)

Botanical Experts
Julie Prent and Dr Toby Musgrave, garden author and historian is your Botanical Guide. Special Guest Lecturer is Anna Pavord, Author of The Tulip.

This tour can be combined with:

· Mediterranean Landscapes Cruise (BTIN15)
· Morocco Art & Gardens (BTMOR10)

Cherry Blossoms in Japan and South Korea Cruise

Cherry Blossoms in Japan and South Korea Cruise

 

ITIINERARY

 

Day 1. Arrive Osaka
Arrive into Osaka Airport and be met and transferred to your hotel. This evening at 6.30pm, enjoy a Welcome Dinner where you’ll have the opportunity to meet your fellow Botanica travellers.
Stay: Osaka, Imperial Hotel or similar (D)

Day 2. Kyoto and Embark Ship
This morning depart Osaka to Kyoto where we will visit the rock garden masterpiece
of Ryoanji and Kinkakuji, a fine example of Muromachi period garden design. After lunch, transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky in Kobe. Enjoy a special dinner with the ship’s crew this evening, as we set sail for the port of Okayama.
Ten Nights: MS Caledonian Sky (BLD)

Day 3. Okayama, Koraku-en Garden and Kurashiki.
After breakfast 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 teahouse, and experience a traditional tea ceremony. 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 lined with rows of majestic weeping willows. (BLD)

Day 4. 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 Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden, famous for its magnificent spring colours. See the Chrysanthemum-Moon Pavilion, then visit Kinashi Bonsai Town. (BLD)

Day 5. Hiroshima and Miyajima
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 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 6. Uwajima
Arrive in Uwajima, situated deep inside the saw-toothed coast of Uwajima Bay. The city of Uwajima is emerging as the nation’s largest pearl cultivation centre. Learn the process of implanting, harvesting, extracting and sorting pearls on a visit to a pearl farm. We will continue to Sakiiya Square or choose to visit Dairakuji Temple. (BLD)

Day 7. Nagasaki and Dejima Island
Arrive at Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an A-bomb in World War II. Tour the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Museum and Glover Garden. Continue to Dejima Island, built during the Edo Period to accommodate Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion. It was also once 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. Pusan, South Korea
Embark on a full-day excursion to Kyongju, in South Korea, 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 distinctive pottery. At lunch, sample Korean delicacies and enjoy the spectacle of traditional dancers during a cultural performance. (BLD)

Day 9. Hagi
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. We will also take time to explore Hagi, one of Japan’s most beautiful castle towns, where you can explore the old streets and see the Hagi Castle ruins, Shizuki Park and the Tokoji Temple. (BLD)

Day 10. Matsue and Yuushien Garden
Known as the ‘Town of Water’, Matsue, is on the shores of a scenic lake and a large lagoon. Here, you’ll visit a number of cultural attractions including Matsue Castle. Known as the ‘Black Castle’, it is one of only a few wooden Medieval castles that remain in Japan today. Admire the structure’s complexity from the outside, as it stands gracefully, watching over the city, and take the opportunity to explore the interior, which affords magnificent views of Lake Shinji. This afternoon, we will visit the stunning Yuushien Garden, a traditional flower garden full of colour and blossom, famous for ginseng and peonies. (BLD)

Day 11. Kanazawa and Kenroku-en Garden
Kanazawa is a thriving centre of the arts, long known for its lacquer-ware, outstanding collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship and delicate hand-painting of silk for kimonos and Noh theatre dramas. The winding cobblestone streets have a quaint photogenic charm. Around each bend is a traditional house, museum, art gallery, craft shop, Samurai residence and even a Geisha house to explore. The fascinating open-air market displays a vast variety of items from flowers to fish to local handicrafts. Next we visit the Kanazawa Castle ruins, which is one of Japan’s premier highlights, and the famed Kenroku-en Garden, is ranked among the country’s top gardens. (BLD)

Day 12. Kanazawa and Tokyo
Disembark the ship this morning and take the Bullet Train to Tokyo. On arrival, enjoy an afternoon sightseeing tour of Tokyo. We then transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay and Farewell Dinner.
Stay: Tokyo, New Otani Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 13. Depart Tokyo.
After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to the airport by shuttle bus for your flight home. (B)

Japanese Cherry Blossoms
Embark on a stylish voyage of horticultural discovery and explore this fascinating region, aboard this Botanica cruise. In the heart of cherry blossom season, Botanica guests will be enchanted by the sight of the beautiful and richly symbolic sakura flower in full bloom. Venture along the historic shores of Japan and South Korea on this incredible botanical journey. The cherry blossom heralds the start of spring and the delicate blossom only stays on the trees for two weeks. This time of year is highly revered by the Japanese, who celebrate with festivals and events.

Japan Cherry Blossom Tour

Japan Cherry Blossom Tour

 

Day 1 04APR16
Depart East Maitland by Coach
Arrive Sydney
Night at your Leisure at the Rydges Sydney Airport

Day 2 05APR16
Tokyo
Flights with Japan Airlines
Depart Sydney 08:15
Arrive Narita 17:05
Arrive Tokyo. Upon arrival, transfer to hotel in Tokyo by Airport Limousine Bus. Check in at hotel in Tokyo for 2 nights. Land only arrangement members: Check in at hotel in Tokyo after 3:00pm

Day 3 06APR16
Tokyo
Tokyo walking tour using metro, enjoy visiting Tokyo metropolitan office observatory deck, Meiji shrine, Harajuku & Omotesandou and Asakusa Senso‐ji Temple & Nakamise Shopping St. Visit Tokyo’s most famous temple and walk its souvenir shop‐lined promenade. Welcome Dinner (B,D)

Day 4 07APR16
Kanazawa
Morning, travel by new Hokuriku Line Shinkansen (Bullet train) for Samurai town Kanazawa. Upon arrival visit a enjoy the gold leaf manufacturing work‐ shop and Kanazawa’s Geisha house district. Visit Kenrokuen Garden, one of the three most famous gardens in Japan. 3 nights accommodation in Kanazawa. (B)

Day 5 08APR16
KANAZAWA—TAKAYAMA ‐ SHIRAKAWAGO – KANAZAWA
Today enjoy full day tour of Takayama & Shirakawago region. Travel to Takayama whose isolation has allowed Edo period streets, lined with tiny shops, museums and eating place to be preserved. Next visit Shirakawago and Gokayama, a World Heritage listed small village. Experience Washi Japanese rice paper making hands on. (B)

Day 6 09APR16
KANAZAWA
Day at leisure.

Day 7 10APR16
KANAZAWA-KYOTO
# Travel with overnight baggage. Your suit case to be transferred from Kanazawa to Kyoto to meet you on 11th April in Kyoto. Morning, travel for Kyoto by train. Check in for 3 nights at hotel in Kyoto. [B]

Day 8 11APR16
KYOTO
Sightseeing tour of Kyoto visiting Kinkakuji (Golden Pavilion) and Nijo castle.
Afternoon, visit Kiyomizu temple overlooking the city. Part of the fun of visiting Kiyomizu temple is the approach to the temple along the steep and busy lanes of the enchanting Higashiyama district. Japanese Dinner with Geisha accompaniment & traditional dance performances. (B,D)

Day 9 12APR16
KYOTO-HIROSHIMA & MIYAJIMA-KYOTO
Leave for Hiroshima by JR bullet train. Upon arrival, Miyajima Itsukushima floating Shrine and five‐storied Pagoda sightseeing. Visit Hiroshima Peace Park and Atomic Dome. Return to Kyoto by bullet train. [B]

Day 10 13APR16
KYOTO– KISO VALLEY/TSUMAGO
# Overnight baggage transfer service from Kyoto to Tokyo. Travel to
Tsumago/Kiso Valley with its quaint historical post towns. Tsumago, seldom visited by group tours, where cars are banned and signs of modernity such as power lines are hidden to maintain the old style ambience. Relax in an old inn for 1 night. Finish a wonderful day with a traditional Japanese bath and sleeping Japanese style on futon.

Day 11 14APR16
KISO VALLEY—TOKYO
After enjoying Japanese style breakfast, travel on to Matsumoto/Nagano, situated in the centre of Nagano and known as the gateway to the Northern Alps’ climbing routes, Matsumoto prospered as a castle town at the foot of Matsumoto Castle, which we visit. Afternoon, leave for Tokyo. 2 nights accommodation in Tokyo. Farewell dinner at hotel. (B,D)

Day 12 15APR16
MT FUJI & HAKONE TOUR

Day 13 16APR16
TOKYO
Enjoy your last day in Japan with some last minute souvenir hunting or an optional half day activity. Afternoon, board Airport Limousine bus for Narita. Check‐in for flight to Australia. Land only arrangement: Tour concludes at noon. (B)
Flights with Japan Airlines
Depart Narita 19:30

Day 14 17APR16
Arrive Sydney 06:15
Depart Sydney by coach
Arrive East Maitland
Welcome Home!

To book call 0249330874!!

Gardens of South Africa

Gardens of South Africa
Gardens, Landscapes, Wildlife and Wine with Genevieve Jacobs

 

For operational reasons this tour is deferred until 2017. New details will be available late-2016, please contact Renaissance Tours.

 

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, amazing wildlife and vibrant, diverse cultures.

Begin in Johannesburg, the heart of the country, and journey south to the coastal city of Durban with its African, Indian and Colonial influences. Explore the university town of Stellenbosch with its stunning architecture and discover one of the world’s most remarkable coastal stretches: South Africa’s Garden Route. Finish in Cape Town, shadowed by iconic Table Mountain and renowned for its Cape Winelands.

Indulge in a short stay at the private game reserve of Sabi Sands, host to the ‘Big 5’ (lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhinoceros) and enjoy visits to the famous Brenthurst and Stellenberg gardens, as well as the botanical gardens of Durban and Kirstenbosch.

AT A GLANCE…
• Enjoy leisurely stays in the culturally diverse cities of Johannesburg and Cape Town
• Encounter the ‘Big 5’ at the private Sabi Sands Game Reserve (including 4 game viewing drives)
• Discover charming villages and exceptional wine estates
• Visit Botanical gardens, private gardens and nature reserves
• Journey through the Western Cape with its spectacular hinterlands and mountainous coastline
• Optional extension – Rovos Rail train journey Cape Town to Pretoria
ITINERARY

Sat 01 October 2016 / Australia – Johannesburg
Suggested departure from Australia on QANTAS / South African Airways flights to Johannesburg. Late afternoon arrival and transfer to your hotel for check-in.
This evening, join Genevieve and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing and dinner. (D)

Sun 02 Oct / Johannesburg
Begin your exploration from the cosmopolitan heart of Johannesburg, Sandton CBD. Drive through the suburbs of Sandhurst, Hyde Park and onto Houghton, home of the past President Nelson Mandela. Enter the bustling lively suburb of Hillbrow, followed by Constitution Hill, and across the Nelson Mandela Bridge to Newtown. Walk around the old Mining House District, home to most of the world’s largest mining companies such as Anglo American and BHP Billiton. Continue past Ghandi Square to the Carlton Centre, Africa’s tallest building and enjoy panoramic views of downtown Johannesburg from the 50th floor.

Following lunch, visit the Apartheid Museum and the iconic suburb of Soweto. Stop at the Kliptown Memorial, site of the famous Freedom Charter gathering on which South Africa’s constitution is based, and drive past the present home of Nobel prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Stop at Nelson Mandela’s first home, now the Mandela Family Museum. (BL)

Mon 03 Oct / Johannesburg
After breakfast visit Brenthurst Gardens Parktown, one of South Africa’s most magnificent gardens. The private park is attached to Brenthurst Estate which has been owned by the Oppenheimer family since 1904.

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.

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

Tue 04 Oct / Johannesburg
This morning, journey 50km northwest of Johannesburg to the Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The site’s name reflects the large number of, as well as some of the oldest hominin fossils ever found, some dating back as far as 3.5 million years. It contains a complex of limestone caves, including the Sterkfontein Caves, where the 2.3 million year-old fossil, Australopithecus africanus (nicknamed Mrs. Ples), was found in 1947 by Dr. Robert Broom and John T. Robinson.

After lunch visit the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden founded in 1982 and named after the anti-apartheid activist. Set against the backdrop of the magnificent Witpoortjie waterfall, the garden covers almost 750 acres and consists of both landscaped and natural veld areas. (BL)

Wed 05 Oct / Johannesburg – Kruger
Transfer to Johannesburg Airport for a morning flight to Kruger Mpumalanga Airport. (NB: economy class checked baggage allowance of 1 bag up to 20kg applies).

On arrival, transfer to Sabi Sands Private Game Reserve, the oldest and most successful private reserve in South Africa. The reserve is located adjacent to the Kruger National Park’s unfenced south-western boundary.

Spend the afternoon settling into your accommodation. Kirkman’s Kamp, consisting of 18 cottages is a well-known historic camp originally built in the early 1920s, and celebrates the atmosphere of an early South African lowveld homestead, with a colonial style and gracious ambience. Enjoy spectacular views of the unspoiled wilderness and the Sand River. Breakfast and lunch are served on shady verandahs, and dinners are shared in the dramatic boma (enclosure) or in lantern-lit bush settings.

Late afternoon embark on the first of four game drives, followed by dinner at the lodge. (BLD)

Thu 06 Oct / Kruger
Today, enjoy early morning and late afternoon game drives. (BLD)
Game drives are conducted in open safari vehicles, seating between 6 and 12 passengers. They are under the expert guidance of experienced rangers and insightful trackers and include off-road driving, night drives and guided nature walks, all of which greatly enhance the game viewing experience.

Fri 07 Oct / Kruger – Durban
Following an early morning game drive and breakfast, transfer to Kruger Mpumalanga Airport for an afternoon flight to the coastal city of Durban, one of Africa’s busiest ports.

On arrival transfer to the hotel. (BD)

Sat 08 Oct / Durban
Begin with a city tour of Durban, one of the most culturally diverse cities in Africa. See how the city has been shaped by the indigenous Zulu population and the Indian workers who arrived as indentured labourers in the 19th century.

The city centre overlooks a long golden beach that curves round to one of the largest harbours on earth. Drive along the ‘Golden Mile’ to the Victoria Embankment, passing Vasco Da Gama clock, Dick King statue and the Royal Natal Yacht Club. Continue past the sugar terminal, the University of Natal and the elegant mansions in the residential areas of Berea and Morningside.

Visit the Durban Botanical Gardens, world-renowned for their indigenous and exotic plant collections. It began as a site for growing experimental tropical crops, and today offers a herbarium, an orchid house, and an award-winning Sensory Garden.

Following lunch, visit the Umgeni Bird Park and the vibrant Indian and Victoria Street Market with its blend of all things Indian and African. (BL)

Sun 09 Oct / Durban – George
Following breakfast, transfer to Durban Airport for a morning flight to George Airport.
On arrival in George, transfer to the Garden Route Botanical Garden which plays an important role in both conservation and raising awareness about the critical Cape floral kingdom of the Garden Route, one of the richest (and yet one of the smallest and most threatened) floral kingdoms on Earth.

After lunch, transfer to the hotel for check in.

Remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. (BLD)

Mon 10 Oct / George
Today, visit Monkeyland Primate Sanctuary, the world’s first free roaming multi-species sanctuary. Enjoy a ranger guided walking safari into the forest and across the 128 metre canopy walk, which rises above the forest canopy, for a bird’s eye view.

Visit the Birds of Eden’s free-flight aviary (The world’s largest), covering 5 acres of indigenous forest spanning over a gorge.

Following lunch journey east to the picturesque Knysna Lagoon with its entrance to the Indian Ocean guarded by two grand sandstone cliffs, known as Knysna Heads. (BL)

Tue 11 Oct / George – Franschhoek
Depart George early and enjoy a scenic drive west to Franschoek, travelling a section of the famous route 62 (420km, approx. 7-8 hours including stops).

Prior to arriving in Franschhoek visit the Karoo Desert National Botanical Garden, a truly unique garden cultivating a wide variety of desert and semi-desert plants and the only true succulent garden in the southern hemisphere. (BLD)

Wed 12 Oct / Franschhoek
Enjoy a full day exploration of the Cape Winelands. Begin with a tour of Franschhoek renowned for its spectacular beauty, superb Cape wines and world class restaurants. Founded in 1688 by French Huguenots, this charming village nestles in a rich and fertile valley between towering mountains.

Continue to Paarl, the third-oldest town in South Africa. View the Afrikaans Language Monument erected in 1975 to commemorate the semi centenary of Afrikaans as an official language, separate from Dutch. The monument overlooks the farmlands of Stellenbosch and Paarl.

Travel through the Stellenbosch area to Simonsig Estate, for wine tasting and a cellar tour followed by lunch at the Delaire Graff Estate.

In the afternoon visit the historic university city of Stellenbosch. South Africa’s second oldest settlement after Cape Town, Stellenbosch is synonymous with the oldest wine route in the country with over 100 cellars. (BL)

Thu 13 Oct / Franschhoek – Cape Town
Depart Franschhoek for a leisurely days’ drive to Cape Town, stopping at historic Vergelegen Estate, granted to the Governor of the Cape in 1700. Willem Adriaan Van der Stel, a man of divergent interests, transformed the uncultivated land into a veritable paradise. He planted vines, camphor trees and oaks, laid out fruit orchards and orange groves, and introduced cattle and sheep. Amongst the horticultural treasures are five magnificent Chinese camphor trees planted between 1700 and 1706. They are the oldest living, officially documented trees on the subcontinent and were declared a National Monument in 1942.

Late afternoon arrival into Cape Town. (BLD)

Fri 14 Oct / Cape Town
This morning begin with a visit to The Cellars-Hohenort, located on nine acres of beautifully maintained land in the Constantia Valley of Cape Town. The garden at The Cellars-Hohenort is acknowledged as one of the finest hotel gardens internationally, and has been voted by Garden Design, American magazine, as one of the top 30 hotel gardens in the world.

Following lunch, enjoy a city tour of Cape Town, including a visit to the Company’s Garden. Situated on the site of Jan van Riebeeck’s vegetable garden, it was created in 1652 to provide produce for the settlers and ships bound for the East and is now a delightful botanical garden. Visit the Castle of Good Hope, which now houses a collection of museums with exhibits relating to the Dutch East India Company.

Continue to the magnificent Table Mountain (weather permitting) and ascend to the summit by revolving cable car for magnificent 360º views of Cape Town. (BL)

Sat 15 Oct / Cape Town
Enjoy a day at leisure. (B)

Sun 16 Oct / Cape Town
Begin the morning with a visit to the glorious Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Nestled at the foot of Table Mountain, it is renowned for the beauty and diversity of the Cape flora it displays, and for the magnificence of its setting. Covering 1300 acres, Kirstenbosch grows only indigenous South African plants and supports a diverse fynbos flora and natural forest. The cultivated garden (85 acres) displays collections of South African plants, particularly those from the winter rainfall region of the country.

After lunch, drive through the Cape Peninsula Park to the spectacular Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The Nature Reserve is a floral treasure, with over one thousand different species of Cape Fynbos (Afrikaans for fine bush). The Cape Fynbos kingdom has earned international recognition as one of the world’s six Floral Kingdoms, albeit definitely the smallest. Cape Point is perceived to be the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

Return to Cape Town via FishHoek, Muizenberg and the southern suburbs of Cape Town.

Tonight celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (BLD)

Mon 17 Oct / Depart Cape Town
Tour arrangements conclude with a transfer to Cape Town International Airport. Arrive by 12.30, in time for an afternoon South African Airways flight to Johannesburg, connecting with QANTAS / SA flights to Australia. (B)

Tue 18 Oct / Arrive Australia
Afternoon arrival in Australia.

Havelock House, Hawke’s Bay

Havelock House, Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand

 

This elegant colonial style home offers a quiet semi-rural oasis for leisure or business. Designed for relaxation and comfort, enjoy its spacious ensuite rooms, elegant gardens, personalised friendly service, and amazing breakfasts. Havelock North’s finest accommodation awaits you.

Luxurious suites and sitting room
Unwind and relax in one of the three luxurious and spacious king bed and ensuite guestrooms, in their own private guest wing, all enjoying wonderful quiet garden vistas.

Enjoy afternoon tea or a drink on the quiet verandas or by the fireplace in the comfortable guest lounge and browse through the brochures on Hawke’s Bay to plan your next day’s activities.

Snooker or swimming anyone?
The guest lounge is large and comfortable and for the sole use of the guests. A huge games room with full sized snooker table and many books and board games offers a place to relax. Enjoy a game of snooker, get some exercise on the all weather tennis court, or cool off and refresh in summer in the landscaped swimming pool.

Great breakfasts daily
Breakfast at Havelock House is a real highlight of the day and many of our guests return because of it! Breakfast is served in a lovely dining room overlooking the garden or outside on the veranda. The tables are set with crisp white table cloths, linen napkins and fine Wedgwood china. Start each day with a delicious cooked breakfast with eggs, from our own hens, served on individual tables overlooking the gardens.

Relaxing Gardens
The stunning gardens have been described as an oasis with lots of bird song, roses, shady gum and palm trees. With Hawke’s Bay known as “the fruit bowl of New Zealand” of course there are fruit and citrus trees in the 4 acres of garden which you are free to explore. Palm trees surround the swimming pool and there are lots of fragrant roses in the garden.

Location
Havelock House is approximately 4.5 Hours drive from Wellington and 6 hours drive from Auckland and 2.5 hours from Taupo. Havelock House is short 4 minutes drive from Havelock North village, and signed off Middle Road. There is plenty of parking, including for boat trailers.

Hawke’s Bay is a centre for visiting Te Mata Peak, great food – Hawke’s Bay is known as the ‘fruit bowl of New Zealand’ and offers superb dining experiences, lots of wineries, the art-deco city of nearby Napier, craft and food markets, overland safaris to see the gannet nesting grounds at Cape Kidnappers and, of course, loads of outdoor activities like cycling, swimming, walking and golf. And other gardens to visit!

Havelock House
77 Endsleigh Road
Havelock North 4130
Hawke’s Bay 4130. New Zealand

US Mansions and Gardens of the Hudson River and Canadian Lakes Cruise in Fall

US Mansions and Gardens of the Hudson River and Canadian Lakes Cruise in Fall

ITINERARY

Day 1. Arrive Washington
Be met at the airport and join your fellow travellers for dinner at 6.30pm.
Two Nights: Washington DC, Fairmont Hotel or similar (D)

Day 2. Washington and Mt. Vernon
See the sights of Washington including the White House. Visit Mt Vernon, the former home
of America’s first ‘gardening President’, George Washington, and Hillwood Estate. (BD)

Day 3. Virginia and Wilmington
Travel through southern Pennsylvania and explore an Amish farm house. Visit Chanticleer, one of the great gardens of the region.
Two Nights: Wilmington, Du Pont Hotel or similar (BD)

Day 4. Brandywine Valley
Spend the morning at Longwood Gardens. With 20 outdoor display gardens, as well as lakes, meadows and forest walks, there is plenty to explore. This afternoon visit Winterthur Garden, home of Henry Du Pont. (BD)

Day 5. New York City
Depart Wilmington for New York City where you will board your ship. 15 day BTUS15 travellers join this evening in time for dinner at 6.30pm. This afternoon visit the walkway garden designed by James Corner of Field Operations in conjunction with Piet Oudolf, the Highline.
Fourteen Nights: aboard the comfortable MV Grande Mariner (BD)

Day 6. New York City and Kykuit
Visit the famed New York Botanical Gardens, boasting one of the world’s greatest collections of flora. Its 250 acres include some of the most beautiful natural terrain. It houses the nation’s largest Victorian-era glasshouse, the Enid A. Haupt Conservatory. Next stop is Kykuit, a Hudson Valley landmark and home to four generations of the Rockefeller family. See the Rockefeller private art collection and magnificent expansive garden terraces, garden ornaments and many fountains, as well as spectacular views of the Hudson Valley. Your day culminates with a cocktail party atop the deck of your ship as you bid farewell to New York City. Enjoy the unparalleled views of the harbour, the illuminated Statue of Liberty and the iconic city skyline. (BLD)

Day 7. Roosevelt Estate and Gardens, Poughkeepsie
A short cruise takes you from Bear Mountain to West Point, located in the heart of the Hudson River Valley. This morning choose to visit either the West Point Military Academy campus, including its gothic revival style chapel. Alternatively visit Boscobel with its colonial architecture or Stonecrop with its magnificent garden. Heading north on the Hudson River you will stop in Poughkeepsie. Here choose to visit either historic Hyde Park, including a visit to Springwood, the estate of Franklin D. Roosevelt, America’s only four-term president. Alternatively visit the Vanderbilt Mansion, a National Historic site. You are sure to enjoy its 211 acres of parkland that boast centuries old tree plantings and stunning Hudson River and Catskill Mountain views. (BLD)

Day 8. The Mount, Naumkeag Mansion and Gardens
Arrive in Troy, known for its unparalleled Victorian architecture and abundant Tiffany windows as seen in such films as Edith Wharton’s Age of Innocence. Here, witness the unique feat of lowering the ship’s pilot house as we prepare to travel under the low bridges of the Erie Canal. A visit to The Mount is sure to be a fascinating one of historical significance; especially for those interested in women’s history. It is a turn-of-the-century home that Edith Wharton designed and built herself. She was an established author of fiction, architecture and gardens. Later visit Naumkeag Mansion and gardens and experience a quintessential country estate of the Gilded Age. Marvel at this rare Berkshire cottage, its magnificent gardens and the incredible panoramic view. (BLD)

Day 9. Troy, Erie Canal Lock 11 and Amsterdam
Today your river ship will pass through Lock 11 of the Erie Canal to Amsterdam. (BLD)

Day 10. Amsterdam and Sylvan Beach
Today you will enjoy a full day on the Erie Canal taking in the unspoiled beauty of the surrounding countryside. During the day, you may choose to visit Cooperstown and meet the ship later in the day at Sylvan Beach. Located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, Cooperstown is best known as the ‘Birthplace of Baseball’ and is home to the renowned Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Choose to visit Fenimore Art Museum or Farmers Museum. Tonight in Sylvan Beach, on the shores of shimmering Oneida Lake, a local performer will entertain and pay tribute to the history and music of the Erie Canal. (BLD)

Day 11. Sylvan Beach and Oswego Canal
Cruise along the Oswego Canal to Oswego on the shores of magnificent Lake Ontario. You may choose to take a local shuttle on a panoramic loop around this charming area and view some of the highlights. (BLD)

Day 12. Boldt Castle and Garden, Thousand Islands and Alexander Bay
Cruise to Clayton. Visit the Antique Boat Museum and the majestic Boldt Castle and gardens where you will learn of the touching story behind its creation. Enjoy scenic cruising through the beautiful Thousand Islands, a favourite holiday destination. (BLD)

Day 13. Alexander Bay, Dark Island and Ogdensburg
Visit tiny Dark Island in Chippewa Bay and tour Singer Castle. Afterwards, journey on to Ogdensburg where you might like to visit the Frederic Remington Art Museum. BLD

Day 14. St. Lawrence Seaway
Crossing into Canada, you will cruise the St. Lawrence Seaway, a system of locks, canals, and channels dotted with waterfront communities, scenic islands, and amazing wildlife habitats. (BLD)

Day 15. Québec City
Today you will take a tour of the private garden of La Seigneurie de I’ile d’Orleans. Afterwards, a sightseeing tour will introduce you to the highlights of the beautiful city of Québec. (BLD)

Day 16. Rimouski and Les Jardins de Metis
Cruise north along the St. Lawrence River passing the beautiful Saguenay River en route to Rimouski. Be sure to look out for whales as this is one of the world’s best locales for whale watching. A private visit and guided tour of Les Jardins de Metis also known as Reford Gardens is sure to be a fascinating one. The unique garden is bold and innovative, yet traditional. Few gardens have been built in such difficult and harsh conditions as the Québec climate; it is a story of triumph. (BLD)

Day 17. Saguenay River and St. Lawrence River
Cruise to the breathtaking Saguenay River, boarded by dramatic cliffs which create some of Canada’s most stunning natural scenery. You then cruise south on the St. Lawrence River to your next destination, Montréal. (BLD)

Day 18. Montréal
Arrive in Montréal this afternoon and embark on a city highlights tour. Then, enjoy a guided tour of the world famous Jardin Botanique de Montréal located in the Olympic Park. Here, marvel at over 20,000 species of plants as you explore the 31 gardens which have been planted over 75 hectares. (BLD)

Day 19. Depart Montréal
Disembark in Montréal and transfer to the airport for your onward flight. (B)

The MV Grande Mariner
The Grande Mariner is designed to travel where larger ships can’t. The retractable pilot house allows it to slip gently beneath low bridges and transit narrow locks and rivers. It is like sailing on a friend’s yacht but with the comfort and safety of an American crew and friendly staff. From the lounge area enjoy 180° panoramas of pristine environments and small towns. Dining is casual, with an open seating policy. Cabins are air-conditioned and comfortable with either slide windows or portholes. Whilst the ship can accommodate 96 people, Botanica will only be taking 75, making this a very relaxing experience.

Unforgettable Fall Colours
During our US and Canadian journey, you’ll explore elaborate mansions and thoughtfully landscaped estates. The diverse range of gardens we visit will inspire, motivate and challenge you in your own horticultural endeavours. Styles vary from formal to casual, intimate to grand, but all with something different to offer. It’s a truly special experience to visit this region in the Fall. The striking hues and vibrancy of the foliage, as well as the tantalising seasonal produce, is sure to make your trip memorable. This is an incredible journey, unique to Botanica, and not to be missed.

Auckland Garden DesignFest

The third Auckland Garden DesignFest will again showcase leading and award-winning garden designers.

Among the highlights in this year’s line-up are three completely different gardens by Robin Shafer – an extensive formal garden in response to a classical Georgian house in St Heliers, a resort-style garden and swimming pool complementing a magnificent new home overlooking the Hauraki Gulf, and an elegant garden designed in response to one of Herne Bay’s most beautiful corner villas.

Another top designer, Trudy Crerar, is also presenting three contrasting gardens – a Moorish garden designed to seduce the senses for a small courtyard in one of Auckland’s most historic streets, a sympathetic garden designed to unravel the best of the original features of a 1930’s deco house in Herne Bay, and unlike any of its neighbours, an established garden full of New Zealand native plants that manages to be thoroughly at home in Parnell.

Bryan McDonald, one of New Zealand’s most experienced designers,came up with an outdoor gallery theme with a structured planting style for a courtyard garden which mirrors and exaggerates the architectural lines of a 90’s townhouse in Remuera.

Trish Bartleet is back with a tropical Balinese-like garden and cleverly designed pool in response to the clients’ hopes of a garden that would complement some remaining palms behind their new architecturally-designed house.

Sue & Colin McLean have two contrasting gardens – an enticing contemporary courtyard in Takapuna on the North Shore and a beautifully sympathetic garden revealing the unspoilt magic of a waterfront property on the edge of Meola Reef in Pt Chevalier.

Multiple world-wide award winning designer Xanthe White has collaborated with the owner of a wonderful house in Mt Eden to create an elegant and playful garden, full of colour and folly, while retaining a generous connection with the neighbourhood.

Jo Hamilton has created a ‘naturalistic journey’ for the owners of a much-loved transitional villa in Herne Bay through the garden via two circular ‘mirror’ lawns balanced by fruitful planting to a new self-contained studio at the back.

Mark Read and Richard Neville of Natural Habitats have transformed a tricky, tight site in Remuera into a magical space with a resort-like atmosphere, where children love to feed the tame eels in the creek running through the back of the property.

Radio and televsion personality Tony Murrell has two contrasting gardens in Remuera – a formal, rose-filled haven much loved by the owners and an empathetic, inviting garden for a totally revamped old villa.

Plant designer, Barbara Garrett, has used all her experience and skill with a garden on the edge of Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill, to enhance the feeling that these iconic Auckland landscapes extend from the property itself.

Nigel Cameron has added his own sculptural features to a garden in Castor Bay on the North Shore to give it a unique personal link to the owners’ love of boats and the property’s magnificent sea view.

In Milford, again on the North shore, Karen Wealleans has worked with the owner over several years to develop an enticing and totally liveable outdoor garden courtyard space, full of an interesting mix of plants.

Murray Reid’s own garden in St Mary’s Bay is a perfect example of a response to downsizing as it preserves all the elements of a traditional backyard but in a smaller plot, with a seamless transition from the indoor to outdoor spaces.

Phillip Millar’s garden in Parnell is a ‘His and Hers’ garden demonstrating how this can be achieved in a small space, with his beloved tropical planting balanced by an abundance of flowers and vegetables in pots for her.

Millgate House, Yorkshire

Millgate House, Yorkshire

 

Historic Millgate House, dating from the early 18th century, is only a few steps away from the cobbled town square of Richmond in Yorkshire.

Overlooked by an unfinished 11 century castle and enjoying sweeping views across the River Swale and the surrounding Yorkshire Dales, Millgate House is a premium B&B property surrounded by what has long been considered one of England’s finest gardens, since it won the Daily Mail’s National Gardens Competition in 1995.

Millgate House has 2 rooms, one king and one twin, both with views out over the garden. Each has a well-appointed, period-style ensuite bathroom.

Millgate House is also renown for its magnificent breakfasts.

Richmond’s attractions include many historic buildings such as Easby Abbey, a busy marketplace, restaurants, shops, theatre, and pubs.

The surrounding district includes Bolton Castle, Kiplin Hall and several historic abbeys.

Self catering:

The Coach House is at the bottom of the site of Millgate House and is the converted stable block.It has its own separate access and parking and is available for rental via English Country Cottages on a self catering basis.
Sleeping up to 10 people, it has five en suite bed rooms, large living room, “farmhouse” kitchen and dining area. Whilst staying in the Coach House visitors can enjoy the garden of Millgate House.
The Coach House is in a secluded quiet setting set well back from the hustle and bustle of the town but within two or three minutes walking distance of the shops and facilities. It has lovely views of the river side and the waterfalls. You can book on line with English Country Cottages directly.

 

Mandulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge Sri Lanka

Mandulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge Sri Lanka

 

The Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge is located on a picturesque 25 acre tea plantation just 30 km away from Sri Lanka’s hill capital of Kandy and approximately 150 km away from Colombo.

Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge commands a majestic view of the UNESCO World Heritage Knuckles Mountain Range – so called due to its shape similar to the knuckles of a clenched fist. It offers 18 secluded lodges with comfortable amenities, specially designed to make your next holiday in Sri Lanka a truly unforgettable one. All lodges are made of high quality tarpaulin canvas specially imported from South Africa. This is the very same material used by many world renowned safari camps especially in campsites all over Africa. Each lodge at the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge can hold a maximum of 3 people and feature:

A front porch with ‘out-of-this-world’ views, comfortable beds, full bathroom with walk-in shower and a separate private WC.

Guests staying at the Madulkelle Tea and Eco Lodge will appreciate the many facilities and services on offer. Some of these facilities include;

  • A real colonial style “planter’s” estate house with:
  • Reception, welcome area and Information Desk
  • A Library with Internet Access and a Business Center
  • An English styled estate Lounge Bar with an impressive stock of beverages
  • A Grand Dining Room and Restaurant with a cozy fireplace
  • A stand alone Infinity Pool offering fabulous views of the Madulkelle Village as well as the majestic Knuckles Mountain range
  • Seating Areas placed within the tea estate, ideal for a quiet read, meditation or just to spend some quiet time alone with nature
  • An Organic Vegetable and Herb Garden yielding fresh vegetables and herbs all year round helps our Chef to prepare fresh and delicious meals daily
  • Drivers’ and guides’ live-in quarters with Onsite Parking
  • opportunities for adventure sports with our highly skilled team
  • hiking and trekking through lush tea plantations, forests, paddy fields and water falls. See unique birds and wildlife, plus overnight camping available.

 

 

Our Garden

We understand and respect your need for healthy meals. Therefore, our hotel has a special garden for fruits, vegetables and herbs. It is grown organically with our staff with the support of two gardeners. We do not use synthesized pesticides and fertilizers, and instead, organic pesticides (Neem extract), and manual methods of pest control and organic fertilizers are been used to produce a healthy harvest.

Around 60% of the vegetables and herbs used in the hotel kitchen are harvested from the garden with the careful supervision of our executive chef. We maintain year- round harvest of carrots, chili varieties, green veggies such as spinach, cabbages, gotukola and many more. The varieties of fruits we have are pineapples, avocados, papaya, guava, wild-strawberries and black-berries, mangos, locuts, and citrus-fruits.

Our Chef adopts food preparation methods in Native medicine called Ayurvedha, as he has family background of it, and he is careful to select the best parts of vegetable and fruits in the best levels of their maturity in order to prepare an excellent dish.

 

Experiments

Our garden is also a place for experiments and knowledge dissemination. We have established a demonstration model of a Micro-home garden suitable for estate line-rooms, which was developed collectively by the Extension department of the Faculty of Agriculture, University of Peradeniya, our staff and the InGaDS Sri-Lanka, our advisor in social responsibility. Already, there are around six micro-home gardens established by the Line house dwellers (in our neighbor community) as a results of the knowledge dissemination trough the demonstration model.

Furthermore, we provide our staff the opportunities in gardening, which in turn become a recreational activity for them after their duties.

 

Contact us:

Madulkelle Tea & Eco Lodge
Madulkelle,
Kandy,
Srilanka.

Telephone: +94 (0)813801052
Fax : +94 (0)719378672
Email : info@madulkelle.com 
Web : www.madulkelle.com

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo

 

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo is a premium 5 star hotel located in uptown Mejiro in the heart of Tokyo. The hotel is a 3-minute taxi ride or a 10-minute walk from Edogawabashi Station on the Tokyo Metro Yurakucho line.

The hotel has 260 rooms, 36 banquet halls and 12 restaurants.

The gardens have many historical artefacts, such as the three-storey pagoda, a sacred tree reputed to be more than 500 years old and many statues, lanterns and shrines.

The gardens are beautiful in all four seasons.

Hotel Chinzanso Tokyo
10-8, Sekiguchi 2-chome, Bunkyo-ku
Tokyo,
112-8680, Japan

Tel: +81 3 3943-1111
Fax: +81 3 3943-2300
Email: info@hotel-chinzanso.com

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History and Birdlife Cruise

British Isles, Castles, Gardens, History and Birdlife Cruise

 

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. 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. After exploring Iona Abbey, perhaps take a short walk to the Bay at the Back of the Ocean – named because the next westward stop is North America. BLD

Day 5. Isle of Gigha, Achamore House and Gardens and Isle of Jura
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. Then return to your ship for dinner. (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. Afterwards, return to your ship for dinner. (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. Then travel to Mount Usher, a lovely romantic garden on the banks of the River Vartry. Second option is to visit the private garden of botanical author, Helen Dillon and Mt Usher Garden. The third option is to visit Helen Dillon’s garden then enjoy a sightseeing tour of Dublin. (BD)

Day 9. Waterford, Freedom of Choice
Your ship will arrive in Waterford on Ireland’s south eastern coast. From here, you’ll travel to Mount Congreve Gardens, a vast and visually inspiring woodland garden set on the banks of the River Suir. Later, select from two touring options. First option is to travel to Kilkenny, one of Ireland’s most historic and attractive cities, and visit Kilkenny Castle and the design centre before returning to Waterford. The second option is to remain in County Waterford for a visit to Lismore Castle, which features the oldest continually cultivated gardens in Ireland, followed by a tour of the world-famous Waterford Crystal Factory. (BLD)

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 Cruising with Botanica
As you uncover the delights of the British Isles, you’ll enjoy a truly intimate and unique small ship cruising experience aboard the MS Hebridean Sky. 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 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.

Monty DonSpecial Guest Speaker – Monty Don
Garden author, journalist and presenter, Monty Don will join your cruise where he will conduct an informative lecture.

This tour can be combined with other Botanica tours:

· Loire Valley & Chelsea Flower Show (BTLVC9)
· British Isles & Cornwall (BTBNCC15)
· London & Chelsea Flower Show (BTCFS5)

Spring Gardens of France

Spring Gardens of France

 

Experience the romance, beauty and grandeur of France with remarkable gardens, dramatic coastlines, picturesque villages and landscapes, distinctive regional architecture, superb seafood and mouthwatering cheeses.

Join in Paris prior to embarking on an exploration of the springtime gardens of Upper Normandy. Travel the ‘cider route’ to the medieval town of Bayeux, gateway to the World War II Normandy landing beaches and home of the world famous Bayeux tapestry.

Continue to Brittany in the northwest, and enjoy a leisurely stay on the coast, visiting a selection of superb gardens and quaint villages. Conclude with four nights in the Loire Valley known as the ‘Garden of France’. Explore chateaux, vineyards and attend the annual International Garden Festival at Chateaux du Chaumont.

French hospitality and countryside at its best!

AT A GLANCE…
• Tour the famous garden of Claude Monet at Giverny
• Discover gardens of grandeur and intimacy, including 17 private gardens
• Travel the dramatic coastline of Normandy and Brittany
• Browse the colourful markets, relish the local food and wine
• Explore charming towns and villages of provincial France
• Leisurely four night stays in Normandy, Brittany and the Loire Valley

ITINERARY:

Sat 28 May 2016 / Depart Australia
Suggested departure from Australia on Emirates/QANTAS Airlines flights to Paris (Charles de Gaulle Airport) via Dubai.

Sun 29 May / Arrive Paris
Afternoon arrival in Paris and check in to your hotel.

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

Mon 30 May / Paris – Rouen
Begin your spring tour with a visit to the magnificent garden and home of impressionist painter, Claude Monet. Enjoy both his famous ‘pond and water’ garden with its Japanese bridge, and his ‘Clos Normand’ garden known for a palette of colours.

After lunch at a local restaurant, enjoy time in the charming village of Giverny. Continue to Rouen, the capital of the Upper Normandy region.

Tonight, enjoy dinner in one of the local restaurants in the historic city centre. (BLD)

Tue 31 May / Rouen
Journey north to the coastal area of Sainte-Marguerite-sur-Mer. Visit the renowned garden of the late Princess Sturdza of Norway, ‘Le Vasterival’. Accompanied by one of the gardeners, discover a beautiful display of plants of the day.

Following lunch in a local village (own expense), continue to Château de Miromesnil set amongst beautiful woodland. Enjoy a guided tour of the fabulous walled kitchen garden and the castle park, with its 17th century fenced brick walls.

Return to Rouen via the farming village of Grigneuseville, home to Jardin Agapanthe, owned and created by landscape architect Alexandre Thomas. Spend time wandering these two intimate, secluded gardens; one which is relatively new, the other 20 years in the making.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Rouen. (BD)

Wed 1 Jun / Rouen
Begin the morning with a walking tour of Rouen. Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral, with its Tour de Beurre (butter tower), the Gros Horloge (a fourteenth-century astronomical clock), and the church of Saint Joan of Arc, located where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake in 1431. Remainder of the morning is free to meander the old market square.

Following lunch (own expense), depart for Montmain to visit Jardins d’Angelique. Created by the Lebellegard family, the garden surrounds a 17th century Norman manor house and was established in memory of their daughter, Angelique.

Later travel to Auzouville-sur-Ry to visit Le Jardin Plume. Meet the owners, Sylvie and Patrick Quibel as they guide you around their contemporary garden surrounding an apple orchard.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Rouen. (BD)

Thu 2 Jun / Rouen
Return to the coast via the town of Bosc-Roger-sur-Buchy and the Jardin de Valérianes, an English garden consisting of two parts; the ancient and the new.

Continue north to the garden, L’Etang de Launay, created by former art dealer Jean-Louis Dantec. The six-acre garden boasts high-pruned specimen trees, small ponds and many trees chosen for their bark.

Prior to returning to Rouen, visit the 30 acre coastal estate, Le Bois des Moutiers. The park and manor is the collaboration of the famous English architect Edwin Lutyens and garden designer Gertrude Jekyll. Antoine Bouchayer-Mallet, the current owner of Le Bois des Moutiers said “the house has been designed to look at the gardens, and the gardens have been designed to be looked at from the house.” (BL)

Fri 3 Jun / Rouen – Bayeux
Depart Rouen for a leisurely day’s drive to Bayeux. Journey through picturesque postcard towns, into the heart of Pays d’Auge, home of the Normandy Cider Route, adorned with apple orchards and half-timbered houses.

Visit Le Jardin du Pays d’Auge and eco-museum situated in the village of Cambremer. Located on a seven acre lush estate, the property boasts a number of themed gardens surrounding a 17th century farmhouse. Stroll through the grounds prior to lunch at their créperie.

Later in the afternoon, stop in at Domaine Duponts famous for its ciders, pommeau and calvados. Enjoy a tour of the distillery and cellars followed by the opportunity to taste some of the products.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Bayeux. (BLD)

Sat 4 Jun / Bayeux
Enjoy a day at leisure.

You may wish to mosey through the bustling Saturday market or visit the Bayeux tapestry. An embroidered cloth more than 60 metres long, made to commemorate events in the Norman Conquest of England in 1066 is located in the purpose-built Bayeux Tapestry Museum.

For those interested in war history you may wish to visit the battlefields of Normandy (optional extra). (B)

Sun 5 Jun / Bayeux – Perros-Guirec
Depart Bayeux and travel west to Perros-Guirec, a popular seaside town in Brittany.

Begin with a guided tour by the owner of Le Jardin de Castillon, a remarkable garden set in a leafy valley on the outskirts of Bayeux.

Continue to the riverfront city of Dinan, considered one of the most attractive and best preserved towns in Brittany. Stroll the cobbled streets filled with art galleries and craft shops, and enjoy lunch (own expense) at one of the many restaurants situated along the River Rance.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Perros-Guirec. (BD)

Mon 6 Jun / Perros-Guirec
Today visit two very different gardens that are maintained by the same gardeners.

First is Kerdalo, considered one of the finest gardens in the region. Created by the late Prince Peter Wolkonsky, these gardens are now looked after by his daughter, Isabelle, and her husband Timothy Vaughan.

Continue to the nearby port town of Tréguier, best known for being the birthplace of St Yves, the patron saint of lawyers. Time to explore the town and many eateries on the harbour.

In the afternoon, visit Isabelle and Timothy Vaughan’s private garden Crech ar Pape, overlooking the sea.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Perros-Guirec. (BD)

Tue 7 Jun / Perros-Guirec
Travel to Roscoff in northwestern France, a well-known seaside town that is linked to Plymouth (England) and Cork (Ireland) by its numerous ferries. Take a 15-minute boat ride to the Île de Batz to visit Jardin Georges Delaselle’s coastal garden. The garden comprises a unique botanical collection from the five continents.

Return to the mainland for lunch (own expense).

In the afternoon visit Le Jardin Exotique de Roscoff, overlooking the harbour. Due to the hot currents that make up the Gulf Stream that runs along the coast, a unique microclimate is created resulting in a superb variety of subtropical plants.

Continue to the charming village of Pontrieux. Enjoy an evening boat trip along the river; discover the many lavoirs that line the river, and bridges which have been beautifully illuminated, an ideal way to see the village.

Dinner in Pontrieux, prior to returning to your hotel. (BD)

Wed 8 Jun / Perros-Guirec
This morning is free to further explore Perros-Guirec, or perhaps take a coastal walk or relax and enjoy the seaside town.

After lunch (own expense) travel south to visit Le Grand Launay garden. Built around a manor, this modern garden has been gradually formed over 25 years by its owners, Jean and Jacqueline Shalit.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Perros-Guirec. (BD)

Thu 9 Jun / Perros-Guirec – Saumur
Depart Perros-Guirec for a leisurely day’s drive to Saumur, stopping to visit the medieval fortress, Château de Josselin – a highlight of the French Renaissance. Enjoy time to stroll the castle grounds and three distinct gardens: the Formal French, the English and the Rose garden.

Following a break for lunch (own expense), continue to Saumur.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Saumur. (BD)

Fri 10 Jun / Saumur
Today, visit the Château de Chaumont overlooking the River Loire to attend the annual International Festival of Gardens. Every year landscape architects and garden designers are invited to create a themed garden. Enjoy the day exploring the 30-odd gardens in the magnificent grounds of the Chateau.

Later in the afternoon return to Saumur via the village of Chédigny, famous for its Rose gardens. Drive through Langeais in the heart of the Loire valley.

Dinner at a local restaurant in Saumur. (BD)

Sat 11 Jun / Saumur
Morning is free to further explore Saumur and its Saturday market.

In the afternoon visit the estate Clos Cristal Souzay-Champigny. Enjoy a tour and tasting of this 25-acre vineyard, the first in Saumur to produce and market the red wine which later became known as Saumur-Champigny.

Continue to Chinon to visit the beautiful Le Jardin d’Elsie. Situated on the site of an old vineyard the owner, Elsie De Raedt, has created a fascinating garden of ancient, modern and rare roses. (B)

Sun 12 Jun / Saumur
Today visit two outstanding gardens. The first is the Château de la Chatonnière, situated in a valley with sweeping views across the forest of Chinon and the river Indre. The Château is home to 14 remarkable gardens.

Continue to the village of Azay le Rideau. Free time to explore the narrow cobbled streets of this picturesque village.

Following a picnic lunch, visit Château de Villandry. One of the largest and last castles built along the Loire River, it consists of six outstanding gardens. Enjoy the afternoon strolling through its extensive terraces.

Tonight celebrate the conclusion of the tour with a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (BLD)

Mon 13 Jun / Saumur – Paris
Tour arrangements conclude with an early morning transfer to Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport, in order to arrive by 12.00, in time for flights departing at 15.35, or later.

If returning to Australia today, depart on Emirates/QANTAS flights at 15.35 via Dubai to Australia.

Evening arrival in Australia on Tuesday 14 June. (B)

* At the time of brochure printing (June 2015) most but not all garden visits are confirmed. Private owners, in particular, are reluctant to commit more than 2-3 months prior. Therefore, whilst we undertake to operate the tour as published, there may be some possible changes of itinerary.

Cherry Blossoms in Japan & South Korea Cruise

ITIINERARY

 

Day 1. Arrive Osaka
Arrive into Osaka Airport and be met and transferred to your hotel. This evening at 6.30pm, enjoy a Welcome Dinner where you’ll have the opportunity to meet your fellow Botanica travellers.
Stay: Osaka, Imperial Hotel or similar (D)

Day 2. Kyoto and Embark Ship
This morning depart Osaka to Kyoto where we will visit the rock garden masterpiece
of Ryoanji and Kinkakuji, a fine example of Muromachi period garden design. After lunch, transfer to the MS Caledonian Sky in Kobe. Enjoy a special dinner with the ship’s crew this evening, as we set sail for the port of Okayama.
Ten Nights: MS Caledonian Sky (BLD)

Day 3. Okayama, Koraku-en Garden and Kurashiki.
After breakfast 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 teahouse, and experience a traditional tea ceremony. 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 lined with rows of majestic weeping willows. (BLD)

Day 4. 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 Ritsurin Park, a 350-year-old garden, famous for its magnificent spring colours. See the Chrysanthemum-Moon Pavilion, then visit Kinashi Bonsai Town. (BLD)

Day 5. Hiroshima and Miyajima
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 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 6. Uwajima
Arrive in Uwajima, situated deep inside the saw-toothed coast of Uwajima Bay. The city of Uwajima is emerging as the nation’s largest pearl cultivation centre. Learn the process of implanting, harvesting, extracting and sorting pearls on a visit to a pearl farm. We will continue to Sakiiya Square or choose to visit Dairakuji Temple. (BLD)

Day 7. Nagasaki and Dejima Island
Arrive at Nagasaki, the second city destroyed by an A-bomb in World War II. Tour the Peace Memorial Park, Atomic Bomb Museum and Glover Garden. Continue to Dejima Island, built during the Edo Period to accommodate Portuguese Christian missionaries and prevent the propagation of their religion. It was also once 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. Pusan, South Korea
Embark on a full-day excursion to Kyongju, in South Korea, 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 distinctive pottery. At lunch, sample Korean delicacies and enjoy the spectacle of traditional dancers during a cultural performance. (BLD)

Day 9. Hagi
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. We will also take time to explore Hagi, one of Japan’s most beautiful castle towns, where you can explore the old streets and see the Hagi Castle ruins, Shizuki Park and the Tokoji Temple. (BLD)

Day 10. Matsue and Yuushien Garden
Known as the ‘Town of Water’, Matsue, is on the shores of a scenic lake and a large lagoon. Here, you’ll visit a number of cultural attractions including Matsue Castle. Known as the ‘Black Castle’, it is one of only a few wooden Medieval castles that remain in Japan today. Admire the structure’s complexity from the outside, as it stands gracefully, watching over the city, and take the opportunity to explore the interior, which affords magnificent views of Lake Shinji. This afternoon, we will visit the stunning Yuushien Garden, a traditional flower garden full of colour and blossom, famous for ginseng and peonies. (BLD)

Day 11. Kanazawa and Kenroku-en Garden
Kanazawa is a thriving centre of the arts, long known for its lacquer-ware, outstanding collectible pottery of the Kutani style, gold-leaf workmanship and delicate hand-painting of silk for kimonos and Noh theatre dramas. The winding cobblestone streets have a quaint photogenic charm. Around each bend is a traditional house, museum, art gallery, craft shop, Samurai residence and even a Geisha house to explore. The fascinating open-air market displays a vast variety of items from flowers to fish to local handicrafts. Next we visit the Kanazawa Castle ruins, which is one of Japan’s premier highlights, and the famed Kenroku-en Garden, is ranked among the country’s top gardens. (BLD)

Day 12. Kanazawa and Tokyo
Disembark the ship this morning and take the Bullet Train to Tokyo. On arrival, enjoy an afternoon sightseeing tour of Tokyo. We then transfer to our hotel for an overnight stay and Farewell Dinner.
Stay: Tokyo, New Otani Hotel or similar (BLD)

Day 13. Depart Tokyo.
After breakfast this morning, you will be transferred to the airport by shuttle bus for your flight home. (B)

Japanese Cherry Blossoms
Embark on a stylish voyage of horticultural discovery and explore this fascinating region, aboard this Botanica cruise. In the heart of cherry blossom season, Botanica guests will be enchanted by the sight of the beautiful and richly symbolic sakura flower in full bloom. Venture along the historic shores of Japan and South Korea on this incredible botanical journey. The cherry blossom heralds the start of spring and the delicate blossom only stays on the trees for two weeks. This time of year is highly revered by the Japanese, who celebrate with festivals and events.

Tastings: Noosa, Queensland with Robin Powell

Itinerary

 

DAY 1
Friday 10 July 2015
Sydney – Noosa (L/D)

We’ll meet at the Virgin Australia terminal at Sydney Domestic Airport for our flight to the Sunshine Coast. Our first stop in sunny Queensland is a strawberry farm. Queensland strawberries are one of the special treats of winter: big, shiny and full of sweet flavor, especially when freshly picked.
Our hotel in Noosa is the newly renovated Sheraton Resort and Spa, the only hotel on Hastings Street and something of a Noosa institution. As part of the hotel’s extensive upgrade, celebrity chef Peter Kuravita took on the role of executive chef at the hotel’s Noosa Beach House restaurant. We’ll have our welcome dinner here.
Accommodation: Sheraton Noosa Resort and Spa

 

DAY 2
Saturday 11 July 2015
Queensland Garden Expo (B)

The Queensland Garden Expo is one of the country’s best regional garden shows. We love it because there are heaps of plants, with specialist growers to chat to about everything from gingers to aloes, bamboo to tropical fruit trees. Everyone is really friendly, the show gardens are lovely, and there’s a great line up of guest speakers. We’ll be back in Noosa in time to relax, shop and explore this afternoon.
Accommodation: Sheraton Noosa Resort and Spa

 

DAY 3
Sunday 12 July 2015
Maleny (B/L)

Bring a green bag this morning when we check out Noosa’s weekly farmer’s market: you might not be able to take the fresh strawberries and other produce home, but you can souvenir some great vinegars, jams and sweet treats.
We’ll drive through the Blackall Ranges on our way to Maleny, where we’ll have time to explore and shop before lunching at Tamarind. Set in an open pavilion in the garden, this restaurant brings a modern approach and perfect balance to Thai cuisine.
After a leisurely lunch, we’ll take a guided walk through Mary Cairncross Reserve. The rainforest here shows what the Blackall ranges looked like before the timber cutters and dairy farmers arrived. The reserve is home to a remarkable array of native plants and animals.
Then we go organic with a visit to Australia’s best known seed supplier, Green Harvest, which is famous for growing popular and unusual heirloom varieties of herbs and vegetables. We’ll visit their new edible garden.
Accommodation: Sheraton Noosa Resort and Spa

 

DAY 4
Monday 13 July 2015
Noosa (B/L)

There’s time this morning to go for a walk in Noosa National Park. A track winds around the headland, offering brilliant views back to Noosa beach. Of course, if you’d rather sleep in, do some shopping or lounge by the pool you can.
Learn about spices and how they grow this morning at Garnisha Spice Garden. We’ll pick and sniff and taste and try to identify the myriad spices growing, which are used by Tim Warren in the curry pastes and chutneys he makes in a little commercial kitchen in the garden. Lunch is at the historic Apollonian Hotel.
Back in Noosaville, there’s a chance to explore the shops of Gympie Terrace before hopping aboard a sunset cruise on the Noosa River.
Accommodation: Sheraton Noosa Resort and Spa

 

DAY 5
Tuesday 14 July 2015
Noosa (B/L)

An exclusive screening in the world’s oldest authentic silent movie theatre. But first a gelato tasting; a look around Pomona, a charming old cane town that retains the unique Queensland art deco architecture of the 1930s; and a private lunch of local produce. After the movie we’re off to Kin Kin to meet a native bee expert.
Accommodation: Sheraton Noosa Resort and Spa

 

DAY 6
Wednesday 15 July 2014
Eumundi (B/D)

The secret to the success of the Eumundi markets is the motto – we make it, grow it, bake it and sew it. You’ll find things here you won’t find anywhere else in the country. We’ll take our time tasting, chatting and buying, then visit a private garden with inspiring planting. This afternoon we’ll head to Mooloolaba, the coast’s biggest fishing port, where we’ll be treated to a private tasting of some the Sunshine Coast’s best seafood. We’ll meet a crab fisherman and taste some of the incredible seafood that comes into the port of Mooloolooba.
Farewell dinner included tonight in a top local restaurant.
Accommodation: Sheraton Noosa Resort and Spa

 

DAY 7
Thursday 16 July 2015
Noosa – Sydney (B)

We’re heading back to Sydney, after breakfast transfer to the airport for a return flight home.

Tastings: Orange NSW with Robin Powell

Itinerary

 

DAY 1
Thursday 23 April 2015
Sydney – Orange (MT/D)

Meet Robin Powell, our Tastings guide, at Sydney coach terminal Eddy Avenue. We’ll head west, with a stop for morning tea at the Norman Lindsay Gallery at Falconbridge in the Blue Mountains. The garden was inspiration for his work and we’ll take a wander before heading to Katoomba for lunch. Our accommodation in Orange is right in town, and we’ll have time to relax before our welcome dinner at the award-winning Lolli Redini. ‘Lolli’s’ as its affectionately called, is a local dining institution, and has scored 13 consecutive Sydney Morning herald chefs hats since it opened for its delicious contemporary Italian and French food.
Accommodation: De Russie Suites, Orange

 

DAY 2
Friday 24 April 2015
Orange (B/L)

We’re investigating the wonder of the apple today, but first we’ll marvel at the tapestries of autumn colour at Cook Park and at one of Orange’s finest private gardens. Then it’s on to Borrodell. Here Borrie Gartrell grows more than 170 varieties of heritage and heirloom eating, cooking and cider apples. We’ll take a walk through the orchard, picking and tasting as we go. Lunch, featuring apples of course, is here at Sisters Rock restaurant, overlooking the colour of the grapevines and cherry orchards. We’ll end the day with a scenic drive to Mt Canobalas.
Accommodation: De Russie Suites, Orange

 

DAY 3
Saturday 25 April 2015
Canowindra (B/L/D)

We’re exploring the red-earthed countryside of Canowindra today. The town unexpectedly became a site of Australia’s prehistoric past when a fossil bed revealed the remains of thousands of fish from 370 million years ago. We’ll discover the region’s more delicious offerings, with a visit to Rosnay, an organic winery and olive and fig orchard. Later we’ll drop in on a country garden with beautiful mature trees, roses, perennials and expansive lawns.
We’ll be back in Orange in time to change, and head off to the charming Rocking Horse Lounge, where we’ll get to sample some of the best wines and produce of the region.
Accommodation: De Russie Suites, Orange

 

DAY 4
Sunday 26 April 2015
Orange (B/L)

Our day starts with a walk around a lovely private country garden laden with roses. Then we head into the charming old town of Millthorpe for lunch at Tonic. The restaurant is in an early 19th century building with high ceilings, and lovely white pressed metal details. Chef Tony Worland makes the local produce sing. After lunch we’ll find out why a hazelnut orchard in autumn is a beautiful place to be and meet one of the country’s hazelnut pioneers.

Accommodation: De Russie Suites, Orange

 

DAY 5
Monday 27 April 2015
Orange – Oberon – Sydney (B/L)

Mayfield garden is one of those extraordinary places where the vision takes your breath away. This is garden making on a vast scale; indeed, this is one of the largest cool climate private gardens in the world. We’ll meet the head gardener Peter Darcy and take a guided tour, then enjoy lunch in the cafe. We’ll have plenty of time to enjoy the spectacle before we drive back down the mountain to Sydney.