Travelogue: London

Red double-decker bus and London cab with the Union Jack flying overhead.

It is dark and dreary in Oklahoma this morning so of course, my thoughts turned to London.

It is dark and dreary in Oklahoma this morning so of course, my thoughts turned to London. Click To Tweet

The photo, above, is one of my all-time favorites from our trip. Bill and I set off almost every evening on our own, and we had a couple of free days to explore too. We’re quite the adventurers, and one night we walked all over the shopping district of London. We were trying to have tea at Harrod’s and maybe again at Selfridge’s all in one afternoon and evening. We had tea at Harrod’s. Then, we set off on foot to Selfridge’s.They are very far apart, and it took us awhile. We had dinner there. I caught the double-decker bus and London cab as we waiting on the very busy corner.

This was actually a cream tea at Harrod's, but it will give you an idea. When you've walked a large garden all day, you need a yummy respite.
Cream tea at Harrod’s. Gluten free for me. Of course, Harrod’s tea is served on Wedgwood China. This pattern is called Wild Strawberry. I was in love.
I caught this double-decker bus and London cab as we waiting on the very busy corner. The Union Jack really set everything off don't you think? Click To Tweet

It was an Instagram moment to be sure. We were also trying to get to the Apple store because I needed a battery backup. I now have two which is good because we’re on the road again this spring. I can’t say where yet, but I’ll share on our return.

The Tube in London.
The Tube in London.

We found London a very friendly city and easy to navigate. We rode the Tube all the time from station to station and felt like we fit in pretty well. Londoners don’t talk to each other on the Tube. Not at all. They are unfailingly polite, but they don’t even look at each other much. I guess it’s a big city thing. Victoria Station was our hub, and we always worked back to it. Then, to get to our hotel, we rode the bus to Tooting Station. I kid you not.

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Another day, Bill and I had some free time so we visited the Tower of London. The rest of our group did other excursions. We both truly wanted to see it so we headed out on the Tube and eventually got there. I guess I always thought it was simply a tower, but it isn’t. It was a fortress and castle with a large wall surrounding it. If I’m remembering correctly, there are four towers, one being the bloody tower where the princes were probably murdered by the Duke of Gloucester, later crowned King Richard III. I find history fascinating, and I’d read a lot about the sad story of the princes. This is also where Anne Boleyn was kept before her execution. Remember when I wrote about visiting her childhood home, Hever Castle? The other night Bill and I watched the second episode of the Six Wives of Henry VIII, and they showed Anne’s castle. Bill and I both yelled out, “We’ve been there!”

Because of Henry VIII’s persecution of the Catholic Church, there is a lot of Catholic history in the tower too including Henry Walpole’s carvings. It was all so interesting and sad.

Did you know the crown jewels are in the Tower of London? It’s a very popular attraction and no wonder. We visited at a good time. It was really cold that day, and the line was short. Hint: Don’t buy tickets from all the hawkers outside the wall. Instead, buy them at the official spot just inside.

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As a group, we later did a daily tour that included the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and Westminster and St. Paul’s Cathedral. We weren’t supposed to get to see the changing of the guard, but it just worked out that we did. It was one of my favorite days. Bill loved Westminster. I may have a few pictures of it too. I liked it, but there just wasn’t enough time to see everything. It is huge!I

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I hope you enjoyed traveling with me to London today. I’ll try to share pics from Blenheim Castle next. Happy Sunday my friends!

Travelogue: the Chelsea Flower Show, Part I

Chelsea Flower Show crowds after lunch.

Sorry I missed last Friday’s travelogue. My mom has been in and out of the hospital the past couple of weeks. She is currently “in” again. I’m a bit punchy today, but didn’t want to miss another opportunity to again travel to England with you. There is so much to tell you about the Chelsea Flower Show that I’m going to do parts I and II.

The Chelsea Flower Show was the entire reason we went on our trip in May. For gardeners, the Chelsea Flower Show is the epitome of garden fashion and design. It’s like a Catholic pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostelaor for Muslims, Mecca. I have always wanted to see the Chelsea Flower Show. Always.

As in F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

Below are my thoughts after going. It was an overwhelming and oh-so-charming experience. Because I have so many pictures, I’ll sprinkle the gardens throughout this post and use captions to tell you about them. If you click on the gallery, you can see larger images. There are also good garden descriptions on the RHS website.  Before you go, here’s some advice:

  • Get there early, as in when the doors open at 8:00 a.m. I waited for my group and was an hour and a half late. That was a mistake because the crowds became very thick very fast. I had trouble seeing any of the gardens after 10:30 a.m., and after lunch, things were impossible. See the featured photo at the top? That was one little roadway full of people in the afternoon. The entire show was that way by 12:30 p.m.
  • Wear your best, broken-in walking shoes. The show is huge, and there is much to see. There is also a great shopping area so plan on spending some money.
  • Only buy things you can comfortably place in your suitcase. I chose three pair of gardening gloves, a cute gardening hat I’ll wear to Garden Bloggers’ Fling next week, four kitchen towels with pretty prints, two hand tools and a scarf. All fit in my checked luggage, and I had some practical souvenirs of things I can’t get in the states. You’re probably surprised I bought gardening gloves. Well, the ones in England are prettier than ours. I found some lovely weeding gloves with flowers. Sorry, I didn’t take a photo before I used them. As for the tools, I bought another hand weeder because I can’t get enough of those, and when I renewed my subscription to Gardens Illustrated, I got the coolest trowel. It has a sharp end. They were also offering a gorgeous coffee table book by Arne Maynard, but that was too heavy to carry around the show and to the airport. After so many trips, I’m a light packer, and I’ll be honest, I check my luggage. I love the airport, but I can’t people watch while lugging my world around with me.
  • Wear layers. It was quite cool in the morning, hence why I bought the scarf. By afternoon, it was very warm so I took off my sweater and scarf placing them in my bag. I always suggest a crossbody bag that’s not too big so it doesn’t dig into your shoulders, but still big enough to hold things. I bought this Kate Spade Cobble Hill Mini Ella in Bright Papaya before we left. My smaller Nikon 1 V2 digital camera fits in it, and the purse has an expandable zipper. It was perfect for my needs.
  • Try to see the gardens first and then shop. You have a chance at the very beginning of the day, or late in the evening, I hear, to see those gardens. Go through the main pavilion and out into the gardens beyond. Later, return to the Great Pavilion (big white tent) and out to the display gardens first thing.

I was exhausted by 2:30 p.m., and then Bill and I walked down to the Chelsea Physic Garden which I’ll profile in another post.

As I walked out the doors of the Great Pavilion to gaze upon the elegant display gardens, I saw a crowd of excited people gathered around one platform. I shimmied through the crowd, and gasped. Yes, I gasped. To see one’s heroes is always full of edgy excitement. Can you guess who I saw? I’ll give you a clue. He hosts one of Great Britain’s most famous garden shows.

Yes! Monty Don, and by the awestruck group gathered around him as he worked, the Brits are as fond of him as I. Can you imagine a garden writer and television personality in the U.S. being treated like one of the Kardashians? To get these shots, I had to thread my camera lens between many heads and shoulders and do a lot of cropping. Good thing I had a DSLR with me, isn’t it?

If you don’t know who Monty Don is, you don’t do much reading about Great Britain’s horticulture scene, and you must not watch Gardener’s World on Youtube the way I do. I stalked Monty and worked like a fiend to get these shots. I’m fortunate the English were so accommodating. They really are the nicest people.

It’s no wonder everyone was hanging on his every word as he did his interview. Every night on the news during the Chelsea Flower Show, there was an feature–either an hour or thirty minutes long–I can’t remember–profiling the show. Hosts interviewed designers. Other hosts made vignettes explaining about plant use and the history of gardening. Others discussed how you could achieve some of the elements of the display gardens in your own home. It was gripping television I tell you, almost like a U.S. sporting event. I found it all so charming. So did Bill.

Okay, that’s it for Part I. I have more surprises in Part II so come back by.

Oh, one more thing, I’m speaking in Tulsa on Monday, July 11 at 7:00 p.m., about Dream Patios, Balconies and Decks at the Tulsa Garden Center. The Tulsa Herb Society invited me to be their keynote speaker this year. The talk is free and open to the public. I hope to see you there.