Monday, 4 January 2016

Flowers, flowers everywhere

Dateline: June - July 2015
Place: London and beyond
Time: Throughout the day
Temperature: Variable
Song of the evening: Where have all the flowers gone (by Pete Seeger)

Well, maybe a war song isn't what I thought of when hit by the brilliance of colour and bloom but I do love Pete Seeger so perhaps not a bad fit after all.

Being in England this past summer was like being home in Vancouver again except a perfect Vancouver summer--warm, clear, bright and bursting with reds, pinks, greens. London is, of course, a city of large parks in which folks seem to live as much as they can--playing soccer, picnicking, cycling etc. and it was glorious just to be able to walk and walk and walk and take in everything.

Here are just some of what I saw on my travels ... I haven't been able to identify all the species but enjoyed them just the same.

Scotland was different--northern, rugged and yet also like Vancouver: I found a Monkey Puzzle tree, although missed it in my walk through Kew Gardens.

I visit a number of parks and gardens in London (from left to right): Royal Botanical Gardens (Kew),
Hyde Park, Buckingham Palace, St. James's Park, St. James' Square (above the park),
and finally Regent's Park new Madame Tussaud's. Here's the interactive map.
Hyde Park
On July 2, I walked across Kensington Road from the Royal Geographical Society
and into Hyde Park via the Alexandria Gate. The famous Serpentine Lake
 was busy with bathers on one side and quietly peaceful on the other.

Regents Park
Commissioned in 1811 by King George IV when he was the Prince Regent, Regent's Park covers
410 acres in downtown London. Filled with grand boulevards, fountains and much waterfowl, it was a lovely space in which to walk at the end of a long day. I should have taken photos of all the soccer players
out on a myriad of pitches--but wouldn't have done them justice.

Royal Botanical Gardens (Kew)
Here is yet another Harry Potter connection (rewatch the repotting a Mandrake scene):
who knew the mandrake is real and documented in the Kew's oldest manuscript?
We were lucky enough to view some of the rare manuscripts in the Kew collection
during one of our field trips.

The Kew Mural by Robert H Games sits near the Victoria Plaza Café and Shop just
inside the Victoria Gate entrance to the gardens
Lush, lush, lush: that's all I can say about the plants in Kew Gardens. I am drawn to lavender and other "foliage" of that colour as well as those I know (such as the purple cone flowers)
but wish I could identify this magnificent tree.
We were treated to a day in Stratford-Upon-Avon which meant a delightful afternoon at Anne Hathaway's cottage as well as tickets to see the Royal Shakespeare Company's 2015 production of The Merchant of Venice (reviews patchy).
The sweet peas at Anne Hathaway's cottage are spectacular. I bought some seeds and hope they will bear fruit/flowers in my garden--we shall see this summer. The rest of the garden is equally beautiful with roses and daisies galore along with lots of vegetables. It's well worth the visit.
My classmate Kim and I took a boat trip down the Stratford River ... warm, river breeze, golden sunlight and lots of swans.

I had almost a week in Scotland and was based in Edinburgh for all of that time. We stayed at Pollock Halls, the residence for the University of Edinburgh which are about a 30 minute walk from the downtown. Great breakfasts included in the accommodation fee--a "thumbs up" as a place to stay.
Pollock Halls offered lovely paved walkways bordered by flowers (left) and crowned by a 
Monkey Puzzle Tree (centre). Even wind-swept Edinburgh Castle had blooms galore (right).
Pollock Halls is a stone's throw from Holyrood Park and Arthur's Seat, the highest point in Edinburgh. Here I am starting and finishing the 823 foot (251 m) hike up to the top of the Seat--going down was harder and seemed steeper. No flowers but lots of lovely scenery!

We started from Pollock Halls (near the Commonwealth Pool) and took the Blue and Red Routes.
Here are some lovely views from the climb (courtesy of Prof. Matthew Griffis) ... the ruins are of St. Anthony's Chapel.

Hadrian's Wall and Loch Lomond
I was so lucky to visit a couple of World Heritage Sites including Hadrian's Wall--in fact I called Sean when I was on the wall as I wanted to share the experience with someone. Great reception. My friend Irene Hansen, whose parents are originally from Lossiemouth in northern Scotland, recommended the Loch Lomond tour and it was well worth the 12-hour bus ride.

The border between Scotland and England seemed bleak that day ...
but thistly, tough flowers still dot the countryside.

The Wall ... sheep, ruins and my first selfie but no flowers.

The weather at the Wall deserves its own announcement board:

Our first stop heading south was the historic Rosslyn Chapel, complete with model and roaring lions. Then we had lunch in Melrose and walked by historic gardens before getting to Hadrian's Wall and our final stop was Ledburgh, where, even though the summer was cool, flower boxes were riotous (centre photo).

Loch Lomond ... a journey that is only 125 kilometres (78 miles) but lasted the whole day as we wended our way via the Deanston Distillery (site of The Angels' Share which Ian and I saw and loved), Doune Castle (site of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, one of Sean's favourites), the Commando memorial on the way up and then a lovely waterfall lookout in the Straithmashie Forest and Pitlochry for ice cream on the way back. 

Again, not always flowers to be had but certainly lots of green, green scenery.

Deanston Distllery and Doune Castle ...

The Highlands and Commando Memorial ...

The bonny, bonny banks ...

And Nessie alongside our tour boat ... pretty realistic!

And home via Straithmashie Forest and Pitlochry, where there are flowers!

Final floral offerings? The indoor courtyard at the Victoria and Albert Museum (left) and Buckingham Palace (right) ... such a sight.

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