Adventures of a Wanderess – Day 21

Distance travelled: 6 miles
Salmon sandwich trip tally: 16 (still…although I did have a bagel with salmon spread, so…)

My plan for Day Twenty-One was to revisit the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, a place I’ve visited on my two previous solo trips and is probably one of my favourites. I managed to get up and moving and functional early enough to be ready in time to head to Paddington by 9:30, catching the District Line to Earls Court where I changed to a Richmond-bound District Line train, finally getting off at Kew Gardens, the Tube stop only a short, scenic walk from the Victoria Gate entrance. Although I’d visited twice before, the sheer size of the gardens and their seasonal changes mean there’s always something new to see, so I made a point of wandering paths and areas that I hadn’t on previous visits. I was so very glad I did when I came across a badger sett along the southern border (although the fluffy inhabitants were napping for the day); I saw quite a few other badger setts later on in areas I’d explored before, but without seeing that first one and its sign, I’m not sure that I would have known what they were.

There’s always an interesting juxtaposition at Kew as you walk through nature, often quiet except for beautiful birdsong…while every twenty or so seconds a jet goes roaring overhead with its gear down on its approach to Heathrow. Anyway, a little while later, a flash of blue in the woodland was something I had been desperately hoping to see on my visit: bluebells. I’m just a little bit obsessed with them as that particular bluebell isn’t found in North America at all (Virginia bluebells are a different plant) and a bluebell wood in bloom is a wondrous thing to behold. My first UK trip was in April and May during the height of bluebell season while my later two trips have been about a month earlier. Last year, I missed them completely so I was crossing my fingers that they would begin to emerge before I head home to the States on Thursday. Luckily, the bluebell gods smiled on me and while there weren’t the huge swatches of purplish blue that there will be later in the month, there were quite a few of them out and about throughout the gardens.

After going ga-ga over the bluebells and wandering through the rhododendron dell – which I always leave with the opening of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca running through my brain (“The rhododendrons stood fifty feet high…”) – I made my way to the Orangery for a bite of lunch, sitting outside to enjoy the cool weather while constantly being monitored by a magpie who would hop around on the umbrella above me and then peer down over the edge (I think he was eyeing my brownie). Side note: A sign in the rhododendron dell explained that scientists have found that the poisonous nectar of the invasive plants is toxic to honeybees (Read more…).

When I’d finished, I wandered over to Kew Palace and its Queen’s Garden before continuing on around the rest of the perimeter to the Alpine House, the Princess of Wales Conservatory, and the rock garden before passing the Palm House on my way back to the Victoria Gate and the garden shop in search of any new bluebell swag.

Successful, I said goodbye to Kew and walked back along Lichfield Road to the station to make my way back to Paddington, grabbing some groceries for dinner at the station’s M&S before heading back to the flat. Tomorrow is the last full day of my trip and I’ve a bit of an idea of how I’ll spend it.


More Busy Wanderings: Another Big British Adventure – Day 14

Day Fourteen began by sleeping in a bit and then un-zombie-fying myself, pausing my dancing around the flat and singing along (badly) to the Beautiful soundtrack just long enough to dry my hair and make myself presentable. By 10:30, I was on my way to Paddington to catch the District Line to Earl’s Court, where I switched to a Richmond-bound District Line train that took me to Kew Gardens. I visited Kew during my trip last spring, but knew as soon as that visit was over that I wanted to see it again. So I did. It was interesting to see the seasonal differences throughout the grounds, since my visit last year was almost two months further into spring when the trees were full and the bluebells were sprinkled everywhere, carpeting the ground. Unfortunately, it’s a bit too early for bluebells, but the daffodils have bloomed like mad and there where huge swatches of yellow loveliness everywhere.
Last time, I jumped on the Kew Explorer at its first stop near the Victoria Gate (a handy hop on/hop off tram that runs throughout the gardens, stopping at various spots, with the drivers providing a guided tour along the way). I didn’t plan on doing so today, but thought I probably would later, so I went ahead and bought my wristband when I got there (the gardens are huge, so it’s a wonderful remedy for sore feet and well worth the £4.50). However, I never did catch a ride on it, wandering around on foot for my entire visit. I meandered along the paths and down the vistas, climbed the eight or so flights of stairs up to the Treetop Walkway (I’m discovering this trip that I’m not as cool with heights as I was when I was younger. Unfortunately, this is always realised once I’ve climbed to the top of something), and through the rhododendron grove, the “rhodies” having just started to bloom. I even crossed paths with a peacock near the water lily pond and a fox as I neared Kew Palace.    



Eventually, my stomach let me know that it was time for some sustenance, so I headed for the restaurant in the Orangery where I ate last time. After a salad, a cuppa, and a delicious, perfectly portioned chocolate cake, I resumed my wanderings, my feet carrying me along the broad walk, through the Princess of Wales Conservatory, Alpine House, and rock garden, past the Palm House, and back to the plaza at the Victoria Gate.  
I bought a few bluebell-vintage London Underground things and then said goodbye to Kew, making my way back to the station and a District Line train to Earl’s Court and then Paddington, where I grabbed some groceries at Sainsbury’s before walking back to the flat to write some more … and do more laundry (laundry takes awhile with a tiny washer-dryer).

Busy Wanderings: My Big British Adventure – Day 27

The forecast promised a lovely day today and I was out the door and on my way to Paddington station by 9:30.  There, I caught a District Line train to Earls Court where I switched to a second District Line train that would take me west to Kew Gardens.  After a short walk, I entered through the Victoria Gate and wandered along a pathway to the Kew Explorer tram, which makes a circuit through the various gardens.  It’s a great little thing, with the driver giving you an interesting and informative guided tour and it makes seven stops along the way so you can hop off and on whenever and wherever you choose.  I hopped off at stop number four, which was the closest one to the vast blankets of bluebells in the northwest corner.  I absolutely love bluebells and since we don’t have them at home, I can’t seem to get enough of them while I’m here.  I happily wandered along, snapping photos like mad with a smile on my face as I looked at them carpeting the ground amongst the trees.  



Eventually, I reached the northern boundary and wandered east alongside the Thames until I got to tram stop number five, where I caught the next tram and continued with the guided tour, passing groves of rhododendrons on the right and Kew Palace on the left before reaching the Orangery.  It was completed in 1761…and it’s where I grabbed a spot of lunch.  After my smoked salmon sandwich, elderberry fizzy, and orange plum cake, I hopped on the tram again and took it back to stop number one, passing the Princess of Wales Conservatory and the Palm House on the way.  I then walked back to the Palm House, but didn’t stay for more than just a couple of minutes as the warm, humid environment really isn’t my cup of tea at all.  However, I’d seen pictures of the spiral staircases within it that lead up the gallery and I really wanted to see them.  After leaving the Palm House, I wandered back to the Princess of Wales Conservatory, which “houses ten computer-controlled micro-climatic zones, with the bulk of the greenhouse volume composed of Dry Tropics and Wet Tropics plants” (  Outside, I was greeted by golden poppies…the state flower of California and a little taste of home.  And being from California where it’s very often hot and dry (and miserable), I didn’t spend too much time wandering through, making my way back past the Palm House to the Victoria Gate and gift shop before too long.

After leaving Kew Gardens, I took the District Line and eventually made my way to the Chiswick Park station.  From there, I wandered down to and then along Chiswick High Road, past Turnham Green, and up Turnham Green Terrace, where I bought some frozen yogurt that I enjoyed on a bench in Chiswick Common.  Chiswick was abuzz with people out and about, enjoying their Sunday afternoon and the lovely weather.  Eventually, I caught the eastbound District Line at Turnham Green station, changed at Earls Court, and made my way back to Paddington and the flat.