The Chateau de Villandry and, especially, its gardens, are highly recommended if you are near Tours, or well worth going out of your way to visit if you are travelling through France.
The gardens in particular are delightful and anyone interested in growing vegetables as well as flowers will be thrilled by the extensive collections of plants set out in formal and ornamental beds surrounding this beautiful Loire chateau.
The buildings and gardens were rescued by Dr Joachim Carvallo in 1906 and have been in the care of his family ever since. Excellent shop and grounds with good access for people with mobility difficulties.
Chateau de Villandry, 37510 Villandry, near Tours, France. On route D7, some 14km west of Tours. www.chateauvillandry.com Ample free parking nearby.
The house and garden of the painter, Claude Monet (1840-1926), are now so popular that it is difficult to explore them without being accompanied, four abreast, by hundreds of people all keen to see and photograph every last feature of his kitchen, dining room, iris bed, wisteria arch and lily pool. But persist! The effort is worth it, especially if you can avoid the peak holiday periods.
The place is very beautiful, highly evocative and thoroughly well maintained. Everywhere you look, the paintings Monet created between 1883 up to his death are marvellously brought to life.
The inevitable shop, which is housed in the painter's former studio, where the huge waterlily paintings were made, is worthwhile and comprehensive. There are extensive free car parks nearby.
Fondation Claude Monet, 84 rue Claude Monet - 27620 Giverny, Eure, France. Tel (0033)(0)2 32 51 28 21. Entry 5.50 euro per person. www.fondation-monet.com
Visit the Jardins des Plantes for a quiet getaway from the hustle of the city. The rose fountain terraces are perfect for a relaxing picnic. The nearest metro is Port d'Arras - careful when you cross the road, though!
Rue du Jardin des Plantes, 59000 Lille
Tel : 03 20 52 06 83
We have spent many happy hours in the English Garden in Lille. We have particularly enjoyed the many varieties of fruit trees, many of which are fan trained or espalier trained. They are well cared for and if you are interested in gardens or gardening, you cannot fail to be charmed by this delightful place, which we understand was designed by a Frenchman.
Although our first love is fruit trees - we are still promising ourselves a trip when they are in fruit - there are also numerous other flowering plants, roses in particular, and a charming stone grotto.
We found the garden by accident many years ago, and we still return whenever we are able.
A few miles south of Truro, hidden in trees above the creeks, is Trelissick. It has beautiful gardens with a nice tea shop and is an escape from the crowds on a week day.
Afterwards, if you leave the car parked and walk down towards the ferry via the road, you can take the footpath north or south along the wooded edge of the river to find many tranquil deserted creeks where you may spot a lone heron. This is a very different side of Cornwall that many people don't see.
4 miles south of truro on the B3289
Green idyll below the bustle of the city centre. Benches, nooks and little havens for reading and relaxing, and the greenhouses for when the weather's not so friendly.
Good tablet in the shop at the main gate too.
Queen Mother's memorial is spectacularly kitsch - walk into the little stone hut and look up. You'll wonder why anybody thought that was a good idea...
Just north of Stockholm is Linnaeus' garden. It is also the 300th anniversary of his birth this year so there are exhibitions about him. He was the man who intoduced the notion of species and genus etc.
The Priory is a former hospital dating from the end of the 17th century. It was later used as a religious retreat. In 1913 the painter, Maurice Denis, who was deeply religious, as well as being a leading theorist of Post Impressionism, acquired the building and its grounds.
The Priory now houses a small but good collection of French art from the period 1880 to 1940, including Symbolism and Post Impressionism, especially the work of the Pont Aven artists and the Nabis.
The gardens are very beautiful and show sculpture by Bourdelle and Maillol. It's a quiet and contemplative sort of place except when the primary schools are in for an afternoon of art.
2 Rue Maurice Denis, 78100 St Germaine-en-Laye, west of Paris. Metro/RER from Chatelet to St Germaine-en-Laye. Then 10 minute walk through the town. There is said to be a bus but I never saw it.
Oshino is a tiny village at the base of Mount Fuji. There are 7 springs which you can visit and the water is astonishgly clear: check out the largest spring and its koi. The village also has a stunning traditional Japanese garden: when we went the second time, it was snowing and deserted. There's an honesty box, where you can pay 100 yen for some fishfood for the ubiquitous koi! In summer you can buy peaches from vats of icy spring water, while you contemplate the beauty of Fuji-san. I recommend staying in a ryokan for a truly relaxing experience and a hot onsen.
Great park in the middle of Hamburg, a nice place for children and family. You can find beautiful gardens, a Japanese garden, mini golf, ice skating, roller skating and trampoline. From May to September there is music on the bandstand.
Edmund Siemers allee from Damtor U station
Gorch Falk Wall from Stephansplaz U station
It's a huge maze and an incredibly succulent garden but there is more to it. Not the banter of restaurants, craft and curio shops but it is the real thing to do if you want to discover South African culture. And for garden lovers: one of the English visitors I met said that this garden is, in its own right, far more interesting than the ones of Kirstenbosch or Worcester.
It's a bit weird but Soekershof distinguishes itself from all the others by the absolute passion of owners and staff. These people are really devoted to their plants. But for me it's more; it was a very personal spiritual experience, hard to describe.
Being a black South African I learned something about by own country: the meaning of the handshake I grew up with; the meaning of the 'evil spirit' of the Uthikulose which does not have to be evil and what wonders me most of all: I had to learn it from two very nice Dutch people who joined our country seven years ago.
It's in Klaas Voogds West along Route62 between Robertson and Ashton; 2 hrs easy drive from Cape Town. I discovered 3 own URLs. The general one: www.soekershof.com The 'weird but passionate' one with the latest developments in and around Soekershof: soekershofwalkabout.blogspot.com and the one they regard themselves as a 'service tool for their nursery customers and other succulent lovers': soekershof.wordpress.com
Albert Kahn was a 19th and 20th century businessman who decided to use his wealth to create an 'Archive of the Planet' at the turn of these centuries in a world being irrevocably changed by the industrial revolution.
He did this by hiring a number of photographers, equipping them with the Lumiere brothers' autochrome colour photography cameras and despatching them to all corners of the globe. The result became a unique archive of 72,000 images and 600,000 feet of film taken between 1900 and 1930.
A selection of the autochromes, as well as clips of film footage, are now on display in the museum, the selections change on an annual basis.
The entry fee also includes access to Kahn's gardens which also reflect his internationalist philosophy. The gardens are a mixture of Japanese, French and English and also include three ‘mini-forests’ with terrain that you might find in any one of the African, Asian or American continents. There is also a ‘Palmarium’ that houses a café as well as some more exotic plant life.
The museum is modern, having opened only in 1986, and also includes computer booths where you’ll find an interactive map of the whole complex, inside and out.
Viewers of the BBC’s ‘Edwardians in Colour’ series will have had a preview of what the museum has to offer, and it’s well worth the 30 minute Metro ride to see it for yourself.
14 Rue du Port in the Boulogne-Billancourt district.
Metro: Pont de Saint Cloud (the museum is literally around the corner and is signposted).
Phone: 01 55 19 28 00
I'm not a frequent National Trust visitor, but these gardens are superb - set in a dramatic valley, with everything one could want of a garden: river, stepping stones, ravine, stunning banks of flowers, fields of daffodils, weird-looking and smelling plants, mysterious vegetation-clad buildings, mausoleums, ancient redwoods, old stone bridges, willows, ornamental ponds and much more. Fantastic for kids and adults (from my experience as a kid and an adult).
Bodnant Garden, Tal-y-Cafn
Nr Colwyn Bay
(signed off the A55 west of Colwyn Bay)
Telephone: 01492 650460
19 acres of beautiful demonstration gardens and polytunnels all cared for organically and set in fantastic rugged countryside of North Leitrim near the Fermanagh border.
A grass-roofed visitor centre houses the Grass Roof Cafe which is by far the finest vegetarian restaurant in Ireland and also has a really well stocked eco-shop selling fresh vegetables from the gardens, books, nice deli products and gardening supplies.
The Organic Centre runs courses throughout the year on subjects as diverse as micro-hydro energy production to basket weaving and humanure composting as well as many courses on gardening and cooking with organic vegetables and seaweeds and wholefoods.
There is a lovely relaxed atmosphere there and the staff are friendly and knowledgable. It's only €5 to get in and this is refunded if you eat at the restaurant.
Children are welcome and have great fun in the willow tunnels. Free kids activities are available in August.
Peaceful green oasis designed 800 years ago by a local Arab governor. Palms, bamboos, lemons and oranges; running water everywhere; even a lily pond.
Close to the tunnel entrance on the C711 from Palma to Sóller (+613 123).
Whether you were a fan of Peanuts or not, the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California, is a must. I am not a huge fan myself yet really thought the museum was impressive. Who knows, I might start appreciating the strips a bit more after my visit! It covers the history all of Schulz’ works, and you get to see some of the original strips as well as works by other artists that have used Schulz as a model. I thought it was especially interesting to see the development of the Peanuts characters as Schulz gives them life.
The rooms are wide and spacious so even if there’s a big group visiting at the same time you never feel it’s too crowded.
There’s a garden/labyrinth outside the main entrance as well and an ice-rink just across the road (Snoopy’s Home Ice). There are also tables and benches for guests to have a picnic and many statues of Snoopy, Woodstock, Charlie Brown and the rest of the gang. Favourites for people of all ages to have photos taken with.
You can get $1.00 off each ticket if you either a) go to the Visitors’ Bureau in Santa Rosa (Historic Railroad Square) and say you’d like to visit the museum. In this case they’ll give you a ‘California Welcome Center’ sticker per person you can then show at the entrance.
Or b) you can collect a discount card from your hotel or any visitors’ bureau in Sonoma county.
Because Charles M. Schulz lived in Santa Rosa, the city has a special celebration each year in which they exhibit statues of one of his Peanuts characters. It was Charlie Brown in 2005 and Woodstock in 2006. This year, starting in May, they’ll display statues of Joe Cool. These statues are all for sale and businesses around town buy them and then display them on their own premises. The ones that are not sold are left on display around the streets of Santa Rosa. At the Visitors’ Bureau they’ll give you a map showing where the statues have been placed.
Seventeen acres of subtropical gardens constructed over a century ago on a formerly bleak, windswept island. It’s like a Douanier Rousseau painting, with species from 80 countries, from Brazil to Burma. Beyond the garden and on neighbouring islands are some of the best unspoilt beaches in Britain. You could be in the Canaries or somewhere really exotic (until you put your foot in the water).
On the mainland, Pattaya offers a range of amusement parks, gardens, and theme parks. Nong Nooch Tropical Gardens although recently scandalised by the Beeb for their treatment of elephants is worth a visit, just don’t support the elephant rides. Elephant village is similarly not to be supported.
Pattaya Park is a Water World amusement park that offers all the usual water rides plus a revolving restaurant and some hair-raising ways of getting up there and back down.
Mini Siam is a miniature tour of Thailand - full of busloads of tourists with a MacDonald’s at the entrance.
Million year-old Stone Park has beautiful gardens - feed the 5ft long catfish! And cringe at the abysmal treatment of tigers and crocodiles.
Further afield is Sri Racha tiger Zoo (to be avoided at all costs), and Kao Keow Open Zoo, a refreshing change from the usual callous way animals are treated in Thailand. There is also the Water World Aquarium on Sukumvit Rd. Any hotel or travel shop will arrange to take you there.
A nice 'green' combination between Cape Town and the Garden Route.
Bon Cape for it grows its grapes organically and produce South Africa's only wines with Michelangelo stars (see www.boncaporganic.co.za).
And Soekershof Walkabout, Mazes and Botanical Gardens because also this farm does not apply fertilisers and other chemicals in the cultivation of its unique collection of plants. Above all this place is a huge leg stretching entertainment area with an educational twist.
Bon Cap: Eilandia (between Worcester and Robertson) See: www.boncaporganics.co.za
Soekershof Walkabout: Klaas Voogds West (between Robertson and Ashton/Montagu also along Route62)
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