If you are in the Conwy North Wales area in the spring, lucky you! Make sure you swing by the National Trust property, Bodnant Gardens to catch its famous Laburnum Arch in bloom. Planted during Victorian times, the Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch is a golden tunnel of blossom and sunshine. Also part of the Bodnant Estate, a stroll around the gardens should be followed up by a visit to the Bodnant Welsh Food centre.
Bodnant Gardens North Wales
It’s readily apparent to even the most casual visitor why these gardens are considered the best in Wales. If you enjoyed visiting the Italianate village of Portmeirion, then you will love Bodnant Gardens Wales as well.
Have a seat and smell the wisteria at Bodnant Gardens Wales
Covering 70 acres, Bodnant Gardens has plenty of space to explore and to find your own private idyll. There are paths that meander through wildflower meadows, lakes, and woodland. The Bodnant Gardens are framed with distant views of Snowdonia National Park.
Woodland, wildflower meadows, Italian gardens. Bodnant Gardens are a visual feast.
Stark and rugged Snowdonia is the exact opposite of this carefully-tended garden but both are beautiful in their own way. Located near each other, it is easy to appreciate both natural and man-made beauty in this little corner of North Wales.
The Bodnant Garden Centre is huge and sells some of the varieties of plants available. Sorry no nearly 150-year old Laburnum arches for sale. Not even a snow-globe version!
Rows of alliums at Bodnant Gardens North Wales
There is a manor house on the Bodnant Estate which is not open to the public. You know the Bodnant Gardens have to be something special for a house this impressive to not be the main attraction of the Bodnant Estate.
Pretty Bodnant House but it’s not open to the public.
Even if you miss the Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch, there are plenty of other floral attractions during the year – daffodils start off the show in early spring and are followed by rhododendrons and azaleas. In summer, Bodnant Gardens is abloom with the best of British gardens – roses, clematis and hydrangeas. Then roll on the fabulous colors of autumn with the Acers.
In summer, the water lilies come into their own on the Bodnant Estate.
Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch
To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.
– Audrey Hepburn
Planted in 1880, the Bodnant Laburnum Arch has been a labor of love for many generations of gardeners. It reminds me of the Archignassio in Bologna where every scholar in that case (or gardener in this case) does their part to create something great that will outlast them all for the benefit of people far in the future.
The Laburnum Arch at Bodnant Gardens is a 55 meter golden walkway. The nickname for Laburnum is ‘golden rain’ because of the way it droops down. Laburnum foliage glows almost fluorescent yellow against the milquetoast blue of a British sky.
You can see why Laburnum is nicknamed Golden Rain.
During the 2-3 weeks Bodnant Gardens’ Laburnum Arch is in bloom in late spring, approximately 50,000 visitors come to see the arched walkway. That’s almost a 1/4 of the 200,000 visitors the Bodnant Gardens Wales gets annually.
These Laburnum trees were planted in 1880!
The Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch is supposed to be the oldest and longest in Britain. It takes 2 gardeners 5 weeks in January to prune the Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch to maximise its glory in spring. After the big show, 2 gardeners are needed to deadhead the flowers in July.
The vibrance of the Laburnum contrasts with the other colors of the garden.
Bodnant Welsh Food Centre
After exploring Bodnant Gardens, the best way to cap off the experience is to visit the Bodnant Welsh Food Centre which is part of the Bodnant Estate. As we knew from our previous experiences in Wales, the Welsh countryside has really amped up its foodie credentials with great local restaurants and homegrown celebrity chefs.
The Welsh Food Centre is another foodie heaven devoted to locally sourced farm-to-table fare. It’s fairly comprehensive enterprise with the Bodnant Farm Shop, Furnace Tea Room, Hayloft Restaurant and Furnace Farmhouse.
The Furnace Tea Room is set in the old stables and perfect for a light lunch or afternoon tea.
The Furnace Tea Room with the Conwy valley stretching out behind it.
The Hayloft Restaurant is a more formal experience for lunch and dinner. We went with our children for lunch and did not find it stuffy. The food was delicious!! And, my little fussy vegetarian child found a dish to make her happy.
A salad starter at the Welsh food centre.
In terms of Bodnant accomodation, you can stay at the Furnace Farmhouse. Dating the 18th century, there are 6 rooms available for rent. Like the rest of the Bodnant Food Center, the decor and amenities cater to modern sensibilities. Think charming modern farmhouse style that’s discreetly luxurious.
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Why Bodnant Gardens is a Must-See National Trust Garden in Wales
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If you are in the Conwy North Wales area in the spring, lucky you! Make sure you swing by the National Trust property, Bodnant Gardens to catch the famous Bodnant Gardens Laburnum Arch in bloom. Discover why you should visit Bodnant Gardens, North Wales, in the spring.
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Although it is only September, the mild chill of autumn is in the air in London. August in San Francisco felt the same way. Coming from a heat wave on the East Coast, we felt the nippy weather keenly. When we visited the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park, the leaves were changing color. We saw the reality of autumn around the corner just as surely as we felt the coolness on our skin. A popular San Francisco attraction, the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Park is the oldest Japanese garden in the USA. We are Japanophiles so, of course, this Japanese Tea Garden was a must-see in San Francisco for us.
A visit to the Japanese Tea Garden at Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
The Turbulent History of the Japanese Tea Garden
The Japanese Tea Garden started as part of an exhibit for the 1894 World’s Fair. After the World Fair ended, a wealthy local Japanese-American landscaper, Makoto Hagiwara, was allowed to create a permanent Japanese garden at the site.
Extending the garden to 5 acres, Hagiwara built a home and a Shinto shrine for himself and his family on the property. He was allowed to import thousands of cherry trees, plants and koi fish. The koi fish are still there and looking fat and happy.
You can spot the little fat red koi in the distance.
His daughter and her family took over the family project until she was forcibly deported to a relocation camp in 1942 during the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. Although the Hagiwaras had been promised a century lease at the Japanese Tea Garden, such agreements sank as steadily the American ships at Pearl Harbour.
Even though there were plenty of people around, the garden did not feel busy.
Along with another 120,000 Japanese Americans, the Hagiwaras lost everything – their home, their garden, their possessions. As with other Japanese Americans who were interned during the war, they were never compensated for their losses either. Renamed the Oriental Tea Garden to be more Chinese, the garden fell into disrepair and planting died from neglect . Many of the items from the Japanese Tea Garden site disappeared. In 1952, the garden was reinstated as a Japanese Tea Garden.
A tribute .to the Japanese American immigrant contribution to the USA
The Invention of the Fortune Cookie
Along with so many other food myths I have discovered, I learned the truth about fortune cookies on this trip. It turns out that the fortune cookie that we associate with Chinese food was actually started at this Japanese Tea Garden. Makoto Hagiwara, served fortune cookies with his Japanese tea. They were supplied by another Japanese American company, Benkyodo, because fortune cookies were a regional Japanese delicacy. Hagiwara and Benkyodo created a vanilla flavour fortune cookies to appeal to Western tastes.
Every traveller’s dream fortune.
When Hagiwara’s family lost control of the Japanese Tea Garden during their internment, the garden was reshaped to evoke Chinese culture because of all the anti-Japanese feeling. Chinese businessmen took over the making of fortune cookies, started selling them to Chinese restaurants and the rest is history.
The Japanese Tea Garden
My family and I loved this tranquil garden. Possibly we were not so tranquil, but we appreciated the beauty of the garden nonetheless.
The calming effect of the garden did not work on my children.
The winding paths are meant to slow people down so that they can appreciate nature. That clearly did not work for my children.
The Buddhist idea of Wabi-Sabi is about the perfection of imperfection. – orange petals floating away on the water.
A drum bridge where you walk upright to cross it. It ives a perfect drum shape when you include the perfection in the water.
There are lots of stone lanterns throughout the garden.
Loving the moss growing on the lantern, perfectly imperfect.
Cranes symbolise long life and good luck.
The delicate beauty of autumn foliage.
Autumn foliage in San Francisco in August. It was not what I was expecting.
I felt like I was partaking in the Japanese tradition of viewing koyo (autumn leaves).
The garden feels bigger than it is because of the winding paths.
Tea at the Japanese Tea Garden
We, of course, stopped off for tea at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. The nip in the air meant that something warm was necessary to keep our spirits up. The views are stunning as you sit and sip your tea.
The tea house nestled in its planting.
My husband and I had the traditional Japanese tea, Matcha. The kids had hot chocolate which was served in giant cups. We also had traditional Japanese snacks dorayaki (a Japanese pancake filled with red bean paste), kuzumochi (flavoured rice cakes) and a cookie platter which, of course, had fortune cookies.
Japanese tea with a view.
The Japanese Tea Garden serves tea, soft drinks and Japanese snacks. There are some small sandwiches. If your kids aren’t going to be happy with traditional Japanese food, then this tea house may not be the place for them.
Hot chocolate and dorayaki for the kids.
Visiting the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park
The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco is very easy to visit. There is ample parking available. Located at 75 Hagiwara Tea Drive, the Tea Garden is next door to the de Young museum in the park.
The Japanese tea house in the Japanese Tea garden in Golden Gate Park
At least the Hagiwaras get name recognition in perpetuity even if they got pushed out early on their lease. It is open daily and there is free admission on certain days if you arrive early.
Although everyone associates New York City with the tragic events of 9/11, that day affected other people near and far. There are the obvious consequences such as the tightening of airline security and the wars to eradicate the Taliban. Less known is the fact that some of the victims came from 2 hours away where they lived in the rural beauty of beautiful Bucks County Pennsylvania. Although a small percentage of the victims, they were a large part of the local community. The Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial in Lower Makefield, Bucks County is the official memorial of the State of Pennsylvania for the 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Garden of Reflection is a 9/11 Memorial located in Bucks County, Pennsylvania in remembrance of the Pennsylvania victims of the World Trade Centre attacks.
The Architecture of the Garden of Reflection
The architect who created the Garden of Reflection is from nearby Yardley in Bucks County. The memorial’s beauty lies in its simplicity.
An explanation of the tragedy for future generations.
The Garden of Reflection starts with a tear-shaped fore-court with a fragments from the World Trade Centre steel.
A piece of steel from the World Trade Centre at the Garden of Reflection
A piece of the steel from the twin towers decorated with tributes.
Then it leads along a remembrance walk which includes a glass plaque with the name of all the victims engraved upon it. The ripple effect of the planting symbolises the ripple effects of that day on so many people and places.
Water ripples from the gentle fountains
At the centre of the Memorial are two fountains representing the twin towers. It is surrounded by a plaque memorialising the names of the 18 Bucks County victims.
The names of the victims are etched onto glass.
The landscaping reflects maple trees and redbud trees representing the victims from both Bucks County and Pennsylvania. Surrounding the fountains are 42 luminaries representing the 42 children from Pennsylvania who lost parents in the tragedy. As befitting a place of reflection, beautiful steel benches are scattered throughout the landscaping.
An aerial view of the fountains shows off the landscaping well.
The Garden’s Location
Bucks County is one of the original three counties set up by William Penn in 1682 when he established Pennsylvania. He named it after his own home county in England, Buckinghamshire. Pennsbury Manor in Bucks County was Penn’s country estate. Clearly the man went around naming things after himself and things close to his heart!
The Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial honors all 2,973 of the dead, and especially the 9 locals from Lower Makefield and the 18 people from Bucks County, Pennsylvania who died on that day. The victims were a cross-section of the people who perished – two people on the flights (including the captain of United Airlines Flight 175) and others who worked in the Twin Towers – male and female, young and old.
The police and firefighters rewrote the definition of courage and heroism on that day.
Although not located in the traditional tri-state commuter states of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, there are people who commute into Manhattan for work from Bucks County. My brother’s commute into Manhattan takes him a little over an hour each way on the express train. The gleaming towers of Manhattan have an inexorable pull if you work in anything remotely finance-related. Moreover, many New Yorkers have their weekend homes in Bucks County because of its bucolic beauty and low taxes.
The little town of Washington Crossing is located near the Garden of Reflection. Every Christmas Day at Washington Crossing Historic Park, locals re-enact George Washington’s famous crossing of the Delaware River on the night of December 25, 1776. The crossing secured a victory which boosted both his men’s and Congress’s morale. The Americans had been getting hammered in the American Revolution and many of the recruits were close to given up. Washington’s gamble to secure a victory for his troops came to symbolise both American courage and resiliency.
An Affirmation of Life
I found the Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial very positive in its approach which no doubt stems from its architect’s vision – “After darkness… light”. Every time I have gone to the Garden of Reflection, I have seen children playing in the grass, people walking their dogs, couples chatting on the bench. etc. For what could be a gloomy memorial, the use of this garden shows that its the everyday little things that are life-affirming. Terrorists have no power of the essentially positive nature of the human spirit. How else can you explain the pioneering nature of the early settlers of the American West?
Robert Frost quote: In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.
Next door to the Garden of Reflection, there is a fantastic inclusive playground which is specially built to provide play opportunities for children of all abilities. I think the laughter of children echoing across the fields across to the memorial garden is a powerful symbol of hope.
In addition to the playground, there are also playing fields. I believe a visitor centre is planned. As with everything, money is a factor in creating and maintaining this memorial. The local community have fundraising events to support it.
I have taken my children to visit the 9-11 Memorial and Museum in Manhattan – it is powerful and sombre, a marked contrast to the Garden of Reflection. Of course, the national memorial would have had to remember the seriousness of the events that occurred and the lives lost on that day on that location. Bucks County had the freedom to create a more forward-looking tribute that honors the victims yet highlights the indomitable American spirit.
The Garden of Reflection, a 9/11 Memorial, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania
Visiting The Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial
The Garden of Reflection 9-11 Memorial is located on Woodside Road in Lower Makefield, Pennsylvania. It is a short 10 minutes drive from the I-95, exit 49 for Yardley/Newtown. There is plentiful parking and specific directions on the official website. It’s a great place to stop if you are on a road trip along the East Coast. Nearby Newtown (another 10 minutes away) has a beautifully preserved downtown with enough Colonial architecture to make you swoon (and excellent cafes and boutiques).
The Chateau de Chaumont sur Loire doesn’t immediately impress you with its grandeur. Instead you are struck by the country garden charm of the place. Right behind the entrance office, there is a giant rabbit topiary. Garden paths meander past contemporary art and view points onto fields with wonderful views of the Loire Valley. Almost as an afterthought, the Chateau de Chaumont appears on the side, a fairytale vision of silver-tipped turrets on top of alabaster walls. Chateau de Chaumont was where Diane de Poitiers was banished after her lover died. His vengeful wife, Catherine de Medici, wrestled Chateau du Chenonceau at long last from her rival and gave her Chateau de Chaumont as a consolation prize. Nowadays the gardens of Chateau de Chaumont and the internationally-renowned Chaumont Garden Festival are the main draws for its visitors.
The Chateau’s position, once defensive, now gives it amazing views.
The History of the Chateau
There has been a chateau on the site since 1000 A.D because it was a good lookout point over the border territories of two powerful noblemen. The chateau was part of the influential d’Amboise family holdings for hundreds of years until Catherine de Medici bought it in 1550. The current Chateau de Chaumont architecture is a mix of the defensive style of architecture of medieval times and ornamental features dating from the Renaissance period.
The Chateau de Chaumont set like a jewel amongst the lawns.
When Catherine de Medici owned the chateau, she had elaborate parties at the chateau and hosted famous people, like the astrologer, Nostradamus and Cosimo Ruggieri. If the legend is to be believed, Ruggieri showed Catherine the death of her three sons in a mirror at Chaumont.
The Catherine de Medici room has tapestries dating from the 15th century.
Eventually though Catherine forced her love rival Diane de Poitiers to exchange it for the grander Chateau de Chenonceau. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont a short time even though. As pretty as Chaumont is, it’s no Chenonceau.
Beautiful stained glass windows.
Catherine de Medici left behind her initials on the stonework.
In the 18th century, Chaumont was the beloved chateau of a French merchant who rose up the ranks, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray. Le Ray was instrumental in providing French support for the American Revolution. He housed Benjamin Franklin at one of his Parisian homes when Franklin was sent to Paris to drum up support for the American cause. Le Ray not only got the French King to cough up money but also provided money and equipment from his own funds. For example, he sent a gift of a warship to John Paul Jones who is credited with being a founder of the U.S. Navy.
The small chateau with extensive gardens is great for kids to visit.
Le Ray’s son moved to the United States and married an American. The Chateau survived the French Revolution because it was seized by the French Revolutionary government from the absentee landlord. Post-French Revolution, one of the sides got demolished so that you could get a better view of the Loire Valley. Oh, the irony.
The chateau has an amazing panoramic terrace overlooking the Loire valley.
A chateau with a view.
The Chapel had a modern art exhibit.
My eagle-eyed kids spotted a Furby in the installation. Can you find it?
The Gardens of Chateau de Chaumont
The chateau is set in 52 acres of parkland which were created by famed 19th century French garden designer, Henri Duchene. Until the time of Duchene, there was actually a little village of approximately 100 houses located right near the chateau. The Chateau’s owners, the Prince and Princess de Broglie, had all the buildings demolished and then had the village relocated closer to the Loire. Presumably, they had learned nothing from the French Revolution.
Unlike in the movie Poltergeist, even the village church’s cemetery was moved. Duchene, then, created an English style manor-house parkland that affording fabulous views over the Loire Valley and was more befitting a prestigious residence. Taking four years and costing 560,000 francs at the time, the project was a massive endeavour.
The view of the Chateau from the gardens.
One of his Duchene’s innovative designs was the Rustic Bridge which spans a ravine between ornamental gardens. The bridge is actually made of cement and then covered with iron and wood. This creative idea brought the French concept of trompe l’oeil to a garden environment.
The fake rustic bridge really does look like the real thing.
In 1877, the Princess de Broglie instructed an architect, Paul-Ernest Sanson, to build her some stables. These stables were considered the most luxurious in all of Europe at the time. The de Broglie horses were seriously pampered and even had Hermes saddles.
Sadly for the de Broglies, the good times ended. The Princess de Broglie blew through her fortune and the French government had to take over Chaumont in 1938. Even impoverished, the Princess lived among the Ritz and the George V hotels in Paris and her own private Parisian apartment.
The great salon recreates the Belle Epoque style of the Princess de Broglie.
The Chaumont Garden Festival
Chateau du Chaumont is known for its international contemporary garden festival which started in 1992. Running annually from June to October, it has approximately 30 gardens spread throughout the grounds of the chateau. This year is the festival’s 25th anniversary.
The gardens are designed by artists and landscape designers from all around the world. Over the years, the people who’ve worked on the 700+ gardens that have appeared in the festival is a who’s who of art and garden design. They are internationally renowned big names like Shigeru Ban (Japanese architect), Peter Walker (American landscape designer who was part of the design team for the National 9/11 Memorial) and Ernesto Neto (Brasilian artist).
According to the festivals rules, the gardens are in bloom in 6 months with the best of the display supposed to occur in the autumn. Approximately 400,000 people visit the garden festival every year.
The exhibits are kid-friendly. It’s like a contemporary open-air art museum. My kids really liked the garden of the mists which is a permanent exhibition. During July and August evenings, the gardens are lit up at night.
Every year the garden theme changes. In 2016, the gardens’ themes are about the issues facing the world today – climate change, rising sea levels and the link between people and their environment. The festival was overseen in 2016 by Maryanne Pinault, the wife of French retail billionaire, Francois Pinault. The Pinaults know a thing or two about modern art because they have an extensive renowned collection of contemporary art which is housed in its own Venetian palazzo.
I thought the International Garden Festival was fantastic and will dedicate a separate post to them. Not only were they attractive, but they raised a lot of issues about our environment.
Photo Gallery: Gardens of the Chateau de Chaumont
Fields of flowers in the sunshine
More fields of flowers.
So pretty. Sorry I had to throw in more flower photos.
Lush flowers interspersed with lawns.
My daughter thought someone had gone a little artsy/craftsy to the ends of these flowers.
The gardens are very lush and immaculately maintained. Seating areas throughout enable you to rest and enjoy them.
One very noisy frog in the gardens. I can see why the French like to eat them.
Visiting the Chateau de Chaumont
The Chateau de Chaumont is open seasonally. You can easily spend a day here. There are several restaurants on site, too, which are only available to chateau visitors. We liked the garden restaurant which serves sandwiches and salads in an alfresco setting with a pretty view.
Nestled against the side of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is a tranquil green oasis in Cape Town. In a city that can feel in your face at times, Kirstenbosch Garden in Cape Town is a welcome respite that feels like a world in itself.
What To Do at Kirstenbosch Garden
Kirstenbosch is very popular with tourists and locals alike. It’s an easy place to spend a relaxing summer afternoon. Our family really enjoyed spending some time in nature after a couple of days of city sightseeing.
Children playing in a stream at Kirstenbosch.
Image Credit: Slack12
There are well-marked trails leading through Kirstenbosch. Even though it was a busy weekend, there were times we felt there was no one around. We had this green forest idyll to ourselves.
If you are feeling active, you can take a trail from Kirstenbosch up to the top of Table Mountain. The route is well-signposted and takes a few hours. With more active children than mine, I would think it was pretty enjoyable. There are ladders to climb and rocks to scramble. When my kids heard that it was a five hour hike, however, they opted for a picnic on the grounds of the garden itself.
Table Mountain shrouded in fog (again).
The tree canopy walkway was very busy. Known as the Boomslang after the South African snake, the steel and wood walkway winds it way above the treetops. It was opened in 2014 to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the Kirstenbosch Gardens. My children loved messing around on it because it swayed with movement.
The Boomslang walkway
The Kirstenbosch Garden
The garden itself has lawned areas and lots of native vegetation. In fact, it was one of the first botanical gardens in the world with a mission to preserve the native plant life. So, of course, there is lots of the native Fynbos, including the low-lying shrub stuff as well as protea plants.
In the summer months, there are regular concerts in the park which are very popular. Right before Christmas, there is even a series of Christmas carol concerts. Although we were at Kirstenbosch during an evening there was a concert, we decided we were too tired to attend (and it was a South African band we did not recognise).
Visiting Kirstenbosch Garden in Cape Town
Kirstenbosch lies about 8 miles from the centre of Cape Town. Parts of the garden wheelchair accessible. The gardens are open 7 days a week. There are cafes and tea rooms in the Garden which will allow you to take food away for a picnic on the grounds. There is also a fantastic (and extensive) gift shop.
Kirstenbosch is one of the many cool things to do in South Africa which is a great family destination. My kids loved all the animal-related activities like going on a mini-safari, swimming with penguins on Boulders Beach and hiking the Cape of Good Hope where they saw wild baboons. My husband’s favourite part was the eating and drinking his way through Stellenbosch and I loved our Garden Route road trip.
This post is linked up with Weekend Travel Inspiration and Photo Friday.