Monday, May 22, 2017

In Bloom

After a rainy start to the program, we have lucked into some fabulous weather this week, with sunny skies and highs in the mid-high 70s. This was perfect for our visit to Kew Gardens, London's largest UNESCO World Heritage site, located about 30 minutes from central London.

The area where Kew Gardens was established began as royal residences around 1299, but the origins of the gardens began in the mid 1700s. The Dutch House, now known as Kew Palace, was purchased by King George III in 1781 for his children. The gardens became national botanical gardens in 1840 and the Victorians enjoyed it as a retreat, enjoying the wide variety of plants gathered from across the world.

Nowadays, the gardens have a staff of around 600, primarily researchers and scientists. It is an global resource for plant and fungi knowledge, and the gardens house over 30,000 different types of living plants.

Since the students on this program are in science fields (pre-med, forensics, etc.) our guided tour related to plants with medicinal uses. Even with 1.5 hours with our guide, we had only seen a small part of the some 300 acres, so we gave the students lots of free time to explore on their own. I spent a good 4 hours there and could have easily spent more. There is so much variety and the weather was so lovely that I wanted to just lie down in the grass the entire afternoon.

thought these roots were interesting and looked like insect legs

Vanilla pods. They come from an orchid and have to be hand pollinated, which is why true vanilla is so expensive.

This area used to be King George III's vegetable gardens

 Kew Gardens has this installation called The Hive. It has 170,000 aluminum parts and 1,000 LED lights and is connected to a real bee hive at Kew, so the sculpture vibrates and lights up based on the vibrations of the real bees.

Stairs to the tree top walkway
Walking in the tree tops

Japanese gardens

Kew Palace where the children of King George III were educated and often lived

Example of an 18th century Queen bedroom
Toilets were added in the early 1800s. This one dates to about 1810 and still had to be emptied by servants.

Love the look of this little cafe outside Kew Gardens Station

As if I didn't have enough flowers after the gardens, I ended up in the city at Victoria Station for a walk around the Belgravia area for the first day of Belgravia in Bloom, which takes place May 22-27, and corresponds with the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show. Basically, a bunch of homes and businesses in this neighborhood have decorated their store fronts and windows with floral displays inspired by children's books and the public can walk around and vote for their favorite. There are also a few pop-up exhibits around the area.

With all this walking, I couldn't help but purchase a cupcake - chocolate salted caramel with salted caramel filling. Heaven!

One of the pop-up exhibitions, in Belgrave Square

Hansel and Gretel

Rapunzel - at a hairdressers. Clever!

Rococo Chocolates featured James and the Giant Peach

And created a line of Roald Dahl inspired chocolates

The Wizard of Oz

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