Spoiler alert – yesterday’s London adventures are totally summed up in the title of this post. There was lots of sun (as per the rest of this trip), we saw lots of flowers (and various other trees, plants, and foliage), we ate some Indian food, and we saw a really funny show. So yeah, that was our Monday – thanks for stopping by! 🙂
For those of you who may be looking for a little bit more detail, allow me to expand on those comments. All of the flowers, plants, and trees (and much of the sun) were soaked in at Kew Gardens in Richmond. Although a popular destination for many people (tourists and locals alike), I had actually never visited in all my years of coming to London. I don’t really know why! I suspect it’s mostly because I’ve only been to Richmond one other time, probably eight or nine years ago, to see a show at the Richmond Theatre. Although still a borough of London, Richmond is a little ways out (especially on this trip, since we’re staying right in the city), but it was easily reached in a little under an hour (and just one quick train change to switch lines on the Underground), so I’m glad we made the time for it on this trip!
So, what’s to see at Kew? Lots of plants! And flowers. And trees. And (on a sunny bank holiday Monday) lots of PEOPLE. It was so busy! Not having been before, I don’t know if it’s normally as busy as it was yesterday, but I have to assume the weather combined with the bank holiday made it much busier than a typical Monday. Although, it’s such a big area (300 acres) and you can walk around at your own pace wherever within the gardens, it didn’t feel as congested as it could have. We did have to wait in a line for tickets, but only for about five minutes. There’s so much green space there that people were spread out all over the place, with lots of folks having picnics or just laying around in the grass, enjoying the sun. After getting our tickets, we first checked out the Palm House, which is (unsurprisingly) full of palm trees and other tropical plans from around the world. Being a greenhouse, it was definitely warmer in there than it was outside, particularly on the second level. It must have been 15 degrees warmer and 60% more humid up just one set of stairs! Needless to say, as someone who isn’t built for that weather, we took the requisite photos and moved on. The warm summer weather outside felt cool by comparison!
After the hotness of the Palm House, we spent the rest of our time meandering through the grounds to see the other notable sights. First up was the Treetop Walkway, which is exactly what it sounds like – an elevated walkway that gives you a birds-eye view from 18 meters above the ground. If you’re afraid of heights in any way, this probably isn’t for you as the staircase and walkway are both pretty open (they’re made of that metal grating material you can see through) and the walkway itself has a tendency to sway. I don’t know if it always does that or if the number of people walking around it on it helped to cause it, but there was a very noticeable back-and-forth movement most of the time we were on it. It’s not a particularly big walkway though, so it doesn’t take long to walk around it (it’s a big circle, so you end back where you started), but it does definitely offer some great views across Kew. If you’re good with heights, check it out!
After the Treetop Walkway, we made our way to the Japanese Landscape, which was quiet and calm – a nice change from the busyness of the walkway. I was really sad we couldn’t go into the nearby Great Pagoda as it’s undergoing restoration work until early 2018 (it was built in 1762 though, so I’m sure that restoration is much-needed). We couldn’t even get a glimpse of it as it was completely covered up with scaffolding (we didn’t even realize what it was at first), but it looks amazing from what I saw on the Kew website, so if it’s open when you’re there, you have to visit it for me and let me know how it is! And now I have a good reason to revisit Kew the next time I’m here, when the restoration work will (hopefully) be completed.
Also closed until 2018 is the Temperate House, which houses some of the rarest and most threatened temperate zone plants. Although it can be frustrating to only have a short time to explore your favorite city, only to find things like this are currently closed, I don’t feel too bad about missing this because it’s actually been closed since 2013 and the restoration work has been ongoing ever since. So I wouldn’t have been able to see it on my last several trips here either! Still, its completion and reopening next year will give me one more reason to come back to Kew.
As our day at the Kew wound down, we wanted to hit two more things – Kew Palace and The Hive. Although much smaller than when it was originally built (the primary remaining building is known as the Dutch House), it’s still a beautiful building and open to visitors, though we didn’t go through it as we were running a bit short on time. First used by Queen Caroline and George II in the 1700s, there haven’t been any royal residents for over 150 years, so it really exists for tourists these days. Check it out when you visit the gardens (it’s included in your entry ticket). The Hive, on the other hand, is a new, gleaming metal structure meant to simulate what life is like for bees inside a hive. It’s a really neat-looking structure and I’m sure it looks even better at dusk/night because it’s lit by over 1,000 little LED lights.
Overall, we had a great experience at Kew and I’m sure I’ll revisit in the future (if only to see the newly-restored Great Pagoda and Temperate House). At £16.50/$21 each (which includes an optional £1.50 donation to keep Kew going), the tickets aren’t too expensive, especially when you consider that they also include Kew Palace entry and that the gardens are big enough for you to spend the entire day in (bring a picnic lunch!).
Lots of photos below, so use them to help you plan your own Kew trip!
The entrance to Kew by the Victoria Gate.
A huge Lucombe oak tree, planted in 1762.
After Kew Gardens, we had to get back to the flat so we could get a little cleaned up and relax a bit before heading out again for the evening. First up, we had dinner at The Rajdoot, an Indian place in Marylebone. Scott had been looking for some good Indian food lately and since London has lots of it, I looked around for a place with good reviews that was near the flat. I haven’t had a ton of Indian food, but I liked what I had! Scott’s curry was only so-so, but still pretty decent. The papadoms and rice we had with our entrees were also good, so I’d say the restaurant overall was maybe 3.5/5 – worth a visit, but not amazing.
Our final destination for the night was Prince of Wales Theatre to see The Book of Mormon. What a great show! Although I went last year, I didn’t have the best seats and Scott had never seen the show at all, so I was happy to make a return visit. It’s hilariously offensive (not just to Mormons – to everyone), the songs are great, and the performers did a great job. See it if you can!
And now we’re down to the last day of the trip! Sad, of course, but it’s also nice to think about the prospect of being back in our own house with our bed and our stuff. I think today will be another low-key day. Check back to find out!