Monday, July 31, 2017

Somehow July is already over and I’ve tried to find the time to write this new blog post about summer roses in London.

Here in London, our summer weather has been basically crap. We had a couple hot days in June and July, but generally the skies like to remain gray, often rainy, with temps only in the low 20s C (around 70F).

Still, I’ve found time to get around on my precious days off to explore some of London’s beautiful gardens. Did you know that London’s land includes nearly 6% of park and garden space, with eight Royal Parks, and a total of 47% of Greater London is considered green space (according to the Greenspace Information for Greater London CIC, 2015)?

The Brits seem to love their roses and I’ve found quite a few garden spots to recommend for you. Peak bloom time for roses is June and July, but I found some blooming as early as May and some still going strong in late July. With our cooler weather, I’m sure some of these rose gardens still will be blooming in August.

1. Queen Mary’s Rose Garden
Situated in the heart of Regent’s Park, the Queen Mary’s Garden is home to the largest collection of roses in London – a staggering 12,000 roses to be exact! The world-famous gardens, named after the wife of King George V (the grandson of Queen Victoria), opened in 1932. Today, they feature more than 85 single varieties – from classic to the more modern English roses, including one called the “Royal Parks” rose.

If you’re a romantic at heart, plan ahead like some of the couples I saw here and bring a picnic blanket, some nibbles, and of course, some bubbly.

2. The Rose Garden at Hyde Park
With as widespread as Hyde Park is you could easily miss The Rose Garden, located in the southeast corner of the park, south of Serpentine Road near Hyde Park Corner. Opened in 1994, the garden was designed by Colvin and Moggridge Landscape Architects in the shape of horns sounding one's arrival into Hyde Park. I’m not sure if I could figure out that design, but the summery gardens are lovely!

Here, you’ll find several different varieties of roses, especially some wild roses that smell amazing, mixed in with hollyhocks, columbines, statice and more. The mix of flowers reminded me of the gardens both my mother and my grandmothers had when I was a child growing up in the Midwest.

3. Holland Park by the Orangery
Formerly part of the grounds of Holland House, Holland Park incorporates the remains of 17th, 18th and 19th-century park and gardens, which originally covered 500 acres. Following restorations and repairs after World War II, the grounds opened as a public park in 1952 and contain several formal and informal gardens. Next to the Orangery, found in the southwest corner of the park, you’ll find wonderful wisteria blooms in the spring and bountiful rose blossoms in summer. Stop at a nearby café and bring a take-away lunch to enjoy in the gardens.

4. Hampton Court Palace
Before you even set foot into Hampton Court Palace, you’ll find a lovely walled garden complete with formal rose beds set amongst green lawns and beautiful statues. I couldn’t find any history about these gardens, but the best thing is they are free to visit! However, I highly recommend visiting the entire palace including the 60 acres of spectacular formal gardens within the palace’s walls. During the past year, I’ve visited the palace three times with visitors and once by myself.

5. Kew Gardens
I love going to Kew Gardens during any season, especially when I get to see the free-roaming peacocks! Did you know that Kew is London’s largest UNESCO World Heritage site?  Kew has a formal Rose Garden by the Plantation House as well as a beautiful rose-filled archway in the gardens that contain 102 separate beds of plants and flowers.

6. Morden Hall Park
Back in mid-June, I ventured to Morden Hall Park in zone 3, and I didn’t even feel like I was in London anymore. I took a quirky little tram from Wimbledon to the Phipps Bridge stop and then stepped across the tracks into a giant open field. Was I really in London?

Morden Hall Park is a National Trust park, located on the banks of the River Wandle in south London, covering more than 50 hectacres of parkland. Once home to a fancy manor house and deer park, a 2.5 acre rose garden was added around 1921. It is believed that Morden Hall rose garden represents a very unusual example of an inter-war period rose garden, featuring a design well ahead of its time with 48 irregular rectangle and circular beds of roses. The National Trust is in the process of trying to re-create that historical garden, and I simply think they’ve done a good job as the roses are spectacular!
You can easily make a whole day or at least an afternoon by strolling through the Morden park, having lunch at The Potting Shed café, which served a delicious seasonal soup, and the attached greenhouse and garden store.

Don’t forget to take time to stop and smell the roses!

My Traveling Joys

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Z is for Zeugma Museum

For my final contribution to the A-Z Guidebook posts, I’ve dug back into my photo archives from five years ago when we visited the Zeugma Museum located in Gaziantep, southeast Turkey.

In 2012, the museum, less than a year old then, was fascinating because it is the world’s largest mosaic museum – containing 1700m2 of priceless mosaics from the ancient Roman town of Zeugma, which means “bridge” or “crossing” in ancient Greek. 

Wandering through partly reconstructed ancient Roman villas, excavated on-site around the Euphrates river, one can almost travel back in time to nearly 2,000 years ago when Zeugma was a popular trading center along the Silk Road route to China. Zeugma was founded along the river in 300 BC by one of the generals of Alexander the Great and reach its peak in the 3rd century AD before being abandoned due to raids and earthquakes.
Today, much of the ancient town and its modern counterpart of Belkıs lie under the reservoir created by the construction of one of Turkey's largest dams in 2000. The massive Birecik Dam is located less than a mile from the site. 

Fortunately, international archaeologists were able to save many artifacts and these impressive mosaics before the dam flooded the area. The Zeugma Museum attempts to recreate the atmosphere that once prevailed in this prosperous Roman town. Though you’ll find plenty of Greek and Roman gods preserved in the mosaics, my favorite is the Gypsy Girl, known for her emotive eyes that seem to follow you wherever you go in the dark room where she now lives.
Looking back now, we were very lucky to travel through southeast Turkey when we did. The people we met were wonderful, the food was delicious and the historical sites were memorable. And that is what travel is all about for me!

I’m linking this post to the monthly travel guide link up organized by Fiona, a fellow Australian blogger, at Tiffin Bite Sized Food Adventures, who has kindly hosted this link-up for the past 26 months! Thank you! Each month featured a new letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter “Z.” Please pop on over to Fiona’s blog to read more A-Z travel stories or feel free to link up your own!

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