Thursday, March 30, 2017

During the month of March, London turned on its springtime magic. The dull, gray landscape of the winter months turned into a sparkling land filled with pops of cotton-candy pink, limoncello yellow and cabernet red. Spring is here!

For the past month, I’ve spent my precious days off exploring parts of the city and its wonderful parks. London is filled with heap of green spaces that are landscaped with acres of blooming trees and flowers. Read on to find out where I found the best spring blooms.

Battersea Park
Near our apartment, Battersea Park is a 200-acre (83-hectare) green space located on the southbank of the Thames River, Though the park occupies marshland reclaimed from the Thames, the land is a quiet oasis from our busy city life and we often take a stroll or run through here. We started seeing some blooms as early as late February this year.
Chiswick Gardens
This recently restored, giant conservatory is home to one of the oldest Camellia collections outside China and Japan, dating back to the 1830s. During March and through early April, the Chiswick House and Gardens showcases its beautiful Camellia collection. You’ll feel like you’re in a fairytale surrounded by spring blooms! And to think, some noble family started this garden and collection nearly 200 years ago!
Greenwich Park
During the last week in February, I saw some crocus and daffodils starting to bloom already near Greenwich Park, which is the oldest enclosed Royal Park and covers 183 acres (73 hectares). The park is situated on a hilltop with impressive views across the Thames to the Docklands and the City of London. Also, Greenwich is a darling village and has several museums worth checking out.
Hampstead Heath
Stepping off the train into Hampstead felt like I had wandered into a small English village. I was not expecting a hilly landscape and such a shockingly different feel from elsewhere in London. My main goal here was to visit Hampstead Heath – a large, ancient London park, covering 791 acres (320 hectares.) This huge, grassy public space sits atop a sandy ridge, one of the highest points in London, and offers fantastic views of this crazy city I now call home.
Holland Park
Just minutes away from the hubbub of Kensington Palace is Holland Park – a landscaped masterpiece spread across 54 acres on what used to be the grounds of Cope Castle, a 17th-century Jacobean mansion hidden in the woods. Not much remains of the mansion now, but the park’s gardens are worth checking out. On my visit, I ate my lunch on one of the sun-soaked benches and enjoyed the much-needed Vitamin D.
One of London’s most impressive Japanese gardens can be found here in Holland Park, located between Kensington and Chelsea neighborhoods. The Kyoto garden was designed and built by an eminent Japanese Garden designer and his team to celebrate London’s Japan Festival in 1992. Gorgeous cherry blossoms, fields of wildflowers and peacocks – what else do you need?

Hyde Park
Hyde Park is one of London's eight Royal Parks and every year millions of Londoners and tourists visit the park. Head to the north side of the park near Lancaster Gate if you want to see cherry blossoms and fields of daffodils. You'll also find some magnificent magnolia trees blooming in the neighborhood.
Kew Gardens
In early March, hubby and I spent my Monday off wandering through Kew Gardens. We love this park so much that we became Royal Botanical Garden members last year! No matter what the season, Kew is a delight to explore and see what might be blooming. Luckily, we caught the tail-end of an orchid show as well as the first blooms of spring. We found hundreds and hundreds of dainty crocuses blooming at Kew!
Notting Hill
I swear that Notting Hill must be one of the most Instagrammable neighborhoods in London! Especially if you are looking for brightly-colored houses with flowering trees to match. Of course, I couldn’t resist taking this pink-on-pink photo as well.
Regent’s Park
Starting in mid-March, I discovered a beautiful grove of pink-blossomed trees at the southern end of Avenue Gardens in Regent’s Park. If you continue walking north through the green park, you’ll end up in Camden, where it’s mandatory you grab a pint at one of the many local pubs.

So there you have it, just a few places where you can find signs of spring in London.

Do you have any favorite parks in London?

My Traveling Joys

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

V is for Vienna

Our trip to Vienna in spring 2015 already feels like nearly a lifetime ago. Moving to two different countries since that trip will do it to you.

Anyway, one of the highlights of this weekend trip was seeing the UNESCO World Heritage Site-listed Belvedere Palace. I had actually visited the palace nearly 10 years ago as part of my first European trip from the US. But being older, and of course wiser now, I feel like I appreciated seeing this beautiful 18th-century palace and ornate gardens so much more now.
The Belvedere consists of two palaces that were built in the early 18th century by the famous Baroque architect Johann Lucas von Hildebrandt – and meant to be used as the summer residence of Prince Eugene of Savoy (1663–1736). Inside, the palaces house a fantastic collection of Austrian art dating from the Middle Ages to the present day as well as more modern art from international artists such as Claude Monet, Vincent van Gogh, and Max Beckmann. Of course, you have to see the glittering Kiss painting by Gustav Klimt. So many tourists!

Unfortunately, we only had 48 hours in Vienna and we spent at least two or three of those hours at the Belvedere and then finding lunch nearby at a classic Austrian restaurant. There’s so much more I still want to see! Luckily, since we are living in London, a trip to Europe is just a click away.

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. Each month features a new letter of the alphabet. This month is the letter “V.” Please pop on over to Fiona’s blog to read more travel stories or feel free to link up your own!

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My Traveling Joys