We had a great day. We'd agreed to meet at 10 and provision lunch for ourselves (we've not been impressed with the catering at Kew in the past); although Noreen and I did agree to provide cake for all: no mean feat when you're meeting four cake eating fiends! We also provided a generous supply of home-made pizza.
Noreen and I left home too early. My fault as I was calculating on weekday rush hour traffic not that at dead of a grey wet Saturday morning. Even having stopped on the way to to acquire sandwiches and cake we arrived 30 minutes before the gates opened at 9.30. Boring!
Katy and troop eventually showed up just before 10.30 having (predictably) been stymied by the vagaries of London Underground. By this time Noreen and I had drunk coffee (some of which I spilled, scalding my hand — dozy git!), we'd had a wander round the shop and Kew's all too tiny garden centre, and I had bought two orchids to add to my collection (luckily the shop were happy to keep them aside for me until we left).
Although we go to Kew at least once a year, I've still never managed to see more than about 40% of the 300 odd acres. And Katy hasn't been there for half a lifetime! So we decided we'd take the motorised tour train round the gardens, to get a flavour of everything. It wasn't very warm and was trying to drizzle; I was glad I'd worn jeans rather than shorts and had a waterproof. Sadly the tour guide/train driver was dreadful and seemed to be telling us everything except what we wanted to know — but then it's probably designed to appeal most to Americans and Japanese (of whom there were plenty).
We managed 80% of the tour before jumping off and heading for (more) coffee and early lunch. Still, having now done the tour I now know that the parts of Kew I have seen are the parts which really do most interest me, with a couple of exceptions.
After lunch, and allowing the kids to run around for a bit, we wandered off to see Kew Palace — yes, a small Royal Palace built late 17th century in the Dutch style and one of the last refuges of the madness of George III. It isn't large, but is well done and is quite interesting, especially as in restoring it they have left some of the walls of the upper floors in pieces to show how they were constructed. The formal gardens behind the palace are also rather lovely, although the Laburnum walk was clearly well past it's best. After this I had a little rest on a park bench (so decadent!) while the others availed themselves of a guided tour of the palace kitchens.
By this time it was nigh on 2pm and we were still cold; well the weather was unseasonably grey and breezy. So it was off in search of more coffee and share out some cake, with more time for the kids to run riot!
We then wandered off in search is the Princess of Wales Conservatory and the Palm House. There at least we would get warm! But by this time the sun was out and it turned into a rather nice afternoon.
I always like the PoW Conservatory. Like the rest of Kew there is always something to look at, whether it is flowering cacti, orchids, bougainvillea, water lilies ... and there are Amazonian fish in the pond including, this time, a huge puffer fish and an enormous Plecostomus catfish.
Another short rest to allow the children to let off more steam — where do they get the energy?! — and off for a quick tour of the water lily house (instant sauna!), which is always gorgeous at this time of year, and the Palm House with more aquatics in the basement as well as bananas, neem, ylang-ylang and ginger plants.
By this time we adults were on our knees, and in fact the kids were beginning to tire too. So just after 4.30 we packed up our kit and decided to go our separate ways home (having collected my orchids). We didn't get to the roses, the Temperate House, the Japanese Garden or the Treetop Walk, all of which remain on the list for anther day. Nevertheless it was a grand day out; we got cold; we got hot; we saw lovely things, we drank coffee, we bought ourselves treats and we consumed a month's worth of sugar. And there are still things to go back for. What more could one want?
You can find Katy's account on her weblog.
And lots more of my photos of Kew (not just yesterday's) on my Flickr.