By George Christopher Thomas, Travel Writer
LONDON, ENGLAND – One of the best botanical gardens in the world is just outside of London, England. No trip to the center of the English-speaking world would be complete without a visit to Kew Gardens in Richmond, a suburb in Southwest London.
Kew Gardens is conveniently located along two tube lines, (Piccadilly & District Lines) and there are a few stops within walking distance.
My travel group this time around was my wife and two children, and this was our first stop after getting off the plane at Heathrow Airport. Coming from America, there is definitely a chance of jetlag, so walking around a beautiful English garden is the perfect recipe to get tired and try to acclimate yourself to the local time.
It would be easy to spend an entire day at Kew Gardens. Strolling around taking pictures of flowers and watching the planes come in and out of Heathrow. There are several primary features of the gardens that you must see, including the “Treetops Walkabout” where you tower over the canopy and enjoy a great view of SW London. If you are afraid of heights, this might not be your cup of tea, however it is really not that scary, and just don’t look down.
Kew Gardens is part of the royal crown properties, or places of historical British significance. Although it is the smallest of the royal palaces, King George III was a frequent habitant as doctors studied his illness and kept him out of public view. Touring around the palace and seeing the kitchens and other rooms is perfect for people that love the history of the monarchy.
Kew Gardens has several greenhouses, although using that term does not give them justice. They are more like green mansions, and there is a delightful change of weather and atmosphere if it happens to be raining outside. Plants will be in bloom and out of bloom depending on what month and week you visit. But there is always something flowering or being botanical, and the pictures will be amazing no matter what the season.
This botanical garden is the largest in the world. They not only have plants from all over the planet, they also are the home of an extremely diverse seed bank. Similar to the one in Scandinavia, the goal is to preserve the flora and prevent current plants from going extinct.
There is also an oriental pagoda, which has numerous intricate dragons decorated throughout its multi-story structure. One can go to the top of the pagoda for an additional fee, and we opted out but had it under consideration.
Since it was our first official stop in England after coming in from the states, I was desperate for a cup of tea. I have developed this desire because having cups of tea makes perfect sense when it is cold and rainy outside, and you just want to warm your hands and inner core. Plus, there is nothing more British than having a cup of tea, and maybe a cookie then calling it a biscuit.
The cafe at Kew Gardens was exactly what my party of four was looking for, including the chance at cake. Anytime we are on vacation, and really throughout the non-vacation days of our lives as well, my eldest son is always angling to have dessert. He would have dessert after breakfast and lunch if it was allowed, and then another dessert after finishing his desert as an award for cleaning his plate. The dude is a nut for sweets, and the cafe at Kew Gardens did not disappoint. We went with a slice of lemon cake, and some carrot cake as well. What can you do when you just put your kid through a 10-hour plane ride accompanied by a subway journey and then a walk while carrying baggage?
There is a feel at Kew Gardens like an oasis in the middle of an urban landscape. Making this our first stop was smart for our England trip, as it is quite calming and relaxing after a long-haul flight from the United States. Jetlag is real, and if you can utilize the gardens to tire yourself out and try to mentally get to Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) then you are all the more able to hit the ground running on your European vacation.
There is history around every corner at Kew Gardens, and I kind of wished we were staying for longer. This would be a great place to go running, and watching the airplanes overhead come into Heathrow is calming. It would also be great to come here at different times of the day, especially in the early morning. I bet the people that live close utilize this world class gem that is their backyard. For more information on Kew Gardens, please visit https://www.kew.org/