Two of our goals while we were in England last week were a) to find new things to see in London and b) to do relaxing things. My first year as dean has left me spent and tired; I definitely wanted a vacation that didn’t exhaust me even more.

To these ends, PJ recommended that we take the Thames River tour over to Kew Gardens and spend most of a day roaming around the Royal Botanic Gardens. Both ideas turned out to be excellent!

Inside the gates of Kew Gardens

The boat tour took about an hour and a half. The weather was wonderful: sunny and warm, perfect for a boat ride. The only down side was that we were unprepared for the sun, and both got rather sunburned as a result.

Once we arrived at Kew Gardens, we made a quick list of activities and sites that we wanted to do. These included Kew Palace, the Treetop Walkway, lunch, Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, Temperate House, and as much of the grounds as we could fit in.

We started with Kew Palace, one of the royal residences for George III and his family in the late eighteenth century.

Kew Palace

Despite its size when compared to most people’s houses, this summer home for the royal family is actually one of the smallest of the royal residences. Parts of the house have been restored, and some of the furniture still exists. But you can’t visit the servants’ quarters on the upper floors, and some of the rooms have been left in disrepair to give visitors a glimpse of how the house looked after remaining more or less unused for decades. There are also some great views of the gardens from the windows, like this one:

The "back yard" of Kew Palace

The next big attraction that we went to was the treetop walkway. The walkway is just under 60 feet in the air. Generally speaking, I don’t do well with heights. I tend to hyperventilate or become dizzy and faint. But I was determined to walk around among the treetops and enjoy the views.

I really enjoyed it as long as I didn’t look directly down at the ground! Here are some of the pictures we took:

This is the stairway up to the walk.

One of the views from the walkway.

One side of the walkway from the other side.

Another view of the staircase.

We walked over to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, a place for her and her friends to picnic. It was closed, but we took this picture of the front:

Queen Charlotte's Cottage

The other big attraction we visited was Temperate House. I loved the plants that are growing here. I took a few pictures of my favorites:

There was even a reproduction of Donatello’s David:

As the following sign suggests, Temperate House is the oldest surviving Victorian glass structure:

It has a cool walkway around the top of the building where you can look down and see the tops of the plants growing inside the greenhouse. After the walk among the treetops, this was a piece of cake!

The walkway around the top of Temperate House.

A view from the walkway.

Another view from the walkway.

To finish up this post, I’ll just add some of the other pictures we took while roaming Kew Gardens. In sum, it was a delightful way to spend the better part of a day. We both really enjoyed it.