Commemorating the year – looking backwards to move forwards, a snapshot of my life in early January 2014:
We seemed to have entered a travel age in which we scoff at the expected. Colosseum? Why bother when I could wander this random side street? Eiffel Tower? But all the crowds. Tower of London? That’s so expected. I scoff at the scoffers. I may have a minor phobia of tourist destinations, and I too prefer to mingle with locals, but not at the expense of personal enjoyment. If you’re interested in the British Museum, the Tower of London, or Platform 9 3/4, visit – shamelessly, smiling.
In 2015, I’d encourage you not to explore every off-the-beaten trail you can find, but to simply explore. Stand amidst your fellow tourists in the British Museum, and afterwards, you can venture outside London’s limits to explore Kew Gardens. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the park over a tour of the Tower or Greenwich, but it’s perfect if you have a few days in the city, have previously visited London, or need to entertain children for a few hours.
I expected nothing – and found a new favorite London spot.
We had just survived New Year’s 2014, the most absurd London night of our lives. The Tube had simply shut down, and we had wandered aimlessly, walking, and walking, and walking for hours.
Just a couple days later, with semi-permanent foot damage, we decided to explore Kew Gardens, which, incidentally, turned out to be Alice in Wonderland’s playground.
Kew Gardens holds more living plants than anywhere in the world. Its history can be traced back to Kew Palace (1631), though the gardens are formally dated at 1759. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and consists of 300 acres, with surprises and adventures at every bend.
From the Princess of Wales Conservatory to Queen Charlotte’s Cottage, the vast Kew Gardens feature a wide sampling of options and opportunities, including their 17th century formal gardens and Japanese Getaway.
And massive mushrooms.
As a literary traveler at heart, I couldn’t help but imagine Alice sneaking behind the massive mushrooms, sipping tea, and wandering amidst the overgrown flowers.
With a place called the Temple of Imagination, can you blame me?
Little kiddies played tag in the mild London winter, and those unafraid of heights scaled this odd, modern structure called the Treetop Walkway, which allows for 360 degree views of the park. And apparently the garden is teeming with badgers. When London’s city smog begins to choke you, just hop on the Tube to explore Kew Gardens and mingle with the badgers. And peacocks.
No, the park has no actual connection to Lewis Carroll’s beloved book, but when I think back on that mild January day, I think of Alice, of Wonderland, and absurdly massive mushrooms.
Not a bad way to start 2014.
We’ll have to see what happens next! I’ve had some wonderful adventures; I hope you have as well, and I can’t wait to keep sharing with all of you.