Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Kew Gardens

I have never been to Kew Gardens before this weekend, but over the years I've heard many friends' tales of their visits and the place has taken on a kind of mythical utopian status in my mind. I always intended to go and see it for myself but you know how it is when you live in London and you know you can go anytime; you never do. I'm ashamed to say that what finally tipped the balance for me was the neon brightness of the IncrEdibles posters that sprung up all over tube stations this summer, I'm a sucker for gaudy colours and pineapples. What can I say, I'm shallow. So on Saturday morning I set off bright and early to embark on my first Kew Gardens expedition.

I had no idea how huge a site it is. I mean, truly humongous! You could easily spend a long weekend looking around and leisurely investigating all the beautiful greenhouses and buildings. Sadly, I only had one day to see what I could and I barely managed a fraction of what is on offer, but what I did get to see was just breathtaking. Kew Gardens is how I imagine the Hanging Gardens of Babylon would look if it were situated in modern Greater London. It really is absolutely magical to stroll around discovering all kinds of plants and flowers that you never knew existed and then be casually greeted by a passing peacock in the grounds.

As part of the IncrEdibles exhibition, Bompas & Parr have set up a boating lake in Kew. The centrepiece is Pineapple Island which, you guessed it, is basically a giant floating pineapple. As you make your way around the lake, you are invited to row through Pineapple Island and visit the psychedelic Banana Grotto for which you must wear your specially provided 3D glasses. Negotiating our way around the lake as completely inexperienced rowers was a bit of a challenge but the incentive of the Banana Grotto kept us going and it was a beautiful day for messing about on the river Wind in the Willows style.

One of my favourite things about Kew Gardens was how much I felt like Alice in Wonderland as I wandered around. From Pineapple Island and it's Banana Grotto to peacock spotting and then encountering giant mushrooms made of hay. Curiouser and curiouser, indeed.

In the spirit of Lewis Carroll, I half-expected these shrimp plants to come to life!

Kew is a true Garden of Eden just outside of the smog and concrete of Central London, which really makes it even more of an oasis of calm and escapism. I will definitely be making repeat visits in order to see the parts I missed out on this time.

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