Monday 18 July 2005

A day in Kew Gardens

I had seen the advertisements for the Dale Chihuly glass exhibit there, and they looked amazing.  According to the advertisements:

Gardens of Glass: Chihuly at Kew is the first exhibition of its kind to be held in Europe. A spectacular sequence of organically shaped and vibrantly coloured glass sculptures will be set throughout Kew’s 300-acre garden landscape and inside the great glasshouses. The exhibition has been specifically designed to respond to Kew’s living collections, landscape, architecture and vistas and the visitor’s experience of the work will alter dramatically from day to night and from season to season.</i>

I had seen his work previously at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, and was impressed then, but nothing could have prepared me for the amazing beauty that the natural landscape could provide.  Perfect compliments, there were several that you would walk by thinking they were plants!  The gardens themselves are impressive even without the glass, but the two together could absolutely not be missed!

This is mostly going to be a tale in pictures, as they do the gardens and the glass the most justice.  We spent most of our times in the <a href="">glasshouses </a> where the installations were. . .and it still took us over 5 hours!  There is plenty to see, and probably one of the few places in London where the yearly membership would be a fantastic bargain.  (by the way, clicking on the link above will take you through virtual tours of the various greenhouses themselves)

We started with the world renown Palm House.  One of the oldest greenhouses in the world.  It was completely rebuilt in the late 1980s, but the overall architectural style is identical to the original Victorian structure.  As the name indicates, this is the main tropical greenhouse.

Around the corner is the Princess of Wales Memorial Conservatory, the next stop on our tour.  It houses the arid and semi-arid plants.  Stephen with a much larger selection of cacti than we saw at Oxford.

After the Diana Conservatory, we stopped for lunch under a huge oak tree.  Little did we know it is one of the few accidental hybrids of this particular type in existance.  

I'll be uploading the full-sized versions to snapfish over time, including all the ones I didn't resize for this narrative.  Drop me a line if you want me to send you the link to that album.

Sunday 10 July 2005

36 hours in Dulbin

And what a whirlwind tour it was!  Due to travel schedules of our friend James, we didn't actually get into Dublin until 10pm on Saturday night.  We took the bus from the airport to the hostel (<a href="">Avalon House</a>), located right around the corner from the Temple Bar area (main party scene) and near to most major sights.  Needless to say, we didn't do much Saturday night aside from walk around and see the buildings lit up.  Mercer and his mother were also on board and we made plans to start bright and early Sunday morning.

Sunday morning rolls around, and after a rather small breakfast (the hostel only offered toast) we headed over to <a href="'s_Green">St. Stephen's Green</a>, a large park in the city center.  It was a pretty morning, though a bit chill and quite windy.  It's easy to forget how far north some of these places are!  

After spending a goodly amount of time walking and enjoying the flowers (including some irises the size of my head!), we headed over to <a href="">Trinity College</a> to see the <a href="">Book of Kells</a>.  

To be honest, I wasn't really anticipating much from its, but was astounded at the artistry and the beauty of the illuminations as well as the sheer amount of history tied to this set of the gospels.  Obviously, we weren't allowed to take pictures of the book itself, since it is kept in a very strictly controlled environment for preservation purpoased, but <a href="">this site</a> has some amazing scans.

After seeing the book, the exit route took us through the Reading Room.   A huge old section of the library filled with the oldest volumes in their collection that don't require special care.  
<img src="">
(borrowed from the university website)
If you look very carefully in the picture above you can see the marble busts of famous philosphers and thinkers that line the main gallery.  Talk about an impressive space!

After that, we wondered around Trinity College before finding ourselves in a lovely little coffee shop for a late breakfast and bit of tea before heading back into what was turning into quite a chilly and blustery day!

Next on the list was <a href="">St. Patrick's Cathedral</a>.  A really impressive stone church with a lovely garden attached.  On our way, we stumbled across a fantastic mural that depicted various Irish folk tales. And then on the steps of the green itself a very spirited dog playing with a ball.  We seriously watched this little guy for ages playing with the soccar ball.  Too cute!

Unfortunately, like many stone churches, the light is very dim and iffused, which makes picture taking difficult.  Still, it was an incredible space with many nooks and crannies.  I counted at least 4 different chapels in addition to the regular and high altar, though I'm sure there's more.

After filtering out of the church, we decided to stop by the oldest lending library still in active use, Marsh's Libarary, founded in 1701.  Unfortunately, it was closed for refurbishment.

After that, we headed over to the <i>other</i> large church, Christ Church.  It's divided into three parts, 1/3 of which spans one of the busiest intersections

Then, Stephen and I went inside, while Mercer, Mercer's Mom and James explored the surrounding area.  We were really lucky, because during our visit the church choir was practicing with the organ for the following weekend's concert.  Talk about breath-taking!  We sat in the pews entranced by the acoustics, amazing voices and incredible organ for what felt like an enternity.  Time truly stood still.  Once we shook ourselves loose, we explored the rest of the church, even bigger than St. Patricks with a full crypt underneath.  Probably one of the most amazing crypts I've ever seen.  Unfortunately it was too dark for the pictures to turn out.  

After poking around the church for a while, it was definitely time for lunch (at a pub!) and then only an hour until James, Stephen and I had to head off to catch our flight back to London.  

So that was just our first taste of Dublin and Ireland in general.  Needless to say we are very much looking forward to going back and getting to romp through the country side.

Mercer and his family spent the following week doing just that.  His pictures and commentary can be found here:
<a href="">Mercer's pictures</a>

1-36 coincides with our trip, the rest are his family's adventures.  Talk about amazing countryside!  This very well may be our trip next summer.