I couldn't believe what a over-hyped dump The Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew were. It was a sad smudge of earth in the middle of London where happiness went to die. Why don't you just go to a landfill and paw through the garbage and make the baby jesus cry in the process, and then go stand in line at the DMV for the rest of your life.
Kidding, kidding. It's a fantastic place to see.
It's impressively sprawling, with gorgeous Victorian greenhouses dotting the parks. I walked all day and barely saw half of it. Brits take their gardens seriously, and to put a UNESCO stamp on this place isn't unwarranted.
It's also one of those places that you could be entertained there year-round. Although it was stunning in springtime, there is enough indoors that you could cheer yourself in the middle of January. While I have been to plenty of gardens before, I don't think I have seen one quite so ambitious with so many varieties of plants. As an amateur but passionate vegetable gardener, I can't even fathom the care that would go into so many landscapes and micro-climates. I mean, it doesn't get as cold here as it does on the East Coast of the US, but it also doesn't get as hot, and it's quite damp.
Being springtime, it was a bit crowded around the main gates and in some of the houses, but it's so big that it was easy to find a quiet corner: a pathway of rhododendrons, a Japanese garden and Minka house, ponds and groves and mature copse of beautiful old trees.
It wasn't exactly warm or sunny the day I visited, so it was nice to duck into the various greenhouses. Rooms filled with delicate Orchids, palms and cactus were a nice break from the slightly dreary day.
There was a skywalk around some tall old trees where you could get a good vantage point on some escaped parakeets.
Like New York and San Francisco, there is a booming population of tropical birds here. It's hard to miss them as when they gather, their squawks are about as subtle and charming as a gathering of bagpipe players, but they are quite pretty.
Another subtle resident:
In true Victorian style, they had peacocks roaming the gardens. They seemed quite happy to shake out their plumage and win the title of the most absurd creatures.
Happily, the skies didn't open until I was contemplating an exit anyway. They did have one of the most amazing and inspirational gift shops I've ever encountered. If you are into gardening, it would be hard to escape unscathed.