Monthly Archives: January 2014

Royal Kew Garden

Kew garden (3)In a classic English landscaped park, unpredictability is bound to be present. Walking through picturesque alleys while immersed in the harmony of natural beauty you may be unexpectedly surprised by the designer’s reincarnation of the landscape around every corner. It could be an artificial lake harmoniously blended into the landscape, or a murmuring spring with a striking waterfall surrounded by stone boulders. Sometimes ancient ruins adorn a corner of the garden, although their “authenticity” is always doubtful.

Kew garden (33)The Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew in West London embody all the classical traditions of the landscape art, as well as one of the largest collections of plants in the world, in the region of 30.000 species and the second largest herbarium with over 7,000,000 specimens. These botanical gardens, originated in 1670 from the vegetable garden of a botanist called William Turner. Since then, it has grown into a huge park with a Royal palace, Victorian greenhouses and a botanical research center. At any time of the seasons, the unique beauty of the flora changes into various shades of color. The pictures here were taken in October, on a clear sunny day. Last autumn we had an abundance of purple crocuses surrounded by fallen golden autumn leaves with buds of violet clover and an amazing variety of red flowers.

The Chinese pagoda, inspired by early travelers to China, first appeared on the grounds of Stowe Park, a beautiful stately home in Buckingamshire. In the traditional Chinese art of gardening, asymmetrical compositions normally dominate the landscape. In the Botanical Gardens of Kew a wooden Chinese Pagoda was constructed in 1761 and has recently been restored on the 250th anniversary of the Royal Gardens. Next to this Great Pagoda a Japanese temple has been erected surrounded by a Japanese style garden and adorned with traditional Japanese type gates.

 The amazing thing to be found at Kew, is a treetop walk built in 2008, this pedestrian bridge supported by huge pylons at a height of 15 meters with a length of some 200 meters. You can take a lift up to it or climb the stairs and go for a walk to look at some magnificent panoramic views whilst this metal walkway rocks and sways you in the wind.

 The Temperate House is the largest surviving building of the Victorian greenhouses and the Palm House houses a wonderful collection of tropical plants, not very far away is the Alpine House with an unusual design and a collection of alpine plants.

 Among too many other things to see in these beautiful surroundings are strolling Peacocks, a Water lily House, a wonderful cactus collection and many picturesque secluded overgrown gazebos where you can hide in at any time of the year.

 Finally, there is a very large indoor and outdoor play area to satisfy any child as well as several restaurants if you fancy a drink, snack or meal.

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Floods in England

flood in England (17)2013 has been the windiest and wettest year since records began over100 years ago.

In December 2013 we had the stormiest weather ever with winds of 90 miles per hour and waves of 30 feet on the sea, river levels were at least 3 meters higher than normal and lots of fields were completely under water.

In England you cannot avoid talking about the weather because all our transport systems depend on it, too many leaves on the railway lines, tunnel flooded, roads blocked with fallen trees, airports closed because of high winds, etc.

Depending on how you travel or where you live you could have a terrible time or not be affected at all. Humans cannot compete with nature, they can only try and cope with it as best as they can but these natural elements and the changing weather creates a beauty on the landscape that has to be admired.

Here is a selection of photographs taken recently of floods in the Thames valley.

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“Bruges”, the Chocolate Venice of the North

BruggeChocolate, as we all know is a “happiness hormone”, its use contributes to the development of the hormone serotonin responsible for positive emotions in the human body. Walking along the streets in the city of Bruges, you can find chocolate shops almost on every corner; you cannot pass one without the whiff of an appetizing smell of delicious chocolate. After sampling several bits of “chocolate” energy, we set off with joyful euphoria to sight see this most beautiful Belgian city.

The first fortress in Bruges dates from the first century BC, after the conquest by Julius Caesar, Bruggeto protect the place against Pirates as it is connected to the open sea by a navigable river. Due to its favorable location, Bruges became the capital of Flanders in the 7th century. According to legend, the name Bruges comes from the Old Norse word meaning landing, which was probably given by Vikings who conquered the city in the 9th century. Also in days gone by, there was a fair on the bridge crossing the river and “Bridge” could have been abbreviated to Bruges by several European languages. Bruges started flourishing in the 13th century, when it became the center for trade in Northern Europe. Historians suppose that the first stock exchange in the world was opened in Bruges in 1309.

The city is crossed by three deep channels with 54 bridges, that is why it is sometimes called the Venice of the North. On one of the many tourist boats plying these canals, we took a trip around the city. We came across a lake they call the Lake of Love, which is full of swans that are very revered in this city and permanently live there. According to legend, in the 16th century the people of this city executed their administrator, whose name was “Pieter Lanchals” which translates into “long neck”. His family coat of arms depicted a white swan, so the residents of the city were punished by the very rich family of the deceased by having to keep swans on this lake forever.

Ancient houses with unusual facades made of red-brown brick and covered with tiles lined the river. Almost all the houses are topped with triangular roofs in a Dutch style and decorated with weathervanes, pinnacles and statues. Some houses have wooden facades, darkened from time and the weather. One can imagine how beautiful this Flemish city must have looked in the middle Ages, if it is so enchantingly unusual today.

A horse carriage trip is a must, you can take a short tour around the city center or you can sitBrugge back and imagine what it was like when there were no other modes of transport available. We decided to view the city on foot so as to enjoy and admire the architecture since round every corner we turned there were more and more beautiful buildings to see.

 There are two main squares in the city. In the largest one of the two “Market Square” there is a very old building with a Belfry tower that you can visit and climb dating back to 1240, which was used as a watchtower in ancient times with a variety of bell sizes and each bell had a distinct sound warning of danger or other important events.


The other square “Burg” is the administrative center of the city, and contains buildings of several architectural styles. There is a Gothic BruggeCity Hall of the 14th century, whose facade is decorated by 48 niches with new stone sculptures, the Gold plated original sculptures of biblical characters and the Count of Flanders, were destroyed during the French Revolution but were replaced with copies in the 19th century and renovated again in the 20th. There is the Old Civil Registry built in renaissance style, the former Courts of Justice in neo-classical style and the former home of the Deans of St Donatius in Baroque style. Another very remarkable building is the church of Basilius and the Chapel of the Holy Blood which was built in a Romanesque style in the 12th century; the original façade was remodeled in the 16th century into a late-gothic and renaissance style. According to legend, the Crusaders brought a few drops of the blood of Christ from the Holy Land. This relic of holy blood in a bottle made of rock crystal has never been opened and is stored on a silver altar which can be viewed on certain days. Unfortunately, we could not see this secret, even with our glasses on.

 Finally before leaving, we visited the Gothic Church of Our Lady (Notre Dame) housing the only sculpture outside Italy by Michelangelo and Saint Salvador’s Cathedral with it’s very unique paintings, there were also many other places of worship to visit and of course, the Museum of Chocolate! This city has so many museums and historical relics that you have to spend a few days here in order to see them all. We hope to be backing one day soon.

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All things bright and beautiful

Christmas and New Year celebrations Every year during Christmas time and New Year, I like to photograph the streets and shop windows in different towns and cities of the UK. This year, walking around London and many other towns, I noticed that most decorations were not as pretty as previous years, most were the same or a lot smaller. But one day, whilst traveling to East Anglia, we came across a small cottage, which was transformed into a fairyland by the private owner. This is something a lot of people do in the UK.

Christmas and New Year celebrations In one part of greater London there was an unusual Christmas tree Christmas and New Year celebrations that surprised us by the ingenuity of its designers. Can you guess what it is made of at first glance? Well! it is made from empty plastic water bottles. In the afternoon without any lights it looks pretty weird but at night with colored lights this funny tree looks absolutely great. 

Another “Christmas tree” I managed to photograph was in a town called Ipswich.

And here’s a selection of traditional shop displays and decorations in and around the west end of London. From Harrods to Regent street and Piccadilly to Soho.

Finally, if you have taken any interesting Christmas photos of your area and wish to share them with other appreciative followers of, please email them to me and I will publish the best ones on the site.

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