The United Kingdom is comprised of four countries, each with its own national flower. They are:
England – The Rose
Wales – The Daffodil
Scotland – The Thistle
Northern Ireland – The Shamrock
The U.K. is filled with passionate gardeners and hundreds and hundreds of open gardens. Nowadays, gardens lean toward ornamental rather than the practical herb and vegetable variety of the past. Decorative gardens, and the leisure time to indulge one’s green thumb, are status symbols.
That’s not to say gardens are reserved for the upper crust. Bright bursts of colorful flowers are part of the U.K. landscape, adorning nooks, crannies, fields, and yards. There are rows of perennials bordering town squares, yellow laburnum trees covering walkways, wisteria-created archways, and iconic rose gardens. Residents and tourists alike visit castle and estate gardens, as well as botanical gardens.
The gardens alone are reason enough to tour the U.K. If you haven’t already, I hope you check them out.
Are you a habitual traveler? Meaning that you pack your habits? In the past, I would try to find a Starbucks wherever I visited since I like my cappuccino a certain way. Well, not wise if you want to find hidden cafes abroad. As I moved around the U.K., I searched for other cafes to share with you, ones that did not frequent Instagram.
I’ve seen numerous IG posts from the Covent Garden and visited this location briefly. Beautiful, of course, but …
There are two Petersham (Nurseries) locations: one at Covent Garden and the original in in the Richmond area of London, where I enjoyed my morning coffee and favorite cake. As you can see, the flooring is dirt at the Richmond shop, like a real nursery, unlike the more gentrified Convent Garden.
This is the entrance to Petersham Nurseries in Richmond.
It was so quiet at this location, and I loved wandering around with my camera. If you appreciate flowers as I do, this location is an exquisite treat to the spirit. The merchandising is inspirational. Tabletop vignettes of plants and home goods of all stripes gave me a number of ideas to try at home.
The sun was hiding this gray day, but the yellow-leaved tree offers a perfect replacement. Notice the brilliantly colored chairs leaning against the table. Such a beautiful spot to share a pot of tea and some sweets. Or maybe you’d prefer some time to yourself? It’s perfect for that, too.
This dining space offers the relaxing and meditative sound of a gurgling fountain. You can tell from the soggy ground that we had rain that day.
I would visit this coffee shop every day, if I could. I think you would too if you love flowers. What a treat to visit the Petersham Nurseries.
I loved wandering around charming Richmond. It was an hour drive from the city center — as long as there were no protestors. The day I visited took two hours, but it was fine. We kept detouring and circling so I got to view the city twice.
Stroll the streets, and you’ll find whimsical gardens here and there. Like this spiral staircase in dotted with flowerpots.
Some folks from the U.S. commented that watering the flowers seems like too much work. Hmmmm …. During my two-week stay in London, it drizzled here and there plus one solid day of rain. Therefore, Mother Nature does all the work.
Where to eat in Richmond, London?
My go-to is @theivycafe. Do order the Ivy Collection Champagne. Great photo ops but I only took this one photo and focused on enjoying the food.
Rake’s Café Bar
My second favorite coffee shop was one I stumbled upon: Rake’s Café Bar. It is a great place for morning cappuccino. I also had the best smashed avocado toast there. At night, this place comes alive with music and is great for people watching. I preferred the quiet mornings here.
Where to dine?
I recommend Carluccio’s for incredible Italian food. Outside of the St Pancras train station, walk towards Granary Square where you’ll find a beautiful new shopping area and a multitude of unique designer shops. The architecture and art installation are something to marvel at while you wander. Plus, so many great photo ops at St Pancras Station along with cute little shops and cafes.
A few tips …
- I loved that the bus service in Richmond was very efficient. They come quite often, and, if you are thinking of driving, parking isn’t easy in town.
- If your credit card doesn’t have a contactless reader, you can’t pay with local currency. Your friend cannot cover for you, because each credit card is scanned to each individual.
- Make sure to pick up an Oyster card at the train station or at a convenience store. The Uber drivers are very friendly too.
- Best way to tour a city is walking. Taking the train is convenient but you won’t see photo ops or get in your 15,000 steps a day.
- Have you heard of Dynamic Currency Conversion/DCC? It’s a new way for you to spend more money than you need to spend. Here’s how it works: Merchants ask if you would like to see your credit charges in dollars, and if you would, you’ll pay for that convenience. Acclaimed travel writer Rick Steves explains it very well. Unfortunately, I found out about this after I returned. The article is quite useful; please read it.
Before my London trip, I mapped out what I wanted to see. I always love to highlight hidden gems that have not saturated Instagram. Check out my social media pages for more goodies.
The weather was just perfect in London during my two-week visit, and I found beautiful blooms decorating pubs and shops on every corner. My first London visit was in 2012. I’ve wanted to extend my stay in beautiful London for a long time.
Lastly, what a pleasure to travel on the new A350 with @Britishairways! If you would like to learn more about that incredible experience, read here.
Stay tuned for where to stay and more dining in London in my next article.