Spring is a little late this year, but what better way to shake off the winter blues than by planning an exclusive tour of iconic English gardens when they’re in full bloom? From May 17 to 25, Arrangements Abroad will take a small group of lucky travelers to London and the Cotswolds for privileged visits to the world-famous Chelsea Flower Show and the gardens of western England. Here are nine reasons you should join:
1) English roses.
Roses have been a symbol of England for centuries (ever hear of the War of the Roses?), and no English garden is complete without them. A special highlight of this trip is the chance to attend the Chelsea Flower Show in London on Members’ Day, when hundreds of roses will be in fragrant bloom.
2) Your own personal gardener-guide.
Bill LeFevre, the study leader for this program, is the director of the Sarah P. Duke Gardens, a 55-acre oasis on the campus of Duke University in North Carolina. Who better to lead you “down the primrose path” through the flowering British countryside?
3) Tea and champagne at Prince Charles’ country home.
Visit several Cotswold mansions with exquisite gardens—most notably Highgrove House, the home of HRH the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall. One of the Prince’s royal gardeners will lead you on an exclusive tour of Highgrove’s organic gardens, after which you’ll be served afternoon tea and a glass of Highgrove champagne.
4) Peter Rabbit.
At the Chelsea Flower Show, you can see a display evoking the Beatrix Potter story, complete with radish patch, watering can and Mr. McGregor’s greenhouse.
5) The Hobbit. J.R.R. Tolkien, Oxford professor and author of the fantasy classic, lived next door to the Mercure Oxford Eastgate, where he ate every day—and where you’ll stay during a two-day stay in the famed university town. Maybe it was a hotel meal that inspired him to write the story’s iconic first line, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.”
6) The (mostly) true story of Winston Churchill’s birth.
You’ll spend a morning visiting Blenheim Palace, where Churchill was born in 1874, allegedly unexpectedly after his mother went into labor two months early. Unless, as some sources whisper, that story was concocted to conceal the fact that Churchill’s mother was pregnant when she married his father—if that really was his father.
7) Downton Abbey: In London, stay at St. James’ Court, a Taj Hotel, where you can rent the famous white Rolls Royce that appears on Downton Abbey.
8) Say “No!” to gnomes.
Last year, the Chelsea Flower Show got a lot of flak for dropping the ban on garden gnomes, which have a long history in English gardens. But have no fear, kitsch-haters—this year, the ban is back!
9) Witchcraft. In London, explore the 17th-century Chelsea Physic Garden, with its important collection of medicinal plants. Many of these—henbane, mandrake, jimsonweed, opium poppy—are hallucinogenic, and were said to be used by witches to make “flying ointments” that supposedly enabled travel via broomstick. Click here to watch a video of the garden of medicinal plants taking shape.
Academic Arrangements Abroad, a leader in cultural travel since 1977, designs and operates travel programs for sponsoring institutions that include the nation’s top museums and alumni associations.
For more information on the English gardens trip, please contact Sara Kosyk, (212) 514-8921 or firstname.lastname@example.org