Follow a flowery trail of summer gardens across France, Belgium and Holland. We’ve chosen a wonderful selection of gardens, including the famous Flower Carpet in the Grand Place, the mediaeval heart of Brussels.
Meet up with your Ross Tour Leader at Sydney Airport for your flight to Paris.
A gentle stroll around the rose garden in Jardin Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne will be a relaxing start to the day, before we check in to Hotel Pont Royal. Our hotel is on the chic left bank in Saint-Germain-des-Près. It’s a boutique hotel just five minutes walk from the River Seine and the Louvre. We’ll enjoy a welcome dinner this evening to meet our fellow travellers.
We travel outside Paris this morning to discover Andre Le Notre’s first masterpiece at Chateau Vaux le Vicomte. Many of the principles he tried here at Vaux were later used to great acclaim at Versailles. The gardens sweep along a grand perspective, almost three kilometres long. After we return to Paris, you’ll have a free afternoon to shop, explore or relax.
Enjoy some free time this morning, before heading out in the afternoon to the beautiful potager of Vicomtesse de Curel, called Domaine de Saint-Jean de Beauregard. The garden surrounds a 17th century chateau, and while the produce is magnificent, there are also wide flower borders, a walled garden, grape house and a pretty dovecote.
The grandest of all gardens today – Versailles. We will try to absorb the enormity of this palace and its grand landscape from the palace terrace. Pleached and sheared hornbeams, chestnuts and linden trees make smooth walls of green, within which steps, statues and water features are placed with formal precision. It’s so enormous that we will take the small train to see the Grand and Petit Trianons, each with their own garden. We’ll make our way slowly back to the palace, discovering some enchanting bosquets (hidden gardens) as we go.
Monet’s Garden at Giverny is the highlight today. The garden was Monet’s inspiration and delight; he described it as his greatest work of art. He lived at Giverny with his family until his death in 1926. We’ll experience the serenity of the Water Garden with its famous wisteria-draped Japanese bridge and the excitement of the Flower Garden where roses grow over arches and flowers jostle for attention. Lunch is included today at Musee des Impressionism, which has its own impressive suite of colour-themed gardens.
Travel through to Rouen this afternoon and check in to our hotel for the next three nights, Hotel de Bourgtheroulde, which is in a 15th century building in the heart of the ancient capital of Normandy.
Two exciting flower gardens in Normandy today. Jardin Plume uses dynamic plant combinations and outstanding ornamental grasses. The trimmed hedges of various shapes work well with the architecture of the house and outbuildings. The gardens give a nod to the ‘rooms’ of Sissinghurst and to formal French garden design, and does it all with originality and flair.
Next stop is Jardin L’Agapanthe, a modern garden designed with an impressive collection of plant varieties. An atmosphere of intimacy is created by a labyrinth of narrow paths opening into clearings of imaginative ‘garden tableaux’.
We’ll have a free afternoon when we return to Rouen
The D-Day Museum at Arromanches overlooks the spot where, on June 6 1944, 4,126 Allied ships successfully landed on the beaches of Normandy. The remains of one of the Mulberry Harbours can still be seen today, just a few hundred metres from the shore. We’ll have a look and then see a reminder of another battle: the Bayeux Tapestry. This remarkable embroidery, 70 m long, was made in the 11th century and celebrates the conquest of England by William, Duke of Normandy.
We travel from Rouen to Brussels with a stop at Jardin de Sericourt. This large garden of ideas is made up of a series of linked garden ‘rooms’. Clipped box is a feature here with one particularly beautiful allee of cones, spirals and balls. In full flower at this time is the ‘Rose Cathedral’, an enticing tunnel of climbing roses. The parterre is filled with daylilies, asters and other perennials. We’ll enjoy a lunch, al fresco, beneath the fruiting grapes.
This afternoon we’ll make a visit to The Australian National War Memorial, Villers–Bretonneux, before we travel on to Brussels. Our Brussels hotel, Radisson Blu, is located minutes away from the Grand Place where the impressive Flower Carpet has been installed.
A remarkable garden today; Jardin Annevoie. This harmonious hybrid of French formality, English romanticism and Italian refinement is set in the picturesque Ardennes countryside.
A mediaeval journey today to two picturesque historic cities. First is Ghent with its fabulous textile merchant houses grouped around the harbour front. Stroll with Sandra through the city centre and down to the waterfront. Then travel on to Bruges where the economic prosperity of the 15th century attracted rich merchants who lived in majestic city palaces, filled with splendid works of art. You’re free to explore the city’s wonders before we return to Brussels.
An early start this morning to see the exquisite Flower Carpet, a work of art that occupies the entire Grand Place, the mediaeval square in the heart of Brussels. We will get a bird’s eye view from a balcony overlooking the square.
Jardin Fleuriste is next, a garden overlooking the city, which showcases the art of gardening. It’s designed as a set of terraces with ponds, amphitheatre, balcony and tower; you will learn much about design, technique and aspects of ornamental horticulture.
Our afternoon in Brussels is free to shop or explore, and this evening you might like to return to the Grand Place for a sound and light display as darkness falls.
We travel to Arnhem, where one of World War II’s fiercest battles was fought. We’ll take a guided walk that provides some beautiful glimpses into Arnhem’s rich past. Our hotel, Hotel Harhuis, is a short walk from the city centre.
You might not know the name, but you’ve definitely seen the influences. Mien Rhys is called the ‘Mother of Modernism’. She spent 70 years, between 1924 and 1999, creating 28 show gardens around her home. These gardens influenced several generations of designers and it’s fascinating to see the development of her ideas in the different gardens. We’ll have lunch in the lovely café in the garden and then this afternoon contrast Rhys’ informality with the Baroque magnificence of Het Loo Palace. The former royal residence has been open to the public since in 1984 after undergoing substantial restoration. The sumptuously furnished interiors give an impression of how the Dutch royal family lived here for three centuries and the reconstructed gardens breathe the atmosphere of their 17th century origins with fountains and box-lined parterres.
We visit the private garden of Piet Oudolf today, who is the most influential garden designer of the century so far. His remaking of the conventional colour-themed border puts an emphasis on form, texture, light and movement as well as colour. This garden will change the way you think about garden design.
On our way to Amsterdam we’ll stop for lunch and garden inspiration at Appeltern Gardens. This collection of model gardens is a visual feast demonstrates great ideas about garden design, products, plants and pruning techniques. Our hotel in Amsterdam is the luxurious 5-star Grand Hotel Amrath. The Amrath is quite an exceptional hotel, shaped like a harboured ship and is built on the exact spot that Dutch ships set off for East India. The building includes more than 200 types of brick and there are exquisite marble and granite decorations. Don’t miss the stained glass roof, which depicts a globe of the world.
We’re up early this morning to get to Aalsmeer Flower Market in time to catch the action of the auction! From an elevated walkway we can watch the world’s biggest flower market at work as flowers are sold and shipped around the world. After a coffee break in the city, we will relax on a canal cruise to see the city from the water, which is the best way to discover Amsterdam. Our afternoon is free.
This morning visit Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam to see the well-preserved collection of historic windmills and shops. Then enjoy one last afternoon exploring the city, galleries, museums, or catching up with last-minute shopping before our farewell dinner this evening.
Depart hotel for Schipol Airport for your homeward flight.
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