Join green thumbs from around the world on this AAA Sojourns EXCLUSIVE trip to London's world-famous, garden-design expo.
Delight in the intoxicating colors and fragrances of the world’s finest flower collections and be inspired by the ingenuity of the many displays. After a full day at the show, the garden theme continues on an excursion to the Oxford University Botanic Garden and tours of the renowned gardens of Blenheim Palace and Eltham Palace.
• Visit iconic London destinations in an intimate small-group setting.
• Admire exquisite designer gardens and floral displays at the Chelsea Flower Show.
• Explore the hedge maze at Blenheim Palace and Henry VIII’s gardens at Eltham Palace.
Get the royal treatment during a celebratory week in London. Attend the renowned Chelsea Flower Show, a much-awaited highlight of London’s cultural calendar that attracts dignitaries each May. Arguably the world’s most beloved horticultural event, this annual show is held by the 200-year-old Royal Horticultural Society and dates back to 1852. Held over five days, it brings together gardeners, growers, designers, and flower-lovers from around the world. Delight in the intoxicating colors and fragrances of the world’s finest flower collections, view the designer gardens, and sip afternoon tea at the delightful Botanist Restaurant located right on the show’s square.
Although attendance to the Chelsea Flower Show is the premier highlight of your vacation, also experience the exquisite gardens and lush estates of the English countryside. At Oxford University’s Botanic Garden, amble through the oldest botanic garden in Britain and the most diverse plant collection in the world. Try finding your way out of the hedge maze in the gardens of Blenheim Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage site and residence to the dukes of Marlborough and the Churchill family, including the late Winston Churchill. And stroll through the 19-acre gardens of Eltham Palace, former home to King Henry VIII and today an Art Deco masterpiece, to experience the vast parklands and medieval gardens that once delighted His Majesty.
Other highlights include a small-group sightseeing tour of London's iconic sights, from Westminster Abbey and Trafalgar Square to the West End. Visit Buckingham Palace, the official London residence and principal workplace of the English monarch, and learn about royal etiquette and tradition on an in-depth tour of The Royal Mews, where transportation for the Royal Family has been handled for centuries. You'll have a chance to view the state carriages, the horse stable, riding school and the state motor cars. Round out your vacation with two full days to explore London on your own, renowned throughout the world for its shops, museums, parks and cosmopolitan life. Your tour includes a 7-day Underground & Bus Travel Pass to explore the city sights at your own pace.
• 7 nights at the 4-star Thistle Marble Arch Hotel
• Meals - Welcome Reception, daily breakfast, 2 lunches, 1 cream tea and 1 dinner
• On-tour motor coach transportation and round-trip airport transfers
• A professional tour director plus all attraction entry fees as per itinerary
• Sights - Comprehensive London sightseeing tour including Buckingham Palace
• A full day at the world-renowned Chelsea Flower Show
• Half-day excursion to the Oxford University Botanic Garden
• Tour the UNESCO World Heritage site of Blenheim Palace Gardens
• In-depth tour of Eltham Palace & Gardens
• Explore - A one-week zoned Underground & Bus Travel Pass for independent travel throughout London
Note: Additional nights can be requested for London. Tickets for a London show or Shakespeare performance in Stratford-Upon-Avon can also be arranged at an additional charge. For those who want to extend their trip, AAA Sojourns European City Stay packages can be requested for other major cities in Europe such as Paris. Inquire at time of booking.
Day 1 – Arrive London & Welcome Reception
Arrive in London mid-morning. You are met at Heathrow Airport and transferred by private motor coach to your 4-star centrally-located London hotel. Upon arrival and check-in, you will be given a one-week zoned Underground & Bus Travel Pass to visit the attractions, museums, theatres and shops of London at your own pace. The afternoon is free for independent activities. A Welcome Reception will be hosted at the hotel in the late afternoon. Dinner and the remainder of the evening are at leisure.
Accommodation: The Thistle Marble Arch Hotel, 4-star – 7 nights
Day 2 - London Sightseeing & Buckingham Palace
Following breakfast at the hotel, depart for a full-day of sightseeing (including lunch) by private motor coach accompanied by a local licensed Blue Badge Guide. See the essential highlights of the city: the West End and Theatre district, Trafalgar Square, Whitehall, London Eye, Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, The Mall and St James Park before arriving at Covent Garden for a three-course meal at the renowned Porters English Restaurant.
Following lunch, see Buckingham Palace and enjoy an in-depth visit to The Royal Mews, an important branch of the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. The Royal Mews provides road transport for the Queen and members of the Royal Family by both horse-drawn carriage and motor car. Late afternoon return to the hotel; dinner and the remainder of the evening are at your leisure.
Day 3 – Attend the Chelsea Flower Show
After breakfast, transfer by private motor coach to the Royal Hospital in Chelsea, home to the world’s most famous Flower Show. Run by the Royal Horticultural Society for five days each May, it is officially called the "Great Spring Show" and is attended by people from all walks of life, making it a very special part of London’s social season. The most popular parts of the Chelsea Flower Show include the show gardens designed by leading names and the centerpiece of the floral marquee. Today you will have the whole day to take in the sights, gather information and perhaps make a few purchases too at this, the world’s most exciting flower show.
You might also like to wander down to Sloane Square and see their "Sloane in Bloom" - Chelsea’s alternative floral art show organized in support of the main show. Grab a bite to eat or have afternoon tea - one of the best in town! - at the delightful Botanist Restaurant located right on the square. You may depart the Chelsea Flower Show when ready in the afternoon, or stay as long as you like, as tickets are valid until 8pm. You can shop or dine in the Sloane Square area and then use the Travel Pass to return to the hotel.
Day 4 – Free Day in London
After breakfast, enjoy a free day for independent activities and further sightseeing in and around London. Be sure to ask your guide for some ideas on what to do and where to go. Lunch, dinner and the remainder of the day and evening are at your leisure.
Day 5 – Oxford & Blenheim Palace
Following breakfast, head out of London in a north-westerly direction this morning as you drive to the "City of Spires," Oxford. On arrival visit the Oxford University Botanic Garden, the oldest botanic garden in Britain located right in the city center. Many amateur and professional gardeners come here to seek inspiration. The Botanic Garden is a national reference collection of 7,000 different types of plant, making it the most compact yet diverse collection of plants in the world. Plants are grown to support the University’s teaching programs, for research scientists both in Oxford and elsewhere, and as part of various plant conservation projects. The garden consists of three sections: the glasshouses contain plants that need protection from the extremes of the British weather; the area outside the walled garden contains classic garden features such as a Water Garden and Rock Garden; and the area within the walled garden has plants grouped in a number of different ways such as by country of origin, botanic family or economic use.
Continue your tour to Blenheim Palace where you will enjoy a three-course lunch followed by a visit to the magnificent gardens, winners of the 2008 "Garden of the Year" Award sponsored by the Historic Houses Association and Christie’s. At Blenheim Palace the overriding legacy is Capability Brown’s, and it is this setting which helped Blenheim Palace to gain its World Heritage Site status. The landscape setting he devised in the 1760s provided a sublime form of beauty and harmony that every generation of the Marlborough family has endeavored to preserve. Glorious views were created both to and from the house, the finest of which is the majestic panorama observed on entering the Park through Hawksmoor’s Triumphal Arch at Woodstock - the shimmering expanse of the lake, the Grand Bridge, and the dense canopy of trees on the rising ground beyond.
The Formal Gardens owe much to the 9th Duke of Marlborough who, in the 1920s, with the help of the French landscape architect Achille Duchêne, redesigned the gardens to provide the palace with the formal majestic setting that you will see today. You will have a Historical Garden Walk with a palace guide followed by free time at your leisure to discover more of the gardens at your own pace. Encompassed in the Formal Gardens are the Water Terraces which were built between 1925 and 1930 and might remind you of the Parterre d’Eau at Versailles albeit on a much smaller scale. There is also a scale model by Bernini of his famous fountain in the Piazza Navona in Rome, and an Arboretum and a Temple to Diana, which Sir Winston Churchill proposed to Miss Clementine Hozier in 1908.
You may also explore the Italian Garden, the Duke’s private garden, and The Secret Garden, a secluded area where winding paths lead over bridges to tranquil water, ponds and streams. There is also The Rose Garden, The Pleasure Gardens and The Marlborough Maze, the world’s second largest symbolic hedge maze, designed to reflect the history and architecture of the Palace. At the end of your time in the Blenheim Palace Gardens, re-join your guide and private motor coach for the journey back to London. Dinner and the remainder of the evening are at your leisure.
Day 6 – Eltham Palace & Gardens
Following breakfast, depart for a guided visit of Eltham Palace & Gardens, once a favorite home of Henry VIII amongst many other English monarchs. Eltham Palace is one of the few important medieval royal palaces in England to survive with substantial remains intact, and was initially a moated manor house with vast parkland. In 1305 the palace was given to the future Edward II by the Bishop of Durham and has born witness to the history and turmoil of many centuries as you will learn from your guide today.
The current house was built by Stephen and Virginia Coutauld in the 1930s on the original site and includes the Great Hall with the addition of a Minstrel’s Gallery. Today Eltham Palace, with its interiors renovated by the Courtaulds, is recognized as one of Britain’s greatest examples of the Art Deco style of design. Enjoy an included hour-long tour of Eltham’s magnificent gardens led by the Palace’s Head-Gardener. In total there are 19 acres which feature both 20th century and medieval elements and today you will have time to enjoy these beautiful surroundings. Enjoy an included mid-morning cream tea served at the palace tea room before departing from Eltham Palace and returning to your hotel. Lunch, dinner and the remainder of the day and evening are at your leisure.
Day 7 – Free Day
After breakfast at the hotel, your day is free for independent activities, further sightseeing and/or some last minute shopping. At 6pm, you will meet the tour host in the lobby of the hotel for depature by private motor coach to a local restaurant for a delightful Farewell Dinner with wine. Note: Monday is a Bank Holiday – all venues will be open; stores will also open but with holiday hours – usually 10am to 4pm.
Day 8 – Depart London for home
Breakfast is included in the hotel or, depending on the time of your departure, packed breakfast boxes. Group motor coach transfers to the airport for your flight home are included.
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