Sitting in an English Garden: Kew 2011

Kew Gardens is known all over the world for housing exotic plants and conducting important botanical research. In operation since 1840 and a popular modern-day tourist attraction, Kew is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which attests to its significance. I visited Kew in May of 2011, on what turned out to be a pleasant (if not sunny) day. Even if one is not especially interested in botany or gardens, Kew has beautiful, tranquil grounds, and features that may well surprise and delight even the most skeptical visitor!

Kew Entrance

The entrance to the gardens- fairly uninspiring compared to the gardens beyond

Kew Greenhouse

The Victorian greenhouses were ornate and quite breathtaking!

Kew Entrance Tower

The unusual tower at the entrance

Kew Richmond Greyhound

Statue of one of the Queen’s Beasts- the White Greyhound of Richmond

I love tropical and exotic-looking plants- I’ve always wanted to have a hibiscus in my yard, despite the -20 ° C winters we get here- and so Kew was a lovely experience for me. The delicate, birdcage-esque greenhouses at Kew house loads of warm weather flora; and countless specimens much more fascinating than the usual palm tree.

Kew Palm

Of course, Kew does have palm trees!

Kew Hibiscus

Many photographs were taken of this gorgeous hibiscus bloom

Kew Mantis Sculpture

A giant praying mantis statue lurking among the trees

Kew Flower

A very unusual plant

Kew Tree

A bizarre maze of twisted roots or branches, or both

The ground floor of the first greenhouse I toured was exceptionally beautiful and packed with plants, and an even better view of it was provided by a platform near the roof of the greenhouse. This was accessed by an intricate spiral staircase, which gave a grand and fanciful air to the environment.

Kew Staircase

The striking spiral staircase, enveloped in foliage

Kew Greenhouse Roof

In true showy Victorian fashion, even the struts of the roof are decorated

Kew Greenhouse Roof

Although slightly rusty, the greenhouses are in great condition

There are several such greenhouses at Kew, all of different sizes but each sharing the same delicate appearance and exotic contents. But as its name suggests, Kew also has vast outdoor gardens; some are formal and some are more homely.

Kew Greenhouse Exterior

The greenhouses look so classical and airy

Kew Columns

History and classic influences are evident throughout the gardens- making them a very restful place

Kew Greenhouses

Some of the greenhouses are enormous complexes!

Kew Palm Greenhouse

This photo makes me imagine somewhere like Jamaica or India, not rainy London town! 

Kew’s Oriental-style pagoda is one of the best-known features of the gardens, and for good reason! It’s an impressive ten-storey structure, built in 1762 at the height of England’s obsession with Chinoiserie. The pagoda is something of a startling sight when one is used to seeing Gothic spires and futuristic skyscrapers rising from the London skyline.

Kew Pagoda

Visitors can climb the pagoda, but on my visit it was shut

The uniqueness of Kew only grew for me- I soon came to a treetop walkway! Fortunately, I’m not bothered by heights, so I was able to really enjoy the treetop walk. It afforded great views of the gardens, and- even better- it was almost directly below a Heathrow Airport flightpath!

Kew Treetop Walk

The lofty view from the treetop walk

Plane at Kew

A British Airways jet

Kew Treetop View

We were truly at the top of the trees

Kew Greenhouse View

The views were truly breathtaking

Kew Parrot

A feral parakeet, one of many thousands that live in the area around Kew

Kew is a lovely place, and the fascinating things I saw there honestly surprised me. The gardens are captivating and tranquil, and the greenhouses were full of amazing flowers and plants. Kew might not be a priority on every London tourist’s list, but it does provide a wonderful change of pace from the insanity of central London!



Wartime Wonder

One of the greatest historical triumphs of the British people was their perseverance through the trials of World War II. For example, Londoners continued to go about their daily lives throughout the disruptive Blitz. People learned to make the best of things and to “keep calm and carry on” in the face of terrifying situations and against frightening odds. I think that the omnipresent threat of death during WWII made people appreciate life even more, which was great if not easy to do. The following Polyvore set was designed for a 1940s dance- since free time and leave for soldiers was infrequent, young people had to enjoy whatever happy times they had.Wartime Wonder
Wartime Wonder by adairjacobs on Polyvore
The green dress is perfectly ’40s, and would be sure to turn heads. Understated yet beautiful jewellery is in keeping with the era, and red lipstick and nail polish are necessary components of any wartime look. A vintage black handbag adds style and practicality, and shoes adorned with cutout details and bows are charming and wonderful for dancing! An ensemble like this truly embodies the stoic spirit of wartime Britain; and reminds me that even in times of trouble there are things to enjoy and be grateful for.

A Travelling Military Aficionado’s Dream: Part Three

Former Soviet military equipment can’t be found just anywhere in North America, although I wish the opposite were true! Fortunately, I found myself at Battleship Cove in Massachusetts over the summer of 2012, and there I toured the former Soviet missile corvette Hiddensee. What an amazing experience that was- I was beyond excited and felt so fortunate.

The Hiddensee was laid down in 1984 in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and was used by East Germany until German reunification in 1990. After serving with the German Navy, she was transferred to the US who used her for several years before eventually decommissioning her and turning her into a museum ship at Battleship Cove. A Tarantul-class vessel, the Hiddensee is a missile corvette fitted with P-15 Termit anti-ship missiles, and gas turbine engines that propel her to 42 knots (48 miles per hour to land-lubbers).

Hiddensee Port

The port side of the Hiddensee

Hiddensee Starboard

The Hiddensee’s starboard side

It was fascinating to examine the anti-ship launchers on board the Hiddensee. She is equipped with four; there is one dual launcher on each side of the deck. Visitors get to walk right past these towering launchers, and can examine a loaded missile at close quarters. This was fantastic! P-15 missiles are pretty massive, and it was so interesting to see one and its entire launcher system up close.

Hiddensee P-15 Rear

The rear of the starboard launcher, with a missile inside

Hiddensee P-15 Missile

The inside of the launcher was so cavernous that I could have crawled inside!

Hiddensee Missile Rear

The fins of the missile, which stabilize its flight- a flight that can cover as much as 50 miles

Hiddensee P-15 Control

The lights on this panel beside the launcher are labelled (from left to right) “LOADING”, “STOP”, and “UNLOADING”. Presumably, each would be illuminated at the appropriate time

Hiddensee P-15 Rail

The rail off which the missile is launched

Hiddensee P-15 Above

The starboard launcher seen from atop the superstructure

Despite the impressive propensity for destruction of the four P-15 launchers, they are not the Hiddensee’s only armament. Towards the bow of the vessel, one finds its main gun; an AK-176. This very capable 76 mm gun was capped with an ornamental Soviet star- a touch which I appreciated!

Hiddensee AK-176

The Hiddensee’s main gun, which can shoot down missiles and attain a rate of fire of 120 rounds per minute

The stern of the Hiddensee was also well-defended, with several launchers of various types. I was thrilled to see that one of them appeared to be a Strela launcher, something I knew from Call of Duty: Black Ops. 

AK-630 Hiddensee

An AK-630 Gatling-type turret menacingly faces the USS Massachusetts

Hiddensee Stern Strela

Mounted Strela launchers protect the stern of the Hiddensee

Hiddensee Strela

These launchers fire 22-pound surface-to-air missiles

Hiddensee PK-16

PK-16 chaff launcher; this weapon launches countermeasures against incoming missiles or radar

Below deck, the Hiddensee only got more captivating! Everything was very well-preserved and most parts of the vessel were accessible to visitors.

Hiddensee Stairs Below

The stairs leading below

Hiddensee Plaque

A plaque featuring information on the Hiddensee’s heritage

Hiddensee Quarters

I believe this was the officers’ mess. I was intrigued by the various flags in this room

Hiddensee Control Room

Part of a control room below deck

Hiddensee Control 2

This room was cramped, utilitarian, and filled with hundreds of dials, gauges, and switches

The bridge was also open to visitors, and it was very spartan indeed! Apart from a few controls and fittings, it was empty. Visibility from the small square windows was also quite poor, and I would feel very remote and caged up if I were captain of this corvette.

Hiddensee Bridge Windows

The dark, vacant interior of the bridge

My favourite thing about the Hiddensee was something that I really did not expect to see. Since she was built in Leningrad as a Soviet vessel, all her controls and fittings were labelled in Russian! As soon as I went below and realized that, I was elated and took what must have been to my family an annoyingly long time browsing and photographing everything. But I couldn’t help it! I began studying the Russian language on my own initiative and direction in 2008, and so I was thrilled to see Russian (that only I could read and understand!) on the Hiddensee. It felt a bit like an inside joke, and it made touring this vessel extra special for me.

Hiddensee Signal Board

A signal board was one of the first things I saw that had Russian on it. It seemed strange that, although English labels had been added, no one had bothered to remove the Russian ones

Hiddensee Bilingual

Almost everything was either bilingually labelled…

Hiddensee Trilingual

…or in some cases, trilingually (though with an error in the Russian part)!

Hiddensee Bridge Controls

Engine controls in the bridge

Hiddensee Engine Dials

Dials for engine temperature

Hiddensee Made in CCCP

One of my favourite touches in the whole vessel- the leftmost Cyrillic says “Made in USSR”

Hiddensee Dials Below

Part of the rocket control panel- so complex!

Hiddensee Cyrillic Below

This notice on the wall below deck was neat; it outlined three types of signals and their respective meanings. A ‘drumming’ of strokes denotes a fire in the compartment; a series of two strokes means the compartment is flooding; and a series of three strokes means all must leave the compartment.

I seem to have made this post excessively long, but I really just can’t contain my excitement when it comes to Soviet military stuff! I couldn’t when I was touring the Hiddensee, and I can’t any better now. I’ll finish with a few final pictures of this fascinating missile corvette, and with a heartfelt recommendation: go and visit Battleship Cove and the Hiddensee! She may be the smallest museum vessel there, but she is the most unique and interesting. Touring her was one of the most noteworthy experiences I’ve had, and I will without a doubt remember it forever.

Hiddensee Bridge Exterior

The angular and modestly-proportioned bridge

Hiddensee Bow

The Hiddensee may now fly an American flag, but her soul is still visibly Soviet!

Hiddensee Bow from Starboard

The starboard side of the bow

Hiddensee Starboard Launcher

Compact, heavily-armed, and a relic of Russia’s Soviet era, the Hiddensee is beautiful and truly enthralling!



A Forties Farewell

Rail travel featured heavily in the lives of people in 1940s Britain. Cars were rare compared to today, so many journeys were made on trains. Thus, train stations all over Britain became hubs where soldiers and civilians alike began or ended their travels- just imagine how many photographs and films exist which depict London children and new army recruits piling onto a train. It was at a train station, on the steam-covered platform, that children said goodbye to their parents; young men bid final farewells to their families and sweethearts; and people weary with the memory of the First World War embarked in search of new work for a new war. Train stations of the ’40s must have seen both great joy and great sadness, and they hold an intriguing allure for me. The following Polyvore set was designed with typical ’40s sensibility for a rail journey, and it possesses nostalgia and sobriety well suited to the occasion. A Forties Farewell
A silk top with a black collar is elegant and functional when paired with a long pleated skirt and peep-toe heels. The simple, raspberry-coloured hat adds a level of sophistication plus a beautiful contrast with the deep blue of the skirt, and pearl and floral jewellery adds femininity and individuality to the ensemble. Dark red nail polish finishes the look, and what travelling outfit would be complete without a vintage-look suitcase?

A Gorgeous Garden Party

Sadly, the summer of 2014 is almost over. Although if you live in Ontario, it hardly feels like there’s been a summer at all- since April, it’s either felt like a sodden spring or late October, with the smell of cold in the air. Not to complain, though; yesterday was lovely weather for a garden party, and sitting outside eating cucumber sandwiches and crisps from chintzy china immediately took me back to England.

The ingredients for a good garden party are simple, although not all controllable. First, one needs a pleasant day without rain- nobody wants to be sinking their heels into muddy ground, or sipping Earl Grey mixed with rainwater!


Fortunately for me, yesterday’s party was blessed with a sunshine, blue sky, and a cool breeze which made the garden lovely to be in

Activities are also necessary; as they put the guests at ease and give them something to do while the food is prepared or while everyone is feeling lazy and full after the meal. Croquet is a quintessential garden game, but I also like games such as Trivial Pursuit or Chinese Checkers.

The atmosphere of a garden party should be green and relaxed- my mother keeps a beautiful garden, so I have the ideal setting for garden parties at home. I set up our table beneath a sort of gazebo on our deck, and planned to put up some bunting for extra charm, but the bunting went missing so the nearby flowers had to suffice for decoration!

Garden Party Garden

We sat in the midst of the garden, surrounded by flowers and vines

Garden Party Vase

The garden was continued on the table, too, with a bountiful vase of flowers

I love both interior design and entertaining, so setting tables is one of my favourite things to do. And garden parties offer a fabulous opportunity to use vintage dishes, which appeals greatly to my traditionalism and nostalgia!

Garden Party Teacup

Lacy linens, floral serviettes, and vintage china create a beautiful, welcoming feel

I don’t think one can hold an English-themed party and not serve tea- it simply isn’t done! But in addition to tea, I had the English drink of summer: Pimm’s English-style. This classic is just Pimm’s No. 1 Cup mixed with lemonade; simple and delicious.

Pimm's Garden Party

A bottle of Pimm’s, a staple of English summers for years

Despite the pleasant weather, charming table settings, and nostalgic drinks, the highlight of this garden party was the food. My dad helped me make sandwiches (we had cucumber, ham & mustard, and ham & cheddar), and we also had sausage rolls and assorted crisps. Everyone was well-fed and happy!

Garden Party Spread

What a lovely feast!

I didn’t neglect dessert, however- we had trifle, which my mum has made for many a birthday over the past twenty years. It is absolutely stunning in taste and appearance, and was the perfect ending to the party.

Trifle Bowl Garden Party

Jelly rolls, cream, and berries make such a delectable dessert!

Trifle Garden Party

Tea, trifle, and Pimm’s. A truly terrific trio

A garden party need not take hours of planning, and it doesn’t need a complex three-course menu or loads of supervision. The charm of this little event is its simplicity, and it’s best when it celebrates the joys of summer without too much of a fuss.



Royal Air Force Museum London

It’s been a long time since I was at the RAF Museum at Hendon- five years, to be exact. But I enjoyed it so much that I remember it well, and am quite eager to go back! In the summer of 2009, I was not yet ineluctably obsessed with World War II and military things, although I did have a long-standing love for aviation. It was at the Royal Air Force Museum London that I began to have a better appreciation for the air force and its aircraft, and I remember paying great attention to my dad and brother as they pointed out various aircraft and talked of their significance. Now, I’m proud to say, I can recognize modern and historical aircraft (almost) as well as my brother can, and museums like the one at Hendon are always on my list of must-see attractions when travelling!

The RAF Museum London is not exactly central, but it’s not too inconvenient to reach. One only has to take the Northern Tube line to Colindale, and then it’s just a short walk to the museum. Museum admission is free, which is fantastic, but nevertheless I would happily pay to visit it!

Hendon Exterior

A replica Hurricane and Spitfire greet visitors to the museum

Hendon Interior

One of the museum’s packed halls; a P-51 Mustang and Mitsubishi Zero are visible

The RAF Museum has an impressive array of aircraft from many different eras, and it possesses several incredibly rare specimens- like a Vickers Wellington, Eurofighter Typhoon prototype, and Hawker Typhoon. Although the displays are simple and close together, it allows one to really examine the aircraft without many distractions!

Eurofighter Typhoon Hendon

Fantastic view of the Eurofighter prototype

Sopwith Camel Hendon

Aircraft on display range from a positively ancient Sopwith Camel…

Gloster Meteor Hendon

…to a Gloster Meteor, Britain’s first jet fighter

There are plenty of WWII aircraft on display- at the time, most of what I knew regarding historical aviation was to do with WWII, so these planes were not lost on me.

Mosquito Hendon

The de Havilland Mosquito, first flown in 1940

Fw-190 Hendon

A staple of the Luftwaffe, the Fw-190

Rolls-Royce Merlin Hendon

The utilitarian beauty of a Rolls Royce Merlin engine

Spitfire Hendon

Much of the Spitfire’s prowess was thanks to the power of its Merlin engine

One of the highlights of the museum was its resident Harrier jump jet. I doubt I need to explain the amazing nature of the Harrier- it is absolutely remarkable that, over forty years ago, a standard fixed-wing airplane was made capable of hovering and vertical flight. I’ve never seen a Harrier in the air, but I imagine that it demonstrating its VTOL capabilities must be a distinctly unnatural sight.

Harrier Hendon

What a fantastic plane- this one is a Harrier GR.3

When it comes to airplanes, cars, and military equipment, I develop a sudden and unexplainable interest in their technical and mechanical intricacies. (I often find myself, while researching for my blog, becoming distracted by online explanations of things like ramjets and ground-effect vehicles; only to remember hours later what I was supposed to be doing.) At Hendon, I was quite interested by the Harrier’s thrust-vectoring nozzles- and since then, believe me, I have read a great deal about them!

Harrier Underside Hendon


Two of the thrust-vectoring nozzles which allow the Harrier to attain vertical flight

Harrier Nozzles Hendon

These nozzles essentially funnel the thrust of the engine downwards, to propel the aircraft upwards

In short, the Royal Air Force Museum London is a great attraction for aviation buffs and tourists alike. It wasn’t too busy when I was there, and has plenty of fascinating displays. I also remember there being a great flight simulator- I took a flight with the legendary Red Arrows on my visit! I can’t wait to return there, and revisit all this museum has to offer.






There are many things I dream of on a daily basis, and most of them involve Britain in some way. When I’m hungry, I dream of British food like fish and chips or Victoria sponge; when I’m bored, I dream of the bustle of London streets or the enveloping tranquility of the English countryside. When I’m restless, I often dream of driving a Rolls-Royce or vintage Jaguar along winding country lanes; and this image was the inspiration for my latest Polyvore creation.Touring
Touring by adairjacobs on Polyvore
History has such an allure for me, through its fashion, ideals, and traditions. In this Polyvore set, I created an outfit that would perfectly complement the style and exclusivity of a vintage motor like a Rolls-Royce; but that also contains practical elements that will stand up to the wind and chill one encounters on a spirited drive. Rich green is an enlivening companion to the demure black of the dress and Burberry sandals- and as it is a hue akin to British racing green, it is quite appropriate for a ride in an historic British automobile. Gold jewellery adds interest, while red nail polish and a mink fur jacket solidify the vintage feel of this look. Although they may only be dreams for now, I adore the class and historical appeal of this ensemble and the pursuit for which it was designed.