Friday, July 15, 2011

a queen's walled garden

after a high speed ferry ride and then a jump over a small, puddle-like inlet of water on the unique chain ferry (if you don't take this little car ferry, which is actually, incredibly, pulled back and forth across the water by chains, you have to drive way around a river to get to east cowes on the other side), i ended up on the isle of wight with four hours to myself. i decided to visit osborne, which was once the private seaside retreat of queen victoria and prince albert.

i enjoyed strolling around the villa (until i ran into a large tour group), and the italianate terraces and lawns, but the real attraction for me was the walled garden.

i thought of the secret garden, one of my favorite childhood stories, when i stepped through a side door in the brick wall which surrounds the magical garden and came upon a welcoming, flower-filled retreat. it was peaceful and uncrowded (only a handful of people), unlike the queen's house, where i encountered too many people, and most annoyingly, a very large group of noisy german tourists.

inside the house two women in the tour group insisted on going in the wrong direction to view osborne, in the process running into people going in the right direction, which was supposed to be an orderly, circular, self-guided procession through the rooms. the guard politely and patiently—i was impressed—turned them around and told them not to go back the way they started, but to proceed on their tour the correct way.

sometimes i hate being a tourist.

the women argued loudly with the guard—they in heated german, he, coolly, in english, all rather comical—about this point for a moment, then shrugged and seemed to comply with his wishes. they were in front of me for a while as we flowed along, a current of bodies surging through rooms, but then, thankfully, the women disappeared into the crowd.

sometimes employees at tourist attractions must hate being employees at tourist attractions.

my elbow-to-elbow walk with other tourists around osborne house was interrupted a second time by the german tour group leader herself, an attractive woman in her early 40's with a loud professorial voice. i understand some german and this woman was obviously knowledgeable, but did she have to have such a booming, loudspeaker set of vocal chords? perhaps some of the german tourists had hearing problems.....

i had to pull away and separate myself from the noisy masses at this point. luckily, i was nearly finished looking at the rooms open to the public anyway, so i could make a dash for the door and get outside on the terraces and lawn, where i finally had space and could breathe properly again. i ended the day in the walled garden, content and thankful to be in the secret company of flowers.

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