My English Adventure
James and I have had an amazing summer so far!
I’d like to start things off with big news: We (Amanda James Gallery) have been invited by Saks Fifth Ave in Palm Beach Gardens to do an installation in the windows. We will keep you posted on the unveiling! I have been working on the concept and let’s just say it's going to be outrageous!
As for my journey abroad, England was a blast and I was actually sad to come back. I could have stayed in those beautiful gardens and green pastures all summer painting. Our travel group consisted of John Hunt, Pauline Owens (Architect and Interior designers from U.K), James Knill (painter, photographer, and my husband) and me. We spent many months researching and collecting the places we all wanted to see. Our tour consisted of Grande Gardens, museums, galleries, sought after retail boutiques and the best of England fair. We started our tour At The Royal Shakespeare Company with Vice Versa, a play that knocked our compression socks off followed by a behind the scenes tour of set dressing.
The next day our driving tour started at Stonehenge and I was blown away at the scale of the stucture. I thought that the whole experience was well worth the pilgrimage. My favorite part other than the stones was the fellowship between the people from all over the world coming together taking pictures, laughing, and enjoying the lush green landscape and history of the circle. The atmosphere was joyful and the air tingled with a special energy. The tall stones reminded me of Mark Rothko's "Seagram" murals which we went to visit later on our tour at the Tate in London.
Next up was Gravetye Manor, the spot I was most excited to visit. We drove and drove along narrow country roads until we reached a clearing. Outside the handsome stone manor house a tall gentleman in tails invited us into the library for before-lunch cocktails. I enjoyed a ginger soda garnished with fresh herbs from the garden, YUM. We dined on the most delicious preparations and were waited on by the most attentive wait staff I have ever encountered. After our meal we all rolled out into the gardens to enjoy coffees and recover from our decadent meal. The garden was the perfect mix of controlled and chaotic. I have never seen white wisteria so to see it in abundance and cascading off just about everything was remarkable. I literally felt like I was in a scene from the "Secret Garden" and could have stayed there for a lifetime. Of the places I’ve been, it was hands down one of my favorite.
We continued into Royal Tunbridge Wells where we lodged for a few nights. We had need for a pharmacy one evening and our concierge sent us out on an adventure. We walked through massive spooky dark woods into the beautiful old town where we found a wonderful Mediterranean restaurant that we came back to the following night to enjoy with our group. The next few days we enjoyed more fabulous gardens. Sissinghurst was giant, beautiful and represented a very formal style. On a minor note, I thought it strange that all the sheep were spray painted with a dark blue color. Every garden had its own special gift shop and unique cafe where we drank and feasted on coffees, sandwiches and ice cream (quite possibly the best ice cream I have ever eaten!!) Of course, it was all local and fresh. It’s a good thing we walked 15 miles a day because we all would have picked up some unwanted souvenirs had we not burned off those calories!
Next was The Great Dixter, the second place I was looking forward to most, where serious gardeners come to gain wisdom. I really enjoyed seeing how they fashioned it; the style was abundant and wild. The composting and inter working of the garden was open and available for everyone to see and learn from. I have come to understand that gardening is a lot like painting. The process is just as important as the product and there are life lessons with every growth, death and season.
We departed from our tour guests in Hastings, the English version of Ocean City or the Jersey Shore. Knowing Paris was so close was very tempting, but we had bigger chips to fry in London. We loved seeing the country side via the train. I must admit the contrast between the ease of English country and London city was a bit jarring and took us all for a bit of a shock. London is NYC times 10, people headed in every direction all in a rush. We needed a map ASAP to get our bearings and get us to our hotel. We jumped in a chic London classic cab and headed to our hotel near the beautiful Hyde Park which we would call home for the next four nights. Our room overlooked the park and again I felt like we were transported back to a time of horse drawn carriages and hoops ball gowns.
The next few days we devoured The Victoria and Albert Museum, The British Museum, Tate Modern and my third favorite spot, The Sir John Soane Museum. The Soane was so eccentric and rich, an absolute abundance of style, character and luxury. I could see myself living there for sure. James and I sat in the park outside of the museum on Saturday afternoon and were memorized watching people of all ages, ethnicities and economic backgrounds pile onto the lawn shedding most of their clothing and just frolicking in the park. The English really enjoy their outdoor parks; it was a pleasure to witness! We also fit in The London Eye (which scared me to death), Saint Peter's Cathedral and a few more lovely sights. I managed to pull the gents into Harrods, Harvey Nichols and the best retail winner Fortnum and Mason. We were able to check out their famous tea and scones which did not disappoint.
Needless to say we had an amazing time and we are already planning our return. We saw so much but know there is still so much more to see!
James and I are back to work in the gallery and getting ready to make some big changes to it. We were so inspired by all that we saw that we cannot wait to give our space a summer spruce up! All will be ready for the snowbirds and our clients when they return from the North. We have mixed our own paint color for the walls and I am designing garden inspired textiles.
My scarves are now available in Baltimore at The Store LTD, Cross Keys Baltimore, Maryland as well as Snappy Turtle, Delray Beach Florida.
As always, you can follow us on Instagram for to up to date information.
If you're looking for some of my latest works, I've been hard at work on luxurious hand hemmed one of a kind limited edition scarves. The scarves are available on my site and in the following stores:
Store Ltd The Village of Cross Keys, Baltimore, Md
I’d also like to mention that I am now all art, gallery and studio. I have finally been able to take a break from my part time job and devote myself to my art career thanks to all of our clients, fans and supporters! Thank you for following us on this journey and here’s to more to come!
- Amanda J.