When we moved to London almost two years ago, I wasn’t the least bit apprehensive about starting over in a new country, especially not one with a culture so similar to my own, (almost) no language barrier, and a prime location for hopping over to the European continent. I welcomed the change with open arms and by and large the experience has been a positive one. Actually, that’s understating it a bit. These past two years of traveling and living in a foreign country have, undeniably, been some of the best years of my life.
Without ever even visiting before the big move, I fell into our new London life like it had been tailored just for me before my arrival. I suffered no culture shock, no major homesickness, and no regrets. To be sure this is not the norm. I believe a perpetual desire for change is what spared me the usual uncomfortable adjustment period. But even though I thrive when thrown into new situations and places, that doesn’t always mean I love everything about them. And as is the case with London, the thing I don’t always love is city life itself.
When I want to escape the sound of car alarms, police sirens (what were we thinking moving next to a police station?), construction, and people coming and going at all hours of the day and night, or if I just want to leave the house and go somewhere where I don’t have to be surrounded by other people, I head straight to the same place every time – Chiswick House and Gardens.
When we first moved to London, people told us to be careful where we chose to live, to take enough time to choose the right place, because once you’ve settled, you tend to do everything in that same part of town – work, eat, play, exercise, all of it. At the time, I didn’t really believe that could be true, but I’ve now witnessed first-hand just how accurate their advice was. Of course we hop on the tube to London to walk through a museum or see a show from time to time, but most of the time we are right here in Chiswick, and what a lovely place to be.
Located less than half a mile from my house, Chiswick House and Gardens is my sanctuary. I’m here at least three times every week, running, photographing, walking, reading. This place is my second home. I know its trails inside and out, I know which season it looks best in (fall), and where to go if I don’t want to be disturbed by anyone other than the ducks. For me, the gardens are the main attraction, but if you’re into historic homes, Chiswick House is on the English Heritage registry and stores a beautiful collection of art and historical objects. Unfortunately, they do not allow photography on the inside, so all I can show you is the exterior, but it is this gorgeous neo-Palladian exterior that brings brides and filming crews here from all over the UK. I even came across the actors and film crew of Downton Abbey one day. I’ve never watched the show, but seeing everyone in their costumes made me want to at least watch the episode(s) where they filmed here!
Possibly the most attractive place within the Chiswick House grounds is the Conservatory. Just recently it was the venue for the annual Camellia Show which I wasn’t about to miss. I’m no flower expert, I’m an admirer at best, but I do appreciate any opportunity for a pretty picture. I went on a Thursday afternoon; a heavy rain had just passed through and left a nice, soft light in its wake. Perfect conditions for a flower photo shoot. I got some interesting looks as I lay beneath the camellias, my back in the dirt, but getting photos you’re proud of are always worth the occasional side-eye judgment.
I doubt anyone noticed, but last week I started editing the photos I put on my blog. Both the National Gallery photos and the ones from the Changing of the Guard were edited in Lightroom before being posted. Those first two I simply played around with exposure, white balance, and all of the other sliders in the main edit menu. For the photos in this post, I took it a step further and created my own preset. I wanted a look similar to the filters in my VSCO Cam iPhone app, so I desaturated the colors, played with the tone curve, and muted both the blacks and whites. I am absolutely thrilled with the result, especially being as new to this editing thing as I am. I do think the preset looks best on the photos taken in the greenhouse, but I was too lazy to create a coordinating preset for the other outdoor photos, so those ended up looking a little more dull than artsy.
Even though the Camellia Show is over, come summer, there will be all sorts of things to do at Chiswick House on the weekends besides walking through the gardens and seeing the house – Giffords Circus in June, Open Air Opera in July, and Open Air Cinema in August just to name a few. If you’re coming to see the house, though, be sure to check the website before you come. It’s often closed for weddings, filming, and a number of other events. The gardens, however, are open all of the time. If you come during the week and see a sweaty girl laying on a park bench in her running clothes trying to ignore the ducks begging for food, that’s probably me. Come say hi!
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