I go to the Kew Orchids festival every year though this is the first time that I was organised enough to go there on the opening weekend. It was a cold day but a bright day too and when I go of the 65 bus at Victoria Gate at just after opening time, 10am, there was already a substantial queue to get in.
The longest queue was for Friends of Kew which I joined and I was soon in as our membership cards were quickly swiped. Then, like everybody else, I headed straight for the orchids in the Princess of Wales Conservatory. We split into two streams as we rounded the lake in front of the Palm House and then rejoined on the other side.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory is a complex building and I have yet to find an easy way to walk around it that takes in every space without too much retracing of routes. That complexity actually helped this time as I wanted to walk through some of the places more than once and the variety of spaces was used to good effect.
The buildings complexity includes several different levels and several ways of moving up and down between them which gives lots of different angles to see things from. This is especially useful when the orchids are on display as some of them are hung up high.
Orchids win on two counts, their shape and their colour, and putting lots of them together is both a rich feast for the eyes and an opportunity to study their similarities and differences, such as the marking on their petals.
The orchids were displayed in a variety of settings and it was hard not to be entranced by the arches on the upper level of the main section.
I had to take this picture carefully to avoid the red hat that a woman was wearing. There should be laws against wearing bright clothing in places where people are taking photographs, and people were taking a great deal of photographs. I even wondered to myself if Apple could see the photographic hotspot on the data they collect from iPhones.
The temptation was there to take lots of close-ups, and so I did though I used the camera's zoom a lot rather than suffering the indignity of stooping or stretching.
This example was settled among some rocks in one of the cooler zones in the north-west corner of the conservatory. There the orchids were a subdued yellow, green and brown while in the next room they were bright pink, red and orange.
Having found a reasonable route through the conservatory and, I think, visited every room I went round most of the rooms again. It was getting harder to move as it had got even busier but that was ok as I was not in any sort of rush.
The Princess of Wales Conservatory is not that big but it still took me best part of an hour to get around it all. After that I was ready for some coffee and cake, and so was everybody else and the queue in the Orangery was longer than I had ever seen it before. Luckily there were plenty of staff on and the queue moved fairly quickly and I was soon seated with my Banana Cake.
After that it was time for a walk and I took the scenic route (ok, I got lost) to the lake, through the bamboo garden towards the river before curving slowly back towards Lion Gate and the bus home.
Kew Orchids impressed me, as I knew they would, and because I managed to get there on the first weekend there is time for me to go back and see them again. And that's my plan.