I went on a little jaunt to Holland Park this afternoon. Bit of a rubbish day to be outside, but I'd heard so much about the Japanese Gardens that I thought I ought to go and check it out.
Holland Park is lovely indeed, but I bet it will be magnificent in the summer when all the flowers are in bloom and it's green and sunny. I like the big touristy parks well enough, St. James's Park in particular is wonderful, but I'm slowly learning that the parks just a bit out of the way of the centre are less touristy and are compartmentalised into jewel-box mini gardens instead of just flat and open like Hyde Park.
While the Japanese garden in HP is pretty enough, it's tiny and a bit less awe inspiring than I was expecting. It's mean, but I think Europeans are so used to the endless march of nationalism that when some foreign element is placed, say, in a garden then it's all exciting and shocking (and hence why everyone keeps going on about how amazing and novel the Japanese garden in Holland Park is). If you've ever been to San Francisco and seen the Japanese Tea Gardens in Golden Gate Park (one of my favourite places in the US), then you'll get what I'm talking about. This is the oldest public Japanese garden in the US and is a gazillion times bigger than its HP counterpart - at a whopping fives acres in size. I walked around the entirety of the Japanese garden in Holland Park in less than five minutes. Ah well, I really ought not complain - the fact that a Japanese garden exists in London at all is remarkable. I just wish there was a Golden Gate Park or a Huntington Gardens (http://www.huntington.org) in London, but seeing as I still haven't been to Kew yet, maybe I ought to reserve judgement.
Still, there's a beautiful mini-formal garden and a nice looking restaurant - I can see HP becoming my default summer retreat. Tennis, strawberries and cream, and lots of lots of sunshine. Though sun is another Californian trend that hasn't quite made its way to London.