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Travel Q&A: Rosy Views of London, Jazz in Newport

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By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, March 1, 2009

Q. My wife, daughter and I want to visit London this summer to view gardens. When will we find Queen Mary's Rose Garden and Kew Gardens in peak bloom? What other London-area gardens should we visit?

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Earle H. West, Silver Spring

A. "I wish the sky would rain down roses," wrote the novelist George Eliot, but even she would have gotten her fill at Queen Mary's Rose Garden in Regent's Park. The formal gardens are quintessentially English, with 400 rambling, climbing and cluster-flowered varieties on display -- more than 30,000 plants in all. Peak bloom time is mid-June.

New this year: a refurbished cafe with a restaurant and carryout service. Details: http://www.royalparks.org.uk.

Another must-see is Kew Gardens, recently named a World Heritage Site, with more than 300 acres housing 30,000 types of plants from all over the world. This is a big year for Kew, as it marks its 250th anniversary with new floral displays and special tours.

There's always something blooming there; for current highlights, see its Web site, http://www.kew.org.

For sheer opulence, don't miss Hampton Court Palace, Henry VIII's pleasure grounds, with a maze, an 18th-century Privy Garden and elegant avenues of trees. Its annual flower show runs July 7-12 and includes the Festival of Roses, billed as Britain's largest annual display of roses in full bloom (http://www.hrp.org.uk). Kensington Gardens, with a variety of landscapes including a 19th-century Italian Garden, also is worth a visit (http://www.royalparks.org.uk).

Oh, and if you're visiting around May 19-23, don't forget the Chelsea Flower Show. This ultimate display of everything floral is a source of inspiration for gardeners around the world. For more info: http://www.rhs.org.uk/whatson/shows/chelsea2009.

This August, I'd like to drive to Newport, R.I., for the Jazz Festival. Most hotels there seem to raise their prices just for that weekend. Can you recommend a clean, safe place to stay, preferably in town or very near town, with parking?

Sandy Hamilton, Amissville, Va.

Better stop reading and go book your hotel right now. Rooms are filling up fast for this summer's JVC Newport Jazz Festival, which runs Aug. 7-9. And yes, some hoteliers have jacked up their rates accordingly.

But not Patricia Golder of the Spring Street Inn downtown. She's charging the same amount she does for any other summer weekend: $219 a night (with an AAA discount) plus tax, although she does require a three-night minimum instead of her usual two. The price includes parking for one car, a full breakfast and afternoon refreshments. Five of her seven rooms are already booked, she said, several by repeat guests who made their reservations last summer. (401-847-4767, http://www.springstreetinn.com.)

You can find rooms for considerably less a little farther out, if you're willing to sacrifice charm. The Motel 6 Newport (401-848-0600, http://www.motel6.com), about a mile and a half out, has rates of $110 on Friday and Saturday and $70 on Sunday, an average of $97. Find more budget hotels at discount sites such as Hotels.com, Expedia.com and Kayak.com.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and town.


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