Why not a quick review of Kew Gardens, eh?
It's a British triumph, of that there is no doubt. 250 years of dedication to housing offensively long-lived cycads, and lily pads the size of a small boat, which have no place within our shores, is mightily worthy. The sheer number of odd specimens is overwhelming though, and cannot possibly be taken in by even the most assiduous of visitors, especially since the tags dug into nearby soil don't give much more than a latin name which is not at all helpful unless you are already horticulturally-minded (often, the labels make it hard to decide which plant they refer to). It is also sad that many of the glasshouse specimens appear dog-eared and seemingly reluctant to bear any fruit which resembles the ones which do carry a picture. As an adult, I'd like to have learned more - as a kid, I'd have been bored stiff as mine were, despite their earnest protestation that they were having a great time (the hollow eyes gave it away).
The flower beds were pristine, though, and the gardens a joy. A perfect place to be without kids. The web-site didn't mention that there wasn't a lot for little 'uns though, in fact it highlighted the GPS 'Ranger' which wasn't working on the day, and a couple of great kids' walks which were only noticeable by their weak implementation (that is, we didn't even see where they started or ended). As someone who knows absolutely sod all about plants, I think I'd have derived as much learning from this as the ankle-biters, so it's a shame that it isn't more of a priority.
To mitigate the above, I can fully understand that Kew very much realise that kids tend to ruin a London oasis such as this (complete with 747s making their approach to Heathrow at just over 100 metres above at regular 3 minute intervals), I just wish they would come out and say it. And yes, the fact that kids were afforded free entry should have hinted at the fact they would prefer to gnaw their fingers off than be there, but what can I say? I'm cheap, and if I had to go when I was a kid, then so do they. Character forming, innit.
The new Xstrata 'tree-walk' is very good, though. It's an 18 metres high wander around the canopy of the Kew trees but if you don't like heights, don't do it as it wobbles like buggery. You can see through the mesh floor as well. Kids love such things, but Mrs P doesn't so stayed downstairs with the righteous. And boy were there a hell of a lot of them.
The most egregious example was experienced beside a felled tree which had been cleverly carved into an 'invitation to climb' to anyone under 14. Poor, bored pre-pubescents clambered all over it as if it were sent by a deity. One of the little Puddlecotes (the girl), in full view of us, was negotiating her way down a set of exposed blunt spikes, designed to exhibit the way tree roots array beneath the soil, when a concerned couple stopped and opined loudy that she (someone else's kid) shouldn't be doing that as it is not to be climbed on and she might hurt herself. Before I could swallow my ham sandwich mouthful and utter an expletive, Mrs P had stepped pleadingly on my foot to halt the inevitable tirade. Even in a venue which has signs aplenty saying what one can't do, and with the complete absence of one on a rare object of childhood desire (sort of saying that anything goes), the urge for these lemons to inflict their personal morality on others was irresistible.
If you go, do bring your own food as the stuff on offer is obsequiously health-led and therefore stifingly bland, natch. Tick off how many times you see the term global warming (they haven't yet updated to the new 'climate change' mantra). Enjoy the gardens, which are quite incredible, but avoid the cringe-worthy shop which is so uninspiring that even bored kids with tons to spend, and no idea of value for money, decided not to bother.
Additional minus points. No pub. Or any overpriced beer/wine at all. And believe me it would have been helpful.
Best things about the day? The staff, who were a joy, the weather which was quite perfect, and the totty (probably something to do with the weather). There is also no rule about smoking outside the glasshouses, either. You'll get some daggers from assorted badly-dressed grumps about your personal choice in 300 acres of open space, but nothing that we're not already used to since Labour screwed tolerance.
Summation, a superb British institution which is quite rightly installed as a global venue of note. Go there as a couple, go there on your own, go there to spend more than a day. Just don't go there with kids.