WARNING: Due to the fact that I’ve been ridiculously lazy and haven’t blogged in an age, this will be a looong post. Further, there will be lots and lots of pictures. I recommend you get yourself a large drink of some kind and make yourself comfy! 🙂 I only hope I don’t bore you…
London, England. I’ve wanted to go to England since I was 4 or 5. It was the holy grail of destinations to me. But you know, sitting on the plane, finally on my way, I was a little concerned that I’d be disappointed once I got there—that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations.
Well let me say, I had nothing to worry about. Simply, I fell in love with London. I can’t wait to go back. In fact, I would move there in a heartbeat. Truly. Everything about it was even better than I’d imagined.
It was also such a treat to have Momma and Poppa along to share in the adventure. They’d been to London about eight years ago and had a great time. The Bug hasn’t had the chance to spend as much time with them as some of her beloved cousins have, so here was a great chance to share some new adventures with them. And believe me, she did lots of visiting in their room. She tried to beat Momma at cards, but, silly girl, she had to learn the hard way that nearly no one beats Momma at cards.
It all started at Heathrow, and after waiting in a couple of queues (remarkably it seemed that we never waited long for anything; either we had the good fortune to slip into line just before the crowd, or the line just moved so quickly that we were astounded to arrive at the front in half the time we would’ve in the US. Those Brits sure have the art of queueing perfected.) we were lucky enough to get into the taxi of a lovely fellow named Frank. I love London taxis with their fold down jump seats.
He dropped us at our hotel—Base2Stay—I know, crazy name, but a great place. It was once a lovely South Kensington row house now turned into a modern hotel. http://www.base2stay.com/ It was clean and comfy and homey, just like it looked on their website.
CR and I loved the vibe of the neighborhood. All around us were groups of these fab row houses, many turned into hotels, but most single-family dwellings with a gorgeous private garden at their center that they all shared. The folks who lived there seemed mostly to be young professionals, so that the busy streets, Earl’s Court and Old Brompton Roads felt a bit like Lincoln Park in Chicago. Great restaurants abounded, as did pubs. A great little cafe where Momma, the Bug and I had coffee/cocoa each morning was just across from The Earl’s Court tube station and a quick walk from the hotel. And the Earl’s Court tube was our gateway to the rest of London.
In fact, after a quick nap our first day, CR, the Bug and I took a mini adventure, hopping on the tube and popping off at the Westminster stop where we joined a huge group of tourists snapping shots of Big Ben, the London Eye, and boats chuffing along the Thames.
The next day dawned pretty rainy, so the group headed to the Victoria and Albert Museum, a huge place nearby our hotels where we explored the exhibits that chronicled the history of Britain from early Medieval times through the reign of George III. Oh yes, and we had a spectacularly delicious lunch of cold eggplant and roasted pepper quiche, roast chicken and potatoes, scones, with clotted cream and pots of tea. I hate to say it, but the hot dogs and pizza at the Museum of Science and Industry don’t even come close.
After lunch, the Bug had quite a bit of excess energy (where does it come from?!) so she entertained us with her rain dance.
Hampton Court was on the docket for the next day. Let me tell you, I could barely contain myself. The only sad part was that Poppa didn’t feel up to all the walking necessary, and so Momma decided to stay with him to keep him company.
And there was indeed alot of walking, but it was a lovely day, and I sure needed the exercise. It also gave me more chance to marvel at the miracle of London transportation: the tube, to the train, which let us off a block from the castle. We also could’ve taken a boat down the Thames, but that would’ve taken longer, and we were already getting a late start at 10:30 as far as I was concerned.
Walking up to Hampton Court Palace was more thrilling than I can say, as was walking the halls.
Gazing out the windows where once queens and kings would’ve stood, watching trails of rain run down the glass, or children playing in the gardens, made my heart race. Just resting my hand on the stone sill filled me with the most indescribable feelings.
In fact, one of the things that amazed and delighted me about all the historic places we visited is that you could actually touch the walls and woodwork, and take pictures of everything you wanted (except the chapels—those were reserved as places of prayer), unlike the historic places here. In the Hearst Castle, for instance, if you step off the little runners that you walk along during the tour, an alarm sounds.
I suppose it makes more sense to prohibit touching and photos to protect these treasures, on the other hand, the sense I got from being able to touch these walls was magical.
The gardens were magical, as well. You could spend hours touring them alone. Seriously.
The original Privy garden, the largest of the gardens, was created in Henry VIIIs time, then changed as fashions did until the time of Mary II and William III.
Over the years, the original garden became overgrown, but using archeological and historical research in the mid 90s, the clever restoration team figured out the original layout. To me it recalled Alice in Wonderland with its pointy topiaries and swirling pea gravel pathways.
One important lesson learned in the Palace hedge maze: do not let your kid run way ahead of you in a maze.
Especially when you’re hoarse, and she doesn’t answer. You should’ve seen CR and me winding back and forth and every which way trying to find that kid of ours. That was one of those moments where you know that if you ever find them, you’ll strangle them. Enough said.
So, other gardens there were copies of the smaller Tudor gardens and were tucked behind tall hedges with “windows” cut into them so you could peer inside and see the gardens from angles other than the gates. No one was allowed inside these gardens, however you could wander the fanciful Privy garden.
Anyway, I’m going on and on. For all my pals who are gardeners, check out the website for better info: http://www.hrp.org.uk/Resources/Hampton%20Court%20Palace%20Gardens%20&%20Estate%20Factsheet.pdf
So, I really am rambling here…let me speed up a bit, if I may.
Our Yeoman Warder (aka Beefeater) was a right delightful curmudgeon of a fellow. Absolutely hysterical dry sense of humor who warned us that he hated kids and to keep an eye on ’em, despised the Tudors (“At least 3 times a week some woman comes here thinking she’s the reincarnation of Anne Boleyn. Crazy, all of ’em. I hate Anne Boleyn; she was a witch and she got what she deserved.” Then he’d smile.), and preferred to discuss Medieval architecture. He gave us a fab tour—we were a lucky group.
The crown jewels were fab, too. But since we arrived late, we came back another day to check out the other buildings, the Medieval Castle of Edward I, and the armory in the White Tower.
So, since this post is getting insanely long, and I still have photos to add and dinner to make, I’ll just list a few of the other highlights of our trip: Saw a performance of “Oliver” in the West End, toured the Imperial War Museum, rode a couple of double decker buses, spent a day in Mayfair/Shepherd Mews, had some amazing meals, did a real pub crawl with CR (we had babysitters, remember? 🙂 ) And lest I forget, cream tea wherever I could find it! And I’m sure a few other fun things that I’m sure I’ll recall after I post this.
It was hard to leave. I truly, madly, deeply love London. I can’t wait to go back—with any luck, maybe even next summer since there were quite a few things I wanted to do and didn’t have time to do: Portobello Market (thanks for the suggestion, Dee!), Notting Hill bookstores, the National Gallery, the Tate, Harrods, Windsor Castle, Green Park, Hyde Park, Kensington Palace, Dickens House…phew! I could continue….but you get the idea.