|The River Thames|
|Hampton Court Palace Gates|
One could easily spend a whole day at Hampton Court. The layout of the palace is a bit confusing, even with a map, so we asked the staff for directions to Henry VIII’s Great Hall with its medieval hammer-beam roof; the Tudor Kitchens that fed 600 members of the court twice a day; and the Chapel Royal where a replica of Henry’s crown is displayed (photos aren't allowed).
|Tudor Brick Chimneys|
|Henry VIII's Kitchens|
|Henry VIII's Wine Cellar|
We enjoyed a quiet al fresco lunch at the Fountain Court Café and then spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the palace grounds. King William III commissioned Sir Christopher Wren to redesign the east and south facades of the Tudor palace in the new baroque style. Thanks to detailed records, the formal Privy Garden has been restored to how it would have looked in 1702.
The world’s largest grape vine was planted at Hampton Court in 1768 by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown, who was Chief Gardener to King George III. The vine still produces an annual crop of black dessert grapes that are sold at the palace gift shops in September.
We also took a horse-drawn charabanc ride around The Great Fountain Garden. This early form of a sightseeing bus was used to bring 19th century visitors to Hampton Court.
|Hampton Court Gardener at Work|
|The New Magic Garden for Children|
There was still much more to see and do (like getting lost in the famous Hampton Court Maze) but I wanted to get back to London before rush hour. Once in the city we took a detour to Earl’s Court Underground Station to look for a TARDIS (a blue police phone box) for my son, a Dr. Who fan.
|Dr. Who's TARDIS|
On our first night in London we’d had dinner at one of Jamie Oliver’s restaurants; on our last night we dined with Gordon Ramsay at Heddon Street Kitchen in Soho. I was looking over the menu while sipping on a gin & tonic when my observant friend noticed the Master Chef himself seated a few tables away (whereas I had not spotted him as I took this picture outside the restaurant).
As we were leaving I summoned the courage to stop by Mr. Ramsay’s table and thank him for a delicious meal. Don’t let his gruff TV persona fool you, the man is a sweetheart! He invited me to sit down for a photo and a chat – the perfect ending to a wonderful holiday in England.
This takes us to the end of my trip but there are some things I haven’t told you much about, like the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich. I’ll revisit these topics in future posts.
My Tip for the Day:
Hampton Court Palace is easily reached by train from London’s Waterloo Station.