Richmond Upon Thames and Hampton Court

May 30, 2012

Richmond Upon Thames and Hampton Court

On the weekend Ian booked for us to return to Richmond Upon Thames where I had previously visited Old Vicarage School the week before.  A gorgeous part of London, it’s hard to imagine that the centre of the city is not far at all.  We navigated our way through the Friday afternoon traffic, not hitting too many snarls until about 20 miles out when the M25 came to a stand still.  But we were getting used to that by now.  I even managed to find an alternate route and we got to the hotel around 6pm – not too much later than we had anticipated.  The weather was sparkling – so warm and clear.  We stayed at the Richmond Hill Hotel, which is beautifully restored.  Our room was tiny, typical of London hotels but very comfortable – even if I did have to step over our luggage to be able to put the ironing board up. J

 

We headed out for a stroll – the view from the top of the hill overlooking The Thames is gorgeous.  I think everyone in town was out.  There is a pub across the street from the park at the top of the hill and we were amazed that they sold drinks and allowed people to spill out across the road.  In Australia we’d be too worried about someone having one too many and ending up under a car.  But this is England and they certainly seem a lot more relaxed about some things than we are.  And while it looks like a quiet road, the cars zoom along at pace.

We ended up having dinner back at the hotel and an early night.  I don’t know how many miles we covered this week but it was a lot.  When we told people where we’d been most of them couldn’t believe we’d driven ‘that far!’

Saturday morning we decided to take a boat from Richmond to Hampton Court Palace – a place I have wanted to visit since I was a child.  The weather was almost too good to be true.  We ate breakfast in a park on the river’s edge – the cafe also had excellent coffee – then went to the wharf.  I wore sunscreen and a hat all day but the sun here doesn’t seem to have the same intensity as at home.  With my pale skin I wouldn’t risk it and we did see plenty of lobsters by the end of the day but if I’d have sat outside for an hour and a half on a boat in Australia, I’d have had a headache for sure.  No such problems here.  The views down the river were incredible – as were many of the houses.  I don’t wonder why Brad and Angelina have apparently decided to buy a house here – if I had a spare million or ten, I wouldn’t mind living here too.

We had to navigate the Teddington Lock.  It was fascinating to see how it works.  Manned by volunteers it takes about ten minutes to get through. 

The town of Kingston is also very pretty and I imagine an expensive place to live too.  There were already hundreds of people out enjoying the weather, and many more hundreds on our return visit.
Hampton Court is spectacular.  Hard to believe that King Henry VIII once walked these halls.  Although at one point when we were in Henry’s chamber, an actor dressed as him barreled through shouting to the commoners and bidding us all good day.  It was a great touch, although a little disconcerting as I hadn’t seen him coming! There are several actors dressed as various royal figures throughout the castle and grounds.

The kitchens were enormous – it must have been hectic down there preparing meals for hundreds of people each day.  The rotisseries on the open fireplace would heaved with meats of all variety.

The gardens and surrounding park are especially beautiful and I really enjoyed wandering around.  It was interesting to learn that the castle ceased to be used by the royal family sometime in the 1700s and was then given over to certain friends of the royals who lived there ‘by grace and favour’ of His or Her Majesty.  I’m glad that Queen Victoria saw the potential for a tourist attraction and set about opening the palace up for visitors so that we commoners could have a peek into the history that is steeped in its walls.

We took the boat back to Kingston and found a pub along the waterfront to have a drink.  All I can say is Pimms and a hot day are a dangerous combination – it went down like fizzy drink, hence a slightly foggy head for the remaining trip back to Richmond!

That evening we dined at an Indian restaurant which had been recommended in the Michelin Guide – it didn’t disappoint and was quite possibly the best Indian I’ve ever eaten.

Twilight in England at this time of year is wonderful – especially when the weather is good.  We wandered up the hill to the hotel and I really couldn’t have imagined a much more perfect day.

 

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