The first sign that I have lived here too long is that I consider the weather to be a legitimate topic of conversation. We had three days in a row of gorgeous, sunny, 70-degree weather this weekend and today. It’s stunningly nice outside. I want to record this fact so I can remember it in a few weeks when we’re in the throes of darkest damp winter.
Anyway, this weekend was a lot of fun, though busy. On Saturday, Jon and I used the excuse of my mom and my aunt’s visit to visit Hampton Court Palace. We dragged Bobby, Cathy and Lauren along, too.
The Southwest train from Waterloo Station took just 35 minutes to reach Hampton Court, which for some reason I always imagined was really far out of London. Maybe all those Henry VIII stories talking about the “day’s journey” between London and the palace have skewed my perpsective.
So admission to the palace is a pricey £12.30 a person (what’s with the 30p?), but it’s worth the visit. You get an audioguide, which was pretty good, though they should really include Chinese!
The audioguide lets you choose three or four different tours, which makes sense once you see the palace. The building is more like three or four different palaces glued together haphazardly around a central square. I guess when you’re a royal, you don’t want to live in the rooms another royal lived in – maybe it’s like going to a party wearing the same dress as someone else.
We made the mistake of starting with the “Tudor Kitchen” tour. It’s interesting that the kitchens had to prepare around 1200 meals a day back in the 15th century. But I probably would have gotten more out of seeing the wing where George II and his wife Caroline lived, instead of staring at a huge fireplace where meat was roasted on a spit. [On the cool side, there was a real fire in the fireplace - try THAT at a major US tourist attraction. Can we say little-kid-gets-too-close = lawsuit-faster-than-you-can-say-ow?]
Jon’s two cents’ on the palace is that brick is insufficiently palace like, so he was not impressed by the Tudor part of the building. He wants all of you palace builders out there to know that you should use stone for the proper palace look. So he suggests modeling your palace on the south and east fronts of the palace, built by William and Mary. [I love this phrase "built by." Can you picture William and Mary hauling those stones around?]
The Henry VIII apartments were fun. The guy definitely knew how to spoil himself, though considering he thought it was OK to break with the Pope, marry six times and kill off two of his wives, it’s not surprising that he treated himself to fancy living quarters. Hampton Court Palace itself was originally built by Cardinal Wolsey, and after Wolsey refused to support Henry’s insistence on divorcing his first wife and marrying Anne Boleyn, Henry seized the Palace for himself. Nice.
Can you tell I loved the audiotour? I like to hit all those keys for “additional” information about weird little details. “Cardinal Wolsey loved socks. For more information about the darning of socks during the Tudor period, press four.” That’s me, pressing four.
I actually ran out of time to see all the rooms, and we also didn’t get to see the Maze. I’ll have to go back. The “Privy Garden” was pretty, though all its symmetry and sculpture and shaping of plants to within an edge of their life is done on a cooler scale at Versailles, for sure. I have to figure out how to link my own photos to these posts.
Anyway, overall, the weekend was fun. We spent Sunday morning doing a lot of bill paying and tidying up while Mom and Aunt went to see Kensington Palace (they are hard core tourists, for sure). Then Jon and I met up with them at the Princess Di memorial fountain (teeming with little kids on a sunny afternoon) and then went on to meet Jon’s visiting cousins from Australia, Ros and John, who are so friendly and engaging. We had quick drinks and snacks at the Harvey Nicks cafe, and then we window shopped and chatted while walking down Sloane Street.
We rounded out the weekend with some quality Indian at Vijay (our choice after we learned the hard way that Rasa off Oxford Street is not open on Sundays). I got in good with the waiter when I asked for basmati instead of saying “rice.” You just never know what’s going to resonate with someone. Mom and Aunt gamely tried Indian food for the first time, but they didn’t love it. Admittedly, the Keralan ginger chicken was kind of dry, but you can’t beat the saag gosht there. and puri. Mmmmm. Who doesn’t love deep-fried dough puffs?