Archive for April, 2009

Quirky London YouTube Video

Just found this randomly on Youtube the other day when I was watching covers of popular songs…don’t ask me how it came up in my related videos–I have no idea.  Some of these things I knew about and some I had no idea they existed but there you go…London is great for plenty of  quirky and odd things off the tourist beaten track.  Check out the video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPNJV-SK–k  

City of the Curious indeed!!!!  Thanks ChrisCLondon

Hampton Court Palace: A To-Do for the Tudors!

If you’re at all interested in Tudor history or just like grand and stunning old-English palaces and estates then you must go to Hampton Court Palace.  Once lived in by Henry VIII (please do start singing I’m Henry the 8th I am…) and William and Mary hosts some of the most impressive landscaped gardens and 1/2 Tudor and 1/2 Baroque architecture you will find in England.  Hampton Court Palace is one of the Historic Royal Palaces you can tour (the others sponsored by HRP is the Tower of London, Banqueting House, Kensington Palace and Kew Palace).  

Hampton Court Palace (front)

Hampton Court Palace (front)

Hampton Court Palace is fairly easy to get to from London–just take the train to Hampton Court station from Waterloo which leaves on the 06 and 36 each hour Mon-Sat and 27 and 57 each hour on Sun and from Hampton Court back to Waterloo the train leaves on the 24 and 54 each hour Mon-Sat and the 05 and 35 each hour on Sun.  There is also a car park if you fancy driving or, you know, you actually have a car to drive.  Train tickets are around 5GPB roundtrip and you can use the 2-for-1 entry from Days Out Guide to get a discounted ticket.  At the train station just cross the bridge and you’ll enter the Hampton Court Palace grounds.  This is probably one of the easiest heritage sites to visit outside of London.  Tickets to enter Hampton Court are either Palace/Maze/Gardens or separate Maze and separte Garden tickets.  Entry for adults for everything is 14 GBP but 13 GBP if you order online.  Concessions are 11.50 at the gate and 10.50 online.  The Palace is open from Mon-Sun 10-18 during the summer and 10-16.30 in the winter and the formal gardens are open from 10-19 during the summer and 10-17.30 during the winter.

Hampton Court Palace (back)

Hampton Court Palace (back)

My favourite part of Hampton Court was actually the gardens.  You will walk through a field of daffiodils, fondly called the Wilderness, on your way to the English Garden Maze.  The gardens will lead you to the back of the Palace where you’ll start to see open fields with tree-lined walkways and then big candy-drop trees (I have no idea what they are actually called so please correct us on the proper tree name) that line the paths to the back of the Barogue part of the Palace which is called the Great Fountain Garden.  Make sure you check out the 20th century garden–when I was there no one went in it because the entrance is against the side wall and it looked closed off.  On the opposite side there is the Privy Garden, the Knot Garden and the Pond Garden.  These are perfect to wander through when it is spring and summer.

The Maze

The Maze

The Wilderness

The Wilderness

20th Century Garden

20th Century Garden

Great Fountain Garden

Great Fountain Garden

Privy Garden

Privy Garden

Pond Garden

Pond Garden

Once you have finished the gardens, go on inside to the actual Palace.  You can either enter from the back or the front.  I wasn’t that impressed with the inside because it is decorated in the dark and drab Tudor style.  Make sure you pick up an audio guide if you want to hear about each room and the history.  The rooms to visit are spread out over the ground and first floors where you’ll see the Tudor kitchens, and the various apartments for William III, Mary and Henry VIII.  The room I loved the most was the Chapel.  Make sure you spend time looking at the immaculate ceiling.  

Interior Hampton Court Palace

Interior Hampton Court Palace

Overall plan to spend about three hours touring the gardens and the interior palace walls.  When you’re done you can stop off at the Tiltyard cafe for afternoon tea which includes Tea, Scone with clotted cream and jam and a cake of your choice.  I had the chocolate mouse brownie.  

Also if you’re really wanting a FULL day out check out the boat that will take you to the grounds from London.  Just a warning it could take up to 4 hours.  Boats operate in the summer from Westminster, Richmond upon Thames and Kingston upon Thames.

Hampton Court Palace

Hampton Court Palace

Days Out Guide 2-for-1 Offers: Fancy a Friend?

If you haven’t heard the economy is pretty much dragging everyone down, but if you’re in or around London (and have a friend) you’re in luck!  Days Out Guide promotes hundreds of 2-for-1 offers on many London attractions.  I’ve used it for Kew Gardens and should have used it for Hampton Court Palace.  All what you need to do is travel by train.  Go to their website www.daysoutguide.co.uk and find which attractions you’re looking for and sign up to get the 2-for-1 voucher for the attraction you’re interested in and then bring the voucher with proof of your train ticket and voila:  bring a friend for free or split the cost 1/2 price.  The only trick is if you live in central london like we do some of the attractions listed might be hard to get the 2-for-1 since you can’t really travel by train.  However, places like Kew Gardens are accessible either by train or tube so the vouchers work!  Go see those sights!!!

Young Victoria and you – Ham House

The new Emily Blunt movie, Young Victoria is out – you’ve probably seen the posters on the tube a few weeks ago.  We highly, highly recommend it. It was one of those movies where from the moment it began to the moment it ended, we didn’t think about anything else – it completely captures you and has nice pacing that takes you with it. Both of us were actually so sad when it ended – could have definitely loved another two hours! It’s incredibly romantic, and yet also very real (as much as a period drama can be, I suppose). It’s a romantic comedy of sorts and a period drama of sorts, but to be honest in our opinion it transcends both these categories to just be a really good movie:

Official movie still, from the website

Official movie still, from the website

Also, there is not as yet a US release date, so when it does eventually come out in the States you can have a brag about how much earlier you saw it than everyone else. We ❤ Emily Blunt. Ahem. Anyways, the house that was used in the movie as Victoria’s home as a child until she becomes queen (including for some of the most dramatic scenes) is none other than National Trust property in Zone 4 London – Ham House. Though it’s a bit of mission to get there, it’s more accessible than most National Trust properties and makes for a really nice day out from central London. To get there, take the tube or a train to Richmond. Richmond is on the district line, but the best thing to do is to take the Piccadilly line to Hammersmith then grab the district the rest of the way from there. Or, you can take a train easily from Waterloo. Next, get on the 65 or the 371 bus and get off at Sandy Lane. It’s just a short 10 minute walk from the bus stop (check it out on google maps – you pretty much turn right on Ham Street and follow it for 10 minutes until you see the sign for the main entrance). Entrance is free to National Trust members (a year young person’s membership is only 26 GBP, and that gets you free entrance to all properties in England and Scotland) or it’s 9 pounds admission for the house and gardens.

The house itself is truly stunning:

Back of Ham House

Back of Ham House

Front of Ham House

Front of Ham House

Built in the 17th century as a rural escape for nobles (it was just a short trip by boat down the Thames back in the day) it has passed down through the generations and was donated to the National Trust in the early 20th century. The inside of the house is interesting, and will certainly take up an hour of your time at least. Most rooms of the house are open and fully restored. It’s definitely dark inside, rich fabrics, tapestries, old portraits, all that. The family that owned the house had some eccentric taste though, and you can tell from the many unusual (for the time) objects – there are some ornately carved ‘oriental’ style stands, marbled tables with Italianate patterns, and look out for a set of dining table chairs with incredible woodwork – a starburst pattern back in several different colors of wood that wouldn’t look out of place in a stylish flat today – in the lady’s main bedroom area. They also were friends of Van Dyck at Charles I and II’s court, so look out for this striking self-portrait above a door in the portrait long gallery:

Self portrait with sunflower, Van Dyck

Self portrait with sunflower, Van Dyck

The gardens are also lovely. There’s a nice formal one to the side of the house, with manicured shrubs and two nice vine-covered walkways on either side:

gardenIt then opens up to a beautiful, expansive green lawn, with a section called ‘the wilderness’ in the back that is wonderful – because it is spring, it’s absolutely flooded with daffodils of several types, their yellow heads clustered together like little fields of gold. There’s also the obligatory cafe in the Orangery to the side of the house, which has nice tea and okay scones as well as juice and sandwiches. All in all, it’s a nice old country home if you like that sort of thing (as I very much do!)

statue

Other houses used in the movie include the amazing Blenheim Palace – it’s near Oxford and though it’s challenging to get to by public transportation, C visited 3 years ago and still hasn’t forgotten it. But perhaps that’s a post for another time.

Finally, if you’ve fallen a little bit in love with Prince Albert’s fictionalised self in the movie, you’ll probably finally understand why he’s the Golden Buddha of Kensington Gardens – the most amazing statue monument in London is the gold (yes, gold) Victorian imperial masterpiece Victoria erected to him after he died and she lived on, broken-hearted, to the ripe old age of 80. After he died, she never stopped wearing black mourning clothes. The Albert Memorial is just across from Albert hall and is always one of my favorite things to go marvel and giggle at whenever I’m passing through Kensington Gardens.

Gumtree: Your London Internet Friend

If you’ve needed to sell something, wanted to buy something cheap, need a flatmate, have looked for a flat to share or rent, wanted to hookup/make friends, find free stuff, get rid of that old coat rack/lamp/dress, and/or spend an interesting hour being amazing at what people put online and you haven’t been to gumtree.com yet, we are shocked. Yes, craigslist exists for London, but gumtree is by far the more used site in London. Roughly similar, gumtree still has a flavor all of its own, and it’s always interesting.

For example, we’ve been looking for a new flatmate, and gumtree has been a great source of potentials so far. (moveflat.com is also good for finding flatshares, in case you are interested). But what really sparked this post was an experience A and I just had. A won a new ipod nano from a Guardian web survey (I know! People actually win these things!) and since she already has a 30g ipod she likes, she decided to try and sell it. Went to ebay first of course, since that’s a natural first thought when looking to sell something, but of course they want you to set up a huge account and paypal and then they take a cut of each sale. Then we realised, oh right, we live in a huge city it’s easy to sell something and then actually meet up with a person to exchange goods and cash, or goods and goods. So A put up an ad on gumtree last night, and within a few hours had found a buyer at a good price. They arranged to meet today at Warren Street station, but the email was kind of sketchy – the person’s email included the word ‘gang’ and had never mentioned his/her name – so A was like, C, please come with me so I don’t get mugged/serial killer murdered/scammed etc at 5pm in broad daylight in Zone 1. So I put on my most menacing pose (ooh yeah, I am definitely scary AND I went to the gym this morning and ran all of 6 minutes on the cross trainer before I had to get off because I was dying! Yeah! Watch out!) We bused it to Warren Street and then…A texted, I began scanning the scene all CIA like, looking out for any trouble (back up off! I will take you down!) when the person called her and then we spotted him – and his friend! We both brought friends for protection! So we met up and the guy was like, uh let’s just go down this side street a little bit and we all four walked together, all totally scared and nervous – it was so adorable, seriously – then A hands over the ipod, guy hands to his friend, friend checks it out, gives the okay sign, guy hands A money, she and I count it together, give each other the nod, and then we say okay, thanks, separate, and then A and I burst out laughing. SO amazing.

p.s. the ‘free’ section is endlessly fascinating, and you might find something as long as you’re willing to travel a bit (sometimes) to go get it. Hint: if you’re looking for something, set up an RSS feed search. It’s easy – just search (I was looking for luggage this summer to move all my stuff in, so I just searched luggage) then RSS that search – it constantly updates so as soon as anyone adds anything that fits it, like ‘luggage’, it will come up. Enormously useful – this can be done for stuff for sale on gumtree as well.

Happy selling/buying/exchanging!


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