Archive for the 'Awkward Old England' Category

Postman’s Park

May I recommend a slightly famous but often overlooked little gem of a park, Postman’s Park. Literally one minute walk from St. Paul’s, it’s well worth a look (it was also featured in the movie Closer, if you happened to have seen that). Postman’s Park is a tiny oasis in the middle of the city financial institutions. It was established by a Victorian guy who wanted to celebrate ordinary men and women, so in one corner there are all these tiles that celebrate ordinary heroes, mostly people who saved others from drowning or from fires. Their deeds are described in duly lurid Victorian prose, but it’s touching nonetheless. The park is a charming little spot – go on the weekend, when it’s not crowded with office workers on lunch – and the unique tiles (handpainted by the Victorian man who set up the thing who was an artist) are truly worth a gander:

Tile 1

pp2

pp3

Victorian quirkiness and sentimentality at its best. To get there, leave St. Paul’s tube station (or just leave St. Paul’s cathedral area, if you happen to go tomorrow while the tube strike is still on) and walk towards the Museum of London (should be signs). Postman’s Park has an entrance that is hard to see until you are right up on it on the left, just as the Museum of London comes into sight.

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A Challenge to Ourselves

Following our last post about how much we’ve been slacking in the blog department, I pose a challenge to C and myself.  We will post one blog entry a day for the next two weeks–that’s right 14 new posts starting from tomorrow 31 May to 13 June.  In an ideal world/my fantasy world of having abundant amount of time I would like to post everyday, let’s be realistic shall we, that isn’t going to happen and I know I will be on holiday starting 10 June for 2 and 1/2 weeks so I doubt I will update much during that time too.  But Challenge On!  Hopefully this will make up for the lack of posts in May (I know the last actually one was on 3 May).  Bad sunshine…bad.  Post 1 of Challenge–see you tomorrow!

Best,

A & C

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

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.

Mother’s Day

Confused by the signs everywhere recently for Mother’s Day? Don’t worry, you haven’t forgotten – British ‘Mothering Sunday’ is a full two months before America’s Mother’s Day in May. Instead, go forth and buy the most British card you can find, preferrably with a bizarre saying and picture and definitely the word ‘Mum’. Your mother will most likely be very pleased by the novelty of it when she actually receives it in May. Furthermore, if you are still abroad in May (hands up!) you’ll be SOL for a card so do it now.

In the meantime, enjoy the plethora of online posts about what to do this Mother’s Day, like this nice list of afternoon tea places from TimeOut (our two favourites, the Orangery and Louis Patisserie, are on it so we’re inclined to trust the rest of the recommendations).

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Off to Giraffe to do some quality brunch research!


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