Archive for the 'The Wilderness' Category

See Stonehenge the right way: up close and personal in a druid party

If you’ve been to Stonehenge already, you’ll know it pretty much completely underwhelms expectations. We’ll all seen the glorious pictures, the video from helicopters of the stones standing out starkly against the landscape, unearthly and mysterious. Then you get there and it’s a giant car park, a depressing visitor centre, and then the stones very much roped off. You can walk around them at some distance, which is mildly cool, but that’s about it.

Then, there is this completely other thing that happens during the summer solstice, in June. Suddenly, the Stonehenge owners (I think it’s English Heritage) for night only open up the stones for free and a peaceful party, complete with druids, occurs all night until the sun rises. You literally are amongst the stones, can touch them and appreciate the whole mystical nature of them. This year, I’m going to risk the weirdness and check it out – I’m sure it’s going to be pretty unforgettable. It’s all going down next Saturday night (June 20) to Sunday morning (June 21). See this link for more details, including the mild respectful rules about the stones and the night.The car park opens around 7pm and closes around noon the next day, with sunrise at 4:45am.

As public transport out to Stonehenge is unfortunately pretty challenging (buses schedule from Salisbury is appalling), I recommend you find someone with a car or rent one, as I’m going to do. Round trip cost for two people to rent car plus petrol is around 50 pounds – split both ways that’s 25 pounds, which is probably cheaper in the end then a train ticket. See you there! Don’t forget your pagan goddess fancy dress outfit!

From the festival website

From the festival website

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

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.

A’s Favourite London Getaway–Isle of Wight

In this blog we try to capture all the great things London has to offer; however, as many British people will tell you London is not the whole of England (with well deserved emphasis!).  Both C and I try to get out and see what else England has to offer when we get the chance, hop on a train (in my instance usually very last minute planning as well) and head in any direction.  Between the two of us we have seen a respectable amount of ‘outside London England’ and to capture this I’m going to highlight my favourite little getaway:  The Isle of Wight.

Cowes

Cowes

(Also look for our future blog post on Cambridge vs. Oxford in the near or possibly distant future)

From London it is fairly easy to get to either Southampton or Portsmouth.  Your destination really depends on what part of the Isle you wish to end up at with the ferry.  Yes, ferries are involved–one of my favourite forms of transportation (I’ll even take the long car ferry when I’m a foot passenger just to be on the boat longer).  Portsmouth takes you to the main city Ryde while Southampton will take you to Cowes–The Yachting Centre of the World (or so says the sign in Cowes–I like to believe it though).

Cowes Ferry

Cowes Ferry

Ryde looks very much like Brighton with its town spreading up the surface of a hill with the gorgeous white buildings making the town look very coastal, just as it should be.  There is a beach and plenty of restaurants and shops to keep you entertained for an afternoon or an evening.  Also, many of the Isle’s buses go through Ryde making it an easy starting point to get to the rest of the Isle.

High Street

High Street

Sailing

Sailing

Cowes, as I mentioned before is a Yacht haven.  If you are at all familiar with coastal New England you will find many similarities that you will enjoy.  Everything in this small town with an easily walkable high street is nautical themed.  Almost every clothing shop is nautical-based and you will find all your popular sailing outfitters like Henri Lloyd, Gill, Mausto (there even use to be a Helly Hansen but I either can’t find it anymore or it has closed).  Also lining the street are cafes, restaurants and pubs where you’ll see signs offering crew packed lunches (C didn’t understand this, so for non-sailors, this means a packed lunch for a sailing crew when they go out all day. Sort of like picnic. For sailors. Less fancy).  The best part about Cowes is that you can wander into the yacht yards and look at all the boats on dry dock (again, for the sailing-stupid as A shakes her head as if this is common knowledge, this means boats not in water but propped up on land so you can walk among them). You can also get great views of water from these yards.  If you really want to see some boat racing I would recommend going for Cowes Week which this year takes place 1-8 August.   I’ve never been but I’m hoping this year I’ll head down to check out the activities.  I can only imagine how crazy Cowes will be during this event.  From Cowes you can also walk along the esplanade and the beach.  If you wanted to you can just keep on walking around the Isle.  Check out this site for walking tips.

Boat in Dry Dock

Boat in Dry Dock

 

Boat from the Ferry

Boat from the Ferry

 

My other favourite part about the Isle of Wight is the Needles.  The Needles are this rock formation of the point heading west into the channel.  It is a very picturesque and you can either take the bus to the top of the cliffs or take a chair lift down to the beach.  I did the bus route and you can get a great side view from above (see photo).  However, there should also be boat tours as well that will take you around the sights.

The Needles

The Needles

There are plenty of other things to do on the Isle and many little towns spreading across its length.  Check out the Isle of Wight’s tourism page to see what you can do.  If you are also into music go to the Isle of Wight festival.  This was made famous back in 1969  when Bob Dylan played with backing from the Band.  People just camp out on the Isle like ever other festival in England.

Don’t miss the Osbourne House, an English Heritage site near East Cowes that was essentially Queen Victoria’s posh getaway by the sea.

 

Osbourne House

Osbourne House

 

Sailors

Sailors

Tier 1 London on Twitter

Check us out on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Tier1London

Off to Giraffe to do some quality brunch research!

Tier 1 Imports

Welcome to Tier 1 London – a blog by two American ex-study abroad students who will only leave this city under the lock and key of a deportation officer (Dear Border Agency: we are currently legal. Haha. Seriously. Don’t take us.)

We started this blog to capture and share what we have come to love about London. When we studied abroad three years ago, we remember the feeling of being overwhelmed by how much there is to do and how much we could never explore. We hope this blog will give guidance on getting the most out of London living while amusing the newly arrived, temporary, and those who can actually claim the term ‘Londoner’. We’re going to include some entries particularly targeted towards American study-abroad students, since that was our experience. Look out for the tags ‘Don’t get voted off the island,’ ‘The Clash’, and ‘Love sights hate tourists’ for those type entries.

First, a bit about ourselves. For the sake of being international women of mystery we’re going to refer to each other as C and A.

I’m C. I grew up in Florida (no, not Orlando or Miami) and apparently got so tired of sunshine and bright colorful clothes that London was an obvious choice. I did my undergrad in north Florida. I studied abroad in London fall of 2005, on a British Literature program while living in a posh Bloomsbury area, but only because my university bought the building for cheap when Russell Square was the centre of the London crack trade in the 1980s before it became littered with million pound flats today. After returning to the U.S., I found I missed London so much that I returned two years later for grad school. I did a master’s degree in Social Policy at the London School of Economics (and political science! I hate economics!) and have managed to hold on for dear life. I’m the National Trust member, museum-lover, and wilderness/hey look at that tree seeker.

I’m A. I also grew up on the East Coast, but a bit north from Florida in a place that could still be considered the South, Northern Virginia (emphasis on the ‘northern’). I did my undergrad in Vermont where I studied political science and the three S’s: skiing, snowboarding, and sailing. I studied abroad in London in the spring of 2006, living in a flat right across from the Natural History museum in South Kensington. I’m sure I’ll never live in such a posh place again. After returning to the states, I immediately applied to a London grad school, spent my senior spring break in London, and was back on British soil by September 2007. I did a master’s degree in public policy at the London School of Economics and then scraped by through a period of extreme post-grad student poverty before securing a job and visa. I’m the official-unofficial photographer, music-lover, and spontaneous day-tripper.

We met in student housing for LSE, in another posh area we’ll never again see the inside of: Covent Garden. We now live in a dodgy flat in Angel, and we’re loving it. Especially since our grocery store, Sainsbury’s, re-opened this week. Man, that was rough.

About the categories we’ll be using for entries:

Brown Sauce? – Food. All sorts. Tea, chips, crisps, cafes, you get the point. And we still don’t know what brown sauce is, but we’re sure you’ll be asked if you want it at some point. We recommend saying no.

Culture vulture – Museums, arts, books, theatre: a small attempt to catalogue the crazy amount of high quality cultural stuff London has going on ALL THE TIME.

Look at that tree! – This is a corruption of one of our favorite Mitch Hedberg quotes, which we’ll use for parks and open spaces type posts. http://www.entertonement.com/clips/46673/That-Tree-is-Far-Away

Get off your ass – Learn from our experience: 2 pm on a Saturday is not a good time to figure what to do that day. These are the do it now or it’ll pass you by type ephemera London is also really good at cranking out.

Celebrity stalking – Because it sucks to read in the London Paper the next day that famous person x was in your backyard last night. Like that time Matt Damon was beneath A’s window and we missed it and then found the video of it on youtube. Crap.

Best of – I think you get it. Our favorites.

How to – Still obvious.

Love sights, hate tourists – Okay, we admit it, we really like the big London sights, but hate the crowds (C: especially tripping over the infestations of small children. A: That’s a little harsh, isn’t it? C: No.) This is How to See the Important Things the Keep Your Sanity Way™.

The Wilderness – There is life out of Zone 1. We were skeptical but continue to be pleasantly surprised.

Don’t get voted off the island
– These posts are survival guides and practical tips. And once upon a time we loved reality TV. Don’t deny it – you watched season 1 Survivor as well.

Awkward Old England – Curios, randomness, quirkiness: the things that surprise us day in and day out. Like British commercials. No offense, but we like them way better than American commercials. That WTF? factor just can’t be beat.

The Clash – American –British cultural moments. Pants is a dangerous word. Especially in the office. Just trust us.

Werewolves of London – The music guide, because we refuse to use London Calling, Waterloo Sunset, etc. etc. Really do check out that Chinese place mentioned in the song though.

Cheap/free – Because we’re really good at being poor here.

Final note: it’s a two-way street. One of the best things about London is stumbling upon cool stuff yourself, whether down a random side street or through purposeful searching, so please share and comment.


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