Posts Tagged 'Kensington Gardens'

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.

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Holland Park

Hidden away enough that A made it almost two years before visiting this west end gem, it’s been a favorite of C’s since discovering it on a literary walk while studying abroad 3 years ago. Incredibly close to the much-beloved (and often crowded) Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, Holland Park is just big enough and just small enough and frequented mostly by locals.  It’s a quick central London escape into beautifully designed gardens, tree covered paths, and Lord Holland’s old impressive house.

We recommend entering from Holland Park street from Holland Park tube station. It’s just a short walk through iconic white Georgian townhouses built for rich people and still inhabited by rich people. We wish we qualified in this category. Oh well, it’s always free to visit.
Holland Park Street

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This park changes so much you can certainly find a spot to fit your mood.  At this entrance, follow the path and then turn right where the park opens up to wander amongst semi-wildness, with bramble-lined dirt paths and tangles of trees. You’ll encounter others walking dogs but not much else in this corner of the park. Go straight or turn left to explore Lord Holland’s house, the meticulous Japanese Garden, or the Italianate style mini-gardens.

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Be sure to look out for the park’s famed peacocks which you’re almost guaranteed not to miss on nice days.

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Things to do after visiting the park (to be covered in future posts!):
Portobello Road Market
Notting Hill – wander around the neighborhood
Beautiful streets of South Kensington
Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens
Orangery
Shopping on High Street Kensington


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