Three Years Ago Today…

It was three years ago today that we made our first journey to London after a hiatus of many years. It was a crazy adventure and while we experienced a bit of mild culture shock, it was a very mind-opening experience for us. We’re looking forward to picking up things again in October and hopefully a lot of the COVID craziness will have subsided. So here’s hoping! 🙂


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After a 10 1/2 hour night flight from Los Angeles, we finally arrived in London at about 11:30 am , Sunday morning (well, technically it was Heathrow Airport). Then came the fun part of actually getting from the gate to the terminal proper to claim our baggage and perform all the usual immigration formalities. It seemed that the walk took forever as we trudged down seemingly endless corridors but finally we made it to immigration. The immigration officer looked at us a bit askance when we told her that we had three bags and would only be in the UK for a week but things cleared up when we explained that we were going to a formal dance in Bath and that we had one ball gown and a day dress along with the all the requisite underpinnings. 🙂

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Getting ready to leave home…I think we were a tad overloaded…

After a chaotic train ride (won’t make that mistake again!)  from heathrow to Paddington Station, we finally caught a cab and were soon ensconced at the Montana Hotel, our home for the next four days. In the course of travelling, we came to the realization that we’d packed way too much clothing and our bags weighed what seemed to be a ton. Also, we discovered very quickly that there’s lots of steps that can make moving heavy bags somewhat inconvenient.

Finally, we must note that we arrived at the tail end of a heat wave in London topping out at 80 degrees- air conditioning is usually absent in older buildings and it can get a bit hot and stuffy, especially given the humidity (as compared to Southern California). Getting into the hotel was also interesting when it turned out that the elevator was about the size of a shower stall…we had to bring the luggage to our room in shifts. Finally, our room was located in what would be considered a basement, there was a window so it wasn’t completely underground but it was a strange feeling, to say the least.



More On The V&A Museum

As a follow-up to our prior post about the fashion collection at the V&A Museum in London, we got to thinking that the V&A can be a bit intimidating for people visiting for the first time. From our experience, here are a few tips for the first-timer:

  • Arrive Early- The museum opens at 10 am and the line starts forming up long before. We suggest arriving at 9 to 9:30 am.
  • Plan Your Visit- It’s probably best to start with sections farthest away from the front entrance. Plan out the sections you want to see and work your way from the inside. The first time we visited, we started on the Sixth Floor and worked our way down (FYI- the costume gallery is on the first floor). Maps of the museum are available on the V&A Website.
  • Special Exhibitions- In addition to the permanent collection, there are often special exhibitions going on which they charge a separate admission fee. We strongly advise that you reserve tickets far in advance- like as soon as it’s announced. With the recent Dior exhibition, we bought the tickets in January even though we weren’t in London until late April. Don’t count on being able to just buy tickets on the date of your visit.
  • Internal Climate- This is never brought up anywhere but museums in the UK and the rest of Europe often have minimal ventilation and air conditioning (unless the collection requires it) and things can be quite stifling at times, especially in the warmer months. This can be a bit of a trial so plan accordingly. Fortunately, there’s a nice large outdoor central courtyard where one can catch their breath.

While the above is by no means a comprehensive list, it should make your first-time experience more enjoyable. Finally, below is an introductory video from the V& A that you might find helpful:

Out And About At Hampton Court

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Second day in England and today we decided to head out to the countryside and visit Hampton Court Palace. Originally belonging to Thomas Wolsey (aka Cardinal Wolsey), construction began in 1515 and in 1529, Wolsey gave it to King Henry VIII. The palace is most noted has having been one of Henry’s principal residences but it was gradually expanded over the years by succeeding monarchs, most notably William III and Mary II and George II.

Ann Boleyn’s Gate

Hampton Court is not only a palace, but it also has extensive gardens such as the Rose Garden…

And extensive forested areas such as “The Wilderness”…

The Wilderness is especially interesting in that it was originally built in the 17th Century as a place for courtiers to “get lost” and encounter others “by accident”…one can draw many conclusions from this but when we visited, it was more like a series of jogging paths. 🙂

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After looking around outside for a bit, we decided to go inside and naturally we homed in on the Tudor section first, most notably Henry VIII’s apartments:

The courtyard leading up to Henry VIII’s apartments.

And finally, inside to the Great Hall:

The interiors are largely stone and brickwork with wood paneling in places and while it was moderate weather on the day that we visited, it didn’t take much imagination to realize just how cold Hampton Court could get in Winter (perhaps it’s a good thing that we were not able to visit the last time we were in  England in December 2018).

Stained glass windows in the Watching Tower- It turns out that the these windows were installed during the 19th Century.

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The Chapel Royal- Picture-taking wasn’t allowed inside so this was obtained off the net.

The Chapel Royal, looking south east

And here’s some portraiture we encountered as we worked our way through:

Charles V, 1500-1558; An early portrait by an unknown artist- Not the most flattering of portraits.

Francis I, King of France, 1494-1547

One of the most interesting things was the living history interaction programs that are presented at Hampton Court. One such program was when two interpreters portraying Anne Boleyn and Catherine Parr answered questions from the public in regard to their relationship with Henry, life at Court, et al. It was both entertaining and educational.

There’s a lot more at Hampton Court Palace that we explored but unfortunately, the battery in our phones were diminishing rapidly so we were unable to get anymore pictures. Just for completeness, below are some borrowed pictures of a few of the expansions that were built on after Henry’s reign:

The Fountain Court, designed by Christopher Wren during the reign of William & Mary.

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One of William III’s private apartments.

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The King’s Staircase

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The Queen’s Staircase

Overall, it was a wonderful experience and there’s far more there than we were able to view. It’s definitely one of those places that has to be experienced a few time over. 🙂