Our Day At Court - une femme d'un certain âge

Our Day At Court

Somewhere in a car park in Richmond…
One of the high points of our UK visit was a bike tour to Hampton Court offered by Mind The Gap Tours. We set off mid-morning by train from Waterloo Station, and hopping off at the Richmond stop where our bikes were waiting for us a short walk away. A few quick seat adjustments and I was ready to go! Once we left the parking lot, we found ourselves in very posh and scenic Richmond. We passed though the remaining bit of the original Richmond Palace (where Henry VIII first spotted Anne Boleyn across the road, sitting in the park and eating cake), and underneath the gatehouse where legend has it that Elizabeth I died.
Richmond Palace gatehouse
Back entrance to Richmond Palace
River Thames

We proceeded up a path alongside the River Thames. We were so lucky with the weather…sunny  and slightly breezy for the biking portion of the day….

…arriving at Hampton Court early in the afternoon. All along the way, our guide would stop periodically and share some of the history or even a bit of celebrity gossip about the immediate area. (Apparently a lot of Big Names of Rock have homes here.) He even pointed out the spot along the river where the Monty Python Fish Slapping sketch was shot.

Our guide John explains that the newer parts of Hampton Court were built to compete with Versailles in grandeur.
Arriving at the entrance to the old part of the palace, dating from the Tudor era.

We had lunch with some of our fellow tour members at a pub just around the corner from the palace, then with skies darkening, figured we’d best tour the gardens first.

There are two joined palaces at Hampton Court, the old one originally built by Cardinal Wolsey (and then “acquired” by Henry VIII when Wolsey fell out of favor for his inability to procure a divorce for Henry from Catherine of Aragon). William III in the following century then added the newer part of the palace, and expanded the gardens, intending to rival Versailles. The gardens were my favorite part of the tour, and were worth the admission price all on their own.

“The Wilderness” garden behind the palaces. This part of the garden is public (free) and left largely natural.

Rounding the corner entrance to the formal gardens, the similarities to Versailles become apparent.

“Long water” pond.
Royal Deer next to the Royal Golf Course. Wonder what those green fees are….

These colors just took my breath away!

The sunken gardens in the pictures above and below were originally (in Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn’s time) ponds that were stocked with fish for eating.

One of the more interesting parts of the tour of the old palace were the kitchens of Henry VIII. They were massive and ran along an entire side of the old palace. There was a kitchen for fish, one for meat, one for pastries, and so on. (Unfortunately, most of the pictures I took in this area, which had very low light, did not come out well. The picture below is the best of the bunch.)

Personal dining room of Henry VIII.

The tapestries in this room and other parts of the old palace are reputed to be more valuable than the Crown Jewels. There was a fire at Hampton Court a few years back; fortunately the tapestries weren’t damaged, but they’ve since been re-mounted on the walls with velcro so that they can be removed quickly in case of fire.

Ceiling of Henry VIII personal dining hall
Another ceiling detail in the old palace

There were several interesting displays in the new palace area; unfortunately most did not allow photography.

Main courtyard of the old palace, as seen from inside.

By the time we’d finished touring the palace, it had begun to rain. We hopped the train just across the river from Hampton Court, which returned us to Waterloo. If you’re thinking about a visit to London, or if you live there and are looking for day tours, I highly recommend this one!

Have you visited Hampton Court? Do you take day tours when you travel, or do you prefer to explore on your own?

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  1. May 27, 2013 / 10:09 am

    I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to Hampton Court! I always try to take tours and my most memorable was when we were in Beijing, it was beyond wonderful, we managed to pack in so much in such a short time.

  2. May 27, 2013 / 12:58 pm

    I have been to Hampton Court, many years ago. The brick chimneys amazed me, so many of them, all slightly different. The gardens were beautiful and I too found Henry’s kitchens very interesting.

  3. May 27, 2013 / 1:35 pm

    Enjoying your trip pics! My favorites are you on your bike enjoying the glorious wonders of Hampton Court.

  4. May 27, 2013 / 2:40 pm

    Really interesting, having read the Hillary Mantel books! Thank you for sharing, a little corner of my brain is totally enriched.

  5. May 27, 2013 / 2:43 pm

    Wow! That looks like so much fun! That is the kind of thing hubby and I would totally do on a trip “down south” (as they say up here. I’m bookmarking this for future reference.

  6. Laurel Lyon
    May 27, 2013 / 10:16 am

    You can also take a tourist boat from Westminster Pier(if I recall) to Hampton Court and Richmond, or the other way to Greenwich.

  7. Nicolene Richards
    May 27, 2013 / 11:17 am

    Your account of the journey is so fascinating, it makes me want to travel and explore again! Great photographs and nice outfit!

  8. Lady of Style
    May 27, 2013 / 11:27 am

    So beautiful! I have been to Richmond Park and along the Thames to the Teddington Lock, it is a lovely area. Unfortunately I have not been to Hampton Court.
    Thank you for the nice photos.

    Lady of Style

  9. Sue Walker
    May 27, 2013 / 12:50 pm

    I have to admit that, though I have been running in Richmond Park a few times and I lived in London for many years, I have never been to Hampton Court. I won’t have time to go there during my June trip, as we will only be in London a couple of days and the priority is to see family, but will definitely add it to my list of things to do on my next visit to London! I have been to Versailles though and can see the resemblance.

  10. mette
    May 27, 2013 / 12:55 pm

    English gardens. But I like the Wilderness Garden best. All growing wild.
    Interesting pictures : ).

  11. May 27, 2013 / 8:21 pm

    We loved Hampton Court, the gardens, the inside rooms…ahh, gotta go back! Kew, as mentioned above, is fun to boat to, then trains back. Love the gardens in Great Britain! Great photos, I’m following your travels!

  12. May 27, 2013 / 8:34 pm

    What glorious pictures! Thank you for sharing them with us. I have friends in Liverpool and they’re dying for me to visit.
    I’m busy exploring my own city; Nashville. I’ve lived here a while now and I’m determined to find the great spots and attend the chic events 😉

    Spashionista (Alicia)

  13. Pam @ over50feeling40
    May 27, 2013 / 1:37 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you….I have not been there and I loved this post! I have always wanted to see this. You are a wonderful tour guide!

  14. Chicatanyage
    May 27, 2013 / 1:41 pm

    You know the area better than I do and I have lived nearby in Barnes for over 30 years. The picture of the river looks as though it might have been taken from just outside our house, I love cycling along the towpath to my yoga class every week. In fact we can walk all the way into Richmond along the river, it takes about 2 hrs. I used to go a lot to the park when the kids were younger it is a wonderful part of London to live, so green. The answer to how expensive are the “green fees” if you have to ask you probably can’t afford them. You should go to Kew gardens on your next visit I am sure you would love them., smaller but very beautiful especially when the rhododendrums are out.

  15. Val Sparkle
    May 27, 2013 / 4:07 pm

    This looks like such fun – I like the idea of having a bike ride with a destination at the end. And I had no idea Hampton Court was quite so spectacular! I never went when I lived in England, although I think I’ll work that in next time we’re there! I always love going to the great houses and gardens.

  16. May 27, 2013 / 11:54 pm

    I loved the photos and the accompanying bits of history. Such a fascinating and beautiful place. We like to explore on our own, with the occasional tour. But I’m beginning to think that the experience with a tour guide is so much richer.

  17. May 28, 2013 / 1:53 am

    Oh, we had hoped to go to Hampton Court when we last went to London, but timing and the rainy weather just didn’t allow it to happen. Next time!

    We don’t usually use tour guides, but we had such a great experience with our guide in Venice that I will seriously consider it in other cities now.

  18. Sarah
    May 27, 2013 / 7:40 pm

    What a great post – thank you and for all the interesting bits about Hampton Court that I have to admit I didn’t know! Definitely looks like a tour worth doing and so different too on bicycles… Lovely garden pics as well. S x

  19. Adrienne Shubin
    May 27, 2013 / 8:18 pm

    Love these photos! You look darling in that first photo. Such a cute shot!
    I have not yet been to the UK. Thinking about going in ’14 or ’15. I will be sure to refer to your posts for information.

  20. irene paul
    May 28, 2013 / 4:10 am

    Good memories!
    Thank you for sharing your photos about Hampton Court.
    To me, it is one of the most fascinating and beautiful places in England.
    Not far is a village called Hatfield where Elizabeth lived as a child. Did you pass through it?

    all the best

  21. May 28, 2013 / 1:39 pm

    Gorgeous photos and the one of you with the bike is the best ever! (Wouldn’t you love a pylon with the Queen’s cipher for your garden?)

  22. nina
    May 28, 2013 / 4:27 pm

    Thank you so much for our tour!! So thoughtful of you!! Beautiful photography!!! You look marvelous!!!! Fit, trim, and chic!!
    Enjoy the rest of your trip!! And thank you again!


  23. SoSuSam
    May 28, 2013 / 10:43 pm

    What fun to read! Thanks for the quick at-my-desk vacation your post gave me. For a few minutes I felt like I was actually there….or at least not in the midst of a dull project. What a gift! 🙂

  24. birdybegins
    June 2, 2013 / 5:54 pm

    That looks excellent! And not too crowded, which is a rare and nice thing for a London tourist attraction. I’ve put it on my mental list for ‘next time we’re in London’. We went to the Tower of London recently and I didn’t enjoy it much. Too crowded for my taste and the exhibits weren’t as amazing as I expected. I’ll blog about it soon as I’m working my through our London experiences.

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