Hampton Court Palace
Hampton Court Palace

Day started very early for me – at 5.30 am.  I suppose this is not too bad considering that I could be up all hours of the night with jet lag.  I spent the morning unpacking the suitcase and putting our clothes into the cupboards.  Afterall, we are going to be here for about 8 weeks, and I was definitely not living out of a suitcase during this time.  Our X-Box 360 had been set up so the boys played Call of Duty 5 – World at War for a couple of hours.  It was very nice not having to rush off to see the next tourist attraction on the list.

By mid-day we were ready to head off.  Hampton Court was on my list.  We trekked down the hill and located the Tourist Bureau with directions on how to catch the bus to Hampton Court.  We’d done some investigations and made some inquiries, and Oyster Card is the way to go.  It costs three pounds to get the card, and then we had to top it up with our credit value.  We caught the R68 bus and it cost us only a pound each, with the little one being free.  The bus trip was interesting and we passed by many villages, high streets and homes.

The one thing that caught my eye was how many Op Shops there are in Britain.  Just on our little trip of half hour, we saw about six charity shops.

We decided to buy the yearly family membership to the Historical Royal Palaces for seventy-seven pounds.  A day’s family pass would have cost us thirty-five pounds.  Our new family pass gives us access to Tower of London, Banqueting Hall, Kew Palace, Hampton Court Palace and Kensington Palace, so this seemed like excellent value.  Besides, I’d read that if you’re a member you can apply to try to access exclusive areas such as the roof tops of Hampton Court Palace and the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London.

"King Henry VIII"
"King Henry VIII"

We really enjoyed Hampton Court Palace.  It is about an hour out of central London by train and so is “out of the way”.  But it’s well worth the time.  They have actors around dressed in period clothing, eg. King Henry VIII, that adds to the atmosphere of the place.  We did one audio tour and that is of Henry’s Kitchens.  There were several other audio tours, including Henry’s apartments. But since we are now living here, and I am not working for the moment, there was certainly no rush to see everything.  And in fact, that was the nicest part of the whole experience for me  – not rushing.  We could really savour the entire experience.

The gardens at Hampton Court Palace

The thing not to miss is the Formal Gardens.  They are absolutely stunning.  The green of the grass was so vibrant and bright.  Our Australian grass just isn’t that bright, except maybe for the golf courses.  And the flower beds … so inspiring, with all the co-ordinated colours and plantings.

On our way back, we caught the ferry back to Richmond.  This cost us seven pounds fifty, and is really worth it for the different experience that we got.  You can take the ferry to London (Westminster) and that would take 3 hours.  I think this would cost around thirteen pounds fifity.  They also have family prices which provides a little bit more of a discount.

Not only was the ferry relaxing, but it gave a different view of life on the Thames.  We passed some beautiful homes with boat houses at the water’s edge.  Some were converted to new living quarters, others were still boat houses.  They also had apartment blocks with 2 or 3 bedroom units.  I loved looking at the canal boats.  They were long and thin and looked quite quaint.  We also passed little islands in the middle of the Thames.  They were strips of land that were completely built up with houses.  From what I could see their main access was by boat, though some may have footbridges to the “mainland”.

On the way back from Richmond, we had to pass through Teddington Lock.  It was my first time in a lock, and as a result I was quite fascinated by the experience.  Once you are in a lock, it’s like sitting in a bath tub with the water draining out.  It took a while for the water to clear to the same level as the one below (which actually is quite a big height difference), and then we were off.

Ferry landing at Richmond upon Thames