We are being stalked, Andrew & Henry followed us to Prague and now they suddenly show up in London four days later. Henry used to be Dick, his name is Henry Richard Maniace, Jr. known as Dick all his life but now reverting to Henry as his passport and all other legal documents refer to Henry. They want to meet up with us at Hampton Court Palace on Thursday May 10. We take the tube to Wimbledon and transfer to the National Rail headed for Hampton Court. Jim had researched places to meet & have lunch and came up with The Mute Swan which is a pub directly across the street from the palace entrance.
As is their MO, Henry & Andrew show up an hour later after we have already finished chicken liver pate on toast, a gin & tonic and a half pint of beer. We had lunch together and walked across the road to the Palace.
If you have read our prior writing on palaces you know that we promised to never visit another palace after the hot sweaty throngs at Versailles. Well this English palace is so different, understated, simple, beautiful and well done that we really enjoyed wandering through all of the rooms and gardens. The palace was built by Cardinal Thomas Wolsey but was seized by King Henry VIII when the Cardinal fell out of favor with the king and this became his favorite royal residence. We started our self guided tour with a fun walk through the maze which was planted 300 years ago and is the worlds oldest and largest hedge maze, measuring over ½ mile. Sandy and Andrew were the first to find their way out as Jim and Henry ran into a few dead ends. We entered the palace through the main west gate entrance into the vast open cobblestoned base court. There are hidden speakers in the cobbles which play the sounds of horses hooves and carriages driving into this courtyard which really adds to the experience. We began our interior tour in the large Tudor kitchens where the daily roast was being re-enacted. Actual hunks of beef were being roasted in front of a roaring fire by a man in a period costume. There were a lot of interactive displays with projected moving images on walls, faux British pies, real produce and spices, with actual smells and sounds of an active kitchen.
The palace was uncrowded allowing us to explore and interact with the room monitors dressed as members of King Henry’s staff. After the kitchens we went to the Royal Chapel which was built in the late 1520’s on the site of a former chapel from 1236. The present chapel was embellished by Henry VIII before being restored 150 years later in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. One of the most impressive features is its Magnificent vaulted ceiling of oak painted a bright Tudor blue and gilded with stars and winged angels. The chapel has been a regular place of worship for 500 years and all are welcome to come for daily services. Pictures were not allowed in the chapel and Jim complied for a change although he regrets it now. We then went through William III’s apartments which were completely furnished and had mannequins of different court figures dressed in fancy paper clothes with written explanations of who the people were and how they fit into the court of William. There was a lot of intrigue and trysts in those courts.
We never made it to Henry’s apartments as we wanted to see the gardens before they closed. The Great Fountain Garden used to have thirteen fountains but only one remains today.
The most impressive gardens that we saw were The Pond Gardens which are sunken as they were originally ponds used to hold freshwater fish to feed Henry VIII and his court.
We were run out of the Gardens and Palace before we had time to see it all. We will definitely be returning with some of our house guests in the future.
Friday May 11 we again meet Henry and Andrew at a Pub for lunch, this time in Highgate at the Flask. They had taken a guided tour of the West Highgate cemetery in the morning and wanted to explore the East side with us after lunch. Highgate cemetery opened in 1839 and was run by a private company which abandoned it in 1970 as it was no longer profitable. At that time vandals and nature took over and had their way. Friends of the cemetery was founded in 1975 and they have been trying to restore the cemetery since, in spite of their work the cemetery is still a wild and wooly place with a forest of trees and vines which have completely overrun most of the acreage. It remains an active cemetery with ongoing burials.
After coffee at a local cafe we parted company with our stalkers and haven’t seen them since but we are sure that they will turn up again as they have plans to return to London soon and also want to meet up with us in Stockholm in August.