Friday, July 10, 2015

Ran Away to Hampton Court!

So yes, we're moving to England, and yes, Hampton Court is in England, so sure I can understand why you might be wondering why a couple weeks before we move to England I would go running off to Hampton Court - when in all likely hood once we move I could go whenever I wanted. It's the simple reason of this: Mommy needed a day away and I figured it would be my last "big trip" on my own before baby 2 makes an appearance...and I could go with the travel group here - of which I knew someone else going so I knew it would be a fun day! AND places like that are so much more fun to go see without a 3 yr old - if you actually want to see and learn anything. Although I will say that now that I have been, I would totally take the monkey back with me to go see the gardens!
Hampton Court's most famous inhabitant was Henry VIII and all his wives...but there were quite a few other royals who lived there after (just don't ask me who they were right now...pregnancy brain is for real people)...
When we first arrived, because apparently when you travel with me to England there is always something that happens to prolong the journey (this is not necessarily good news for when we drive over on Saturday) we decided to head straight out to the maze...you know before it got too hot (it was predicted to hit 95F/35C and it did...or maybe it surpassed it by a degree or two) or too many other people decided to venture into it.
Of course finding the maze was a bit of a mystery in itself! So we walked around the gardens for a bit before we noticed the sign that clearly stated "MAZE" with an arrow pointed in the right direction - sure you could take that as a sign that we might struggle to get through the maze - but the maze was actually easier to get through than it was to find! (As far as our trip, well we had to start super early because it was the only available time they could book us on the Chunnel - so we left at 5am...of course when we got to the Chunnel there were illegal immigrants who decided to take their life into their hands and walk it. So every train was delayed because there were illegal immigrants trying to walk the train tracks from France to England...yeah. There was also a strike happening at the port so the ferries weren't running, which meant trucks were backed up along the side of the road waiting for the strike to be over - it lasted for days and 3,000 trucks were just sitting on the side of the road because once they pulled over in line waiting they couldn't get back out. It was just a slight mess...so that was the morning delay...and yes, there was an evening delay as well - but I'll tell you about that later.)
The Maze is the oldest maze in the world - so of course we had to do it. As far as mazes go, it didn't seem difficult - we didn't get lost, although we took a wrong turn once...
but we found the center pretty quickly, stopped for a quick picture and then headed back out to explore the castle itself.
They give you a free audio guide, which let me tell you is one of the most detailed audio guides I've ever listened to...if I had listened to everything I would've been standing in each room for at least 10 mins, some rooms I would've been in for almost 30 mins. So let's just say - I did the abbreviated version, where I listened and then skipped ahead, and then skipped some rooms altogether (it could be why I don't remember all the details!)... This courtyard was great though, simply because there were wood statues in random places...
We decided we'd start in the kitchen...I mean come on - if you want to see something then you want to see the kitchen! (Or at least we did.)
There were different sections to the kitchen - because obviously when you're preparing food for Henry VIII's court you need a kitchen fit for cooking for a king (literally) which means the kitchen was HUGE! They had the section where they kept the meat (not that it was refrigerated) but it was where they kept and prepared the meat for cooking...and it wasn't like the meat sat around for days...
Then they had the section where the meat was cooked over spits - and it was spread out because they were cooking a lot of meat...and you can only fit so many spits into a room. So in the rooms they also prepared and cooked the meat pies...
And things in kettles...and more food in other pots (can you tell I fast forwarded in this room and didn't get all the details of how every tasty morsel of food was created and cooked or for that matter what every tasty morsel that was cooked was...yeah...pretty much I turned into my 3 yr old in this room and thought "Okay, this is information overload!")
Until I saw the fire and the real spit working and then my attention came back to the information given out! These spits were loaded up with meat - every single rack was jammed full of meat and there was 1 person per spit, sitting by the fire turning all the "skewers" (I know there's a technical name but seriously folks - this is what the 3rd trimester does to me - it makes me totally forget the words I know. I look at a chicken and I call it a steak, so please bear with me). This person could be working with "skewers" (you know those metal rungs with meat) that were twice their body weight...and on each spit there could be 9 or 10 of those. In addition to that - sitting next to the spit was HOT...good thing they were able to cool off with some nice "room temperature" beer/mead!

Then they would take the prepared food up to the Great Hall, where the King and his Court were and serve. (I haven't gotten to the Great Hall yet - these pics are a display table and where the dishes were kept.)
One of the many wine cellars, because yeah, this wine cellar would be depleted pretty quickly when Court was in session, and a beautiful courtyard.
And since we were wanting to see the kitchens we had to go check out this:
That's right - a chocolate kitchen! Okay, so not during Henry VIII's time - which if he had a chocolate kitchen he might've been a changed man and not had so many of his wives put to death...of course maybe he still would have because he might not have wanted to share the chocolate.
This was the chocolate kitchen. Nothing like the food kitchen, but then again this chocolate kitchen was all about the drinking chocolate and not making tasty treats. I'd also like to point out that I have a matching tea pot, and creamer to the silver chocolate pot pictured (below right)!
Another beautiful courtyard area...the absolutely amazing day might've helped make it more beautiful
Then it was time to venture in to see the rooms that belonged to William III (at least I think that's who these rooms belonged to)...but before venturing into the rooms we ventured into the stairwell leading up to the rooms...Yeah, seriously, what does your entryway look like?!
Of course every King needs a room with weapons...
Some are just gifted with the knowledge in how to display those weapons...
Although I don't really know how much good they did up and around the room (high above a "normal" persons head height) if they were really needed...but at least they did keep the weaponry away from the children and crazy people...and the displays were quite beautiful, as was the view into a garden (there are lots of gardens there. Seriously, they have a map of Hampton Court, and then they have a map of just the gardens!)
This is a throne room...yes a throne room. This is for those who are deemed worthy to see the King, but are just a step up from the riff-raff.
This is the next level up throne room. I know the throne looks very similar to the last room - but it's slightly different - notice the white feathers up on top...so if you got to this room you were a little more special, but not all that important.
But this throne room was for those who the King liked/were special. Notice it's a little more "laid back" - the chair has a natural recline, there's no big canopy saying "AH HA!! I am King! Bow before me lowly person." I actually kinda liked the throne chair in this room...it looks like one you could actually relax in.
A painting across from the throne...kinda impressed that it wasn't a painting of himself like in the previous throne rooms.
It was then time to go to the Orangery...in the winter the citrus trees come in, but in the summer you can't just have a bear hallway so there must be statues! Also, take a look at that Aloe plant (below left) - just a tad huge!
Continuing on we entered a dining area...complete with the somber paintings - because no meal should be completely enjoyed.
There were a few other rooms, but those were the highlights...then it was back out to enter another entrance to where Henry VIII's Great Hall was (remember that's where the food was served...also where the parties happened).
This was started when Henry and Anne Boleyn were together, but it wasn't completed while they were together - so all the "AH" initials that had been placed throughout the Great Hall had been taken down - except 1. No picture of it though as there were a lot of people crowded around it trying to take their pictures...
If you had any question of where the King might've sat - rest assured there was only 1 place!
What the King saw as he looked out over his court.
Walking out from the Great Hall you walked into another room (no clue what it was called right now) but definitely a relaxed atmosphere with large pillows on the floor for people to relax on, tables with games that people could sit and play at...
The ceiling was beautiful...as was the ceiling in almost every room. If there wasn't a painting then there was detailed designs. Walking into the next room - it must've been the "hunting room" because there on the wall were the antlers from stags that had been hunted.
Then it was a walk down the hall - past Henry VIII's private chapel - which unfortunately you can't take pictures in...and it's a shame because it is one of the most beautiful peaceful chapels I've been in or seen. It was my favorite part of Hampton Court I think. Walking out of the chapel you were greeted by the painting of Henry VIII - you know just in case you were wondering what he looked like. But my favorite painting in the place was down the hall from Henry...I mean seriously, who wouldn't love this painting?! (lower right - if you were completely lost).
Then it was time to leave Henry VIII and venture into another part (can't remember the name) but it was where they obviously took a great interest in the art of napkin folding. Yes, those are all napkins.
Looking outside at the gardens...I kinda want one of those trees in my yard (wherever my eventual yard is someday) to sit under on hot days and have picnics.
Of course this was also the section where they took great pride in making clothes from paper. Yes, those outfits (plus about 15 others I didn't take pictures of) were made from paper.
My favorite part of this section was the room with the skylight - it was beautiful and super bright!
Of course right as we were leaving was when the live actors were arriving - so we had to go back and see what all the commotion was about...
After about 7 minutes though we were done...so we left the actors and their German accents and headed outside toward "The Great Vine" - which is the largest and oldest grape vine in the world! On the way there we passed by the orangery and some beautiful little gardens
But then we arrived at "The Great Vine" - the sign by the pile of dirt simply says that that section of dirt is left like that because the vines roots are under that ground! Yeah, don't mess with The Vine's roots!!
The Vine is in a greenhouse
They sell the grapes every year in Sept, you place an order, which then ensures that you can get some grapes. These grapes aren't wine grapes they are dessert grapes...maybe next year I'll get some!
This is where all those vines and roots come from...not the best picture - but look at it, it's HUGE!
On our way out we wandered through the rose garden and the kitchen garden (herbs and veggies) and then it was time to say good-bye.
So off we went, back to the bus for our drive home. Ha, ha, ha...remember how I said we're always delayed, yeah. Well we left in what would normally be a great amount of time to get to the Chunnel, however when there are accidents and they close the 3 major roads going around London what would give you enough time suddenly turns into a traffic jam from hell where everyone traveling on the 3 major highways is suddenly driving on all the smaller side and back roads...which means slow going for everyone. Then when we finally got close to the Chunnel, about 5km away the trucks lining the roads were everywhere...and there were other trucks who thought they could be sneaky and cut over in front of parked trucks - you know to be closer to the front of the line - but yeah, that didn't happen so then all traffic stopped again because the truck was stopped in the lane that was for cars! See how our evening was going? So we finally got to the Chunnel, but obviously we had missed our train and it told us to go to the office - so we did...thankfully there was someone in the office who maneuvered it so we could get on the next train - like the train that was leaving in 5 minutes!
So we eventually got home at almost 4 am instead of 1:15 am. Thankfully my loving husband went in to work a little late so I could get around 4 hrs of sleep at home in my bed - it was great!

All together the day was like this:
16 hrs on a bus.
5 hrs at Hampton Court
And about 5 hrs of sleep in 24 hrs (I slept for about an hour on the bus).