Trip to London England - June 2018
Trip to London England June 19 to 27, 2018
In November 2017, my sister Dorothy asked if I might be interested in going to London England with her for a week or so in June 2018. The reason she asked me was that her husband Ed was not interested in going and she was offered a holiday to go back with Ed's distant cousins – Cheryl and Alan Doherty from Hazlemere, England – after their 2 week holiday in Canada staying with Dorothy and Ed.
So I asked Don and he said go ahead so plans were made. We booked our flights (Air Canada from Toronto - $ 1109.41 each). Alan and Cheryl flew British Airways at the same time but it happened that we booked with Air Canada?) Then we ordered London City Passes for 3 days and 25 pound Oyster Cards – for travel in London (132.08 pounds each – x 1.8 for Can $ = $237.75). And we booked an Airbnb flat in London for 2 nights in the Westminister area for $203.65 each). So before taking off we had invested $1550.51 in the trip.
Monday, June 18, 2018 – Left Lakefield around 9 AM and had a lovely lunch at Canterbury Place in Toronto with Grampa Marsden ( day after Father's Day) and Annette ( birthday girl) and Larry Marsden. Did the bimonthly haircut and toenail clipping for Grampa – Father's Day present. Larry and Annette dropped me off at Toronto Airport around 2 PM and I meet up with Dorothy shortly after. Ed had dropped Dorothy, Cheryl and Alan off at Terminal 3 for British Airways and Dorothy had taken the Link train over to Terminal 1 to join me for Air Canada. We spent the next 2 hours in the Plaza Premium Lounge (–thanks to getting free passes by applying for a BMO credit card) drinking some wine and nibbling on their free food before lining up for our 6:35 PM flight to Heathrow. Flight left a bit late but we arrived on time. Food left a lot to be desired so we were happy we had the goodies form the lounge.) Didn't really sleep on the flight but did rest. A little bumpy on the 6 hour flight but arrived safely.
Tuesday, June 19, 2018 – Arrived at 6:45 AM London time after circling London due to heavy air traffic volume. Spent some time clearing British customs and picking up Dorothy's suitcase and emerged to find Cheryl and Alan's daughter Kelly waiting for us. Cheryl and Alan took the train over from their terminal and we were together in 10 minutes. Dorothy purchased a SIM card for her phone and then we were off to Hazlemere to begin our holiday.
We spent a quiet day. Checked out the Parade – shops within a short walk from their house. (Completed our first challenge from our sister Anne – to send a photo of us with fascinators on – which we spotted in a Thrift Store on the Parade). After lunch, Cheryl and I did a hike around the country fields behind their subdivision. Dorothy and I again revised our plans of what we were going to see in London and one what day so we were organized. Lovely curried chicken dinner expertly prepared by Alan and to our 3rd floor bed by 9 PM to catch up on our lost night's sleep when we were flying and tomorrow our early up to get into London.
Wednesday, June 20, 2018 – Up at 6:30 AM for breakfast and Alan dropped us off at the local train station around 7:30 with our luggage for the 2 nights in London. The first part of the trip was roomy and above ground but going into London the train went underground and more people boarded all the time. We had to change trains to get to our St James Park station and then it was rush hour and sardine time – very crowded. We found our way to the Airbnb London 3H flat at The Peabody Trust Bldgs, Abbey Orchard Street – near Westminister Abbey. We had a lot of instructions on where to pick up the keys and things about the flat and the tiny flat served our purposes since we did not spend a lot of time there – only the 2 nights – but the mattress was crappy.
So by 9:30 we had found the flat and unloaded our luggage and were ready for exploring London.
First stop – audio tour inside Westminister Abbey. Westminster Abbey, formally titled the Collegiate Church of St Peter at Westminster, is a large, mainly Gothic abbey church in the City of Westminster, London, England, just to the west of the Palace of Westminster. It is one of the United Kingdom's most notable religious buildings and the traditional place of coronation and burial site for English and, later, British monarchs. The building itself was a Benedictine monastic church until the monastery was dissolved in 1539. Between 1540 and 1556, the abbey had the status of a cathedral. Since 1560, the building is no longer an abbey or a cathedral, having instead the status of a Church of England "Royal Peculiar"—a church responsible directly to the sovereign.
The week before our visit was the funeral of Stephen Hawking who is buried in the Church. More than 3,300 people are buried or commemorated at Westminster Abbey. This has also been the setting for every coronation since 1066, and for many other royal occasions, including 16 weddings.
The Lady Chapel was my favourite spot. Built by King Henry VII, first of the Tudor monarchs. It has a spectacular fan-vaulted roof and the craftsmanship of Italian sculptor Pietro Torrigiano can be seen in Henry's fine tomb.
From there we strolled over to Buckingham Palace (home of the present Queen Elizabeth II) to catch the Changing of the Guard at 11:30 AM. It was very crowded so we took some pictures and moved on before the ceremony actually began. Our mother would have loved the beautiful red geraniums in the gardens there.
We kept walking and reached Piccadilly Circus. Piccadilly Circus connects to Piccadilly, a thoroughfare whose name first appeared in 1626 as Piccadilly Hall, named after a house belonging to one Robert Baker, a tailor famous for selling piccadills, or piccadillies, a term used for various kinds of collars. Piccadilly Circus is a road junction and public space of London's West End in the City of Westminster. It was built in 1819 to connect Regent Street with Piccadilly. In this context, a circus, from the Latin word meaning "circle", is a round open space at a street junction. Piccadilly now links directly to the theatres on Shaftesbury Avenue, as well as the Haymarket, Coventry Street and Glasshouse Street. The Circus is close to major shopping and entertainment areas in the West End.
We did stop at a small market in front of a Church and purchased "bamboo socks" which we had to carry around with us for the rest of the day.
We continued walking and reached Trafalgar Square – the very heart of London and it contains Nelson's Column and several galleries around it. Nelson's Column is a monument in Trafalgar Square in central London built to commemorate Admiral Horatio Nelson, who died at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805. The monument was constructed between 1840 and 1843 to a design by William Railton at a cost of £47,000. It is a column of the Corinthian order built from Dartmoor granite. The Craigleith sandstone statue of Nelson is by E.H. Baily, and the four bronze lions on the base, added in 1867, were designed by Sir Edwin Landseer. It was refurbished in 2006 at a cost of £420,000, at which time it was surveyed and found to be 14 ft 6 in (4.4 m) shorter than previously supposed. The whole monument is 169 ft 3 in (51.6 m) tall from the bottom of the pedestal to the top of Nelson's hat (supposedly the height of the mast of his ship – so the Hop On Hop Off Bus tour guide told us?)
We took a quick trip into The National Gallery (free admission) on Trafalgar Square to search for a painting done by Michelangelo Caravaggio (a second challenge for our sister Anne).
After this we walked back to towards Westminister Abbey along Whitehall Street and stopped for a tour of Banqueting House of Whitehall Palace. Designed by Inigo Jones for King James I and completed on 1622, the Banqueting House is the only complete surviving building of Whitehall Palace, the sovereign's principal residence from 1530 until 1698 when it was destroyed by fire. It was also the site of King Charles I execution in 1648. Originally built for state occasions, plays, and masques.
We continued walking up Whitehall past 10 Downing Street (home of the British PM Theresa May) and turned at Edward Street to check out the Churchill War Rooms which cousin Rita recommended. The line-up for this attraction was too long for us at 3 PM so we finally located the right spot to catch the Hop On Hop Off Bus and rode very slowly due to traffic to St Paul's Cathedral.
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is an Anglican cathedral, the seat of the Bishop of London and the mother church of the Diocese of London. It sits on Ludgate Hill at the highest point of the City of London, Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. The present cathedral, dating from the late 17th century, was designed in the English Baroque style by Sir Christopher Wren. Its construction, completed in Wren's lifetime, was part of a major rebuilding programme in the City after the Great Fire of London. One of the other exciting features on the tour of the main cathedral floor is the famous St Paul's Cathedral dome. Scenes from the life of the apostle Paul were painted over the course of four years onto the dome's ceiling by a man named James Thornhill. However, the paintings on the dome today are actually reproductions. Thornhill's scenes had to be repainted in the late 1800's due to deterioration from London's smog.
Services held at St Paul's have included the funerals of Admiral Nelson, the Duke of Wellington, Sir Winston Churchill and Baroness Thatcher; jubilee celebrations for Queen Victoria; peace services marking the end of the First and Second World Wars; the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer; the launch of the Festival of Britain; and the thanksgiving services for the Silver, Golden and Diamond Jubilees and the 80th and 90th birthdays of Elizabeth II. The crypt (largest in Europe) is the resting place for famous Britons such as Admiral Lord Nelson, the Duke of Wellington and the cathedral's architect Sir Christopher Wren.
We decided the bus was too slow so we took the London tube (subway) over to the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum (free admission) – Dorothy's choice. It is the world's leading museum of art and design, housing a permanent collection of over 2.3 million objects that span over 5,000 years of human creativity. We took in a fashion through the ages exhibition, silver collection and jewelry and a little stained glass exhibition too before closing time. Then we had a long stroll back to the flat and collected wine from Salisbury's grocery store and salmon takeaway dinner from "Pret a Manger" deli and some berries from a street vendor on the way. It was a busy day and we were spent. The owner of the flat we were in seemed to be a Steve McQueen fan and shown is the large picture above the bathtub.
Thursday, June 21, 2018 – Up early, had a yogurt parfait with berries we bought yesterday and headed off to stand in line outside the Churchill War Rooms attraction. We had to wait for 45 minutes in the cool shade – we would have preferred the sunshine since we were cool – but we enjoyed the audio tour – very comprehensive and interesting. It was the underground headquarters that acted as the top secret nerve centre for where Churchill and his inner circle determined the course for the Second World War. It has a large exhibit of Winston Churchill's personal and political life. The recent movie "the Darkest Hour" depicts this time and environment. Learned during the tour that Churchill could not stand the sound of typewriters so silent typewriters had to be used around him – didn't know silent typewriters existed myself.
From here we walked over to the Westminister Pier on the Thames River to board the City Cruise boat to the London Bridge and Tower of London Pier. Before boarding we had a chance to admire "Big Ben" and the back of the Parliament Buildings from the pier. As you can see in the picture, Big Ben was undergoing renovation and is surrounded by scaffholding. Big Ben is the nickname for the Great Bell of the clock at the north end of the Palace of Westminster in London and is usually extended to refer to both the clock and the clock tower. The official name of the tower in which Big Ben is located was originally the Clock Tower, but it was renamed Elizabeth Tower in 2012 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II.
On our river cruise we passed by many London attractions such as the The London Eye, known for sponsorship reasons as the Coca-Cola London Eye. It is a giant Ferris wheel on the South Bank of the River Thames. The structure is 135 metres tall and the wheel has a diameter of 120 metres. When it opened to the public in 2000 it was the world's tallest Ferris wheel. A rotation takes an hour and our guide said you can arrange to be married on it too.
We also passed a beautiful $55 million US yacht named Aventa that was parked beside the HMS Belfast and owned by a Russian diplomat.
The Thames River in London is tidal with a variation of 7 metres. The Thames is the longest River in England flowing 215 miles from it's source. It runs by Windsor and Hampton Court.
We landed at Tower Pier and toured the Tower of London – seeing the vast array of armour and weapons. I learned what a "garberobe" was – a toilet/privy in a medieval castle. The Tower of London, officially Her Majesty's Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London, is a historic castle. It was founded towards the end of 1066 as part of the Norman Conquest of England. The White Tower, which gives the entire castle its name, was built by William the Conqueror in 1078 and was a resented symbol of oppression, inflicted upon London by the new ruling elite. The castle was used as a prison from 1100 until 1952, although that was not its primary purpose. A grand palace early in its history, it served as a royal residence. As a whole, the Tower is a complex of several buildings set within two concentric rings of defensive walls and a moat. There were several phases of expansion, mainly under Kings Richard I, Henry III, and Edward I in the 12th and 13th centuries. The general layout established by the late 13th century remains despite later activity on the site.
While I toured the White Tower, Dorothy had a peak at the Crown Jewels since she had already toured the White Tower on a previous trip 5 years earlier.
Onward to tour "All Hallows (All Saints) by the Tower" Church beside the Tower of London. This small church survived the Great Fire of London (1666), rebuilt after extensive bomb damage in WWII and was rededicated in 1957.
We then strolled over to do the Tower Bridge Exhibition.Tower Bridge has stood over the River Thames in London since 1894 and is one of the finest, most recognizable bridges in the world. We walked across the high level walkway with it's new glass floor, toured the Victorian Engine Rooms – home of the original steam engines. The bridge consists of two bridge towers tied together at the upper level by two horizontal walkways, designed to withstand the horizontal tension forces exerted by the suspended sections of the bridge on the landward sides of the towers. The vertical components of the forces in the suspended sections and the vertical reactions of the two walkways are carried by the two robust towers. The bascule pivots and operating machinery are housed in the base of each tower. Before its restoration in the 2010s, the bridge's colour scheme dated from 1977, when it was painted red, white and blue for Queen Elizabeth II's Silver Jubilee. Its colours were subsequently restored to blue and white.
So on the south side of the Thames we took in the "Tower Bridge Experience" – a dramatization of London's history done by local actors but bypassed the Tomb maze experience – not too impressive and Dorothy was accused of being a witch but escaped being burnt at the stake. We had a nice dinner at an English Pub directly across from the entrance of this Tower Bridge Experience.
One more stop today is "The Shard" (designed to appear like a shard of glass at the top) to get a great view of the city. At the height of 800 feet or 244 metres (open air observation deck) and almost twice the height of any other vantage point in London, it has a 360 degree view of up to 40 miles on a clear day. Level 69 is the observation deck and we were pleasantly surprised when we used the ladies room that the there was a floor to ceiling window there too. The Shard, is a 95-story skyscraper, designed by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. It is the tallest building in the United Kingdom, the tallest building in the European Union, the fifth-tallest building in Europe and the 96th-tallest building in the world. The Shard's construction began in March 2009 and practical completion was achieved in November 2012. The glass-clad pyramidal tower has 72 habitable floors.
We walked over London Bridge to the north side of the Thames and down to the Tower Pier (pass the fancy Savoy Hotel) to catch one of the last city cruise boats back to Westminister Pier and then the short walk back to our Flat. Tired but happy and a glass of wine awaited us.
Friday, June 22, 2018 – Up early again and following a yogurt, berry and granola breakfast we were packed and left our London flat bound for Windsor Castle. We took the tube to Paddington Station (crowded in the downtown core area) and our London Pass enabled us to take the train to Slough and then transfer to the Windsor train with no charge. Alan very kindly met us at the Windsor Train Station by Queen Victoria's Train Engine – the Queen and took our luggage so we would not have to drag it around Windsor Castle with us. We then strolled over to Windsor Castle and joined the queue to get in which took some time at 9:45 AM. We picked up our audio tour equipment and headed over to the State Apartments tour. Windsor Castle is a royal residence at Windsor in the English county of Berkshire. It is notable for its long association with the English and later British royal family and for its architecture.
The original castle was built in the 11th century after the Norman invasion of England by William the Conqueror. Since the time of Henry I, it has been used by the reigning monarch and is the longest-occupied palace in Europe. The castle's lavish early 19th-century State Apartments were described by the art historian Hugh Roberts as "a superb and unrivalled sequence of rooms widely regarded as the finest and most complete expression of later Georgian taste". Many of the rooms on the eastern end of the castle had to be restored following the 1992 fire, using "equivalent restoration" methods – the rooms were restored so as to appear similar to their original appearance, but using modern materials and concealing modern structural improvements. We were fortunate to see the Changing of the Guard Ceremony in the Inner Courtyard – done there this week because it is Ascot (horse racing) Week and the Queen is in residence at Windsor Castle and her private apartments look out on this inner courtyard. Then we went on to the 15th-century St George's Chapel, considered by the historian John Martin Robinson to be "one of the supreme achievements of English Perpendicular Gothic" design. This huge building is the spiritual home of the Order of the Knights of the Garter and dates from the late 15th and early 16th century The vault in front of the altar houses the remains of Henry VIII, Jane Seymour and Charles I, with Edward IV buried nearby.
We reunited with Alan and had lunch at a lovely outdoor café on the River Thames with a large flock of beautiful white swans resting nearby. Apparently the Queen owns all the swans in Britain and they are counted annually and there are big fines for anyone harming them.
After lunch we strolled over Windsor Bridge to see Eton College. As luck would have it, it was 2 PM and a guided tour was just starting and we joined in to learn all about the College. Eton College is an English independent boarding school for boys. It educates more than 1,300 pupils, aged 13 to 18 years. It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI as "The King's College of Our Lady of Eton besides Wyndsor", making it the 18th-oldest Headmasters' and Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) school.
Eton is one of the original seven public schools as defined by the Public Schools Act 1868. Following the public school tradition, Eton is a full boarding school, which means all pupils live at the school, and it is one of four such remaining single-sex boys' public schools in the United Kingdom (the others being Harrow, Radley, and Winchester) to continue this practice. The four other public schools have since become co-educational; Rugby (1976), Charterhouse (1971), Westminster (1973), and Shrewsbury (2008). Eton has educated 19 British prime ministers and generations of the aristocracy and has been referred to as the chief nurse of England's statesmen.
Eton charges up to £12,910 per term (x 1.8 for CAN $), with three terms per academic year, in 2017/18. Eton was noted as being the sixth most expensive HMC boarding school in the UK in 2013/14, However the school admits some boys with modest parental income: in 2011 it was reported that around 250 boys received "significant" financial help from the school, with the figure rising to 263 pupils in 2014, receiving the equivalent of around 60% of school fee assistance, whilst a further 63 received their education free of charge. Eton has also announced plans to increase the figure to around 320 pupils, with 70 educated free of charge, with the intention that the number of pupils receiving financial assistance from the school continues to increase. Eton College was founded by King Henry VI as a charity school to provide free education to 70 poor boys who would then go on to King's College, Cambridge, founded by the same King in 1441.
After this tour we strolled to the carpark and Alan drove us the hour ride to their Doherty home in Hazlemere. Alan and Cheryl were busy looking after their 3 grandsons – Harry(10), Thomas(7) and Alexander(1) but had provided our chicken salad dinner for Dorothy and I. Quiet evening. Watched half of "the Golden Bowl" movie form the Henry James Collection – not recommended.
Saturday, June 23, 2018 – This day's adventure took us to Blenheim Palace. Cheryl skillfully drove us there and we took in the Upstairs Tour of this beautiful place. Blenheim Palace is a monumental English country house situated in the civil parish of Blenheim near Woodstock, Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. It is the principal residence of the Dukes of Marlborough, and the only non-royal non-episcopal country house in England to hold the title of palace. The palace, one of England's largest houses, was built between 1705 and circa 1722. Blenheim Palace was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
The building of the palace was originally intended to be a reward to John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, from a grateful nation for the duke's military triumphs against the French and Bavarians during the War of the Spanish Succession, culminating in the 1704 Battle of Blenheim. However, soon after its construction began, the palace became the subject of political infighting; this led to Marlborough's exile, the fall from power of his duchess, and lasting damage to the reputation of the architect Sir John Vanbrugh.
Designed in the rare, and short-lived, English Baroque style, architectural appreciation of the palace is as divided today as it was in the 1720s. It is unique in its combined use as a family home, mausoleum and national monument. The palace is also notable as the birthplace and ancestral home of Sir Winston Churchill.
Following the palace's completion, it became the home of the Churchill, later Spencer-Churchill, (note – Spencer – as in Princess Diana who was a Spencer) family for the next 300 years, and various members of the family have wrought changes to the interiors, park and gardens. At the end of the 19th century, the palace was saved from ruin by funds gained from the 9th Duke of Marlborough's marriage to American railroad heiress Consuelo Vanderbilt. The exterior of the palace remains in good repair. Learned on the tour that the Churchill family had heavy eyelids as seen in their portraits? We had a little lunch and took a 50 cent train ride to some gardens and children's play area. We also strolled (Dorothy slid) to the Harry Potter tree on the grounds before driving back to Hazlemere. There was the annual Blenheim Flower Show on the grounds but we had no time to attend.
At 5 PM we were treated to a local women's choir in a Parish Hall and Cheryl's sister Theresa was in the Choir. While enjoying the uplifting music we were introduced to Pimm's No.1 summer drink which Dorothy and I developed an instant liking for. We also had the pleasure of meeting Cheryl's Mother Janet and Stepfather Max at the concert. Following the concert we were treated by Cheryl and Alan to a delicious dinner at one of their favourite local restaurants. We walked around the little village there and saw the small worker cottages of the local estate that Cheryl's maternal grandparents and other relatives lived in. Another beautiful day we had in England. The weather has been exceptional with blue sky days and warm temperatures. I did not bring a rain coat for the trip and glad for that because we never needed one. I did tuck in a little collapsible umbrella in my luggage but it never came out.
Sunday, June 24, 2018 – Lovely fried egg breakfast before Alan and Cheryl took us to tour Hampton Court Palace– over and hour drive away south of Hazlemere.
Hampton Court Palace is a royal palace in the borough of Richmond upon Thames, London, England, 11.7 miles (18.8 kilometres) south west and upstream of central London on the River Thames. Building of the palace began in 1515 for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, a favourite of King Henry VIII. In 1529, as Wolsey fell from favour, the Cardinal gifted the palace to the King to check his disgrace; Henry VIII later enlarged it. Along with St James's Palace, it is one of only two surviving palaces out of the many owned by King Henry VIII.
In the following century, King William III's massive rebuilding and expansion work, which was intended to rival Versailles, destroyed much of the Tudor palace. Work ceased in 1694, leaving the palace in two distinct contrasting architectural styles, domestic Tudor and Baroque. While the palace's styles are an accident of fate, a unity exists due to the use of pink bricks and a symmetrical, if vague, balancing of successive low wings. King George II was the last monarch to reside in the palace.
We started our tour in the vast royal kitchens and costumed actors were bringing it to life for the day and talk about what it was like to feed 400 people per day – and King Henry would serve 40 different dishes at a meal. Next we went on to King Henry VIII's apartments. During the Tudor period, the palace was the scene of many historic events. In 1537, the King's much desired male heir, the future Edward VI, was born at the palace and the child's mother, Jane Seymour, died there two weeks later. Four years afterwards, whilst attending Mass in the palace's chapel, the King was informed of the adultery of his fifth wife, Catherine Howard. She was then confined to her room for a few days before being sent to Syon House and then on to the Tower of London. Legend claims she briefly escaped her guards and ran through The Haunted Gallery in this area to beg Henry for her life but she was recaptured. We also took in the Cumberland Art Gallery there and found another Michelangelo Caravaggio painting to email a picture to sister Anne to impress her again.
Next was a tour of William III and Mary II apartments. It was in 1689, England had joint monarchs, Dutch Prince of Orange King William III and his wife (and first cousin) Queen Mary II. Within months of their accession they embarked on a massive rebuilding project at Hampton Court. The intention was to demolish the Tudor palace a section at a time, while replacing it with a huge modern palace in the Baroque style retaining only Henry VIII's Great Hall. Half the Tudor palace was replaced and Henry VIII's state rooms and private apartments were both lost; the new wings around the Fountain Court contained new state apartments and private rooms, one set for the King and one for the Queen. Each suite of state rooms was accessed by a state staircase. The royal suites were of completely equal value in order to reflect William and Mary's unique status as joint sovereigns. After the death of Queen Mary, King William lost interest in the renovations, and work ceased. However, it was in Hampton Court Park in 1702 that he fell from his horse, later dying from his injuries at Kensington Palace. He was succeeded by his sister-in-law Queen Anne who continued the decoration and completion of the state apartments. On Queen Anne's death in 1714 the Stuart dynasty came to an end. Queen Anne's successor was George I; he and his son George II were the last monarchs to reside at Hampton Court.
We met Cheryl and Alan for a lunchtime recital in the Chapel Royal featuring 3 young men from King's College School, Wimbledon – separate soloists – clarinet, harp and piano. Magical indeed.
After a delicious potato and leek soup in the Privy Kitchen Café, we were fortunate to catch a 2 PM Garden History Tour. The grounds as they appear today were laid out in grand style in the late 17th century. There are no authentic remains of Henry VIII's gardens, merely a small knot garden, planted in 1924, which hints at the gardens' 16th-century appearance. Today, the dominating feature of the grounds is the great landscaping scheme constructed for Sir Christopher Wren's intended new palace. From a water-bounded semicircular parterre, the length of the east front, three avenues radiate in a crow's foot pattern. The central avenue, containing not a walk or a drive, but the great canal known as the Long Water, was excavated during the reign of Charles II, in 1662. The design, radical at the time, is another immediately recognizable influence from Versailles, and was indeed laid out by pupils of André Le Nôtre, Louis XIV's landscape gardener. On the south side of the palace is the Privy Garden bounded by semi-circular wrought iron gates by Jean Tijou.(Who our guide said never did get paid for his work.) This garden, originally William III's private garden, was replanted in 1992 in period style with manicured hollies and yews along a geometric system of paths.
On a raised site overlooking the Thames, is a small pavilion, the Banqueting House. This was built circa 1700, for informal meals and entertainments in the gardens rather than for the larger state dinners which would have taken place inside the palace itself. A nearby conservatory (greenhouse) houses the "Great Vine", planted in 1769; by 1968 it had a trunk 81 inches thick and has a length of 100 feet. It still produces an annual crop of grapes. It is in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Other Notable Mentions Regarding Hampton Court
Grace and favour residencies - From the 1760s, the palace was used to house grace and favour residents. Many of the palace rooms were adapted to be rent free apartments, with vacant ones allocated by the Lord Chamberlain to applicants to reward past services rendered to the Crown. From the 1960s the number of new residents declined, with the last admitted in the 1980s. However existing residents could continue to live there. In 2005 three remained, with none by 2017. It was the elderly recipient of one such grace and favour apartment, Lady Daphne Gale, widow of General Sir Richard Gale, who caused a major fire that claimed her life and spread to the King's Apartments in 1986. This led to a new programme of restoration work which was completed in 1990.
In an age of central heating, supermarkets and instant hot water, the chimney might seem an odd choice but in the 16th Century, heat and food on tap were essential components of luxury living and certainly not something that the majority had. To achieve this required fireplaces and lots of them – to put the level of consumption of this ruling class into perspective, the excessive appetite of Henry VIII's residences were such that he and his court had to move to different Palaces around the country so not to completely exhaust the resources (firewood, meat and grain) of the surrounding region. Today Hampton Court Palace is adorned with 241 chimney stacks but in the 16th Century there would have been even more. It was not just the number of chimney stacks however, but the detail bestowed upon them. In contrast to the simple brick construction that makes up much of the palace, the chimneys stacks are formed from ornate cut brickwork embossed with differing geometric patterns. This detail is purposely done to draw your eye up and highlight the wealth and power of it's owner. The chimney stacks are constructed from intricately patterned brickwork with each chimney featuring a different pattern. Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt half of Hampton Court Palace in the much grander Baroque Style. Behind the formal facades peak the still all important chimneys however these are no longer given prominence or detail.
Royal Tennis Court – Not to be confused with Lawn Tennis, Real Tennis goes back centuries. Henry VIII, Charles I, William III and Prince Albert all played at Hampton Court. The court is enclosed in a building and the cork ball can bounce off the walls. Royal interest in England began with Henry V (reigned 1413–22) but it was Henry VIII (reigned 1509–47) who made the biggest impact as a young monarch, playing the game with gusto at Hampton Court on a court he had built in 1530 and on several other courts in his palaces. His second wife Anne Boleyn was watching a game of real tennis when she was arrested and it is believed that Henry was playing tennis when news was brought to him of her execution. Queen Elizabeth I was a keen spectator of the game. During the reign of James I (1603–25), there were 14 courts in London.
Back to Hazlemere for a delicious English Roast Beef Sunday dinner made by Cheryl and Alan complete with Yorkshire Pudding and Gravy. On TV that night we were treated to a new episode of Poldark.
Monday, June 25, 2018 - Another adventure today with Cheryl and Alan driving us up to Waddesdon Manor - Waddesdon Manor is a country house in the village of Waddesdon, in Buckinghamshire, England. It is located in the Aylesbury Vale, 6.6 miles (10.6 km) west of Aylesbury. The Grade I listed house was built in the Neo-Renaissance style of a French château between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898) as a weekend residence for grand entertaining and as a setting for his large art collection. The last member of the Rothschild family to own Waddesdon was James de Rothschild (1878–1957). He bequeathed the house and its contents to the National Trust. It is now managed by the Rothschild Foundation chaired by Jacob Rothschild, 4th Baron Rothschild. It is one of the National Trust's most visited properties, with over 467,000 visitors annually. Waddesdon Manor won Visit England's Large Visitor Attraction of the Year category in 2017. But we drove up the driveway to read the sign that said the House and Grounds were closed for the day – so we had to make another plan. The decision was to drive 30 minutes further to visit Bletchley Park.
Bletchley Park was the central site for British (and subsequently, Allied) codebreakers during World War II. It housed the Government Code and Cypher School (GC&CS), which regularly penetrated the secret communications of the Axis Powers – most importantly the German Enigma and Lorenz ciphers. According to the official historian of British Intelligence, the "Ultra" intelligence produced at Bletchley shortened the war by two to four years, and without it the outcome of the war would have been uncertain.
In 1938, the mansion and much of the site was bought by a builder planning a housing estate, but in May 1938 Admiral Sir Hugh Sinclair, head of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS or MI6), bought the mansion and 58 acres (23 ha) of land for £6,000, using his own money after the Government said they did not have the budget to do so, for use by GC&CS and SIS in the event of war.
A key advantage seen by Sinclair and his colleagues (inspecting the site under the cover of "Captain Ridley's shooting party") was Bletchley's geographical centrality. It was almost immediately adjacent to Bletchley railway station, where the "Varsity Line" between Oxford and Cambridge – whose universities were expected to supply many of the code-breakers – met the main West Coast railway line connecting London, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Watling Street, the main road linking London to the north-west (subsequently the A5) was close by, and high-volume communication links were available at the telegraph and telephone repeater station in nearby Fenny Stratford.
From an initial staff of 120 people in 1938 , in January 1945, at the peak of codebreaking efforts, some 10,000 personnel were working at Bletchley and its outstations. About three-quarters of these were women. Many of the women came from middle-class backgrounds and held degrees in the areas of mathematics, physics and engineering. Personnel did not live in the Park but there were social clubs on site and food provided. All staff signed the Official Secrets Act (1939) and a 1942 security warning emphasised the importance of discretion even within Bletchley itself: "Do not talk at meals. Do not talk in the transport. Do not talk travelling. Do not talk in the billet. Do not talk by your own fireside. Be careful even in your Hut ..."
We toured the Museum there and after a Tomato Soup lunch we joined a guided tour in the grounds – all very interesting and mine-boggling in the intelligence of the geniuses that worked there such as Oxford's Peter Twinn, Cambridge's Alan Turing and Gordon Welchman and Mathematicians Derek Taunt, Jack Good, Bill Tutte and Max Newman and Cryptanalyst Joan Clarke.
Bletchley Park's story in the movie "The Imitiation Game" and
the BBC TV series "the Bletchley Circle."
Back to our Hazlemere base, Dorothy treated us to a delicious dinner at the The Royal Standard of England – The Oldest Freehouse in the UK, Beaconsfield.
Tuesday, June 26, 2018 – Our last full day in England was a drive with Cheryl to visit Oxford. We had a personal tour of Oxford College Highlights by Cheryl's sister Teena who has worked in the Admissions Office there for the past 20 years. The University of Oxford is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and one of the most famous and prestigious higher education institutions of the world, averaging nine applications to every available place, and attracting 40% of its academic staff and 17% of undergraduates from overseas. It is currently ranked as the world's number one university, according to The Times Higher Education World University Rankings. Oxford is renowned for its tutorial-based method of teaching, with students attending an average of one one-hour tutorial a week. The university is made up of a variety of institutions, including 38 constituent colleges and a full range of academic departments which are organised into four divisions. All the colleges are self-governing institutions within the university, each controlling its own membership and with its own internal structure and activities. Being a city university, it does not have a main campus and instead its buildings and facilities are scattered throughout the city centre. Most undergraduate teaching and postgraduate teaching at Oxford is organised around weekly tutorials at the colleges and halls, supported by classes, lectures, seminars, and laboratory work provided by university faculties and departments.
Oxford has educated many notable alumni, including 29 Nobel laureates, 27 prime ministers of the United Kingdom and many heads of state and government around the world. Sixty-nine Nobel Prize winners, 4 Fields Medalists, and 6 Turing Award winners have studied, worked, or held visiting fellowships at the University of Oxford. Oxford is the home of the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the world's oldest international scholarships.
Before we met Teena, we had a little time to check out some of the shops in Oxford such as Primark and Marks and Spencer. Our first stop on our Oxford College experience was a brief visit into the Ashmolean Museum, the world's first university museum, and the oldest museum in the UK. Its first building was erected in 1678–1683 to house a cabinet of curiosities given to the University of Oxford in 1677. The museum reopened in 2009 after a major redevelopment.
From there Teena whisked us off to the Bodleian Library. The University of Oxford maintains the largest university library system in the UK, and, with over 11 million volumes housed on 120 miles (190 km) of shelving, the Bodleian group is the second-largest library in the UK, after the British Library. The Bodleian is a legal deposit library, which means that it is entitled to request a free copy of every book published in the UK. As such, its collection is growing at a rate of over three miles (five kilometres) of shelving every year.
We enjoyed seeing the Graduation hall, Examination hall, and the beautiful Queen's College Library on our whirlwind tour. Dorothy and I had our picture taken under the Bridge of Sighs as requested by sister Anne. We had a lovely lunch at an outdoor café. Plus we scoured the area for "Green Men" and actually found a pretty "Green Woman". A Green Man is a sculpture or other representation of a face surrounded by or made from leaves – maybe pagan culture? Found in many cultures from many ages around the world, the Green Man is often related to natural vegetative deities. It is primarily interpreted as a symbol of rebirth, representing the cycle of growth each spring.
Back to Hazlemere for our last supper and time to pack for our journey home tomorrow.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018 – Time for some retail therapy before we return to the colonies. Cheryl guided us around the shops of West Wycombe – of which there are many – including Primark and M&S again. Even a fabric store was on the agenda. But we had to stop again at the Hazlemere Parade to pick up some items we had spotted on our first day. We had stopped one day at an Aldi to pick up a few treasures too to drag home with us. Back to home base for a farewell bacon and egg lunch before the hour drive to Heathrow and the plane back to Toronto. A great BIG THANKS to our wonderful hosts – Cheryl and Alan Doherty for looking after us so well and taking us to great places!
The full Air Canada plane took off on time at 6PM London time and arrived in Toronto as scheduled at 8:40 PM and Don was right there to pick me up and Dorothy had an express car booked to take her home to Beamsville. The food on the plane was pitiful but they gave us two little bottles of wine with our dinner – that probably kept the complaints down.
Great Trip! Learned lots and enjoyed it all – except for the bed in the London Flat and the fat Hazlemere pigeons that started cooing at 4:30 AM – and a loud big dog woffing at 1 AM one morning.