Saturday, February 16, 2013

Hampton Court Palace

Writing yesterday's post got me motivated. I thought, "Why am I writing about not planning a day trip instead of just planning a day trip?" So after posting I immediately went out on the web and figured out how to get to Hampton Court Palace, a vast complex of palaces and gardens west of London.

Hampton Court is said to have been the favorite home of Henry VIII, and I've wanted to visit there for many months. It's about half an hour by train from London Waterloo. Dave and I left Olga at home -- we bravely decided doggy day care wasn't necessary!

The older parts of Hampton Court had very interesting and ornate chimneys. Lots of them, too. Visitors can see the Chapel Royal with a replica of Henry VIII's crown, the dining halls, various residential apartments belonging to a series of monarchs, and the palace kitchens.

The kitchens were huge -- as I suppose they'd need to be if you're going to be butchering animals and whatnot. We think the tools above might have been used for smoking meat, but we weren't sure. Everything was cooked over open fires in immense fireplaces -- big enough for an animal on a spit.

One of the gardens features a series of sculpted creatures holding small flagpoles. This one looked like something from the Island of Misfit Toys.

A later section of the palace, started by William & Mary in the 1680s, has a completely different appearance and faces onto a large rear garden.

The garden is planted with distinctively trimmed conical yew trees. The pathways lead to a series of ponds, including one called the Long Water that runs through a fenced hunting ground occupied by a herd of fallow deer. In fact, we saw some deer drama...

When we first walked to the Long Water, we saw a deer swimming in circles in the middle, entirely submerged except for his head. He was all alone, with all the other deer standing on the shore watching. It was like he'd lost his mind.

Some other visitors told us that he'd been running at top speed and hit his head against a tree. He then plunged into the waterway. We watched for a while,  and though he moved to shallower water he didn't try to climb out. In fact, we went away for an hour or so, touring different parts of the palace and eating lunch, and when we came back the deer was still standing in the water. I think he had a closed-head injury.

Maybe he was just trying to avoid becoming a trophy on the wall of the palace's Great Hall?

Dave and I explored the gardens, where the crocuses were blooming purple and gold in the grass, before returning to the train and heading back to London. Olga behaved well during our absence, and it did me wonders to get out of town and see something I've long meant to see.


  1. Crazy deer, castles, and Yew trees! Yes, that was a good get-away.

  2. I've read several books on Henry VIII so this was a real treat. What a fabulous excursion! Good for you! And glad to hear your home was not in shambles when you returned!

  3. I guess they would need a lot of chimneys since not only cooking but heating was by fireplace. Nice pics. I'd like to see one of those castle rooms appointed with the furniture and wall hangings/rugs, etc. that were in actual use in those days.

  4. Boy it was so much WORK to live back then - I can't even imagine!

    I'm glad Olga behaved :)

  5. Great pics! But whose job is it to keep those crazy yews trimmed?

    The poor dear deer. I have to say though I've never seen such strange antlers or a stranger looking deer than that one.

    I prefer William & Mary's architecture! Lovely!

  6. Ms Moon: The crazy deer was an especially exciting diversion.

    Helene: The British know that Henry VIII is an object of international fascination, and they really play on that to draw people to this palace. They act out short plays based on Henry's life and even have costumed actors walking around. (I stayed away from them. Didn't want to lose my head!)

    Ellen: Exactly! Lots of fireplaces! Some of the rooms were furnished, but I don't know how authentic the furniture was.

    Bug: Yeah, but then again, no television!

    Lynne: I think the deer looks strange because it's a fallow deer -- a different kind from the white-tailed deer we see in the states. But then, I am not a deer expert.

  7. Aw I remember going there as a boy - I'd love to go back! Looked like a sunny day too :)