Wednesday, August 31st–London

By Tube to Westminster; by boat from Westminster Pier to Hampton Court Palace; mead; by train back home eventually; Boots; dinner at Scoff & Banter

Best Western Cromwell

Slideshow--this is a long one! That's what happens when I'm out on the Thames, on the way to somewhere interesting, and the weather's good enough for me to be out on deck the whole way.


For a day that was actually pretty full and busy and which I enjoyed quite a bit there's not really a whole lot to write about it.

I was down at the Westminster Pier in plenty of time this morning, not much after 10 AM, for the 11 AM sailing to Hampton Court Palace .

Although the boat was supposed to leave at 11 AM we didn't get underway until close to 11:30. I was also rather surprised at how small this particular tour boat was, having been on at least a couple of larger ones last year. The crew kept telling us that the boat could carry almost 200 passengers so maybe the interior lower deck was pretty large.

It never got very warm today. If you were in the sun when the wind wasn't blowing it was almost warm, and nowhere near shorts weather. I should have worn one of my sweatshirts, because when we were moving out on the river and the sun was behind the clouds it was pretty damn chilly. I could have gone into the enclosed downstairs cabin or moved to the open rear deck which would have been protected from most of the breeze but the view wouldn't have been the same and that's mostly why I love traveling by boat so I just toughed it out.

I'd never traveled that far along the Thames, having only gone as far as Kew Gardens in that direction. I did go as far as Greenwich in the other direction, and hope to do so again on this trip. About halfway along you leave the long stretch of the Thames full of new luxury and greatly expensive housing developments and the countryside gets quite rurally lovely.

There are two areas along the way where river traffic is diverted through locks, at Richmond and at Teddington which were enjoyable and were in very lovely scenery as well.

I took an absurd amount of pictures along the way because there were always some nice or merely interesting looking buildings or boats or even just wonderful trees, one after another. Even in the stretches with the luxury condos many of the buildings were well worth taking a look at or picture of.

The boat to Hampton Court Palace only stops at Kew Pier, Richmond Pier, and at the pier for Hampton Court Palace they appear to be the only ones licensed to use it. What I saw of Richmond looked like it would be a pleasant place to come back to and explore on its own right, even though there's very little left of historic Elizabethan Richmond.

I had bought a return ticket, intending to catch the 4:00 PM boat back. There are supposed to be two sailings from Westminster to HCP daily, one at 11 and one at noon, and two leaving HCP for the return trip to Westminster, one at 3 and the last at 4 PM. As we were disembarking the crew announced that they would be not going back until 4 PM since there was some sort of problem with the other boat which might explain why we left late.

I had no idea how long it had taken us to get there, or even what time it was, until I checked my pocket watch after I got off the boat at HCP. It was then already close to 2:30 PM, so if I caught the 4 PM boat back I'd have not much more than an hour to find somewhere to have lunch which I desperately needed to do by then and also explore what I could of the palace and grounds so I decided I'd take the train back to town which runs much later and much more often as well.

Even though I had already ordered and paid for my ticket online last night, I still had to stop by the ticket office at the shop to get an actual paper ticket. After I did so I went to the nearest of the Palace's two restaurants, the Tiltyard Café, where I had a very nice plate of sausages and mashed. Not all sausages are alike; most of the ones I've had with mashed potatoes and gravy don't give me indigestion but the ones put out for breakfast here in the hotel do.

I really enjoyed wandering around HCP and although as usual I know I didn't see everything there is to see and go everywhere there is to go, and didn't explore more of the grounds including the Maze than I walked through to get where I was going, I'm pretty sure I saw most of the interior spaces open for visiting. This will give some idea as to how much I liked HCP–shortly after I got there, the battery in my camera died and apparently I hadn't actually charged the replacement battery I had in my pocket so I had to switch to taking pictures on my iPhone–and when I was sending all the ones I'd taken to my email address to get them from my iPhone to my laptop, I had taken over 70 pictures.

I know I would have enjoyed wandering around more of the grounds and gardens and the Maze, and thought about taking the hansom cart tour of the gardens, but I was getting tired and my knees were bothering me a bit again. I do feel much better today but am still not all the way back to what passes for normal levels of congestion and disturbance to my inner ear and balance yet.

Before I left the grounds I stopped in at the gift shop. I was looking for any CDs recorded in the splendidly lovely Royal Chapel but they didn't have any so I bought a bottle of their mead instead (which is very nice as well). The bag I got to carry the mead back home in came in handy since I also stuck my camera and the dead batteries in it as well.

I had never really thought about it but I now know why the Palace is referred to in full as Hamton Court Palace and not just as Hampton Court–right across the Thames from the Palace is a train station called Hampton Court. The town around the train station also looked like it would be a very pleasant place to while away some time in with at least a couple of lovely looking pubs and cafes.

I was a little confused about taking the train into town. I had originally written down the directions to get from Hampton Court to Westminster Cathedral, since I had been thinking of going to the recital there at 7:30 PM this evening–I gave up on that idea when I didn't leave the Palace until about 5:30 PM and by then I really just wanted to get back here and stretch out for a bit before dinner. I got off the London Waterloo line at Raynes Park because I thought I had recognized the name as being somewhere on one of the Tube lines that also goes through Gloucester Road but when I got off there I didn't see a Tube station anywhere near by and when I asked I learned I needed to get back on the next train and get off at the next stop, Wimbledon, which I really knew was really along a line that goes through Gloucester Road.

I got back here just about 6 PM and stopped by the Boots to pick up a couple more Slimfasts. I was in luck. Each time I've gone into any Boots the Slimfast flavors available have varied greatly. I'll drink any of them if I have to and that's all I've got but this time they had four bottles of the café latte flavor which I think is the best of them all.

Before I went out to dinner I started sending myself via email all of the pictures I'd taken on my iPhone at Hampton Court Palace to transfer them to the laptop. That took quite a while.

About 8 PM I headed out across the street and down the block to the Kensington location of the London restaurant chain Scoff & Banter which seems to be the house restaurant for the Radisson Blu hotel there. My appreciation for the place and what was a very fine meal was only dampened a little by how dark they keep the place–I was really glad to have the single candle they put on each table. It was a very good meal, though, and not too expensive for a meal in a hotel restaurant. I had the fried white bait which I know from my trip to Mallaig last year are basically whatever small white fish they've been catching lately which were fun and tasty, followed by a very lovely shepherd's pie and sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

It's just about 11;30 PM. I'm going to close up for tonight, take another dose of my cough medicine and get to bed.

Tomorrow's another of my great out of town adventures, my last while here in London unless I do go to Kew Gardens and Greenwich again next week. I'm being picked up from the Crowne Plaza next door at 7:30 AM for Golden Tour's all day trip to Oxford and Cambridge.

Until tomorrow, then. Good night.

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