With six of us the dreaminess washed away quite a bit. I did plan all our comings and goings to fine (okay, maybe too fine) details but I had over and over requested suggestions, offered resources to all involved to help me plan or even take over. David and the girls were easily trusting (they know how I roll), but Lou. Well, many times I reviewed things with her and referred her to sources to okay ideas, but in all she had to do (she was moving and finding a new job) she put her travel dreams in my hands---maybe all too completely.
So this day was to top it off for us, but it started with some frustrations that carried through our trip. Lou's ankle (sprained days before our trip-yikes) was better but would easily flare up on her. So the walking, hustling about, standing, lugging stuff up-down-all-around was wearing on her. This Friday morning of our last full London day I found her up and ready to go before we got up and she was rarin' to set some things straight: No more buses (the rush of it all proved too flustering), No more Tube, and we were not loading ourselves up for the long train ride to the airport the next day....she was going to splurge for a cab. OKAY.
I knew David was at odds with this laying of the law but when we solemnly walked down to the train station for our day out, Lou spotted a van-sized new-style London black cab parked by our next door fancy hotel and said, "Check with that cab about tomorrow." I walked over and was cheered to greet Mark, the self proclaimed "Best cabbie in all of London!" When I blurted to him our early departure time for the next day, number of our group, and load of luggage, he was unfazed and made our appointment and set the price at 100GBP (gulp). He looked over at the rest of my group standing behind me and called out "No, problem. You'll be glad you picked me." Honestly, he made my day with his cheery hello. Thank you Lord.
Our mood was a bit perked up with this detail settled. We also found it easy to get our train out for the day. We were all so quiet on this peaceful ride to Hampton Court Palace. I so enjoy the trains. You are at rest and getting somewhere at the same time (I know, duh, but really a nice respite in the midst of going-going).
From the train station, through a large amount of confusing road work we found this imposing entrance:Let me tell you the weather was PERFECT for this mostly outdoor day. I ache to think about it now. On our way in ....the courtyard...Lou caught unawares.
Again here was another palace that we spent more time on the grounds then in the palace proper. So it is one of those...yes, I have to go back and see it again. We toured some of the main rooms showcasing the story and timeline of Henry VIII, his first Queen, Katherine of Aragon (I love her), and Cardinal Wolsey (who built and then gave (forced to give) the palace to Henry).
But our troops were hungry (always, travel makes us hungry) so we made it to the very lovely and tasty enough Tiltyard Cafe near the palace gardens.
We wandered through the family filled maze....Sophia sized fun.
Then the gardens.....
All seemed to be set to rights....with the sun...the breeze....
the sweet floral aromas.But from the time we arrived to all our wandering (10:30am-3:30pm) we were cutting it close to make afternoon cream tea back in London. By the time we arrived back at the flat, unloaded, refreshed, found a cab and found the place, we had 30 minutes to make it in time for tea. Hustling happened...again.It was LOVELY and so worth our rush. The Orangery is only mere steps from Kensington Palace, where Queen Victoria spent her somewhat lonely youth, and is more well known as the last residence of Princess Diana. The white interiors glowed from the tall open windows that line the front side of the corridor-like expanse of the Tea Room. Small delicate orange trees adorn the simple white cloth dressed tables. I have to say we all felt a little shabby in comparison but not uneasy enough to keep us from the goodies.We splurged on our orders, ready to enjoy ourselves, and Sophia was not to be left out. As soon as I was done with my last order to the attentive waiter, she actually piped up "I want tea too please!" I was shocked. Sophia is a talker....just to us though. But I guess she knows tea time well enough from when we play it and do it from time to time at home and she was not going to be left out. The surprised waiter paused near her and kiddingly asked, "Anything else?" "Chocolate cake too!" she answered quickly and we were all laughing. The waiter thoughtfully offered that he could bring a small espresso cup for her to share our tea orders and that they had an appropriately sized chocolate cupcake that could take place for cake....Perfect! We lingered and ooohed and ahhhed as long as we could and closed down the joint....oh so refreshed and Lou wished aloud how she would do this all over again if she could. Yea!Again there was a long walk from here through the delightful Kensington gardens to Harrods.
The girls needed us to cap off our last day with some shopping and wanted to show Lou this amazingly ornate and historic mulit-floored shopping highlight.
Is there another word for packed? Because any of those words applied to Harrods on this Friday evening. The sight of the crowds made me tired. I waited with Sophia sleeping in her stroller on the less crowded first floor as David and the girls shopped and I thought over our stroll to the store. We had cut through a well appointed neighborhood with white townhouses. It was quiet and humming with families home for the evening and I peeked through a couple of street-facing below-ground windows into kitchens with meals being prepared. I love the sights but I hope in the future to enjoy more of this side of London....with it's neighborhood feel, it's nooks and crannies with all their specific London character. I want to get to know it better.