Hampton Court Palace, London

London: Hampton Court Palace, Leicester Square & Chinatown

We started our second day in London with a hearty English breakfast of beans, bacon, and eggs over easy at our bed and breakfast. Beans for breakfast was better than it sounds, though the bacon was more like ham than what we think of as bacon. We also had some toast and fresh-squeezed orange juice, so it was a strong start to the day. Michaela and I also stepped out to have a look at our hotel’s garden, and it was very pretty! Afterwards we headed to Waterloo station and then took a half hour bus ride to Hampton Court. (And yes, I did end up with “Waterloo” by Abba stuck in my head all day).

This palace was lived in by several monarchs (including William III, Mary II, and Henry VIII, infamous because of his six wives), and so it has been added onto throughout history and features many different architecture styles from different time periods, though they are all quite regal. We started in the main court, called Base Court, and explored the Clock Court as well and then watched a little scenario in which several actors portrayed what was the start of Henry’s campaign to separate from the Catholic church in order to divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boleyn. We then explored Henry’s apartments and other areas of Hampton Court, seeing many opulent rooms, Henry VIII’s extravagant crown, the royal chapel, and several very pretty courtyards. We then headed out to the gardens, which were very pretty, and went through the maze (which was very fun, even though it did start raining halfway through!). Below are some pictures from Hampton Court and its gardens.

After thoroughly exploring Hampton Court Palace, we ate lunch at a pizza place and then headed back into London. We stopped by Leicester Square to pick up tickets for Wicked, which we will be attending tomorrow night. Leicester Square is where a lot of movie premieres and such happen in London, and we actually got to see a small part of the premiere for Arrested Development, one of my favorite shows (which went off the year a few years ago after three seasons, but is returning with a fourth season available exclusively through Netflix), and saw a Bluth’s frozen banana stand set up for the occasion. Later, when we passed by again, something very big must have been going on, but the crowd was so big and noisy that we couldn’t tell what. This is also the theatre district of London, so we saw a very popular cinema and buildings featuring many different shows, including Rock of Ages, Singing in the Rain, and The Book of Mormon.

Chinatown is also very close to Leicester square, so we wandered around that area, did a little Asian treats shopping and souvenir shopping. This was a very interesting area, and, after seeing the Chinatown in DC, I can say that this one felt much more authentic. Almost all of the shop owners were Chinese, and there were multiple restaurants, shops, massage parlors, etc., all of them selling Asian food or goods and staffed by Chinese people (this was definitely not the case when I visited one in DC). We also found plenty to take pictures of there. On our way back to the Tube, we stopped in a few other shops and did some souvenir shopping, and then decided to visit London’s M&M World, which was also nearby (and we could have 15% off our merchandise there with our London passes). However, everything was terribly expensive and the place was basically a four-level gift shop, so I didn’t buy anything.

Then we headed back towards our part of London via the Underground. We decided to eat at a pub for supper, and I had an interesting sandwich–chicken breast, bacon, melted cheese, and barbecue sauce on ciabatta bread, plus fries (or, as the English call them, chips) and salad. Then we headed back to the hotel for a night of rest and relaxation before our big day tomorrow–Warwick Castle and a production of Wicked!

Things learned today:
– Instead of ‘backyards’ like we have, the English seem to have gardens. And most of them are very pretty.
– Unicorns are used much more in castle decor than you would expect.
– Pepperoni pizza is called “American pizza” and cheese pizza is called “Margherita pizza” here.
– British bacon is much more like ham than bacon…
– If you put the Union Jack on something, tourists will buy it.

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