Thursday, April 29, 2010

Kensington Palace - the Enchanted Palace

After a leisurely breakfast we set off in R’s car for the station, paying a staggering £6 for the privilege of parking for the day - still cheaper than a taxi later. Our destination was Kensington Palace, so we emerged onto Kensington High Street at coffee time, according to the men. We found Caffe Concerto across the road and weren’t disappointed. Excellent coffee and some spectacular cakes were enjoyed in very pleasant surroundings.


Out on the High Street again, we strolled along past the Royal Garden Hotel and into Kensington Gardens. At the end of one path, the front of Kensington Palace beckoned, but this wasn’t the entrance we needed, so we followed the signs that took us around the right side, past Queen Victoria to the Sunken Garden. This formal garden with it’s central lake is looking very beautiful just now with the beds a riot of colour from the spring planting. We saw a coot on its nest, built in a box on a life belt. Above the gates into the garden were the swirling logos of the current exhibition in the palace, the Enchanted Palace.

It was now time to go and see for ourselves what it was all about. Kensington Palace is undergoing a huge refurbishment - £12 million. It will be completed for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in June 2012. In the meantime, the Enchanted Palace exhibition is quite an experience taking the visitor into all the available rooms. Shades of what was to come can be seen in the photos at the entrance, but no photos are allowed inside. As we entered the exhibition and took the stairs up to the first floor, we were fascinated by the graffiti that covers the walls all the way up to the appropriately named Room of Beginnings with its tree signpost pointing us on our way in search of the seven princesses and the amazing designs that have been matched with them. When we arrived in the Room of Enlightenment we loved the display of Stephen Jones’ Hats and the associations with the learned men in this room – Newton being at the centre. The steward seated at the high desk was so informative, we could hardly move on, but all very interesting. We moved on through the rooms and eventually came to the Gallery of War and Play where you can see the wonderful wind dial over the fireplace. At the far end, hundreds of toy soldiers have been laid out and visiting children can play skittles with them, and the tireless stewards are there to replace them in serried ranks. As we chatted to one such steward, we were accosted by a ‘squad’ of strange guardians dressed in long sweeping grey tunics. They had a misshapen toy soldier in outsized tweezers – what to do? they asked and we entered into a bizarre scenario that culminating in the soldier being quarantined up the chimney and our suggesting they contact Dr. Who for advice! You can imagine the crazy Dr. Who conversation that went on!
We continued on to find the last remaining princesses and their stories before returning to the Room of Beginnings and taking the final door into the Room of Fish and Beer, the Room of Quarrels and lastly the Gallery of Dancing Shadows – all sorts of strange stories to be told and amazing facts to be discovered. We descended the final staircase to the ground floor again and the Shop, seeking some postcards or souvenirs of this fabulous exhibition, but nothing is available, more’s the pity. It just remains a mystery unless you visit it yourself.

So, having only had our morning coffee, it was now time for afternoon tea in Queen Anne’s Orangery. This is a lovely proportioned building away to the side of the palace, and we dutifully waited to be seated inside. A pile of scones and plates laden with delicious looking cakes tempted us from the central serving table, but when we saw the menu, we went for set afternoon teas, not individual cakes. A and I chose the rather pricey Enchanted Palace Tea that included tea with chocolate chips in it; D went for the Signature Orange Tea; and R had a scone with cream and jam. All were outstanding with their tiered cake stands and individual pots of tea with strainers. What fun!

After this indulgence we decided to take the walk across to the Princess Diana Fountain that none of us had visited before. It was a bit of a disappointment initially, but after walking around it, it is quite clever with its shaped waterways, imparting all sorts of different currents to the water as it swirls around the structure. Each area has a different water sound depending on how it is being moved – from gentle babbling to the splashing over the waterfall and the bubbling out of the holes. We walked on along the shores of the Serpentine watching the wildlife and taking in the views across the water with the various boats, swimming areas and reflections. By now it was time to catch the tube back to Waterloo for the train home, leaving D & R to dine with cousins in town.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A Wisley Wednesday


We had arranged to meet up with several friends for a walk around Wisley and then lunch in the Conservatory Dining Room. After one false start, (I left my list behind!) we gradually gathered everyone into a group and made our way through the entrance.We began our walk by turning left towards Battleston Hill. The camellias, rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias are looking lovely and drew admiring oohs and ahs from the visitors. Instead of turning back down the hill, we descended the steps to the Trial fields, which are rather quiet just now, and turned right in the direction of the orchard. If you turn up the hill, the vineyard is in the middle of the fruit trees. The blossom is a picture, forming a snowy pinkish cloud overhead as we walked along the avenues of trees. We skirted round the fruit mound and walked down the Glasshouse Borders and into the Glasshouse. D & R hadn't been here before, so were well impressed with the different zones, especially the tropical, Miri-like area. As time was rushing by, we needed to walk around the lake to get to the Conservatory Dining Room. On the way we stopped to watch a pair of tree ducks bring their ducklings across the footpath and into the water. Everyone was convinced that this was their first swim.
We took our seats around two long tables in the Dining room and the staff served us our pre-ordered meal - all a bit hilarious as many had forgotten what they had ordered. Thank goodness the chaps had gone back for my list! By 4pm we managed to leave the restaurant and we four walked up the path through the Rock Garden and then through the Model Vegetable Garden, Fruit and on to Witan Street. We still hadn't done it all, but D & R can come back on Friday when we are on our Grand Day Out, and it was time to make our way home.


Wisley's recent award

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Visitors arrive.

D & R arrived to stay for a couple of days. They drove down from Newcastle on the last leg of a three week visit before heading home on Saturday. It's great to be able to repay their hospitality from the autumn. We began with a 'tour' of the garden, which they had watched being created on the the blog; and enjoyed a cuppa on the deck in lovely warm sunshine. Then we strolled down the hill to the Three Pigeons for sausages, which they missed as they couldn't make the wedding at Christmas. The sausages were great, but R's fish and chips were minus mushy peas - the only reason he had them, and they played the baked bean substitute. (That's no sub as far as I'm concerned!) A walk back up the hill and soon they were ready to crash after the drive.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Wisley wins Gold


RHS Garden Wisley has won VisitEngland's Gold Award for Large Visitor Attraction. Fabulous!


RHS Garden Wisley
VisitEngland

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Spring



On Easter Monday we strolled through the beautiful gardens at Wisley.

























Sunday, April 11, 2010

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Smart!


We went out to buy a bandy net for the pond and ended up watching a Smart car demo at Brooklands. Well, at Mercedes Benz World, Brooklands. We managed the bandy net very quickly at the pond shop at Garsons Farm, then fancied a good cup of coffee, so where better. Off to MBW and it was fairly crowded - a popular destination on a Saturday, when the kids get to drive the A-class cars at the driving academy.
Coffee was good and as the weather was lovely, we walked outside to join lots of folk on the green to watch the cars spinning around the skid circuit. As we got there, they announced that the Smart team would be out on the track - and a couple of minutes later, there they were whizzing around, driving bumper to bumper and also across the circle straight at each other. All great fun and everyone enjoyed it enormously. The drivers followed up with a 'silver arrows' performance - but the Smarts had already stolen the show!
In the car park there was this bunny car attracting lots of attention.


Sunday, April 04, 2010

Friday, April 02, 2010

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