Well, I’m just about over my cold! On Friday, I celebrated by taking a long excursion down the river Thames to find Hampton Court Palace. I really needed to make up for all of the opportunities to explore that I missed last week. Something about my hour-long walk along the Thames was immensely satisfying. For the first time, I was really exploring the countryside of Britain. Only walkers, cyclists, boaters and fishermen could be seen along the paths. Pavement eventually turned into clay, surrounded by tangled grass and broad trees. There were no cars, no buses and I half expected a horse and carriage to come rolling around the bend.
My first glimpse of Hampton Court Palace was not disappointing. From behind a great stone wall, the building loomed in the distance and it looked rather inviting. I ventured on to the Palace grounds and wandered the beautiful gardens that are open to the public. Once I arrived back at Kingston’s town centre full of shops, it was hard to believe that just an hour before I had been standing in the Palace grounds in the countryside!
The theme of my weekend thus became Royal Residences. The following day, I went with a couple of friends to Windsor Castle, the official residence of the Queen. I expected it to be a small, modest castle but it turned out to be a sprawling fortress! To add to the excitement, the Queen was actually in residence as indicated by the royal flag. Inside the state apartments were various displays of art, china, armor, shields and weaponry. Most beautiful was the garden moat surrounding the Round Tower on the grounds. Although I enjoyed my tour of the Castle, I wound never want to live there due to constant drafts, large size and uber elegance. Unfortunately, I had placed my camera’s memory card in the wrong bag and do not have pictures to share. However, I plan to go back!
As my weekend did involve visiting royal residences, most of my joy came from being in the countryside and observing the local environments. Hampton Court Palace and Windsor Castle were impressive, but imposing, and rather guarded. The countryside, however, possessed an open quality and a humbleness that appealed to me more than crown jewels ever could.