UK 2017: Castles, Cambridge, and Chesham
This is a summary of the second half of our stay in London in July 2017. In each of the three days, we actually did not spend much time in the city proper.
Sunday: Hampton Court, near the Kingston suburbs of London. This was the site where King Henry VIII made a home, but future nobility had to ruin – I mean modernize – the back half of it. The two architectural styles were interesting to compare side by side, and the grounds behind it all were just as magnificent. We took a horse-drawn tourist ride around the grounds, before trying to get a glimpse at a Renaissance-Faire-like reenactment of knightly jousting. The crowds were too numerous and the seats too few for us to stick around, though. After another leisurely stroll through some rose gardens, we finally headed. On the ride home, I did get some good pictures of the bridge near Hampton Court, Big Ben, and the London Eye.
Monday: Kings Cross. Before we headed to Cambridge, we first had to make our way through the train station at Kings Cross. Our train was at Platform 11. Platform 10 was nearby but Platform 9 was not and we had little time for me to explore in the morning. At Kings Cross once more at the end of the day, I used the opportunity to find the infamous Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter fame. Of course, it was now a tourist shop, but that didn’t stop me from braving the crowds to drop too much coinage on items. I was happy with my restraint by not getting too many Ravenclaw House items or my own wand, for now.
Cambridge: We arrived in time to get on a very nice commuter train just before it left for Cambridge, which was an hour’s ride away. Once there, we hopped on one of those on-and-off tour buses and took it the whole length around the city before choosing our stops. I took tons of pictures of old buildings, including one of an infamous bridge whose myth of not needing nails was proven disastrously false. After buying some souvenirs, Ann went on a punting ride (one of those gondola-like boats that you practically lie down in as a college kid pushes the boat along with a large stick). I would have done the ride, too, but I wasn’t sure I could comfortably get in and out of one of those things. We visited a round church and an old sweet shop before heading back.
Tuesday: Chesham. For our last day in the city, we went back to Kings Cross to catch the subway out to Chesham, near where Phil Nixon lives. Phil is Ann’s pen pal whom we met last time we were in the UK. This time, our hotel was not on the same train line as his stop, so we used Kings Cross to change lines – but that was a huge, huge mistake as the Underground is interminable compared to the train station. I felt like I was going to die. I didn’t, and after another hour of travel, we finally met up with Phil again. He brought us back to his local pub, this time for lunch (where I had a version of an English trifle that had sherry in it). He drove us around again, before we settled in for afternoon tea.
I think it was Tuesday night where we finally stopped at the italian restaurant just outside our hotel in Islington (as opposed to the place inside the hotel, or buying food at the local Tesco). They had excellent lemonade and decent food, but we eventually had to get back to the hotel so we can pack and be ready to check out in the morning.