This weekend was the most England-y we’d had in awhile. Meaning, we woke up on Saturday morning and set out for “adventure.” And yes, we completely un-sarcastically use that word in our house.
We took the train out to Kent on Saturday to visit Hever Castle, which is the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. It’s also home to what I consider some of the most beautiful gardens ever, and is the very first thing I ever did in England, when I visited in the yeeeaarrrrr 2000, so I have some very fond memories. I don’t actually have very “vivid” memories of much in my life (it’s why I take so many pictures), but the images of the intricately carved staircase, the grotto in the Italian Gardens, and somber Jacobean walls, I’ve been able to recall easily and clearly since first seeing them on that trip. I was excited to take Chris.
Chess set of shrubbery. There are no opponents, which doesn’t seem fair or realistic.
Everybody’s getting a piece of the Jubilee pie.
That’s me in my new quilted navy vest from Primark that I bought so I could fit in in this country. I think it’s working.
The website offers two options for getting to the castle from two different train stations. The first option is to alight at a stop three miles away from the castle, and take a taxi. They urge you to book the taxi in advance. The second option is to alight at a stop one mile away from the castle, and walk. Obviously, we thought: “Of course we’ll walk! Why wouldn’t we walk? It’s a mile! N.B.D.” Oh, B.D. BIG. DEAL. It was way farther than we’d anticipated, and we’re pretty sure the “one mile” was in reference to using this completely overgrown, certifiably Lyme Disease-ridden footpath that we did not take, opting instead for the tiniest, thinnest of country roads that the seven cars in total we saw drove way too fast on.
But, we did see this out in the middle of nowhere, which was pretty much the most ridiculous and awesome thing I’ve encountered since moving here:
And we saw some animals:
And some unidentifiable plants:
And a church:
And we thought this was funny at the train station (To France!):
At the castle, we wandered around the house and down through the grounds, and SADLY, the most beautiful part of the gardens (and my favorite) was closed for a wedding. I’m not sure if I was more upset about the fact that we couldn’t get over to the grottoed terrace overlooking the lake at the far end, orrrrrrr if I was just in a blind red rage of jealousy that someone was getting married there. Guess we’ll never know.
The Loggia. Sorta. Chris thought we should try to get our money back because it was closed.
The Italian Gardens at Hever.
Is this a classic Russ Huss move, or what? Chris made me stand still to take the photo, and then brought the camera over to me, giggling.
This guy wanted to be friends with me. I did not want to be friends with him. I didn’t even have any food so I can’t imagine what he thought was in it for him.
We hopped on the train back into London (or, hopped on three transfers’ worth of trains, rather) and made a dinner reservation at a local Italian place on our way. We killed a half an hour at one of our local pubs, The Old Parr’s Head, and then headed across the street to the beautiful Pentolina, where we’d been meaning to go since we stumbled upon it on one of our first discover-our-neighbo(u)rhood walks. We took a chance on this place as we actually rarely have Italian food outside of our home these days, because not as many places as we’d like actually have gluten-free options. Amazingly, we were totally rewarded for our risk. This place seems to be owned by legit Italians, which means they actually know about Celiac and—had gluten-free pasta for Chris! It was a great meal, which we followed with the most devilishly thick panna cotta I’ve ever had. And yes, you’ll note, that I’m something of a connoisseur.
One of the most genius things in all of England: Half pints! Perfect for when you have just a few minutes to sit.
Chris with his half pint of cider at the Old Parr’s Head.
Then we tried to go home and watch Sherlock Holmes, but it didn’t download fast enough and instead we fell asleep on the couch waiting for it some time in the realm of 10 PM. Oops.
But, alas! Sunday was equally adventurous! We met up with our new friends Amy and Jimmy for lunch in Chiswick at Kitchen and Pantry before hopping on the tube out to Kew Gardens, the royal botanic gardens.
So, look… it was totally beautiful and impressive. The massive white, Victorian greenhouses were stunning. But… I wanted some gosh darn flowers. We walked the massive grounds for two hours, aiming our direction at the “Bluebells,” the “Rhododendron Dell,” the “Azalea Garden,” on the map, only to be sorely disappointed. For a country that exists in perma-spring, you’d think there would have been more COLOR.
Inside Queen Charlotte’s cottage. I want these chairs.
Inside Queen Charlotte’s cottage. I want these walls.
The pagoda at Kew.
The lion of England.
Chris and Jimmy on the terrifying, swaying, Tree Tops walkway.
Finally, at the end, we found a really beautiful flower garden that sorta satisfied what we were hungry for. So, yes, it was totally amazing, and of course, what the real takeaway here is, is that I am so desperate for something that is not GRAY, I’m going to complain about one of the most renowned outdoor spaces in the world!
I should note that throughout these two days, Chris is grumpy and mildly cranky and extremely worn down and getting sick. But he actually did not complain very much despite that, so: Good job, Chris.
Chris trying to climb a tree that I say he can’t reach, while two small girls watch, in two parts.
“I always wanted to know what it was like to have a little brother, so I got married.”—Melody “Genius” Jabergson
Last night we went to the OXO Tower Restaurant with friends visiting from NY (former Londoners) and: the view is everything it’s cracked up to be. St. Paul’s lit up at night is really something to see from that angle. It cements the sentiment in the city immediately following the Blitz; That St. Paul’s had to be rebuilt, and quickly, as it was a symbol of the heart of London. With other tall landmarks dotted around the city, and St. Paul’s only really being visible from certain parts of it, it’s easy for it to fall into the shadows. While it sometimes feels like you can see The Shard, the Swiss Re Tower and the Eye from everywhere in London, when you get up to St. Paul’s in the evening and see its dome so brightly lit from below, it reminds you who the real owner of the skyline is. And, the food was good! Scallops with lemon curd, and the most beautifully-cooked tiny yellow tomatoes I’ve ever had. And some kind of marshmallow thing that tasted as though it had been sprinkled with Pixie Stix.