Monday, 13 May 2013

Hampton Court Palace Review, Greater London

Hampton Court Palace Review, Greater London
Hampton Court Palace
            Hampton Court Palace is most certainly one of the most beautiful palaces in England and on a clear and sunny day it is one of the most serene places to spend an afternoon. Originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in 1514, the palace eventually passed to King HenryVIII and turned into his personal pet project. The palace was inhabited by Henry and the Tudor Dynasty, and later on by The Stuarts. This is reflected in the sharp contrast in design in the palace; Henry VIII's designs, including the Great Hall, are built in a medieval style while the Tudor designed areas of the palace are fashioned in the baroque style. The palace also features some of the most stunning gardens you will see anywhere, as the style of the grounds rivals Versailles in its intentions.
Hampton Court Palace Gardens

            There is much to see in the massive grounds of this palace, and fortunately it is all laid out in a way that is easy to navigate. I'd recommend dividing your time between everything on the outside grounds (the maze, the gardens, the Royal Tennis Courts) and then all the different rooms inside the palace. When you enter the palace grounds, turn to your left and make your way to the maze and the gardens. Even this general outside area is lovely to walk through; birds chirp, there are colorful flowers everywhere, and the grass and trees remain tall and green. Its like being in an idealized forest, and it really is a testament to how well the grounds are maintained. The Hampton Court Maze is a little underwhelming in terms of the actual difficulty of the maze (don't worry, your odds of getting lost in the maze are very low), but it is still a fun little sight to see. The maze was planted in 1690 for William III and it covers a third of an acre. The paths of the maze are very narrow, so you will be crossing paths with other maze-goers frequently. When you reach the center you will see a little plaque congratulating you and offering you some more information on the history of the maze.
Hampton Court Palace Maze

            Once you depart the maze you must head over to the gardens. This area of the palace grounds is like walking through a beautiful park that is fitting for any relaxing scenario: a walk, a picnic, or even a nap on the grass. There are numerous flower beds of varying colors and flower type for you to see. The colors are so vibrant that it is paramount that you get some flower photographs while you are here. My personal favorite had to be the bed of dark blue flowers with bright orange-red petals. Throughout the day there is a lot going on at the Gardens: there are workers dressed in garb from the period doing performances that you can join in on and horse-carriage rides you can take. In addition, there is a beautiful fountain at the center of the park and even little brooks where ducks and swans roam. And for a different style you can walk around the Palace's various sunken gardens, which feature multiple flowerbeds tucked together in a visually pleasing design. Here at Hampton Court, the grass is so green, the trees are so shaved and styled, and the flower beds are so well maintained that the gardens really end up as some of the prettiest sights in all of London. 
Hampton Court Palace Aerial View

            When you are ready to head inside you will find out that there is still so much to see. The Great Hall is large and looming, and you can walk down the same halls that Henry VIII once walked down. The Great Hall is especially notable as the last and most grand of England's medieval style halls. Henry's section of the palace features various paintings of his family and members of his royal court, and you will find a wealth of information about the Tudors. One of the highlights is a recreation of Henry VIII's crown (destroyed after the abolition of the monarchy in 1649) held in the Royal Pew. Adorned with lavish diamonds, the crown is a testament to the power of the British monarchs. Henry VIII remains one of the most popular and fascinating of all the British monarchs, and if his reign interests you at all then you should see the rooms dedicated to his early life. These rooms focus less on objects and architecture, and more on pure knowledge. Here you can learn all about Henry the boy to Henry the King and husband.
Great Hall, Hampton Court Palace

            Possibly the most opulent part of the palace would be Mary's State Apartments. Here is the palace's exhibit titled Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber. You will get to see the Royal Family's various bedrooms (it really is shocking how many different lavish beds one person can own...) and learn all about the bedchamber rituals and even the politics that went on both in the private and the court life of the bedroom. These rooms contain luxurious beds and blankets with paintings and portraits of the monarchy hanging right aside that are all tied together by the stately baroque design. One aspect that I found surprising about most of the beds is just how tiny they were; you figure the Royal Court would want king-size beds but if I were to sleep on one of those beds my feet would be hanging off.
Hampton Court Palace Interior

            At Hampton Court, there is really so much to see that its best that you plan to spend at least a few hours there. There are other notable sights of the Palace worth seeing, including William's Apartments and the kitchens that Henry VIII built. In addition, there is a wonderfully unique room in the palace that more tourist places should include. The room features a large number of beds from the time period that you can lay and rest on. The mattresses, which are all incredibly comfortable, sit on the floor and as you lay in the dim light of the room the ceiling plays a video showing you the history of the Tudor Dynasty. A truly great idea. If you are looking to experience the beauty and grandiosity of an English palace, then I'd say look no further than Hampton Court.
            -By Phillip Storm, Arts Correspondent,

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