Monday, September 29, 2014

After Hampton Court, we go in search of our ancestral home and walk through the buzzing heart of a London hotspot....

There was still light in the sky, still warmth in the sun - more than expected actually, what hot weather we've had for late September in London! - so we took ourselves to Regent's Park.  (The Regent was to become King George IV.) 
I'm impressed by the amount of green space in London, and the degree to which it's used.  This was a sunny Sunday afternoon, and there were families and young people everywhere, a rugby game going on, dogs being walked, a boy trying to befriend a squirrel, people enjoying the fresh air.

We walked through to the zoo, looked down at the canal - of which more later - and crossed the road in search of Chalcot Crescent.

My grandmother, Jessie Agnes Pfanz was born here, in number 34, back in 1885.  A short walk, and only one block from the park, in Primrose Hill, we found it.  
Jessie's mother, Louise died in childbirth when she was 11, and she spent the next few years with her aunts, while her father Christian brought up her brothers.  When the aunts decided to join other family in New Zealand, Jessie came too, in the first decade of the 20th century, and she met Albert Price whom she would later marry and who would become my grandfather - although I never met him - on the ship coming over.

We had many trips to Auckland as a family to stay with Gran, and Jessie lived with Mum and Dad and our family as an old woman, from about 1965 until her death in 1974.

And this is where she was born, this primrose house.

The railings at street level protect passersby from falling down the light-space to the basement rooms where the servants lived/worked.  I am delighted to have seen this spot!  I felt no urge to knock on the door or see inside.

We walk around the area, up Chalcott Square and Street, watch the families enjoying fresh air and each other's company in the square, and go back towards Regent's Park, but this time we walk along the towpath by the canal.

Right across from this very elegant Primrose Hill and Regent's Park we find Camden Lock and Camden Town.

This is different from anything I've seen here - it's funky, busy, kinda crazy!  The cigarette smoke I'm smelling is not all tobacco either.  There's music, food and it's very different from where we were just moments before.
I'm very glad to have been here!

Now it's Monday morning and I've got a plane to catch today to Hong Kong.  I'll be home Wednesday afternoon, and I can't really imagine being home again after the month I've had exploring the world!

Hampton Court Palace

This morning Sue and I took bus, tube and train to Hampton Court to see Hampton Court Palace, the home of Henry VIII.
Wow!  This place is massive!  First view was of the Thames and the type of boats that have ferried royalty and their guests between the castles and palaces over the centuries.

 Then through the main gates and I'm bowled over by the sheer size of the place!  It's enormous!
Look at these chimneys!  They are ornate works of art, each of them different.  I'm deeply impressed, and we haven't even got through the Gatehouse yet!  This palace was originally built early in the 1500s.

This is the ceiling of the great gatehouse

And this is the great gatehouse looking from the first courtyard or "Base Court".

All of the wing along the left-hand side was kitchens -King Henry VIII had massive kitchens which could cater for 1000 people - and the internal covered ways were wide enough to take a horse and cart.

The buildings have many outer alleys and passages.

In the mid 1600s, William of Orange and his wife Mary set about rebuilding Hampton Court and much of the original building was demolished.  However money and motivation ran out before the new palace was built, so that it joins on to Henry's palace, which can be seen in the background here.

Painted ceiling in the "newer" part.

Shire horses whose lineage can be directly traced from the original royal horses which carried armoured knights into battle.  These enormously strong horses stand 18 hands high.

Part of the yew walks - with trees up to 300 years old - and Mary's formal gardens.

What a wonderful visit to this marvellous palace!

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Goodbye to the Isle of Man, and a visit to Hever Castle, childhood home of Anne Boleyn

An early start, and the first plane out of Ronaldsway Airport, IOM. 
I will miss the beautiful island and the lovely people!  I particularly appreciated meeting Viv and Ian's family, what superb people!  I loved seeing the island and being included in their family get-togethers!  What a wonderful time I've had on the Isle of Man!
 My papers said I needed to be checked in by 5am at the latest - !!! What was I thinking when I booked that!  However as the airport doesn't open until 6am, we had a bit of a reprieve  and a tail wind meant I was back in London by 8am.  Probably the most interesting and least palatable in flight meal -  a cooked and kept breakfast of egg, bacon, sausage, mushroom and hash brown - but my second flight on British Airways and I do like their flight crews' easy sense of humour.

And this morning my expert London tour guides took me on a wonderful excursion south to Kent.  We went through beautiful countryside, dotted with oasthouses, timbered inns and Tudor houses with mullioned windows and arrived at Hever Castle, the childhood home of Anne Boleyn. 
 What a gorgeous castle!  I've decided I like castles, so much history and romance, so much death and plotting!
The oldest part of Hever was the gatehouse built in 1270, 
and the castle was converted into a manor house in 1462.  Anne lived there in the early 1500s, while King Henry VIII pursued her, despite being married to Catherine of Aragon and having Anne's sister Mary as his mistress.  

With Grace alongside the outer moat

Ella with the inner moat in the background

We went through the double-moated castle, up the winding spiral staircases, and into the rooms mostly decorated in the restored fashion of around 1900, but some in the manner they may have been in Anne Boleyn's time.

Part of the gardens

What a lovely day we had! 
In the early 1900s it was bought by the Astor family who have restored it and planted the yew maze and the beautiful Italian gardens.

Anyone who doubts I could find my way into the centre of a maze and out again - here is photographic proof of me and Ella in the centre!  

Okay, I couldn't do it, and after becoming hideously lost for the umpteenth time, I followed Neil who knew the way...

Friday, September 26, 2014

South on the Isle of Man

Today we went by steam train south to Castletown, met up with Paul and Jessica, 
and from there drove to Castle Rushen, the Calf of Man, Cregneash and Port Erin. 

The steam trains on the Isle of Man, the Anglican Diocese of Sodor and Man, were the inspiration for Rev Awdry's "Thomas the Tank Engine" stories, and in 2000 the movie "Thomas and the Magic Railroad" was filmed on location here.  
So we travelled by one of these real life steam trains!  It was very cool!  The smell of the steam is something special.

Castletown I've dealt with separately, it's a wonder on its own!
This is a building from the 13th century, which in the 17th and 18th was used as a school house in Castletown.

Then we went to the southernmost point, and the island known as the Calf of Man.

So that's all points of the compass here now!  The Isle is much bigger than the often invisible dot on the map, there is so much to see!

Cregneash is a delightful spot, with a heritage farm and village.  Here the houses are thatched

(although not the only thatched ones on the island, we saw others on our trip north a few days ago, two of which were in the process of being re thatched); the hayrick is built in the old style,

and what better place to come across a Manx cat!

These Loaghtan sheep with four horns must be a treat to shear!!

We came through Port Erin,

and Ian was delighted to be able to find, in the local bookshop, a book he'd been looking for.

What an awesome tour I'm having of this exotic island!  Loving it!