Hannah Drake

England

Hampton Court Palace

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Way back in May, my mom came to visit for about a week. I’m fully convinced that she’s devoted to seeing everything England has to offer in her lifetime and we certainly hit the ground running on this visit as well. We spent her first day in London, but the second day we took the train down to see Hampton Court Palace.

Hampton Court Palace is part of the Historic Royal Palaces, which includes six iconic structures: Kensington Palace, the Tower of London, Banqueting House, Kew Palace, Hillsborough Castle and Gardens, and of course Hampton Court Palace itself.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HAMPTON COURT PALACE

It was originally built for Cardinal Thomas Wolsey under King Henry VIII with building beginning in 1515. A short 14 years later, Wolsey fell from favour with the King, so he gave the palace to Henry, who later expanded it.In the 17th century, King William III set about expanding and renovating the palace to rival the Palace of Versailles in France, causing much of the original Tudor palace to be lost. However, his work stopped in 1694 before it was complete, which left two distinct and contrasting styles: Tudor and Baroque. In the 18th century, King George II was the final monarch to reside in the palace.

SOME FUN FACTS ABOUT HAMPTON COURT PALACE

  • The renovations that Henry ordered on the palace when he first came into possession of it cost him £18 million at the time!

  • The King’s Beasts are ten statues one the bridge leading to the gatehouse and represent the ancestry of Henry himself and his third wife, Jane Seymour.

  • The clock on the gatehouse facing the inner court was installed in 1540 and contains three dials that tell the hour, the day of the month, and the position of the sun relative to the earth.

  • Henry VIII married his final wife, Catherine Parr, at Hampton Court Palace in 1543.

  • It’s one of two palaces left in England owned by Henry VIII, the other being St. James’ Palace in London.

  • William Shakespeare staged several of their places at Hampton Court Palace for King James I.

  • Queen Victoria opened it to the public in 1838.

  • In the late 1800’s, the American Vanderbilts modelled their Florham estate in Madison, New Jersey after the Baroque style of the palace.

  • The palace has served as a filming location for Hollywood since the 60’s with films including A Man for All Seasons, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows and Holmes & Watson, Cinderella, and most recently (and perhaps most recognisably), The Favourite.

  • The gardens have the UK’s oldest surviving hedge maze, designed in 1700.

HAMPTON COURT PALACE TODAY

Today, Hampton Court Palace is a popular tourist destination as it’s quite literally a snapshot in time for two significant periods of British history. Your ticket of admission will include an audio tour, which will take you through the palace, dressed to represent the different periods in its history and you will, without a doubt, feel like you’ve taken a step back in time.

The palace also hosts festivals, concerts, and an annual flower show. There are regularly scheduled special exhibits, including a recent exhibit of costumes from The Favourite that I believe we only missed by a few weeks.

What to Pack for England in the Summer

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I’ve previously written What to Pack for England in the Autumn and What to Pack for England in the Spring, so this year I’m tackling summer and winter.

My first advice is to check the weather, of course. While stereotypical season weather is a bit more dependable in England than, say, Colorado, you still never know what you’ll get! I feel like it goes without saying that you check the weather before you pack, but don’t forget to continue to do so up until you zip up your suitcase for the last time to head to the airport.

I’ve been here two summers already and most people will say that those two summers were unseasonably warm. Last July we had an absolutely scorching heatwave that completely killed our grass. But I really enjoy late August when the days are cooler and rainy in the mornings. (Especially if I don’t have anywhere to go.)

So here are some packing ideas to help you blend in with the locals, dress seasonally appropriate, and be fully prepared for your trip to England. (Keep in mind that Wales will probably have similar weather to England, but further north in England, Scotland, and likely Northern Ireland will be a bit more chilly no matter the time of year.) This time, I also tried to make a few more sustainable choices than usual as I’m moving that direction in my personal wardrobe.

Wool Fedora | Linen Button Down | Cotton Tee | Chambray Button Down | Picnic Dress | Long Weekend Dress | Relaxed Chinos | Shorts | Skirt | Sneakers | Sandals | Denim Jacket | Raincoat

If you’re planning on doing a lot of city walking, this is a great place to start packing. Of course if you’re planning on doing more country walking or more specific activities, you’ll know what to bring for that. I always recommend comfortable shoes and I firmly believe you can’t go wrong with a pair of Allbirds. If you want sandals as well, Birkenstocks are a great option. Whatever you choose, you need a firm sole because there are a lot of cobblestone roads around the UK.

Otherwise you want to pick a wardrobe that will keep you cool when you’re walking around and give you the ability to layer if it starts raining or in the evenings. I have this raincoat actually and I love it for the summer. It’s not going to make you any more warm, but it will certainly keep you dry and it rolls up really nicely to fit in your bag.

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24 Hours in Liverpool

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In April, we got to spend a quick weekend in Liverpool to go to the Everton v Arsenal game (and do our F date). I was so excited to go to Liverpool because it’s one of the places in England I’ve been wanting to visit for quite some time. We had so much fun and I pretty much fell in love with the city, even though we were only there for about 24 hours. I would love the opportunity to go back for a bit longer someday. And it’s not so far away!

WHERE TO STAY

We stayed at the Adelphi Hotel, which had such a fantastic location. Everything was about a 15 minute walk away and it was right where all the action in town is. It’s a stones throw away from the train station and not much further from the bus station. It was crazy busy in Liverpool that Saturday because of The Grand National Weekend so it made the city have all that much more energy, especially at the pubs around the train station before the races. The hotel was massive and looks like it was once the place to be. But to be honest, it’s not my favourite place where we’ve stayed. The hotel didn’t have free wifi, which I don’t think I’ve even heard of in the last 10 years (yes, I know I sound like a snob over my #firstworldproblems), the room had a strange smell to it (I wanna say it was musty?), and the bed was really uncomfortable. Still, it wasn’t bad for one night and we spent most of our time outside of the hotel.

If we go back, I would look into places like The Shankly Hotel, The Nadler Liverpool, Titanic Hotel Liverpool, or Hard Days Night Hotel. I also really like the looks of these places on Airbnb: Super Luxury City Centre Apartment (sleeps 8), The Albert’s Studio 2 (sleeps 3), and Luxury Waterfront Apartment With Sunset Terrace (sleeps 4).

WHERE TO EAT

We got to Liverpool about lunchtime, so we just set out toward the docks looking for somewhere to eat when we stumbled upon Cat Cafe. It’s always been my dream to visit a Cat Cafe and at the time, I was still sad about having to say goodbye to our foster cat Jake. You check in when you arrive and they record your arrival time because you pay for the amount of time you’re in there. (£12 per hour per person.) That also includes unlimited hot and cold drinks. They have a decent menu. Luke and I both got a panini and crisps, which was good. Of course the fun is looking for all the cats. (They have a list of their cats on each table.)

The Fab 4 Cafe is connected to The Beatles Story, but there’s also another location further up the docs near the Beatles statue. We got a hot drink after going through the exhibit mostly because I wanted the super cute to go cup.

My #1 travel rule is don’t eat somewhere you can eat at at home. I love trying new restaurants when I’m travelling and, even though Red’s True BBQ is a UK chain, we don’t have a location in Birmingham so it fit all the criteria. We had chosen a different place for dinner on Saturday night, but passed Red’s on our way to the other restaurant and we had to go in. The vibe was awesome. The drinks were delicious. And it was hands down the best BBQ I’ve had in the UK. Luke and I split a tray with Smoked Cheese & Jalapeño Sausage, Baby Back Ribs, and Burnt Ends. We also got slaw, mac & cheese, and loaded fries. Oh my gosh it was so good! We both tried Grandma’s Louisiana Lemonade (with rum) and Luke had the Godfather Sour as well. Seriously, Red’s, you need to open a Birmingham location like yesterday. I would recommend booking a table because even though it’s big, it’s busy.

We found The Brunch Club on Sunday morning just by looking up breakfast restaurants near our hotel. Again, we were able to walk to it, which made everything so much easier. Luke and I both had the Full English, but their whole menu looked great and the place itself was really cool as well. We didn’t need to book a table, but shortly after we got there it started filling up with people who had attended the Grand National (I’m assuming, based on the luggage and garment bags), so it might be a good idea to book a table in advance.

On our way back from the Super Bananalama, we walked by Love Thy Neighbour. We had already had breakfast, but it looked really cool. If we go back, that’s definitely the first new place I want to try!

WHAT TO DO

The first thing we did when we arrived was set out for the Royal Albert Dock. It’s a fairly touristy place, but even if you’re just walking around, it’s a lot of fun. We wandered into a few of the shops and checked out a couple of the menus posted outside different restaurants, but we mostly just people watched and enjoyed the surroundings. There’s plenty do to in the area, including Tate Liverpool (an art gallery), the International Slave Museum, the Merseyside Maritime Museum (say that five times fast!), a carousel, the Magical Mystery Tour, and more! There are plenty of places to eat and shop, but do keep in mind it will likely be busy.

The main thing I wanted to do on Saturday was The Beatles Story. It’s a Beatles museum on the Albert Dock that will literally take you through their entire story. It’s £17 per person (£13 for seniors, £10 for children), which includes an audio guide and I feel like it’s well worth it, especially if you’re at all a Beatles fan. Inside the museum, they’ve recreated locations that were important in the group’s history, including the Cavern Club, the recording studio at Abbey Road, the White Room where John Lennon recorded “Imagine” and more. There are original set pieces, costumes, and props from their movies and videos. Each of the four Beatles has their own section covering their time after the band broke up. It’s all very well done and was a good way to spend the afternoon.

On Sunday morning, we walked down Matthew Street, which is where the Cavern Club was located once upon a time. There are some Beatles stores on the road now, but it’s cool to imagine what it was like when the Beatles were at their most popular in Liverpool.

The Bananalama was a series of street art sculptures around the city. I don’t know a lot about the history of them or when they were popular, but you can still find some dotted around the city in various sizes. Most notable is the Super Bananalama, which we walked over to see on Sunday morning since we had some time to kill before the Arsenal game. (Matthew Street was on the way.)

Have you been to Liverpool? There are so many places I still want to visit around England the the UK, but I would absolutely go back to Liverpool in a heartbeat! Hopefully for longer than 24 hours next time. Plus I’m still 100% game to go back next year over the Grand National Weekend and go to that as well!

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