By Sunday, we were ready to get a little further afield from London proper. And there’s no better way to have a break from the capital than to act like royalty yourself and head to an old royal palace. So, Sunday morning, we hoped National Rail and headed out to Hampton Court Palace, once home to Henry VIII after he, shall we say, acquired it from Cardinal Wolsey. I loved, loved, loved HCP, and it was easily one of my favorite places in England. The palace is large, but there is an excellent audio guide that breaks it down into sections for visiting. There were actually four or five separate tours to follow, each giving you a different perspective of a different part of the palace or a different time period. It was great to see how it all melded together. Also, the gardens at HCP are lovely and worth a visit as well. If it had been a bit cooler, I would have spent even more time wandering through the outside. The rose garden smelled incredible and was one of my favorite parts. There is also a maze you can do in the gardens, but we chose not to spend extra time getting lost this trip!
Below are just a few pictures inside and out.
The trip to Hampton Court was a full day activity. And really, I could have stayed longer! But after a fun (and exhausting) day, we headed back into London for the night before beginning the actual road trip part of our vacation the following day.
That next day, we were up early to make our way to London City Airport where we picked up our rental car (a Nissan this time, not an awesome Fiat like we had in Ireland). Having the car all loaded up, we worked our way out of the city. I managed to successfully navigate between Garmin, maps, and Google for most of the trip while my wonderful husband did all the driving on the wrong side of the road.
Our first stop out of London, was the city of Dover. Most people seem to only visit Dover as they are making their way to France or just arriving from France. The Husband, however, was interested in seeing the cliffs and secret war tunnels at Dover Castle, so we elected to stay the night and enjoy the city. Dover is absolutely lovely. It’s a tiny coastal town with plenty of charm. Our hosts at East Lee Guesthouse were wonderful and offered plenty of recommendations on where to eat and what to see. On our way into the city, we stopped at Dover Castle to visit the remains of the medieval castle of Henry II. I really enjoyed climbing the Great Tower and exploring the exhibits describing life for those in twelfth century. We also spent time exploring the medieval tunnels running under the castle complex. Then we took tours down into the wartime tunnels used during World War II when England feared possible invasions from the continent. There was a really interesting exhibit in the tunnels about operation Dynamo and the evacuation of Dunkirk (France), which I didn’t have much knowledge about beforehand. It was very moving to see and hear the recollections of those involved with the operation.
After seeing the castle, we walked out onto Prince of Wales Pier, which is insanely long. From there we got some great views of the castle and cliffs, and of fisherman catching that night’s dinner! After hanging out there for a bit it was time for dinner downtown at Blakes of Dover where I did have local fish, although not Dover Sole, which I did strongly consider and slightly regret not getting. I mean, when you’re in Dover, you should eat Dover Sole, right? The food was good but the restaurant was insanely hot. I will say that I developed a love affair with both banoffee pie and sticky toffee pudding on this trip. At this restaurant, however, I strayed and had an orange chocolate pudding- and it was incredible. I just love English desserts! After dinner, it was time to head back to the B&B for a restful night to get ready for crossing the country the following morning!