Thursday, August 25, 2016

Hampton Court! That's what I forgot to write on!

Our penultimate day in England featured a trip to Hampton Court. It's the day I'll remember as the day Sam hit his wall of fatigue. That being said, the way a 10-year-old expresses fatigue is a lot easier to deal with than the way I remember he and Caroline doing so when they were younger. In fact, both of the kids held up very, very well on this long trip.

I should point out, though, that I dealt with fatigue, too. I was darn near impossible to deal with regarding dinner when we arrived in Windsor late Thursday, insisting that we had to eat at Pizza Express, figuring it was a chain I could rely on after a long day of travel.

We had a tough call to make on Friday of our trip. Our original plan had been to visit Legoland Windsor, but the online materials made it seem as if it was too kiddish for our biggest amusement park fan. So we then had a choice of Chartwell, Windsor Castle, or Hampton Court. We opted for Hampton Court.

And it was splendid, but may have been palace overkill. It was the third one we visited. Here are some photos.

So, let me get off my chest an irritation at this site. This was one of about five sites where we had a portable, hand-held audio guide. Generally, it was good. But it required one to move sequentially through the narrations, offering few numbered locations so one could quickly find the track for where one should be if you got out of sequence. Also, they didn't recommend having an adult on the adult one and a child on the child one ("You'll be unable to stay together"). These were minor annoyances which goes to say that I learned from England that . . .

Stuffy old museums have a great ability to be un-stuffy with a little bit of ingenuity.

Generally, I was impressed with the museums we visited in England. These institutions are blessed with places that could just speak for themselves. Charge admission, have people walk around and look at old, then move on their way. However, virtually every place we visited figured out a way to engage. Lyme Park might have done this best, what with the Edwardian apparel they let visitors wear and the archery lessons for kids. The Roman Bathhouse in Bath had a superb kids' version for the audio guide. Parliament and Westminster did too. Two museums we visited offered lunch rooms for families who packed, and the British Museum even had a family locker room / bathroom / table arrangement. Hampton Palace had a troupe of actors who gave a fairly accurate, kid-appropriate dramatization of Henry's marriage and divorce to Catherine of Aragon. There was a genuine effort to make the museums and historic homes we saw somewhat kid friendly.

Hampton Court did impress me. They permitted us to see and get into more spaces than I expected. The guides who watched over the rooms would, when prompted, share a great deal of knowledge with you. Though the palace is most famous for its link to Henry VIII, a guide in one room talked at great length about William of Orange's legacy as king. While he was doing that, Sherry was getting a good earful from another guide about the constant relevance of the monarchy in Britain.

In short, I had the privilege of seeing a lot of sites that showed evidence of a lot of care and thought by their staffs.

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