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Waterloo railway station, London
Why "the best tour I've ever been on." All is revealed further down. But first, the practicals.
In the Summer 2018 London Walks programme we go to Richmond & Hampton Court on xxxxxxxxxxxx. The meeting time is 9.30 am. The meeting point is by the main ticket office – it's directly across from Platform 16 – of Waterloo Railway Station. The Tariff (boat ride and entrance to Hampton Court) is £27. For the total cost of the trip just add the Tariff to the guide's fee* N.B. get a Zones 1-6 Travel Card (or Oyster Card) – it'll cover your travel fares. *The guide's fee for a Day Trip is £18 for adults. Or £16 for Super Adults (over 65s) and students. Or £14 for people with the London Walks Discount Card. Kids under 15 accompanied by their parent(s) go free.
"Yes, best tour I've ever been on. And I've been on tours all over the world."
The memory of that day, that trip. In my personal pantheon of great tours that I've been on – been on as a "customer" not the guide – the one that gets pride of place is our day trip made of that weave of Richmond – the lazy boat ride up the Thames to Hampton Court – and then the Hampton Court tour itself.
That trip is the only tour I've ever been on that's hit what I would call a Wordsworth register – stored up in me "sensations sweet, felt in the blood, and felt along the heart…" The pure serene of knowing that where we are, what we're experiencing, what we behold "is full of blessings." That's some tour that can do that – and that trip did.
It must have been 15 years ago that I went on it and I still think about it – remember it – pretty much every day. Memories make us rich – and that one certainly did me.
What is it about that excursion? Haven't really analysed it – we murder to dissect – but if pressed I'd put it down to the conjoining of those two extraordinary bookends – Richmond and Hampton Court – with that platonic ideal of a boat trip. The way time slowed down and history ghosted along with us. And of course it didn't hurt that it was a golden day.
So, yes, this is a memory shared. And, yes – if I may be so bold – a gentle recommendation. Made not least because a certain slant of light is now here to remind us that summer is passing. And – narrowing the focus – that we're down to our last two Richmond & Hampton Court trips. One of which I'll be on.
We go there Monday, September 3; and Monday, September 17.
I've asked one of our greatest cultural commentators to perform the honours – to break the bottle of champagne across the bow of this vessel. Here he goes…
"If Windsor is the grandest of England's royal houses, Hampton Court is the most seductive. Its Tudor profile, its forest of chimneys, its mix of intimate chambers and grand state rooms answer to every emotion. Whether shimmering above the river in summer or set about with winter snow, its entrance is the epitome of the flamboyant and tyrannical Henry VIII. To the rear is a jolly William-and-Mary building crammed with chambers in the Dutch style. Hampton Court has something for every taste…. After visiting the house, there is nothing more restful than to walk by the river and to lose oneself in the great park to the east." Yes, it's a taster – the opening and closing – of Simon Jenkins' wonderful essay on Hampton Court.
So much for the launch ceremony. Now it's time to get stuck in. Here we go…
There are many ways to "do" Hampton Court, but this is the best. In the same way that tailored is superior to off-the-peg. Because with Hampton Court "content" – Great Hall, Haunted Gallery, State Rooms, Private Apartments, Maze – takes care of itself. What doesn't take care of itself is "presentation". And presentation makes all the difference – the difference between something that seamless and timeless and unforgettable as opposed to theme-parky. And that's why we go by boat from Richmond. Just as Henry VIII did. It's a living act of "restoration" – because Hampton Court is a riverside palace and was meant to be approached by water. It makes for a golden day – stimulating and peaceful, beautiful and companionable. And for a finale? Try this: London Walks, Winner of the Best Tourism Experience in England Award*
It all comes down to the guiding (in this instance, Hilary, OBE).
*And for good measure, The Best Tourism Experience in London Award.
In the Summer 2018 London Walks programme we go to Richmond & Hampton Court on Monday, September 3 and Monday, September 17.
The meeting time is 9.30 am.
The meeting point is by the main ticket office – it's directly across from Platform 16 – of Waterloo Railway Station.
The Tariff (boat ride and entrance to Hampton Court) is £27. For the total cost of the trip just add the Tariff to the guide's fee* N.B. get a Zones 1-6 Travel Card (or Oyster Card) – it'll cover your travel fares.
*The guide's fee for a Day Trip is £18 for adults. Or £16 for Super Adults (over 65s) and students. Or £14 for people with the London Walks Discount Card. Kids under 15 accompanied by their parent(s) go free.
"Best Tourism Experience in England" Gold Medal Winner, Visit England
"London Walks puts you into the hands of an expert on the particular area and topic of a tour…" The New York Times
"by far the most impressive series of walks that I have ever encountered are those offered by London Walks" Travel and Enjoy
"Richmond is the most affluent borough in London. It looks like it and feels like it, too – airy, leafy, parky, rivery. Richmond has more of the richest London wards than any other borough. Mick Jagger lives there and Zac Goldsmith [was] the local MP. It's even too posh to be south of the river; it's the river which goes south instead, and Richmond is to the east of it." John Lanchester
London Walks always aces it with the quality of the information that you get. Re the Real Tennis court at Hampton Court and learning that in early tennis the player might briefly rest, letting a servant throw in the ball, thus 'service.'
Or that 'timberhill' was an old word for staircase.
If you can't make one of the regularly scheduled, just-turn-up, public Richmond & Hampton Court excursions do think about booking one as a private tour. For a singleton or a couple or foursome is more expensive than going on one of the public tours but they're still good value. Best value if you compare them with what's on offer in the wider marketplace. And for a reasonably sized group they're superb value – cost you less than going on one of the public outings. If you go private you can have the Richmond & Hampton Court trip – or any other London Walk – on a day and at a time that suits your convenience. We'll tailor* it to your wishes and requirements. And – always with private London Walks and tours – we go to great lengths to make sure the guide-walker(s) "fit" is well-nigh perfect. Ring Fiona or Noel or Mary on 020 7624 3978 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll set it up and make it happen for you. A private London Walk – they're good value for an individual or couple and sensational value for a group – makes an ideal group or educational or birthday party or office (team-building) or club outing.
A private London Walk or Day Trip makes a fab present – be it a birthday or anniversary or get-to-know-your-new neighbourhood gift or Christmas present or whatever. Merchandise schmerchandise (gift wrapped or not) – but giving someone an experience, now that's special. Memories make us rich. *So if you want, say, just half of the day – in either Richmond or Hampton Court – no problem, just say the word.