Eltham Palace, different styles that form a unique place

By The London Ginger (Para ler esse post em português, clique aqui)
Eltham Palace

During a research I discovered Eltham Palace and its description left me intrigued – it showed a palace with many different styles and combinations – from medieval to Art Deco. And once I visited, this place was even better than I expected and quickly became one of my favourite palaces.

When you visit Eltham Palace be sure to use their audio guide system – the best I’ve ever heard. It tells you Eltham Palace’s history as if you where a guest to one of their extravagant parties.

Now I will tell you a bit of its history and famous residents.

Soon after his victory during the Battle of Hastings, William the Conquerer, the first Norman King of England ordered what was called a Domesday survey in the year 1086. At the time, Eltham Palace was recorded as belonging to Odo, Bishop of Bayeux – half-brother of William the Conquerer.

Odo soon lost possession of Eltham Palace, and it moved hands until it was acquired by Bishop Antony Bek. He is said to be responsible for the most elaborate changes and constructions at manor Eltham.

A series of Kings, Queens, Princes and Princesses – including Richard II, Henry IV, Edward IV, and were said to live in Eltham. But one of the most famous residents of the palace were Henry VII and Henry VIII. Henry VIII (r. 1509-47) spent much of his childhood at Eltham, and when he became King, extensive works were done to improve the Palace. One of the most important chapters of his time was Cardinal Wolsey’s oath of office of lord chancellor which took place in the chapel at Eltham.

Queen Elizabeth I (r. 1558-1603) would only sometimes visit Eltham. James I (r. 1603-25) thought the place to be in decay and works were done at the time. And finally Charles I (r. 1625-49) was the last King to visit the palace.

The Civil War in England destroyed much of the property, and for years after this, it was left in complete abondement. What is now The Great Hall, was at one point used as a barn.

It was only in 1933 that Stephen and Virginia Courtauld acquired a 99-year lease from the Crown (who had restored ownership of the land after the return of Charles II). They hired two architects – Seely and Paget – to design a modern house, while keeping as much from the original palace as possible.

Eltham palace
Eltham Palace
Eltham palace

And so – the present-day Eltham Palace is born – with a combination of modern Art Deco architecture, with a medieval Great Hall, and equipment with the absolute latest technology, including vacuum cleaners, servents’ bell pushes, electricity powered fire places, and many others. Technologies that we now take for granted.

The couple moved in to Eltham Palace in 1936, where they would live until 1945, when they would give up they lease. The War had left the house with a limited number of staff, and after much destruction and the lose of Virginia’s nephew in active service – all factors that contributed to their move.

However, their time at the palace was extravagant. Parties with jazz bands playing in the great hall, incredible guests for dinner and weekends (which were treated to a luxurious stay in gorgeous rooms, bath oils, and more). Although very different in personalities, where stories tell of Stephen going full dinners without saying a word, and Virginia entertaining guests to all hours, life was incredible at Eltham. Not to mention their many animals – including a pet lemur called Mah-Jongg.

The Palace’s exterior is designed in a butterfly pattern, on which one of the “wings” is connected to the great hall. Inspired by Hampton Court and built to harmonise with the great hall, Clipsham stone and red brick were used in the construction.

As you go in, you are immediately welcomed by the magnificent entrance hall. Created by Swedish designer Rolf Engströmer, it is impossible not to be captivated by the glass dome, and the room’s aesthetic.

In firm contrast, and as another example of the many different architectural and designer styles found in the house, you can visit the Art Deco dining room. The black and silver doors are definitely the hallmark of the room.

While on the ground floor, there you can still visit the great hall, and feel the sheer contrast of time. Also, an unmissable room is Stephen’s study and library, where he would spend most of his time at the house.

Eltham palace
Eltham Palace
Eltham palace
Eltham palace

At the first floor, you can visit the bedrooms (including Mah-Jongg’s quarters).

Following a series of room’s available for guests that often would stay at Eltham, all of which would follow the “Cunard style”, featuring built-in furniture, we get to Virginia’s room. She had an elegant room, that also had a mixture of styles. Perhaps the most interesting aspects of her room are the art deco bathroom, which is lined with gold mosaic and onyx, as well as her walk-in closet – where children can even try some period outfits.

Stephen’s room reflects his personality – a simple yet sophisticated room. And contrary to Virginia’s, he opted to not have a telephone, so he wouldn’t be disturbed – all while Virginia would make good use of the technology.

Eltham palace
Eltham Palace
Eltham palace
Eltham palace

The last part of the interior of the house, is the basement. Its historical relevance is invaluable, considering that you can get a glimpse at the bunker built by the family as a place to live and have friends stay and protect themselves from bomb attacks during the Second World War.

As a final part of the visit, the gardens are also a walk through history. Built in different levels, you are going to find plants from the time the family lived there, and at the same time, walk next to the 15th century moat and footing of the Tudor apartments who were left exposed.

Eltham palace is a trip through time and styles. Not to mention the fact that you have a gorgeous view of London, and you can feel how close you are to the city (Eltham is located in Zone 3 of the London Transport for London map).

While visiting, you can choose to use their free audio/video guide system. As mentioned in the beginning, in this palace, I highly recommend you do. One of the first parts of the visit, you watch in of the rooms a brief introduction of Eltham – all done from a first person perspective.

And before going, be sure to check their schedule online. Opening times vary throughout the year, so be sure to check before visiting, and not losing the trip.

Eltham palace
Eltham Palace
Eltham palace

You can check prices and times here.

(Photos by Fernando BA Photography)

Folkestone, a lovely stone beach in southeast England

Por The London Ginger (Para ler esse post em português, clique aqui)
Folkestone Beach

Nothing better to start the week than going to the beach. And the chosen one this time was Folkestone.

The reason for this trip was work, Fernando BA (who has been in this blog before through his photos in this post and this one) and I were looking for a beach that was close to London that had stones and large rocks to make a photoshoot, and that is when we came upon Folkestone.

Folkestone Beach
Folkestone Beach

With trains available from Charing Cross or King’s Cross, this stone beach with blue waters is about 1h30 to 2h from London. Once at Folkestone Central station, a 10 minute walk takes you to a lookout point right by the beach.

The observation point at Leas Road has a beautiful view of the beach. On this day there was some fog, which typical of southeast beaches, but the view is gorgeous with or without it.

In order to get to the beach we went down through a path called “Zig Zag Pad”, with rocks that form small caves, trees. The path itself is already beautiful.

Folkestone Beach
Folkestone Beach
Folkestone Beach
Folkestone Beach

Because it was Monday (yes, imagine starting the week at the beach, with wonderful weather. Not bad…) the beach was empty. The water was cold (as usual here), but since the weather was very warm, the day was perfect. The sea is very calm, no waves, and the beach is perfect if you want to relax and enjoy a nice day.

On the beach there is small restaurant/bar where you can enjoy some ice-cream or a snack. In the city there are a series of restaurant options.

Folkestone is a city that combines two very different characteristics that I love. It has a countryside feel mixed with a city by the beach.

On one side of the observation point you have a beautiful view of the beach, and on the other you see a small town square with a bandstand and some typical countryside architecture.

Folkestone Beach
Folkestone Beach
Folkestone Beach
After doing the photoshoot (photos will be in a blog post here soon) and having a very lovely day on the beach, we found a small garden called Northking Garden on the way back to the station.
Folkestone Beach
Folkestone Beach
Folkestone Beach

Spending a day at the beach is wonderful, you can recharge your batteries, but the most special aspect of all is to visit a new place, have a new experience. This is one of the best feelings in the world.I hope I get to have more Mondays like this one.

Folkestone Beach
(Photos by Fernando BA Photography)

Isabella Plantation, an enchanted garden inside Richmond Park

Posted by The London Ginger (Para ler esse post em português, clique aqui)
Isabella Plantation

It’s hard to find words to describe such beauty. A hidden gem just 30mins away from central London.

To get there, I chose the commute that I would arrive closer to Isabella Plantation’s entrance (since Richmond Park has about 2500 acres). From London, you can get a train at Waterloo and leave at Putney Station (there are a few options of train destinations that pass through there coming from Waterloo) or you can take the District Line (underground green line) and leave at the same station. From there I took the 85 bus to Kingston and got out at the Warren Road stop. It’s just a 15mins walk from there to the entrance of the garden.

Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation
The best time to see flowers there is between April and May, when the flowers are at the height of their blooming season.

Isabella Plantation exists since the year 1830, but it was only open to the public on 1953. And you can still find trees planted on its first days.

It covers 40 acres of Victorian woods (dated from the Victorian era) and it is to this day protected by the Government and funded by companies in England.

The garden has many flowers species, with a predominance of Azaleas, Rhododedrons, and Camelias.

Inside Isabella Plantation there is also a collection called “Wilson 50 Kurume Azaleas”, and its name comes from Ernest Wilson, a plant collector who brought 20 news species, uncommon to the UK, over from Japan in the 1920s.

Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation
With a few lakes inside the area, the landscape becomes even more beautiful, and the space is divided into two different environments – one dedicated to colourful flowers, and another with lowers branch plants and a white and lilac colours.

Without a doubt, this is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. It is worth a visit if you are interested in flowers and gardens, or just enjoys a beautiful scenery.

If you are not around during the spring, the Plantation is still open, with just a different landscape from the pictures here. But each season has its particular charm.

Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation
Isabella Plantation

Want to see a little bit more this enchanted garden? Watch the video below and follow me through a visit to Isabella Plantation!

This video was made in the partnership/cultural support by Aspect +.

Dover, rocky beach and the castle known as the “Key to England”

Posted by The London Ginger (Para ler esse post em português, clique aqui)
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This is a trip that is possible to do on a single day if you’re travelling from London, or even to enjoy a nice weekend. A sandy beach town located on the southeast coast of England, and one of it’s main attractions is Dover Castle, also known as the “Key to England”.

The journey to Dover takes about 1h30 and can be done straight from London Charing Cross station – Dover Priory is the last stop (visit the Southeastern website to learn more about prices and time tables). When I went, part of the track was going through repairs, so I had to get down at Folkestone and took a bus replacement arranged by Southeastern to Dover.

Once in Dover, the first stop was at Dover Castle. We walked for 30mins to get to the Castle from the train station. There are signs to show the way, which is very helpful, and once you are there the view is breathtaking.

Dover Castle is a medieval construction from the 12th century and was where Henry II lived. It is known as the “Key to England” due to its importance as a fort to defend the country, and it is also considered the biggest castle in England.

The Castle went through a series of improvements, the most important being the one done by Henry II, which shaped the Castle to how we know it today. It’s possible to visit the Great Tower with replicas of the King and Queen’s room, as well as the secret war tunnels.

Inside the outer walls of the Castle it’s possible to visit the old Roman lighthouse, which is dated from the year 43 AD, as well as the observatory deck that was once used as a military base. There is also a war museum located inside the cliffs that is worth a visit.

Dover is known by it’s White Cliffs, a characteristic caused by all the limestone on the rocks.

It’s a port town, with a huge movement of ships everyday, including cargo ships, but is still a small and calm town. These cities on the east cost of England that i’ve had the opportunity to visit have something very peculiar – while they are located by the beach, they maintain the English country charm.

After a walk through the Castle, we went for a walk on the beach, the day was chilly, but the Sun made an appearance which made the weather perfect. There are a few restaurants, pubs and hotels on the edge of the beach, and on one end we found a charming marina and a place to practice water sports.

I will certainly return to Dover, the view is beautiful and the trip was very pleasantly surprising.

Want to see a bit more of the day and the beautiful scenery of Dover? Watch the video below and join us on this beautiful walk through a sunny day in Dover.

Margate, Botany Bay and Broadstairs

Posted by The London Ginger (Para ler esse post em português, clique aqui)
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Short weekend trips have become one of my favourite activities. Without spending much time and money, I have the opportunity not only to discover London, but cities nearby.

During a warm weekend, I really wanted to go to the beach, and I remembered that once, while on the way to another destination, and due to a problem on the train tracks, we had to make a 40 minutes stop at Margate to wait for the next train. Margate is a sand beach, which is not very common here in England, and it is neighbour to two other sand beaches that have the white cliffs as landscape.

There. Having decided the destination, all that is left is to find out the best way there.

Leaving by train from the centre of London (Charing Cross / London Bridge) the trip to Margate takes two hours, and since the days are longer during the summer, this is a smooth travel.

The idea was to just walk and discover Margate and the neighbouring beaches (Botany Bay and Broadstairs), I didn’t have a set itinerary, I wanted to have the opportunity to enjoy the beach, the weather, the walk.

Between Margate and Botany Bay we decided to walk by the beachfront, which was amazing, and allowed us to see different landscapes on the same path (the whole walk lasted around 45-50 minutes).

The second part of the way, between Botany Bay and Broadstairs, we decided to walk over the cliffs instead of the beachfront. This path is known as Cliff Promenade.
These beaches, besides the characteristic of being sand beaches, they are also known for its white cliffs. It is not only a beautiful landscape, this geological characteristic contributes to compose a diverse ecosystem, because the cliffs are a natural habitat for many animals. The area is known as The Thanet Coast, and is considered one of the most valuable marine life regions in England.

On these three beaches we can find the emblematic “beach huts”, those small coloured wooden houses, that you can rent/buy to keep your belongings during the summer or all year long. A few people use it as storage space and keep their surf equipments and beach chairs, while others transform the space into a small kitchen, making parties/reunions on the beach.

Since I have a huge passion for the artes, I couldn’t miss the chance to visit the Turner Contemporary (contemporary museum located in Margate), that is named after the painter William Turner. The museum has housed great expositions with big names such as Marcel Duchamp, Marina Abramovic, Joseph Beuys, Leonardo Da Vinci, among others. In another post we will explain a little more about the museum’s history, but we couldn’t go through this post without mentioning it.

Do not miss the video to see how the day went and the wonderful landscapes we saw.

Mayfield Lavender Farm: an unexpected surprise in London

Posted by The London Ginger (Para ler esse post em português, clique aqui)
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An activity outside of the more typical and well-known in London, but is worth doing between July and August, is visiting a lavender field. In London there is more than one, but in this post I will talk about one that I visited.

The choice was the Mayfield Lavender Farm, which is located in the south of London. With a trip of about 40 minutes from the centre of London, you arrive at this beautiful field of English lavender. It doesn’t even look like London anymore with this bucolic view, colourful and scented, but rather a countryside town in rural England.

To get there you have have a few options, depending on the time and day, trains depart from station in the centre of London (Waterloo, London Bridge, Victoria) to stations close to the field (Purley, Epson, Surrey), and there all you have to do is get a bus that leaves you at the main gate. The field is located in London Zone 6, so it is possible to make all the trip using your Oyster Card.

The Mayfield Lavender Farm has free parking for those who prefer to drive there and the price to get in the fields is £1 (one pound) per person. Besides the lavender fields, there is also a café/sandwich shop, as well as a small store where you can buy bouquets and lavender seedlings.

Don’t forget to try the lavender ice cream!Until then, I’ve never had the opportunity to visit a lavender field, the sensation of being there was wonderful, it is an experience that pleases the eyes because the fields are beautiful e colourful, as well as the sense of smell, because the scent is strong and pure.

The fields blossom in specific times – in June they start to grow, but it is in July and August that they are full. In certain years it is possible to see some of the lavender still in September, but it all depends on that year’s crop.
This is a trip that I recommend to everyone who comes to London. A chance to discover a unique and colourful view, inside this amazing city.
Watch the vídeo we did there in the fields, and get to know a little more of this enchanting and fragrant place inside London.

Kenwood House, a charming gem in Hampstead

Kenwood House 1 low

Kenwood House and Gardens is located in the heart of Hampstead Heath, one of London’s most precious gems, and part of English Heritage.

Its majestic interior was remodelled by the famous Scottish architect Robert Adam in the mid XVI century, and a new room was added to the house as well – the library. This is just one of the reasons to visit Kenwood House.

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Kenwood House 3 low
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Kenwood House 7 low

Surrounded by gardens that are nurtured to show its beauty and charm all year long, it doesn’t matter what time of year you visit this property, there will always be something to be seen.

Kenwood House 8 low Kenwood House 9 low

In 1999 the movie Notting Hill was released and a few scenes where shot in Kenwood Gardens (remember that scene where Hugh Grant’s character visits Julia Robert’s character at the film set).

For the art lovers, there is not only the exquisite architecture, but you can find Rembrandt to Turner hanging within its walls.

Kenwood House 10 low

A place that is worth seeing for its beauty, for a rendezvous in one of the most charming London neighbourhoods’. There is also a space reserved for kids (in case you are wondering if this is an adult activity).

The pictures shown in this post where made by the photographer Fernando BA – a Brazilian who lives in London for over 4 years, and works not only with landscape photography, but with people as well. To see more of his work, access his website and delight yourself with the images.

The entrance to Kenwood House is free. For more information read here.