The first day of our vacation found us getting up at about 8:00 AM on Saturday morning and doing rather mundane things to prepare for our departure including cleaning out the fridge, heading to the dump and picking up a rental car to drive to the airport. Finally leaving after lunch, we headed to the airport and were winging our way across the Atlantic just after 6:00 PM. As I typically do, I try to sleep on the plane, but never seem to be able to - just a series of small cat-naps. DS and DD were entranced by the 747's in-flight entertainment system and continuous flow of food and drink brought by the crew.
We arrived in London at about 6:00 AM local time and proceeded to work our way through immigration and customs before an interminable wait for a rental car and the drive to my BIL's house arriving around 8:30 AM. We were greeted with a light breakfast and the words, "We have a big day planned."
Oh. No nap?
It seems to be tradition in the family to keep guests awake on the day of arrival until a normal bed-time to get them on local time in the (faint) hopes that jet-lag will be overcome.
We piled back into the rental car and a brief look around Hampton Court Palace which is most famous for it's association with King Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey, from whom Henry acquired the place after Wolsey fell from favor. It is an impressive place:
Hampton Court is located in Richmond and the palace has ornate gilt gates which open onto the River Thames:
The River Thames is really remarkable - it is the second longest river in England and it is tidal as far upstream as Teddington Lock at Ham in West London. London is still a port (As evidenced by a crane and shipping containers we saw in Central London from the river later in our trip.) and experiences a tidal rise and fall of up to 7 meters. The river remains navigable from Lechlade in the Cotswolds all the way to the North Sea. It is a very busy river.
After our trip to the Palace, we had a nice lunch out - basically across the street and overlooking the river. DS's jet-lag and lack of sleep overcame him as he fell asleep while eating his hamburger!
We had a unique trip to a nearby place where train enthusiasts had built a model railway with small working steam, electric and diesel trains which were being run to give visitors rides - it was quite a set-up with working signals , bridges and stations! The large trains were maybe about 6 feet long and the small ones only about 2-3 feet, but they still hauled cars with about 8 passengers, the engineer and a conductor. Here's one of the coal-fired steam engines on a test bed - train and tender are about 4 feet long.
I was also reminded of how inviolable "tea-time" is. Here is a "conductor" sitting on the "caboose" of a moving train with what is probably a scalding cuppa:
While we were at the railway, my BIL called to see if he could make a reservation for a motorboat. We were lucky enough to be able to get one for an hour at the end of the day. The place we rented it was a combination marina/pub in Kingston and we made our way over. Arriving in the car park we were greeted with the sad sight of a punt pressed into service as a planter:
Things did begin to look up:
And while our boat was the red and white one in the background, we could have rented Em - a bright-finished river "party" barge of sorts - glassware and brass taps inclusive!
We set out along the river just as two tourist boats passed by. They were somewhat odd copies of what I would describe as faux stern and side-wheel boats that would look at home in the deep American South - perhaps on the Mississippi.
As I mentioned before, the river is a very busy place and we passed numerous boats, marinas, and a sailing club. Canal boats (pleasure cruisers...) were in evidence:
There were working-boats, barges and wrecks along the shores, as well.
People were out in all kinds of boats - power, paddle and oar:
While most of the boats were of fiberglass and steel construction, there were a smattering of traditional wooden boats - mostly rowboats. Still, I could get used to living along the river like this...
We got a nice view of Hampton Court's gates from the waterside as well as the myriad chimneys in the roofline!
Just past the bridge, we even got a nice view of the restaurant where we had eaten lunch earlier:
On our trip back downstream to the marina it was plain to see that people had shifted from tea-time to cocktail hour - there were quite a few gatherings with plates and glasses in the cockpits of the canal boats.
We returned for dinner at my BIL's and I amazed myself by staying up until nearly 9:30 PM. The fact that it is light until that hour certainly helped!