Tuesday, July 23, 2013

living like kings

Today we visited two grand houses: Sir John Soane's and Henry VIII's. I'm not sure which one I would rather live in. They are both fancy and they both smell like old wood. They are both haunted. They both have delicious ice cream vans parked out front!

This was my third or fourth time visiting Sir John Soane's, though the first time I have done the private tour. Private tour is just a fancy way of saying that we listened to this guy talk a lot about cornices and marble clocks. I have found, and it bears repeating, that the guards at Sir John Soane's are the most suspicious and most alert in all the land. You so much as breathe on something and they swat your wrist. Do not touch things at Sir John Soane's. That is not your chair to sit on! That is not your  Egyptian sarcophagus to touch! The guide kept telling us about Soane's disenfranchised, profligate sons and it all made so much sense. They lived in a giant house they couldn't touch! No wonder they married scandalous women and didn't become architects.

It was kind of the perfect day to visit Hampton Court. There really wasn't anybody there. It kept threatening to rain, but then it never really did (a slight sprinkle, which felt great) and I think that kept people away. Also, it was a Tuesday. So from now on, only go to Hampton on a Tuesday. Today's wife at Hampton Court was Anne of Cleves, who was so ugly that Henry divorced her. She was lucky. Her ugliness saved her. If she had been beautiful she would probably have been beheaded.

There was a special exhibit on called Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber, which sounds really sexy but wasn't. It was six rooms of royal beds, and we saw lots of bedpans and warming pots and mattresses. There was one awesome room, however, where we were able to lay down on giant cushions and watch a series of dreamlike images float across the ceiling. It was hypnotic and nap inducing! Don't mind if I do!

The children's audio guide was a little disappointing. There was no Vid the alien, and it was about five stops long. But we did get to see some impressive antlers, a beautiful stained glass window, and a talking lion (not Aslan.) We sat in on the Henry show, and watched him declare his marriage to Anne of Cleves "null and void," and then we all walked outside to watch him propose to his next wife, Catherine Howard. She wasn't too excited because she was in love with Thomas Culpepper. I told Thomas that he and Catherine could still keep meeting in private, and he scolded me. "Have you actually read history, sir?" he asked, incredulously.

The gardens were beautiful and everything looked green and lush. We played at the koi pond for a bit. Those koi. They'll eat anything! And I do mean anything.

Next we conquered the maze, which is easier said than done.

Finally, Josh gave the crowds a show on the lawn with his acrobatics. That picture is completely real.

Back in London, we took bikes into Hyde Park as the sun was setting. I tried to take pictures of the geese on the Serpentine, but they were too fast and it was too dark. So you'll just have to imagine them. And while you're at it, imagine the lights of the BT Tower flickering on the water. Because that was really pretty, too.