When it comes to gifts, I’m the easiest person in the world to buy for. Why? Because I honestly don’t want you to get me one. But if you must, I always prefer something intangible over the alternative. A dinner out, a deposit into my bank account to help fund my next great adventure, heck, you can even take a picture of the sky and tell me you named a star after me – as long as it’s not something I’ve got to pack the next time I move, I’m a happy girl!
So when I was asked to attend afternoon tea at Hampton Court Palace for the upcoming Mother’s Day weekend, I was all for it. A day out at a royal palace is a fantastic gift alternative to the usual candy or jewelery! If my mom didn’t live 4,000 miles away, I’d have invited her to come along with me, but instead, one of my other favorite mothers – Tina – was game to spend the day pretending to be royalty with me. (Seriously, if you want to get into character, the palace actually supplies royal robes for guests to wear!)
After a bit of a struggle to get out to Surrey where Hampton Court Palace is located (leave it to me to go to the wrong tube station and then miss my bus), Tina and I started the day by exploring the state apartments of both Henry VIII and William III. Since Tina had visited before, we decided against the audio guides that came with our admission, and Tina became my honorary guide. We wandered through luxurious bedrooms and drawing rooms, dining rooms set up with benches along the walls so the King could eat with an audience (seriously, who does that?), and hallways with art scaling the entirety of the walls and ceilings. I’ve seen three of London’s historic royal palaces, and so far the state rooms at Hampton Court have been both the grandest and prettiest of them all. (Although, if I were to choose a place to live in myself, I’d go with Kew Palace.)
After we made it through the many rooms in the apartments and the Chapel Royal (absolutely beautiful ceiling in there, but sadly, no pictures allowed), we checked out the kitchens where, get this, there was a kitchen just for making chocolate. Geniuses, those 17th century royals were. By this time, we were getting pretty hungry so we headed over to the Tiltyard Cafe to indulge in a little Mother’s Day afternoon tea. (Please pardon my rough appearance. I’ve been sick a lot lately and it was also a super windy day. Although, somehow Tina’s hair still looks like she just walked out of the salon?!)
The Tiltyard Cafe is a bustling place where food is sold cafeteria-style, certainly not a typical setting for an afternoon tea, so I was pleased when we were seated in a quieter, semi-separate section of the cafe with a beautiful skylight overhead. We were served a traditional afternoon tea with three different kinds of sandwiches (smoked salmon & cream cheese, tuna & cucumber, and egg salad), scones with cream and jam, and brownies, shortbread, and a chocolate-strawberry tart for dessert.
We both had only positive things to say about the food, proving that sometimes simple and traditional really is best. I’ve been to many teas in London where so much emphasis is placed on being different that somewhere along the way the taste began to suffer. That is definitely not the case with afternoon tea at Hampton Court Palace. I only wish I’d been able to take our leftovers home!
Shortly after we finished our tea, Tina needed to get back home, so I explored the gardens on my own – all 60 acres of them. I’m kidding. Even though the skies were blue and the sun was shining, it was so windy and cold outside I began wishing I’d worn those thermal layers I’d bought for our Sweden trip last month. I really wanted to see it all, but a combination of improper footwear and crazy cold wind meant I could only stand about an hour outdoors before I gave up. One thing I knew I couldn’t miss, though, was the famous Hampton Court Maze. At 300 years old, it’s the oldest hedge maze in Great Britain and I was determined to get through it. If Cory had been with me, I’m sure we would have been in and out in ten minutes, but since I was on my own, I made it to the middle, then the middle again, then…yeah, you get the picture.
Not a whole lot was blooming yet in the gardens, but I could see a few buds erupting from the ground here and there. Come late April and May, I’m sure it’ll be beautiful! However, for Mother’s Day weekend, Hampton Court Palace will be bringing the flowers inside the palace for their annual Florimania event. With this year marking the palace’s 500th birthday, the Florimania displays throughout the state apartments will be inspired by five centuries of flower design and artistry. It’s going to be beautiful!
This special event will only be available 13-15 March 2015 for Mother’s Day weekend. Afternoon tea at Hampton Court Palace will be available Saturday and Sunday only and will be served in the Fountain Court Cafe. For other alternative gifts for mom, check out Attractiontix’s guide for unique Mother’s Day outings in the UK!
Our visit to Hampton Court Palace and afternoon tea were complimentary, but my review was not influenced by free scones. As always, all opinions and amateur photos are my own.
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