The Orangery and Other London Must-See Places

I’m still having that strange sensation of waking up in the middle of the night and not knowing where I am. Is it our hotel in Kensington? A small flat in Lincolnshire? I struggle to adjust my eyes to the darkness… ah yes, there is our window and there is the bathroom door. We are home.

So I managed to violate most of the top tips I recommended to you while we were in the UK, but I still stand by the list as a good guideline. It’s important to be flexible when you travel and happily things worked out pretty well. Here are some London treats if you are planning a trip of your own:

Tea at the Orangery, Kensington Gardens
Queen Anne added the Orangery to Kensington Palace in 1704 as a greenhouse for exotic plants and citrus trees (hence the name). The building also doubled as a “supper house” during the summer months. The best part about Tea at the Orangery is the historic setting, manicured garden views, and the scones. All at the city’s most reasonable price for formal afternoon tea. However, occasionally slow waitstaff and the absence of tiered silver cake trays might be enough to scare away those looking for a traditional tea service. The Orangery is also a popular location for weddings and other events, so do call ahead to make sure it will be open.

Landscape with Psyche outside the Palace of Cupid (‘The Enchanted Castle’). Claude, 1664.

National Gallery
I discovered this romantic painting while visiting the LOVE exhibition at the National Gallery. Not the best work by any means to be seen at the Gallery – you’ve got loads to choose from. I always make a point of seeing the Marriage of Arnolfini by Van Eyck and Van Gough’s Sunflowers.

Leighton House
I’ve been to see the former residence of Pre-Raphaelite painter Lord Frederic Leighton a few times in the past but I made sure to stop by on this trip as the museum/house is about to undergo a long restoration and will be closed for a couple of years. Yes, years. So if you are going, please do check to make sure the house is open. The highlight of this 19th Century home is the Arab Hall, a glittery, exotic, colorful little room with a fountain in the middle and walls made up of over 1,000 Syrian tiles. Apparently when the museum has recreation parties, they burn incense and candles in the room to give it a real late 1800s bohemian vibe. Upstairs you can see how a gentleman lived in those days as the rooms are kept pretty much as they were in Leighton’s time.

Cabinet War Rooms (not pictured, obviously)
I’d never been before and I was so glad I made the time on this trip. It’s expensive but the museum really does give you a sense of how Churchill and the other folks spent their days buried below Whitehall in these tiny little war rooms. I particularly liked the copper coil cigarette lighter on the wall – man, those rooms must have been smoky!

The White Hart pub and inn, Ufford, Cambridgeshire
This was one of the great moments of the trip, driving through the Cambridgeshire countryside and listening to the Ladies in Lavender soundtrack. The sleepy and adorable village of Ufford hosts an old church on a hill (pictured – and there’s a horse pasture in front) and The White Hart. Not sure if there’s much else there! The pub and inn is a great place to go for a superb lunch of local food (they even do some butchery on site) and local beer. I get the feeling that it’s a popular place for weddings, so if you are in the market for that – check it out.

It was a great trip and we are already talking about our next adventure. Will it be Rome? Edinburgh? Or something more local like New Orleans? In this economy… we might have to settle for a picnic on the Sacramento Delta.

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