- Tour the one of a kind Hampton Court Palace
- Visit a garden once curated by a 19th century tea smuggler
This morning we’ll travel to the west of Central London to visit Hampton Court Palace, built by Kings Henry VIII and William III in the 16th and 17th centuries, it is one of the most spectacular buildings in all of England and has been a favorite of generations of royalty. The Palace boasts an unusual, yet somehow cohesive, blend of Tudor and Baroque styles, with magnificently maintained interiors full of rich furnishings and a splendid art collection. The grounds and gardens may make you feel like you’re Alice and you’ve found your way to Wonderland. Other points of interest include the huge maze of hedgerows, with over 800 meters of trails, which was planted in the late 17th century for William III of Orange, the “real tennis” court (one of 43 surviving globally), and the world’s largest grapevine. We’ll tour this unusual and magical place with a fun and knowledgeable local guide before we enjoy a casual lunch in the on-site cafe, a purveyor of Harney & Sons Tea.
In the afternoon, we’ll enjoy a special behind the scenes visit to Chelsea Physic House, an important location in the history of tea in the west. Robert Fortune, a botanist, plant hunter, and traveler, was curator here for a time in the mid-19th century, and under his supervision these gardens flourished. Mr. Fortune also played a gigantic role in shaping the modern tea industry. In 1848 he left Chelsea at the request of the East India Company and traveled to China where, after the Chinese government had banned the export of tea plants, he spent three years undercover. Mr. Fortune then transported 20,000 seedlings of tea from China to India, using cases like miniature greenhouses, along with a group of trained Chinese tea workers. A highlight of our visit today will be seeing one of these little greenhouses, known as a “Wardian Case,” used by Robert Fortune.
Tonight, back in Mayfair, we’ll enjoy a casual dinner together at a trendy local gastropub.