The Horniman Museum and Gardens contain perfect bite size collections of nature, history and culture with a vast range of display gardens, buildings and sundials in their park. The nature trail is the oldest one in London running along the original site of the Crystal Palace and the South Junction Railway that was closed in 1954. Located in South London’s Forest Hill, the museum is less busy on weekends then the major city attractions, and is also FREE. The museum has been open since Victorian times when Frederick John Horniman showed off his collection to visitors at his house.
The Sound Garden, inspired by the musical instruments collection inside the museum, stood out from the others for me. There are over 8,000 objects within this section of the museum, including the oldest pair of bone clappers made in Egypt 3,500 years ago! The garden has giant instruments all tuned in the same key. It would be fun to see a set of musicians jam out on these in the park. For now, kids (as well as my husband) can experiment with the different sounds. While we were there we kept thinking about how perfect this place would be to take our 5 year old nephew.
The Victorian Conservatory at the side of the building is an additional architectural bonus to visiting the museum. It was originally built at the Horniman family residence in 1894, however it was moved and restored in 1988 to the museum. You can even rent out the conservatory for special events. From the pavilion you have a perfect view of the London skyline. We didn’t get that good of a photo though due to the lovely London rain.
David’s parents came to visit us in London so we made sure that they would get to experience taking part in the traditional afternoon tea during their stay with us. After researching various places across the city to go for afternoon tea (there is an unbelievable amount of options), we chose to make it a royal occasion and have it at Kensington Palace in Queen Anne’s Orangery. Located in Kensington Gardens, the 18th-century building makes for the perfect location to sit back and sip a cup of tea, while imagining the type of events that have taken place here in past. Served on the palace’s beautiful china, we had a selection of sandwiches, sweets and scones with clotted cream and jam. Just outside the Orangery is the Sunken Garden where it is said to have been laid out during the reign of Edward VII.
There are 3 key areas to see inside the palace right now; Victoria Revealed, The King’s State Apartments and The Queen’s State Apartments. The Queen Victoria exhibit explores the many aspects of her life and features some of her possessions on display, including her white silk wedding gown. I still can’t get over the fact she shared a bedroom with her mom right up until she became queen even though she was only 18 at the time. In the Queen’s State Apartments you explore the rooms that were once used by Queen Mary II including her gallery, closet, eating room, drawing room and bedroom. The King’s State Apartments were much larger with each room serving a distinct purpose with paintings along the walls and ceiling by William Kent in 1723 depicting George I’s court.
What started out as a humble hunting lodge built by Louis XIII is now one of the greatest achievements in French Art of the18th-century. What is seen today are the transformations done by his son Louis XIV when he moved the court and government of France to Versailles in 1682. Château de Versailles is a must see when visiting France and only half an hour from Paris by train. The first Sunday of the month is also free entry. If I lived nearby I would go every chance I could just to walk through the gardens!
The gardens are just as beautifully crafted as the palace. When Louis XIV commissioned the gardener with the design and layout of the gardens he said they are to be treated just as importantly as the Château. Let’s just say the gardener sure did meet the brief! The gardens took forty years to complete as they had to lay out the flower beds, the Orangerie, the fountains and the Canal where there were once only trees, grasslands and marshes.
Hidden away in the gardens is Marie-Antoinette’s estate and it truly is an escape. Its very rural and cottage like, yet it still feels like something out of a fairytale. The contrast between the royal wealth and art of the palace to the cottage rustic feel of her estate is amazing and makes the experience of visiting Château de Versailles fulfilling and complete. No one could come here without an invitation from Marie-Antoinette herself. Here we saw ducks swimming around in the ponds, fish and even an otter.
It takes a full day to walk through the gardens, Marie-Antoinette’s estate, the Grand Apartments of the King and Queens, the Hall of Mirrors and the battle hall wing. There is so much to stand in awe of from the detailing on the floors, the marble walls, the furniture and of course the paintings and carvings on the ceilings.