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    Relaxing on the doorstep of Richmond Park: A staycation hotel review

    To say this was the laziest most relaxed adventure yet would be an understatement. 

    At the beginning of this year, my one and only Mr Kiwi put me on a travel ban. After a 6 week period that included a surprise birthday trip to Gothenburg, a myriad of business travel, a weekend staycation and two awesome weeks roadtripping around Texas and Louisiana at the end of last year, he felt like he had had enough.

    Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    So in order to assuage the flame of wanderlust that has my
    soul (one day it may waver so I’m making the most of it whilst I can) I
    had to get crafty. I mean, compromise. Yes, compromise. *shifty eyes*

    Fast forward to my friends laughing after asking me what we were doing over one weekend. “Well, I’m dragging the instagram husband for a little staycation in Richmond.”

    *blink blink*

     Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    “Richmond? But that’s like underground zone 3 or 4 isn’t it? Like in London?”

    Yep. What everyone seems to forget about Richmond, Surrey, is just:

    a) How amazing this little corner of London is.

    b) Simply how far the rolling landscape reaches to, creating an oasis of calm crowned by distant tower blocks.

    c) That people travel from all over the world to visit the wonders of Richmond park.

    d) It really is possible to travel in your own backyard, especially when your metaphorical backyard is London.

    Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London KiwiRichmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    There is simply loads to do, even in the periphery of the Royal grounds. The park is a National Nature Reserve, London’s largest Site of
    Special Scientific Interest and a European Special Area of Conservation. It is home to the beautiful Isabella Plantation, Pembroke Lodge and herds of Red and Fallow deer.

    Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It is also home to city bods who spend weekend mornings donning lycra and perspiring as they chat, sorry run, around the many paths and roads crisscrossing the green canopy.

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

    Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Honestly for the majority of our stay the weather was dismal, but it made curling up in our cozy, modest hotel room at the 4-star Richmond Gate hotel all the sweeter.

     Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Was I disappointed? No, not really. With only our phones connecting us
    to the real world, and no unfinished chores waggling their existential
    fingers at us, we simply relaxed.

    Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Arriving at the end of a well-earned Friday, we nipped downstairs for
    dinner before retiring to watch a film (I believe it was SpiceWorld but
    even their peppy pop songs couldn’t keep my heavy eyelids from
    shuttering) as we burrowed under the covers.

    Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The next morning we arose to mists over the gently ruffled Thames, the current twirling from Westminster to Hampton Court. We had planned an early morning traipse through the dew dappled grass and watch the sun rise, but alas the gates don’t open until 7am (about an hour after dawn at that time of the year) so we had no choice but to turn around and sneak back under the duvet.

    Richmond Park Staycation Adventures of a London Kiwi

    If, unlike us, you actually manage to spend a little more time exploring this wonderful neighbourhood (I mean if it’s good enough for Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood) I’d highly recommend visiting Strawberry Hill House, a Gothic castle of dreamy spires; discover Eel Pie Island; or simply lay a picnic over the mossy moor beneath the ancient trees.

    That’s the beauty of home city staycations I guess – the ability to return again and again.

    What is your favourite Park, London or otherwise?

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    Wanderings, castles, statues, and a life-size dollhouse – Twickenham, Richmond

    As a kid I yearned to join the ranks of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five. Basically for those not in the vintage kids book know, they were a gang* of kids that met up & had sorts of jolly adventures in the countryside. No mythological computer games, 3D air sports or imaginary characters who they could abuse online, but the unlimited use of their imaginations and a dog Timmy that got them out of scrapes.

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

    Rambling through the Surrey countryside with a group of mates, a rambunctious pup & a picnic lunch? Done.

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

     

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

    That’s the England I found along the Thames River stretching along Twickenham a few weeks ago.

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

     

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

    Rambling, discovering, chillaxing. I started without any destinations or places in mind, bar meeting a friend for coffee at Strawberry Hill near the end.

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

     Before exploring an unexpected castle at Strawberry Hill…

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham

    Richmond Twickenham Thames River

    Almost a Famous Five worthy morning – next time I’ll make onto Eel Pie Island for a picnic and a touch of smuggling perhaps.

    *Used in the cute 1950s way to mean a group, not the knife bearing New York ghetto kind

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    Visiting Strawberry Hill House, Twickenham Richmond.

    Hidden in the opulent suburb of Twickenham, a gothic castle of dreamy spires quietly rests. The beautiful Strawberry Hill House.

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Adventures of a London Kiwi

    You won’t believe it, but it has taken me a little over 2 years to visit this particular piece of Richmond history. It’s not through want of trying, but rather a lack of memory teamed with the house being open to the public. Every single time I’ve found myself with a spare afternoon I either haven’t remembered to think of Strawberry Hill House, or have eagerly jumped onto the website only to discover that it’s a month too early to visit down in the old borough of Surrey. A fail indeed*.

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Luckily in March inspiration struck with the inspired combination of Strawberry Hill House actually being open.

    With a few hours up my sleeve, I pottered along the Thames riverbanks stopping here and there for a cuppa, watching exhilarated dogs and their owners play fetch, stumbling upon yet more mansion houses and a breathtaking statue garden in Italianate marble. But that’s a tale for another day.

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    I met with a local friend (unaware of the existence of such a folly, despite living 9there for 10+ years) and once our allocated slot came up, we ventured into one of the most surprising London establishments I’ve visited.

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Beginning life in 1698 as a modest house, built by the coachmen of the Earl of Bradford, Strawberry Hill House was transformed into ‘a little Gothic castle’ by Horace Walpole, man of letters and the son of England’s first Prime Minister. 

    Between 1747 and 1792 Walpole doubled its size, creating Gothic rooms and adding towers and battlements in fulfilment of his dream, but also creating a space of rooms perfect for displaying his antiquities, works of art and curios.

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Known as “the plaything of Walpole and his friends, it established a taste for the Gothic: fireplaces and gilded ceilings like medieval tombs and vaults, painted glass with rustic and biblical scenes and heraldry.” 

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Each new room seemed like walking into a fairytale princess’ room – in fact my friend struggled the whole way round to choose just the one she would have as her bedroom…

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    I just wanted one and make no apologies for the following statement, but I lusted so hard for Walpole’s Library that it was difficult to tear myself away and investigate any other room.

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    So many of Walpole’s original design quirks (mostly thanks to a recent £9.8 million restoration) are on display that even without furniture the rooms are rather extraordinary.

    Tiles, wallpapering, fireplaces, door handles, furniture, stained glass, animal balustrades, suits of armour, windows,

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    It made returning home to plain white skimmed plaster rather disappointing.

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Honestly…

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    …just all of it.

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    The building was so grand – even in it’s own time – that the public paid a nominal fee to quietly parade through the doors. Walpole went so far to print a small booklet to guide visitors around and rented a house across the road to escape the crowds of fascinated guests.

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Strawberry Hill House Twickenham Richmond

    Each intentionally gloomy space leading to a breathtaking room of such gothic opulence that it is hardly believable. Unsurprisingly Medieval tombs, arched doorways, rose windows and carved screens were models for his fireplaces, windows, doors and ceilings, but surprisingly are mostly modelled out of wood, plaster and papier mache.

    You must go.

    *just so you don’t do ‘an Emma’, Strawberry Hill House is usually open March 1 – November 9th but is regularly hired out for weddings and special occasions, and often closes on rugby match days. Check the Strawberry Hill House website for details.

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    Posh Girlie Weekends in Richmond

    This weekend was lovely in the lovely wilds of Surrey. Busy, but lovely. Lunches, 50th’s, Spas, nattering, mischief, deer, drinking, gangnam-style dancing, Tequila, dresses, deer, royal park walking & recovery.

     

    I think I’m going to need another weekend after this one.

    My phone & camera batteries didn’t quite make it to the Park, but it certainly settled a bit of the old Donkey-on-the-edge symptoms.

     Have you had a busy weekend?

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    The best London Parks and Gardens

    Did you know that London is the greenest major city in Europe and the third greenest city of its size in the world (officially)? Well, it is, and it has so many beautiful spaces where the city gives way from cold architectural structures to thriving green lungs that give us city-dwellers respite. Selecting the best London parks and gardens for this post was a job I adored taking on.

    Best London Parks and Gardens Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Oh, and they are wonderful places to party, to picnic and to just get away from it all.

    Read more

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