There are few places that have captured my heart the way that Hampton Court Palace has. I have visited it countless times over the last 9 years or so. I have been there in the morning, the afternoon and, once, at night time with nothing but a candle for guidance.
If you ever get the chance, their Ghost Tours are well worth your pennies.
Before anything remotely retro made it's way into my wardrobe, I was - for a fair ol' while - obsessed with The Tudors. A like that turned love from about the age of 8. An interest that morphed into obsession with men in tights and murdered Queens.
One Queen in particular has always been at the top of my "I must know more!" list and I doubt she will ever be toppled. The fact that Anne Boleyn walked the pathways , played cards and, in all probability, danced in the Great Hall never fails to make me smile
The Palace is Baroque - and no less glorious - in part and it is only by the good graces of the William III's coffers running dry that there are any Tudor parts left at all. It could of all been brick dust and lost forever.
Visiting on a weekday in Winter is always my most treasured time to go. I was lucky enough to go this year as a day-early birthday treat from The Beard.
There was a waft of oranges and cinnamon coming from the chilly catacomb kitchen corridors that run under the Great Hall. They are still now - empty - but I love to imagine them in their prime. Bustling with staff balancing trays of roasted meats and pewter goblets of wine. Of the heat coming from the working fireplaces. Of the smell of pies and pottage.
I have never been to one of the Palaces Tudor cooking events where meats are roasted over the flames nestled in the deep recess. There is something in me that longs to try some traditional dishes created in a kitchen that fed such a notorious King.
And if it came in one of those lovely glazed pottery bowls - all the better.
I often ponder what Cardinal Wolsey really thought of falling out of Henry VIII's favor, leading to this brick extravagance being handed over as a gift. Completed in 1515 - and celebrating 500 years shortly - H-8 overtook it as a Royal Palace in 1529. I wonder how that went down, for real. Was it a fumbling "For you? Why, for sure, my lord!" or a "Yesssss, please do enjoy..." hissed out through a gritted teethed grin while a tear rolled silently down the Cardinal's cheek.
I always feel that I discover more facet's to the Palace each time I visit. It always feels familiar, but occasionally seems as though it has shifted in some way. Like the moving staircases in Harry Potter. I stride off, confident in knowing what lays behind a particular door, only to discover something that I have not seen before.
I like that it always has new snippet of history to show me.
But there are some parts that have remained the same for near on half a millennium.
Half. A. Millennium.
These paving slabs and walls. The working, all seeing part of the Palace. The bits that a gajillion feet have walked upon and a million shoulders have brushed. The mirrors used for reflecting candle light and the faces of visitors.
Including my own.