After a restful full night’s sleep, I woke up early in the morning. I had two major events on the radar for the day: make an appearance on BBC Breakfast, and then head off to Chartwell to visit Churchill’s home.
As I wrote about yesterday, I had originally been scheduled to appear on BBC Breakfast (our equivalent to Good Morning America) during the Royal Wedding, but I was bumped to Saturday. I certainly didn’t mind! It’s such an honor, I didn’t care when it was.
I put my best suit back on and headed in a cab to Shepherd’s Bush where the main BBC headquarters is located. I arrived early and waited in the reception area for the producer to come fetch me. I really couldn’t quite believe that I was sitting in the reception area of the BBC!
The producer came and led me through a labyrinth of hallways to the BBC Breakfast studios. It was quite interesting to see behind the scenes of the BBC. I was led to the “green room” – which was little more than a cupboard, in all honesty. It was crammed with people, and I squeezed in. I couldn’t quite believe it, though. I was sitting right across from Simon Schama!
You may remember him as the host of A History of Britain a few years ago. You probably also saw him during the BBC’s coverage of the Royal Wedding. I was a little star struck, as I admire him quite a bit. I introduced myself and said it was an honor. There was a prominent journalist there, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out his name. He knew Simon quite well, and they joked back and forth.
I also had the pleasure of meeting probably the most famous Royal photographer — Arthur Edwards — who was a very charming fellow indeed. I didn’t realize it, but I’d also met the lady who made Will and Kate’s wedding cake, and didn’t realize it until I saw her on the screen being interview ahead of me.
I met a charming American woman named Victoria who’d journeyed to Britain for the Royal Wedding, and she was going to be interviewed with me. We both were a little flabbergasted as to where we were.
After a bit, we were ushered into the actual studio, where the cake lady Fiona Cairns was being interviewed, and we waited for our turn. When the interview was over, we congratulated Fiona and introduced ourselves.
And then we were on!
The interview went great, if a little short. We talked about our experience on the Mall for the Royal Wedding. Sadly, no one was able to record it for me, and I wasn’t able to obtain a recording.
After the interview, we were led back to the green room, where I enjoyed listening to all the talk amongst the fellow people waiting their turns. After a short while, it was clear they were done with us, and we were led to the exit.
What a fabulous and wonderful experience. Many thanks to everyone at the BBC who contacted us and brought me on the air. Such a treat.
As I left the BBC, it was still early, thankfully, and I had plenty of time to take the Tube back to my hotel and change into more suitable clothes for the journey to Chartwell.
I grabbed a cab to Charing Cross station and bought a return ticket for my journey to Sevenoaks. The best way to get to Chartwell from London is to take a direct train from Charing Cross to Sevenoaks in Kent, and then take a cab from there to Chartwell. There are no daily buses to Chartwell, so the only way to get there is with a cab or by renting a car.
I still had a few minutes to kill before my train, so I grabbed some delicious cookies from Millie’s Cookies, and then searched for my platform. I got on the train and waited to depart. The train journey was slow at first — which I didn’t mind.
Trains leaving Charing Cross cross over the Thames on their way toward South London, so it was cool to see the Thames, Houses of Parliament and London Eye in all their sunny glory.
I got to see some lovely parts of London as the train left. The train journey was only due to be about half an hour, and it ran on time. The train follows pretty built up areas until you’re almost in Sevenoaks, and then BOOM – you’re hit with beautiful rolling English Countryside.
It was quite a delight.
In no time, I arrived at Sevenoaks, which is all honesty, wasn’t the nicest of train stations. Thankfully, since it’s a busy station, there were plenty of cabs out front. I grabbed a cab from Beeline Taxis and had a quiet drive through country lanes to Chartwell. The driver wasn’t very talkative, which I didn’t really mind. I was too enthralled with where I was. In my own little personal heaven.
Soon I arrived at Chartwell, but you couldn’t tell really as the main entrance to Chartwell is well away from the house so you don’t see it until after you’ve paid your admission. I booked the taxi to pick me up in a few hours, giving myself ample time to explore the grounds.
Chartwell is run by the National Trust and is a pretty substantial little operation. It was also pretty expensive to get into Chartwell – almost £12 – but it was to be worth every penny. Once you’ve paid your admission, you follow a beautiful manicured path up to the main house. I was surprised to see many of my fellow countrymen there paying a visit, especially since it’s rather difficult to get to Chartwell.
After a twisting path, there it was — Chartwell. It’s not a particularly remarkable house by grand British House standards, but it’s remarkable in that for one man, it symbolized everything he loved about Britain. It was his cherished home. His bit of England. The place that inspired him. The place where he wrote his speeches, books and entertained Britain’s finest.
The house was filled with history. Unfortunately, you’re not allowed to take pictures on the inside. Their excuse is that the National Trust can display the paintings and images in the house, but they don’t own the copyright on the images, so you can’t go around snapping pictures or taking video.
The house works on a timed entry system where you pick a specific time you want to go in, and then they let you in in phases so the house doesn’t get too overcrowded. It was a bank holiday, so it was pretty crowded already. I stood outside the house and took a million pictures while I waited for my scheduled time.
The most astounding thing about the place, and the very reason why Churchill bought the place, is the view. Words cannot describe how beautiful it is. So, here’s picture.
When the time came to enter the house, I was let in with a small group of people. There are no guided tours of the house, but in every room there are experts who highlight various bits of Churchillian trivia worth knowing. It was nice, but a little more structure would have been nice. Once inside, I discovered the biggest problem of all — you can spend as much time in the house as you like, which makes it difficult to explore the house as no one is in an hurry to get a move on.
I explored the rooms and listened to the guides, studied the art on the walls. My favorite room was Churchill’s study — still featuring everything the way it was when he died. It was quite a treat to peak at his bookshelves and examine his taste in art. I got through the house pretty quickly. I probably should have lingered more considering the time and expense it took to get there, but I saw enough for one visit.
Here’s a picture of the study someone braver than I took:
Outside, you’re free to walk around the grounds and admire the views. I took a bajillion pictures and admired the house, which was beautiful. I called home to my wife to thank for her letting me come on this trip. It was a dream. I was in a dream. and I didn’t want it to end.
I explored the grounds, admired Churchill’s gardens and made my way through the property to the other highlight of the day — Churchill’s studio where he painted. It’s still as he left it and features a massive selection of his paintings on display, which were such a treat to look at. The man had such talent at painting. Once that was over, I ventured through the gardens and looked for the brick wall that he built with his own hands (he even got a union card, he laid so many bricks).
I looked at the time and had quite a bit of time until my cab was due to come pick me back up. I’d seen it all, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to fill time time. I left the grounds of the house and headed to the restaurant to see about something to eat. The menu didn’t really appeal to me (I’m a very picky eater). so I opted for tea and cake instead. The tea was all right, but the chocolate cake was awful.
After that, I spent quite a bit of time in the gift shop, which was a mecca of Churchill-related items, and I was presented with a problem: I wanted to buy everything in the store. But as I had a small suitcase, that wasn’t a good idea!
I had plenty of time, so I gave it considerable thought. I had purchased two beautiful programs when I bought my ticket, so I didn’t feel the need to buy anything about the house. I have a pretty good library of Churchill books at home, so didn’t want to stock up on books. There was, however, one book I really did want — a giant hardcover dedicated to Churchill’s painting life and how it affected his political life. It was a definite keepsake/heirloom. The problem was that it was really expensive.
I decided that I shouldn’t buy any books, I can get them cheaper and VAT-free on Amazon.com. My usual policy is not to buy anything while traveling that I can get easily at home.
Oh, how I wish I hadn’t listened to myself. Much to my dismay, when I returned to London, I learned the book is out of print! The only place to buy it was at that store!
Still, I came away with 3 keepsakes from the Churchill store — a very large print of Churchill’s painting of Chartwell, a smaller 8×10 picture of Churchill with a famous saying, and a photograph of his studio. Still lovely souvenirs, which were going to be difficult to get home unscathed. But very beautiful.
Even after the shopping, I still had an hour to kill, so I sat on a bench and admired the views.
The cab drive back to the train station was much more interesting as the cab driver was more talkative, and we talked about many topics. Back at the train station, I picked up a bunch of newspapers (they were the commemorative editions about the Royal Wedding). The train ride back to London was uneventful, and I arrived back to my hotel without trouble. Before I went back to the hotel, I made a pit stop at the London Transport Museum to pick up a special gift for the lovely wife who made it all possible.
I bought her a beautiful teaset designed from old Tube posters. Check it out below.
I spent my final night in London watching Doctor Who, eating room service, and enjoying my last hours in London.
I’d planned to write about Day 5 of the trip in London tomorrow, but really, there’s not much more to write about. When I woke up the next day, I packed with a heavy heart and took the Heathrow Express back to the airport.
I had a special meeting at the airport with a business associate, and I’ll be able to talk more about that in a few weeks if everything gets approved. Stay tuned!
I spent my last couple hours in the airport terminal picking up last-minute souvenirs and eating a hearty lunch.
Leaving England, my life is at a crossroads. My family has started, my career has shifted, and I’m not sure when I’ll be able to come back to England. We hope this fall, but that all depends on if we can make a go at Anglotopia, if we can turn enough profit from this business to live and fund our adventures in Britain.
There’s just SO much possibility right now.
As the British Airways plane took off, I knew I’d be back. When and for how long was a question mark. Still, I was glad to be going home.
One day England will be home.
Check back next week for more posts about my Royal Wedding Trip to London, where I review my hotel, flight and much more!