For longer itineraries in London or those on repeat visits, it’s nice to mix it up with short excursions to see the English countryside and historical sights. There are three new options that we are excited about: The breathtaking new Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College, VIP Experiences at Blenheim Palace and a train journey with the Queen of Baking, Mary Berry.
The Painted Hall at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich reopened in March after a painstaking, two year conservation project, which has brought its magnificent painted interior vividly back to life. Often referred to as the "Sistine Chapel of the UK," its vast decorated interior, extending over 4,300 square feet is considered the masterpiece of English baroque art. Designed by Sir Christopher Wren and painted by Sir James Thornhill, it depicts England’s naval power of the time.
The £8.5 million (approximately $11.1 million) conservation project has reversed years of decay. Its reopening is part of a major transformation project that will also see the reopening of the King William Undercroft events space, below the Painted Hall will soon house a new café, shop and interpretation gallery. Fun fact: The actual painting of the Painted Hall took 19 years to complete and started in 1707. There’s loads more to do for history and science lovers from the Cutty Sark and National Maritime Museums to the Royal Observatory, making Greenwich perfect for full day out.
Photo by JFBRUNEAU/Adobe via Newscred
Famous as the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, Blenheim Palace has been home to the Dukes of Marlborough since the early 18th century. Set in the picturesque Oxfordshire countryside, the UNESCO World Heritage site with its grand palace and breathtaking gardens designed by “Capability” Brown is something to behold... and, now, there are three exclusive VIP experiences to enjoy at Blenheim.
Take a privileged peek inside the palace with private guides to previously unavailable rooms and apartments; tour the gardens with the head gardener; and enjoy an opportunity to have a champagne tea with HRH Princess Katarina (a remote relation, but still a legit royal from Prince Philip’s side) and Grant Harold, The Royal Butler, who was a member of The Royal Household of Their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall based at Highgrove House. Tours are bespoke depending on interests: Churchill fanatics can tour with a historian; for keen gardeners, spend the day amid the gardens, including an exclusive tour of the Duke of Marlborough’s private Italian Garden, the Walled Garden, Formal Gardens, Rose Garden, Arbouretum and even a buggy ride through Blenheim’s ancient oak forest (the most significant collection of oak trees in Europe—and possibly the world); for foodies and aspirational royalty (aren’t we all?), learn proper manners with HRH Princess Katarina, considered to be one of the leading authorities on Royal Etiquette.
Prices start at £286 per person, with a two person minimum. Travel advisors should contact Cathy Penry, group sales executive, on 01-993-815-600 and [email protected] or Timothy Mayhew, operations manager, on 01-993-810-530 and [email protected] for more information on any of the VIP packages or to enquire about custom itineraries.
Belmond British Pullman
For fans of The Great British Baking Show (known as the Great British Bake Off in the U.K.) the original favorite judge, Mary Berry will host two afternoon tea journeys aboard Belmond British Pullman on May 3 and 4, 2019. While dining on a selection of her favorite cakes and desserts, Mary will regale guests with stories from her award-winning 60-plus-year career and share some baking tips. We can’t imagine a more glamorous venue to enjoy Mary’s company than the celebrated Belmond British Pullman train with its beautifully restored Art Deco carriages, sumptuous seats and refined cutlery and crystal—not to mention the stunning views as you journey through London and into the Weald of Kent on this round-trip excursion. The Mary Berry trip marks the first in a series of pop-up gastronomy journeys in 2019 for the U.K. day train.
For more local experiences for bakers, consider some of our favorite spots for "loafing" around London.