After a hot Friday afternoon of travelling round London, we were happy to arrive at our hotel, the Holiday Inn Kingston. We reached the hotel by taking the overground to Kingston and then walking, and found the hotel in a lovely location overlooking the River Thames and a small marina. Reception staff greeted us warmly with a smile and our room keys, in a lobby with smart black modern flooring andleather sofas.
Our executive room was spacious, with internet, a modern bathroom, satellite television, tea and coffee making facilities and individually controlled heating/air con. A real bonus was the room’s private balcony,where we sat watching the evening sunset over the river.
The Holiday Inn Kingston also hosts regular themed, live entertainment evenings; on the night we were there, bhangra dancing was taking place. The hotel had decorated the reception area had been decorated in accordance with the theme and had become very busy with people there for the entertainment.
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We were greeted by the smell of a breakfast buffet in the morning and sat enjoying it at a table located next to the window overlooking the river. The sun was shining and it made a great start to the day. The hotel’s restaurant was pleasant and more than large enough to accommodate groups for dinner and breakfast. Rooms at the Holiday Inn Kingston start from £79 per room, per night including breakfast. For reservations and more information call 020 8786 6565 or go to www.hikingston.co.uk.
Turk’s Pier, Kingston, can be located at the back of the John Lewis department store next to Kingston Bridge. From here, we caught a boat for an easy and pretty ride to Hampton Court. With only one other customer on board, we had the boat almost to ourselves, and enjoyed the lovely river views in bright sunshine. The many well-maintained back gardens along the banks and boats moored alongside showed us a more personal side of river life. The boat has a bar onboard and front-of-deck seating, which meant we got a stunning view of Hampton Court as we approached.
A river cruise to Hampton Court with Turks starts from £6 for a single and £7.50 return. For more information please visit www.turks.co.uk. For group bookings for 20 or more people, tickets must be purchased in advance by calling 020 8546 2434.Hampton Courtis just a few steps away from the Turks boats’ mooring. We made our way to the guided tour office, where we were given a hand set which gives audio tours of the palace. Audio tours are available in multiple languages with a special children’s option. The audio guide gives an entertainingaccount of the history of each room and section of the palace, beginning with the kitchens and information about the type of food that would typically have been prepared in these areas in the past. Stewards are also on hand throughout Hampton Court to answer any questions. As we got further into the palace, the rooms became more personal, including bedrooms and dressing areas, which gave a real insight into how Henry VIII lived. The rooms which were used for entertaining are beautifully decorated with tapestries and the audio tour gives vivid descriptions of the sorts of feasts and parties which took place here, often for days on end. After exploring the palace the gardens are a great escape. A tour of the gardens by horse-drawn carriage is available and of course the world-famous maze is unmissable.
Tickets to Hampton Court Palace are £17.60 for adults and £7.70 for children. For more information go to www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace. Group booking line: 0844 482 7770 or visit www.hrp.org.uk/GroupsatHamptonCourtPalace or email firstname.lastname@example.org for group rates and information. Coach parking is available and all coach drivers and Blue Badge Guides visiting with a group are admitted free. Visit the dedicated group travel desk in the main ticket office on arrival.
After our long day we were more than ready for dinner. Jamie’s Italian restaurant is located in the heart of Kingston, surrounded by busy streets full of people shopping. It was a great escape to enter the restaurant and be greeted by friendly staff, who showed us quickly and smoothly to our table – right by the window, great for people-watching! The restaurant can easily accommodate large groups, with several ideal areas. We both chose the deep-fried squid for starter, a personal favourite. For a main course I ordered the baked Shetland salmon with whipped, lemony ricotta, balsamic-roasted vegetables and a zesty, crunchy salad. For dessert I requested a cheese board, which I found wasn’t actually on the menu – but the fantastic staff very kindly made one specially for me, including a selection of cheese, sweet chilli sauce, fresh fruit and crackers.