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I'm talking about London, of course, and Richmond in particular. Now for a Welshwoman that's a big compliment so how come I know about Richmond? Well I travel there every time I visit my daughter and family in Isleworth. I don't like using the underground and so I catch the train from Wales to Reading and then travel across country to Richmond station. By now I could probably recite the list of stops on the hour's journey. Oh, and Richmond is the best station to get off to be picked up for my final destination. Richmond is counted as West London and environs, though my daughter's address is Middlesex. I expect it to be a bit confusing though with so many borders. I first visited at the age of 18 when I worked for British Railways and had a friend living there. It's changed quite a bit since then, but is still one of the lovelier parts of London for me. (Welsh people class anything around the city as London). As my title suggests, it is a very green part of London with it's many parks and riverside walks. On my first visit I did the usual trips to Richmond Park, the large park where deer roam amongst its 2400 acres. This is reached through the town of Richmond and as you drive through it you could be anywhere out in the countryside, it's so beautiful. Then the town of Richmond itself that still has the ruins of Henry V11's Gatehouse 'Rychemonde Palace' on the green. Nearby is Kew Gardens a day trip in itself. But the best view is still that of Richmond itself and the river as seen from Hill Street, which was painted by Turner and stands in the Tate gallery. I tend to think of Richmond as more of an 'area' than a town as it's so near to many places to visit. My family all love old houses and castles, so I was gratified to see how many national Trust houses are around the area. Osterley is one such, a lovely place to visit in any season. Syon house is near to Isleworth and other places of interest include Chiswick and Wimbledon Common. Richmond has been called the home of Royalty, the rich and the famous and certainly many mansion houses are built along the stretch of river that runs from Kew Bridge to Ham House. All worthy of a review of there own, so I'll just add that they are all worth a visit. When I stay with my daughter I visit Richmond at least once with my grandson Jack. We fit in an afternoon film, preferably one ending around 3pm so we can look around Waterstone's bookshop. I only have a small Waterstones near to me, so both Jack and I love browsing the books. One thing I still find strange is the lack of public toilets; so potential visitors might like to know that there is a special scheme in Richmond of shops that display signs where visitors can use the toilets on the premises. Jack finds it funny that I still feel embarrassed because I haven't bought anything. We wander from the shops down to the riverside walk, me clutching Jack's hand tightly as the traffic frightens me more than him! This is a pretty area where people sit enjoying the lull off the daily grind. Students play instruments, one has a violin and I'm amazed how good she is. Ice-cream vans call out their wears like old-time street sellers. We both have an ice-lolly while sitting on the banks of the river. Nearby a stall sells smoothies freshly made on the premises. I haven't seen this before. We walk along the riverside and Jack chases pigeons. Despite them being pests, I get a bit worried about his behavior, so suggest a boat-trip. It turns out not to have enough people for at least a half-hour so we wander through a side street and find a large green space. My daughter tells me later that this is one of Richmond's many 'parks' that we wouldn't class as parks in Wales since they don't have children's' play areas. Jack had also asked before we caught the bus back if we could go to swim at 'Pools on the Park' the next day. This confused me until I found that Richmond boasts an excellent leisure center and indeed has a large swimming pool on the park along with an outdoor swimming pool. I cannot praise this enough. There's a teaching pool for little ones which Jack loves as he is just learning to swim. Mum comes with us too, so we take turns staying in the small pool with Jack and one of us has a swim in the large pool. When the sun peeks out from the clouds we go outdoors and stay in the shallow end of the big outdoor pool, which is quite warm despite being outside. Now I'm more confident getting about by bus, I check the free booklet that tells what is going on in and around the area for the summer months. Richmond might seem more for adults with plenty of shops, restaurants, theatres and films, but there are activities in some of the parks including some outdoor theatre. I did go to one last year, which I think was 'The Gruffalo'. One big pleasure of Richmond is that you can always find water nearby and there is a River race day on Saturday 17th September and I hope to visit for that. It starts off at Kew Bridge and ends at Ham House waterside. It's free to watch and sounds like fun. Richmond as a town is so cosmopolitan so it was little surprise to walk along one of the side streets and find that Jack and me had passed someone filming a man for what we guessed to be a documentary. I am still waiting to see myself on TV! Getting around is easy and surprisingly cheap by bus. I much prefer bus to the Underground, despite its convenience. My son-in-law bought me an Oyster card, which is so handy, but from previous trips I know the bus fare to be about £2 for an adult and free for children under six. I'm not sure about the prices for the underground as they vary from whichever line you travel on. The boat trips are reasonably priced at about £6.50 for adults and £3.50 for children. These are ferry prices, other operators are cheaper. Most reviews cover theatres and evening entertainment and there are plenty of places in and around Richmond offering entertainment for all the family. Theatres include Richmond Theatre (on the Green), Orange Tree theatre, Marble Hill and Mary Williams in nearby Twickenham. My daughter tells me that most are quite expensive but well worth a night out. I do know that the cinema is very expensive. Last time I went with Jack I paid £19.00 and that was without having to buy the 3D glasses. It's worth checking whether there any offers on cinema prices, but there isn't many in the London area. Eating out is one thing we enjoy as a family and for that we tend to choose a spot near the river near Hounslow, which isn't too far from Richmond itself. Eating out in Richmond is very expensive and Twickenham probably has the larger choice with over 80 restaurants and pubs doing meals. It's very cosmopolitan with many ethnic choices, a real treat for those that like a varied diet. I can recommend the London Apprentice, which is right on the banks of the Thames in Isleworth, a short ride from Richmond. It's serves great bar meals for under £10 per person and this can be eaten either on a table outside or in a cosy nook inside the pub, with roaring fires on cold nights. Like many pubs around this area, it has a long history and the name gives a clue. Children are more than welcome as long as they behave reasonably well. Shopping is very good, with some large department stores. I remember seeing a Debenham's, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer's, plus loads of tiny boutiques with classy looks and prices top match. Food shopping is varied with many smaller shops selling a good range of fresh foods. I think I remember Waterstone's best since I love books. For places to stay there are plenty of good websites or you can take a chance on finding a nice bed & Breakfast. I don't have much personal experience so would not be able to suggest a particular place. Try a site called Booking.com. Prices seem to vary a lot but generally are around £60 per person per night. Twickenham is much cheaper. For someone who loves green places, rivers and mountains, Richmond has two out of three and that can't be so bad! Hope to see you there sometime. ©Lisa Fuller 2011.
Richmond upon Thames is a beautiful and affluent town in the Greater London area (technically in the borough of Surrey). The photo accompanying this review shows the Petersham fields and the river Thames as viewed from the top of the hill, half way between the highstreet and Richmond park. The town has some absolutely stunning architecture and you can see that the council and local businesses spend alot of money on keeping the appearance of the town as good as possible. Quite recently they relaid the entire pavement of the highstreet with paving slabs, which I'm reliably informed by my boyfriend who used to work at a builders merchants, are very expensive (not the regular grey type you see in most places). What does Richmond have to offer? 1) Shopping Whilst Richmond does not have as many shops as the nearby (but much more depressing) Hounslow, it does have a good selection that will meet most people's needs. From memory there is: Tesco, Next, Ryman, HMV, Waterstones etc. One type of shop Richmond has in abundance is that of expensive clothes shops - both well known brands such as Jane Norman and one of a kind boutiques, so if you have lots of money and want to spend it on clothes, you'll find plenty here. 2) Entertainment Personally I'm not one to visit bars and clubs, however I believe there are a number of these in town including 'Vodka Revolutions' which is right on the riverside. Further to this there are a number of pubs from trendy up market ones to sweet little back street ones tucked down small cobbled roads. There is also an Odeon cinema - or should I say two of them. Technically they're the same 'branch' but the first building wasn't big enough to hold all the different screens they wanted and as they couldn't expand it or build a new one big enough, they simply have two buildings around the corner from each other. Which one you end up at will depend on which film you're seeing and when. On the edge of the green is Richmond theatre which stages various plays throughout the year - I've never been as I'm not a fan of the theatre, but I know a number of people who have gone and think it's a great place. Richmond park is a short walk up a hill from the town centre and is well known across the country for its beautiful appearance and large number of deer. There are a number of carparks around the inside of the park if you don't want to walk and there are plenty of suitable locations for a nice picnic if the mood takes you. The park is also a great place to partake in some landscape or wildlife photography and on clear days you can see central London from some vantage points. 3) Food As mentioned above, there are plenty of pubs and bars around, but there are a wide range of other places that will serve you food. In fact when I come to think about it, Richmond does seem to be very food focused and is a great place to eat out if you want lots of choice. Again from memory there is: Nando's, Giraffe, Strada, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Wagamama's, Pizza Express, McDonalds, 2 Starbucks, Paul cafe and many others of which the name currently eludes me. Suffice to say you're likely to find something to match your tastes at any given time whether it be fast food or exotic cuisine. Transport: Public transport in Richmond is very good - there are a vast number of regular buses that will take you to a great number of destinations, from Central London to Kingston etc. There's also a train station (one of the ugliest buildings in town) which has both underground and overground services including a quick train to Waterloo that takes just 15 minutes. As far as cars are concerned, Richmond is not necessarily car heaven - firstly the town is partially a one way system and secondly parking is very expensive although there are quite a few car parks to choose from (don't be late back to your car as there are plenty of traffic wardens hovering around). Personally I'm particularly fond of Richmond as I grew up just a few miles from it (Isleworth and Whitton) and would spend virtually all my free time here, I also worked in the branch of Ryman in the highstreet before moving away from the area. I would thoroughly recommend Richmond Upon Thames as a place to visit or live (if you have enough money for the latter - believe me you'll need it!). You can have a great day out shopping or taking in the sites, fill your stomachs and book yourself into a hotel if need be (there are a good few of these in town too). It's a great base for London too - you've got quick links into the city whilst being away from the hustle and bustle with the wide open spaces of the park and the river Thames snaking past.