London is a genius when it comes to self-promotion. The city showcases its most attractive side to the world every chance it gets, planting popular events near popular landmarks and offering photo opportunities hard to resist.
As one would expect, many events scheduled for the "Great British Summer" have iconic backdrops. In June, the British Summer Time in Hyde Park will be staged in one corner of the famous royal park; the Wimbledon tennis tournament will be shown at rooftop screenings near St Paul's Cathedral in the east and Westminster Cathedral in the west; and further afield in the leafy West London is where you'll find the annual Hampton Court Palace Festival.
This year, Hampton Court Palace is celebrating its 500th birthday, and a series of events and activities are staged throughout the year to mark the occasion. The HCP Festival is a summer headliner and bills itself as a "truly unforgettable experience", with a wide range of artists -- from pop stars, orchestras to stand-up comedians -- performing in the historic main courtyard of King Henry VIII's Tudor Palace.
We have tickets to the John Wilson Orchestra performance on a Sunday evening and are advised to arrive early if we wish to have picnic on the Palace's magnificent garden lawn. You can bring your own table set, or waterside gazebos are available for rent for those who want more seclusion away from the crowd. If luxury is what you desire, go for the VIP package and enjoy a pre-concert dinner under the splendid painted ceilings of the Palace's State Apartments.
Visitors can relax in the Palace's beautifully manicured gardens that run down to the River Thames. In the Great Fountain Garden, where gumdrop-shaped yew trees line its paths, several food stalls and a bar are set up for anyone who arrive hungry, thirsty and empty-handed.
The setting of the evening concert is intimate and truly fit for a king. The acoustically-blessed venue is flanked by towering red brick gates, with the stage on one end of the courtyard overlooking about 3,000 seats, mostly uncovered. As the orchestra churns out one beautiful score after another from classical Hollywood films, the dimming, cloudy sky only adds drama to the night as many of us sitting in the open air are secreting praying for the rain to stay away, since umbrellas are not allowed during the concert even in adverse weather conditions (according to one repeat visitor who got drenched last year)!
Luckily for us, all the worries are for nothing. The performance wraps up smoothly, and the evening stays dry, if only just a little bit chilly. Next June, we'll know better and bring a thick blanket and poncho!