I started the day at Paddington station, walking the short walk to Kensington Gardens and then strolling through the park enjoying the peaceful, green, open spaces.
I was heading for Kensington Palace which is somewhere that a) I've never visited before and b) you can get into free with an Art Pass. Hurrah!
Unfortunately the King's State Apartments were closed when I visited (great timing, Laura) so I'm very glad I can go back with my Art Pass another day and see them then.
Kensington Palace is quite unlike any other historic house I've visited. I was expecting lots of fancy rooms full of fancy paintings, furniture, etc... and it's not like that at all. Instead most of the rooms are empty or sparsely furnished and the space is being used as a gallery for telling stories/ displaying objects related to the royals who have lived at the Palace.
Victoria Revealed tells the story of Queen Victoria's life, love, rule, and mourning, with bits of Victoria and Albert memorabilia displayed in rooms connected to their life (where their children played, where Victoria held her first meeting as Queen, etc). There were some interesting objects on display here and some lovely creative displays where cabinets were decorated with paper cuts or themed illustrations framing the objects displayed.
Unfortunately a lot of the rooms felt rather empty and although there were "explainers" on duty in each room they weren't doing much explaining (I was half way round before I realised they were guides and not just security guards!). You also had to look at numbered info sheets to find out what each object was and why it was there, and even then there wasn't a lot of information included which was a bit frustrating.
The Queen's State Apartments currently house a theatrical installation (on until June) telling the story of the Stuarts at Kensington. There were some lovely, creative displays winding up the staircase and dotted throughout the rooms, and fun things like window seats where you could sit and listen to gossipy whispers about the goings on at court... but again, I found the lack of information quite frustrating, especially as it really wasn't obvious what some of the installations were supposed to be about!
The other section open when I visited was an exhibition of dresses worn by some of the modern royals, complete with photos of them wearing the dresses and context-giving magazine covers from each decade.
Overall, I enjoyed my visit and I'm looking forward to going back when the King's State Apartments are open again (update: click here to read about my return visit) but I think I would have been a bit disappointed if I'd paid for my entry ticket (especially as for the roughly the same price you could visit somewhere like Windsor Castle which is amaaaazing).
After looking round the house I visited the lovely sunken garden (this is free to visit) and had a delicious icecream in the sunshine, enjoying the view.
When I'd finished my icecream I had a walk around Kensington...
... and visited St Mary Abbot's church, which has some lovely stained glass windows and the tallest church spire in London (and is apparently attended by David Cameron).
Since the weather was so splendid I thought it would be a great day to visit another new-to-me park... so I walked to Holland Park which, it turns out, is quite, quite lovely. The park has some quite wild areas and several kids playgrounds...
... but also has some more formal gardens with plenty of benches, a nice cafe and a giant chess set.
The highlight for me though had to be the Japanese garden, complete with large koi pond and waterfall.
And, of course, the famous Holland Park peacocks!
Does your local park have peacocks in it??? Mine certainly doesn't! :)
After doing lots of peacock-watching, I walked to the nearby Leighton House Museum, which is another place you can get in free with an Art Pass (yay!). The house was the home of the famous Victorian artist Frederick, Lord Leighton and has been recently restored to how it would have looked when he lived there.
The highlight is definitely the fabulous tiled entrance hall (check out a virtual tour here) but it was also interesting to learn something about Leighton's life, to see where he worked, and to see how simple his private bedroom was compared with the elaborate public spaces in his home.
Then it was time to head home and rest my weary feet after all that walking!