London Part 6: Palaces of Past and Present

While we’d already seen the house of the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London, we’d yet to see the house of the Royal Family themselves – Buckingham Palace. Day 2 of our London adventure was going to rectify that.

We left Parliament and headed down the longest road in the world to the direction of Everything Royal. It was coming up on 11am, which was also when the next changing of the guard was going to take place, so we hurried with teeming crowds of other eager tourists to get there before Big Ben‘s hourly gong.

Considering how touristy London is, I was almost half surprised there wasn’t a giant sign that read “GO HERE FOR CHANGING OF THE GUARD” – so we made our own way to the spot.

Seeing guards lined up on horses in the distance surrounded by a three foot perimeter of camera-wielding tourists made us speed up. It was 10:58. We found a gap in the wall of people and elbowed our way to the front (or rather politely sorry-ed ourselves forward, as this is Britain and crowding, like queuing, is a sanctimonious event).

2016 London January Red Horse Guards small
Fancy red guard on horses.
2016 London January Row of Navy Horse Guards small
Fancy navy guards on horses.

Eleven o’clock struck. We poised our cameras, ready for action.

But they didn’t move.

Perhaps they were waiting on something else? Maybe it was only at 11:30? Noon?

Eventually we saw some mounted police behind us and we went to go ask if this indeed was the changing of the guard. Their answer was something to the effect of “nope”.

Half amused, half exasperated, we laughed at our mistake of having spent a good twenty minutes staring at deadpan guards for nothing. So we headed out and angled ourselves instead towards the main affair: Buckingham Palace.

On the way, we passed Trafalgar Square and saw Nelson’s Column.

2016 London January Nelson's Column Street Scene small
Passing crowds outside Nelson’s Column. Bonus points: red telephone booth in the frame.
2016 London January Nelson's Column Top small
Top of Nelson’s Column.
2016 January London Ricky's Photo Phone Booth Me
Only photo of me I absolutely insisted on having taken at the aforementioned phone booth. Photo credit: Ricky – check out his blog here!

We went right into Trafalgar Square and posed for more tourist shots.

2016 London January Nelson's Column Lion Ricky and I Napoleon
Ricky and I with majestic lion at the base of Nelson’s Column.

The National Gallery was right across the way, and though I sorely longed to go inside, this was less a trip of interior examination and more of a checklist (in a good way – no other method of seeing this much of London in a single weekend would have worked!).

2016 London January National Gallery small
National Gallery, the steps seeming to move with the number of tourists scurrying across.

But for now we had to press on.

When we arrived at Buckingham Palace, every street and corner was lined with tourists thicker than the padding on a push-up bra. Clearly they knew something we didn’t. Something was about to happen here, unlike at the faux-changing-of-the-guard.

A few minutes after we filled a gap in the onlookers, a real live royal marching band went by.

2016 London January Palace Marching Band Long Shot small
Is this real life?
2016 London January Palace Marching Band Close Up small
Check dat brass.

Once they’d gone by, the roads opened up again and we maneuvered our way to the palace gates.

2016 London January Buckingham Palace Gates small
And what resplendent gates they were.
2016 London January Buckingham Palace Gate Crest Detail small
Coat of arms on the gates.

2016 London January Buckingham Palace small

We didn’t actually go in the palace, but that was fine by me. I feel like London is far too big to do in one shot, so we experienced the city like a series of bite-sized tasters rather than making a meal out of every stop. It ended up being just perfect this way.

2016 London January Buckingham Palace Family Portrait
Semi-unprepared group shot. Photo credit: Tony.

And yet again, might I mention that the number of tourists swarming here felt like several colonies of ants descending upon a juicy morsel from a leftover picnic.

2016 London January Queen Victoria Memorial small
Climb any higher on that monument, guys, and you won’t get any of the monument in your photo (Victoria Memorial).

So that’s part of the reason I was okay not going into the palace itself. Crowds like this tend to make me anxious, and I was happy to keep moving.

Next stop was the modern-day palace of 10 Downing street.

2016 London January London Eye from Downing Street small
The London Eye from between buildings leading up to Downing Street.

My disgust with David Cameron meant I didn’t actually take a picture of the street sign, so I commandeered Ricky’s after the fact.

2016 London January Ricky's Photo 10 Downing Street
Downing Street sign. Photo credit: Ricky – check out his blog here!

For security reasons, you obviously can’t go right up to the door to get that iconic shot of the polished #10. The whole area is fenced off with intimidating black gating and surly looking coppers.

There was a really lovely cenotaph for WWI just around the corner though, which is where the Prime Minister and many other of the cabinet members lay their wreaths for Remembrance Day.

2016 London January Ricky's Photo Cenotaph
WWI Cenotaph on Whitehall Street, London. Photo credit Ricky – check out his blog here!

And thus we spent our morning of Day 2. By now we were getting really peckish, having already walked something like 13, 000 steps, so we headed to downtown London to meet up with Tony’s nephew for lunch.

But let’s save that for another post!

Until next time.

For the complete London adventures, check out the links below!

London Part 1: Cable Cars

London Part 2: The Tower of London

London Part 3: The Tower Bridge

London Part 4: Mulled Wine and End of Day 1, or The Importance of Down-Time

London Part 5: Big Ben, Parliament, and Westminster Abbey

London Part 6: Palaces of Past and Present

London Part 7: Fancy Shopping, Japanese Food, and Geekery

London Part 8: Chilling at the Icebar and Belly Laughs in Greenwich

London Part 9: The London Dungeon

London Part 10: Museums, Tapas, and the End

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4 thoughts on “London Part 6: Palaces of Past and Present

  1. You’re so funny…all happy that you got the bonus of a red telephone booth in the Nelson’s Monument shot…and yet to the left and right you also tucked in a modern and classic double-decker! Considering another of your posts where you were so glad to get a double-decker bus photo, it is also sweet that in the radiant photo of you in front of the telephone booth, there is a double-decker parked beside you!

    Standing by these monuments for photos really lets it sink in how MASSIVE these are. It’s almost like they anticipated the tourists’ heights when calculating where to position the lettering for VICTORIA to be chiseled in on her monument.

    Did you know the unicorn on the Coat of Arms (gate) is chained because is because a free one is a very dangerous beast? (Note…the lion is England and the unicorn Scotland. Going back to the Babylonians in 3,500 BC the legends say the lion and unicorn are natural enemies. The unicorn was incredibly powerful, but used its power to protect and provide for others rather than dominating.)

    It was only in 1993 that Buckingham Palace opened for tours…so I only ever saw what you have now seen. And I think I made the same mistake about the guards…I seem to recall a lot of nothingness for a long time before correcting the error. (I LOVE the bored expression in the horse’s eye of that first photo!).

    Lovely post. LOVE that shot of The London Eye!

    Like

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