Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Royalty Unlimited

The first place we visited in London was the Buckingham Palace. Almost seemed the right thing to do to meet the Queen before we settled in, in her country, for the next one year ! Call it the Raj hangover or the dreamy-eyed outing of a couple in love but the Palace it was our first Sunday in London.

The Piccadilly Line takes you to Green Park from Hounslow West so  it is an easy 35 minutes ride in the tube. Check out for maintenance work happening on the line for disrupted services. We knew nothing about this so our adventure began when the train stopped at Hammersmith & we had to take a Replacement bus from there on. Replacement buses are free. You have already swiped your Oyster Card at the tube station, this is the same journey ahead by a different mode of transport. The strict adherence to a well- established system is such a boon. It is these things, the way life is made so easy, thanks to good governance, that makes immigrants stay on for ever.

Thanks to the longer route, we found ourselves in Baker Street. There's Sherlock Holmes minus the cigar leaning against the wall. The red shoes are symbolic, he is out to paint the town red.
From the red shoes to the Green Park was such a leap. The Green Park tube station exits right into the Park, the vast stretch of green soothes the very core of your Being.

There are folding chairs all over the park leading to the Palace. Visitors can bask in the sun before saluting the Queen. It is mid July, the sky is a clear blue, the sun is  bright but there is definite nip in the air. 
Tip: Carry a woollen & an umbrella any time of the year in London. No matter how strong the sun, it can be deceptive. The clouds are lurking just behind the covers & it can drizzle without notice. 

It is a eight to ten minutes of leisurely walk to the Palace from the Park. And just as we reach the palatial gate, it starts drizzling. The unpredictable weather!
The magnificence of Royalty dazzles, despite the weather. 

In the first sightings, one takes in the Gate(top left), the facade(top right), the    Victoria Memorial (left & right).
The Victoria Memorial was created by sculptor Sir Thomas Brock in 1911 and erected in front of the main gates at Buckingham Palace on a surround constructed by architect Sir Aston Webb.

The architecture wows the visitors, everybody wants a proof that they have rubbed shoulders with the aristocracy. Nobody minds that there are other people in the frame. As long as they can be clicked with the structure in the background! We are no different.

The Royal Guards look like statues, so still they stand.  When it rains, they move under that little stand, in better weather they step out of it. If you are lucky to catch them moving, you know they are for real. There are no flies so they don't need to shoo them away. What do they think standing there the whole day!                     

No, not the whole day. There is a Changing the Guard ceremony that happens at 11.30am everyday from May until the end of July and on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting.                                                               There are signages all over about the programme for the day so visitors are not lost about activities that are happening. Punishment Parade?!Not very amusing , is this? Shocking for today's times, we thought!  

You are leaving the Buckingham facade & moving towards the palace. The rain has stopped, the flowers fresher than ever.   

You stop in front of Sir Clive (left)
& pose. The Memorial(right) catches your attention too. It is in honour of the 202 people killed in Bali in an inhuman act of terrorism. Saying a silent prayer, you move ahead.

There's Big Ben in the distance! Never knew all the places of interest were so close to each other. Suddenly, you see the London Eye visible from beyond the lake. But that we saw only when we revisited the palace grounds last week. One day is just not enough to take in everything.

P has posed with the guard and is smiling. The guard cannot so much as blink his eyes! Such training! Such discipline! Doesn't it get tiring, all these tourists posing with him, as if he's one of the structures! Or is it fun?

The imposing Palace took our breath away. During August and September when The Queen makes her annual visit to Scotland, the Palace's nineteen state rooms are open to visitors.

Photography and the use of mobile phones are permitted in the Palace garden. Mobile phones must be switched off elsewhere on the visitor route.                   

There are guided tours available in the Palace.Keep a full day for the rendezvous, there is a lot to see. 

This time of the year, there are preparations going on for the London Olympics to be held in July 2012. The banners tell the whole story. Be there. Book in advance.

Even the Queen is not untouched. The greenery of the English summer(left) has given way to the winter(right).
There was beauty then & a different shade of it now. The palace guards change, tourists come & go, the Royal household sees a new saga unfold every day. The one thing that remains is the deep rich hue of this red. It was red in July, it is red in February.
You've had a fulfilling day. You had come in through the Green Park, you want to take a different route out. You can exit from Hyde Park if you want. You are out of the palace grounds, you have said a mental goodbye to The Queen. It is getting dark & you want to reach home early. Suddenly, the stately Westminster Abbey beckons you. OMG, I wish they gave me a room in the palace...


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