Mick at Charing Cross
Queue to get in to BP
BP visit sign
Guards band preparing for changing of the guard
The Queen kindly took this picture of us having tea and scones in her cafe.
Rear of Buckingham Palace
Rear of Buckingham Palace
Russian visitors leaving Buckingham Palace
Bird in the BP Lake
Australian State Coach
Tack room at the Royal Mews
The Golden State Coach
Lyn at the rear of the Golden State Coach
Jasper the horse
Diana's Memorial Walk Sign
Grey Squirrel in St James's Park
Lyn Buying our Ice Creams in St James's Park
Mummy Mute Swan and 4 Cygnets.
Lyn at a Tube Station
It was a sunny morning as we headed off to try and beat the queues for the first day of the open house at Buckingham Palace. Since we already had our ticket vouchers by pre-purchase, we planned to avoid the walk up ticket queue.
As usual we hopped from train to tube, swapped tubes and arrived at Green Park nice and early. We have never had to wait more than 10 minutes for any train, bus or tube. In fact we mostly hop off one and onto another with barely a pause. It's a really amazing transport system and our weekly ticket cost $47 pounds. By the time our week is up we will certainly have got our money's worth.
Emerging from the tube station we had to cross Green Park which is a lovely grassed and treed area of several acres behind Buckingham Palace. Her Majesty certainly has a lot of land.
When we arrived at the ticket entrance everything was well organised as you would expect with no shortage of staff to guide and assist. We found the correct queue and after about 40 minutes found ourselves at the counter where we swapped our bit of paper, which we printed out when we pre-booked, for proper tickets and very nice tickets they were too.
Our allotted visit time was 10.45am so at 10.30am we joined the entry queue for that slot. There were about 100 people per slot.
At about 10.50am a lady came to tell us about the finer points of the visit and we then went in to find an airport style security checking centre. After passing through security we went to a counter where we were issued with Ipod type players which, coupled with headphones, provided a commentary of what we were looking at.
The commentary provided details of most of the significant features of the State rooms and their contents. In addition we could push extra numbers in on command to get more detail. It was very well done.
There was no hurry and we could linger as long as we liked at any point of the tour. The paintings in many of the rooms were pretty special and some of them had numbers which could be keyed in to our device to give us expert commentary. There was a very large Rembrandt, among many others, which Mick thought was pretty special.
Lyn wasn't much interested in the pictures but was fascinated by the decor of the State rooms and the huge chandeliers of which there were many. Lyn was in awe, just amazing how big and ornate the rooms were. Not cosy at all really, but then again we didn't see her private rooms. No plasma's TV's in that part of the Palace. One on the State Rooms we visited was the Ballroom which is where Her Majesty bestows various honours upon her loyal subjects, we sat and watched a short film of her awarding these honours.
All in all a very special place to visit and we were lucky to be here in London when the tours were on. Pity it is only available when the Queen is on her holidays as it would have been nice to catch up with her. The Queen has just set off on her summer holidays, for a cruise around the Scottish islands.
After the tour we went into the gift shop where they had some very nice items. Lyn couldn't help herself as usual and came out loaded with stuff.
After the tour we exited the palace into the garden where they had set up a restaurant where we sat and had tea and scones with strawberries and cream.
With no pressure to leave, we wandered down the path to the exit, which was at the opposite side of the grounds from the way we came in. It was good job we didn't have a car parked outside (as we would have in Australia) as it would have been quite way to walk to go and get it!
On our way out we spoke to a young lady who was part of the staff of helpers and guides who, incidentally, are all dressed in smart uniforms. We asked her if she was a volunteer and she said no, she was being paid and she was on her summer break from Uni. The money she was getting was a great help in paying her Uni fees.
It was then out of the exit gate and around to the Royal Mews for a visit. The Royal Mews is where they keep all the coaches, cars, horses and equipment plus has quarters for the many staff who maintain all of the above.
The term Mews comes from the times when the buildings were used to keep the kings falcons when they were mewing which means losing their feathers as in moulting.
Today, the term Mews now means a set of stables, often converted into dwellings.
Amongst the many coaches we saw, one was built in Australia at a cost of $620,000 and given to the queen as a gift (good to see Australians taxes are being spent wisely). It was a beauty and has electric windows, hydraulic independent suspension and heating (not sure how the heating works since it obviously doesn't have an engine). No Simon, it doesn't have low profile tyres and a hot exhaust!
The stables where beautifully clean but there only 2 horses in residence as the others were out for the changing of the guard I guess. One was a Cleveland Bay which is a unique British carriage horse of the breed that took Princess Dianna to be married and the other was a Windsor gray (not a breed) that is used to pull the monarch's coach.
Of all the coaches we saw, the Golden State Coach was the most spectacular and it was beautifully displayed being drawn by 4 grays (dummy's) with 2 uniformed riders (also dummies) but it looked very realistic. When they need to use the Golden State Coach, they have to dismantle the wall in the building it is in to get it out, which takes about 2 days
Another visit to the Royal Mews gift shop after which we then had to decide which, of the three tube stations in the vicinity we would use to get to the train.
Since we were down near St James's Park, we thought it would be nice to walk along Diana's Memorial Walk through the park which is alongside St James's Park lake. There was a myriad of bird life and quite a few squirrels which were very tame and the tourists were having a field day, feeding them and taking their pictures and enjoying the warm sunshine.
After an ice cream from the van with the mandatory chocolate flake stuck in it, we were off to St James's Park underground station, where we picked up the free evening paper, and started our journey home.