Pomp and Ceremony on our last full day in London

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October 15th 2013
Published: October 20th 2013
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Today is one day we do need dry weather as we are making a return to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and there would be nothing worse than waiting in the rain for an hour or so for the ceremony to start. So as we pull back the curtains it was a relief to see that although the usual heavy cloud was in the sky there was no rain falling.

We were up earlier this morning knowing that we will need to be at the Palace early to get a better place for viewing the ceremony than we did 4 years ago, The plan is to be there by 10am for the ceremony which starts at 11.15am with the arrival of the band marching in with the guard changing starting a quarter of an hour later.

We took the train to Black Friars and then transferred to the subway to get us to Victoria Station in a virtual rerun of last night when we took the route in reverse coming home from Billy Elliot.

There are always lots of people on the streets around Victoria and with the thought that they were all like us heading to get a good place to watch the changing of the guard we picked up our pace to beat as many of them as we could to get in front of the Palace.

Our daughters told us, after our last experience, that we should get a position to stand on the ‘cake stand’ formally known as the Victoria Memorial which was dedicated to the late Queen Victoria in 1911. As you can walk up several steps on the memorial it gives you a slightly elevated view directly towards the Palace gates where the ceremony will take place. And with all the people who will eventually gather around the gates and along the fence we should be able to see over the tops of their heads.

We arrived just after 10am and claimed our place as far back as we could go which was also as high as you can get without climbing on the sculpture itself which people would do later only to be chased off by a community policeman stationed to stop such activity.

Gretchen spotted a place to lean against a parapet where she thought she would get a better knowing that people will gather in front of our position on the top step and that her shortness of height would count against her view.

And so we waited. The crowd steadily built up and soon the area in front and to both sides of the Palace was full of people and so were the 15 steps in front of me on the memorial and we were glad we had got here as early as we did. It was easy passing the time to when the ceremony began as I took 4 pictures for couples who wanted their photos taken with the Palace in the background and chatting to a family from San Francisco.

Right on time the ceremony got underway with the marching in of the band from the Horse Guards location which is nearby followed by the new guards in perfect formation.

Unfortunately a lot of what actually happens is behind the tall fence between the road and the Palace forecourt and so you have that barrier in the way if you aren’t down on the fence line. At the same time with the elevated position you can see all that is going on as the soldiers march up and down. And there is a lot of marching up and down which presumably is all for a purpose as the 4 guards in their boxes are changed.

Meanwhile another band appeared and marched into the forecourt and as an interlude while all this marching up and down was going on the two bands each played a couple of songs much to the amusement of the Americans all around me as one of the tunes was the Stars Wars theme. They were obviously expecting only British musical items!

With the guard changed the bands struck up and marched off with the guards who had been on duty and as they departed off up the Mall and the crowd slowly dispersed off to do whatever else the day held for them.

For us, we were going to take a walk through the streets away from the Palace to find the Royal Albert Hall and see if we can take a tour through it.

It turned out to be a fair distance away and we needed a top up of food at a McD’s in fashionable Knightsbridge before we got to the theatre just in time for a guided tour with half a dozen other people.

We would have liked to have gone to a concert in this iconic theatre and we had been tempted by Crosby Stills and Nash who played there on Friday night, the day we arrived in London but we thought that organising ourselves in time might not work out. As it was with the ease we had of finding the apartment and taking the car back we probably could have got to the show.

However, we will be happy with the tour with a guide who was a mine of information about the magnificent theatre.

For those readers who are not familiar with the Royal Albert Hall it was built in 1871 in memory of Queen Victoria’s late husband and still has the same beehive type shape having never been altered in its outside form. The theatre hosts over 350 concerts and performances including tennis matches when they partially cover the stalls seating each year and is closed only on Christmas Day. Probably the most well known concert that has been held there each year since 1941 is the Summer proms when up to 7000 people can be accommodated in the theatre.

As part of the tour we got to go into one of the many privately owned boxes around the outside of the auditorium. The boxes are owned privately in a 999 year lease and each box holder gets a ticket to every performance which they can either take up or give away. They can also have the non profit organisation that runs the venue sell the tickets to the box.

We saw the inside of the Royal box from the passageway but we did get to go into their waiting room behind the box and sit in the chairs wondering who had sat in those chairs before.

It was a memorable tour, one of the top highlights of the BBA V2 and we were very pleased we took it.

We left the theatre and walked across the road to the Albert Memorial which is a rather over the top Gothic style pavilion which was always draped in black when ever Queen Victoria went to the Hall or passed by such was her sadness at losing her husband at such a young age.

Crossing Kensington Gardens Park we spent time watching the squirrels stacking away nuts for the winter and doing ‘handstands’ on the trunk of a tree.

We had another two train stations in our sights in Piccadilly and Marylebone which were both in the vicinity. Although we found Piccadilly easily and did our thing watching the ‘meercats’ reading the arrivals and departures board we decided that after taking a rest doing this people watching that our legs were too tired to continue and Marylebone will have to wait until another time.

The District underground line passed through Piccadilly and we took it to Black Friars again missing the train home by a few minutes. Luckily at this time of the day there were a couple of other trains going through Crofton Park and we didn’t have to wait long for a train.

Tomorrow we head for Ireland and we need to be down to just the two suitcases and two backpacks so it was clean out time with a need also to get the weight of the suitcases down to no more than 25kg each. The rubbish bin in the apartment gradually filled up with ‘stuff’ we had accumulated that we didn’t need any more. Tonight will be the last with our pillows and we shall miss them dearly in Ireland if the ones we get in our accommodations are not as comfortable.

So with two TV’s in action, Gretchen watching Coro Street and me England vs. Poland our last day in London and England on the BBA V2, came to an end

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