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Published: August 29th 2016
It is true!
It is going to be over 30C in some parts of London today and we had better be prepared.
We didn’t actually intend of venturing into the city when we arranged to stay at Brentford. The idea was to be close to the airport to take the car back and also have a day to visit Windsor Castle and just chill out on the other full day we had left.
However along the way things changed a bit and when our niece, Joanne, had her production of a one woman opera confirmed for the Arcola Theatre in Hackney for two of the three nights we were to be in London then we simply had to be there to represent the family.
So we chose the second night to attend and that is tonight.
We could both stay around Brentford and chill out as we thought or we could do a couple of other things during the day which we haven’t done in London before.
The Queen only opens Buckingham Palace State Rooms to the public when she isn’t in residence. And right now that time is here.
So we booked a
couple of tickets for an 11.15am start to the tour of the Palace State Rooms and we need to get ourselves there in plenty of time to pick up the tickets.
The subway station at South Ealing is just a short walk through the cemetery away and with trains every 6 minutes on the Piccadilly line we wouldn’t have long to wait to get on the journey to Green Park station.
The temperature was starting to head towards that 30C+ as walked past Buckingham Palace and the ‘Cake Stand ‘also known as the Victoria Statue opposite the Palace with the gold piece on the top. It seems a bit blasé to say this but the scene didn’t give us that wow factor on our third visit to this part of the city. Well OK it is still something special even if there was no changing of the guard today. The Palace stands as rock solid as ever a symbol of the greatness of this country. There must be many countries around the world, probably mostly non-English who are jealous of what the Queen is to her countrymen and woman and the pull she has for tourists who just
want to stand on the spot outside the Palace and admire everything before them.
Today though we get a chance to look inside the place and what a treat we are in for.
No problems picking up the tickets we ordered and paid for online and we joined the queue of people who are let in every half hour in groups.
We are not usually fans for those things they give you which seem to tell you about every finite detail of what you are looking at as you walk around an exhibit such as this. But in this case we would have been silly not to hang one each around our necks and stick those headphones on that never seem to sit quite right when you don’t have a lot of hair left on the top of your head(Grahame that is).
And even if you do look a bit like a doufas wandering along listening to all that is being said, the history and the little stories that made up the commentary was something not to miss.
Right from the start of the tour at the Quadrant where the Rolls Royce from 1952 is
parked to the end where you exit to the rear of the Palace it is impossible not to be absolutely 19 state rooms that you get to walk through and become fascinated by the stories that went along with each one of them.
Buckingham House, as it was originally known, was transformed during the reign of George IV(1820 – 1830) by architect John Nash whose name comes so many times as the description of each room you pass through becomes real to one’s eyes.
As well as the State Rooms we also passed through an exhibition put together for the Queens 90th
birthday which showed off many of her gowns, hats etc over the years which in itself was interesting to recall how fashion has changed over those years and how the Queen has been so supportive of the British dressmaking industry always buying British.
The grandeur of the Palace is really something to behold and we were so pleased we took the opportunity to visit on our day in the city.
It was early afternoon when we had completed the tour and we strolled off under the trees that lined the pathway to the exit
at the rear of the Palace and provided some shade from the hot sun now beating down from a cloudless sky.
A quick lunch of sandwiches from M&S in Green Park and we were off on the subway to Camden Town and a short walk to London Zoo, our second new thing for us to do in London!
We probably hadn’t realised just how weary we were starting to feel having been on our feet for the 2 hours or so of the Palace tour plus the waiting time and the walk afterwards to Green Park. But by the time we got into the Zoo we were ready for a sugar boost and what better way to do that was a Ben and Jerry’s ice cream or at least one of us did while Gretchen was happy to be revived by water.
The London Zoo is quite compact but there was still walking to be done in the unrelenting heat and we walked through the gorilla enclosure first being fortunate to catch a glimpse of a mother with two babies while Dad sat off in the background.
Then it was onto the tiger enclosure where we
arrived just at the end of a time when they were being fed. However once the large crowd had moved on and we remained patient we did catch one of the tigers mooching through the grass and coming out into full view albeit for a few seconds. Such a magnificent animal!
Gretchen waited for me as I went through the reptile house after the Komodo dragon was nowhere to be seen. For goodness sake these giant lizards live in Indonesia where it is always 30C+ and as steamy as anything but the ones in the London Zoo were seeking shelter from the direct sun on London’s hottest day of the 2016 summer. Gretchen isn’t keen on snakes or crawly things of that nature. There were some amazing snakes on display and although they were all motionless they still looked awesome especially those like the adder and the Black Mamba, Africa’s most feared snake.
Probably the best enclosure at the London Zoo is the one where the lemurs are where you actually walk inside amongst them and are able to get very close to observe them and they you. Well done London Zoo for making that enclosure so interactive
without actually touching any animals.
We called in on the meerkats, how could we not, as we headed to see if the lions were any more active than their furry friends, the tigers. We could stop and watch meerkats all day even though they are so predictable with their posing.
The lions were asleep in a group in the corner of their enclosure and they didn’t look like they were going to move any time soon.
We finished our tour of the London Zoo watching the last feeding of the day for the Humboldt Penguins who were the most active animals we saw all afternoon. To be fair though they did have a nice big cool looking pool to chill off from the heat!
By now we were really weary and at Gretchen’s suggestion we took our first ride in a London cab from the zoo to Camden over ground railway station which saved our legs for 20 minutes. This is our third trip to London but we have never really had the need to catch a London cab, until now. Our driver was a friendly guy who was quite chatty once we got him talking
and the ride was all over too soon.
We took the over ground train to Dalston Kingston and it was just a short walk to what would be our third highlight of the day when we get to watch our niece sing in her production of the one woman opera ‘Iris Dreaming’.
We struck just the right time to be picking up our tickets as Joanne was at the entry at the same time and we spent a few minutes catching up and she also introduced us to Sara Brodie, the director and Dame Gillian Whitehead who wrote the music for the 45 minute contemporary opera. In fact all the main people involved with the opera are Kiwis with only the conductor of the 8 person orchestra being English.
There wasn’t a traditional pub around the area of the theatre but there was a retro pub which had formerly been a dance studio serving good looking burgers.
We asked for the most refreshing local beer they had and although it wasn’t cold enough we consumed it in pretty quick order and then ordered a much colder Heineken which was more satisfying.
The burgers were tasty
and filling too.
The theatre the opera was been staged in was a converted paint factory. Seems like many buildings in the Hackney area are being given another life different to what they had been as renewal in the area is carried out.
We weren’t sure quite what to expect from the story line of the opera but were very proud of Joanne’s performance and were pleased we had been able to attend as family. Joanne had spent many, many hours working on the production which meant raising money to be able to stage it with applications to many trusts and organisations to achieve her goal. And of course she was the performer which meant even more many, many hours in preparation and rehersal.She is bringing the production to New Zealand for one show in Nelson in February next year.
We had a final catch up with Joanne and husband Paul at the conclusion of the performance and a discussion group that talked about how the opera had come into being which was very interesting in itself.
We weren’t sure at first how to make the best connections by train and subway to get us back
to Brentford but worked it out from the giant London Transport maps that are found on all subway and train stations.
Two changes and an hour and a half later we were back home and ready for a good sleep after a very long day for the BBA V3.It took a while to get to sleep as the adrenalin was still running after such a memorable day.
PS:you could choose any one of a number of Youtube videos for this title song but we chose The Muppets for a bit of fun,enjoy!
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