Wednesday – London
Haven’t you had tea with the Queen? Seriously, what have you been doing with your life.
So, on Wednesday, after spending the whole day out in London walking about a hundred million miles we went back up to London, but this time with a little bit more planning than my day out had had. Destination: Buckingham Palace. We arrived at Green Park Station and walked through the park and then there it is. Out of nowhere, it’s the palace. The Palace.
There were crowds of tourists around when we first got near to it, because of the changing of the guards at the palace. I just kept thinking about that poem, They’re changing guards at Buckingham Palace, Christopher Robin went down with Alice. Alice is marrying one of the guards, a soldier’s life is terribly hard. Says Alice. No? Just me? Okay…
So after being crushed to death in the crowds I got the tiniest view of the tip of the edge of one of the hats of one of the guards. So that was cool. Then, we made our way accross the Mall (so cool to walk across the real thing, because of it being on TV all the time). We ate our picnic in another little park that I have forgotten the name of, because even though there’s a tea room in the palace they said to recommend a good 2 and 1/2 hours to go around, and with our timed tickets letting us in at 12:45 there was no way I was going around without lunch first.
We had a little bit of a catastrophy when we had to enter the palace. You see, it turns out that despite the fact that all the free galleries in London have a lot of free bathrooms spread around – because normal people have normal bodily functions – but the Palace does not. There is a bathroom…only it’s outside at the end of the tour. And the guy at the ticket desk told us that with a look like, it’s only a few hours you’ll be fine. Haha. Not funny. So we were directed (while leaving my grandpa to get the tickets that we’d preordered) “just across the road and to the right” to the public toilets. Okay, if “just across the road and to the right” means “just across the road, to the right, across another road, down that path, around the corner and then just look for the really tiny sign, while at all times thinking about the fact that we had ten minutes to be at the gate at the right time to enter”. So you know, not too bad really.
The Palace itself though, once through the copious amounts of security checks and metal detectors, was absolutely beautiful. The tour was really well done, with headphones giving you the tour along with messages from Prince Charles, palace workers and historians. The public get to see the staterooms, which are used by the Royal Family to host events and that was the most surreal thing – that the dining room that we walked around is used for parties. The Queen had stood right there where I had.
The rooms are ridiculously over the top. Everything is gilded and patterned and marble and pillared and carved. The ceilings are so complicatedly carved and decorated it’s almost mesmirising. The wallpaper is soft and the doorways are as decorated as the rest of the room. It is actually, in some ways, too impractical and stupidly over the top. Yet. Yet, you can’t help but to love it. You stand in the centre of the room and crane your neck to look at the ceiling and you stare at the paintings and the chairs and wish, somehow that this was yours. You have to admit it, just a little bit, you wish that you were a part of it. You trail a hand down the bannister on the Grand Staircase and have a little dream about what it would be like to walk down the stairs as a princess. It’s stupid, but it happens. There’s just something different about actually walking those corridors.
The display in the State Rooms this year is the Royal Childhood. It was such an interesting display, with everything from Queen Victoria’s child’s cradle to one that Prince Charles was pushed in. There were individualised little chairs of William and Harry’s. Then there were clothes, that were worn by everyone from the Queen Victoria to the present Queen Elizabeth herself. There were school books of the princes, a blanket presented to Prince George from the Obama’s, a novel written by the Queen aged 8 and the nursey toys that they all played with. We did laugh and think that it must be weird for them, because it seems like nothing that any of them have ever worn or owned had been thrown away.
There were also home video style films on loop of the Queen as a child and of her and her childrens later on. It was a little surreal again to see them looking so human, I guess. It was so nice to see what happened away from the public eye, which I guess does sort of defeat the point but you know what I mean, that they had a normal childhood.
The tour ended as you walked out onto the garden terrace, a nice touch, and thankfully the weather was still beautiful. Standing out the back of the palace surrounded by green fields and trees you would never believe that you were in the centre of London. I think you are so unaware of how big the palace and it’s grounds are until you’ve passed through them, and realise how little you ever actually see.
We had to visit the Garden Cafe for tea and cake, because how could you possibly not? You actually need that little bit of time before leaving the palace grounds, just to take in every little thing that you saw. I have never wanted to steal take away coffee cups before. Even the cappucino froth had the crown stencilled on. Very British. The whole day makes you feel quite patriotic really.