Royal visits

 

Changing the guard at Buckingham Palace1936237_156349667176_2929007_n

The first time I went to see the changing of the guard, I only knew I had been there when I got my photos developed.  It was the days of film and it was so busy, I had to hold my camera over my head, press the button and hope something was there.
In other words, get there early.  Some recommend 1-2 hours before in the height of summer.  It depends how good a position you want.  The best place to see the most from is from the Victoria monument right in front of the palace.

If you want to watch some of it, but aren’t too bothered fighting the masses, maybe stand further down the mall, by the St James Palace or Wellington Barracks points. You can also opt to head out to Windsor Castle and check out their parade (scroll down).

I would consider it to be a must see, but it depends on whether you like Royal ceremony and marching bands.  The event is free.

 

The order of the Changing the Guard. There are several choices of where to watch from.

The schedule of Changing the Guard. There are several choices of where to watch from. *note that as of Jan 2017, the times have changed from what it presented on this diagram.

**As of January 2017, there are security changes as to when the parade takes place. Please check on line for current schedules.

 

Buckingham Palace

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the ticket booth is around to the left

The Queen opens part of her home to the public every summer:  late July to the beginning of October.

You can just visit the State rooms, or get combined tickets to see more of the Royal properties and gardens. If you are planning on going to other nearby palaces, they have a special money saving ticket for that too. You can also buy online if you want to be sure.

I was walking past the entrance, and thought I would drop by to see if I could get in.  They offered me a timed ticket, and after some lunch I arrived for my time slot.  You start in the main marquee and are shuffled through to security.  Then off you go for a wander through the magnificent rooms and halls of Buckingham Palace.  It was a thrill to stand in the lobby that I recognised from the telly.

When you are done, you finish in the back garden.  They have a cafe set up, if you want to refresh yourself while looking at the vast grounds.  That is the most surprising thing.  How they have this magical hidden retreat smack in the centre of London.

When you are done, you follow signs along the lawn and lake and exit from a different point to where you started.  If you are planning to revisit London, ask the warden to stamp your ticket, which turns it into a one year pass.

the cafe at the end of your tour

the cafe at the end of your tour

 

I was in the State rooms for over two hours, so consider that when deciding which ticket to purchase.  If you choose the ‘royal day out’ which includes her art gallery and carriage collection, they are all on timed tickets dictated to you upon purchase.  They say to allow 4 1/2 hours. The galleries are all in the same area.

 

Windsor Castle

This is the other official residence of the Queen. It is the largest lived in castle in the world.  Take the 30 min train ride out to ‘Windsor and Eton Riverside’ stop, and follow signs to the Castle.  It sits right in the middle of everything and needs a good few hours to see.

You can prebuy your admission ticket to save time, but don’t bother with the day trip companies unless you are really short of time and want to pay too much.  The train is so easy and then you can stay as long as you want. If you have time, maybe book a room in Windsor for the night. There are walks, and a hop on off bus, boating on the Thames, or you can visit the famous Eton college.

 

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Windsor Castle on a sunny day

Hampton Court Palace

This is not currently lived in, was the Palace of Henry the 8th and is famous for it’s unusual brickwork.  It took 35 mins by train from London Waterloo to Hampton Court stop.  You come out of the station and head towards the river.  It’s about a 10 minute walk across the vast bridge over the Thames.

The highlights were the amazing kitchens and apartments.  When I was there, there were costumed actors playing the historical characters who occupied the palace.  They call this ‘encounters with the past’ and they offer mid March to the end of August.

 

Palace kitchens

Palace kitchens

Hampton Court gardens

Hampton Court gardens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kensington Palace and Gardens

This palace is in London itself off to the side of Kensington Gardens, and is the current home of Kate and Wills, and some other Royal hanger-on-ers who want cheap rent in posh surroundings. I mentioned the Orangerie in the section about Afternoon tea.  This sits to the side of the Palace and is open for lunch and afternoon tea.

Kensington Gardens is a huge park, with the palace on one side and Royal Albert Hall and the Albert Monument at the bottom; the Diana fountain in the middle and the traditional striped deck chairs for rent in the summer. It is a great place to relax and unwind on a nice day. The Palace was home to Diana, and you can see some of her dresses on display. There is the usual range of sumptuous rooms and galleries to wander through and pricey souvenirs to buy.

 

The Guards Museum

This little museum is tucked away halfway along the Mall on the St James Park Side, by Wellington Barracks.  There is a chapel there, which Guards can use to get married in if they want. It’s good if you want to understand the different regiments and uniforms; what the insignias mean and to see the Bear Skin hat up close. It’s worth a stop if you have the time and you are interested in this unique slice of military history.