Monday, October 6, 2008

London I: Buckingham Palace, Parliament, & Westminster

London is a mad house. I can't remember a time when I was surrounded by stupider pedestrians: locals and tourists alike meander around the sidewalks, they don't cross the roads - but rather ford them like a herd of animals that stops in the middle to look around - and the family groups walk abreast along the sidewalks, making it nearly impossible to cut in front of them. I much prefer the New York City system; at least there everyone moves like they've got a goal in mind, and groups travel in single or double-filed globs rather than ominously approaching phalanxes.

But if London is an asylum, that makes Buckingham Palace utter bedlam. We went to the palace to see the changing of the guard (knowing full well that it was going to be cramped and smell like armpits), but I don't think any of us comprehended what the stench of 2,000 Indian men lifting cameras over their heads really meant. Thank God it was fall and not summer - I might have gagged if they had started to sweat.

The ceremony was as dull and uninspiring as ever, and we left before the honour guard finished its patrol. I think the changing of the guard is probably one of the most over rated things to do in London, but I remember from my first trip (and from spotting them out on patrol) that the changing of HRH's Mounted Life Guard is well worth the effort. I was kind of sad that we missed them this year, but I still got a nice photograph of their squad patrolling St. James' Park. We walked out along The Mall, and beat most of the crowd to the other nearby hot spots.

1) The gate and arches that lead to Buckingham Palace from the beginning of The Mall.

2) The fountain and sculptures covered in people who are trying to see the ceremony.

After lunch and a little wandering, we tubed over to Westminster and the Houses of Parliament. To me, the most exciting thing about Parliament is imagining it blowing up circa 1605. Big Ben's not as tall as they make it out to be in Peter Pan, in case you were wondering. We also got a good look at The London Eye (a giant Ferris wheel built with millennium money) and decided it wasn't worth the price of a "flight" to see the city from above.

My favourite thing to do in London, bar none, is tour Westminster Abbey. It's so huge, and the tombs are so breathtaking, that I could easily spend my day walking around photographing it. Except, of course, that photography is strictly prohibited, so I satisfied myself by taking pictures of post cards in the shop. But, if you've never been to Westminster Abbey, these pictures are not going to do it justice. Imagine walking into a labyrinth of graves, memorials, and chambers that easily dwarfed Chad in height. There are thin passages into places with so many sarcophagi that movement around them is nearly impossible, and then you look to your left and wham! There's the tomb of Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth I. Oh, and over there, that's King Richard II, and yes, Virginia, that is where they buried Geoffry Chaucer. Personally (and I've shared this opinion with the one person who perfectly epitomizes it) only a complete idiot would miss this experience. So, I'll just add this: if you're going to travel to some place you don't know that much about, research it first. Find out what there is to do, how it got there, and when it's open for tours. Don't be a complacent bimbo who wanders aimlessly around until the next train leaves.

1) Westminster Abbey

2) Effigy of Elizabeth I in Westminster

3) The pipe organs, which we were fortunate enough to hear. They were accompanied by a children's choir, and it filled up the entire abbey beautifully.

4) The Coronation Chair: this is the throne on which the monarch sits during their - you guessed it - coronation. It's pretty badly damaged, but they cover it in fabric and shove the Stone of Scone into the opening on the bottom, so it looks OK on game day.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Sounds like London is just like I remember it :) I'm glad you are not being 'a total bimbo' and missing it though :) - Elise