Thursday, March 15, 2012

Buckingham Palace/St. James's Park

I have this family on a strict diet of weekend sightseeing. I don't want us to get to the end of our time here in London and realize we didn't see several dozens of things we wanted to. I assume there will be some things we miss, though, since there is more to do here than you could accomplish in a lifetime. But I will make sure we witness the high points.

Towards the end of each week I have been sending Brad a list of potential things to do, given our other plans and the weather, which is all over the place right now. Then he picks something and I talk him out of it in favor of doing what I secretly had in mind all the time. I'm kidding. Mostly.

The tube line we live on (Bakerloo) was shut Sunday so we needed somewhere we could get to easily on the bus. Rick Steves told me St. James's Park is beautiful and not to miss it, so I said OK Rick, great idea! When getting directions I saw it was next to Buckingham Palace, which has the changing of the guard every other day at 11:30. Two birds, one stone. 

Just viewing the palace is not very exciting. It's not architecturally appealing and seems kind of cold and sterile. I think it looks kind of like the Supreme Court. See what I mean?
One of the pretty parts about the palace is the stinkin' fence they put up to keep the lowly tourists out. 
We arrived about an hour before the changing of the guard and it was already getting a bit crowded. We could have staked out a spot, but there's no chance Charlie would have stayed in one place that long. In fact, he kept bolting whenever the mood struck him.... until he bolted right into a couple of guards on their way to make a delivery at the gate. 

Brad was trying to take our picture at the time, Charlie ran and then turned his little behind around and hid behind me. I couldn't figure out why until I saw the hats! Charlie stuck by me for a solid 10 minutes after that. I now understand why people leash their children. 
We stood around a little while longer and then a group of guards on horses trotted by. I'm sure if I looked into it, I could figure out where they were coming from and where they were going. It was a very exciting moment for Charlie. However, he wanted to know if there were horses, where was the farmer. And would there be sheep?
We walked across the street to the guards museum and the Guard Band was going through inspection. One of them got quite a talking to about the lack of fluffiness in his hat.

Charlie loved this part of the morning to, seeing all the instruments and yelling out what they were. He wanted to know where the bassoon was, though. I guess it's from one of his Richard Scarry books, but Charlie is obsessed with the bassoon. He lumps most woodwinds into the "bassoon" category. I will very soon need to sit him down and explain which instruments march and which don't. I fear it will be upsetting for him to learn nobody marches a bassoon.

After inspection, we went across the street to the children's playground at St. James's Park and Charlie had a blast playing while Brad and I drank very bad, but desperately needed coffee from the stand next door. While we sat in the playground we got to hear the band rehearse.
By this point in our morning, we realized there is no way you can logistically see the entire changing of the guard. If you stake out a good spot to see one part, you will miss the other parts. So we resigned ourselves to seeing a little bit of most parts. 

We headed back over to the palace and Brad put Charlie on his shoulders. Charlie pulled Brad's hair for the next 20 minutes. We saw the band come in and this giant Irish wolfhound. Because of the crowds, we have mediocre pictures at best. Charlie really had the best view and he will most likely not remember it! 
After Brad was certain he would have no more hair left if we didn't leave soon, we walked over to the park, which is across the street. It's right in the middle of the city and apparently several movie scenes have been shot there, including one of the James Bond movies. 
There's a large pond/small lake with swans and so many ducks, all tagged, that live there. This kind of thing gets my husband quite excited. DUCKS! Let's find out what all their names are! 

Brad got some really good shots of the ducks, but I won't bore you with duck pictures. Well, just 1 I thought was neat. And when I saw Brad was "shooting" the ducks, I mean with his camera. Don't want to confuse my Arkansas readers! The park police get all fussy when you do the other kind of shooting. Don't ask how we know this.
The park also has some pelicans. White pelicans. I... don't know why. Brad kind of didn't believe me until he saw them in person. Apparently you can watch the park rangers feed them at a certain time each day. But we were brunch-minded people by this point and really just wanted to feed ourselves.
There's a nice restaurant in the park called Inn the Park (hardy har) with views of the pond. You can pick up food to picnic outside on the lawns or sit and order. We sat and ordered and it was nice, if a little slow and overpriced. The doors were open, the sun was out and the bloody mary was tasty. Charlie had chocolate ice cream and my iPhone.
There is some kind of contest or something going on in London where you try and locate these large Faberge eggs all over the city. I guess kids can go online and download something and then track all the eggs and see how many they can find. St. James's Park had 3 that we located. It's kind of crazy, you're taking in the view and there's this random egg out in the middle of the water.
While the park was beautiful, it really isn't spring here yet, so I think in a month or so it will be really gorgeous with all the flowers blooming. Right now it's just mainly daffodils. We will have to go back some time and maybe have a picnic. As long as Brad brings his camera and not a gun, the ducks should be happy to see us back. 

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