Sunday, September 25, 2011

London Day 3: 12/September 2011

Monday: Today was a day I'd looked forward to for awhile. I'd ordered our Royal Day Out tickets from home and picked 9:30am to start things, figuring fewer crowds. Another plus of the apartment is that it's quite close to St. James Park, so pretty for a stroll. We got to Buckingham Palace early and waited 25 minutes to tour the Dutch Landscapes rooms: beautiful art, lovely furniture, silver, clothing, etc. I really liked the Regency Era stuff. Afterwards one of the nice staffers suggested we visit the Royal Mews instead of touring the State Apartments since they let you out a mile away from the Mews.

Overcast morning at Buckingham Palace

Waiting to tour the Dutch Landscapes collection

Regency Era room
We got to the Mews just in time for a guided tour with Laura, an American who's lived in London for 8 years after finishing University. She did a great job and it was fascinating to see in person the limousine and carriages that we'd just seen on TV for the wedding. The horses were out being trained and were absolutely gorgeous—I think there are 36 in total, a mix of Bays and Grays perfectly matched, stunning! We liked the Mews better than the Dutch Landscapes, and we're not really horse people…

Kate and her dad were in this limo on the wedding day

Gorgeous grays

Beautiful bays

This is the Coronation Carriage and is ahmahzing!
We had a quick coffee break at the café on the corner then walked to the tents set up to welcome the thousands of tourists touring the State Rooms. Very crowded but very orderly. Security scanned the bags and made us put away the cameras. We got our audioguide and were off.

No photos inside

What can I say about these magnificent rooms that hasn't previously been said? We've been to palaces before (Presidential and Escorial in Madrid; Versailles; all of Ludwig’s Castles in Germany; Schombrum in Vienna, etc) but none was as impressive as this one. The condition of everything—the floors, the baseboards, the wallpaper, the chandeliers, the art, the furniture, etc. was impeccable. Incredibly well kept, seriously. They told us that the carpets we walked on are there all the time—but they look great even with all the feet that tromp on them! Every room was beautiful and interesting and we lingered and lingered…We wanted to move in, but who wouldn't?

We followed the tour to the outstanding Faberge collection. There were fewer eggs than I expected but the rest of the objects (flowers, picture frames, miniature animals, furniture, etc) were just as impressive. We then saw Kate's dress, shoes, earrings and that most gorgeous cake! Super cool to see all these things so exquisitely made by proud, talented Brits. We started our morning at 9:30am and didn't exit Buckingham Palace's gorgeous grounds until about 2pm.
Exit into a cafe and the Garden

Back of Buckingham Palace

Gardens of Buckingham Palace

I had by this time realized my error in "scheduling" Apsley House for today since it is actually closed on Mondays and Tuesdays (reading is fundamental, kids!). So we grabbed a bus and rode it to Harrods since I was hankering to see the Egyptian Elevator! (I liked it)

You need an appointment to visit (next time!)

After an expensive but tasty lunch at Harrods, we wandered the gorgeous Food Halls and bought some pastries to eat after we our visit to the Victoria & Albert .
Harrods Food Hall

Harrods Food Hall

Harrods Food Hall

Harrods Food Hall

The walk there was quick, via a very pretty street even with the construction. This sure is a lovely area of London!
Looking back at Harrods

The Victoria and Albert Museum

We arrived at the V&A just 1.5 hours before closing. We followed Mr. Steves a little but mostly wandered and marveled. What an amazing collection! The Medieval rooms were fabulous. The size of some of the installations was staggering. The Cast Room was incredible. We lingered too long so I missed the Jewelry Rooms--a reason to come back. We only got a small taste of the wonders of this museum and I know we'll visit again on another trip.

Stunning chandelier over main information desk

Medieval treasures

The plaster Cast room was incredible

Courtyard of the V&A

We stopped in a little green nearby and devoured our Harrods desserts—delicious! Grabbed a bus to Hyde Park Corner and walked from there through Green Park to take pictures of Buckingham Palace. 

Wellington Arch

Gate leads into St. James Park
Princess Dianna Memorial Walk signs were in abundance

Beautiful sunset at St. James Park, looking toward BP
We then walked through St. James Park back to the apartment to refresh before going to Westminster Arms pub for drinks before dinner. We ended up eating there which was perfectly fine and not too pricy. Afterwards we hung out talking to the French and English barkeeps and drinking a few pints (halfs for me!). Staggered home for a good nite's sleep around 10:30pm. Another Wonderful Day with perfect weather!

View of Big Ben as we left St.James Park
That gorgeous facade at sunset

Ordering food and pints at our "local"

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