Tuesday, 25 September 2012

(Almost) Completely Unrelated

Obviously I know that this is a travel blog dedicated to world heritage sites. However, I'd like to point out that not all world heritage sites are easily accessible without planes, trains or automobiles (and, in some cases I suspect, a camel). 

There are also a lot of places in the world we want to see that aren't WHS's and that's okay. That doesn't mean we want to see them any less. 

And so one fine day we grabbed our things, lovingly bickered our way out the door and headed to Buckingham Palace!!!!

"We're going to see the Queen! We're going to see the Queen!"
I have to be really honest about this. Part of the reason this entry is taking so long is... I honestly can't remember how we made it to Buckingham Palace. So I decided to ask Matt. Amazingly, Matt can't remember either. I feel kind of bad because I like to give an idea of how to get around to places here but for this I really can't. I can tell you that the tube stations closest to Buckingham Palace are: Green Park, Victoria Station, St. James's Park station and Hyde park Corner. We most likely got off at St. James Park station since, you know, we walked through St. James's park.

St. James's Park is beautiful. Buckingham Palace is massively crowded (something that this time, I was prepared for) but St. James's Park wasn't. There were people, sure but significantly less. Even with people it's beautiful. There's a little lake and Matt found an awesome duck with a mohawk...
This duck is just one-of-a-kind awesome.
London is one of the greenest cities in the world, with over 3,000 parks and "open spaces" to choose from. St. James's park is one of the royal parks. It is the oldest and it's surrounded by Buckingham Palace, Westminster and St. James's Palace. The park is long and sort of a long triangle with one side following parallel to the Mall. It's a much clamer walk than the Mall and it allowed for a nice quiet morning instead of fighting crowds from the start. 

So much green in the city makes a city more perfect, not less
The park itself is massive. It would be kind of useful to make St. James's park it's own event in the future. But we did get so see some of the wonderful things the park has to offer. For example we saw swans. All the swans are owned by the queen which I don't think is very fair. She should leave some for everyone else! Except for not - because swans, when they're grown, are ornery little bitches and they actually scare me. Also, they're cuter when they are little.

When we emerged from the park there was Buckingham Palace! I got so caught up that I got in trouble with a police officer because was not paying attention and I nearly ran into this: 
The drum major in the front was all kinds of decked out
We're still not exactly sure what was going on or why but we've decided it was probably in preparation for the olympics. Also, I don't know why a marching band needs what is clearly a fuzzy protection detail but these men don't seem to find anything funny about their charge... or their hats.

The one in the middle or the front three? The little fuzzy thing on his head?
It's crooked.
You're welcome.
It's been over a year since I first visited London. Here's something you should know about me: I don't ever do things quite the right way around. I lived in Edinburgh for 5 months (where I met Matt, obviously) and I never made it down to London. Madrid and Paris? Of course. London? Nope.

Even when I first stayed with Matt in London we missed a whole bunch of landmarks, including the palace. So, on my 4th real trip to the United Kingdom, I finally saw Buckingham Palace.

You can go inside Buckingham Palace however, you can't go when the Queen is actually home. She has a schedule that is posted on the palace website. So, if you can, plan your trip around her summer holiday so you can actually see inside.

It's kind of majestic when you see it in all those movies, on TV, in press releases and pictures of Wills and Kate that you may possibly obsess over. In person it just looks very strange. It's obviously not empty (the flag is up so that means that Her Majesty is at home!) but it looks very much so. Especially in comparison to all of the people outside. And I mean all of the people. All of them were there. 

Take the above picture for example. I love it for many reasons (mostly the face next to mine) but I, being a perfectionist, have to cringe every time I see it. Why? Because of the car. And the people. All the people! I always thought that I would get gorgeous pictures, perfect, picturesque pictures, at Buckingham Palace. But it very difficult with an operational round-a-bout and thousands of other people all wanting the same picture.

Not pictured, the (presumably italian from what they were yelling) tourists.
They were absolutely covering the bottom of the memorial. COVERING.
It was seeing things like the Queen Victoria Memorial that really put things into perspective. Really reminded me why we were battling this crowd to see the palace. It's a place of so much meaning. It may not be a world heritage site but it's filled with British heritage and that's something that's very special. I know that Matt doesn't really agree with nationalism. At least, not when nationalism is taken to such extremes as it is in our world today. But (and darling, please feel free to write a scathing rebuttal if this is wrong) I do believe he is proud of where he comes from. Being the American girlfriend, I really feel a desire to find my own connection with his country and I really feel that in these places.

Even though this connection is more than enough <3
If you're just there for beautiful pictures however, I suggest close-ups more than wide shots. First, you have to cross the road. There will be tourists everywhere. Just plow through and remember, if anyone accidentally touches your butt, you can shower when you get home.

The lion and the unicorn, the national symbols of the United Kingdom are all over the place.
I love lions.
I especially love unicorns.
The detail work is unbelievable. Absolutely. I mean, it's Buckingham Palace. 

Donald Trump should take note. This gold is tasteful without being gaudy.
If you try really, really hard, you can also get some pretty good shots of the Palace itself. Although, without the decoration or the people on the balcony, it comes out looking surprisingly plain.

If you want a perfect photo op, you have to really try for one in front of the palace gates. And good luck. Everyone takes their pictures there. Even though we decided to forgo the jostling and just enjoy looking at the palace, I did take notes on the best ways to get in there. Patience and a little bit of elbowing/running like a mad person. Wait your turn and then snatch it up without remorse once your time comes. 

I did however push my way through to get a picture of these fuzzy hats again. It took a million tries because the one guy kept moving. 

They stand in those little boxes and then they get out, move around and then get back in the boxes.
Like your toys when you're asleep.
After Buckingham Palace Matt took me to Harrods. You can walk there from the Palace and it only takes about 15-20 minutes if you don't make a wrong turn, which we did. You turn left when you reach the end of the palace located on the right hand side if you're looking at it. Actually, that's all I remember. I'll have to talk to Matt about it again. But, I also would trust a map more than us because... we got lost.

Eating lunch in Harrods is so expensive that I could probably take the money people spend there and completely redo my fall wardrobe. Also, because Matt and I tend to fight when we are hungry (mostly because I get really irritable and he gets really snarky) we ended up eating at the national geographic cafe across the street. It's good food for reasonable prices HOWEVER if I hadn't been so stubborn we would have stopped at the cafe EAT and saved money with just as much food. So both are options.

Harrods is glorious and filled with what I believe Matt referred to as the worst part of capitalism. I, however, stop caring about the evils of poorly run capitalism when things are shiny and there was so much shiny. So. Much. I could probably pay off my student loan three times over with the money they wanted someone to drop on Alexander McQueen. They also have Agent Provocateur and I love my frilly underpants.

In the bathroom, they have perfume. I smelled like Miss Dior all day and I wasn't even sorry. Not a bit.  

Even though I am a horrible person, Matt seems to forget that sometimes and he offered to buy me a (very) little something to remember my time at Harrods. Obviously, I asked for food. You're not allowed to take pictures in Harrods but I snapped a quick one anyway as we headed for the chocolates. 

The Harrods logo and the bunting still up for the summer of celebrations.
It was so British I died.
I left Harrods that day the very proud Mama of a small box of pink champagne truffles. They were quickly shoved in the fridge to save for a nice moment. We finally ate them the night before I left. They are divine. Really. 

It's a pink box!
Eating the whole box may seem, and in some cases be, possible but don't try.
These little babies are rich and they will delight you in ways you can never know.
So go slow.

With a goal like seeing all the World Heritage Sites in one lifetime, travel can sometimes feel stressful and more like we have to than we want to. So, we need days like this. A little smidgen of history and a little overindulgence makes for a very happy, sleepy couple.


No comments:

Post a Comment