Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Day 4: All Hail the Queen!

You know, it shocked me to learn that one of my best friends and roommates, Lauren, had never seen the Queen or any of the Royals yet she had lived in England till she was like 10 years old. And since then, she has gone to visit on multiple occassions.

Today started out like the others: my internal alarm clock set off and I woke up at promptly 6:45AM. I stirred the others to get out of bed, and we all went down for yet another gorge-yourself breakfast. I say 'gorge-yourself' because if you eat a lot of free food during the morning, you're less likely to want to buy snack food during the day! Afterwards KP and I left Uncle D and Aunty L at the hotel, looking our best, and headed off down to the palace. It was a crowded street (as far as this street goes), but wasn't nearly as bad as you'd expect of a big city. In fact, even though London is a hot hub for tourists and citizens alike, it's not nearly as crowded as any of the Asian cities I have visited. As we walked along we got a bit of attention from passersby -- KP surmises that this is because we weren't with the other two members of our party this time. Hmmm. I think she got a few ideas from that, mayhaps... but more than anything I blame KP for being such a primary example of jailbait.

The crowd thickened as we came up to Buckingham Palace and we could hear a horn band playing in the distance. It would have been nice to stand on the Memorial (center stage to the events), but apparently it was for press only these days. In the earlier days you could stand inside the Memorial area, but alas, times have changed. Inside the gates of Buckingham Palace we also saw a sizable crowd of people -- and these were those people who had purchased tickets via some form of lottery or something akin to it. As such, KP and I wound our way through the crowd in front of the palace and tried to find a good spot. Unfortunately we were behind two big old women with chairs placed that they weren't even sitting on -- it took up a bunch of space that could have been used by others. Ah well, thankfully my camera has a tiltable view function and if I raise my hands up high, I can take pictures like nobody's business.

The horns started playing a bit louder now, and the restless troops of Grenadier Guards, Life Guards, and horses started to move. We saw a few empty carriages go by, and speculated that perhaps these were destined to escort the Royals down the street for the parade. Interesting. We also saw a car go by but unfortunately the contents were a bit of a blur. anyway, we watched the parade take off, Queen in tow, but found our view unfitting and unsatisfying. We decided to catch a better view by watching it go by in another part of the street. Lucky us, because everyone in the area who was a tourist thoguht it was over or something, because they slowly distilled out of the grounds. Yes! We wound our way down, asked a few over eager bobbies for updates on the parade, and it went like this -- "Oh hullo ladies! How can I help you? (big grin and a wink). Yes I think you'd want to go over there, where the big flags are. But you know, why don't you go ask that handsome looking devil over there?". The one bobby (a Cillian Murphy lookalike) was obviously sending us over to his bobby friend, but they were helpful nonetheless.

We eventually found ourselves walking through our favorite park, St. James, and then next to a family with picnic blankiets spread on the ground. We waited for about 45 minutes and then the picnic family packed up and we managed a nice spot right at the fence. The grandfather of the family (and obviously the orchestrator of the picnic) was astoundingly nice and helpful when we had questions about the parade and any of its members. He also complained a lot about Americans and the French, and was very informative about Canadians -- he was a former military officer, now a priest, and also had a Master's in Social Economics. This encounter, along with many prior discussions with Brits, leads me to beleive that if people say Canadians are nice, it's because we take after the British! The man kindly explained to us who each passing Royal was as soon as the parade commenced, and also added a bit about Canadian history (did you know Newfoundland was its own country at one point?). I managed some nice shots of Prince William and the Queen, Anne, but apparently Prince Harry wasn't in attendance. The grandfather also gave KP and I a nice tru blue British flag to wave. Later on the way back, we saw planes fly overhead and trailing with colors! We got back, had a nap, and ventured out again (this time with Uncle D). We went to Kensington palace and hyde Park, but the new enchanted exhibit was opbivously aimed for children and not adults. all the same, the history was quite compelling. We saw a statue of Victoria was well as the Albert Memorial, too. It's also worth nothing that bus rides are a great way to see the sights while sitting down and resting your feet. Furthermore, if you have a camera around your neck people are bound to see you as a tourist. we were at King's cross station looking for platform 9 and 3/4, and wihtout even speaking, a person there knew what we were looking for and directed us the right way. it was awesome to expl;ore a bit of the Harry Potter world. we came back, and Italian food again, and the banter between us and the staff was entertaining. "Prego!" "Gratzia!". Was fun times.

PS: We still haven't bought anything! Haha.

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