I was excited when I got off the plane at London Gatwick. My first thought, besides clearing customs and taking a much-needed visit to the washroom, was to find my way to Hyde Park and Buckingham Palace. I couldn’t wait to see London. Possibly it was because I’m Canadian and as a country, we still have ties to England and the Royal Monarchy. Yet, I’m mostly French, but that doesn’t stop me from admiring London, the UK, and their magnificent history.
For Londoners, this post may be boring, and I apologize in advance. However, my walks around the great city, even with my lack of sleep and jet lag, were certainly not boring for me. From Gatwick Airport, I took the bus that promised to get me to Earls Court. Maybe it was because I was extremely tired, but this trip seemed to take forever. We traveled through rush-hour morning traffic to Heathrow, and I think we even stopped in Liverpool. Not the station, but the city. Anyway, it was a long trip. From Earls Court, I put on my backpack, and began to walk. Here I was over 40 years old, and had never worn a backpack in a city. I felt odd, even a little embarrassed, wondering what people thought of this middle-aged guy from Canada.
After visiting Hyde Park and the Wellington Arch Monument, I headed straight for Buckingham Palace along the road known as Constitution Hill. At the time, I didn’t know that the Changing The Guard ceremony only took place on every second day during the spring. I just assumed it was everyday. When I saw these guards on horseback traveling in the same direction, I knew I was just in time. These are the Household Calvary Regiment or Queen’s Guard on horseback.
The Victoria Memorial is 25 meters, or 82 feet high, and was dedicated in 1911 for Queen Victoria herself who had passed away in 1901. It’s made with 2,300 tons of white marble, designed by Sir Aston Webb, and sculpted by Sir Thomas Brock.
Another look at Buckingham Palace. It was quite the task to get in front of the palace from this point. I couldn’t just walk across, and had to wait for traffic and the passing of the guards.
Cyclists and drivers watching intently for permission to cross. I waited for about 10 minutes before I had a signal from the police officer.
I reached through the fence to take the next photos. The Queen’s Foot Guards with their bearskin hats patrolled the grounds in front of the palace. For more information on the Foot Guards, please look at this page from Project Britain.
Although it isn’t completely clear, I like the expression on this guard. I couldn’t imagine standing like this for more than 15 minutes, especially on a warm day.
All the features along the front gate were ornate and detailed.
The Queen’s Foot Guards on parade during the Changing the Guard ceremony. The official website of the Royal Monarchy has information and a video of the ceremony.
Now to showcase the beautiful Queen Victoria Memorial Gardens. I had never planned to see the gardens in full bloom with spring flowers.
Tulips, daffodils, hyacinths, and other flowers in the immaculate grounds.
One look toward St. James’s Park which borders the Queen Victoria Memorial Gardens. The park is the oldest of the Royal Parks, established in 1833. If you walk through the park lengthwise or northeast, or along The Mall, you’ll find the Horse Guards Parade grounds, across Horse Guards Road. Seriously, there are no interesting names like Horse Guards Road where I come from.
Green Park, also one of the Royal Parks, is in the background on the right, across from the Queen Victoria Memorial Gardens. It’s known to have mature trees and peaceful wooded meadows. I find it amazing how much park space is in this part of London.
Across Constitution Hill is…
It was also part of the memorial to Queen Victoria, commissioned in 1905 and completed in 1911. Canada Gate has the emblems of the seven Canadian provinces at the time.
The gates have an ornate style or design, similar to the other ones on the palace grounds.
One more look at the stunning gardens and the Queen Victoria Memorial. Queen Victoria sits on the throne facing away from Buckingham Palace.
At the top of the Memorial is this gilded sculpture. Victory is featured above. Below her are the Angel of Justice, the Angel of Truth, and Charity.
On that spring day, I walked for eight hours around London, which may not have been that smart, considering that in less than three days, I would begin my 500 mile journey on the Camino de Santiago. Nevertheless, my time spent in London on that day, and when I returned a month later, were one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
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