A Tale of Two Palaces

I love summer vacations!   Choosing that place that you always had a desire to see and wanted to learn about by the first-hand experience is exciting!  Right now I am in the midst of planning where I am heading in the summer of 2012, and it is not surprising I full of anticipation.  What I am surprised about is the joyous feeling I have thinking about the memories of a past summer vacation in London. The lasting memories are one of the best parts of traveling!

One of my fondest memories of  London was visiting Buckingham Palace.  Like many American women, I am fascinated with the Royal Family, and I couldn’t wait to see the Queen’s official London residence.  Luckily when we visited London, Buckingham Palace was open to visitors.  I say luckily because Buckingham Palace is only open to visitors at the end of the summer when the Queen makes her annual visit to Scotland.  During this time visitors can tour the State Rooms which house treasures from the Royal Collection.  Two other areas that you can visit is the Royal Mews and Queens Gallery.  We visited all three and purchased “The Royal Day Out” package in advance on-line, which I highly recommend.

Feeling important, we entered the palace through the Ambassador’s Entrance and found ourselves transformed in time,

Buckingham Palace Gate

But yet still in the present.  It was incredible to stand in the Quadrangle where the Queen’s carriage procession forms for the State Opening of Parliament.  Far more significant, though, was the Grand Entrance and State Rooms, which are the heart of the working palace. Both my son and I will never forget the Grand Staircase and still can’t believe that we walked the red carpet without being royalty or a celebrity!

There were numerous rooms to visit, but a few standout.   The Picture Gallery, The State Dining Room, and the Music Room drew me in like a moth to a fire.  I loved the Music Room because although it was large, it still felt intimate and it overlooked the garden.

The garden was magnificent and was decorated with temporary tents for tea service and refreshments for visitors. In the midst of the city, it felt like an oasis with many beautiful flowers.

Changing of the Guards

The tour of the palace took about two hours, and we visited it in the morning, which worked out perfectly because upon our completion we were able to see the Changing of the Guard.  At 11:30 a.m. every day in the summer, visitors can watch the New Guard arrive at Buckingham Palace from the Wellington Barracks led by a band.  During the transfer of duties, the band plays a selection of music.  At 12:05, the Old Guard leaves Buckingham Palace for Wellington Barracks accompanied by the band.

Before ending our time at the palace, we enjoyed the Queen’s Gallery which exhibits changing royal collections.  Afterward, we made our way to the Royal Mews where we were able to see the Queen’s horses and carriages. I was thrilled to see Princess Diana’s Wedding Coach.

Princess Diana’s Wedding Coach

Royal Mews

I was excited not only because it was Princess Diana’s Coach that I had only seen on television and pictures, but because it was the ONLY thing that I saw about the late princess.  I wonder how could that be, where was the respect?   An employee at the gift shop in the Queen’s Gallery informed me that I would have to visit Kensington Palace to see any collection related to Princess Diana because Princess Diana didn’t live at Buckingham Palace, and that was the simple reason why I couldn’t even find a postcard with her picture on it.

So this is where the tale leads to the second palace, the former home of Princess Diana and the birthplace of Queen Victoria.  Some of Kensington Palace is off-limits to the public, but we were able to visit the State Apartments and enjoyed two exhibits.  The first exhibit was “Diana, Fashion, and Style.”   Finally, what I wanted to see!  There were seven dresses on display that charted the development of the Princess’s style.  Another exhibit that we enjoyed was “The Last Debutantes 1958, Season of Change”.  I was in heaven taking in all the beautiful dresses. It was also fun teasing my son about the rules of etiquette and watching one of my best friends teach him the box step in part of the exhibit titled “I Could have Danced All Night.”

Kensington Palace

Monique teaching my son the Box Step

In addition to the history, Kensington Palace also had beautiful gardens.  The sunken garden and lily pond are a must see.  Also, don’t miss the Diana Memorial Playground and Queen Victoria’s marble-fountain Italian garden where you can see the Peter Pan statue.

Garden at Kensington Palace

Learning that Queen Anne liked to have lunch with her friends at the Orangery Restaurant, we decided that we would end our day in similar fashion.  Over tea and scones, my friend Monique, my favorite little guy and I shared our favorite parts of the tales of two palaces.  Have you visited the palaces?  What did you enjoy?  What are your thoughts about Buckingham Palace ostracizing Princess?   Let me know your thoughts!   CHEERIO!
Enjoying Afternoon Tea

Enjoying Afternoon Tea at The Orangery

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