Tally ho chaps, it’s time to travel the old dart!

July 28, 2010 at 1:32 pm Leave a comment

24 July 2010

We’re in London now and despite the jet lag, are extremely excited to be here! After checking into the hotel, we decide to have a shower and go exploring. The Rubens at the Palace hotel is situated directly across the road from Buckingham Palace on Buckingham Palace Road. It’s right around the corner from Victoria station, located within the city of Westminster. A very central location.

Farewell to the old guard

We step out the front door of the hotel to find bright, hot sunlight beating down. So very unlike the grey, drizzly weather that London is famous for. We have a map, but don’t really have any other clue about where we’re going. I’d been to London years before, but never stayed in this area, so this is all as new for me as it is for Mr L, who’s never visited. We head to the right, in the general direction of Buckingham Palace and are absolutely struck by the crowds of people that are flocking in the same direction as us. We’re not sure if this is normal or if something’s on, so we follow the population and end up right in front of the palace. Soon enough we see the Royal Guard marching out of the gates at Buckingham Palace – we’ve arrived right in the middle of the changing of the guard. What we’re seeing is the old guard leaving the palace as they’ve been relieved by their replacement soldiers – the new guard.

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Changing of the guard – the old guard marches out of Buckingham Palace

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Out goes the guard, followed by mounted police on beautiful horses

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Those bear skin hats have got to be hot on a day like today!

Looking around, the other tourists are just as mesmerised as we are. There is a certain elegance that accompanies this old ceremony. Mr L tells me that the soldiers you see in the pictures above are in fact serving soldiers who, when not stationed on the Royal Guard, are stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere that the British Royal Army is serving. We remark how different that must be – switching between a life steeped in tradition, routine and ceremony to one ruled by adrenaline, fear and unpredictability.

St James Park

After the old guard has marched away, we follow part of the crowd and find ourselves in St James Park. It is green and lush and beautiful and we’re lured to the lake that is located in the middle of the park. We find beautiful geese, ducks and other birds. While we’re photographing some of the cute, brown geese, a tiny squirrel comes dashing out of nowhere and surprises us!

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I think this guy is a goose! He was very cute. This is his front on shot.

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Same guy – profile shot.

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Squirrel! Crazy nut (eater) came dashing out of nowhere!

The next day when talking to PC’s cousin Sarah, we find out that these squirrels are the naughty ones – they’re not native to London and are responsible for scaring off many of the native ones. We didn’t see any of those, so I don’t have a pic for you – sorry! We wander through the rest of the park, past all sorts of beautifully well kept areas. In one, we find three enormous pelicans sitting atop a rock within a very japanese looking setting.

We emerge on the other side of the park, over near Winston Churchill’s War Rooms and near a great big square. On a tour later in the week, we find out that this square is where official guard ceremonies are held and that it is part of one of the palaces. Again, we fall into step behind other tourists and walk through a great big archway, where we find another guard. There are hundreds of tourists flocking to him to have their photo taken. He pays them little attention and continues to stand proud. He is not wearing the bear skin hat, but has a gold coloured, metal helmet on his head.

We walk through the cool archway to the blazing sun on the other side and I feel like a dork standing there in my opaque stockings and velvet jacket! (It felt cold when we walked into the hotel!) We find ourselves around the other side of the palace and find two other guards on horses (horse guards) again, surrounded by hundreds of crazy tourists, all vying to get a picture with them. Generally they’re pretty patient, but every now and then when a tourist oversteps the mark, one shouts “STAND CLEAR OF THE GUARD!” and the tourists are scared into keeping more of a respectful distance.

Lunch on the Thames at the Tattershall Castle

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The Tattershall Castle, on the Thames

We walk further on and find ourselves staring up at Big Ben, the London (Millennium) Eye, and over to Westminster Abbey. I’m thrilled because last time I was in London, I really didn’t have time to have a good look at any of these world renowned landmarks. We take a few snaps before agreeing we’re both pretty famished. There’s a boat just to our left and we walk towards it to discover it’s in fact a pub. We decide we could use a pint with lunch, so after a quick, ceremonial selfie (below), we stop in at the Tattershall Castle (above), which is opposite the London Eye on the Thames.

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Mr L and me in front of the Millennium Eye, on the River Thames

First thing’s first – we bought a couple of beers. Mr L then decided that since we were in London, it would be rude not to have fish and chips (and mushy peas) with his beer. I chose a burger and both meals were delivered reasonably promptly. When the fish and chips arrived, we wondered about the purpose for the two half slices of bread sat atop the fish. Are they there so that one can make a chip butty? Perhaps Pa might know, since he was born in London.

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Mr L’s fish and chips with mushy peas, bread and tartare sauce

My burger was ok, but not great. The beef was juicy and the cheese tasty enough, but it wasn’t like the big fat burger that I’m used to receiving in Aussie pubs. That said, it did the trick and owing to a lack of items such as beetroot, egg and pineapple, I didn’t end up with burger oozed down my arm! Perhaps I ought to try to stick to these sorts of burgers more often – I may cause my husband less public humiliation!

I was interested by the wee salad of pickle, lettuce, tomato and onion to the side of the burger. I wasn’t sure if it was intended as side salad, garnish or burger contents, but I whacked it on the burger and that worked pretty well.

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My burger, chips and side salad, come burger contents!

Am I on drugs, or is Australia just very expensive for food and booze?

We’ve been pleasantly surprised by how cheap the food has been in London. From my last visit, I recall it being really expensive. Certainly the exchange rate has improved since my last trip, but in conjunction with that, I wonder if Australia’s become very expensive? Certainly friends and family that have lived in the USA or UK have returned home and remarked how expensive things are. Why is that? Can someone enlighten me? Perhaps the quality of our food is vastly improved on the produce in the UK?

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That famous clock and tower

When in London…

After lunch we wandered around Westminster some more and enjoyed spotting extra landmarks. It sure was hot in London on that first day and after we’d had enough of walking in the heat, we headed back to the hotel in order to cool down. We’d been up for about 36 hours (except for the few we’d slept on the plane), so were getting pretty tired. Somehow, on the way into the hotel, we caught a glimpse of the cool, dark bar and got enticed in.

When in London, having a Pimms cocktail seemed to be the right choice, so I took one for the team and ordered. Mr L (I’m sure you’re surprised), felt like a crisp, clean glass of white wine, so we and our drinks sat in the very beautiful, very British bar at the Rubens sipping our drinks.

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My Pimms cocktail – refreshing!

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The bar at Rubens at the Palace

A second wind and a third and a fourth…

It seems the cocktail / wine combo worked to help us work up a couple of extra winds, and we trotted around the corner to a cute little pub called The Phoenix. Once we got ourselves a seat, we were happy to sit in (and shoot) the breeze outside the pub and sip a cheeky wine or two. Though the Phoenix was on a little street (Palace Street) in the back of Westminster, the people watching was good and provided just enough action to tire us out, before we retired for a good, long kip, in preparation for another big day in London!

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Entry filed under: Beers, Lunch, Photography.

Last day in London and lunch at Heston Blumenthal’s pub: the Hinds Head in Bray Portobello Road, Notting Hill and a tasty nut roast

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