Paddington to Westminster

thI slept later than expected again but once I left the hotel I was ready to explore. I headed east on BaysWater enjoying the cool but dry weather and peering down the streets as I passed. When I got to Lancaster Gate, I noticed a church in a bit of a plaza to the north. it turned out to be a church that had been bombed during WW II. The spire remained but the rest had been rebuilt but in a different architectural style.

you can see the red brick of the reconstruction just above the sign “Spire House”. A close-up of the spire shows the older construction style.

Next I crossed the street and entered into the haven of Kensington gardens. A short wander later I found myself in the gorgeous Italian Gardens.

it is a bit early in the spring for a profusion of flowers but there were still plenty to admire.

As I was admiring the blooms the rain decided it was time to fall and of course my umbrella was safely in my hotel room. Luckily for me, the Italian Gardens boasts a small cafe which was not yet full of folks dodging the rain so I settled in and enjoyed a cup of coffee. The rain was really little more than a gentle mist so I didn’t linger over long before putting up my hood and heading back out.  I left the park and headed back east along the street until I got to the stop for my hop on hop off bus and jumped aboard.

I still hadn’t decided on an exact destination, but the bus stopped to change drivers right in front of the Royal Mews so off I went. For those of you that are not anglophiles, you may wonder about the Royal Cats about now. The derivation of the term is unclear but apparently its from the Latin word that means to change and the old French word that means to mold. Well that clearly only confuses the issue. I do know that in Medieval times hunting hawks were kept in an enclosure called the mews. Later on, the mews was an area in a city behind a row of houses where the stables for the horses were. Now most of the old mews have been converted into apartments. The Royal Mews, however, is the home of all the Royal vehicles. So I ante’d up, picked up my electronic guide and went in.

First up ….

this is the “Semi State Landau”.  It is a convertible with both sides folding down so the passengers can all be seen. There is no driver on the carriage, he actually rides “postillion” or sits on the first horse in front of the catriage. This one is still used. There were some older models on display, but of course the royal state carriage held the place of honor….

This carriage is used only rarely and its a 2 day job to extricate it from the building … the side walls of the building are actually doors ( of a sort). It’s a bit flashy for me …. good thing I’m not the queen (heh).

After exploring the Mews – where the horses were NOT to be found….

Each stall had the name of the horse that belonged there but they were obviously elsewhere. I examined an assortment of children’s coaches, pony carts, donkey carts and so on until I felt that I had exhausted the displays. I left the Mews for the gift shop but didn’t see anything that I couldn’t li’ve without, so I headed back to the street and discovered it was pouring down rain …. must be time for lunch.

After a delicious meal at “Pronto a Mangia” I headed back onto the streets to wander about. The streets were busy with tourists so I decided to go with the flow and what do you know … I was at the front of Buckingham palace. I had not arrived for the changing of the guard but the 2 beefeaters were there on guard.

They really do stand perfectly still except when they march to the entrance and back. It seems like it would be extremely tedious but I suppose it is actually quite an honor.

I spent some time photographing the area but when it started raining again – and me without an umbrella – I decided that it was time to learn my way around in the London Underground. I walked back to the Westminster station where I queued up with some others to acquire my “Oyster” card that would allow me to use the Underground and the London buses. A very helpful attendent helped me choose the best plan and how to use my card… and then I dived in. The London Underground is really quite nice. I could actually hear and understand the voice on the overhead and the signage was very clear. 

I returned safely back to my hotel where I had a light dinner of hummus and breadsticks and (of course) a beer.

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