Tag Archives: kensington

Royalty and Lost Again

Although I have wandered through Kensington gardens several times this trip, I realized that I had yet to visit the Palace and the Palace Gardens. There was no entrance fee to the gardens so I started there. As you can see from the photo, they are gorgeous. Unfortunately for me the public was restricted to the upper walkway around the edge . There was a plaque indicating that this had been a favorite spot of Princess Diana which set me to wondering how often did she actually get to enjoy the gardens and how unlikely she would have been able to visit them on the south of the moment like I had just done. It would have to have been planned with guards to clear the space and so on.

After rounding the corner I found myself at the beginning of a walkway that was edged with 6 foot high hedges. I was compelled to follow it. At the end I was near to the Orangery. While I debated whether to go in there or to return to the Palace entrance, a helicopter with a royal seal came in to land in the adjacent field.

 Folks were running over and lining a railing next to the field, so what could I do but join them. Several cars drove out onto the field and 6 guards on motorcycles covered the area while Princess Anne and hubby, Vice Admiral Laurence loaded there luggage and took off.  So nice of them to grant me a view of Royalty for my visit even if she is only 12th in line. 

After that excitement, I went ahead and bought my tickets for the Palace and enjoyed several hours of wandering state rooms and the special exhibit of many of Princess Diana’s wardrobe. According to a plaque, when she first met Prince Charles she only had 1 change of clothes and was always borrowing from her friends. She apparently worked closely with a number of designers to develop a style suited to herself and her position.

After leaving the Palace, I realized that the entrance from Kensington gardens is actually the back side, so I walked around to the front side. Not only were there a million “no photo” signs, the fence surrounding the front is covered with a black mesh that cannot be seen through. Huge mansions lined the other side of the street – also with “no photo” signs. These turned out to be more embassies. I followed along the street until I got to the BaysWater entrance where I discovered that the roadway in to that neighborhood was gated and guarded. I felt a tad intimidated but glad I had the chance to view it. Since I was back on Bayswater, I did grab a photo of the gate and guardhouse.

Lunch was definitely in order by this time so I continued walking west and then turned down a likely street and ended up at the Mall Tavern. I gave in to the urge for a burger and beer. The waiter brought me a sampling of 3 beers and once we worked through that process I had a very satisfying meal while I perused my guide book for my next adventures.

My guide book was no help as it contained nothing west of Kensington Park. I did have a map that my hotel had provided me so I opened it up and perused the area North and West of my current location. aha! Portobello Road. Isn’t that where Paddington bear spent his days? I now had a destination.  I headed off enjoying the day and my walk turning down streets of interest but keeping my heading north and west. I reached the Portobello without mishap and gazed down the street of antique and tea shops thinking fondly of the Paddington bear stories.

I wandered in and out of little shops feeling a bit bohemian and thoroughly enjoying myself until it was time to leave. At this point my luck ran out. I was sure I was on the correct street going the correct way so I enjoyed my walk and the kids being let out from school when I realized that I had no idea where I was and had not seen a handy corner map in a very long while and no underground stops. I finally found a bus stop with a map and saw it had a stop with a label to change there for the Underground. The bus ride went forever! I eventually found the Underground and had a pretty long ride to get back to my home base but arrive I did with just enough time for a quick wash and back into the city as I had a ticket to see An American in Paris. The musical was wonderful. When I got back to the hotel much later I pulled out my map and realized my mistake on my travels, and oh if only I had boarded that bus on the other side of the street….!

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It’s all about the Parks

If you wake up in London and the sky is blue, there is only one thing to do … head for the park(s).  Fortunately my hotel just happens to be close to the Lancaster Gate of Kensington Park. What a treat for me. I entered the gate which is next to the Italian Gardens and strolled along the NE side of the Serpentine. Much of the area next to the water has been left wild to provide nesting grounds for the ducks and other fowls. I saw a swan on her nest but as soon as focused my camera, she tucked her head under her wing. Lucky me I found another a ways down that was not as shy.

It was definitely a bird watchers paradise. This little fellow was so not shy that as soon as the camera clicked he flew right into my face.

When my stroll along the Serpentine reached a bridge and a map, I discovered that the famous statue of Peter Pan was on the other side of the water. I looped around and strolled around enjoying the greenery and the birds. I even saw green parrots ?! I eventually wended my way to the statue.

It’s quite a nice statue and well worth walking around as there is more to see on the base in the back. I admired it from all sides before approaching the water again and watching the ducks.  When it was time to move on I chose to spend some time in the adjacent Hyde Park and set out on a path that appeared to traverse the park in a diagonal. The middle appears to be barely used at least during a weekday in early May. The paths are well maintained but the grassy areas are left with a natural look.

When I got closer to the edges of the park, everything had a more manicured appearance and there were more people, playing fields and even an ice cream truck … a converted Rolls Royce Phantom!

Now, I know that both Wellington and Achilles were war heroes but I was surprised to see a statue of Achilles as a monument to Wellington but then again why not – they were both war heroes.

A stop at the oldest Hard Rock cafe for lunch was next … grilled chicken & arugula salad with some good music on the side hit the spot before resuming my journey through London’s parks.

Now I thought Achilles to honor Wellington odd, but this one of a naked man with a sword to commemorate the machine gun corps of WW I seems even odder.

Green Park is lovely and there are quite a few memorials including another memorial to Wellington – this time a statue of him on his horse. After Green Park, I walked through St James Park. Isn’t this a peaceful scene?

And who doesn’t love baby ducks?

After St James, I ran out of what had essentially been contiguous parks. Instead I found myself facing the Horse Guards parade grounds. Nothing was happening there at that time so I crossed over and went through an arch to be held up by a review. The guard on the right was inspecting the guards on the left. 

When the inspection was complete the policeman let us cross the square. I was relatively close to the Thames by this time and headed that way. Before I reached the river, I discovered that I had blundered into Whitehall which is a street but also a generalized name for the center of government. Since this was “park day”, I was delighted to find a small Whitehall Park.

I continued on along the river until I reached an area called the Victoria Embankment which also had a park which I seem to have failed to photograph. I did stop at the parks cafe and enjoy a cup of coffee while I sat and watched the world go by.

it was time then to cross the river. I crossed using the Golden Jubilee footbridge. I enjoyed a leisurely stroll (as I had been doing all day). I listened to street performers and watched the river cruise ships out on the Thames. 

Surprisingly I discovered it was time to dine if I wanted to eat before going to the play at the Globe. The Swan restaurant is adjacent to the Globe so I joined the throng and asked for a place to sit. It was packed, so they put me at a table for 4, where a couple was already seated. Normally I enjoy this arrangement but not this time … the woman was calling off her wedding to the man sitting across from her! I just kept my head down and tried not to listen. They left before my food was delivered and the next couple were celebrating a birthday and I felt easier.

Then it was time for the show! The Globe has 3 areas to watch the play. The “groundlings” stand in the pit and hope it doesnt’ rain … see picture below

The lower gallery, where I was, has long backless benches with seat numbers on them. It is customary to rent cushions for these seats. I also rented a seat back …. sort of a wooden stadium seat and put my cushion on that. Fortunately, the lower gallery is covered by the upper gallery so I didn’t have to worry about rain.  As you can see from the photo, my seat had a good view of the stage. The play was Nell Gwynn. The play is based on the life of the real Nell Gwynn who was an actress and the mistress of King Charles II. It is a lighthearted play and was very well done  and it did not rain!

Before the journey back to my hotel, I got this final photo for the day from area in front of the Globe looking across the river to St Paul’s.