The Guards and The Eye
The Changing of the Guards is just something every visitor to London is supposed to go and see. We had seen the changing of the guards in Athens, Greece and we saw guards at the palaces in Monaco and the Vatican so by now we had a high bar set for us. The changing of the guards in Greece was very elaborate with all their high-stepping Monty-Python-esque walking and the hundreds of pleats in those skirts – Britain is going to have to work hard to beat that. It took us longer to get to Buckingham palace than we had planned mostly due to underground stations being closed because of construction work. We did finally make it there but the ceremony had already started. We’re still not in high season yet for tourism but the crowd was one of the biggest crowds we’d run into probably since Christmas time in Rome. Needless to say, we couldn’t get close to the fence so we really couldn’t see much of the ceremony. We could see that they were not wearing their red coats but rather dark gray coats that I assumed were their winter outfits. We could hear the music and see some of it which was certainly full of pageantry. I have heard endlessly that the Brits are known for their pageantry. There were lots of police around moving traffic and keeping pedestrians moving. If you went in the wrong spot they were quick to yell at you which provided us with entertainment as we watched all sorts of people get yelled at by the police. All-in-all it was fun and interesting. As the crowd dispersed we could get closer to the gates to get a good view of the guards. We also watched them march out and leave the area, I guess they were the ones relieved of duty.
Buckingham Palace is certainly in a beautiful area. After we had seen enough of the guards we made our way through the parks. The palace is surrounded by large and peaceful parks. There were tons and tons of waterfowl which kept Noah engaged for over an hour. I am pretty knowledgeable about ducks, geese and waterfowl but there were several fancy birds there that I had never seen. One of the species had a natural plume of short feathers on the top of their head which looked very much like the big hats the guards wear outside the palace. It made us wonder if the birds were trying out for the guard positions or were the guard hats modeled after the ducks? We also saw lots of squirrels and people feeding all of the creatures. We watched a squirrel run up a woman’s leg to get the nut from her hand. Clearly the animals here were VERY used to humans. We enjoyed seeing the royal pelicans! Yup – pelicans here in the center of London. We hung out with a group of six of them for quite some time. Watched them sun themselves and then make their way into the pond and in no time at all were way down the other end of the pond. Really fun to watch.
From here we walked through the London Horse Guards, through Trafalgar Square again, across the Thames and over to the London Eye. The walk was pleasant and we continued to take in new sights. The walk over the Thames was fun just because you can see so much on the banks of the river once you are out a ways on the bridge. London has great bridges for walking over!
Taking a ride on the Eye was on the “must-do” list for London. This is where my discount tickets came in very useful again; 2 for 1 tickets for the Eye. At 19.95 British Pounds it is not an inexpensive Ferris Wheel! We bought tickets and waited in line only about 20 minutes. The workers herd you into these pod-like containers on the Ferris Wheel and up you go. It takes about 35 minutes to complete one rotation which is what you get for your price of admission. The entire pod is made of glass or some see through material so you get wonderful views of London. It was rather overcast and smoggy when we were there but we could still get some great views.
This was kinda a low-key day. Just walking around, seeing what we could see, ride the eye and head back to the flat. It is nice to just meander the streets of London. And by taking the train to and from our flat we get to see lots on the way in and out. And when you use public transportation you always get some interesting interactions with – well – the public. Those interactions are often priceless!