Temporary Brit

My three months of adventures in London!

Oh, Deer… October 29, 2011

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Today, I went to Richmond Park.  I had two reasons for wanting to go there; the possibility of good fall colors, and the famous herds of deer that live there. My first impression of Richmond Park was that it wasn’t what I expected.  I thought I’d be more or less out in the wilderness (the park is huge), but that wasn’t the case.  There were a TON of people out and about, and there are a few main roads that run right through the place.  That was a little disappointing, but the park itself was really pretty.  It’s also HUGE; I walked around for a few hours and didn’t even come close to seeing it all!

 

As you can see from the photo above, I DID find some fall colors.  They seem to be coming in a bit more, although there’s still plenty of green out there, too.  So, that was item number one off my list…..what about item number two?  There are actually two types of deer that live in Richmond Park: fallow deer (about 350 of them) and red deer (300).  I walked around for ages, and just as I was getting frustrated, I happened upon these guys:

 

 

There was a small group of red deer just hanging out in a meadow, resting in the sunshine.  Most of the males were kind of off to the side, by themselves, but there was one who was smack dab in the center of all the ladies.  Since it’s their rutting season, when the males fight over the females, I think that guy was the winner! 🙂  I sat and watched them for awhile, and another big male came out of nowhere and very casually approached the group.  The “winner” got up, also very casually, and I was SURE I was going to see a fight.  Nope; the “winner” just walked away, leaving his womenfolk to the newcomer.  Too bad the womenfolk wanted nothing to do with him; it was pretty funny. 🙂

 

That would have been enough deer encounters for me, but just as I was heading for the exit, I stumbled upon another meadow, and saw these guys:

 

 

Those are fallow deer; they’re smaller than the red deer, and (obviously) they have spots.  There were a few dozen of them, hanging out and grazing.  At least, I thought there were a few dozen.  Then, I noticed a whole bunch more of them hiding in the brush; they all came rushing out to join the others eventually, and there were easily more than a hundred then.  They were definitely more active than the sleepy red deer!  There was also one guy who was definitely the boss; the whole time I was watching the group, he was walking around, bellowing at the other deer.  He reminded me of a drill sergeant trying to get his troops in shape:

 

 

 

I love animals. 🙂  I was surprised at how close I was able to safely get to the deer.  They were definitely aware of my presence, and the presence of all the other people who were enjoying them, but they didn’t really seem to care what anyone was doing unless we moved around too much.  I always made sure to give them a WIDE berth when I was looking for new camera angles.  I liked being able to get close to the animals, but there’s such a thing as TOO close… 😀

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Care for a walk? October 27, 2011

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Way back at the beginning of my trip, I decided that it might be a good idea to walk from Richmond to Greenwich along the south bank of the Thames.  I don’t know what put that idea into my head; it was either the fact that those were the furthest places I’d been outside of central London at that point or the Tudor connections.  At any rate, I looked up information on the Thames Path online, and realized that Richmond to Greenwich was a 24 mile walk.  That didn’t really deter me; I’m a good walker, and it sounded like a decent day out. 🙂

 

I made a few false starts on this walk.  There were a few times that I planned to go and I just couldn’t get up early enough.  I also had transportation issues, which eventually led to it being too late for me to get started.  Last Saturday, though, everything fell into place.  I took an actual train over to Richmond, so I wouldn’t have to worry about Tube issues, and I got there at a decent time.  The beginning of this part of the Thames Path is really pretty; there’s the river on one side, and Richmond Park on the other.  I didn’t see any of the park’s famous deer, but I definitely heard them!  Those suckers are loud; I’m going to head to the park this weekend to see if I can get some pictures.  They won’t be closeups, though; those deer have been known to charge people who get too close, and I’d rather avoid the hospital during my last week here. 🙂

 

The path continues to be very pretty for awhile; lots of trees and pretty fields and nice buildings:

 

The path was also rather crowded with joggers and dog walkers and families.  That’s understandable; it’s a nice place to walk, and the weather was fantastic.  As I got closer to central London, though, the scenery got…less attractive.  The Thames Path runs through some pretty urban areas, and given how much construction is going on, there was an awful lot of industrial stuff to look at.  At least I was a little more alone on those sections of the path. 😀

 

I had fully intended to walk all 24 miles in one day, but by the time I got to Westminster Bridge, I had to stop.  Not wanting to ruin the new shoes I’d just bought, I wore my old, falling apart pair.  Not only did they give me blisters and sore spots, but they were practically in pieces.  I don’t think they would have made it the rest of the way to Greenwich.  Plus, even though I walk VERY fast and had made good time from Richmond, my sore feet combined with all the detours that the path took to get around the construction had really slowed down my progress.  I might have continued if I’d had the luxury of time and could have taken the next day off, but time is of the essence.  So, I put off continuing down the path until today.  I went back to Westminster Bridge (my previous stopping point), which meant that I didn’t make quite such good time at the beginning.  That’s because Westminster Bridge is ALWAYS crowded with tourists who don’t seem to have anything to do but block the walkways so people who actually need to get somewhere can’t do so.  The parts of the south bank immediately around the bridge are usually pretty crowded, too; the London Eye is right there, as is the aquarium.  From there, I headed down a section of the river that I’ve walked many times since being here: Westminster to St. Paul’s.  Typically, I then cross the Millennium Bridge so I can get the Tube home from St. Paul’s station, but today (obviously) I kept going.  I passed the Tower of London, which I doubt I’ll get to again before I leave:

Nice that the leaves are finally changing; I may get some decent fall color pictures yet!

 

Once I was past the Tower, the path got very quiet.  There were lots of times that I was totally alone, which was pretty fantastic.  As I’ve said, I don’t hate crowds, but I need my alone time every now and then.  The path DOES still detour through and around some construction and ugly industrial stuff, but it also winds through some quiet, pretty neighborhoods.  It really made it hit home how much of London I still haven’t discovered, even after three months.

 

I was surprised at how quickly I got to Greenwich.  It felt like I’d hardly been walking for any time at all, and I wasn’t tired or sore.  I walked around Greenwich for awhile, remembering how much I liked it when I was there before, and then decided to celebrate the end of my walk with some authentic English fish and chips.  There’s a place in Greenwich called the Great British Fish and Chip Shop, which seemed like a good bet.  The place was clean, the staff was friendly, and the prices were decent.  Not great, mind you, but decent.  I ordered the “regular” size meal, and when I got my food, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  I was staring at half a large fish, and the equivalent of about 14 potatoes.  I could have fed two people with very large appetites or three people with normal ones with what was on my plate!  It made me very, very scared about what the large meal option looked like.  The food was actually pretty good, especially considering that I don’t really like seafood all that much.  It was just SO GREASY.  Seriously; the fish was dripping with it, and there were puddles forming underneath.  By the time I got about halfway done, I was so stuffed I could barely think straight.  I didn’t feel particularly good, either.  I was a little nauseous, and I definitely learned the meaning of the phrase “food coma.” I ate at about 3pm, and I just started feeling normal about an hour and a half ago (9pm).  Again, the food itself was fine; I’m just not used to eating such big meals, and I definitely don’t do greasy food.  If you’re used to that kind of thing, and you have someone with you to help you eat the HUGE portions, you won’t have a problem.  Fish and chips is one British tradition that I won’t be trying again anytime soon, though!

 

 

 

Cemeterial Success October 26, 2011

Today I finished visiting all of London’s “Magnificent Seven” cemeteries.  I don’t know if that’s something to be proud of or not; who goes sightseeing in a GRAVEYARD, never mind seven of them????  Still, I had to do it, and I think I can sping my visits into a fairly interesting chapter in my book, once I get around to writing it!

 

This past Sunday, I went to Tower Hamlets Cemetery.  It was pretty nondescript.  It wasn’t artistic or pretty, and it just wasn’t as interesting as some of the others.  That’s all I have to say about that! 😛

 

Yesterday, I went to Kensal Green Cemetery and West Brompton Cemetery.  Kensal Green just didn’t sit right with me, for some reason; I just felt icky when I was there.  There are plenty of old monuments and things, but it’s not woodsy at all.   Plus, a good percentage of the place is more modern than historic.  Remember…it’s only the OLD cemeteries I like. 🙂  Kensal Green did feature this grave, however:

No disrespect to the dead, but I SO wish the husband’s name had been Donald! 😛

 

West Brompton was next, as I said.  It’s the most well-laid out of all the Magnificent Seven; it’s shaped like a perfect rectangle, with straight paths running the length and width of it.  Like Kensal Green, it’s not THAT wooded, but it feels a bit older and wilder (it’s actually not older). West Brompton is also the cemetery that feels the most like a park; there were plenty of people out walking themselves and their dogs.  This isn’t surprising; it’s actually a pretty place:

 

I visited the last two cemeteries today.  They were a bit more of a challenge; neither one is accessible by Tube.  That meant taking actual trains that are NOT part of the Underground network.  The good news?  Most rail services that fall within the TFL zones are covered by my Oyster Card.  🙂 All of the stations that I had to use today were within the first four zones, which are covered by my monthly pass, which means no extra money out of my pocket!  Nunhead Cemetery (south of London) was my first stop.  It’s definitely the most overgrown of the seven, and is now a nature reserve.  The only graves and monuments visible were the ones that lined the paths.  It felt like I was taking a walk in the woods more than a graveyard, which I didn’t hate.  The woods are my favorite natural environment. 🙂  There was also a ruined chapel in the middle, but unlike the one from Abney Park, it was well kept and therefore did NOT give me the creeps:

The paths were pleaseant and winding, and I basically had the place to myself.  That was due in large part to the fact that it was POURING rain.  I even heard thunder at one point.  So basically…I was wandering around alone in a graveyard during a storm.  The only thing that could have made it more awesome was if it had also been a full moon on Halloween. 😀

 

My last and final stop was West Norwood.  The rain had stopped, and the sun had come out, making it a fraction less cold.  This one felt the most modern to me, which is funny because it’s the second oldest.   I think that’s because it seemed to have more modern, lawn-style graves rather than the old-fashioned monuments that I like.  Plus, it’s very well-kept.  There were hardly any overgrown spaces and gravestones that had been swallowed up by nature.

 

I got several reminders during my visits that these places aren’t just there for nice walks and history.  They’re still working cemeteries; Kensal Green, West Brompton, and West Norwood were all playing host to some sort of funeral or memorial service while I was there.  The one at West Brompton was a particularly big deal.   The departed was….ummm…delivered to the site in a carriage drawn by matching black horses.  Now THAT is a classy way to go out! 😀

 

Today marks the beginning of my final week in London.  It still looks like I won’t be getting into St. Paul’s; they’re talking about opening it up again by Friday, by the dome will still be closed.  Since that’s a big part of the reason why I wanted to do the tourist thing in there, I think I’ll probably have to skip it.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to sneak in one last service, though; their boys’ choir is the best I’ve heard at ANY evensong service anywhere. 🙂

 

Shopping until I (almost) drop October 24, 2011

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Well, we’re down to the wire.  I’ve only got nine days left (out of my 99 total) before I fly back to Seattle.  That means I really only have 8 days left to enjoy London; I won’t be doing anything on the second other than getting up and going to the airport.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I can’t BELIEVE how fast the time has gone!  I feel like I just got here, and yet it’s already time to leave!  I’ve gotten the bulk of what I needed to get done for school out of the way, so I’ll have most of this next week to enjoy myself and get all those last things checked off of my to do list.

 

Today was my big shopping day on Oxford Street.  I’ve been planning this for ages; even though (as you all know by now) I’m on a budget, I figured I should take advantage of the fact of the reasonably priced stuff that fits me better than most of what I find back home and add a few nicer pieces to my wardrobe.  I also spent only a fraction of the clothes budget I set for myself before I left, leaving a little something to shop with here.  You can find high streets and shopping districts all over London (just about every neighborhood, borough, and outlying town is going to have something), Oxford Street seemed like an idea choice for me.  It has all the stores I’ve grown to like and then some!

 

I rode the Tube to the Marble Arch station; that’s as far down Oxford Street as you can get and still be on Oxford Street.  My plan was to walk up one side of the street and down the other, finishing up back at Marble Arch.  That’s exactly what I did, and as any good travel adventure should be, it was a learning experience.  I learned that Oxford Street is a bit….repetitive.  The street isn’t all THAT long, but a good chunk of the stores have more than one location.  Some even have three (Next and Dorothy Perkins, I’m looking at you).  If that’s not enough for you, just head down Regent Street for more of the same (it crosses Oxford Street at Oxford Circus).  I’ll admit it: I went into multiple locations of the same store. 🙂  I was afraid that one would have something that the others didn’t and that I’d miss out!  Needless to say….that wasn’t the case. 😛  I also learned that I’m NOT an all-day shopper;  I was pretty much done by the time I got finished with one side of the street.  Since I hate not finishing things that I start,  I kept going.

 

I was surprised at how crowded Oxford Street was, considering the fact that it wasn’t even a weekend.  By the time early afternoon rolled around, it was hard to get around at anything resembling a reasonable speed.  Part of it is the fact that schools are on vacation this week, which meant dealing with packs of teenagers in some of the shops who seemed to feel that they were entitled to block aisles, shelves, etc.  It got really annoying trying to work around them.  Does the fact that teenagers annoy me mean that I’m getting old?  If so, I’d better pick out my cane and sign up for AARP.  At any rate, trying to shop at Primark was an experience in and of itself.  I wrote briefly about them in my shopping blog from from awhile back; cheap stuff, big stores, very Old Navy-esque.  Today, though….oh, my lord.  I’ve never seen a store so crowded!  The line to get into the dressing rooms stretched halfway through the store, and the place looked like some sort of natural disaster had just been through.  There were messy piles of shirts and sweaters on display tables, and people had even untied the ribbons from gift sets of pajamas to get a better look at them.  I don’t blame the store; I’ve worked in retail, and I well know what kind of a mess customers can make.  Primark still gets the prize for least pleasant place to shop when it’s crowded, though.  There’s so much to look at in the first place that it’s almost over whelming, and when you have to fight through hordes of people and dig through stacks of unfolded stuff, it just isn’t worth it.

 

So…with all that, did I buy anything?  Did my big shopping result in serious wardrobe additions?  Nope.  I bought a total of one very nice, very sensible, very inexpensive black button down shirt.  I can wear it with anything, which the bargain hunter in me likes very much, and when I add that to the (very small) pile of other things I’ve picked up during my trip, I think my London wardrobe is as big as it’s going to get. 🙂

 

A Very “Grave” Day in London…. October 21, 2011

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I have a confession to make, and it’s a little bit creepy: I really like old cemeteries.  Don’tworry; I don’t have some weird obsession with death, and I’m not turning goth or anything. 🙂  I don’t like NEW cemeteries, and recently dead people freak me out big time.  When a cemetery has been around for long enough, though, it stops being creepy.  I love looking at the old tombstones and monuments, and thinking about the history that those people lived through.  Plus, some of the statuary can be really beautiful!

 

London has quite a few old cemeteries, as does England as a whole.  Almost any old church is going to have one.  There’s an informal network of cemeteries in London, though, called the “Magnificant Seven.”  I decided on the spur of the moment to try and visit all of them before I leave.  In fact, I was originally going to try and visit all of them in one day.  Once I started planning out my transportation routes, I realized that this probably wasn’t going to work.  Connections between some of the cemetaries aren’t exactly direct, and there are only so many hours in the day.  So, I decided instead to do three today, and the other four one day next week.  At least, that WAS the plan….

 

Highgate Cemetery is the best known of the Magnificent Seven, and was the only one I was originally planning to visit.  It’s split into two sections: Highgate East and Highgate West.  Highgate West is only accessible through the guided tours which happen once every weekday, and slightly more often on weekends.  They recommend booking by phone a week in advance, and cost 7 pounds.  I didn’t think all that trouble and all that money were particularly worth it, so I stuck with Highgate East.  There’s still a small admission charge to that one (3 pounds), and while I STILL find it odd to pay to visit dead people, I forked over the money and went in.  Highgate didn’t disappoint; lots of pretty, old-fashioned monuments and stonework, and pretty plant life as well. Highgate is also home to some pretty famous residents.  If you’re a Karl Marx fan, you can see him here:

 

 

One thing I’ve noticed in a lot of old cemeteries is that hardly any of the people in them died.  They all “fell asleep” or “went away.”  All, that is, except Patrick Caulfield:

 

 

As I said, my plan was to visit three of the Magnificent Seven today, but I almost didn’t make it to any.  I got off the Tube at Highgate, assuming that there would be signage pointing the way to the cemetery (there usually IS signage pointing to major sights).  There wasn’t, and I hadn’t printed a map ahead of time.  So, I wandered around Highgate for hours, trying to find the place.  There were maps at bus stops, but I kid you not; EVERY SINGLE TIME I would use one of those, there would end up being a huge block of houses where the cemetery was supposed to be.  It was early afternoon before I actually got in.  I normally take snags in my plans in stride, but I don’t really have the luxury of time anymore.  Getting lost for hours isn’t an option!  On the upside, I made a new friend as I was leaving Highgate:

 

 

I had time to squeeze in one more of the Seven, so I headed to Abney Park.  It was a ridiculously long walk from the nearest Tube station; so much so that I probably should have taken the bus.  At any rate, I didn’t, and I found the place without too much trouble.  Abney Park isn’t nearly as well maintained as Highgate.  The paths are clear, and many are paved, but most of the graves are overgrown with ivy, weeds, and trees.  I would be willing to bet that there are more graves that aren’t visible anymore than there are graves which are visible.  It was like taking a walk in the woods more than anything:

 

 

The only time that I got creeped out all day actually happened in Abney Park.  There’s this old, ruined shell of a church on the cemetery grounds, and for some reason, it gave me the heebie jeebies just LOOKING at it.  Here’s a picture of the interior:

 

 

I’m not sure I believe in ghosts, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were a few hanging out in this place!

 

In other news, I’m not sure how much coverage the protests around St. Paul’s have been getting.  Basically, a bunch of people have set up a tent city in front of the cathedral to protest capitalism or something.  It’s been totally peaceful, and the church has been fine with having them there for over a week.  I’m not politically active, so I have kind of a live and let live attitude towards protests.  Today, though, I found out that they had to close St. Paul’s, for visiting AND for services.  That just makes me angry.  It’s disrespectful enough to choose a place of worship for your activism, but when you keep that place of worship from conducting its daily business, then you’ve gone too far.  It’s true that I’m mostly upset about this because I haven’t had a chance to tour the cathedral yet, and I’ve been looking forward to ending my visit with a climb to the top of the dome.  I’m absolutely mad and disappointed that I won’t be able to do that.  Maybe that makes me just as selfish as the protestors are now being, but I KNOW I’m not the only one who feels this way.  As per a poll in the newspaper today, the majority of their readers no longer have sympathy with the protestors.  The Dean has politely asked them to leave (read the letter from him to the protestors here: http://www.stpauls.co.uk/News-Press/Latest-News/Open-Letter-from-the-Dean-of-St-Pauls-Cathedral  ). That sounds reasonable to me, but the church is already taking flack for being “hypocritical” and asking the protestors to leave.  Ridiculous.  Keep your fingers crossed that they can get the cathedral open again soon.  I don’t think my book about London wold be complete without a chapter on the Cathedral that includes a dome climb!

 

 

 

 

York October 20, 2011

 

I spent today up in York, which was the last of my side trips outside of London.  I had originally planned to spend the night there, but decided that it wasn’t necessary and the money would be better used for other things. 🙂    York is about two hours north of London by train, and today was actually my second time there; it was my ONLY day trip when I was here in 2009.  Actually, “day trip” might be a bit of an overstatement.  I didn’t want to be coming home late at night, so I only gave myself four or five hours in town back.  That wasn’t nearly enough, and I felt rushed the whole time.  I had nearly double the amount of time in York today….and I still ended up feeling rushed. 😛

 

The walk from the train station into town is the prettiest one I’ve seen anywhere (Canterbury was the ugliest).  It’s not a long walk, by any means, and you get to walk right along the city walls.  My favorite part of the walk is crossing the Lendal Bridge over the River Ouse (rhymes with “loose,” not “house” like I originally thought).  All these half timbered and stone buildings are right in front of you, with the Minster looming over it all.  It’s a little bit like stepping back in time.  The rest of the city center feels that way, too; the streets are narrow, and some of the buildings date back to the 14th and 15th centuries.  The Shambles is the most medieval of all of York’s cobbled streets.  It used to be home to the city’s butchers, and there are still channels in the pavement that they used to wash away all the yucky stuff.  Nowadays, you’ll just find shops and restaurants there. 🙂

 

My first sightseeing stop was the Yorkshire Museum.  It recently won an award for being one of the best tourist attractions in York, and I think that was well deserved.  If you’re at all interested in the history of the city, this is a must-see.  You’ll learn about the Romans, the Vikings, the prehistoric creatures that inhabited the area, and get and idea of what medieval York was like.  The museum is set in the middle of a nice park, near the ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey:

 

When Henry VIII broke with the Catholic Church, he abolished abbeys and monasteries.  This one was converted into a palace and then allowed to deteriorate to the condition you see now.

 

The Yorkshire Museum offers a “Museum Trust Ticket” which gets you admission to both this museum and the York Castle Museum.  It saves money, and you know how I like to find ways to do that! 🙂  What’s better, the museum cashier gave me the student discount, even after I told her I didn’t have a student ID and couldn’t prove I was in school. More money saved! As an added bonus, the ticket is actually good for a full year as long as you’re willing to give them your full name and tell them where you’re from, so they can “personalize” your ticket (they’re non-transferrable).  I love getting good deals. 😀

 

After the museum, I walked along the river for awhile.  It was very nice and peaceful,but  it was also why I ended up really rushed at the end of the day. I wandered around the town center for awhile, peeking into some shops, and eventually headed here:

 

 

That’s York Minster.  You can see it from almost anywhere in the center of town (and many places just outside the center), and you can actually hear the bells from pretty far away as well.  It also happens to be one of the only big churches over here that doesn’t fuss about photography. 🙂  I got in at about 2:30pm.  I decided on the spur of the moment that I was not only going to take the guided tour, but that I was also going to climb the tower again.  The tour was great; the guides are volunteers of retirement age, and they really know their stuff.  They also really love the Minster, and enjoy sharing it with visitors.  This is the kind of tour I actually LIKE to take!  That’s why I don’t regret taking it….in spite of the fact that it was a quarter to four by the time it was finished.  That presented a problem: I hadn’t been to the York Castle Museum yet, and I definitely needed to do that since I paid for it.  It closed at 5pm, so I was definitely running out of time.  I also wanted to walk along the old city walls, and THEY closed at dusk.  Finally, I had wanted to get back to the Minster in time for the 5:15 evensong service.  There was no way that all of that was going to happen, so I had to abandon the idea of climbing the tower.  I wasn’t all that sad about it; I did the climb in 2009, and it was pretty brutal .  It’s 200 + steps that are very steep, narrow, and spiraled.  Going up wasn’t so bad, but coming down was  actually kind of terrifying.  The steps are SO small in some places that about half my foot was hanging off.  Combine that with the fact that I could see down the spiral staircase for a lot further than I care to think about, and I was practially kissing the ground after I was safely back in the church.  Sooo…while I was a little sad to miss the views from the top, and a little sad that I paid to climb and didn’t go, I was mostly okay with it.  Even the money thing wasn’t so bad, since I ALSO got the student discount at the Minster. 🙂

 

I raced down the Castle Museum and did the world’s quickest walk-through.  I THINK I liked it, but I was under such a time crunch that I’m not really sure.  There were some outfits from bygone eras that I liked, and a complete Victorian street as well.  There was also an exhibit on housecleaning through the years.  It was more interesting than it sounds. 🙂

 

Next, I walked along the city walls.  There are three big, intact sections, with breaks between each one.  I tried to do the walk last time I was in York, but got lost between sections and only did one.  It turns out that I just didn’t walk far enough to find the next section.  🙂  At any rate, the views over the town are fantastic, and the whole “loop” is 1.9 miles.  At least, that’s what the signs said.  It sure as heck felt like more to me!  The sun was setting by this time, and I had a good portion of the walls to myself.  I also got to see this:

 

I could have used a day and half in York.  I didn’t end up making it to evensong, and I would have liked to take a little bit of a rest in the middle of the day.  If you’re thinking of coming to York and you want to do all the stuff I did plus some of the things I wasn’t interested in this time around (river tour, Jorvik Viking Center, Railway Museum, ghost walk, dinner out, the York Dungeon, etc), you could easily spend two full days and one night here.  All in all, York DEFINITELY wins the prize for my favorite day trip city.  Judging by my word count, I’d also say it wins the prize for longest blog entry! 😛

 

 

Changing of the Guard October 18, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — temporarybrit @ 10:32 PM
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I swore I’d never do it.  It was too touristy, too cheesy, and too crowded.  I’m thinking of writing a book about my time in London, though, and I know that it would make a good chapter.  So today…. I went and saw the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  This isn’t the first time it’s happened; as I mentioned before, I accidentally ended up in the middle of it once near the beginning of my trip.  Today was totally on purpose.

 

I got to the Buckingham Palace area at about 10:30am, which is a full hour before the guard is supposed to change.  The crowd in front of the Buckingham Palace gates was a full six people deep already.  That was okay with me, though; I wasn’t planning to watch from there.   I was going to set up shop in front of Wellington Barracks, which is where the guards come from on their way to the palace, and where the band warms up as well.  There was plenty of room, so I had my choice of spots.  The guards were already getting into formation by the time I found a good place for pictures.  Basically, “getting ready” consisted of a lot of indistinct yelling, stomping, and occasional shuffling to get into formation.  The commanders inspected the troops at one point, and it looked to me like everyone passed. 🙂

 

The band arrived on the scene to warm up after the rest of the guards did.  They circled up and kicked off with “Summer Nights” and “Greased Lightning” from the musical, Grease, before moving on to “Can You Feel the Love Tonight.”  I’m not kidding.    It…definitely wasn’t what I would have expected from a military band.  Not to worry; they played proper marching music as the guards actually left the barracks and proceeded to the palace.  What happened after that?  I wish I could tell you, but like I said…I wasn’t over there, and there was no way I was going to get close enough to see at that point.  Overall, though, it was interesting to see the beginning of the ceremony.  It did seem like a bit much to go through to protect the Queen….in a palace that no one can get into anyway….WHEN SHE’S NOT EVEN HOME.  Even so, I’m planning to go back twice for photographic purposes: once to watch from the middle of the route, and once to watch from Buckingham Palace.  If you’re ever in London and you really want to see the Changing of the Guard but only have a chance to do it once, wait outside Wellington Barracks.  You’ll get just as many photo ops, and the crowds will be smaller. 🙂  Just remember to clean your camera lenses often; I’m  TERRIBLE about doing that, which explains the weird haze that appears on some of my shots from today.  Shooting into the sun didn’t help, either, but that was easier than I thought it would be to work around.

 

Speaking of photo ops, I went out last night to try my hand at some nighttime photography.  The good news is that London is fantastic at night.  The bad news? Although my Canon had great nighttime settings, it was really tough for me to get anything decent without my tripod.  I had to use a fairly slow shutter speed, and when you add that with the fact that my hands are NOT steady (plus the fact that it was windy)…let’s just say there were a lot of indistinct blurs.  I got a few that I like, though, and I’m not giving up.  It’s just a matter of finding creative substitute tripods. 😛