Wednesday, 30 July 2008

London Loos 4

This months featured London toilet is not a competitor for London Ding Dong’s Loo of 2008. This picture was sent to me by a friend purely for the amusement factor. The Tower of London is clearly just as proud of its award as St Paul’s Cathedral is!

This picture was taken last month and yet the award beats the St Paul’s 1995 certificate for longevity… it goes all the way back to 1992 and is in pristine condition!

I’m sure the Tower of London loos are still perfectly serviced but displaying a 16 year old certificate is pushing the pride scale - even in an area of historical interest!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

London For Kids

I am not a parent but with the long summer holidays there are plenty of parents who are tearing their hair out trying to keep their kids entertained. One of my nephews celebrates his 12th birthday next month (12 going on 20!) and, rather than give him a present which will undoubtedly be disregarded soon after the event, I have decided to take him to London for the day.

He has visited quite a few attractions in London already including the London Eye, the Tower of London and the Globe Theatre so I have turned to the London Pass website for a few ideas. They have a suggested itinerary for children which includes the popular Namco Station at County Hall. But for a boy who lives near to the amusement arcades of Southend-on-Sea (a popular seaside town in Essex) this would not be particularly special. I’m also not sure he’d be too enamoured by the Royal Mews or the Firepower Royal Artillery Museum. BUT… I do think he’d enjoy London Zoo and I’ve no doubt that he’d love the Chelsea Football Club Stadium Tour. He is a big football (soccer) fan and, although he supports Tottenham Hotspur, what keen young footballer wouldn’t want to visit the changing rooms and walk down the tunnel of a world famous premiership team?

Among the other ideas are the Cartoon Museum and Pollock’s Toy Museum which I will probably visit myself at some point but I think my rather grown-up nephew is just a bit too “cool” for these! Give him another 10 years and he’ll probably appreciate them just as enthusiastically as he would have done a couple of years ago!

I will continue to look through the London Pass attractions to plan the perfect itinerary for this birthday treat but Chelsea FC is a definite and London Zoo will also be included. I think he would also enjoy a canal boat trip (I would too!) but I need to get the maps out and see how practical my choices are. I don’t want to spend half the day travelling on public transport but want to make sure he has a day to remember. I’ll keep you informed!

Sunday, 27 July 2008

The Royal Mews, London

There is nothing like living history to catch my attention and the Royal Mews at the back of Buckingham Palace is a wonderful example. Home to Royal transport including horses, carriages and cars and also the people who love and care for them, the Royal Mews is very much a working stables.

The guides at the Royal Mews are, without doubt, the smartest in London. Their black and red uniforms are perfectly tailored and pressed and there is no question that they are a cut above the regular guides found in other London tourist attractions. They are also unbelievably helpful: after having my bag scanned a lá airport security, I was offered an audio guide which was actually placed over my head for me!!! That’s what I call customer service!

The horses housed in the stables are so beautifully groomed that, at first, I didn’t realise that they were real as they stood almost motionless, ignoring the visitors! I’m not a particularly horsey person but these Royal mounts are pretty special – imagine the things that they have seen! The groomsmen and other staff responsible for all Royal road travel live at the Mews in apartments above the stables. It is not unusual for several generations of one family to live and work here.

The Royal Carriages are what most people want to see when they visit the Royal Mews and these are housed around the main courtyard. The first thing I noticed was just how tiny the carriages are – particularly the 19th Century Glass Coach (above left) which was used by both the Queen and Princess Diana on their wedding days. It is little wonder that Diana’s huge wedding dress was so screwed up when she arrived at St Paul’s Cathedral.

As if proof were needed that this is a working stable, in the harness room where the leather pieces are made and repaired, a man was working. I stood and watched this skilled craftsman at work and then wondered if he felt like an exhibit in a zoo! If he did, he didn’t show it and studiously continued with his work.

The climax of the Royal Mews is definitely the Gold State Coach (right) which caused those around me to gasp at first sight! If it weren’t so magnificent it would be vulgar! Built in the 18th Century for a whopping £7000, it has been used at every Royal Coronation since then. The carriage itself is massive, ornate and so gold that it doesn’t look real! It is hard to believe that something so genuinely grand exists even when you are stood in front of it! It would take 3 whole days to get the Gold State Coach out of its garage. The process would require opening the secret doors, disconnecting the central heating, removing pictures and slowly turning the coach until it could be moved out.

The Royal Mews is a fascinating place to visit. Knowing that the horses, carriages, cars and coaches are still used and that the Mews is the hub of Royal road travel makes it all the more special.

The Royal Mews is open 7 days a week until October 11am – 4pm.
Adult Entry = £7.50

London Pass holders receive free entry to the Royal Mews and also the Queen’s Gallery next door.

Friday, 25 July 2008

Open Air Activites In London

London is a really super place to be in the summer months and, despite good weather not being guaranteed, open air events are really popular.

The Open Air Theatre at Regents Park (left) is currently showing performances of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Nights Dream, Twelfth Night and Romeo & Juliet as well as the classical musical Gigi. Performance times vary but are throughout the day and evening with ticket prices from £10 upwards.

Sunday evenings in August will feature musical entertainment at Regents Park Open Air Theatre. The series of Sunday concerts culminates on September 7th with a concert from the original tribute act – The Bootleg Beatles.

There are two operas left this season at Holland Park; Ponchielli’s La Gioconda and Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta which will be preceded by a dance performance set to the music of Igor Stravinsky. Ticket prices range from £10 to £52 and there are a limited number of free tickets for 9-18 year olds.

Every Sunday, Bayswater Road is transformed into the ultimate open air art exhibition. Displayed against the railings of Kensington Gardens (Hyde Park), the work of more than 250 artists is a sight to behold. This is a weekly event regardless of weather and gives you an opportunity to meet the artists behind the art and buy pieces at studio prices. Whether you visit to buy or to browse this 50 year old show/market is must-see when you are in London.

With the warm weather in London at the moment you may just fancy chilling out and cooling off. Open air swimming pools, known as Lidos, are just the ticket if you fancy a dip and you can even find some in central London. One of the most famous is the Serpentine Lido in Hyde Park where people have sunbathed, swum and played for over 100 years. There is also a kid’s paddling pool and deck chairs can be rented for a small fee. The serpentine is open daily from 10am - 6pm until the end of September and costs £4 for adults and £1 for children under 16 who must be accompanied by an adult.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Apsley House

Home to the first Duke of Wellington, Apsley House was popularly known as “Number One, London” as it was the first house passed in London after the Knightsbridge toll gates.

Today, it overlooks the very busy Hyde Park Corner and remains the London Residence of the Duke of Wellingtons direct descendants. However, they now share this magnificent town house with English Heritage who run the museum.

Having beaten Napoleon at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington was responsible for preserving English as our national language! He bought Apsley House in 1817 from his brother who was suffering financial difficulties. He immediately set about extending, re-facing and renovating the property until, 50 years after it was built, it became more or less unrecognisable from the original.

It now houses the first Duke’s outstanding collection of paintings as well as porcelain, sculptures, medals, silver and general memorabilia. In the 1990’s the house was restored to its early 19th Century appearance and it is a credit to English Heritage that it feels not restored but untouched.

As a nod to his former enemy, there is an 11 foot marble statue of Napoleon whose modesty is only covered by a fig leaf (!) dominating the central stairwell. There is also a small gallery of Wellington memorabilia and pictures charting the history of the house from the first Duke to current members of the family and the house itself.

It was the seventh Duke of Wellington who gave the house to the nation in 1947 but ensured the family would retain the use of half of the house “so long as there is a Duke of Wellington”. Apsley House therefore has the feel of a family home and not just a well preserved historic property. The private quarters are, of course, not open to the public.

The highlight in this incredible collection is the elaborate Sevres Egyptian dinner service which Napoleon had made as a divorce present for Josephine (which she declined) and was later presented to Wellington by Louis XVIII. It was not unusual for Wellington to receive presents from Europeans monarchs who were all grateful to him for saving their kingdoms.

Apsley House is well worth a visit for a touch of 19th Century London and to discover the life of one of Britain’s great heroes. The house may be decorative and ornate but the first Duke of Wellington was famously down to earth and reserved these extravagancies for his public persona; he actually lived in a very modest apartment at the top of the house.

Apsley House is open Weds-Sunday and bank holidays 11am-5pm
Adult Entry: £5.50

London Pass holders can visit Apsley House free of charge

Monday, 21 July 2008

The Guards Museum, London

I suppose it was only a question of time before I visited somewhere that I really didn’t enjoy at all. There have been places that weren’t entirely my cup of tea but I’ve still garnered something from the experience. Unfortunately, the Guards Museum did not fall into this category. I admit that I have no special interest in military history but I don’t believe that special interest should be a prerequisite for visiting museums. As usual, I entered this attraction with an open mind and some hope that I would learn something new or see something unusual.

The staff were friendly and welcoming on arrival and accepted my London Pass with a smile and said if I had any questions I could ask them. Within a few minutes I probably should have requested a guided tour of the museum as, without audio or written guides and a distinct lack of information on display, the exhibitions were pretty meaningless.

There is so much on display at the Guards Museum that I am sure any military enthusiast would be in his/her element here. Unfortunately for me, there appeared to be a distinct lack of order in the displays and too many artefacts in each cabinet. Consequently, I could not even enjoy the musical instrument section which might just have won me around!

Having said all this I do think that kids (particularly boys) would enjoy all the military paraphernalia and anyone with a family history in Her Majesty’s Foot Guards. Regrettably there was nothing here to tickle my fancy and I think this was largely due to the shortage of information and the overstuffed display cabinets! It may, of course, just be me that feels this way. With free entry for children and just £3 for adults, it is not the end of the world if you agree with me so don’t be put off by my negative review. If you are visiting Buckingham Palace, the Royal Mews or the Queen’s Gallery it is probably worth popping in while you are in the area.

The Guards Museum is open 7 days a week 10am – 4pm.
Adult Entry: £3
Children 16 and under: Free

London Pass holders can visit the Guards Museum free of charge.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Lost In London?

I have a terrible natural sense of direction. I can have a map in my hand, I know where I am, but have great difficulty in working out how to get where I want to go. Geography was my worst subject at school and, it seems, things have not improved with age! When it comes to specifics I am useless! My realisation of this fact hit home a few weeks ago when trying to find the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms. There are handy little maps in the London Pass Guidebook clearly showing the various locations and I was confident that from Westminster tube station I’d have no trouble finding the museum.

Looking at the same small map now I cannot understand what the problem was. I always carry a London A-Z too but that confused me more as I walked across the road, following a stream of tourists looking at the Houses of Parliament and badgering Policemen for a souvenir photograph. If the policemen hadn’t looked so hassled I might well have asked for directions but it seemed so foolish in my own capital city! I could see Westminster Abbey, was looking at Parliament Square (I think!) and yet I couldn’t work out which road to follow! In the end, I took a guess and just happened to get it right. My pedestrian panic always seems so ridiculous upon safe arrival yet the same thing happens over and over again. I simply cannot read a map effectively when I am on foot!

Having said all that, thankfully I do have a rough idea of the general layout of London, the major landmarks and how to get from one area to another. It is only precision directions where I fall down. So when, more recently, two Spanish men stopped me near Big Ben and asked where Trafalgar Square was I was able to give them clear directions in my best Spanish! A couple of hours later I was a little concerned to see the same two men rushing towards me across Trafalgar Square - either my general directions were wrong or my Spanish was worse than I suspected! As we came face to face they were grinning and exclaiming “Gracias, gracias Señorita” as though I had done something really special for them! In return, my pleasure was not garnered from helping someone in London with less idea than me but, in my mid-thirties, from being given the title Señorita! It made my day. Viva Londres!

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Tourist Walk In London 5

After a lovely organic fruit juice or two, it was time to bid goodbye to my companion and set off on the final short stage of my tourist walk in London. I am not a great lover of walking but, with sightseeing stops throughout the day, it had turned out to be a really enjoyable experience.

I walked out of St James’s Park with Horse Guards Parade in front of me; turned left into Horse Guards Road and up to The Mall. I turned right with the Institute of Contemporary Arts on my left and the famous Admiralty Arch straight ahead. Passing through the arches, I arrived in Trafalgar Square – possibly one of the most legendary London sights, famous for its Lions (statues, not real ones!), Nelson’s Column (above left), the fountains and scenes of celebration and demonstration over the years. It also used to be famous for its thousands of pigeons but last year a law was passed banning the feeding of birds in the area. There are now relatively few pigeons in Trafalgar Square and that age-old obsession of allowing birds to perch on your arms and head is no more!

It was now 8pm and the sun was low in the sky behind me as I wandered up the Strand to catch my bus to Liverpool Street. I was exhausted but buzzing with all that I’d seen and done. Even for someone who has lived and worked in London, visiting all these famous tourist spots and seeing world famous sights is pretty exciting. Having bought a great value two day London Pass, my only regret was having to travel all the way home and back again the next day… oh for a luxury hotel room somewhere in central London!

London Pass available from
Special offer available until 21st July:
Adult 2 Day pass reduced to £46 (usual price £49)

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Lost In Translation

I love people watching in London and admit that I am something of an eavesdropper too! On my recent river boat tour along the Thames with City Cruises, I overheard a little girl talking to her father and couldn’t resist making a note of the conversation!

Girl: “Why is there a British flag flying on that building?”
Dad: “That’s Big Ben”
Girl: “No, next to Big Ben”
Dad: “That’s the Congress building”
Girl: “What’s that?”
Dad: “It’s where the British President lives”
Girl: “Does that mean he’s home?”
Dad: “Yes”

Hmmm! Without wishing to offend anyone by assuming that my readers are quite as badly informed as this particular family from an English-speaking country that shall not be named (!), here is my slightly extended and more accurate version of the conversation.

Girl: Why is there a Union Flag* flying on that building?
Dad: That’s the Clock Tower**
Girl: No, next to the Clock Tower
Dad: That’s the Palace of Westminster***
Girl: What’s that?
Dad: It’s where the two houses of Parliament of the United Kingdom meet.
Girl: What are they called?
Dad: The House of Commons and the House of Lords****
Girl: Does the British President live there?
Dad: Britain doesn’t have a President; they have a Prime Minister who is called Gordon Brown. He lives at number 10 Downing Street.
Girl: So why is the Union Flag flying?
Dad: That means Parliament is sitting at the moment. If the Queen is visiting the Palace then the Royal Standard***** is flown instead.

* Union Flag, also known as the Union Jack is the national flag of the United Kingdom.
** The Clock Tower is often referred to as Big Ben which is, in fact, the name of the largest bell within the tower. There is no flag pole on this tower. Flags are flown from the Victoria Tower.
*** Palace of Westminster also known as the Westminster Palace and the Houses of Parliament
**** The House of Commons, where Members of Parliament are elected by the nation and the House of Lords whose members are appointed.
***** The Royal Standard is the flag used by Queen Elizabeth II in her capacity as sovereign of the United Kingdom.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Tourist Walk In London 4

Having visited the Guards Museum I continued along Birdcage Walk which runs parallel to St James’s Park. Walking close by the Churchill Museum and Cabinet War Rooms, past Parliament Square, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament and made my way towards the Westminster Pier. I bought a sandwich and a drink and joined the short queue for tickets at the City Cruises kiosk. Although I have previously done the Westminster to Tower Bridge leg of the River Thames tour, I had decided after a lot of walking and sightseeing it would be fun to go all the way down to Greenwich and back again.

On City Cruise boats, the live commentary is done by a crew member. These are not trained tour guides and they do not have a set script but on this particular day, the guy whose name I forget, was excellent. His commentary was informative and funny but, sadly, some of his jokes went over the head of the largely non-English speaking tourists. Although I am now pretty familiar with this stretch of the river I found out some new and interesting facts along the way. For instance, I didn’t know that Waterloo Bridge is also known as “Ladies Bridge” as it was built primarily by women during the Second World War; the rise and fall of the Thames can be as great as 25 feet; the stunning blue glass building on the north side of the river is home to the Shanghai Bank (above right); Somerset House, once the records office (Hatch ‘em, match ‘em, despatch ‘em!), is now home to the Courtauld Art Gallery and an ice rink in winter; the original Billingsgate Fish Market building (above left) has wonderfully quirky weather veins shaped like fish!

I love these little snippets of information about places and sights we often take for granted in London. The River Thames remains a hive of activity and each building on the banks, be it old or new, has a tale to tell or a unique point of interest. Unfortunately, I hadn’t realised quite how long it would take to Greenwich and back to Westminster (the full round trip takes approximately 3 hours) and, knowing I was meeting a friend in St James’s Park at 6pm, I hopped off at the Tower of London in a slight panic. Greenwich would have to wait for another day. I joined another boat, with a different crew member commentating in a completely different style but equally entertaining and enlightening.

On arrival at Westminster Pier I walked back towards St James’s Park for my rendezvous at “Inn The Park”. This wonderful restaurant in the heart of the park is a beautiful place to enjoy a drink on a summers evening in London. Surrounded by flora and fauna and overlooking the lake, it is a peaceful retreat from the hustle and bustle of London. This would have been the perfect way to end my day of walking and sightseeing in London but I had just one more walk to complete my typical tourist trail before going home.

City Cruises run between Westminster Pier and Greenwich Pier seven days a week. The first boat from Westminster to Tower Pier and Greenwich is at 9.40am. The last boat departs Waterloo for Tower Pier at 9pm.
River Red Rover ticket enables you to hop on and hop off at any stop throughout the day
Adult: £10.50

London Pass holders are entitled to a free River Red Rover Ticket without further payment.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Free Music In London

This month is free music month at the Scoop. Located in front of City Hall on the south bank of the River Thames, the amphitheatre has been temporary home to a number of events over the last couple of months with free theatre productions and film screenings. Now it is the turn of music with a little dancing thrown in for good measure!

Today, at 12.30pm, there is a Salsa dance workshop and demonstration. Latin moves are the order of the day and top Salsa band, Conjunto Sabroso, help get your hips swinging and toes tapping with their South American sounds.

Tonight at 6.30pm, Conjunto Sabroso return with the current salsa dance world champions - John Vasquez and Judy Aguilar from Columbia. Ola Latina present this evening of entertainment and, after the highly anticipated salsa demonstration, you are encouraged to join the salsa spectacular and dance the night away!

Tomorrow (Thursday 10th) is Calypso Day! At 12.30pm there is a Calypso dance workshop with Antonio Susinni and then, at 6.30pm, Sunnie Dae And Her Hot Kats take the floor. A mixture of rare plantation blues and Caribbean folk music will quickly have you up dancing and, in traditional style, there will be some audience participation with “call and response” singing. A great evening for all the family!

On Friday, it is the turn of London-based band “We Used To Make Things” at 12.30pm. This unusually named band comprises six men and one woman who perform a mix of original pop music with a wide range of influences. This feel-good band are sure to get you in the right mood for the weekend!

At 6.30pm the All Stars Collective entertain the Scoop audience with, as yet, unannounced Special Guests. This group of musicians have worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry including George Michael, Madonna, Mariah Carey, Amy Winehouse, Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Jennifer Lopez and Westlife to name but a few. Now they step out of the shadow of these superstars and bring you an evening of original and exciting material.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Tourist Walk In London 3

After graduating from Music College I accepted a part-time job at a Royal office in Buckingham Gate. Therefore my knowledge of the area proved useful when I couldn’t take the straight forward route to the Queen’s Gallery and the Royal Mews. I walked the familiar path to the nearest pub where my leaving “do” had taken place, down a couple of small, quaint Olde London streets and arrived by the Buckingham Palace gift shop (not your average tourist souvenirs!) directly opposite the Royal Mews. A quick glance down Buckingham Gate confirmed that the road was still blocked and access to the Queen’s Gallery was prohibited. So I went into the Royal Mews, using my London Pass for the third time that day.

According to the lady in the ticket office, the road had been blocked off since 7.30 that morning after a delivery lorry tipped over when leaving Buckingham Palace. They had been told the Queen’s Gallery would be opened about an hour late but, since then, had heard no more. As it was now lunch time it seemed as though this accident was being treated more like a security alert but, thankfully, the Royal Mews was open for business as usual.

An hour later I left the Royal Mews hoping that the Queen’s Gallery would now be open but the road was still out of bounds with yet more police men and women. It was a shame but I re-traced my steps and headed for Birdcage Walk and the Wellington Barracks, home to the Guards Museum. There was quite a crowd gathered around the railings in front of the Barracks enjoying the wonderful sounds of the regiment band. As I approached, the band were rehearsing but, even to my musical ears, I couldn’t hear any mistakes being made in their wonderful rendition of “Bread Of Heaven” (I’m sure this is not the correct title but, for the life of me, I cannot think of the hymn’s proper name!) but every few bars, they stopped and started again. Chances are that it was the complicated choreography that needed to be repeated over and over. Still, it looked and sounded fabulous to me! The impromptu audience of tourists, holiday makers and sightseers were clearly thrilled and applauded enthusiastically! There is something very special about regimental bands and the British Armed Forces certainly know how to do it properly!

Having spent an enjoyable half hour watching and listening to this free military pageant, I moved on to the Guards Museum with a spring in my step!

The Royal Mews, Buckingham Palace is open March – October, 11am-4pm
Adult Entry: £7.50

The Queen’s Gallery is open is open daily from 10am to 5.30pm
Adult Entry: £8.50

The Guards Museum is open daily from 10am to 4pm
Adult Entry: £3

All of the above sightseeing attractions are included with the London Pass and entrance is free for pass holders.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Music, Art and Science In London

10 years ago this week I graduated from the Royal College of Music (pictured left). It only feels like last year yet, at the same time, it is a lifetime ago. I spent four years at this auspicious music conservatoire and graduated with a respectable honours degree although I had never planned to continue my education in this way.

Nestled behind the Royal Albert Hall (pictured right from the door of the RCM) in Prince Consort Road, the RCM is celebrating its 125th Birthday this year and continues to be one of Europe’s top conservatoires with gifted students from around the world training for a career in professional music.

In September last year, Professor Robert Winston was appointed Chairman of the RCM council. The appointment of a scientist at a music college has raised a few eyebrows but it conforms to the original intention of Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. His vision was to create an area devoted to the arts and sciences which was nicknamed “Albertopolis”. South Kensington is indeed home to major science and arts institutions: Royal College of Music, Imperial College, Royal Albert Hall, Royal College of Art, Royal Geographical Society, Science Museum, Natural History Museum and the Victoria & Albert Museum. These eight original institutions today work even more closely than anticipated and are known collectively as the Exhibition Road Cultural Group.

A new collaboration between the RCM and the V&A has recently begun and will be experienced by the public in 2009 when the museum’s new Medieval and Renaissance galleries open. A Listening Gallery will pair specific objects on display with pieces of music through audiovisual points throughout the gallery as well as live performances.

A more immediate partnership is that of the RCM and the Royal Albert Hall Promenade concert series this summer. The college will host the new Proms Plus series with pre-Prom events every day during the season from 18th July to 13th September. The events will include workshops, interviews, literary talks and film screenings which will all be held at the RCM’s Britten Theatre.

Throughout the academic year the Royal College of Music opens its doors to the public for master classes, workshops, recitals and operas. Many of these events are free of charge and, most importantly, are a chance to see the music stars of the future.

The Royal Albert Hall tours are available Thursday to Tuesday from 10.30am to 3.30pm.
Adult Entry Fee: £8
London Pass holders can take a Royal Albert Hall tour free of charge and also visit the nearby Kensington Palace without further payment

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Tourist Walk In London 2

I probably should have started this particular day of sightseeing at Buckingham Palace. The Changing of the Guard takes place every day at 11.30am from April to July (on alternate days the rest of the year). This is understandably a really popular ceremony for tourists with all the pomp and pageantry that the British are famed for! Having said that, I have never seen the Guard Mounting (the official ceremonial title) so I really should have gone to the Palace first. Oh well, there’ll be other opportunities.

Coming out of Green Park, I did what I always do when I am near Buckingham Palace: I checked the flagpole! Ever since I was a child it has excited me to know that the Queen is home when I’m passing by! I was in luck this day as the Royal Standard was flying at full mast. When the Queen is elsewhere no flag flies above the Palace.

I hung around to one side in the vain hope that Her Majesty might just appear. I have only seen her once as a young child when she visited my home town and my mum helped push me up a lamppost to get a glimpse of our Monarch. But this was not the day for another sighting unfortunately!

I walked by the beautiful golden Canada Gate (right) separating Green Park from the Queens Gardens and admired the beautiful Victoria Memorial. Buckingham Palace is looking a little on the grubby side these days but the Victoria Memorial looks shiny and new, making me wonder if it has been cleaned recently.

With my back to the Palace I took my life in my hands to get some photos of the Mall, resplendently decorated with Union Flags. I continued across the Mall to the Memorial Gardens and the edge of St James’s Park. This was the opposite end of the Park from where I had seen the pelicans recently but the view across the lake was equally beautiful.

Preparing to cross the road towards Buckingham Gate where I once worked, I noticed a plaque on the pavement indicating the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Walk. I know nothing about this walk but will investigate so that I can follow it later on this summer. Recently I had also noticed a Jubilee Walkway plaque but forgot about it so I need to do a little Royal walk research I think.

Heading towards the other side of Buckingham Palace I was stopped dead in my tracks by blue flashing lights. Police cars and officers were blocking the road and diverting traffic and pedestrians away from the very road that I wanted to walk up. I interrogated the nearest police officer who informed me that there had been an accident and I couldn’t pass through the blockade to get to the Queen’s Gallery and Royal Mews. Potential disaster!

Not one to be deterred by a road accident I took the long route around in the hope that I would find the Royal premises unaffected by the cordons.