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2011 Europe by Rail – Day 29

PALACES, HORSES & HISTORY – a unique assortment!

Thursday – another fun filled day touring the sites, and as it turns out, the smells of London town. We do not have much time left – only 3 days including today so we have to see as much as we can.  Saying that, Kylie lived here for nearly 4 years and I have visited twice so it should be only Tyler that should go like the clappers.  But we cannot have him wandering around alone, so we tag along.  Our first place of interest today is Buckingham Palace which includes a visit to the Queen’s Gallery.  There is an exhibition of Dutch landscapes and Faberge eggs.  Quite a bit like chalk and cheese but interesting nonetheless.

The Underground is working at full speed today so in no time we find ourselves alighting at the station and walking toward Buckingham Palace.  We have not had any breakfast so we make a stop at a quaint little cafe.  Pronto ‘A’ Mangia Restaurant and Sandwich Bar.  Really seriously good food at a reasonable price.  Have to remember that this place is here – it is just across the road from The Royal Mews.

After putting away a healthy big brekkie, we are off to our first tourist stop – the Queen’s Gallery.  What a shocker of a photo! What was I thinking?  Maybe I tilted the camera up to avoid the amount of tourists and traffic? Anyway it’s the only photo I have of the outside so there you go.  On entering and showing our tickets we make a bee line for the royal loos.  How elegant are they?

The room has beautiful wooden benches with the royal crest and the most luxurious Molton Brown Thai Vert liquid hand soap that has the most amazing aroma.  The loos themselves however are just loos but the soap – aaaahhhhh!  (Just off the track a bit – Kylie bought me some of the soap and sent it over with the annual Christmas goodies.  What a lovely surprise. Thank you Kylie and Tyler).

Back to the Gallery and its exhibitions.  We walk up the stairs and visit the Dutch Landscapes.  I am not a great art devotee but they are lovely paintings and again, full of history.  Another room is full of royal paintings and articles.  There are some lovely artefacts on display.  Paintings, statues, furniture, uniforms and glassware are just a part of the exhibition.

No flash photography is allowed but of course there are those tried and true idiots with their stupid flashes popping off all over the place.

Moving onward we now tour the rooms of Buckingham Palace.  No photography of any kind is allowed in here but there is plenty to look at including a display of the Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding dress and accessories.

Loads of people trying to get close – but I stand back and let them push and shove.  Even though the interior of Buck Pal is elegant and full of history, I can’t wait to get back outside in the fresh air and sunshine.  I think it has something to do with the crowds.

This is a view of the back of Buck Pal from around the other side of the lake.  The gardens are so refreshing with glimpses of buildings through the trees and every now and again there are water fowl and other birds just ambling around.  I wonder if Her Maj has time to relax wandering through these magnificent surrounds.

Of course at the exit there is the ever expected tourist shop.  Not your ordinary old tourist shop mind you – but one set up in tents that can be dismantled when the tourist season is over and life gets back to normal at The Palace.  Of course we browse the trinkets and royal regalia, make a small purchase and then back to the London streets and traffic.

Our ‘Royal Day Out’ ticket also entitles us to visit The Royal Mews which is located beside the Palace.  Established shortly after King George III purchased Buck Pal in 1760, It is the headquarters for the department of the Royal Household, which provides transport by road via both motor cars and horse-drawn carriages for The Queen and other members of the Royal Family.

There are some magnificent coaches – one of which is the Australian State Coach – definitely my favourite.  However, the most famous of the collection owned by the Royal Family is the magnificent Gold State Coach, which is only used for coronations or very special occasions, like the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002.

The fairy-tale coach was built in 1762 for King George III. It is gilded with 22 carat gold leaf and exquisitely decorated with sculptures of cherubs, tritons and dolphins. The panels on the carriage were painted by the Italian artist Giovanni Cipriani. The coach, 7 meters long, weighs four tonnes and is drawn by a span of eight horses. Is it any wonder that it is not used very often!

At the Royal Mews there is also the Royal Riding School and after having a good look around it is time to move on the second part of the day.

We get the Underground to Temple and walk past the Royal Courts of Justice commonly called the Law Courts. The building houses both the High Court and the Court of Appeal of England and Wales and was designed by George Edmund Street who died before it was completed.

The ‘usual’ entrance to Temple Church is blocked with scaffolding so we have to walk around and find another entrance.  This is a good thing as we get to see one of the places on Rick’s tour – Prince Henry’s room (left).  Not to mention one of London’s famous pub signs (centre) and around the corner the Knight Templar statue (right)-

Temple Church was the headquarters of The Knights Templar.  It is famous for its effigy tombs and for being a round church.  It was heavily damaged during WWII but has been largely restored.

The Knights Templar order was very powerful in England, with the Master of the Temple sitting in Parliament.  The independence and wealth of the order is considered by most historians to have been the primary cause of its eventual downfall.

In January 1215 William Marshall (who is buried in the nave next to his sons, under one of the 9 marble effigies of medieval knights there) served as a negotiator during a meeting in the Temple between King John and the Barons.  William swore on behalf of the King that the grievances of the Barons would be addressed in the Summer, leading to John’s signing of the Magna Carta in June.

These effigies of Knights are incredible.  Some are relatively recognizable – others in a total state of disrepair.  These photos are L-R The 1st Earl of Pembroke William Marshall who died in 1219; the 2nd Earl William Marshall died 1231; and the 4th Earl Gilbert Marshall died 1241.  To think that it is nearly 800 years ago that these people passed over.  Incredible!  Not only does Temple Church have all of this history, it has the distinction of playing a part in the movie The Da Vinci Code.

If you ever go to London you must visit Temple Church.  No excuses – just do it.

It is now time for our journey to commence with Rick Steves but we decide that we will just have a bit of a walk by ourselves.  Maybe this will be good – maybe not – but as we plan to spend the afternoon at The Tower and then back up again at 9.30pm for the Ceremony of the Keys (more about this later) it seems like a good plan.

I love The Tower.  Have I said that before?  OK, OK – now that I have your attention, did you know that The Tower was once used as a Royal Menagerie?

The first mention of wild animals being kept at the Tower of London comes from the reign of King John (1199-1216). After King John conceded territory in Normandy to Philip Augustus of France, three boatloads of exotic wild animals arrived in England by boat and ended up being housed in the safety and security of the royal fortress.

Today there is a display ‘Royal Beasts at the Tower’.  There are lions, monkeys etc all made of what looks like chicken wire frames covered with a grey dust/paint. Really interesting.  The afternoon seems to be getting away from us so it’s all systems go – the plan is for Tyler to see and enjoy as much as he can.

We hit the Byward Tower first up. The Byward Tower (above left) was built in the 13th century (1280) during the reign of King Henry III and later strengthened around 1381 during the reign of King Richard II. It is the gateway to the Outer Ward.

Next stop – the Medieval Palace.  The inside has been very well restored to how it was when Henry III and Edward I slept, dined and held court here.  Kings and Queens stayed here until the reign of Elizabeth I. In the centre photo is a replica of the throne of Edward I.

On the right is the Salt Tower. This was formerly called Julius Caesar’s Tower and contains more prisoners’ inscriptions than any other, except the Beauchamp Tower.  One of particular note is that of Michael Moody, who in 1587, recalls a plot to murder Queen Elizabeth.

The White Tower is the most important building in the Tower – it is the Keep of the castle.  The word ‘keep’ means ‘that which keeps or protects’ – it is the strongest and most secure part of the castle often used as a place of residence by the Lord of the Castle.

There is so much to see at The Tower but we are starting to feel the effects of the day.

We decide to have a bit of a rest and take in the views of Tower Bridge.  It is such a beautiful day.  In reality every day has been beautiful – even those days where we had a sprinkling of European liquid sunshine.   We will not be touring the Bridge – I did it a while back and it really was nothing special – it’s a ‘once is enough’ attraction.  Anyway, back to the Tower.

Time for some royal regalia – the Crown Jewels.  This exhibition never ceases to amaze me.  The jewels set in crowns, coronets, orbs etc.  Truly something to behold.  Of course no photos – that hasn’t changed and neither has the exhibition walkway.  You get on – it moves you around the treasures and you get off.  Although you can do this as many times as you want.  Another good thing is that there are attendants always keeping an eye on everyone and of course they answer any questions you might have.

Back in the fresh air – next we see where the heads of noble Englishmen and women were separated from their torsos – including two of good old Henry’s six Queens – #2  Anne Boleyn 1536 and #5 Katherine Howard 1542.  Unfortunately due to those feeble minded vandals who move amongst us – the original block has been removed and a new glass sculpture put in its place.

Call me crazy but it just doesn’t fit in does it?  I am glad I paid my respects to the original when I had the chance.  Time for the changing of the Guard near the Queens House.

No-one does pomp and ceremony better than the Brits.  Immaculate uniforms and shiny, shiny shoes; the two soldiers perform the routine and disappear back into barracks.

Our afternoon is at an end and it is time for us to ‘return to barracks’ and rest before coming back to The Tower for the Ceremony of the Keys.  The Ceremony is a 700 year old tradition that takes place every night. Essentially it’s locking all the doors to The Tower and the public are allowed to escort the warden as he performs the formal locking of the gates.  The Ceremony of the Keys has happened every night for around 700 years. Literally, they never miss a night because the Crown Jewels are housed here and you can’t leave the door open, can you?

We applied for our tickets months before coming over here as they book out really fast.  There is no charge – so that is definitely a bonus and at 9.30pm we line up.  Our names are called first so we move forward amid the dirty looks of everyone else.  We stand in a good spot (we think) and notice that there are older kids in the group – and blow me down if some 6 foot tourist idiot with no concern for anyone but himself doesn’t come and stand in front of us and one of the youngsters.  He is kidding right?  Nope.  We politely tell him to p*** off. He retreats to the back – a smart move.  There are no photos allowed during this ceremony and I am having an anxiety attack and because there are no photos I have found this for you on the web – I get tingles just reading it!

Every night, at exactly 21.52 (eight minutes to 10pm), the Chief Yeoman Warder of the Tower comes out of the Byward Tower, dressed in red, carrying a candle lantern in one hand and the Queen’s Keys in the other hand.  He walks to Traitor’s Gate to meet two/four members of the duty regiment Foot Guards who escort him throughout the ceremony. One soldier takes the lantern and they walk in step to the outer gate. All guards and sentries on duty salute the Queen’s Keys as they pass.

The Warder locks the outer gate and they walk back to lock the oak gates of the Middle and Byward Towers.  All three then return towards Traitor’s Gate where a sentry awaits them.

Sentry: “Halt, who comes there?”

Chief Yeoman Warder: “The Keys!”

Sentry: “Whose Keys?”

Warder: “Queen Elizabeth’s Keys.”

Sentry: “Pass Queen Elizabeth’s Keys and all’s well.”

All four men walk to the Bloody Tower archway and up towards the broadwalk steps where the main Guard is drawn up. The Chief Yeoman Warder and escort halt at the foot of the steps and the officer in charge gives the command to the Guard and escort to present arms.  The Chief Yeoman Warder moves two paces forward, raises his Tudor bonnet high in the air and calls “God preserve Queen Elizabeth.” The guard answers “Amen” exactly as the clock chimes 10pm (22.00) and ‘The Duty Drummer’ sounds The Last Post on his bugle.

The Chief Yeoman Warder takes the keys back to the Queen’s House and the Guard is dismissed.

At the end of the Ceremony we are escorted from The Tower and as it is about 10.30pm we head home once again.

Highlight of the day: The Ceremony of the Keys

The Ceremony of the Keys is the traditional locking up of the Tower of London and has taken place on each and every night, without fail, for at least 700 years. The importance of securing this fortress for the night is still very relevant because, although the Monarch no longer resides at this royal palace, the Crown Jewels and many other valuables still do! – See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/WhatsOn/theceremonyofthekeys#sthash.pLqhWP6W.dpuf

like to be a medieval king living at the Tower. The interior of the Medieval Palace has been richly restored to the opulent royal residence it would have been in medieval times, when Henry III and Edward I would have slept, dined and held court here.

The Medieval Palace is part of the Tower of London where kings and queens stayed until the reign of Elizabeth I. The restored interior includes replica furniture such as a bed, chests and chairs, and specially-commissioned textiles including rugs, cushions and wall-hangings, all hand-made using traditional skills – smells and sound effects evoking the medieval period have been commissioned too.

– See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/NewsAndMedia/Pressresources/tolpressresources/pressreleasemedievalTower#sthash.rstdPXGi.dpuf

like to be a medieval king living at the Tower. The interior of the Medieval Palace has been richly restored to the opulent royal residence it would have been in medieval times, when Henry III and Edward I would have slept, dined and held court here.

The Medieval Palace is part of the Tower of London where kings and queens stayed until the reign of Elizabeth I. The restored interior includes replica furniture such as a bed, chests and chairs, and specially-commissioned textiles including rugs, cushions and wall-hangings, all hand-made using traditional skills – smells and sound effects evoking the medieval period have been commissioned too.

– See more at: http://www.hrp.org.uk/NewsAndMedia/Pressresources/tolpressresources/pressreleasemedievalTower#sthash.rstdPXGi.dpuf

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