Monday, August 31, 2009

Vacation: Day 3: London: Even the police are confused

Initially, we'd planned to watch the changing of the guard with Tea's extended family, followed by the Notting Hill Festival in the afternoon. Once we got down to Buckingham Palace, however, we learned that it had been cancelled for the day, and decided to tour the estate rooms of the palace instead. Everything from the ticket – which looked more like an invitation to a fancy do – to the free audio tour was perfectly executed; we all thoroughly enjoyed it. The art collection alone was impressive; I recall a Rembrandt in particular – The Shipbuilder and His Wife – as simply breathtaking. There were a number of scenes of St. Mark's Square in Venice as well, and many portraits, of course.

Two other comments about the palace: the room off the music room – the Blue Room, I believe – had a secret passage behind a mirror to allow the Queen to receive guests without traipsing through all the various rooms; it was something right out of an Agatha Christie novel. And, finally, I got to see the gilded pucks that Rocket Richard and the Montreal Canadiens gave the Queen as a gift. Speaking of gifts, at the Gift Shop we learned that we could use our ticket stubs to sign up for free access to the estate rooms for a year, which is great 'cause I know we'll be back, probably with visitors in tow.

We had a quick snack in Green Park that was notable for the delicious beverage I had with it (see right); and then it was off to the Notting Hill Festival. We'd been told that Sunday was the better of the two days to attend, as things tended to get out of hand of the Monday, and it seemed like others took that advice; it took us a couple of tries to squeeze on a Central line train to the namesake station. (I have video of the crowds leaving the station – to say nothing of my festival footage – that I'll have to upload when I'm back on land.)

What can I say about the festival itself? It isn't to be believed, when it comes down to it. Truly, it's a marvel. I gather it's the second biggest street festival in the world, with crowds in excess of two million each year; I don't think this year was any exception either. One thing to note about my pictures: at no point did we double back; every shot of a crowd you see is made up of different folks. Mind boggling, really. As you can imagine, it wasn't easy getting out either. In fact, we were correcting information the bobbies gave us at one point. “Nobody knows what's goin' on!” one replied. But we survived, and had the time of our lives. And get this: the topper? Sunday carvery just around the corner from our hotel. Absolutely delicious.

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