Thursday, 4 October 2012

Our London Trip, Day two

(The first picture in a long time that I have liked of myself! I thought I would share it with you.)

I don't think I slept very much at all after our evening of wine and song at the Savoy Hotel.  I think I was too excited from everything that we had experienced.  I'm a bit of an insomniac anyway, so this was nothing new!  I did finally get to sleep in the end though . . . we wanted to get up fairly early because our hotel stay included free breakfasts, and breakfast ended at 10:00 am so we wanted to be up in time to take advantage of this perk!

I have to say the Park Hotel International, which is where we stayed, really was a lovely hotel.  We got our room at a very good price as well, because we had booked well in advance on  Our room was clean and comfortable, and all of the staff were very helpful and pleasant.  Their breakfasts were lovely too.  It was a breakfast buffet and every morning there was lots to choose from, including scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, hash-browns, fresh fruit,  muesli and other cereals, yoghurt, sliced cheeses, cold sliced meats, fresh croissants and other French pastries, rolls, toast, French Toast, fresh fruit juices, etc..  Really, if you couldn't find something to eat at that buffet, there would have been something very wrong with you!

After our leisurely breakfast we took a walk down Cromwell Road to the Natural History Museum.  On the way we passed by Baden Powell House, and I just couldn't resist taking a photograph of the statue out front of Baden Powell.  I was a Brownie and a Girl Guide when I was growing up and they were a very important part of my younger years.  This valuable organization taught me a lot of things and I am forever grateful for that and to Lord Baden Powell.


Just a block away was the Natural History Museum.  We had been there before, when we lived down in Kent, but we just couldn't resist going again.  It is a museum that you don't mind visiting time and time again, and you could never see all that there is inside to see in a day, so repeat visits are a must.  It's also free, as are all of the museums in London, so it's a great day out for a singleton, a couple, or a family.

The building itself is a masterpiece in architecture and beauty.  I could stand out side and gaze at it for hours and hours.  It is a mix of magic and amazing wonder, with stone gargoyles which are animals, and beautiful brickwork, turreted roofs etc.

I apologize for all of the pictures of it that I took, but it is just such an amazing building that I wanted to get it from every angle!

I just find it to be breathtakingly beautiful.  I don't know how old it is, or who built it, but I think it is just amazing . . .

I didn't get very many nice pictures inside it unfortunately, not like I did on the outside.  I don't think I had the right setting on my camera, but never mind, we enjoyed it very much, as we had done previously.

Right from the life sized dinosaur skeleton Diplodocadus that you see when you enter the great hall, the Natural History Museum is a wonderful mix of amazement and sight, texture, sound and smell.

There is everything in this museum . . . mammal exhibits . . . a fabulous Dinosaur exhibit, and hundreds of other things to see and do.

You could literally spend all day in there and still not see it all.  One of my favourite things has always been the Dinosaur exhibition and I think it's a real favourite with the kiddos too.  It's very well done, informative and interesting to all ages.

My favourite bit is this . . .

It's a life sized mechanized model of the Tyrannosaurus Rex!  And boy oh boy, it's scary and eerily realistic!!  There were some very frightened kids in there.  It's so real looking.  I am glad I didn't live back in those days!

After that we finished there, we picked up a couple of sandwiches and went back to our hotel room to rest our legs for another walk.  That afternoon we had big plans to walk down to Kensington Palace, which wasn't very far away either.  (Our hotel was really ideally located!)

It is a place that I had always wanted to go to when we lived down South and one that we had never gotten to.   It's a place of secret stories and public lives.  Built as a home for William lll and his wife Mary ll at the end of the 17th century, Kensington Palace has long been a stage for the drama of the nation's history.

It was filled to overflowing with history and houses several tours that you can follow . . .

The King's State Apartments, Tour 1.  You climb the magnificent King's staircase, where Georgian courtiers peer down from William Kent's spectacular design.  The rooms are impressively decorated and sumptuous, each one seemingly grander than the last, leading to the court where the fortunate and the determined might come face to face with the king.

The ceiling in this room is magnificent.  Painted by William Kent in 1723, it shows Mars, the Roman God of War,  and Minerva, the Goddess of wisdom, surrounded by emblems representing the arts and sciences.  In the centre of the room is a clock, a music box that plays Handel and an impressive artwork to boot, with the pictures on the sides depicting four monarchies from antiquity!  Simply amazing.

Tour 2 is the Queen's State Apartments.  These were a lot plainer and much more low-key than the King's apartments, both inside and out.  These cosy, private rooms were used by Queen Mary ll for relaxation.  This is where she enjoyed spending time with her husband and ladies in waiting, away from the hustle and bustle of the court.  Later inhabitants continued this intimate theme.

Beautiful and fashionable Mary arrived in London and was crowned Queen at the age of 28.  Her husband William (also her cousin) was twice her age and suffered from chronic asthma.  Apparently she cried for days after hearing that she was to marry him, but they became a loving couple.  The above display of birds which you can see in the Queen's Gallery was inspired by the song birds which Mary kept in the gallery in velvet trimmed cages.  I am glad that these were only models because I hate to see a bird in a cage.

Tour 3 was Victoria Revealed.  This exhibition allowed us to explore the story of the woman behind the crown in the very rooms where Queen Victoria grew up.  A permanent display, we got to explore Victoria's life from her lonely childhood at the palace to her final years.

This is the wedding gown that she wore when she married Prince Albert.   I think of all the Queen's, Victoria's is a legacy that we all are quite familiar with, and one which has long fascinated me.  I could spend ages writing about all that was included in this exhibition, and never do it justice.  It was my favourite part of the palace.

This was a portrait of Princess Louise, one of Victoria's daughters that I especially liked.

Tour 4 was the Modern Royals.  I think the exhibit on Princess Diana was my favourite, beginning with this beautiful portrait of her at the entrance.  I loved Princess Diana and my heart broke for her through the years.  She was to me an amazing woman, and I think she brought a much needed "human" touch to the royal family.  I am sure other's would argue that she was a nuisance to the royal family, but one only has to look at all the good that she did to see that she was truly a magnificent woman and a fabulous role model.

The wall paper on the hallway was brilliantly colourful and depicted delicate portraits of the Princess taken from iconic photographs taken of her during her lifetime.

Diana Princess of Wales in Vanity Fair, 1997

What a beautiful woman she was . . . I never tire of reading about her or seeing photos of her.  Inside this exhibition was several of her gowns and dresses, which I easily recognized from having seen her out and about.  Unfortunately my photos turned out too dark to be of much good, but here is one I found on my favourite site,  Pinterest.

She was a very tall woman!  I was quite astonished.  I had never imagined her as being as tall as she must have been from the impression given by these lovely gowns.

After that we decided to take a rest in the cafe with a hot drink.  The rain was just bucketing down by then and so we never got to go through the gardens, which I had really wanted to do, or into the Orangery, which has a fabulous tea room.  We did meet a really fabulous American lady though, (we shared our table with her) and passed an hour away in delightful conversation.  She was from Oregon and was over here getting her daughter settled into the London School of Art and Design.  I just love meeting new people, don't you??

After that, once the rain had stopped, we walked down to the Kensington High Street where we enjoyed a lovely supper at Prezzo.  I had vouchers for our meal from Tesco, so it didn't cost us a penny.  Neither did our visit to Kensington Palace, as I had vouchers for that as well.  Did you know you can turn your vouchers in for days out tokens and meal tokens??  I didn't before this trip.  They actually double in price, which is great!  All of our meals and sight seeing experiences we had this past weekend in London were actually courtesy of Tesco's!  You can't beat that!

Kensington, England

After that we wandered back to our hotel.  It was a slow walk as my knees, hip and ankles were greatly protesting by that point, but I did it!  Kensington is a really beautiful area of London.  We fell into bed absolutely exhausted after the day we had spent, but it was a really good exhausted.

I'll close now with a quote from Queen Victoria, given as she said a fond farewell to Kensington Palace in 1837 as she moved to Buckingham Palace to take her place on the throne.  (Tomorrow day three!!)

"It is not without feelings of regret that I shall bid adieu forever, to this my birth-place.  I have seen my dear sister married here, I have seen many of my dear relations here, I have had pleasant balls and delicious concerts here . . . I have held my first Council here too!  I have gone through painful and disagreeable scenes here, 'tis true, but still I am fond of the poor old Palace."

Over in The English Kitchen today I am talking about bread and The World's Best BLT sandwich!

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