Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens and Palace

Trip Start Apr 25, 2012
Trip End May 12, 2012

Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Up later today, I had just finished breakfast when Adrian called and we made arrangements to meet at the Maidenhead Station at noon unless I call him otherwise.   At some point I should think about getting a cell phone that I could use with sim cards in foreign countries.  The meeting arrangement works out well because I can go to Paddington Station and pick up my ticket for friday.

A bit more organizing and I was out by 10 am on my way to Hyde Park and Kensington Palace and Gardens.  I took the #73 bus and got off on Oxford Street - a main shopping venue.  That bus is great - it goes to all the tourist places that I want to go to.  I found a Pret a Porter and had an early lunch of mushroom soup and panini.  Then I walked to the Marble Arch and entered Hyde Park.  From there I went to the Serpentine - the long, narrow lake in the park.  I passed a set-up for a breast cancer walk-a-thon on the way with lots of pink flags.

At the Serpentine, a young couple asked me where we were on the map (that we were standing in front of) because they wanted to get to Peter Pan and, while I tried to figure this out, they did and set off.  I looked at the map and set off in the other direction because it was on the far side of the lake.  On the way I saw the Lido (beach) and some nesting swans with babies, Princess Caroline's Temple, Princess Diana's fountain, and maybe something else.  A nice young man looked Peter Pan up on his cell phone when I got confused about where it was since I didn't have a map except a vague one in my head.  It was smaller than I thought but I took some photos anyway.  I had already taken a bunch of photos of the park and was on my last Nikon battery.

From there I went to the Italian Garden in the Kensington Garden part of the park.  I forgot to mention that it had sprinkled a bit so I kept taking out my raincoat and putting it on and then taking it off.  It was also cold and windy - rather nasty weather all in all.  I mentioned to Astrid that I now knew why the British drink so much tea - it is to try to get warm.

From the Italian Garden I sought the warmer, drier indoors of the Kensington Palace.  I had kept seeing signs that they were "transforming" the palace and that they had some magical palace substitute, but when I got to the gate I saw that it was reopened so I was in luck.  The ticket was pretty pricey but included a small donation so I chose not to worry about it.  I thought I saw something that said you get to see 4 rooms but it is more like 4 sets of rooms:  the King's quarters, the Queen's quarters including the Red State Room, the nursery area, and the Princess Diana rooms. 

I first saw the Princess Diana rooms that exhibited 5 of her dresses.  Then I sort of stumbled upon the King's quarters in reverse order.  I enjoyed the paintings and the ornate ceiling paintings.  There was something going on with playing cards that I didn't really understand and there was writing in various places that I didn't always read - to my detriment.  The presentation also including recorded whispering and talking in undercurrents that I don't make out most of the time.  Maybe it was too modern for me.  Then I read a sign that said to ask staff to let you into the Queen's quarters so I did that but I think it only applied to disabled people.  So I think I got into the Queen's quarters in reverse order too or at least not in the intended order.  There was a heavy emphasis on Queen Victoria with photos of her as a child and young woman.  There was also a portrait of Queen Anne with her young son, the only one of her 17 children to survive infancy.  He, however, died when he was around 11, so she was left heirless and the title went to the Hanovers of Germany.  The Red Room was impressive with a spot light on the throne and a painting of young Victoria with all the male leaders.

There was opulence of course, but it wasn't that offensive and I think I became more sympathetic to the royal family and reigning kings, queens, princes and princesses because they had some of the same problems as regular people.  I checked out the gift shop and bought more overpriced postcards.  I should make an effort to send some out from here.

Once back outside, it seemed to be raining harder so I even got out my umbrella.  Astrid said she was out in a hail storm and at one point I would have sworn that the rain sounded solid.  I continued to play with my raincoat - on and off - as the sun shone and then the rain and wind came.  As I went off to find the Albert Memorial, I walked through a flower garden.  I can't remember exactly whether it was here or elsewhere, but I tried to take a photo of some bluebells and thought I should move this plant in front that looked like mint, only with bigger leaves.  When I touched the plant, I immediately retracted my hand because of the sting.  Then the pain got worse.  Right now, hours later, my finger still feels funny - almost as if it were burned.  I am thinking this was probably stinging nettle.  I have never encountered anything like it before although I thought I had been in contact with it at home.

The Prince Albert Memorial was quite impressive - very high and shining with gold.  Across the street is the Royal Albert Hall - a concert hall with a large rotunda and 12 entrance doors.  Even though I got into the lobby and the ticket office was open, I didn't try to look inside.  I liked the building.  I walked back along the other side of the Serpentine to the Marble Arch.  I stopped to take some photos of the various types of ducks, the swans, and some coots swimming in the water and flapping their wings and chasing each other.

The bus ride back to Astrid's flat took over an hour but wasn't crowded at all.  Astrid was home working on uploading her Jordan trip photos.  I started on this blog and Astrid made dinner and we chatted.  She needed to get to bed early because she is still catching up on her sleep from her trip and steady stream of guests. 

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