The Abbey, The Guard, The Palace And The Tea

For some reason I had it in my head (and I knew better!) there would be some time to just sit back and lolly-gag around London.  So far this has not been the case and today is no different.

To borrow literary syntax from Mr. Lewis, the coverage today takes in The Abbey, The Guard, The Palace And The Tea.  Sadly there may be less commentary (although some may feel that is a good thing 😉 )  due to no recording allowed by the tour guide (so he says) and fewer pictures as both the Abbey and the Palace do NOT allow photos.  The Abbey must have had some unseen force controlling my camera as there may be 1 or 2…albeit questionable in quality and content.  In the Palace however, cameras/cell phones and items of such nature must either remain in a pocket or be placed in a bag.  Foiled!

The west door façade of the Abbey was finished in the 1700’s but the actual church was founded in 960 and mostly finished by 1260 (don’t they have ANYthing new in this country??).  Inside, if you bypass the magnificent splendor that envelopes you (cuz…THAT’S easy to do), you find yourself surrounded by artifacts, burial sites, tombs and commemorations to literally thousands of people.  Well over 3,000 are actually buried here and many, many others have tributes paid to them.  Stephen Hawking (who, surprisingly, actually turned down a Knighthood) has his ashes (quite visibly) embedded into his marker on the floor of the Abbey.  Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton, numerous Kings and Queens over the ages…the list goes on and on, all buried or entombed inside The Abbey.

Here you could see (IF I could have taken a proper picture) the oil painting of Richard II, finished around 1395.  This is one of the few paintings that remain in public view all the time.  Many are not.

Over there is the actual coronation throne that has been used 38 times in the Abbey’s existence, most recently, of course, by Queen Elizabeth II.  It will certainly be used by her son Charles when the time comes although many in Britain hope William gets it instead.  And,everyone knows there is only one way that’s going to happen.

The coronation is an extremely complex and lengthy affair.  Over the course of 7 hours comes Recognition (kinda like at a wedding where the priest asks if there are objections), Oath (I promise to…), Anointing (actual pouring of oil on the body), the Coronation itself (here comes the VERY heavy and Very extravagant crown) and finally the Homage (the final prayer).

The Abbey is immense, both inside and out.  The architecture and artifacts are, alone, almost worthy of a trip to London.

Next we hustle over to watch the Changing of the Guard which happens 4 days a week, weather permitting (and presuming no other large events in the city center).  Unless you’re here WELL before starting time (11:00 A.M. sharp), watching it will prove challenging.  They are impressive in their synchronization and musical ability, as one would expect given who their boss is.  Best spot, by far, is under the Victoria Memorial immediately opposite the front gate of Buckingham Palace.  Oh yeah…this one is a freebie. 🙂

Now there is a bit of time for a light lunch before we meet again at the side of the Palace for our next tour.  Buckingham Palace is only open to the public when the Queen is NOT in residence (DAMN…there goes my selfie!!).  This amounts to 2 months of the year when one can go through 15 state rooms and be completely overwhelmed by wealth.

So let’s see…standard 3 bedroom bungalow would have: 3 bedrooms, maybe 2 bathrooms, a kitchen, a living room and let’s throw in a dining room.  Hmmm…only 8.  Ok, let’s add in the fully finished basement: another bedroom, a bathroom, a games room, a wine cellar, a laundry area, area for the furnace and an office-in-home.  There…15.

Oh…wait a minute.  Those state rooms are the only rooms open to the public.  AND you don’t get to even see all of them.  There are 19 in total.  The Palace has 775 rooms.  With 78 bathrooms, at least Phillip never has to wait very long.  Out of the 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, he and the Queen each have their own (after all he’s 97 and she’s 92 – what’s gonna happen?).  Staff are amply accommodated in their 188 bedrooms and work gets done in the 92 offices.  I’ll save you the trouble…that only adds up to 429.  There are a few other rooms I guess.

Her main formal dining room will seat, comfortably, 150 however she does have a smaller one for more intimate gatherings.  It will hold about 46.

I host a garden party (ok…it’s CLOSE to my garden) each year for a select 10 people.  The Queen can have, and has had, garden parties in Her back yard for 8,000.  Glad I don’t have to cook for them, I get enough feedback already. 🙂

What about art, you ask.  Well…we certainly didn’t see it all.  Not sure a week in London is long enough to view the over 1 million pieces in entire collection.  Obviously not all are on display at any one time, and not all are at the Palace, however the pieces we saw range from finger size to room size and everything in-between.  Impressive?  Maybe not the most complete term, but it is marginally adequate.

Ok…time for Afternoon Tea.  After all, go to London, visit the Palace, The Abbey and the Guard, and NOT do tea?

One of the (if not THE) most expensive hotels in London is the Savoy.  Afternoon Tea there will set you back £68.  Per person.  Today that’s about $116 CDN.  And, don’t forget, men must wear a proper suit and tie and ladies must in appropriate gowns.  Not going to happen.  We went to St. Ermin’s hotel.  It’s part of our tour, but on its own, tea is £29 per person (about $50).  Not sure how much better the Savoy is going to have to really be for the over doubling in price.  This hotel is really very, very nice.  And the Afternoon Tea was superb.

On the table, beside the wonderful layout, were 2 menus.  One was for a selection of teas that most I have never heard of.  I selected Oriental Sencha which is mixture of papaya and mango (and other things that make tea, tea).  The other wasn’t really a menu.  It was a description of all the goodies that were about to come our way.  Finger sandwiches, scones with jam and clotted cream, and more sweet delicacies than I really needed.  But…hey, I’ll take one for the team.

All around a splendid day.  The weather held, the eyes were smitten, the mind significantly flabbergasted – mission accomplished I would say.

Certainly more to come as tomorrow (Sept. 13) we cruise again…on a appreciably smaller boat.

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