On our last day in London, my mother and I prioritized on observing the traditions that make Great Britain… British. Since the Changing of the Guard ceremony is every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday during the winter (opposed to the daily routine in summer months), today would be the only day on the trip where we’d have the opportunity to see it.
On our last day in London, my mother and I prioritized on observing the traditions that make Great Britain... British. Since the Changing of the Guard ceremony is every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday during the winter (opposed to the daily routine in summer months), today would be the only day on the trip where we'd have the opportunity to see it.
Waking Up Real Bucking[ham] Early
Since the Changing of the Guard is one of the biggest tourist attractions, we wanted to arrive early to camp and get a great view. There are many spots to view the whole ceremony, as the parade route spans between Buckingham Palace, St. James Palace, and Wellington Barracks. Despite the high number of places that the ceremony can be seen, it's just as important to arrive early to snag a great spot.
We arrived two hours before the ceremony was slated to begin; to our luck, we got front row "seats" across from the Victoria Memorial (note that everything is standing-room only). As time ticked, the crowd thickened. The increase in Metropolitan Police signaled that the ceremony was about to start. At a quarter 'til 11, horses carrying the Household Calvary trotted on by from the left of our vantage point (backs toward Buckingham Palace facing Victoria Memorial). Several minutes later, the last horse crossed the large gates and crowd chatter creshendoed. Big Ben chimed eleven times, signaling the start of the actual ceremony. Shortly after, guards in grey coats paraded in unison, wrapping around the east side of the memorial.
Now wait a minute... where were the "red coats" that everyone talks about? During the winter months or cold weather, the Queen's Guard wear thicker, grey coats. I was hoping to see some red as it wasn't that cold out, but I'll save that for my next visit.
Once the group of guards beyond the gates of the Palace, the crowd performed an about-face and gathered along the fence - we were now at the back of the mob... the ceremony was near an end, and the new guard took his position. While waiting for the crowd to part, I stared at the new guards in front of their post. They paced back and forth, beaming at the gazing crowd. Occasionally, they'd stop to make eye-to-eye contact with the audience, leaned forward, and would stamp their feet. We watched for about fifteen minutes before making the trek to our next stop - Buckingham Square.
Big Ben Chiming In
A short-mile walk along Birdcage Walk from Buckingham Palace led us past Westminster Abbey to Westminster Square. This was one of my favorite spots of the whole trip. It felt like a giant courtyard - a place to sit down and unwind. My mother's legs have gotten sore from walking over the past few days, so we had stopped for a break. Well... she mainly did; I wandered off to take some pictures of Big Ben, Parliament from a not-common angle, and Westminster Abbey. We easily spent a couple of hours in the area, observing the architecture and people-watching. When the clock struck 2 o'clock, we were ready to check out the rest of London. With our legs extremely sore, we agreed that the best way to explore the city was by one of those cliched tour-double-deckers.
— Big Ben (@big_ben_clock) February 24, 2017
Bus Ride Around London
The last hours of daylight were spent on the roof of a tour bus. And did our legs thank us for that. The bus took us up and down the streets of Westminster and [Old] London. We cruised past Trafalgar Square, the London Eye, across and back the River Thames, Covent Garden, Tower of London, Tower Bridge... all without having to hop off. We had been relying on The Underground the past two days - and to its credit, the Underground took us where we wanted to go, but a single line on a tour bus did the job without all of the work.
The sun was setting by the end of our "victory lap" around London. I wanted to get a picture of the London Eye at some point along the route. When I spotted it for a brief second, I was in for a surprise... I captured something else along with it, making this my favorite photo I took in London.
After the sunset, we retreated back to our hotel for a quick nap. Energized once again, I set out to the streets, tripod in hand, and wanted to capture some final shots of my favorite attractions at night. Like many others, London has a place in my heart, and I'm already planning my next trip to explore museums and visit attractions outside the city... until then, it's onward to Paris.