on April 3, 2007
London has many years of history and many long standing traditions are still very much alive - one of these is the ceremonial Changing of the Guard. It takes place daily from April to July and on alternate days the rest of the year at 11:30am. Dates and information are available on the website. It is free and is not ticketed so if you want to see the ceremony properly, you will need to get there early.The ceremony lasts 45 minutes and takes place inside the railings of the forecourt of Buckingham Palace. If you want a good view, you need to be there at least 1 hour early and position yourself near the railings. If you are not firmly anchored here you will miss most of the proceedings.We arrived about 11:15am - we did not think it would be a great idea to hang around with a 3 year old for an hour in advance. We got a reasonable view of the regimental band and footguards marching down the Mall and into the Palace gates. We stayed put for 45 minutes and then watched the bands and the old guard march out of the Palace. In hindsight we could have had a stroll around and come back 45 minutes later, as by this time most of the crowds had dispersed and you could get a good view anywhere.Buckingham Palace is an impressive building - one of the most famous "homes" in the world. It is massive with over 600 rooms. During the summer months you can go on tours of some of the state rooms. During our visit the Royal Standard was not flying above the Palace - the Queen was thus not at home.Not far from Buckingham Palace is Hyde Park - 34 acres of green and a popular recreational and resting haven for tourists and locals. It was at one time the hunting grounds of King Henry VIII.We got there Sunday lunchtime and went to Speakers Corner at the north east corner of the park. Since 1855 a British tradition has been for people to get on their "soapbox" and air their views here. Anyone can get up and sound off on any subject. The only rules are that you cannot blaspheme, be obscene or incite a riot. It is quite a lively and different place to visit. The crowds heckle the speakers, but most of the speakers have nothing very interesting to say.The banks of the Serpentine in Hyde Park are a lovely place to stroll on a Sunday afternoon. There are people rollerblading and horse riding and you can hire boats and go out on the lake. There is a really nice cafe/restaurant at the lakeside. It was full of families enjoying Sunday lunch. The food was very good, but as usual pricey - around £5 for a bowl of soup. There is a nice area outside with picnic style tables. We loved sitting here with our food and looking at the lake.
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