on September 6, 2010
We booked this visit on lastminute.com. and paid £17 for me and a concession was £15. Just be aware though if you buy your ticket on line or through an agent then you can only use the ticket once. If you buy it from the ticket office at Buckingham Palace you can convert it into an annual ticket at no extra charge and use it all that season. They don’t tell you that on line and we only discovered this when we got to the ticket office at Buckingham Palace. All that we got from lastminute.com was a voucher which had to be taken to the ticket office and changed into a proper ticket with 2 cannot be converted into an annual pass" stamped on it. The official opening hours are 27 July - 1 October 2010 and tours go almost constantly from 09:45-18:00 with the last admission at 15:45. We were booked for the 3pm session and so we arrived, as we always do, with oodles of time to spare. After we had taken as many photos as we felt were necessary we headed to the left hand side of the palace to the ticket office area. There were many rather confusing signs and it was not especially clear what you were meant to do. We showed one person our voucher who told us we had to go to the ticket office to change it to a proper ticket. That was relatively painless as we were fast tracked past all the other people waiting to purchase tickets and so it took about 5 minutes to do this. Should you want to buy tickets from here I would suggest you buy them a day or so before you need then just to make sure as they do get very busy at times.They allow you in to the waiting area only minutes before your tour departs. Once through the waiting area where you go through a security check similar to that at an airport then you are handed your personal audio guide and pointed in the right direction. No photography is permitted in the palace but you can take photos for personal use only in the garden area. Mobile phones must also be switched off all the time you are in the actual palace. The tour is a self guided one using the personal audio guide which was actually very efficient and an interesting commentary.Initially you are taken to the point where you can see the private quarters and the business section of the palace across the courtyard. Then you are turned and taken into the State rooms and more public areas of the palace. These are the areas used for meeting and greeting dignitaries and also the sections where those invited for the garden parties at the palace pass through. Although these are not private quarters they are not open to the public at any time it is only during August and September when The Queen makes her annual visit to Scotland that the Palace's nineteen state rooms are open to paying visitors.Everywhere is really sumptuous. The rooms are enormous and the decor is elaborate to say the least.The paintings were like a gallery with examples from Holbein Rembrandt, Rubens, Poussin and Canaletto to name only those I remember there was a sculpture by Canova and so many exquisite examples of Sèvres porcelain.The furniture was amazing with some similar to those I saw in the palace of Versailles and obviously of French origin while others were some of the finest English furniture I have ever seen. I suppose they don’t get used as such and they are really being preserved as museum and collectors pieces. It must all be worth a fortune.I was really interested in seeing the room where the queen performs the ceremony of knighting people. The sword used for the purpose on also on display. It is actually quite small but then she is tiny so it couldn’t be too big. At one end there were the throne chairs where the Queen sits prior to performing the ceremony.My favourite rooms were those overlooking the beautiful gardens. One was an enormous dining room with huge table and quite a lot of this elaborate porcelain on display. The ceilings were not just blank canvases either. These were decorated with many designs and painted with crests and emblems and some embellished with gold trimmings too.Apart from the experience of the state rooms we were also able to see a special exhibition which was a first this year which went through the Queens’s year and gave a good insight into the principal national and ceremonial events in the Queen’s year.This Display showed ceremonial robes, gifts, uniforms, dresses and jewellery of the Queen. I couldn’t get over how tiny she must be as her dresses were minute. There was also some very interesting archive photography and film You got a very good idea of the pageantry, tradition and ceremony of the State Opening of Parliament, the historic Garter Day ceremony at Windsor Castle which I had never heard of before this exhibition. There was a recording of a high ranking officer explaining how proud soldiers were when they were invited to take part in the Trooping the Colour. As I am not a big Royal family follower and I am not very well informed about all the pomp and ceremony that goes along with the Royal family I did find this was quite interesting.Once you leave the actual palace and arrive at the terrace café area you are requested not to hang around on the steps. You can go into the café which is on the West Terrace overlooking the Palace's famous lawn and lake. This is where those lucky enough to get invited enjoy the wonderful garden parties while dressed in all their finery. For the paying visitor there is the opportunity to enjoy this view from the café while sipping your cup of coffee or afternoon tea. The Garden Café is open throughout the Palace's visiting hours, 09:45-18:00 with the last admission to the café at 15:45.If you choose not to visit the café or after you leave the café you head down the stairs and past the Lavatories and baby-care facilities which are in marquee type buildings. The inevitable shop selling hugely overpriced stuff is also here. So if you feel you are going to want to buy a souvenir then bring your credit card or a bulging wallet.On leaving the shop you then walk along the path through the gardens and passed several benches where you can sit and admire the gardens or people watch or enjoy an ice cream from the ice cream from the kiosk situated about half way along the path as you leave the palace gardens.Visitors with disabilitiesBaby prams and pushchairs are not allowed in the palace and must be left at the entrance and reclaimed at the exit. And there are baby-carriers are available for loan.If you have trouble walking then I would suggest that this tour could be hard work. You walk a long way and there are several sets of stairs to climb up and own. Once out of the palace you have to walk quite some way though the gardens before you leave the grounds. Most of the walking is on flat ground and is wheel chair friendly and of course you can get your pushchair back for the garden area to make it a bit easier if you have carried your baby around all the rooms.At the front of the PalaceIf you have come to London to visit the palace and have not ever watched the Changing of the Guard then this is a must see event and it takes place at 11:30 daily from May until the end of July and on alternate days for the rest of the year, weather permitting. The times are a bit flexible but they are usually posted somewhere to the side of the palace on a board. In 2010 the days in August on odd numbered dates and in September on even numbered dates. Is it worth a visit?I would say a resounding, yes. The Royal family is struggling financially and they need all the £15+ they can get. Seriously though, it is an amazing place and well worth the visit. It really is not that expensive compared to similar places like Chatsworth and you get a good half days entertainment for the price. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and found it all mind blowingly opulent and worthy of Royalty. It is well worth a visit once but I would not feel the need to go again.
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