Queen’s Greatest Bits II

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It’s another day-out with friends – this time, we’re heading for Buckingham Palace, meeting Roy and Susan.

That Familiar View
..and something less familiar

So, we headed off to London (via Huntingdon Station) by train, for the 12.30 Palace Tour. We’re choosing Huntingdon these days over Bedford and Kettering simply because: there’s more trains; the tickets are cheaper and the parking is a lot easier.

We had an excellent journey down to the capital, and even had time for a quick coffee near Green Park Tube before meeting our friends at Noon.

Last time we did the Palace Tour was back in September, 2013, with Roger, Jane and Oliver, but it doesn’t seem that long ago! This time, on arrival, ‘Holding Pen C’ was where we waited, and it just as busy as I remember it – MANIC! Although I already knew that no photos were allowed INSIDE the Palace, I didn’t expect to get a telling-off by one of the Officials for snapping the above shot! 😠 Fascist!

Queuing, that age-old pastime of us Brits, was clearly in evidence (even in such royal surroundings) but we more-or-less got in on time, eager to see her Majesty’s best bits for the second time – but before that, there were some (naturally) super-stringent security protocols to get through. The frisking all went very smoothly, as the security teams are clearly a ‘well-oiled machine’ here!

As no photography is allowed, it’s difficult to illustrate how splendid it all was inside. If you’re not a lover of conspicuous wealth, ‘Buck House’ won’t float your boat, but all four of our vessels were way out to sea! Each year, to add variety to the experience, there’s always a one-off exhibition: for 2019, it featured Queen Victoria and her impact on the Palace.

The paintings, the architecture, the sculptures, the furniture – everything – was simply magnificent (without being blingy!) and it paid to look UP as often as looking AROUND to fully appreciate the detailed design and layout. Overall, it easily showed that no expense had been spared on the splendour of this working royal household.

The tour took around two hours and was helped enormously by the comprehensive digital AV Guide that was supplied free of charge – not just sound but slide-shows as well on its mini-screen. An added bonus (that we don’t think was around on our first visit) allowed infinite revisits to the Palace within 12 months for free providing your admission paperwork was officially stamped – all done on the way-out without fuss.

Things we learned about Buckingham Palace:
– Most of its current design is down to Queen Victoria and Albert
– Architect John Nash was responsible for the design
– Victoria and Albert moved in durng 1837
– The eastern part of the building (with the famous balcony) was an add-on
– the Palace was originally called Buckingham House
– some of the contents came from Osbourne House on the Isle of Wight
– There are over 700 rooms
– The building and grounds covers about 40 acres

After all that culture, our next stop was The Garden CafΓ©, where we tucked into some royal coffee and cake.

Officially ‘Royal’!

Suitably and royally refreshed, we headed for the Gift Shop…

…and The Royal Collection Shop was not your average ‘tat outlet’! There was plenty of high quality merchandise on display…

…well, maybe apart from the stuffed corgis! Everyone say: “Ahhh!”πŸ˜‰

It was now getting on for 3.30 and with our Afternoon Tea booked for 4pm at Brasserie Max at the Covent Garden Hotel, we need to get a move on. We could have walked-it with a few minutes to spare, but we opted for a taxi instead – and one of the new electric Black Cabs that are becoming much more popular in the capital.

Cabs go electric! Photographer: Luke MacGregor/Bloomberg. More details here

It was a silky smooth and very quiet ride. And how very modern: with free wi-fi on-board and a card-payment machine in the rear for passengers’ convenience. There was also much more leg-room than an ICE-Cab, with a massive panoramic sunroof too! A very good travelling experience! However, as advanced as it was, it still couldn’t dodge the congestion in London – and we arrived for Afternoon Tea in about the same time as it would have taken us to walk! πŸ€”

We were soon shown to our table and the menus followed…

Afternoon Tea is served

Our friend Valerie had recommended the location – and we weren’t to be disappointed…

Mountains of food followed where the only constraint was the size of our table! The steak sandwich was to die for and the raspberry jam was bursting with flavour! Service was initially slow, but picked-up as we picked up the pace attempting to eat everything in sight! 😁

We did well, and an hour-and-a-quarter later, after a teapot-refill and an additional pale-ale, the only evidence left from our original order was a solitary cake. Luckily for our waistlines, the ‘free sandwich topup’ that on Ann’s previous visit had been part of the deal, had now been withdrawn – but in truth, we were all stuffed! πŸ˜‹

We paid our dues and walked to nearby Leicester Square Tube where were soon on our journey to Kings Cross. Ahh, the joy of travelling on the Tube on a Friday night at peak-time – I’d quite forgotten how manic it can get. And it was! Standing room only all the way!

Phew!

We said our goodbyes at Kings Cross and headed for our respective Platforms – Roy and Susan for Platform 0 (yes, really! Why? read this) whilst we walked to Platform 8. It had been a great day in the capital and Buckingham Palace had wowed us all. The Afternoon Tea was the perfect way to end the day and we’d recommend it to anyone (thanks Val!). We’d also managed walk more than we normally do in a single day. Result! 😁

Family Weekend

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Roger, Jane and Oliver joined us for the weekend! 😁

Saturday

The last signs of Summer 2019?

The main event for today was a picnic at Belton House and then a walk around the historic Mansion and Gardens. I think it’s our most oft-visited stately home having been there recently (ish) with with Dennis and Sandra back in May, 2018 and Chris and Gill in July, 2017.

On arrival, the weather was disappointing to say the least (Summer’s not quite over surely???) Oliver was sporting shorts and I was in a short-sleeved shirt. Consequently, both of us were woefully ill-dressed for the conditions – a plummeting temperature followed by rain! β˜” β˜”

1.00pm: However, It didn’t stop us enjoying our picnic though, as we sandwiched ourselves between ‘Robert‘ and the car next door to act as a wind-break! Brrrrr! 😁

1.55pm: I think the c*** weather made us eat more quickly, and we soon made a significant dent in Ann’s extensive picnic.

As soon as we’d cleared up our bits, we headed straight for the House. Word to the wise: Since our previous visit, there’s been one major change here! ALL VISITS ARE NOW TIMED, so it’s not just a case of turning-up and hoping to get in straight away. But, as it happened, it was perfect timing on our part, as there were five slots on the very next admission – the 2.15!

2.10pm: We’re in! 😁

Given our previous visits, from a photo point-of-view, I decided to concentrate on the less well-known/seen pieces on show inside, together with less obvious views of the property and surroundings.

3.05pm: Time for a cuppa, especially as the damp weather from earlier had returned, but this time it was torrential!

A quick, but determined sprint to the nearby tea-shop got us more-or-less to the front of the queue (followed by the rest of mankind) and we were soon seated in the Stables enjoying our cuppa and cake!

3.35pm: Next stop was the Gardens where the weather, perfectly on cue turned from rain to warm sunshine! 😁 At last!

Beautiful!
Ditto!

4.00pm: Our final stop was St Peter & St Paul Church aka Belton Church.

Belton Church

4.20pm: A great visit! (again!) 😁. Even the weather didn’t really spoil our visit (even though it looked like it would!). We wandered back to the car and headed south.

Ooo, there’s creative! 😊

All of today’s photos at Belton House (with none of my chat) are HERE

6.15pm: It was a good journey home and we were indoors by 5.45. By 6.15, Ann had laid the table for a yummy table-buffet. All that was left to do was to choose a movie for the evening…

Excellent choice!
Bohemian Rhapsody (courtesy of Sky Store): Even better than I remember it the first time around in the cinema πŸ‘
9.45pm: And what could be better than a good film to finish the evening? The answer? two films! Choice-wise, the consensus was Thor: Ragnarok (in 4k DVD). Although it’s not my favourite from the Marvel stable, it’s still a very good yarn with everyone acting their heart out, helped along by outstanding SFX and a comedic theme (that in spite of all the death and destruction, seemed to work). The day however, eventually got the better of us, and we only got about two-thirds of the way through it – still there was always tomorrow to finish it off!

11.05pm: That’s it! 😴😴😴😴😴 Nighty-night!

Sunday

A lie-in for me until the unearthly late hour of 7.15 whilst the others slept-on.

9.10am: A little bit of Queen, courtesy of Spotify to get the day started!

9.45am: Breakfast is served – Porridge with Strawberries followed by a Bacon Butty! 😁

10.30am: Jane, Oliver and I watched the rest of Thor: Raganarok, Roger caught up with the Daily Telegraph, whilst Ann put the finishing touches to lunch – this was a real family-foodie weekend, and just how we like it! 😍

12.15pm: Pre-lunch drinkies!

1.00pm: Lunch is served. Roast Chicken with all the bits!

2.30pm: Lunch over! A bit of clearing up followed by a long natter.

whilst listening to something a little more relaxing!

3.45pm: Well, where did that weekend go? It passed really quickly – a great sign of a great time! 😍😍

Bye all, it’s been great to catch-up!