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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 Café, 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!”😉

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! 🤔

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! 😋

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! 😁

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