We are actually in Mayfair not to shop, but to begin a walking tour of Royal London and Westminster Abbey. We are doing this not so much because we are interested in British royalty, but because we are hoping to see a little different part of London from where we have been.
Our tour begins with a fast hike through the edge of Green Park, where we walk just inside the edge of the park. To one side we have the park stretching away and to the other we are flanked by very large mansions.
We stop behind one of the first of these so our guide (Brian) can explain that this is Spencer House. Being as clueless as I am, my only thought is that I should take a picture to show my friend who lives in his own (less grandiose) Spencer House back home. Everyone else gets the Diana thing. (Duh.) She never lived here, so why do people find it important that her family once owned this pile? Anyway, soon enough we are again racing through the park.
At the end of the park we come to the grandest of all the mansions here, Buckingham Palace.
Like most things on this trip, the palace looks only a little like I remember it. I recall it as being in the midst of a very urban space, but here it sits alone amid a swath of green, framed by British flags draped like bunting. It all seems very festive and rather park-like. I like it. About the time I’m thinking how nice it is that they’ve dressed the area up a bit, Brian explains that the colors were put up for the Queen’s birthday celebration and will come down shortly. . .
Brian also tells us that we should find time to visit the Queen’s Gallery, which apparently shows incredible pieces culled from a rather amazing royal art collection.
But we aren’t actually here to see that or anything else in the palace. We are here (of course) to see the changing of the Queen’s Guard – something I’ve seen before and don’t really care to see again (it’s pretty boring), but it is part of the tour. And, to his credit, I learn a lot from Brian that I didn’t know while we stand by the street and await the one part of the ceremony.
Yes, a part of the ceremony. Apparently the whole thing actually starts at Saint James’ Palace (a more interesting and intimate place to watch the goings-on, as I remember it anyway), moves here, and then continues on. It’s quite a production. For this segment, the plan is to wait here to watch the guard unit going off-duty come by from Saint James and then head quickly to the other end of the palace to watch the new crew march out to meet them.
And, soon enough, there is music in the distance as a small band approaches. They are led by a couple of mounted officers and followed by the soon to be off-duty guard crew. (No bearskins today, as this is not one of the units that usually pulls guard duty.)
They’ve hardly marched by before Brian starts herding us across the park. Pretty soon his already quick walk becomes a dead run. I have no idea where we are going, but follow along with the rest, expecting that we’ll see something interesting when we get to wherever it is we are going. (The whole plan is a bit fuzzy to me.)
Apparently things didn’t go off on schedule today and the new group (resplendent in red and topped by bearskins) started out too soon. That’s Brian’s story anyway. All I know is that they are already passing by as we reach the street, so I follow a few others from our group to try to catch up with them. We don’t.
Now Brian has disappeared, as have the others. Where did they go? Are they across the street where the changing of the guard is actually occurring? Back along the park?
I don’t see them anywhere and wander for a bit between the two spots, trying to figure out where they have vanished to. Brian had said that if we missed the action on this side of things (or preferred to skip it), we should meet at the tea house by the lake at 11:25. I see the tea house, but, not wearing a watch, have no idea what time it is. It seems like a reasonable decision.
Luckily Lane spots me before I get there, shouting at me from across the park. They’ve met at the tea house and are on the move again, almost out of the park on their way to the next site.
That’s it? Two minutes of watching one group march by in one place and (if the timing had been right) two minutes of watching a second group march by in another is all we had planned to see? It hardly seems worth the bother – and I’m really getting tired from all that running about. . .