Tuesday, 2 July 2013

No sun, no change

Don't rain on my parade

Changing of the guard
Matt has his tour guide qualifications - quite hard to get in London, very hard to get in Rome. He is now doing extra study, like honors in tour guiding. this is a guy who is serious about tour guiding. Tripadvisor said he was good and he was.

We did a walking tour of the "Changing of the Guard". The tour was excellent - the weather was not excellent. The Guard do not change when it is raining so, as it was raining, they didn't. Follow that sentence!

Waiting for the tour to begin - Picadilly Circus - Lillywhites sports in the background

We walked along and Matt gave us "the info" and more; some of which I remember.

We began by walking down to Waterloo Square - named after the Duke of Wellington - he who beat Napoleon at Waterloo and then became Prime Minister (a couple of times I think). Interestingly, there is no statue in memory of the Duke, just a horse block with his name on it just outside his "club" - think Weld club for posh types and then add more posh... 18 noble prize winners from this club.

The only statue in the square was of Prince Frederick, the second son of Mad King George the 3rd. Fred became a fine soldier but began as a very indecisive leader of men. The Statue looks a lot like the Columbus statue in Barcelona but it doesn't have a football team jersey on like Chris did. Frederick was originally the Duke of York and his lack of clear decisive leadership got him his own lil song "Oh the Grand old Duke of York, he had ten thousand men........".

The Grand old Duke of York

The Duke of Wellington aka Arthur Wellesley (and not to be confused with Arthur Weasley, the fecund dad of Ron, Percy, Bill, George, Fred and Ginny), was known as the Iron Duke. Sounds quite rugged but it was actually because he was against giving rights such as the vote to the common folk so (the aforementioned peasants etc) got cross and started throwing stones against his window at night. He put up iron shutters to stop teh racket (really!) and got the "Iron Duke nickname".

As an aristocrat, the Iron Duke didn't love people bringing up the fact he was born in a Dublin townhouse. His dad was the Earl of something or other but Arthur was noted to mention that "just because one is born in a stable it does not make one a horse".

Next stop was Saint James Palace - built for Anne Boleyn and now a place where they put very young soldiers to Guard the palace from smartphone laden tourists. For reasons not clear to me, they do this with nary a smile, a sardonic grin or a "bugger off Miss, I am working".

They get to stand inside the guard box coz its raining. Not terrible work conditions - two hours on then a mandatory four hours off.

Momentarily standing still

We headed down toward Buckinham palace just in time to see the "changing of the lifeguard".  Not a typo - the changng of the Guard is a different thing.  These dudes are called "The Lifeguard".  It all would be quite a spectacle if they were really lifeguards - Strop hats and speedos. May have to take it all back to surf club?
In this case, the Life Guards were not speedo encased, but rather a group of dudes on black horses (front one white to signify the queen is in the castle), trotting quite quickly up the road to get the heck out of the rain.

Liz is at home.

The word became official that there was to be no changing of the guard today but boldly we trudged on.
As per usual, Drew made his way to the front of the tour and soon had become Matt's best buddy. Many an earnest question was asked and answered I am sure.

Questions galore

We walked up to Buckingham Palace - quite nice really, and then through the front garden (aka St James Park) which had some cute lil cygnets in the pond.

Buckingham Palace

At the end of St James Park, we saw where the Churchill War Rooms were, and then made out way to the Horse Guard's Parade - see pics below.

Not sure why the horses needed guarding but another group of very young soldiers did their guard duty with aplomb and then, even though it was raining, "changed". They almost ran over poor Zozo - see last pic, green hood right in front of horses moving out to change.

Looking out toward the Horse Guard Parade

I have no clue what I was up to?

Looking back toward St James Park

That wall is the back wall of #10 Downing Street

Look out Zozo

Interestingly (to me at least), last year, the Horse Guards Parade had thousands of tonnes of sand dumped on top of it, seats put in front and to the side of it and bikini clad athletes jumping and spiking to sold out crowds - yups, this was the court location for the London Olympic Beach Volleyball.

The picture below is quite cool I thought. Nice place to go to the beach. In particular when you think that the PMs residence is just to the side of it all. Would imagine there would have been quite tight security. Or else maybe the PMs kids drunken college mates watching the matches perched on the back wall of number 10?

London Olympics 2012 - Beach Volleyball

Later we walked past Ree's old place of work in Golden Square, Soho - which is now a bike shop / coffee shop. Classic combo - surprisingly, not that uncommon in London at least.

Saw this sign on a wall opposite the cycle shop across the square (where lunch time workers were eating, chatting and playing table tennis on the two provided tables. By the way, table tennis balls are very flammable (a random aside but possibly good to know?).

Sooooooo British

Saw this cool map thing on the wall as we were wondering in Soho. Its a "you are here" map. All electronic and cool.

You are here....well, we were there


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