Got up early this morning to join the day's first group entering Buckingham Palace for a tour of the official State Rooms. A welcome area under large, white tents displayed over-size photos of the Queen greeting various commoners, the most prominent being Sharon Osbourne.
Visitors enter through a side portico featuring airport-style security. Earlier in the day, I spotted this keyhole on one of the front gates of the palace.
No photos allowed inside. Everything (ceilings, walls, furniture, picture frames) was trimmed in gold, much like many of the outdoor features. Prince Charles gave a half-hearted, stuffy sort of welcome on the audio guide. Somehow I don't think the royals are thrilled to have us tromping through 19 of their 770 or so rooms, but it's good PR and there is a substantial per-person fee attached.
Someone mentioned that the palace has about 80 bathrooms. I used a fancy temporary structure out near the garden ... no, not an outhouse, but a nice-looking modular bathroom building with fresh paint and very little running water.
I lost count of how many times the audio guide stressed that this is a "working palace." I'm thinking they want to embed the notion that the monarchy is toiling away on behalf of the common folk.
A few things I wish I could show you -- A video clip in the palace ballroom showing the Queen knighting Patrick Stewart (Capt. Jean-Luke Picard) in that very spot. The Throne Room, kind of amusing in its formality (but what do you expect?), with two large throne-like chairs centered against the far wall. A collection of the Queen's hats worn at the Ascot races over the years.
It's no wonder that the royals prefer Buckingham Palace to the actual official residence of the Sovereign, St. James's Palace. Buckingham is much more grand, but St. James's is also full of history.
I passed only two people (both joggers) over by St. James's this morning, plus one lone Bobbie positioned at the end of the street in front of Clarence House. Unfortunately, they don't have any tours of the building, built by King Henry VIII.
I don't want to know how many miles I walked today. It was a big, big circle around a big, big section of town. Along the mall, I found a cute sculpture of a hackie-sack-playing rabbit.
Below is another place I passed (#10 Downing Street).