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Saying Hello To the Queen at Buckingham Palace

Being a big fan of Sherlock Holmes, the movie Eurotrip, British musicians such as the Beatles, Coldplay etc, and British imperial history, I knew that London would be the pinnacle of any European sojourn. There are just too many places here that I wanted to see! However to have the chance to visit the city twice in two years (one with family in 2012, the other for work in 2013), gave me a good appreciation of what this city has to offer.

And like any traveler in the good old days, I did what any newcomer in a strange locale was expected to first do upon arriving, and that is to pay my respects to the Sovereign.

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace is known the world over as the official residence of the British Monarchy. As you can see in the succeeding photographs, there is a huge difference between the size of the crowd last year (2012) and this year (2013). When I visited last year, it was about the time that the London Olympics had just ended and for some reason, there was a shortage of tourists in all of the places of interest. Why, I don't know, but hey, good for us!


Buckingham Palace

Then (2012)

* Built in 1705 and originally owned by the Duke of Buckingham, the Palace served as the Duke's townhouse until it was purchased by King George III in 1761 to serve as a private residence for his Queen. At that time, the monarch's official residence was St. James's Palace.

Buckingham Palace

Now (2013)

* It was, however, in 1837 when the Palace became the official home of the British monarch thanks to the accession of Queen Victoria. Today, the Palace is the site of most state banquets, investitures and other ceremonies.

Victoria Memorial

Then (2012)

* Right in front of the Palace stands The Victoria Memorial, a sculpture dedicated to the late Queen Victoria. Sculpted by Sir Thomas Brock, the memorial was dedicated in 1911 by George VKing of the UK and Emperor of India, and his first cousin, Wilhelm IIEmperor of Germany and King of Prussia.

Victoria Memorial

Now (2013)

* Queen Victoria's reign of almost 64 years was the longest in British history, as well as the longest female reign in world history. Her rule is characterized by a period of industrial, cultural, political, scientific and imperial expansion by the British Empire, known as the Victorian Era.

Buckingham Gates

* The huge ornately decorated gate in front of the Palace. Not too shabby if you ask me! One can tell that the Queen is inside when her royal standard is flying on the flagpole.

Buckingham Palace

* Thanks to my ever diligent mom, who I must point out is a huge fan of the British monarchy with all its history and pageantry, we were able to score tickets to the tour of the Palace! While the tour was superb and very informative in showcasing the magnificent lifestyle of the royals, pictures were not allowed inside the estate. Since demand for the tour is extremely high, do make sure to book your tour online at least two months in advance.

Buckingham Palace

* A picture of the Buckingham garden right after the tour of the palace. I must say that while Buckingham and the Versailles in Paris have their own strong points, I much more enjoyed the former as I felt that it did a good job of showing how grand the English monarchy is, without appearing too ostentatious about it. C’mon, everything about Versailles screamed “Look at me! I’m filthy rich!”

Changing of the Guard

* For those unfortunate enough not to be able to go through the Palace tour, the Changing of the Guard is the next best thing for tourists armed with their digicams. Here I am navigating a sea of cameras, smart phones and ipads.

Buckingham Palace

* And right in the middle of the whole thing is this gentleman lying topless in the Buckingham lawn, like a boss!

After paying one's respects to Her Royal Majesty, the next logical step would be to get a bird's eye view of all the major sights that one would have to see in London; and there's no better place to do that than in London Eye!  

London Eye

* London Eye, in essence, is a Ferris Wheel…. a HUGE one!

London Eye

* Set along the South Bank of the River Thames, and inaugurated back in 2000, the Eye is credited as being the most popular paid tourist attraction in the UK with over 3.5 million visitors every year.

London Eye

One revolution in these capsule-looking pods takes about 30 minutes and each pod can fit around 28 guests.

London Eye View

Starting our ascent, we are awarded with a view of the opposite bank of the Thames containing some of the more popular attractions in London.

Charing Cross Station

* The building on the right that looks like the Justice League’s Hall of Justice is actually London’s famous Charing Cross railway station.

Palace of Westminster

* What an awesome shot of the Palace of Westminster, more colloquially known as the Houses of Parliament, which is coincidentally the next stop on my London itinerary!

View from London Eye

* What would have really helped this ride is an audio tutorial covering the buildings that we actually see, with a brief tidbit of historical significance for each one.

View from London Eye

* At the peak of our ride. I really wish the experience was more exciting but this is a Ferris wheel we’re friggin’ taking about.

HM Treasury

* This very cool looking building, which I think can double as the headquarters of James Bond and MI6, is in fact the HM Treasury; responsible for setting Britain’s financial and economic policies.

View from London Eye

* Nearing the end of our revolution and seeing a throng of people walking along the river. If we had more time, it would have been a pleasure to just people watch or stroll in contemplative thought.

View from London Eye

* What’s up with the huge Spartan-looking dude carrying the little person?!

London Eye

One more look at the London Eye with its abundance of hot female tourists, as well as overpriced souvenir stores.

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