I've just returned from my umpteenth visit to London, and discovered that mid-June can be a terrific time of year to visit. I'm generally partial to early fall, when rates tend to be a little better for those of us who live across the pond. This year, to work with the schedule of my traveling companion, my niece, June turned out to be time to go. I purposely picked the week when the annual "Trooping of the Color," which is the Queen's official birthday celebration (her birthday is actually in April), would take place.
Having witnessed the Royal Wedding back in 2011, I know how great the Brits are at pageantry, and I wanted to see how they put on this show. When we got into town, one of the first things I did was check out the parade route. The barricades (two deep) were up, as were the magnificent UK flags lining the Mall. I picked out my position (based on the success I had with my post at the Royal Wedding) and debated what time to arrive for the Saturday morning shindig. There seemed to be less excitement in the air over this (after all, it's done every year) - no port-o-potties lining St. James's Park, and the comments from shop clerks seemed to exude, "Oh, that's right, it's this Saturday." I sensed I would not have to wake up in the middle of the night to get "my spot." I was correct. Turns out I could have slept in a little later - my photo shows what greeted us upon arrival at 7 a.m. No one other than maybe a bomb sniffing dog was on the parade route. So it was off to McDonalds for a bite.
It was interesting, though, to see how they set up for the event - stop traffic, dismantle the traffic signals (and cart them away), and bring out all sorts of police, armed and unarmed. And I had my front row standing spot, so even on a chilly, grey morning, I was happy.
The event begins with marching bands followed by troops. There were a number of sets of these folks. I was particularly impressed with the band on horseback - yes, everyone was riding a horse and playing magnificently. What skill!
Then came the royal coaches. When you heard the roar you knew Princess Kate was not far behind. And there she was with Prince Harry and Duchess Camilla. How exciting! Oh yes, and then there's the birthday girl herself, The Queen. They all parade down to Horse Guards where the Queen reviews her troops, and then they all come back again, providing another great photo opportunity.
Then it was time for us to march up to the front of Buckingham Palace to see the royal family on the balcony. As with the Royal Wedding, I got in perfect position to take a happy snap of the clan. It was a great experience, and the start of a very interesting week in London.
You see, Royal Ascot begins the following week and even if you're not going, if you want to see some fancy dress, just go to Waterloo train station any morning during "Ascot" and you'll see the ladies decked out in their spectacular hats and the gentlemen in top hats and tails. We were running to catch a train to Hampton Court Palace and didn't have time to take a photo but believe me, there were plenty of folks getting ready to watch the ponies and mingle with royalty.
Another nice thing about traveling to London at this particular time is having tons of daylight. Sunrise was at 4:45 a.m. - OK, that was a little annoying but it sure made it easy to get up early when we had to. Sunset was close to 9:30 p.m., giving new meaning to the "night" walking tours that I like to take. It's a bit odd to take a spooky themed evening tour when you can still see your own shadow. But no complaints - I thought it made the days last longer, and when you are in London, you want the days to last forever.
Passionate about everything related to London, this frequent visitor enjoys keeping similar minded people up to date on sightseeing, history, royalty and more!