During the off-season, the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace happens less frequently; today was one of the lucky days, so off I went, hopefully early enough to have a good viewpoint. I scored a spot on the Victoria Memorial where I had a wide-angle view of everything, but not a close-up of anything. Rick Steves mentions if you want to see every other tourist visiting London right now, this is the place to go, so I certainly was NOT alone.
There was lots of marching here and there, shouting commands, striding about, and making official and ceremonial moves during the 45-minute exercise – it was all kinds of cool. My most favorite part was the brass band that played the relieving guards on board as well as played the relieved guards off; they were VERY good, even playing the theme song from the latest James Bond movie and the known Louis Armstrong tune “What a Wonderful World” as a mini-concert in the middle of the proceedings. Yay for memorable music!
Once the new guards were installed, I walked The Mall right into the heart of London past St James’ Palace (where William stays when he’s in town) and St. James’ Park, under the Admiralty Arch, and right into Trafalgar Square. Lord Nelson, 170 feet high, looks over the city, memorializing his defeat of the Spanish in Britain’s greatest naval victory.
Touring the National Gallery, with art spanning more than 700 years (1200 – 1900), was interesting and educational. It’s simply amazing to see original works by Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt, Monet, Van Gogh, and many others; noting layers of paint and actual brush strokes proves they are real, but it’s hard to believe that I’m seeing works they created hundreds of years ago.
Walking Whitehall (the most important street in Britain) took the rest of the afternoon. Dignitaries shuttle between ministries of treasury, finance and security, looking important in limos and snazzy suits. The Horse Guard polices access to Buckingham Palace and Bobbies restrict entrance to #10 Downing Street while protesters gather and stage rather loud demonstrations from a safe distance.
Further on, Whitehall’s name changes to Parliament Street. The noted and very famous houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and Big Ben cluster around Parliament Square, giving the area an air of pageantry and history. The Thames, so important to and ever-present in London, is a short walk from the government buildings; I crossed it twice, once on Westminster Bridge (with a view of London Eye, the HUMONGOUS Ferris wheel built in 2000 to celebrate the millennium), then again on the Jubilee Pedestrian Bridge. The sun was shining brightly today, so I actually ended up with sun-burned cheeks!
Gerry’s presentation went really well today; several folks visited the Doyon exhibit after hearing him speak, so the talk served its purpose exactly. Jim Mery, Doyon’s chief executive here at the conference, is collecting contact info on several good prospects; Gerry and his colleagues are encouraged.
The APPEX conference finishes by 2 p.m. tomorrow, so Gerry and I are making plans to do some touristing together – yippee!