Thursday, October 17, 2013

London, England and a Visit to Kensington Palace

We're off to London, England. We'll be spending nine days there before taking a transatlantic cruise from Southampton to Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 

Here we are getting ready to take off from the Fredericton airport.

The leaves had pretty much finished changing, but the view of the St. John River is always lovely.

Flying into Halifax…lots of pretty colours here.

And here we are arriving in London…it’s sunny!

Our hotel was in the Notting Hill area, which is close to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

The white buildings are typical for this area and the hotel blended right in with the residential area.

Although we had little sleep on the overnight flight, we decided to stay awake and wander around the neighbourhood and get our bearings. We found many, many restaurants on Queensway, a short walk from our hotel. We stopped at Bella Italia for lunch and a glass of wine. This might be the first time I’ve had wine for “breakfast.” Jim is looking pretty peppy!

We crashed early and the next morning decided to explore Kensington Gardens.

King Henry VIII originally acquired the land for a deer park in 1536. Since then, it has been home to several kings and queens, and was Princess Diana’s residence even after her divorce from Prince Charles. It was a lovely day for a walk…

Where to first?

We wandered over to the Princess of Wales Memorial Playground, which was built in 2000, and recognized Diana's love of children.

We didn’t go into the playground; this was the area just outside of it. In the background in the cage, you can see the Elfin Oak. I couldn't get a picture that would do it any justice.

This shows the size of Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park. By now we had worked our way over to the Round Pond, which is pretty much in front of the Palace, shown in red on the left.

This pond looks quite small on the map, but was actually huge. There were many runners and walkers, and people just enjoying the surroundings. Despite the signs, many people love to feed the geese and swans. These swans were staring intently at a brave lady who was hand feeding them.

This guy had his head under water and popped up just when I took his photo.

We decided to do a tour of the Palace…

A statue of Queen Victoria, which was designed by one of her daughters, is in front of the Palace.

Oooh…secrets! I like secrets…

We would hear about and see many pictures of Queen Anne, who had 17 pregnancies with only one child living more than a few years. Sadly, William, pictured here, would die days after his 11th birthday party.

Princess Diana, who made Kensington Palace her home from 1983 until her death in 1997.

And the modern royals who have moved into the Palace, Prince William and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge.

This was one of the exhibits to visit with a chance to view some of the classic dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth in the 1950s, Princess Anne in the 1960s and 1970s, and Princess Diana in the 1980s.

This dress worn by Queen Elizabeth had spectacular beading. “As a rule, ladies of the Royal Family wear light coloured clothes because such colours are more discernible against a great crowd.”

A portrait of a young and beautiful Princess Margaret, taken by her photographer husband, Lord Snowdon. They lived in elegant apartments at Kensington Palace, and in the 1960s were one of London’s most fashionable couples with many celebrity friends. Invitations from them for parties at the Palace were highly sought after.

The waists on these beautiful gowns worn by Princess Margaret were ridiculously tiny.

This gown was worn by her in 1976 during a visit to Mozambique.

There weren't as many Diana dresses as I expected. Some of them brought memories as I remembered seeing photos of them in magazines during the 80s and 90s. A one-shouldered dress worn on a state visit to Brazil in 1991...

Another beautiful gown…

After this exhibit, we wandered through the Queen’s Apartments. These apartments, the oldest in the Palace, were designed for Queen Mary II. This ended the Stuart dynasty when Queen Mary could not have children and her nephew died at age 11. The dynasty then passed onto King George I from Germany.

This beautiful and lavish sculpture was commissioned by King William III and his wife, Mary II. It is made from marble and other stones, and is one of the first recorded works of art at the Palace. There are many stories surrounding this bust, but there is no doubt that he is wearing a slave collar.

If you sat on these cushions, the walls would whisper stories from the era.

It was almost like looking through rose coloured glasses. Such beautiful surroundings, but the royals are hardly able to just go out and enjoy them.

One chair for each of Queen Anne’s lost children…18 in all.

It was on to the King’s Apartments next. These lavish rooms were created for George I and II, the next to rule from the House of Hanover. These very curious lamps with figurines inside lined the grand staircase leading into his apartments.

The King’s Gallery…"Here the King would sit in the window seats with his most trusted courtiers and confidantes, and talk freely. The true seat of power…"

The walls and ceilings are adorned with beautiful paintings and sculptures by well known artists. How nice to be here on a day with few other tourists.

The drawing room where the King would play cards until late into the night. Lovely ceilings…

The cupola room…many renovations were undertaken by the Georges as they thought the Palace dull and uninteresting. This ceiling would have dispelled that theory.

Jim admiring the view from the cupola room.

Looking out of the Palace at the statue of Queen Victoria and the Round Pond.

Some of the dresses and costumes of the courtiers. They cannot have been comfortable.

The Queen Victoria exhibit…wasn’t she tiny!

Paintings of a young Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who were very much in love. Kensington Palace was the childhood home of Queen Victoria, who was pretty and lively and loved music.

Portrait of the young Queen.

Queen Victoria reigned for 63 years until 1901, longer than any other British monarch. Queen Elizabeth will break that record in 2016. After the death of her beloved husband in 1861, Queen Victoria wore only black mourning clothes, so most people think of her as the little old Queen dressed in black.

Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee…Queen Elizabeth celebrated hers in 2012.

We enjoyed a walk in Kensington Gardens…

A view of the Palace Gates…

By this time it was after 3:00 pm and we were in danger (gasp!) of missing a meal. We stopped at Cafe Diana, more because of the menu items, which included small sandwiches.

But discovered instead that it really was devoted to Princess Diana. There were many photos of her, including several with the owners.

I guess she really did pop in for a visit. Touristy or not, the sandwiches were delicious.

Congrats from the Cafe Diana on the birth of Prince George. At first the name seemed a bit strange to us, but having seen the history associated with the name, I think it’s a great choice. He was scheduled to be christened on October 23.

We walked back to the hotel through the Notting Hill neighbourhood with the distinctive white residences…

Lovely flowers surrounding a pub and a shot of a London cab…

We discovered this pub near the hotel, and popped in for a pint that night. It was really busy.

 Lots of great Halloween decorations...

It was a great day. Tomorrow we are off to Biggin Hill to visit with cousins Dot and Tim.


Judi Campion said...

Hi Kim, your blog on London brought back a few memories of touring museums when I was about 11 years old! That was 46 years ago!!! Just a quick question, the photograph, is that Princess Margaret? I believe she was married to Lord Snowden. Princess Anne is their niece, but looks very much like her mother and Aunt.
Looking forward to more London Love!

Jim and Kim said...

Good eye, Judi! Off to fix...