Last night was miserable. For whatever reason, Chris and I were both wide awake until 2 a.m. Nothing about our hotel room had changed. We’d walked all over the place and were exhausted. Yet sleep remained elusive. We tried everything: reading, watching a movie, uncovering, covering back up, music, silence. Finally, the sleep aid had to be brought out and we resigned ourselves to not accomplishing much on Sunday.
Boy, were we ever wrong.
I’d purchased tickets to tour Buckingham Palace before we left, and we had to use them today. Sadly, it was another place that didn’t allow photography inside. I promise you it was breathtaking, though. I was amazed at all of the original artwork; paintings, tapestries, delicate chandeliers covered every available surface. My mind was agog at the idea of being in the same rooms as the sovereign and other dignitaries. The ballroom impressed me the most. The sheer space and size, combined with the presence of the Queen’s throne and low lighting, helped along my imagination and I could immediately see myself sailing around, large skirts billowing around me.
There was no denying the grandeur of the Palace. I couldn’t help but laugh at the idea of this all being very normal to the royal family. It wouldn’t impress them in the slightest. They walk those rooms each day! And I, normal I, got to walk those same paths. I got to look out the windows over St. James’ Park. Amazing. We took in a special exhibit detailing the Queen’s tour of the commonwealth nations in the early 1960s. All of the special insignia she wore in each country was on display. I’ve never seen so much sparkle in all my life.
Yesterday we’d passed by Apsley House, the residence of the Dukes of Wellington, and, due to it’s proximity to Buckingham Palace, decided to stop by. Here I could clearly see the Regency Era. All the pomp, all the self-centeredness, all the excess. The First Duke of Wellington was part of it all. Defeater of Napoleon at Waterloo. Prime Minster several years later. A man-about-town. Though largely vilified for his politics, Wellington was undoubtedly a national icon. The amount of artwork, china and plate that were showered on him is amazing to behold. Perhaps of most interest is all of the portraits of Napoleon scattered about; the Duke even obtained his enemy’s death mask.
From there, on a whim, we decided to hit the Victoria and Albert Museum. I can’t even rightly describe it to you. Story after story, wing after wing. Art and sculpture from the classical age, sacred medieval silver and stained glass, Asia, Africa, porcelain, textiles, books…. A gigantic room full of plaster casts of ancient and medieval tombs, columns, memorials, gates, doors…. Another huge room dedicated to hundreds, even thousands of years, of jewelry… And, my favorite, an exhibit of clothing, beginning with shoes from the 1600s. We finally had to just leave, even though we hadn’t seen it all. There was no way for our brains to process any more.
Took a taxi home; first time I’ve ever been in one. We could have walked or taken the tube, but my feet were positively screaming at this point. It was really neat to ride in the taxi. Our driver took us through Hyde Park instead of around it, so it was a leisurely drive. More expensive, of course, but I didn’t really care at that point. I can certainly see why you wouldn’t want to own a car and drive in this city, however.
It’s hard to believe that we’ve only got three days left here in London. So much to see! The Tower and Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s, Shakespeare’s Globe, British Library, British Museum, National Gallery, and, if there’s time, the Sherlock Holmes Museum on Baker Street. And we’ve still got our visit to Bath and the trip to Edinburgh! It’s overwhelming to think about, but I wouldn’t trade a second of it.
For all posts in this series, go here.