Like many big cities, London boasts some spectacular night views. Our favorite was crossing the Tower Bridge towards the side of City Hall. The bridge is very ornate up close, and I love the bluish-purplish illumination. It looked like you could live inside each one of the towers! Parts of the bridge was under construction, but we were still able to walk across it with many other pedestrians (and bikers, too).
On the other side of the bridge is the Tower of London, which looks like a grand medieval fortress. Inside it houses the crown jewels (insert off-color joke).
The boardwalk along the City Hall side is very wide, lined with shops, restaurants, offices, and food stands. Mostly closed at night, but likely bustling in the summer. You can also see the Shard from here, that skyscraper that looks like an ice shard :p When we went in October, many of the bars and restaurants were already announcing New Year’s Eve reservations. Wish we could be there to see fireworks over the Tower Bridge! Further up, we also passed by Hay’s Galleria, which is an indoor shopping arcade.
And then we came across the less spectacular London Bridge. Yes, many people confuse the Tower Bridge and the London Bridge. For many years I have, too. But here it is! Bit of a letdown, really.
And now to Kensington Gardens! The palace grounds are, as one would expect, pretty large. Several buildings for different members of the royal family, a fountain, the main Kensington Palace, and a beautiful garden. It used to be the main residence for the crown, though these days the Queen mostly spends her time in Windsor Castle and Balmoral. Prince William and Kate Middleton do still have an apartment at Kensington Palace, however (where Princess Diana and Prince Charles once lived). Adult ticket prices are £18.00 if you want to see the rooms and special exhibits.
When King George I decided to make Kensington his home, he hated the original Dutch interiors of the palace, so he had his rooms renovated with higher and elaborately painted ceilings. Unfortunately, his project was such a huge undertaking that by the time it was finished, he only got to enjoy it briefly before he passed away. Sucks for him, good for his successors! Lesson learned: work with what you have?
As you can see, the Queen’s apartments are still in the original Dutch style.
The females of the royal family are also known for being at the forefront of fashion. In particular, Queen Elizabeth, Princess Diana and Princess Margaret (for whom I am named!). They had a special exhibit showcasing some of the highlights of their wardrobes and also the original illustrations for the designs.
Stark contrast to fashion of the olden times…
And apparently Queen Victoria really loved her pets.
The gardens were my favorite part of the visit. So serene, so green. Puts my backyard to shame. It felt like walking through a set for The Tudors.
Of course, ya can’t forget about Buckingham Palace. This is where the Queen takes care of a lot of foreign affairs, but I hear she doesn’t actually like it there. Can’t blame her; there’s always a ton of tourists outside the gates. During the summer months when she’s away from the palace, you can pay for tour to see all the state rooms and some of the family treasures.