29.03.2013 - 29.03.2013 3 °C
The first excursion of the day was to return to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard. It is heralded as one of the 'must see' events and this was apparently the opinion shared by the other 19,995 people that were there that morning. As we disembarked from the tube, we joined the other lemmings making their way through Green Park towards the palace gates. When we arrived, we encountered swarms of tourists surrounding not only the gates but lining the walkways and taking every available spot around the Queen Victoria Memorial. The guards estimated there were 20,000 of us there by the time 11:30 rolled around. Our first spot was facing the gates, but we were about eight rows deep at that point. I must say the crowds were unexpected and the girls were a bit nonplussed at the whole event. We saw the guards (or rather, the tops of their fuzzy, black hats) march in front of us and through side gates. Then, for the next half an hour, they performed the 'change' behind the gates. Only those lined up along the gates would have any hope of seeing anything; meanwhile, the rest of us, the remaining 19,800, would need to wait patiently till the old guards came out again.
Some were not into the wait so we were able to move up to about row four. Lucky us. We were finally treated to the marching band and guard traipsing out in front of us to head back to the barracks. All in all, we saw about five minutes of activity in the hour we were there. It was quite the nonevent for most of us, although it was interesting to be in a crowd that size.
Buckingham Palace borders Hyde Park so we stretched our legs by walking to Speaker's Corner. No one was speaking today so we did our best to proclaim a heartfelt but trivial speech before our small audience, snapped some pics and moved on. Next was Harrod's, which gave us a view of so many things which no one really needs. The rooms we visited were labeled 'Luxury Items I',' Luxury Items II', etc. and the display of Gucci bags and jewelry with Faberge eggs caused one of the kids to opine 'This is just silly.' Walking through their version of a food court, we saw hoards of people sitting down to enjoy the $50 plates or to buy crackers and caviar. Ben and Helen were intrigued with the wine room, while Hannah discovered a $400 set of 60 small vials of different liquids. One can purchase these to practice their ability to identify different smells, in the hopes of working towards being a sommelier. Being our family's 'super taster,' she demonstrated pretty good skills already on their sample set laid out for shoppers to try. As we exited the store, we noted the doorman only bidding goodbye to those who carried a Harrod's purchase. Needless to say, we did not.
Our lunch was much more reasonable fare, and save for having to eat it at an outside table, renewed us considerably. It being Good Friday, some of us elected to attend an outdoor Passion Play being held in Trafalgar Square. As we arrived to suss out the situation, we were again greeted by very large crowds, rendering the event for us, at least, an outdoor viewing of big screens which captured the live action far away. Not relishing an outdoor movie, as opposed to a live play, we decided to move on. We bid farewell to Admiral Lord Nelson, whose grand column stands in the square, and walked onto Piccadilly Circus. There, we joined the throngs who were out walking about the pedestrian streets and looking in the many shops. Here, the girls could finally look for souvenirs. We all split up into various groups, depending on our penchant for shopping, and agreed to meet some time later. When I asked a shopkeeper whether the huge crowds were common at this time of year, she said it was due to the long weekend (both Friday and Monday are bank holidays in Britain). I am still in culture shock having not experienced these kinds of numbers on our trip before now. Among the crowds, I did note that Hannah no longer stands out with her purple hair as I have seen many bright colours and mohawks about London.
With the day finally redeemed via the shopping escapade, we made our way home on the underground and bus, did our daily shop at the local Sainsbury's, and quickly made up our pork vindaloo. Being Britain, the Indian sauces are very inexpensive here so we feel we must partake. However, I'm thinking the next one doesn't need to have the three pepper rating (very hot).