Monday, July 02, 2007

Royal Parks walk

Pelicans flapping, originally uploaded by supafly.

Tuesday I joined a wonderful free walk through the Royal parks. We met at the St. James tube stop at the Queen Anne's gate exit on Petty France street. The first one there was a nice woman from Tasmania and we were soon joined by a family from the San Francisco bay area and their uncle from Sacramento. Our tour guide Steve was soon there and we set off.

Before heading into the park, we walked down Queen Anne's Gate street at the statue of Queen Anne. With the help of the Duke of Marlborough, Queen Anne joined England and Scotland, making her the first ruler of Great Britain. We were informed that the statue supposedly comes to life every August 1st and walks around. The street had wonderful old homes with great faces carved all around the walls. There was even an old candle snuffer by a front door. We were told that when they used to light the lamps at night, the snuffers were used by the lamp lighters to put out their flame.

Next, we entered St. James's park, which was started in 1530 by Henry VIII and used as a deer hunting park. 1616 is when it was first opened to the public. The lake that is found in the park started out as a canal that connected Buckingham and Whitehall (once a palace, now government buildings). In 1826, John Nash (under George IV) laid the park out into the plan that exists today. We stopped to admire the London Plane trees, which are especially resistant to the pollution in the city. The bark is able to peel off, taking the pollution it has absorbed with it. We walked over to admire the pelicans, which were originally brought to the park in 1664 as a gift from the Russian ambassador.

We soon exited St. James's park and stopped near Buckingham Palace. There were helicopters flying overhead and press trucks parked nearby because Tony Blair was paying his official visit to the Queen to hand her his letter of resignation. Next, we entered Green Park. It is much greener and free of the flowers in the other parks. This is supposedly because Charles II used to like to take his constitutional walks here and was caught by his wife picking flowers to give to another woman. She decided there would no longer be flowers in the park after that. Green park was much quieter than St. James or Hyde park and there were few people there, it was an oasis even though it was right next to Buckingham palace.

We soon got to the Wellington Arch at Hyde Park corners. It was hard to tell, but the Angel of Peace statue at the top of the arch is the largest bronze statue in Europe. Next door to the arch was #1 London, Apsley House where the Duke of Wellington lived. From there, we entered Hyde Park and stopped to look at the dirt road by the entrance, called King's road. In the past it had been illuminated by lamps and provided safe passage between Whitehall and Kensington palace. Near the entrance was a lovely weeping birch tree. We went under the branches, and it was a lovely shaded area where many lovers had carved their name into the bark. It reminded me of the willow tree I used to love sitting under to read as a kid, except the branches were so low here that you really were hidden from the world.

We followed the Serpentine around the park. It is a clay bottom lake that was created by Queen Caroline, George II's wife. Nearby was the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain. It's a wonderful oval shaped fountain that is supposed to represent both the happy and tumultuous aspects of Diana's life. It's a great place to soak your feet on hot day (which we did last summer when we were here). Apparently, a lot of people have hurt themselves, walking in the fountain, so that's no longer allowed.

Next, we stopped at the Lido, where there is a bathing area cordoned off in the Serpentine as well as a cafe. We had tea and snacks and rested our fee a bit. Then we left Hyde Park and entered Kensington Gardens. Hyde Park is the people's park, but Kensington gardens was originally only open to the public (by Queen Caroline) on Saturdays and you had to be "dressed smartly" to enter. At the edge of the gardens, is the huge and gleaming Prince Albert Memorial, which was built by Queen Victoria as a memorial to her husband. It definitely shows she missed him and they just recently put a new coat of gold leaf on the statue of Prince Albert so he really shines! It was interesting to find out that the book the statue is holding is a catalogue of the Great Exhibition, which raised a lot of money at the time and was used to fund many of the museums in the area.

In the last stretch of the walk, we stopped at the Peter Pan sculpture, where an adorable little boy had a hard time leaving because he had to keep kissing the bronze rabbits goodbye. Apparently, J.M. Barry, the creator of Peter Pan, used to walk in gardens while he was writing the play. Our walk ended near the Lancaster gate tube stop. It was a long walk, 3 miles and around 2 1/2 hours, but Steve was a terrific and knowledgeable tour guide and it was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon!

1 comment:

  1. Rodrigo4:50 AM

    Oi, achei teu blog pelo google tá bem interessante gostei desse post. Quando der dá uma passada pelo meu blog, é sobre camisetas personalizadas, mostra passo a passo como criar uma camiseta personalizada bem maneira. Até mais.