Friday, July 29, 2011

Buckingham Palace Tour

Yesterday my friend Holly & I went into London for the afternoon to go tour the Buckingham Palace State Rooms. The palace only opens for tours once a year while the Queen normally heads north to her residence in Scotland for her summer holiday.
Since this summer season is quickly approaching the 3rd anniversary of our arrival in the UK, I was determined to see the palace state rooms before we leave the island! Scott really did not have a great interest in going to see the palace rooms and luckily Holly's husband wasn't as keen on it either, so we decided to make the journey ourselves.
We booked our tickets in advance (such a key point - allows for VERY minimal queuing) and so we were able to basically walk right up at our specific time slot and began the tour of the state rooms.

So many interesting things to learn about Buckingham Palace beyond just browsing around at the magnificent splendour inside. Buckingham Palace is Queen Elizabeth II's official residence, and has been the official London residence of Britain's sovereign since 1837. The state rooms at the palace have been opening to the public for just the past two decades, since 1993, after a fire at Windsor Castle. Initially the summer opening was a way to pay for the damage at Windsor Castle but the tours have become so popular that the Queen has continued it every summer when she goes to one of her country homes for about 8 weeks.

Buckingham Palace has 775 rooms!!! These include 19 State rooms, 52 Royal and guest bedrooms, 188 staff bedrooms, 92 offices and 78 bathrooms. Buckingham Palace is not only the London home of The Queen; The Duke of Edinburgh, The Duke of York, The Earl and Countess of Wessex, The Princess Royal and Princess Alexandra also have private offices and apartments located within the Palace. Unfortunately we did not get to see these private bedrooms and offices but the state rooms that we did see were quite lovely indeed. No photos were allowed to be taken inside the palace but I did get a few outside...
Everything from the entrance, to the exit, to the temporary restrooms and temporary gift shop were set up specially for the Summer Opening of the State Rooms.
In the gift shop at the end of the tour, mini wedding cakes from William & Kate's wedding were available for purchase. Apparently the British have fruitcake covered in fondant at their wedding for their cake. Not my choice of a cake, but then again I am not British!
The temporary gift shop at the end of the tour.
Holly & me at the end of our tour - the back side of Buckingham Palace.
The highlights from our tour of the state rooms included: Seeing Kate's wedding dress, veil, shoes, tiara, earrings, flower bouquet, and the wedding cake (I wonder if it were a replica cake though?). We also got to see the red room where many of the "official" photos of William & Kate were taken at the palace after their wedding ceremony. It's pretty cool to me to think that whenever I see that photo of them in the future, I will remember walking in that same room of the palace when I went for a visit! The other bit that stood out to me was a "secret door" that the Queen uses to enter one of the state rooms - a short cut for her from her private residence area. After taking the main tour now of the state rooms, I think it would be really cool to tour the back hallways and private residence areas of the palace....but I guess everyone else would want to do that too!

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