Bucket List Check #14 - Watching Changing of the Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace in London
After spending a successful evening in Oxford, England, we drove back to London, dropped off our rental car, and proceeded on a speed tour of the city. Over the next few blog posts, I'll be sharing the highlights of this speed adventure...
First Stop....Buckingham Palace
What better way to appreciate being an American than to watch the pomp and circumstance associated with changing of the Queen's guard at Buckingham Palace? We opted to take the Tube / London Underground, which is the name for the London subway system and I strongly recommend spending the money to get the full day pass, so you can bop to almost any location inside the city quickly and efficiently. You can always get an Uber or a taxi, but honestly, you spend more time just idling in the car in traffic, than you would walking and just taking the subway. Coming out the Tube at the Victoria, Green Park or Hyde Park stations, you'll enter St. James' Park and it's just a short walk to get to Buckingham Palace.
You can watch the changing of the guard for free, daily at 11:00 am (or 10:00 am on Sundays), but be prepared to get there early to get a good viewing spot. We did get their early (around 10 am) and got a spot facing the street in front of the Palace, but had we to do it over again, we would have gotten much closer to the Palace. We couldn't see the guards up close and felt like we missed most of the "show", which involved everything from horse cavalry to a marching band to bagpipers and riflemen. In his usual curmudgeon fashion, my husband, Mike was not only not impressed, he was bored, (but also a little grateful that as a U.S. tax-payer, he didn't have to pay for any of this hype!)
For a great explanation of the process of changing the Queen's entire guard, (which happens twice daily) check out: freetoursbyfoot.com. You can learn a lot about identifying the different regiments based on the person's uniform. Some of the guards are Welsh, Irish and Scottish and each has its own insignia on their uniform.
Being part of the Queen's guard sounds like a pretty tough occupation. Supposedly you can be docked almost 200 pounds from your wages if they catch you smiling or laughing. And no potty breaks...ever on your shift. Some guards have been known to pee their pants on duty. Yikes...
One thing I was noticed, was that most of the Queen's guards were Asian, wearing very different uniforms from the typical Grenadier Guards that wear red coats and those iconic, yet heavy, 18'' bearskin hats. Instead, these solders were wearing black uniforms with red stripe on pants, and much smaller hats. Apparently, this regiment is the Royal Gurkha Rifles, which is a rifle regiment of the British army. Fun fact...these soldiers are technically not British, but are recruited from Nepal, which is neither a dependent territory of the United Kingdom, nor a member of the Commonwealth.
The entire ceremony lasted about 45 minutes. At this point, Mike was ready to get out of there, but I wanted to wait to let the huge crowd disperse and capture a picture of the front of the Palace. Waiting about 15 minutes will do the trick...
Have you been to Buckingham Palace? What was your experience like? Comment below! If not, is it next on your bucket list?