London is a city having a strange mix of history and centuries’ old traditions, in the backdrop of the 21st. century. Nothing illustrates it better than the Buckingham Palace, the seat and official residence of one of the oldest monarchy in the world. It is a massive structure measuring 108 meters by 120 meters and 24 meters high. All state functions are held here and visiting foreign heads of state stay in several luxurious suites designed for the purpose. It is guarded by a team of guards dressed in bright red coats, black trousers and a huge black cap, which looks like a beehive and appears to almost cover the eyes. It makes me wonder how they are able to see after wearing this cap! Every 24 hours the guards are replaced by new guards in a ceremonial parade that last almost 45 minutes. This tradition has been practised for centuries and is a treat to watch by the tourists.
The huge closed gates of the palace with tourists waiting outside
The main ceremonial entrance to the Buckingham palace is the “Marble Arch”, which was built in 1828 and shifted to its current site as an entrance to Hyde Park in 1851. The gold state coach passed under it during Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation in 1953.
The Marble Arch
Traditional ceremony of the change of guards at Bu8ckingham Palace (Courtesy: You tube)
The horse's head
Next to Marble Arch is a huge 33-foot, six ton sculpture of a horse’s head, which appears to be grazing. It perhaps looks like a symbolic representation of something which has not been explicitly defined.
Adjacent to this sculpture is Hyde Park, which is one of London’s finest landscapes and covers an area of over 350 acres. It was earlier used as a hunting ground exclusively by the monarch, but was thrown open for the general public by Charles I. It has beautiful green lawns, along with forrested areas and a serpentine lake, together with boathouses.
It has been identified as the venue for the triathlon and marathon swimming during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic games
The Serpentine lake with the boathouses seen at a distance. The large white swans floating majestically and the ducks are an integral part of all parks.
The Regent’s park is another open parkland in central London, occupying an area of 410 acres and providing amenities for the public, like gardens, lake with boating area, sports pitches and children’s playground. London boasts of a large population of some of the best pedigreed dogs, for whom the park is an ideal place for playing. It is the owner’s responsibility to kreep the park clean by using the numerous bins for dog shit. The northern side of the park is the home of London zoo.
Two dogs enjoying early sunrise in Regent's Park
The "Hub" in Regent's Park
Beautiful garden of flowers
Lake in Regent's Park with the boats on the other side. A duck is waiting with her ducklings on the bank.
Pelicans taking a "seista" in the London zoo
A pair of parrots forced to stay in London
No visit to London is complete without shopping at Harrods, one of the largest departmental stores in Europe. It has over 300 departments spread over seven floors, covering a total floor space of more than 90.000 square meters. It was first opened in 1849 and had five owners, the last known owner being the Egyptian billionaire businessman, Mohamed Al-Fayed, who sold it to Quatar Holdings in 2010.
Fayed’s son Dodi was courting Diana, the princess of Wales, when they met with a tragic car accident in Paris and died. One of the memorable exhibits in the store are two memorials to Dodi and Diana. One of them is a pyramid shaped display which holds the wine glass still smudged with lipstick from Diana’s last dinner and an engagement ring, which Dodi presumably purchased for Diana before they died. the
The other titled, “Innocent victims” is a 3-m high bronze statue of the two dancing
beneath wings of a giant albatross.