Monday, August 5, 2013

DBS Euro Trip 2013 - Portobello Market and Buckingham Palace

After our marathon Death March the day before, where we estimated we walked 7-10 miles that day, our final full day in London we bought a 1 day Underground pass.  Well worth the investment, especially because we used the heck out of it in that one day.

We got up and rode the Underground to the stop closest to Buckingham Palace called Victoria, just a couple stops from our hotel.  Our goal was to see the Changing of the Guard ceremony; DB~ was hoping to see the announcement of the new Royal Baby.

The Changing of the Guard ceremony is full of pomp, that's for sure.  Hundreds and hundreds of people cram against the fence on the sidewalks surrounding the huge roundabout outside the Palace.  At the entrance to the Buckingham Palace roundabout are two pillars, each inscribed with one of their main territories or overseas "subjects" -- we saw Canada and Australia.  I think these are the Dominion Gates.  There are other gates with other countries on them, but we weren't sure of their significance, such as India and Pakistan (perhaps former colonies?).

The ceremony itself involved guards riding in on horseback wearing their normal military uniforms, then going into a side area to change into their "beefeater" outfits.  When they reappear, there's a whole thing of marching and signaling to the current guards, plus measuring out the extent of their area to protect through marching.

Then...a royal marching band came in and started playing...."Walking on Sunshine" by Katrina and the Waves, followed by some Lady Gaga (I think), and some other pop songs.  It was...odd, to say the least.  This was followed by some dirty and rude Indian guy sneezing on DB~'s back of her neck.  This was followed by DB~ telling me it was time to go.

Using the Underground again, we did a transfer to a second line to the Notting Hill station.  Not so secretly, DB~ hoped she would see Hugh Grant milling about randomly.  What we were there for was the Portobello Market.  We thought it would an outdoor flea market of sorts, with some boutique shops on the street.

What we got was a 2 mile long road (at least) jammed with between 10,000 and 20,000 people surveying all sorts of antiques, old books, clothes, food markets, and food vendors of food from all around the world.  Literally, all around the world.  Venezuela, Netherlands, Ghana, Morocco, Jamaica, India, and tons of other countries were represented.

We walked until we felt we saw it all, even though there was more road left.  I bought a couple of James Bond vintage edition books -- one for my father-in-law and one for my friend, the two biggest Bond fans I know.  DB~ got a cool set of old typography wooden blocks that she made spell "LOVE" on a wooden stand.  I think that's for me and not The Bachelor/Bachelorette series, but I'm not 100% on that one.  With all of the people jammed into this street and crowded against each other, I can't imagine how much merchandise is swiped during a typical Saturday.

After the Market, we rode the Underground to Westminster Abbey and walked to some other areas relatively close to our hotel.  That night we went up to Southbank to a restaurant called Giraffe, which was pleasantly good.  It felt a little chain-y and slightly like a London version of Cheesecake Factory, but the food was very good.  For our last night in London, we drank on a cool floating bar across the street from our hotel.  It was a renovated boat called the Thamsis Bar, decorated all colorfully and funky.  We were jammed on there with a bunch of other Brits, just chit-chillin' on a Saturday night.

London was a super cool town.  I would absolutely go back there, as I felt we only got the tip of the iceberg on the attractions.  We didn't really do an inside tour on any of the facilities.  Instead we just saw the exteriors on all of them.  There were lots of other restaurants that we wished we could have eaten at, as well.  Plus, we didn't see a show in the West End -- DB~ is a huge theater girl and DB~ so I go to the theater with her sometimes.

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