(NOTE: I wanted to title this post “My photos of Westminster really sucked”. Anyway, take this post as a warning to bad planning.)
So I naively had this plan. It’s the one I mentioned earlier, the plan that reads “British Museum in morning. Westminster in afternoon.” It’s pretty much at the beginning of my British Museum post.
Stupid! Really stupid!
We left the British Museum around 2pm and wandered casually down to the Thames banks where we leisurely took photos of Cleopatra’s Needle. This made sense to us. From here we intended to stroll to Westminster.
And we did. Here’s a Google map.
Thing was, after the museum I was pretty tired, and my photographic emotional needs waned. I just wanted to get to my next destination. In hindsight that is something that I must watch out for because I lost a lot of good potential shots that day because I could not be bothered.
Now I was not completely new to this area. Last times I had been in this part of London had been around 1997 and 1999. Indeed, here are a few snaps from my second-hand Russian film camera from back then.
Big Ben with a blue sky (1997). We did not have that same blue sky this time. It was grey.
Big Ben in 1999.
This time my shots on my digital cameras were few and could have been better, despite the grey sky.
I regret them intensely and now realise that I need to stay alert when on “camera duty”.
Now in most modern touristy type cities, main attractions are kept open till at least 5pm. Not Westminster Abbey. It has its last admissions at 3:30pm. Yep – that’s right. So when we got there in the middle of the afternoon (3:35pm to be precise) we were told we were too late. How frustrating is that?
Here is a heavily Photoshopped picture from 1999 showing the inside of Westminster Abbey. I had to try to make it useable given that the actual photograph is almost completely dark except for the window.
But my present day photos had to be from the outside.
As you may tell, Westminster Abbey is a large Gothic church. This shot is of its Western Towers constructed in the early to mid eighteenth century, centuries after the rest of the abbey was built.
Anyway I think that I was peeved at being refused entry. So I took precious few shots and did not even try to explore the external potential.
Then I thought, “Let’s walk to Buckingham Palace”. And even better, “Let’s go via Horse Guards Palace.”
The Horse Guards Parade is somewhere I have quite liked seeing whenever I visit London.
I’ll leave it to trustworthy Wikipedia to tell you about the place.
Horse Guards Parade was formerly the site of the Palace of Whitehall’s tiltyard, where tournaments (including jousting) were held in the time of Henry VIII. It was also the scene of annual celebrations of the birthday of Queen Elizabeth I. The area has been used for a variety of reviews, parades and other ceremonies since the 17th century.
It was once the Headquarters of the British Army. The Duke of Wellington was based in Horse Guards when he was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army. The current General Officer Commanding London District still occupies the same office and uses the same desk. Wellington also had living quarters within the building, which today are used as offices.
Thing is, the place just has a nice atmosphere and more often than not there are guards on horses standing around the place just waiting to be photographed. Alas my pics turned out so blurred as to be useless. :(
From here it was just a nice walk through some gardens to Buckingham Palace.
And so we saw the Queen’s home.
I guess that my travel learnings from this are:
- Don’t be overly ambitious on a day – know the realities of any destination and the constraints that exist
- Try to stay enthusiastic about photos even if you have already taken a lot
- Make sure you know the times that things open and shut