This weekend just gone, my family and I took a trip down to London, mainly to see the IAAF World Championships, but also for a little bit of a jolly! Pretty much as soon as we arrived, after dumping our cases at the hotel, my sister and I went back to King’s Cross station to relive our Harry Potter dreams at Platform 9¾, which was a lot of fun (aside from the hour-long queue), and of course we spent a further hour in the gift shop!
It was an early start on Friday as we headed to tackle the crowds outside Buckingham Palace to watch the Changing of the Guard, a historic military ceremony.
The Changing of the Guard began during the reign of Henry VII, nearly 520 years ago, and originally took place in Whitehall. Since 1689, it has taken place outside Buckingham Palace and St. James’s Palace when the Royals and the court made these locations their official residences. The Guards Regiment is one of the oldest in the British Army, and consists of highly-trained officers and soldiers. If the Queen is in, her presence marked by the flying of the Royal Standard, there will be a larger Guard on display, and there are many more sentries – worth noting if you’re planning a visit!
If you want to avoid the hustle around the Palace, I’d really recommend watching from the Mall. It tends to be a bit quieter, and you can see the various soldiers coming and going very clearly. All spectators are also treated to a bit of a musical performance from one of the Bands of the Guards. This time, we saw the 1st Battalion Irish Guards changing, with musical support came from the Band of the Welsh Guards, and the Royal Canadian Artillery Band.
But soon, the ceremony was all over, and normal service was resumed, and we moved on to a spot of shopping! We walked over to Burlington Arcade to ogle over the variety of high-end goods. What I didn’t know was that the Arcade is still policed by the ‘Beadles’, the smallest private police force in existence. They’re actually older than the Metropolitan Police by ten years too! I’ve yet to see a Beadle in its natural habitat, but apparently they wear frock coats and braided top hats in colours of dark blue, claret, and silver; that must be quite a sight! They continue to uphold the strict rules of the Arcade to this day. These rules include: no running, no bicycles, and no whistling, which is banned because back in the day, pickpockets used it as a method of communication. To stop pickpocketing, they had to stop the whistling!
We continued to meander through the streets, past all the luxury brands, and it would have been impossible not to stop in and make a purchase or two! It was a great day in London, but the main event was still to come. As I mentioned at the top of this, our reason for visiting was the Athletics World Championships, and before too long we headed out to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. But I’ll save that for next time!