LONDON TRAVELOGUE - Buckingham Palace
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My position of superiority
December 30
On our way to Buckingham Palace, I got to ride in the top part of a double-decker bus....we had the whole level pretty much to ourself, so there was no competitiion for the panoramic front window. The girlfriend could care less about such things, she's been to every country you can name and I think a couple of minor planets, but as for me I enjoyed myself.

View from the top

Dude. Check out the view from MY upper deck. I'm sure all the big rig drivers who are reading this are thinking, "Yeah? So?" I always seem to bring out the worst in big rig drivers.

Art major
On the tube on the way to the Palace. This is a very cool shot, don't you think? I'd like to say that I set up this shot for maximum artistic effect, but really I think I was just trying to get a shot of the Euston Station sign, and, well, it just kinda worked out this way.

Ahem! Ahh...just kidding, of course...I am an artist! Here is my Artist's Summary of the intent of this piece.

"This shot represents my interpretation of the struggle for personal identity of Woman when confronted by the vast machine of civilization and technology. Here I depict implacable, tireless Progress clearly wearing away at the will of Woman, who fades away into transparency, eclipsed by the bright, strong, shiny, but ultimately soulless, urban transportation system."

Okay, if I can find a cool-looking gold frame, I think we can start this one at around $40,000. I'm not greedy. A few more load-of-crap ("No, really! It has deep meaning, I swear!") artist's summaries like that one and I could have my own show at some gallery somewhere.

By the way, that even a thing? I wonder what it means.

The Palace
Hey look everyone, it's the Queen's viewfinder wasn't quite wide enough to show it, but off to the right the Queen is standing there in jeans and a heavy coat hosing off her sky-blue metallic El Camino. An attendant is standing next to her holding the Royal Bucket.

I did manage to get the entire front of Buckingham Palace in the shot, though.

Silly Walk

Here we see one of those guys in the fuzzy hats from the Wizard of Oz.

Guard and Guardhouses
Before we made the trip across town from our hotel, we were very careful to find out whether or not there was to be a changing of the Royal Guard ceremony that that time of the year they only have one every other day, and we weren't sure how holidays or weekends played into that. But we checked and double-checked and then left in plenty of time to catch the ceremony. When we got there, the ceremony had naturally been cancelled.

Angled front of Buckingham Palace

We went back later in the week, though, and we just really hadn't missed anything...first of all, you can't get anywhere near the ceremony because the Palace is surrounded by huge iron fences. Add to that the fact that every available inch of the fences is crowded by four or five tiers of people clamoring to get a glimpse of the ceremony, and you probably get the idea that this isn't going to be something that Chris is going to get too excited about. From what I could see, there was a brass band inside the main gate at the center of the Palace, and they played as the Guards stood face to face for a while and then did some odd marching. The Silly Walk is alive and well in London.

But here's the thing: what would you expect the Royal Brass Band to play during the changing of the Guard? Something very ceremonial and formal, like "God Save the Queen" or something, right? Well I swear to you I am not making this up.

The brass band was playing Billy Joel songs.

Billy Joel songs?

I like Billy Joel songs as much as the next guy, come to think of it even more than the next guy, but come on. To accompany this famous traditional ceremony, which I have heard about all my life, the song they play is "Only the Good Die Young"? And then "Uptown Girl"? And then--no, I swear!!--"Don't Go Changing"???

I mean, if the best musical program they can come up with for the changing of the freaking Royal Guard consists of a few random thirty-year-old American pop songs, how big a deal can it really be?

Why didn't they spring for the deluxe fence?

But they do have some nice gates, don't they. The bright gold maybe is a little much, but I like the stonework and the lantern clusters.

Pimp my Palace

Detail of one of the iron gates.


An example of the stonework. A very grey London day.

A very grey day

A plane takes off from Heathrow Airport not far from the Palace.

Hey. Guy on the right. Back away.
Now these guys meant business.

The week before we were to leave for London, some government agency or other issued the statement that "it would be a miracle" if there were not any terrorist attacks in London over the Christmas holiday.

They used the word "miracle" here.

They could have said "It's extremely likely," or "The chance of attack is high," but no, they took it one better. "It'll be a miracle if you're not just blown to pieces."

This is not what you want your wife to hear before you set out on a transatlantic flight. I actually heard the announcement before she did, and I kept it to myself, but, you guessed it, she heard it anyway, and we considered not taking the trip.

Well, she considered not taking the trip. I was going. I said things like "We can't let the terrorists win," and "Don't worry, honey, if I see any terrorists I will take them out myself." I won her over with my last and most compelling argument, which was "Nonrefundable".

But as soon as we landed at Gatwick airport, it was clear that Britain was ready. We saw squads of four or five policemen, either standing and scanning the airport or patrolling it, often with police dogs. The police were outfitted like the two pictured here, with blocky bulletproof vests and submachine guns fitted with flashlights and with double ammunition clips taped together bottom-to-top, so that if they were called upon to open fire on someone and they emptied a clip, they could quickly pop out the clip and snap in the other end and quickly let loose another 32 rounds.

They all looked fully alert and serious and professional, and after seeing group after group of them I felt absolutely safe. Much safer than in the states...

At the North Carolina airport we saw numerous signs which said that we were on Orange Alert. Of the ten or so different color alerts that there were to choose from, Orange is second from the top . Red Alert is the only thing past Orange, so Red Alert, I assume, means that the airport is actually under attack as you are reading the sign. So apparently on the night of our flight out, the threat was as high as it could possibly be without bombs actually going off around us. But despite that, the closest thing to armed policemen I remember seeing in the entire airport were the security people waving people through the metal detectors.

I'd always vaguely thought that England had really top-notch police and military forces, but seeing it for myself reinforced that many times over. England has my respect in the security department.

Move, you lousy tourists

A view of the main gate at Buckingham Palace from the marble surround of the Victoria Memorial.

Okay but SHE can stay.

The girlfriend in front of one side of Buckingham Palace. Uh yes, it was cold as a matter of fact, thank you for asking.

We really should go see Big Ben

Buckingham Palace faces the Victoria Memorial, a circular marble structure of fountains and gilt sculptures. Off to the left is Big Ben.

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