Our entire 2019 London trip was centered around the Queen’s birthday parade called Trooping the Colour which is traditionally held every year on the second Saturday of June (more on that in a later post). Our flight got us into London two days beforehand, so we had some time get ourselves settled into our hotel and on London time.
We jumped on the Tube at Heathrow and it just was a short walk from South Kensington station to the lovely Rembrandt Hotel. We dropped off our bags, freshened up and then took about a 20 minute walk towards our first stop – Kensington Palace.
As we walked through Kensington Gardens towards the palace the Albert Memorial took our breaths away! It was much larger and gold-er than we had imagined! Even under the clouds, it glittered and shone. Queen Victoria reeeally loved her husband and famously wore mourning black the rest of her life after he died at only 42. This statue is a testament to her devotion to him.
Another thing that struck me as we walked through the gardens were the flowers! Living in the desert, such simple things become quite the novelty! The foxgloves were especially exciting! Is that just me?
We finally made our way to the famous gold and black gates of Kensington Palace! This was such an exciting but also sad moment, thinking of all the flowers that were left here when Diana, Princess of Wales died in 1997. I was getting a bit emotional at this point. It was finally sinking in that we were in London and walking around one of the places I never actually imagined I would visit! But what an incredible amount of history has gone on behind this gate – from King William III to Queen Victoria to the Cambridges today.
Side note: we actually got a little lost on our way to the tea room and ended up walking in the street alongside KP that appeared to be full of international embassies and very expensive cars. A lot of security staff with big guns as well! I may have tried to peek through the fence to see if I could spot Prince George or Princess Charlotte playing in their backyard but alas, no sight of them that day. 🙂
Kensington Palace was celebrating the 200 year anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth so there was a magnificent exhibition going on and this brings us to the first time I have ever seen a real British royal tiara. You ready?
My eyes watered for sure. I’ve never seen such sparkly things…and I’ve seen a lot of sparkly things. I couldn’t take my watery eyes off them. And I secretly loved it when a security guard scolded a child for putting their fingers on the glass case. Oops!
Robert finally managed to peel me away from the gems so we could see the rest of the exhibit before our afternoon tea reservation. It was so wonderful to see things like Queen Victoria’s actual handwriting and sketches. She loved writing, sketching and watercolours. Love her for that!
We walked through the room where Queen Victoria was actually born and saw many items from her childhood. She had a little travel bed that went everywhere with her when she traveled with her mother, a doll house with dolls and clothes for them she made herself, one of her sweet and fancy little dresses and a painting of her dog, Dash. Precious!
Then we went downstairs to find the restaurant. I particularly love the story about Queen Victoria not being allowed to walk down stairs by herself before she became Queen. She had to hold someone’s hand in case she fell and hurt herself, or worse…died. I liked to believe this was one of those staircases when we were walking down it. Had to take a photo so I didn’t forget I walked where she (probably) walked, too!
I’m not sure if the jetlag was setting in or our waiter was grumpy but this tea experience was a little bit of an expensive let down. We enjoyed the food, for sure. I think it was just the service wasn’t what I had romanticized in my head. What? No dedicated waiter at my beck and call? No diligent refilling of my tea cup? No one taking my empty plates as soon as I was finished? Ha! My expectations were a little high, I admit. Still, we were happy for the refreshment and ready to explore some more of the palace grounds.
The Sunken Garden was in the middle of a floral makeover so there wasn’t much in the way of flowers but still lovely to see and to watch the gardeners doing their thing. This is where Harry and Meghan announced their engagement. The sun was shining for us now, too – beautiful!!
We ventured out to the Kensington Gardens for a little weary exploring. We were getting tired but I wanted to find the Diana Memorial Fountain. There were plenty of people splashing in the water and we had a little sit and watched the water flowing around.
We decided to start heading back to the hotel for a rest but we seemed to find our second wind! We stopped by the Royal Albert Hall – mostly because I wanted to see the steps from the Spice Girls movie.
Then it was onto a sweep of the Victoria & Albert Museum (V&A). I wish I could say I remember every bit of it, but I think I was so exhausted by this point, my photos are few. Poor Robert had been awake for 20+ hours by this point! Still, they did have some amazing things and were also celebrating Queen Victoria’s 200 years.
One last tiara to end our first day in London. Queen Victoria’s sapphire and diamond coronet was designed by her beloved husband, Prince Albert in 1840 – the year they were married. It was so tiny! And sparkly, of course.
And with that, we stumbled across the road, back to our hotel, had a bit of dinner in the hotel restaurant and went to bed!
What was your first day in London like? There is so much to see and do, you can really hit the ground running the moment you’re off the plane! I’d love to hear about your favourite things to do when you arrive at your travel destination.