Friday, 20 December 2019

DoubleTree by Hilton – Westminster (London, England)

Lazy morning for me while I tried to decide what to do this afternoon. Eventually I decided to visit Kensington Palace to see the Victoria exhibit that is due to close January 5th. From there I’ll walk over to Royal Albert Hall for their Christmas concert.

On the way through the hotel lobby I walked over to the reception desk to see if I could get an room upgrade now that the hotel is clearing out for the holidays. It was my lucky day! On Sunday I’ll move into a suite on the top floor – with a view of the river. I’ll be there five nights unless I extend my stay.

Rather than take the underground to Kensington Palace I decided an Uber would be better since the palace closes at 4:00 this time of year and I didn’t want to feel rushed.

As I exited the Uber I noticed that the clouds overhead were getting dark and a light rain was starting to fall. I hurried to reach the palace entrance before the rain-heavy clouds got closer. Think I just made it inside, but not before taking pictures of the outside of the palace (like I don’t have enough pictures from prior visits).

I headed straight for the Victoria exhibit, which focused on her time while she lived at the palace with her mother and becoming Queen. While the space of the exhibit extended through the same space in the palace where Victoria lived, considerable reconstruction of the walls needed to take place since the original rooms were changed after Victoria moved to Buckingham Palace shortly after she became Queen. However, I learned that the furnishings were, for the most part, close to how the rooms looked nearly 200 years ago, thanks to local merchants who are still in business and through careful research from the archives.

I happened to arrive at the exhibit shortly before a lecture of Victoria’s life in the palace began. Much of the information followed from what was shown on the TV drama Victoria that is currently being broadcast and in production. Today’s presenter mentioned which facts from this drama were accurate and which were adapted to enhance the story.

So many items on display and you’d wonder where these items have been kept all these years. Then wondering how much from past monarchs is being stored in a warehouse somewhere. It must be immense.

In addition to the Victoria exhibit there was a small exhibit of royal jewels (mostly tiaras) that have not been seen for many years. Some were gifted back to the government to satisfy inheritance taxes.

From the Victoria exhibit I walked through the newly restored King’s state apartments that I first saw nearly four years ago. The palace is being constantly updated and refurbished. For many years this large complex of buildings were only remodeled when a guest (usually a grace and favor) requested updates. Such as when Princess Margaret lived there. More recently, William and Kate’s apartments were refurbished before they moved in. Now it is Buckingham Palace’s turn and will be worked on for the next few years, along with Westminster Palace which is now almost fully encased in scaffolding.

Before leaving the palace I stopped off in the cafeteria and bought a sandwich and a water since I hadn’t had lunch. I went outside and started to eat but the rains were beginning again so I found shelter to have half of my sandwich.

It was still a couple of hours until the start of the show at Albert Hall so I walked through Queens Gate in Kensington and found a coffee shop where I dried out and enjoyed a cup of tea. From there I walked over to the skating rink outside the National History Museum. Then walked up to the Albert Memorial across from the Hall. When I got into the hall I had another cup of tea and a scone while waiting for the doors to open.

Somehow I managed to find my way into the wrong box which I found out when someone else had tickets for my seat. My actually reserved place was next door. I paid a little extra to get a better view of the performance by reserving a seat on the Grand Tier level in one of the boxes there. 10 seats per box and all of us had excellent views of the show.

The show was loosely based on a skit where one of the hosts (actor Richard Kind) welcomed guests to perform along with the headliner Michael Giacchino, a well-known composer and many guests (mostly English who I didn’t know) and Kermit the frog. The show was fairly fast paced and the audience, including me, enjoyed the music and entertainment. There was a full orchestra and choir who augmented the performances.

I took an Uber back to the hotel because I was dead tired after (eventually) a full day of activities and walking. I had considered taking the underground but I quickly vetoed that idea. (One of the perks when you travel solo.)

Tomorrow is going to be a day of rest for me. I can see myself sleeping and taking care of the usual daily items of business (personal and travel) that usually wait for me when I have free time.

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