Touring Buckingham Palace has been on my to-do List ever since I found out it was an option 11 years ago when I was studying at Lancaster. The problem was that the tour is only available in August and September when the Queen is at her palace in Scotland, so it was first on the list this time around. We had to wait until the appropriate time of year and after that we thought it best to wait until the Olympic and Paralympic crowds left town. I was so excited when I went to finally make the ticket reservations I almost cried when it said they were SOLD OUT! Didn’t they know how long I had been waiting for this? Luckily, it was just one tour company that was sold out; there were plenty of other companies selling tickets–all for the same tour and at the same price.
I booked the tour for mid day to allow time for: sleeping in, getting lost, eating, child meltdowns, parental meltdowns, etc. We arrived with plenty of time, got our tickets and had a quick lunch before heading in. The security to get in is pretty similar to airport security: long lines, metal detector, x-ray machine and all.
After security we picked up the audio tour (there was even a children’s version for Elena) and off we went into the Queen’s house. We entered the palace through the diplomatic entrance. The inside of this working castle is truly indescribable. It was amazing to walk into each room and learn the history from the audio tour. Although we didn’t go anywhere near the private apartments, they did get pointed out when we were learning about the inner courtyard. There was a special exhibition for the Queen’s Jubilee that featured several of the Crown Jewels. This part was almost impossibly gridlocked, but it was amazing to see the state diadem, which the Queen wears for official ceremonies.
About half way through the hour tour, Elena lost interest and Roman fell asleep in Mark’s arms. I tried to entertain Elena by talking to her more about the pictures and items in each room, but ultimately she did what she always does when she gets too bored–she pulled the trump card of needing to use the restroom. Sadly, using one of the Queen’s potties was not an option, but by hurrying through the last four or five rooms we were able to find accommodations outside.
To get back out to public space, we walked all through the Queen’s backyard. It was big, with lots of walkways and ponds. It took a good 20 minutes of steady walking, and there was even a place to stop and get ice cream in case we were too weak to carry on. We distracted Elena as we passed it. Overall it was immensely enjoyable, everything I have been looking forward to for the past 11 years.