Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Day 2: London- Buckingham Palace.

I woke up bright and early and scampered downstairs for the first hotel breakfast of the holiday. Scrambled eggs, bacon, yoghurt, half, a bagel with jam, washed down with a black coffee. 

Do I ever make cooked breakfasts at home? Never! But on holidays, they’re irresistible.

I’d prebooked my tickets for today a couple of weeks in advance, which I was thankful for when I heard people being turned away from the palace tour because they were all booked out.

The plan for today was as follows: 

  1. Get to the Victoria monument outside Buckingham Palace by 10:30 to secure a spot right in the middle. Stand at the front at all costs.
  2. After the changing of the guard finishes, go to Green Park and eat.
  3. At 12:45, the first tour starts.
  4. At 2, the second tour starts. Set an alarm on the phone.
  5. At 3:15, the final tour starts. Again – alarm.

It was an itinerary worthy of the master of itineraries himself, which is of course my friend Scott.

It’s a short walk from Victoria station to the palace, which I discovered on the way back. On this walk, Citymapper inexplicably led me down all sorts of streets, so in the end I followed the crowds and all was good. 

I walked across the square to the Victoria monument, walked through the barricade gate and parked myself directly next to it at the front. Fortunate Frogdancer struck again, as they closed that gate about a minute after I passed through. Phew!!!

a few minutes later, a policeman was walking past and I asked him if I was in a good spot to see things. He smiled and said, “I’d say you’re in a very good spot, madam!”

It was a long wait in the sun. I was standing next to a very tall man from Massachusetts, and I discreetly used him for shade. 

Then we saw these guys sneaking out from the back. The police started to urgently request that people stay off the road… we all knew that it was about to happen.

Then from far away, we heard music. Rousing marching music, heavy on the drum beats. Then, to my left, soldiers marching! Bright red coats! Straight into the left hand side gates and out of sight.

Well damn…

But I had faith in what the policeman said. After all, he called me “madam.” I’ve never been called that before in my life. It sounds so proper and… well…posh.

The band that led the soldiers in then gave a concert. They were behind the fence of the Palace, but we could see them. A couple of the songs they played were ‘Eleanor Rigby’ and ‘ Sweet Child of Mine.’ They were really good.

Then this happened:

And then this:

Yes, I know the horses are very close, but they were that close.

After the fun of the changing of the guard was done, I walked to Green Park to have lunch. Lunch actually consisted of two crushed snack bars that I’d brought from Australia and really needed to either eat or throw out.

Green Park is right beside Buckingham Palace. I sat on the grass under a tree, licking the crumbled mess from the packets of what remained of a couple of Carmen’s cranberry and oat bars after they’d been halfway around the world in a bag where a lot was crammed into.

It wasn’t the greatest lunch. In fact, it was pretty awful. But it was MY lunch, and here I was sitting in Green Park watching a couple of ponies walk around. This never happens at home. I was the happiest woman in the world.

The first tour- Georgian fashion.

I spent my teenage years reading the novels of Georgette Heyer. She wrote across a few different genres but she’s mostly known for her Regency romances. She’s a FAR better writer than the Bridgerton woman (ugh), and so I’ve always had a fondness for the Georgian era. This exhibition was ticking all the boxes.

Princess Sophia was like me – born as blind as a bat.

Unlike me, she didn’t have access to laser eye surgery, so she wore these very attractive glasses. She would have been described in Georgette Heyer novels as “ a good looking young woman, but with a squint.”

Queen Charlotte… yes, THE Queen Charlotte from the Netflix series!

This is from the description card:

Exceptionally time-consuming to make, fine lace lappets could be one of the most expensive elements of an outfit. The bobbin lace technique required the skilful management of multiple bobbins (sometimes up to 800 at a time) of bone or wood wrapped with linen thread. One full-time lacemaker working from 5am to 8pm might produce approximately half a metre per year. Sets of lace made by the same hand were most highly prized due to their uniformity. Lappets had passed out of fashion by the middle of the eighteenth century, but remained an obligatory component of court dress for many decades after.

You could fit a wide screen tv under that dress!

Here’s what Bonnie Prince Charlie looked like. It’s sad, seeing some of these portraits and knowing how their lives ended up. Speaking of which…

Marie Antoinette.

Then it was time for my tour of the Royal Mews.

I arrived just in time for the guided tour. I much prefer these to the Audio tours as you hear all of the stuff plus a little goss as well.

Apparently the word “mews” is originally associated with falcons. The Mews was where they were taken when they were moulting, or “mewling.”  Overall er time, the royal horses were moved across to join them and ever since, the word “mews” has been associated with stabling horses.

We only saw 2 horses – the rest are out in the country having a break from work – but we were taken to see the carriages. I didn’t know that all of the royal vehicles are the same colour; even the helicopters. It’s a practical, serviceable colour. Not what I’d have chosen but then, I’m not qualified to choose.

The highlight was of course seeing the huge golden coach. It was massive! And when I say GOLD, I mean GOLD.  Real gold.

It weighs 4 tons and it takes 8 horses to drive it. 

Here’s a picture of the brakes. 

It’s too big to get out of the doors, so when it’s needed for a coronation they dismantle one of the walls to manoeuvre it out. 

When the queen was asked about her ride in it, she said that she felt seasick because it rocked all over the place like a ship in a rough sea.

The final tour was of the palace staterooms. No photos were allowed, and also no climbing, apparently.

This tour was full of art, impressive rooms and many pictures of Charles and Camilla.
I saw her coronation dress. I glanced down at the hem, then looked again. Was… was that a dog’s head stitched in gold? Turns out she had her two dogs, plus the names of her children and grandchildren embroidered on the gown.

After the tour, I thought It’d try my luck again with the DevonshireTea thing. Ahhh, that’s the stuff! I knew my monarch wouldn’t let me down!

After a quick swing by the gift shop, where I bought a tin of shortbread which is too heavy to bring home (but not if the tin is empty) I began the long walk back to the city outside through the park at the back.

I was forging ahead, when I thought, ‘ What’s the hurry? When are you ever going to be here again?’ So at the next empty bench, I sat and gazed at the view in front of me.

it was a green lawn, ringed by trees. I sat, thinking over the day I’d had, when suddenly I saw a movement.

it was a squirrel! My first this trip. I watched, entranced, as it raced up a tree, so quickly, zigzagging it’s way to the top.

Then another! And another!

As oblivious weary tourists trudged their way toward the gate, I watched.
The place was alive with them.

What a nice way to end the day.

Tomorrow- Greenwich!


  1. Belinda

    What an absolutely wonderful day you had! I remember seeing those squirrels in Hyde Park when we were there – they are so much tinier than I thought but so fast! We stayed near Marble Arch so nice and close to the park.. A few years later our Son was posted to the High Commission in London for a few months (he is in the defence force) and was there to celebrate the 100 years of ANZAC (2015) as an Australian defence representative and met Princess Anne near that very place! She gave him a card with her name printed on and spoke with him – he said she was lovely. Despite being Irish I love everything about the royals and so was chuffed and proud that our Son was a part of that special day – certainly one of the highlights of his career so far. Soak up every minute – sometimes we forget that we are on holiday and get caught up in everyone else’s day to day rush!

    • FrogdancerJones

      That’s good advice!
      Your son must be doing well to get a post like that.

  2. Onevikinggirl

    I’m happy to come along on your tour.

  3. John Nicholson

    I hope you are enjoying the weather in London. I live in west London (near Hampton Court Palace. Are you planning a visit?). We don’t usually get it this warm in September, so make the most of it!

    • FrogdancerJones

      I went to Hampton Court Palace the last time I was here and I count it as one of the best things I’ve ever done. In fact, if you look at the header image of this blog, you’ll see it’s the roofline of HCP.
      The heat isn’t bothering me as much as the Londoners, but yes. Heat in the mid twenties would be far nicer. But I’d rather have the heat than be miserable and cold.

  4. bethh

    Do… do you not have squirrels in Australia? How interesting! We have plenty of them in the US but it’s a much rarer thing to see black squirrels. They’ve spread a little but we don’t have any where I live, so I’m always struck by them when I visit Toronto or other places that do.

    I’m sure you can make good work of that shortbread 😉

    • FrogdancerJones

      We may not have squirrels but we do have koalas…

      • Bethh

        I’d be so thrilled to see a koala!!!

  5. Cedar

    I seem to live in close proximity to another commenter . Hello John!

    I remember being the same way about cockatoos as you seem to be about squirrels. Travelling is amazing. Enjoy the weather and the country Frogdancer!

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