When booking tickets you choose a particular time slot, so we chose 14:45 so we had plenty of time to get to London and have lunch first. After lunch we went to Green Park and walked down through the park, in front of the palace and round the back where there was a huge queue. Sister J___ joined the queue and I went off to the front with my booking receipt. Where you pick up your tickets, there's a quite fast moving queue since there are a couple of people holding boxes of tickets sorted by name so they find your tickets quite quickly.
Then back to the huge queue, which isn't quite as huge as it first appears since people are actually sorted out by time, so you find your time slot and mingle in. This meant that we started going in about 10 minutes after our time slot, once through the entrance you group stands around for a bit, while the previous one finishes going through security. There are x-ray machines and metal body scanners like at the airport. I had to hand over my Swiss penknife, and you get a label so you can pick up anything at the exit. You can have an audio headset which gives a running commentary on the rooms, or just admire them without description.
We spent a good 2 hours walking through the rooms and they were very interesting. Apart from the architecture and decorations there are masses of paintings around. I found it quite funny to see all the paintings of previous monarchs, since if you're ever reading a history book about a king or queen then the accompanying picture would be one of those on the wall. It made it all seem very familiar. There was also a picture gallery which had a wonderful collection of paintings from the Royal Collection, with all different ages and subjects together so it was like a microcosm of art history.
If I say there was a lot of uniformity about the rooms, that sounds like a criticism, but in my opinion it worked very well since it wasn't one of these stately homes where they showcased a different style in each room. There was a lot of gilding around, and mostly white, red and yellow walls, with chandeliers and some striking bits of furniture. During this summer there are two special exhibitions on. One was some pieces of Faberge work including a few of his Easter Eggs. These were well laid out in a row of display cases where the crowd was split either side, which meant you could have a good look at the pieces.
The other exhibition was about the dress that Kate wore at the Royal Wedding. They had a small video about the making and some detailed photographs, also a small case with her shoes and jewellery. The dress itself was on a podium with this kind of black net thing over it which looked like a giant beekeepers hat. It made the display look a bit discordant in the elegant surroundings, but once you were up close it let you have a very clear look at the dress. Some of the teachers we have on our Saturday embroidery classes worked on the dress doing the applique of the lace, so it was interesting to see close-ups of the work.
After we'd finished in the palace you walk out through the grounds, and pick up anything you had to leave behind at security. I did think that although it was very busy, it was also well organised with all the workers keeping remarkably good tempered. The timed entrances staggered the crowds enough that you could always see things and move about easily. For example, at the Faberge collection you could linger a bit at each case. It wasn't like some exhibitions I've been too where you all have to move along together shoulder to shoulder.
We both really enjoyed the visit, and since we had our tickets stamped on the way out we can use them again, and are thinking of going in September.
|The back lawn of the Palace which is looking a bit battered since the marquees for a garden party have left their mark.|