Friday, June 29, 2007

Day Four In London

Monday, September 3

Pall Mall
Saint James’s Palace
The Friary Court
The Queen’s Chapel
The Queen Alexandra Memorial
Canada House
The Admiralty Arch
The Mall
Carlton House Terrace
Carlton House Terrace Gardens
The Duke Of York Steps And The Duke Of York Memorial
The Queen Victoria Memorial
Buckingham Palace
The Buckingham Palace State Rooms
Saint James’s Park
Queen Anne’s Gate
Vienna Philharmonic

This day will be our most ambitious day by far, as it involves a great deal of walking and a great deal of standing, and a great deal of non-stop activity from 7:00 a.m. until well past 10:00 p.m. This day will also be one of our most stimulating and rewarding days in London.

We plan to leave our hotel at 7:00 a.m.--without eating breakfast--and take the subway to Charing Cross Station.

By 7:30 a.m., we should have arrived at Trafalgar Square, and we will begin walking the length of Pall Mall, the street that runs between Trafalgar Square and Saint James’s Palace, and one of the most historic streets in London. This is my very favorite street in all of London, and this is my very favorite walk in all of London.

On our stroll on Pall Mall, we will pass the famous Gentlemen’s Clubs, and the famous headquarters of The P & O Line, with ship models in the windows, and the Pall Mall frontages of Marlborough House and York House and Lancaster House. We will see the exterior of Saint James’s Palace, one of London’s greatest Tudor buildings, with its noted gatehouse still guarded by a soldier in Tudor attire.

We will visit The Friary Court of Saint James’s Palace, the courtyard that affords the public’s closest permitted access to the Palace.

Across the street from The Friary court, we will examine the exterior of The Queen’s Chapel, a Classical building contemporaneous with Banqueting House, and designed by the same architect, the great Inigo Jones.

We also will examine The Queen Alexandra Memorial nearby, a memorial and fountain erected in memory of the much-beloved and much-respected consort of Edward VII.

Before we retrace our steps on Pall Mall back to Trafalgar Square, we will explore a few of the charming side streets in the immediate vicinity of Saint James’s Palace. In the coven of small, narrow streets on the north side of the Palace are many intriguing shops and antiquaries and restaurants and cafes.

Among them is an excellent café that serves an unusual and excellent English breakfast, composed solely of English sausages, and English bacons, and English hams, and English pork roasts, all served, sandwich-style, on English rolls. The café serves what must be the finest meats in all of London. My brother and I happened upon this cafe once by chance, and we loved the food, the English pork roasts most of all.

We will have breakfast at the cafe, and have some coffee, and rest a bit. We will need to do so, because we will be on our feet for the next several hours, with no place to sit and no place to buy food or drink.

Once we return to Trafalgar Square via our second traversal of Pall Mall, we will briefly visit the sumptuous public rooms of Canada House, restored to their original Classical splendor a few years ago. Many visitors to London do not realize that Canada House is open to the public, and that visitors need not be Canadian in order to visit the many splendid interiors (although visitors must proceed through an airport-style security screening in order to gain admittance).

From there, we will examine and pass through The Admiralty Arch, which marks one end of The Mall, the great ceremonial way that leads to Buckingham Palace.

Once we find ourselves on The Mall, we will walk the full length of this grand promenade.

Along The Mall, our first stop will be Carlton House Terrace, a series of handsome Regency structures, designed by the great architect and urban designer and interior designer, John Nash. Carlton House Terrace is situated on the north side of The Mall. We will also explore the Carlton House Terrace Gardens adjacent to Carlton House Terrace.

Our next stop on The Mall will be The Duke Of York Steps and The Duke Of York Memorial, also on the north side of The Mall. The Duke Of York was the second son of George III, and he was Commander Of The British Army during The French Revolution. Clustered around the memorial is a series of statues of prominent persons, such as Queen Victoria, Captain Scott of the Antarctic, and Florence Nightingale.

Continuing along The Mall, we will pass The Mall facades of Marlborough House and Clarence House and Saint James’s Palace and Lancaster House, and this will take us to The Queen Victoria Memorial, located in the great traffic circle in front of Buckingham Palace. We will explore this enormous monument, and its many levels and statues and friezes, and sit down and rest a bit on one of the monument’s ledges, after which we will proceed to the main event of our day: Buckingham Palace.

First, we will examine the exterior of Buckingham Palace.

Following our examination of the Palace’s exterior, we will make an inside visit to The Buckingham Palace State Rooms, one of the very greatest things to see and do in London.

Late each summer, twenty or twenty-one of The State Rooms are opened to the public while the Queen is in Scotland at Balmoral. The State Rooms, of the greatest architectural and design distinction, and virtually unchanged since they were designed in the 1820’s by John Nash, are filled with some of the world’s very greatest paintings, sculptures, furniture and porcelain.

Each State Room has a different design, a different theme, a different purpose, a different color scheme, a different shape, a different ceiling. Each room is furnished with what is considered to be the world’s very finest collection of French and British furniture from the 17th, 18th and very early 19th Centuries (but there is also Italian pietra dura furniture and German furniture to die for). Each room is accented with Sevres porcelain of such rarity and beauty as to make the visitor weak-kneed. Except for The Picture Gallery (which displays only Old Master paintings), each room’s walls are lined with canvases—royal portraits and history paintings--by Benjamin West and John Singleton Copley and Johan Zoffany and Allan Ramsay and Thomas Gainsborough and David Wilkie and Thomas Lawrence and Angelica Kauffmann and Franz Xaver Winterhalter and Luke Fildes and other masters. Each room contains busts and statues by Benvenuto Cellini and Antonio Canova and Louis Francois Roubillac and Hubert Le Sueur. Each room is breathtaking. Each room is overwhelming. Each room is unforgettable.

It takes approximately four hours to go through The State Rooms, several of which are extremely large and almost all of which are filled with dozens of artworks, each one of which is entitled to the most serious and intense examination.

Happily, halfway through the prescribed route, visitors enter The State Ballroom, where visitors are allowed to sit and rest and, if they like, view a series of films. This is the only room in the Palace in which visitors are permitted to sit--and visitors always make use of it.

The Picture Gallery, alone, makes a visit to The State Rooms essential. The largest room in the palace, The Picture Gallery is lined on both sides with Old Master Paintings, double-hung, of the very, very, very highest quality. The paintings are changed each year, and Queen Elizabeth owns so many top-level masterpieces that I have yet to see displayed many of Queen Elizabeth’s very greatest paintings, such as her great Vermeer painting, perhaps the finest Vermeer painting in the world.

My mother will be in bliss while visiting The State Rooms, and so will my father, and so will Joshua. The State Rooms are fascinating, and exhausting, and overwhelming.

Upon the conclusion of our visit to The State Rooms, I fear that we may all be on the verge of collapse, so afterward we will all cross the street and have a grand and long and leisurely late lunch in one of the restaurants of The Rubens At The Palace Hotel. We will need a long and leisurely lunch to recuperate, given how much walking and standing we will have accomplished since 7:00 a.m., and lunch at The Rubens At The Palace should provide us with a welcome and luxurious respite.

After lunch, we will stroll through Saint James’s Park, and explore some of the monuments and statues that grace the park, as well as examine the Park façade of The Foreign Office, a fascinating (and successful) George Gilbert Scott structure designed in an elaborate Italian Renaissance style.

While walking through and around Saint James’s Park, we will take a side excursion to Queen Anne’s Gate, a charming street with 18th-Century houses and a statue of Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs.

In the very late afternoon/very early evening, we will take cabs to The Royal Albert Hall, where we will hear another Proms concert. Before the concert, we will eat dinner in one of the dining venues of the Hall.

On this evening, we will hear the Vienna Philharmonic, under Daniel Barenboim, perform Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 5 and Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 4.

After the concert, we will return to our hotel and, no doubt, go straight to bed, a necessity after such a long and event-filled day.


  1. Found your blog interesting. You don't know me and you certainly didn't ask for my advice but I am going to chime in anyway.

    I'm worried that your trip to London is a bit overplanned and well, frankly, it seems like you have done it all before. Have you scheduled any time to discover or even stumble across something new?

    Having said that, you can't go wrong haning out at the Proms. I am envious. I lived in London the summer of 1992 and was at RAH every night I wasn't working.

    Have fun.

  2. Hello, Thomas.

    Yes, our trip to London is highly planned, but London will be a stimulation vacation, not a relaxation vacation. Next week we will enjoy a relaxation vacation.

    My brother and I have already experienced almost everything on our itinerary, but Joshua has not, and my parents either have not seen these attractions in many years or have not seen them at all.

    This vacation would not be to everyone's liking, I am sure, but it will be to our liking--or so we hope.

  3. I remember my first trip to England. I spent months and months planning it all out. I was 19 and had never even been on a plane let alone out of the country. So many people gave advice and most of it turned out to be bad advice.

    Have you ever gone to the Wallace Collection in Marylebone? A little oasis of art and quiet in one of less touristed neighorhoods in London. Its proximity to the Royal Academy of Music, Wigmore Hall, and Regent Park makes this one of my favorite parts of London

  4. Yes, I have been to The Wallace Collection many times. Two of my favorites paintings are there: Poussin's "A Dance To The Music Of Time" and Hals' "The Laughing Cavalier".

    I, too, love that area of London.