Saturday, October 10, 2009

Changing Of The Guard (the non-boring version!)

Our second day in London we decided to get an overview of the city on one of those double-decker bus tours.

We went about two stops when it was announced that if we wanted to see the changing of the guards, we needed to get off the bus and take a walking tour (included in our ticket, thank you very much!).

I talked Greg into getting off, even though the original plan was to ride the bus all the way around in its big circle. The tour guide gave us a brief description of what we would be doing and told us it would take about an hour and a half. That would screw up what we had planned for the day so I suggested to Greg that we ride the bus, get off at Buckingham Palace and watch whatever would transpire. Why not?

So Greg asked the guide if we could do that and he said, "Sure. If you want to be pressed up against the gates and come away wondering why you even bothered, you can do that. Or you can stick with me and get some rare views. I know where to go! I've been doing this for nine years."


He walked our group from one landmark to another while we followed the British flag he waved high in the air. He was an entertaining fellow- he amused himself as much as he did the rest of us.

Finally, he told us it was time to prepare for the changing of the guard. "Now, here's what's gonna happen. I'm going to tell you where to stand and I'm gonna tell you when it's time to move on. Follow my flag! Stick with me- whatever happens, stick with me! Things are gonna move fast!"

He lined us up on the sidewalk, across from the Friary Court on the side of St James's Palace. He told us not to stand in the street or he'd be sent to the tower! He said that we'd get to see the guards coming OFF duty and hear the band.

Our guide continued, "Look at us! We're the first ones here! We have the best view. And here comes another tour. You know what they are? NOT first! hahahaha!!"

We had to be respectfully quiet as the guards marched out, so we didn't get an explanation as to what was going on. But I looked it up later:

A detachment of the ‘Old Guard’ forms up there in Friary Court at 11:00am for an inspection by the Captain of The Queen’s Guard.

Before the band played, our guide quietly told us, "Now, here's what's going to happen. We'll hear a song. Everyone else will stand around to applaud. But not us! We're going to high-tail it THAT way. We're going to stand in front of the gates and get a view of the band walking towards us. You'll snap a photo! Wicked!! hahahahaha!!"

click on the arrow (you might have to click it twice):

And, just as he explained, when the song ended, we ran, following his flag. Then I took this "wicked" shot:

We were then told that as the band passed, we were going to walk along beside them while all the other saps waited for them to pass and then walked BEHIND them.

click on the arrow:

This contingent then makes its way down The Mall towards Buckingham Palace at approximately 11:15 am preceded by a Regimental Band or Corps of Drums.The other half of the Old Guard is already on duty at Buckingham Palace and is inspected whilst awaiting the arrival of the St. James’s Palace detachment.

"Follow the flag!! Follow the flag!! Whatever happens, follow the flag!"

We followed that flag all the way to Buckingham Palace. I couldn't believe the size of the crowd there:

(Look for the flag!)

People were sitting on monuments and fountains:

The St. James’s detachment enters the Palace Forecourt via the South Centre Gate (left of centre facing the Palace) and takes up position beside the Buckingham Palace detachment on the left hand side of the forecourt. Now complete, the Old Guard awaits the arrival of the incoming ‘New Guard’ from Wellington Barracks situated at the Buckingham Palace end of Birdcage Walk.

OK, at this point, I'm a bit confused. My photos don't jibe with the description above. Since you probably don't care anyway (haha) I'll just post my remaining photos:

After saluting the Colour, the New Guard departs from Wellington Barracks preceded by the Regimental Band.

We were lined up once again on the curb and watched as this band walked by:

click on the arrow

That's the last thing we saw. I'm assuming something happened in the courtyard at Buckingham Palace after everyone marched through those big gates, but we didn't see it. Our tour guide says it's hard to see from outside the gate, no matter where you stand.

Even though I didn't have a clue what was happening at the time, chasing that flag was pretty darned fun! (No, I don't know why, it just was!)

Don't feel obligated to read on, but if you're interested in the rest of the ceremony, here it is:

The New Guard enters the Forecourt at approximately 11:30 am via the North Centre Gate (right of centre facing the Palace), marches in-front of the band and halts to face the Old Guard. The Regimental Band then performs the New Guard’s Regimental Slow March as it advances towards the Old Guard. The Old and New Guards ‘Present Arms’ before the Captains of the Guard ceremoniously hand over the Palace keys. This symbolic gesture represents the transfer of responsibility for the Palace’s security from the Old to the New Guard.


jerseyirish said...

Caryl, Don't know how those guys can keep such a strait face all the time. It must have been something to see!


Anonymous said...

Great pictures. Too bad you werent' able to hook up with some really cool friends from Houston while you were there.

caryl said...

Patience, man, I'm getting to that!