Friday, June 5, 2009

Finding Kensington

By Friday, May 22 I was starting to feel a real time pinch. There were still so many things to see and do in London but I had only one more day to do them. On Saturday I would have to catch a train and find my way to Kent and my second leg of my journey in the English countryside.
I knew I would have to hit two places on Friday, but which two? The two would have to be close together because my feet and ankles would just not be able to handle too much walking. As much as I wanted to see Buckingham Palace and Windsor, I decided they would have to be the casualties of my exhaustion and lack of time. Windsor was just too far away from the center of town and Queen Elizabeth is currently in residence, which would reduce greatly what I could see inside the palaces. Since they were in the same vicinity, I chose to close my stay in London with visits to Kensington Palace and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

I took the tube to Notting Hill and walked around for a long time looking for Kensington Palace. I found the gardens easily enough, but couldn't seem to find my way to the actual Palace. I searched for easily an hour but I would not give up! I'd purchased a pass to all the Historic Royal Palaces online before I left the States, and I'd be damned if I didn't use it as much as possible!!! I backtracked to these huge arches I'd passed a few blocks before the park and walked through. Turns out this street was much like "Embassy Row." Huge, gorgeous mansions stretched along the beautifully landscaped street with little plaques claiming them for their respective countries. At the end of the street, the main entrance to the home of the late Princess Diana, Kensington Palace. Finally!

There is an ongoing exhibit of some of Princess Diana's dresses and details of where and when she wore them. The dresses were in cases and the light kept extremely low so as not to speed the deterioration of the fabrics.

Sadly, that was really the only acknowledgement inside the palace of this being Diana's residence.
The rest of the exhibits referenced mostly the reigns of William & Mary and Queen Victoria. On the flight over, I'd watched a new movie starring Emily Blunt called "The Young Victoria." This prepared me perfectly for what I was seeing when I arrived in her apartments: the bedroom, exactly the way it was, when Victoria was awakened and told she was queen. It was attached, of course, to the rooms of her mother - the Duchess of Kent - who kept her young daughter under her thumb.

Outside, the gardens were just starting to bloom and the day was a mix of sun and clouds. This made for an interesting backdrop for couple of photos of the iconic Victoria statue - taken within a few minutes of each other. An ominous moment:

And moments after:

Although I found the path in the garden dedicated to Princess Diana, I didn't find the memorial fountain because I couldn't continue to walk through the park. I'm fascinated by the fact that the Tudor Rose is so often used in association with Diana. Although I have seen numerous charts connecting her lineage to royal houses like the Stuarts, I have not seen a connection to the tudor Dynasty.

And like so many of the palaces and castles, the ponds and lakes were filled with ducks and swans and the parks full of deer. After The Tudors' season two finale, swans will never look the same to me again. The symbolism and connection to the monarchy will stick in my mind forever.

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