Helen about: Why we loved London

We found we did not need to take the tube or buses as we were close enough to everything that we had on our list and had time for by walking, so walk we did!

On our second London day we decided on a brisk walk into the city to see some more of what we had on our list.  Coming in from the West End, even before we reached Buckingham Palace and the Strand we had passed a row of police cars followed by a line of Guards marching to a drum.  As we approached the Palace we noticed a huge build-up of excitement and suddenly there was the Changing of the Guards happening almost in front of us.  We’d seen it in 1976 so hadn’t remembered to look for it, so we delighted in this “discovery” all the more.  Lots of photos of course, trying to catch the horses as they came out of the gates.  Mind you, the Queen wasn’t around: she was at Balmoral in Scotland – sensibly enjoying her annual leave at the height of summer (and in the coldest part of the UK).  But the beautiful weather made it very special, with summer flowers to top it off.

Part of what I enjoyed were our many walks through Hyde Park and the adjacent Kensington Park.  It’s a huge area, with lakes, flower beds with begonias, roses  and other flowers I have yet to identify, bicycle, walking and horse-riding paths, and lots of people – families, singles, couples, speaking different languages – all enjoying the holiday period.  They were family picnicking, sunbaking on beach chairs, having morning tea or an ice-cream, doing their exercises, walking their dogs, jogging – you name it, Hyde Park has room and facilities for it.

The park lakes have a variety of birds – huge white swans (so much bigger than the black cousins we have in Oz), different ducks and brownish grey geese that I thought at first were unusual ducks with very long legs (so we learnt why goose stepping soldiers are described that way). Plus larger-than-life sea gulls (that squawk like the ones on BBC TV shows, again, unlike ours), pigeons, coots, and squirrels that only come out at dusk I think.

Colourful interactions aplenty - even apart from the "speakers" at Speakers' Corner

With Louise (my niece) on Sunday afternoon we walked through Hyde Park to the Speakers’ Corner and found the place abuzz and equally delightful.  There were a dozen or so speakers, mainly men, speaking mainly on religious topics, most with a goodly crowd listening and arguing, mainly about the Bible (– many of the speakers had big Bibles); others with placards and leaflets to advertise their spiritual wares or answer to religious conflict.  It was fun to listen to and recognise how special it is for people to have the freedom to stand on a soapbox and gain an audience to speak their piece.  A number of the speakers seemed Jewish or middle eastern, Bibles seemed to be mainly Authorised Versions, with some speakers in very lively discussion or argument, even ranting at their audience.  One burly man seemed to have a very confrontational style (or message?) with most of his interactive talk about hell and damnation!

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