Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Christmas at Kensington Palace

Three generations, for three days in London.... We're here to see the sights, enjoy the Christmas lights & festive window displays of Harrods and Harvey Nichs, do some shopping - including treating Grannie to a Victoria's Secrets experience - watch the West End show Wicked, and last but not least, attend the first ever carol concert at Kensington Palace.
We stayed at the Grand Plaza Apartments in Bayswater just a brief stroll from the Circle Line tube, and a short walk to Kensington Palace. This was the view from our two bedroom apartment.... Nice!....I reckon I could move in here for good...




There is a lot to fit in, so first off we're going to Kensington Palace, which is recently opened following a 12 million pound investment.
The Palace has been home to many famous Royals from Queen Victoria to Princess Diana (from 1981 to her death in 1997) and currently the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Kate and William, with Harry often hanging out here on an unofficial basis until his new pad at Clarence House is completed.
At the moment there are three exhibitions to enjoy - Victoria Revealed, the Kings State Apartments and the Queens State Apartments, and there can be no better time to explore this wonderful residence that at Christmas with the Palace gloriously dressed from top to bottom in pine, fir cones and massive golden baubles which are opened daily like a posh (or naff depending on your view) advent calendar.
Each room has a Palace staff member on duty, who are easily recognised dressed in bright red jackets. These Courtiers are engaging and informative about the displays.
We hear the traditionalists are non too impressed with the modern ways information is presented at the Palace, with important information written on walls, sewn into the carpets and etched into tables...but we love it...




As afternoon draws on, we find ourselves exploring the dimly lit rooms virtually on our own. Oh, the stories that each room, or staircase could tell...
There are signs around on various doors 'Royalty only' to remind us that we are a paying guest only, who must remain on the official route!




The exhibition I enjoyed the most was Victoria Revealed, which starts in the room where Victoria first held court...
One of the Palaces most famous residents and Britain's longest reigning monarchy, this exhibition takes us through Victoria's long life from the moment she was told that she was Queen at 18 years old...
"I was awoken by Mamma, who told me that the Archbishop of Canterbury and Lord Conyngham were here, and wished to see me. I got out of bed and went into my sitting-room (only in my dressing-gown) and alone, and saw them. Lord Conyngham (the Lord Chamberlain) then acquainted me that my poor Uncle, the King, was no more.... and consequently that I am Queen".

...to her wedding to Prince Albert, and family life with their nine children, Victoria's devastation following Prince Albert's untimely death, and her triumphant Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897. I recommend a tour of Kensington Palace for all if you love history and the Royals....
We rare back at Kensington Palace on the second night for the Christmas carols...




This is an interesting evening. There are no directions as how to enter Kensington Palace after hours, and we find ourselves traipsing around the outer perimeter fence of the park trying to find a way in... eventually in the dark we find a Courtier who directs us in the gloom towards a young lady who looks remarkably Iike Kate (except that we know she is not at home, as she is in Hospital suffering from morning sickness following the announcement a day earlier of her pregnancy) and we head along another dimly lit path towards a massive Christmas tree...
It is either deliberately low key, or someone has forgotten to turn the lights on, but finally we are finally in. There is surprisingly no further checking of tickets, or any security check of bags, and with the relatively small numbers – we guess around 120 people - this has the feeling of being invited to a friends place.... (in our dreams) and an wonderfully exclusive event...




We gather in the entrance foyer before the grand doors open and we climb the magnificent staircase to the Kings Chamber where George I and II held court. This majestic room with it's red walls, elaborately decorated ceiling, and huge paintings is a perfect setting for carols.
A staff member introduces the evening and in walks the choir of the Chapel Royal of Hampton Court looking smart but nothing flash - no choristers in formal gown tonight, but never-mind and we gather round for a singsong....




In the interval we are invited downstairs for mulled cider or apple juice, pinching ourselves at where we are.
The carols end all too soon and we are politely shown the royal door! However with only the lights from the Christmas tree to guide us, there is a comical moment, where one would like to think that H & S will be improved for next year, as we climb the unlit stone steps into the garden and we laugh as we all get out the torches on our I-phones to avoid falling over - you can just see the headlines now...
Tradegy at the Palace....
The last Noel... For choir with No-lights
!

But all is forgiven this was a great night and we hope the start of a long tradition....
Little Wandering Wren

Location:London, UK

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