|LONDON, England: Just a hop, skip, and a thistle away is Buckingham Palace. Since June 1953 and the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace remains the Number 1 attraction for tourists and heads of state. In fact, millions of people each year are fascinated by the very thought of nearing the elegant place where royalty resides.
If you time it just right this summer, you'll see plenty of pomp. Take advantage of the self-guided tours that take guests through the splendor of the staterooms. Please note this does not include the royal family's private apartments. For that you'll need a regal invitation.
|You know you've arrived once you've seen the Changing of the Guard. Dressed in brilliant red jackets and tall furry hats, it's their duty to stand in sentry boxes outside the Palace. As crowds gather in front of the gates to witness the colorful and musical military ceremony, guards march down the Mall from St. James' Palace and parade for a half-hour. During that time, the palace keys are handed from the old guards to the new.
Changing of the Guard at Buckingham place - Photo by Linda-Mario Singer - click to enlarge
For seasoned travelers used to waiting, allow a little more patience as you may find yourself standing in lines or queues for just about anything. Beware of the crowds especially during the summer months, and remember always to dress comfortably. And once the pageantry is completed, you may want to pop into the gift shop where you can buy, among other things, a decorative Buckingham Palace alarm clock that tells the time around the world.
But of course this wasn't my first visit to London. In the mid-1960's I chose to stay at The Grosvenor Hotel at Victoria, the precursor to the Thistle Hotel Victoria. What I liked about the property then was its English décor of thick rich red carpets and opulent chandeliers. I had no idea the Old World look dated back to its opening in 1863, before Queen Victoria's time. The hotel's imposing structure garnered instant notoriety and respect during an age when Britain was transforming from an agricultural country into the world's most powerful industrial nation.
Thistle Hotel Victoria's worldy appointed room -
click to enlarge
|Today's Thistle Hotel Victoria is a four-star venue with 364 worldly appointed rooms. The blend and ambiance are decidedly from another century, and yet the accommodations are spacious and homelike. Guests can socialize at Christopher's American Bar and Grill, The Grosvenor Lounge, and the Harvard Bar, a typical Gentleman's Club open to the public. There is also conference and banquet space, along with 24-hour room service.
As the name implies, the location is conveniently situated within a moment's walk from Victoria Station and the Underground. Double-decker busses stop right outside the door. Within a half-hour's stroll, you can be at Buckingham Palace. From there it takes only a few minutes to wander over to the Houses of Parliament, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, and the millennium's Ferris Wheel.
Houses of Parliament - Photo by Linda-Marie Singer - click to
Thistle Hotel Victoria's old world lobby - Photo by Linda-Marie Singer - click to enlarge
|The key to having a good time anywhere is finding a property with easy access into the city. London is markedly expensive, but be careful not to be talked into an inferior Bed & Breakfast or a remote venue from the center of town. This didn't happen when I checked into the Thistle Hotel Victoria. It was déjà vu all over again as I entered the cavernous lobby, and felt very much as though I was in London, at last.
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For more information: One of the best properties in London is the Thistle Hotel Victoria. There are twenty-four Thistle Hotels in that city, but this is the one teeming with pomp and majesty.
Thistle Hotel Victoria
Buckingham Palace Road
London SW1W OSJ.
Phone: 800-847-4358. From America
Rates begin at $300, but I would ask for specials.
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Watch. Former President of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers Association, and created the national writers conference, "The Days of Wine &
She is a travel and entertainment reporter living in the San Francisco Bay Area.
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