THE LONG WALK

Today the whole world watched a fairytale unfold as American girl Meghan Markle married her prince charming, Henry Charles Albert David fondly called by everyone as Prince Harry who is a member of the British Royal family. The wedding was held at the St. George’s Chapel inside the compound of the Windsor Castle and was broadcasted live for the whole world to see. Watching the festivities on tv this morning brought back memories of my visit to Windsor three years ago. I was in London for vacation and booked a day tour to the royal compound where I got to explore and photograph Queen Elizabeth’s weekend home. Unfortunately, photography is not allowed inside the buildings so most of my photographs were just of the facades. While walking on the grounds in front of the castle, I saw an arch with an opening to a view of a long road extending all the way to the horizon. I took multiple photos of the arch not knowing what the road was for. Today my question was finally answered…Prince Harry and Meghan was carried down this road on a horse drawn carriage to greet thousands of well wishers. The road is called The Long Walk and it connects Windsor Castle to a park called Snow Hill. According to legend, King Henry VIII sat at Snow Hill to wait for news about the execution of his wife Queen Anne Boleyn. But today a new legend about this road has been made…it will now be known as the road where someone’s fairytale became a reality.

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LONDON’S EYE

img_6534When I was a young kid back in the Philippines, I always look forward to fiesta season when the carnival comes to town with various rides and shows. The centerpiece of the carnival was the ferris wheel and I never missed a ride despite the funny feeling on my stomach when the gondola comes down. So when I visited London last year, I made sure to ride their landmark ferris wheel called the London Eye. The ride was much slower taking 30 minutes for a full turn and was intentionally built as an observatory to provide visitors a bird’s eye view of the city. I took this photograph a day before I took the ride while exploring my hotel’s neighborhood. I also booked the champagne experience package to skip the lines and for a less crowded gondola and synchronized my ride with the time of the sunset. Unless one is scared of heights, every visitor to London should ride the London Eye where the view of the city is just breathtaking.

EYEing LONDON 

imageDuring my trip to London last year, I made sure a ride on the London Eye was part of the itinerary as I wanted to photograph the city from above. I booked their “Champagne Experience” assuming there would be fewer people as it costs more and probably no kids due to the alcohol thereby allowing me to move around freely and take photographs from all angles without elbowing my way to the front.  I also scheduled the ride to synchronize the time my capsule reaches the top and the sun setting in this historic and magnificent city. The best thing about the champagne experience is that you don’t have to line up outside like everybody else. Instead, they appointed a waiting room with a bar at the ticket center and a guide will walk you to the capsule who at the same time will serve as the bartender during the ride. The whole experience was fun seeing London and its famous landmarks from above and watching the lights around the city turning on one by one. The only downside was the glass casing of the capsule was a tad dusty so all my photographs turned out a little hazy. Anyway, this photo I’m posting came out as the most decent one capturing another capsule, the river Thames and the illuminated Big Ben on the right. The London Eye experience was worth every dollar spent and next time I visit London I will try it again but will no longer go crazy with the photography. I will instead spend all my time enjoying the breathtaking view and cheer the sunset with a glass of bubbly or two.

CITY OF GOLD

The Palace of Westminster and the Big Ben are iconic landmarks of the British capital and are probably the most photographed in the world. The palace is known as the heart of British politics as this is where the parliament of the United Kingdom meets. The city of London is very rich in heritage and amazingly the past and the present blend together harmoniously. It was an overcast day when I took this picture and the cloud filtered the sun turning everything the light touches into gold. I also accidentally forgot to remove the filter on my camera for this photoshoot resulting in a rich golden shade to the composition. I initially ignored this photo as I thought it was too golden, however, I realized that gold would be the best color to feature the home city of one of the world’s oldest monarchy.

TAJ 51

img_4847The Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites was my home away from home while I was in London on vacation for a week.  This was once the home of the Lords and Ladies of the Royal Court and just a few minutes walk to the Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey and the London Eye. This 5 star heritage hotel boasts of providing its guests with one of the most spacious and luxurious accomodations as well as the finest personal service in London.  The hotel also features a Michelin-star Indian restaurant named Quilon, which I thought the food was just okay although the service was quite impressive.  The photo above was taken in the central courtyard of the complex where one can sit and enjoy the Edwardian Victorian architecture of the hotel complex, which I think has the most colorful walls I have ever seen. I included below some photos of my residence suite taken using my iPhone. My one bedroom residence suite featured a living room, dining area, kitchen, washer and dryer and a colossal bedroom suite with a view of the 175-year-old Westminster Chapel. Overall, I would say this hotel was one of the best I have ever stayed at and the service was truly at its finest. The highlight of my stay was seeing the Dalai Lama, who was also staying at the hotel, at the hotel lobby.

COMMONERS VIEW

This bronze statue of a man standing beside a lion and holding a hammer and a scroll is part of the Victoria Monument in front of the Buckingham Palace in London. This statue represents Manufacture and is part of a quartet of statues surrounding the monument. The other three statues represent Peace, Progress and Agriculture and all are gifts from New Zealand. This is what commoners like us would usually see of the palace on an ordinary day so I was ecstatic to find out that the palace would be open to the public the week of my trip.   Apparently, the queen open the doors of the palace for a few weeks every summer allowing locals and tourists to explore her humble home. Just make sure to buy your tickets way ahead of time as they get sold fast.  London is one of the best cities I have visited and I promised myself to go back again…soon!

ROYAL ACADEMY OF ARTS

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While exploring London’s Piccadilly area after an afternoon tea at the Browns Hotel and a little shopping at Fortnum & Mason, I noticed this interesting art exhibition featured in the middle of this huge courtyard. Apparently, I have stepped into the Royal Academy of Arts complex. The RA is an art institution focused on the creation, enjoyment and exhibition of visual arts. Unfortunately, I had a show (Miss Saigon) to catch so I decided not to get inside the museum. This photo is my sole reminder that I was once in the Royal Academy of Arts complex.

QUEEN’S BACKYARD

Buckingham Backyard

Every summer, Queen Elizabeth open the doors of the Buckingham Palace to the public while she takes a vacation in Scotland. My recent trip to London a few weeks ago made a visit to the palace inevitable. Photography is not allowed inside the palace so people were limited to taking photos of the facade (just like every other tourist outside the palace gates the rest of the year).  After the tour, I stepped out of the palace into the backyard and realized that this part of the palace is rarely photographed. Maybe because you will need to be inside the compound to capture this scenery.  In this photo, I love how the cotton candy clouds float on the deep blue skies while the expansive carpet of greens complemented the earthy tones of the palace walls. At first look, you wouldn’t even think of this as the Buckingham Palace. It’s nice to capture the least photographed part of one of the most photographed buildings in the world.

PICCADILLY CIRCUS

Piccadilly Circus

These panoramic photos of Piccadilly Circus were taken on my way to watch Miss Saigon at the Prince Edward Theatre after having tea at The Browns Hotel. It was raining at most times that day and this was one of those moments when the skies cleared for an hour or two. Piccadilly Circus is London’s version of New York’s Time Square with the theatre district around the same area as well.

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KENSINGTON PALACE

Kensington

The Kensington Palace in London is one of the official residences of the British Royal Family since the 17th century. Prince Charles and Princess Diana called this their home after their wedding in 1981 and Diana continued to live here after their divorce until her death in 1997. Today their son Prince William lives here with his family. A section of the  palace is opened to the public so I took the opportunity to visit this royal home during my trip to London recently. In this photo, you see the statue of Queen Victoria fronting the palace beckoning visitors into her once palatial home.

TOWER BRIDGE OF LONDON

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A panoramic view of the Tower Bridge, London City Hall and The Shard taken from the Tower of London side of the River Thames. Unfortunately, it was the wrong time of the day to take this photo with the sun glaring into my camera. However, I tried to be optimistic about it and went ahead to take photos and this turned out not too bad.

DALAI LAMA AT THE TAJ 51

I was talking to the hotel concierge to arrange for my check-out and transportation to Heathrow Airport tomorrow when suddenly a huge crowd started to gather at the hotel lobby. The concierge secretly told me somebody famous was staying in the hotel and stepping out soon. Imagine my surprise and amazement to see the Dalai Lama walk into the lobby. I pulled out my iphone and pushed myself to the front of the crowd. This is not my usual photo post but I thought it was cool to share my experience today at the Taj 51 Buckingham Gate Suites.

WESTMINSTER

Westminster

A panoramic view of the Palace of Westminster and the Elizabeth Tower, which houses the Big Ben. I used my iPhone 6 to take this photo using the panorama mode in order to also capture the iconic London double decker red bus crossing the Westminster Bridge.

LONDON IN THE RAIN

Just arrived in London and was warmly greeted with torrents of rain. LOL! Took these photos inside the taxi on my way to the hotel. Traffic was horrible…it took almost an hour to drive from St. Pancras to Buckingham Gate.

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