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As this most recent royal wedding proves, the world remains enthralled and amused with England’s monarchy. And what better way to deep dive into the pomp and circumstance than with a guided tour of Royal London?
For Emanuel, a Transat Sales and Service supervisor and our host to a series of quirky London adventures, a love of the royal family is a huge part of his connection to the city. When looking to see the best royal sights, he contacted his friend Paul, with whom he’d worked at the National Portrait Gallery during the six years he lived in the city.
Officially great guides
Paul is a Blue Badge Guide, the prestigious group of the United Kingdom’s official guides. In the crowded market of London tour operators, the Blue Badge Guides are considered the very best and worth the extra expense.
Before becoming a guide Paul worked at the London Eye, Borough Market, St Paul’s Cathedral and more, and he brings the deep knowledge of those locations to his tours. Like Emanuel he thinks the royal family has an enduring legacy.
“They’re unique in the world of monarchies as they have continued to adapt to changes in society,” says Paul, as he begins his tour.
We start, of course, at Buckingham Palace, where Paul mentions the Golden Jubilee celebration, when the guitarist from the band Queen played the song God Save The Queen on his guitar while standing on the roof. After a pause in front of the ornate Canada Gate, which opens onto Green Park (one of eight royal parks in London) and is part of the Queen Victoria Memorial, it’s a short stroll to The Mall.
A royal walk in the park
This elegant promenade stretches from the palace to Trafalgar Square and leads to stops in the wildlife-filled St-James’s Park (keep an eye open for the park’s Very Important Pelicans named Louis, Vaclav and Gargi) as well as the imposing memorial for King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, who lived to the ripe old age of 102.
Our guide gives an astonishing amount of background on each sight we encounter. His insight ranges from precise historical information (“the Horse Guards are the only regiment of the British Army still to wear armour for their ceremonial uniform”) to fun cultural tidbits (“Westminster Abbey is where William and Kate were married, a public holiday for all Brits!”)
This infectious mix of high and low commentary is exactly what a great guide can do and is absolutely recommended if you want to make the most of your stroll around the royal sights of London. Though our tour ended at Westminster, the iconic church with a thousand-year-old connection to British royalty, Paul explained that there was plenty more to see. And we didn’t doubt him.
Buckingham Palace, Westminster, London
Westminster Abbey, 20 Deans Yard, Westminster, London
The Horse guards can be seen in action at various times and locations.