LONDON — I briskly walk along the River Thames, bundled up in my scarf and coat in mid-summer. As I look around, I realize I’ve just given myself away as a tourist.
The temperature has climbed to almost 60 degrees, and Londoners have gathered in droves to take advantage of this brilliantly sunny June morning — a stark contrast from the drippy gray skies that dominate much of their year. Along the green lawn of the riverbank, a group of swimsuit-clad teenagers sunbathes while a mother hands her tank-top-wearing children vanilla-chocolate swirls from a nearby ice cream truck. It seems summertime in London has just arrived; yet, I’m still not ready to trade in my jeans for shorts or my steamy cup of Earl Grey for a Popsicle.
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FIT FOR A KING
If all the baby talk surrounding the new prince has lured your sights to London, here are five attractions that will give you a glimpse into the royal life:
Tower of London: From William the Conqueror to Queen Elizabeth I, Tower of London lets you explore profiles, interesting stories and lesser-known facts about some of England’s most famous kings and queens. www.hrp.org.uk/TowerOfLondon/stories/palacepeople
Hampton Court Palace: Also part of the Historic Royal Palaces, spend a few hours at Hampton Court, where you will find beaucoup intel on its most famous occupant, King Henry VIII. Here you can gain insight into King Henry VIII’s apartments and crown, take a walk through the Tudor Kitchens designed to feed 600 and discover the “Secrets of the Royal Bedchamber.” www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/planyourvisit/visitplanner
Buckingham Palace: The royal digs of her majesty the queen, this sprawling palace is probably the most famous in the world. The administrative headquarters of the British Monarch contains a whopping 775 rooms, 78 bathrooms and garners more than 50,000 visitors per year. www.royal.gov.uk/theroyalresidences/buckinghampalace/buckinghampalace.aspx
Kew Palace: On the bank of the Thames up river from London sits the British royal palace in Kew Gardens. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 80th birthday at the most intimate and smallest of the royal palaces, where you can explore its rich 400-year history and beautiful surrounding gardens. www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/garden-attractions-A-Z/Kew-Palace.htm
Kensington Palace: A visit to this royal residence in the heart of London contains countless sights to see and activities to do. But the fact that the newest member of the royal family will be raised here is reason to visit alone. www.hrp.org.uk/KensingtonPalace/