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Saturday, May 1, 2010

Kensington Gardens

Today my friend Tiffany and I went on a lovely stroll through Kensington Gardens. They are located pretty much directly down the street from where we are staying. We started off walking down Embassy Road, where the guard kindly told us not to take pictures. It was lined with beautiful mansions, many of which were Embassies for countries like Nepal and Russia - hence the nick-name "Embassy Road." We then went into the park and we saw the gilded gates of the palace. They were so cool! Behind the gate (you can barely see it in the picture) was the statue of William III who was the first monarch to live in Kensington Palace. We also saw the statue of Queen Victoria (see picture to the right), carved out of marble by her daughter. As we walked down the path we saw little kids running around playing football (soccer for you Americans) and cricket.
It made me laugh because it totally reminded me of my soccer experiences when I was little - parent coaches and kids running around aimlessly. Somethings are just international I guess. There were lots of joggers and dog walkers, especially on Broad Walk and around the Round Pond. I loved the Sunken Gardens - they were so colorful and beautiful (see picture to right).
We went down Flower Walk, which was really pretty but I bet will be more so later on closer to summer - the roses were not quite in bloom yet, but they looked about ready to explode. We saw the Albert Memorial as well, which also made me laugh (and apparently made Mark Twain laugh too - he called it the best joke he saw in London) because Albert didn't want a huge memorial, but the one the committee in charge of it gave him was obviously very huge and elaborate (see picture to right).
My favorite aspect of the actual park, however, was how some of the grass was finely trimmed while other bits were left to grow. We were told it was to create a more rustic look - I just found it amusing that one would have to manufacture something to look naturally rustic. It looked very nice. We saw the statue "Physical Energy" by Frederick G. Watts and then walked along the Serpentine or Long Water. We got to see the Peter Pan statue, which I absolutely loved!
He has fairies swirling around him below, and there's in inscription which shows that it was a gift from J.M. Barrie who lived nearby. It was placed there 98 years ago today - May 1st 1912! The Italian Gardens were beautiful (see picture on right). I can't wait to see them later on in my stay here when the flowers are more in bloom.
There is also a pet cemetery in Kensington Gardens which initially made me laugh, but then made sense to me because the British take such good care of their pets - I've never seen a cleaner park or more city-dwellers with dogs. We also saw the Peter Pan Playground, which is actually the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Playground. I wanted to go in so badly, but they only let you in if you are with a child under the age of 12...It looks like so much fun! There's a pirate ship and everything.
The Elfin Oak (see picture to left), just outside the entrance to the Peter Pan Playground, was a very intricately carved dead tree surrounded by a protective fence. It was carved by Ivor Innes and you can donate money by throwing money into the cage, kind of like a wishing well I guess. There were fairies and elves poking out of different areas of the tree.
There was also a fountain-clock nearby (see the picture on the right). For some reason, I love the inscription on it - time flies - with the seagull.

Kensington Gardens was so beautiful! It's amazing that it's in the middle of the city, yet it feels so secluded and away from the bustle. There were so many different kinds of people there - a family from France with their children, a couple from Mexico, etc. I love the diversity I see here. And I love that I am living in the middle of all of this - I am continually amazed at the access we have to such places and sites.

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