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Monday, May 3, 2010

A Stroll Through Hyde Park

Today I went on a lovely walk through Hyde Park, which is right by where we live here in London, adjacent to Kensington Gardens. So beautiful!!!

We began our walk at Marble Arch, which used to be the royal entrance to Buckingham, but it ended up being too narrow for the grand coaches so they rebuilt it where it currently is. Now the only people that can go through the arch are the senior members of the royal family and and the King's troop. I find that I am rather enchanted with the monarchy here in Britain. Today in our British politics class we talked a little about how the monarch doesn't really have any power to veto or do anything like that, and I was kind of wondering why Britain even still has a monarch at all. But I like the idea of the Queen and royalty - I feel like it's a wonderful national unifier. After Marble Arch we went to Speaker's Corner, where on Sundays orators and hecklers gather to preach on issues from religion to politics. I learned that Mormon missionaries used to preach here too, but the practice stopped in the 1960s.
We moved on towards Hyde Park Corner (the picture on the right is of the beautiful road to the Corner) and found the statue of Achilles (see picture to left), who was rather magnificent but also rather naked.
It was made in honor of the Duke of Wellington for his victory at Waterloo, like many things in London, and paid for by the "women of England"who were mortified when they found out they were associated with such a scandalous statue. I thought that was rather amusing. We observed the Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington's house and also designated "#1 London" because it was the first house after the toll gate coming into London from the country.
We went across the street and visited the equestrian statue of Wellington and Wellington Arch, which is also called Constitution Arch because it sits at the top of Constitution Hill (see pictures at right). Today, it is a symbolic entryway into London from the west and from Buckingham Palace which is down the road. On top of the arch is Peace Descending on the Chariot of War, the largest statue in the UK. And believe me, it is big.
The best part about this arch is that it used to be a police station. Very interesting building to have a police station, I think :) Back into Hyde Park we went, and we encountered Rotten Row, a long dirt road where many duels were once staged and where you can take horse riding lessons for the sum of 49 pounds an hour. That's a little pricey for my taste, but the dueling was free so we did that instead ;) (see picture at left).
As we strolled along Rotten Row we saw some of the most beautiful bits of London we've seen so far - it was amazing! It was right along the Serpentine, where there were boats out on the water and lawn chairs you could sit in. People were rollerblading all around us. It was such a beautiful park and a beautiful day.
At the end of Rotten Row is where the Crystal Palace stood during the Great Exhibition of 1851 (which made me think of North and South) and also nearby is the Lady Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain (see picture at right). Hyde Park is so beautiful - I absolutely love it! Everything is well taken care of and it is absolutely massive. It made me wish I had my rollerblades here so I could see the entire park. This park totally beats any park in the US, by far.

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