Walk two, part two: from Elizabeth to Diana

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The second part of walk two takes us from Buckingham Palace, where the Queen resides when in town, to Kensington Palace, where her sister, Princess Margaret lives, and where Princess Diana lived until her death. It takes through three parks: Green Park, which borders Piccadilly, Hyde Park, with its famous Speakers' Corner, and Kensington Gardens.

We start at 1) Buckingham Palace - more details on our History page - Buckingham Palace and cross Constitution Hill, looking  left up towards Constitution Arch at Hyde Park Corner.  The sculpture on the top is of a boy pulling four horses - a present to the nation in memoriam Edward VII - a boy struggles with the reins of four horses as the figure of peace descends from heaven.  During the casting of the sculpture, a dinner for eight was served inside one of these huge  horses by the sculptor, a former Light Infantryman.  Under the arch is the second smallest police station in London.  The roundabout on which the arch stands is notorious for the number of tourists wandering about in the vain hope of finding an exit from one of the underpasses.  We'll avoid it and save you a good half hour of frustration.  You can view it later from within the Park.  

We walk up the east side of Green Park - a park named for the fact that it is green - there are no flowers - said to be due to the numbers of lepers buried beneath.  It was here that Handel's firework music was performed to one of the many displays held in the park.  We follow the park along its northern edge and then take Piccadilly west.Exile
                        lived on Brook Street  On our left at the far end of Piccadilly is the Hard Rock Cafe - one of the few theme restaurants we are happy to endorse.  Hendrix's guitar is on the wall here - he lived a few blocks north on Brook Street (his neighbour was Handel).  

Before you get that far, however, take White Horse St  north, past the old American Club - one of the many clubs to close down during the blight of the 70s - we emerge (passing Iceni - a nightclub popular with the wealthy sort of clubber) into 2) Shepherd Market.  This strange enclosure, a mini red light district, full of pleasant restaurants, was laid out by Edward Shepherd in the early 1700s - it was the site of the original May Fair, from where the district takes its name. It had a reputation for bawdiness  in the 17thC and was eventually suppressed.  Several restaurants here spread out into the street giving it a Mediterranean feel.   We leave the market by its eastern exit, and emerge onto Park Lane - some of the most expensive real estate in London, though it backs onto what is in effect an eight lane highway.   It used, before this road became the monstrosity it now is, to give a pleasant aspect onto Hyde Park.  

In the Park's extreme southeast corner is 3) Apsley House - a building with the best address in England - No. 1, London - the former residence of Wellington.  It's now back under the management of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the ticket admits you to both. it's not really worth a special visit, unless you're a military buff.  The building was erected in 1771, to a design by Robert Adam for Henry Bathurst - the Baron Apsley is the second title of the Earls Bathurst.  Much of the house that now stands was due to additions by Wellington and houses a museum to his name, as well as his collection of pictures and trophies, many (including a large statue of Napoleon) captured from the French dictator.  

On Sundays the north east corner of the Park (near Marble Arch) is used as an open space for public orators - 4) speakers corner - it's worth heading up there to listen and heckle.   We enter the Park through the horrid Queen Mother Memorial Gates (designed by the Prince Michael of Kent,Riding on Rotton Row and by common assent the worst gates in the capital). If it's not Sunday, walk due west along Rotten Row, a famous riding location, along the south side of the park, where well dressed riders parade their horses.  The Horse guards sometimes take strings along here.   The name comes as a corruption of 'route du Roi'  - the King's carriageway between St James' and Kensington Palaces. It ends up by the Serpentine Bridge. If you take this route, then Harrods and Harvey Nicholas - the two mainstays of Ladies who Lunch are on your left, one block south - you might want to visit them - tea or lunch in Harvey Nick's top floor restaurant  amid the well heeled is an experience, though not necessarily a culinary one - see our shopping page.

If you do go up towards Speaker's Corner, The Groversnor Chapelalong the broad walk - look right down Aldford Street, to see a splendid example of 18th century church building - The Grosvenor Chapel an Anglican/Roman Catholic place of worship that dates back to 1730, the Duke of Wellington and Florence Nightingale, Sir John Betjamin as well as many prominent Americans worshipped here.   Reductio ad
                        absurdumThe corner of the Park opposite Marble Arch is known as  4) speakers corner and it is great fun to go, especially on Sundays, to hear speakers, standing on a soap box, addressing the crowd with great fervour - and the heckling.  It is championed as a beacon of democracy, and to some extent it is, though many of the speakers advocate the opposite - islamic or christian fundamentalists and communists as well as outright loons spread Entertaining, yes, coherent, noforth their mental goods here.

From Speakers corner we head diagonally across the park, between the park's nursery and the mounted police headquarters towards the Serpentine - a lake created by the damming of the Westbourne river.  You can hire boats to row on the lake (a popular Victorian Pastime) or if you are intrepid (or foolhardy) enough go swimming - there's a lido and every new year's day an intrepid group of swimmers brave the cold to swim in the lake itself.  As it hasn't frozen in living memory there's little chance of real injury.  

Gilt complex - the
                        Albert MemorialWe cross the Serpentine by the bridge and head down towards Kensington - 5) the Serpentine Gallery is on our right - follow the signs for it to re-enter the park.  A short walk south in the Park is  6) the Albert Memorial - the largest gilded statue in the world and, in our opinion, a memorial to Victorian bad taste.  Opposite it is  7)The Royal Albert Hallthe Albert Hall - home to the Promenade concerts, started by Henry Wood in the late 1800s and still going strong - its the biggest festival of music in the World, and with tickets at £3 for the full prom experience, should not be missed if you're here between mid July and mid September.  The famous Last Night of the Proms is a glorious celebration of English eccentricity - though tickets are like gold dust.  

If you choose, or if the day looks like clouding over, you can head down here towards the three museums on Exhibition road (an underground passage runs most of the way between them).Queen Victoria looks down
                        on visitors to the V&A   8) The Science Museum,  9) the Natural History Museum and  10) the Victoria and Albert museum - the latter should not be missed, and the other two are equally excellent.  However, you can also continue along the south side of the park towards 11)Kensington Palace, home of Princess Margaret, and scene of much emotion at the death of Princess Diana when the gardens in front were covered by a huge carpet of flowers, a tribute from a mourning public Kensington Palace- the Royal Family only grudgingly gave way in the face of public grief.

We've now finished the walk - though the parks themselves are worth much more time, simply ambling.  You can head North to Holland Park district (Holland Park itself is only a block or so to the west) or South to Kensington High Street - both mentioned elsewhere in our Guide.   

Guidebook to what
                        to see and do in London

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