Big Ben

By Jean Strauber, Travel Editor.

For those of you that now have a yen to visit London to see where Catherine and William were married, Buckingham Palace and Clarence House and all the other sights that were telecast for the past couple of weeks here’s some travel tips for you.

Entertainment in London

Fans of Michael Crawford (the original Phantom in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”) can now see him as the Wizard in Webber’s musical adaptation of “The Wizard of

Big Ben
Big Ben

Oz.”   Also on the London stage one will find TV star Leslie Jordan (Will & Grace) in “Under the Pink Carpet.”  At the Donmar Warehouse, which as earned a reputation for innovative theater, is presenting William Finn’s award-winning Broadway musical The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.  Another Broadway hit musical, Million Dollar Quartet, which imagines what happened when Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Carl Perkins made their legendary recording.  In June, the musical version of will be opening in June.

During the summer Regent park’s Open Air Theater will present the Gershwin musical Crazy for You and The Beggar’s Opera.  An adaptation of a Shakespeare classic with a fun new title Pericles, which will be re-imagined for everyone aged six and over.  Also arriving on the London stage is the musical comedy Shrek.  It’s an ideal venue for families who are visiting London.  The Most Incredible Thing, a collaboration between the Pet Shop Boys and the Sadler Well’s Ballet is a full-length dance work, based on a Hans Christian Andersen story.

At the Victoria and Albert Museum, stroll through the Theater and Performance Galleries.  Along side theater costumes you’ll also find a tutu worn in a 1964 performance of Swan Lake by Margot Fonteyn, old theater posters, scripts and other memorabilia.

A luncheon suggestion:  From the Victoria and Albert Museum stroll through London’s streets to Kensington Palace for lunch in the palace’s Orangery. It’s reasonably priced.  If you’re not too tired, take a tour of Kensington Palace with its fine state rooms, display of dresses worn by Diana, Princess of Wales and the royal Ceremonial Dress Collection.    The tour of Kensington also includes the former apartments of HRH Margaret Rose who also lived in Kensington Palace.

For free entertainment visit Covent Garden and watch the colorful street performers.  Among the regular performers  you’ll find mimes, acrobats and bicycle stunt performers.  Several reasonably priced restaurants can be located there.  If you plan to visit London between the last week in July and August, you should include a visit to the London home of Queen Elizabeth II, Buckingham Palace, and the home of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, Clarence House.  While the Queen and her family are in Scotland, both palaces are open for viewing.  As they are located within a short distance from each other you can visit both in the same day.    There are several restaurants on Buckingham Road where you can purchase a lunch.  Also, include the Queen’s Gallery with its fine exhibition of art from Queen Elizabeth’s Collection.  When I visited the gallery in 2009, I was most impressed with two brooches made from “chips” cut from the Cullinan diamond that were on display.  The Main Diamond, the Star of Africa, rests in the sceptre on display at the Jewel House in the Tower of London.

As I said, tours are also available at Clarence House, the current London home of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.  The state apartments that are open for viewing contain many fine objects that once belonged to the late Queen Mother Elizabeth. The guided tour was outstanding and included little anecdotes about the late Queen.

At the Clarence House you can purchase books, packaged cookies and other products from the Duchy of Cornwall that’s for sale. I suggest that you begin your day with the tour of Buckingham Palace. Visit the Queen’s Gallery.  Then,  have lunch.  You can purchase gifts and souvenirs at the Royal Palace Gift shop on Buckingham Road.  And, then walk to Clarence House to complete your royalty day.

Outdoor Activities

If you’re putting on weight in London by consuming the pub’s fish and chips, you care work it off with these London tours.  City Jogging Tours offers special jogging tours for runners of all abilities through the city’s streets.  London Sight Seeing Runs use fitness instructors as guides for these tours.  Cycling tours are another good option for exercising and seeing the city. The London Bicycle Tour Company has bikes for every member of the family and can take visitors on tours of the river, parks, and canals-even into the heart of the city.  The Fat Tire Bike Tours offers Royal London Bike Tours, a River Thames Bike Tours and many others.  You can try and see the Thames River from the vantage point of a kayak.  Thames Kayaking, which uses the tides to kayak through inner London past the city’s famous sights and buildings or the Thames River Adventures takes kayakers on the Thames and through the canals.

Polo Fans

Polo players from around the world will be battling each other in a furious display of horsemanship in June at Hurlingham Park in Fulham.  Visitors can also enjoy a British summer day shopping at the nearby farmers’ market, the shopping village, the Veuve Clicquot Champagne garden while also enjoying the finest display of polo in the world.  As Princes Harry and William are know to be superior polo players, it wouldn’t surprise me that you’ll find them engaging in a match or two.

Trafalgar Tours offers a 10-day Royal Britain At Leisure Tour, which features three nights in London, two in Portsmouth, two in Brighton, and an additional night in London.   Departures July 24, 31, August 7, 14, 21, 28 and September 4 will allow  you to include the tours of the royal palaces.  Other palaces featured on this tour include Windsor, Hampton Court, the Isle of Wright and a visit to Osborne House where Queen Victoria made this a summer home and retreat.  Rate from $2199 per person (May-Sept. 11), $2250 (Sept. 11-Oct. 9).

By Jean Strauber

Entertainment Writer

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