The Untraditional Changing of the Guards

London feels familiar. It is one of the biggest, busiest cities that we have ever been to, but at the same time, it feels like somewhere we have been over and over again. The culture and personality can be felt in far-flung places all around the globe – in the similar shops, the food, the language, the style. In our first few days there, nothing struck us as compellingly unique or interesting.

We wanted to change that and experience something emphatically British – something that couldn’t be replicated and is a significant part of the London experience.

Changing of the Guard in London

Rightly or wrongly, we chose to do this by heading to Buckingham Palace to witness the changing of the guard. On second thought, we should have probably considered ferries to France instead.

It started out as expected. I was impressed with the flawless ensembles of the guards that included daggers strapped around waists, and I wondered about the weight of the large fluffy hats each of them wore. After parking ourselves behind the gates of the new-guard staging area at Wellington Barracks, we watched the meticulous inspection of uniforms and listened to the many commands being barked and feet being stamped. There were peculiar processions of several guards at a time walking away to nowhere in particular, and then returning immediately from whence they came, with no discernible purpose for their quick jaunt.

The brass band came into view and started to get themselves organized. I set the camera to video and was excited for all pieces to erupt into a traditional marching or battle song, something uproarious to set the tone for the significant occasion.

That isn’t quite what happened. Instead, we got this…


And then, this…


And finally…

Really? Our foray into something that is supposed to be exclusively British is marred with popular American songs and show tunes?

We laughed and rolled our eyes at the remarkably tacky turn the event took, but continued to follow the procession as the guards made their way from the barracks to Buckingham Palace to orchestrate the “change”.

Too many touristsWe didn’t get very far. Piles of tourists, falling over each other to get pictures, blocked our chance of even getting a glimpse beyond the gates of the palace. We stood by as the procession moved beyond our view, only able to experience the rest of it through sound. We heard more barking, more foot stamping, and more popular tunes (at least this time they stuck with a British band and played the Beatles hit “Hey Jude“). The auditory of the actual event was interrupted constantly with outbursts from the police, yelling at overflowing tourists to get back off the streets and move impossibly closer together.

The GuardWe waited for it all to end (rather impatiently, on my part), took a couple pictures of the guards and palace once the crowds cleared, and left. It’s a mircale, in all honesty, that I was able to repress my clausterphobic rage enough not to storm away from the mess of people with elbows flying to clear the way.

As we walked away I commented on how the whole experience had peaked at listening to the hilarious opening song by Journey, as cheesy as it was. Not exactly the British experience we were looking for.

We’re still looking.

 

43 Comments... Read them below or add one of your own
  • November 9 2011

    LOL, OK that’s funny. I haven’t seen the changing of the guards in over 20 years, and boy is it different. Sadly, from what I remember it wasn’t all that interesting the first time I saw it (although it was just as crowded). I guess they’re trying to jazz it up a little, but I don’t think you’re missing out on a time honored tradition. It’s just moved from boring to cheesy.
    Steve recently posted..Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles

    • November 10 2011

      So disappointing! They have the opportunity to really make something significantly appealing for all the tourists. But, they get the tourists anyways I guess…

  • November 9 2011

    Hahahaha, had the exact same experience. On my birthday. Oy.
    Candice Walsh recently posted..The Personalities of our Canadian Cities in a Few Short Words

    • November 10 2011

      You should have asked the band to play Happy Birthday! I’m sure they would have obliged… πŸ™‚

  • Jarmo @ArcticNomad
    November 9 2011

    Ah London, never quite what you except it to be πŸ™‚ The only properly London experience is the pub I think πŸ˜‰

    • November 10 2011

      Yeah, we did that too. Still, we’ve been to pubs everywhere. Couldn’t pinpoint a big cultural difference!

      • November 11 2011

        Head up to St Albans then. It’s outside of London proper, but has the most pubs per square mile of anywhere in the UK, if not Europe. It also has England’s oldest continuously-operating pub and lots of real ale. There are many good pubs in London, but very few with strange local pints that only move a few miles from the brewery.

        • November 12 2011

          Damn Craig! Where were you before we left London? πŸ™‚ Will keep this in mind for next time…!

  • Sam
    November 9 2011

    I agree with Jarmo, a good roast Sunday lunch its a pretty damn fine way to soak up some British culture
    Sam recently posted..When the urge overcomes the fear: skydiving!

    • November 10 2011

      We had a SATURDAY roast while watching “Strictly Come Dancing”. Does that count? πŸ™‚

      • Sam
        November 10 2011

        Sounds like a great combo!

  • Mom
    November 9 2011

    Aah, that would be disappointing. Maybe we should send a letter to the Queen.

    • November 10 2011

      I think we should. πŸ™‚

  • November 10 2011

    LONDON always make me feel crowded, hahaha.

    • November 10 2011

      Yes, three weeks there is quite enough for us. Too many people!

  • November 10 2011

    How bizarre! It’s been years since I’ve seen Changing of the Guard – and I don’t remember this! Maybe I’ll drag my brother to see it in a few weeks when we’re back… or maybe not!
    Angie Orth recently posted..Travel Food | San Sebastian’s Culinary Delights

    • November 12 2011

      My suggestion is “not”. πŸ™‚

  • November 10 2011

    Wow – I’ve never been there but glad we didn’t waste our time this year – can’t believe it!!
    Andrea recently posted..Atrocities of the Berlin Wall

    • November 12 2011

      Yeah, it was pretty disappointing, and not recommended. Glad you didn’t waste your time either!

  • Kerri
    November 10 2011

    That is quite bizarre! I haven’t witnessed the changing of the guards for a long time and didn’t realise that it had progressed to this!

    If you want a true British experience, escape London for a couple of days! Visit a historic National Trust property and tuck into a delicious Sunday Roast at a village pub afterwards πŸ™‚

    • November 12 2011

      We did get out to Stonehenge, Bath and Brighton. Really enjoyed those visits!

  • November 10 2011

    The fact that they played Journey cracks me up! We avoided this while in London; part of me wanted to experience the mayhem, but an even bigger part of me knew that this would have exceeded my threshold for annoyance. Also, I’m too short to see a damn thing at stuff like this.

    • November 12 2011

      Being height challenged would not make your experience any better, that is for sure!

  • November 10 2011

    Hahaha Aw IΒ΄m sorry it was such a british disappointment!
    Rease recently posted..Police Reports & FBI Agents: A Tuesday in Buenos Aires

    • November 12 2011

      So am I! I had such high hopes! πŸ™‚

  • November 10 2011

    Hahaha! I would have never expected that! What a surprise! πŸ˜‰

    • November 12 2011

      “Don’t stop! Believin’!!” Nope, didn’t expect that either!

  • November 11 2011

    I love the videos – what a great added touch to the post πŸ™‚

    • November 12 2011

      The videos had to be there as that was the only thing worth reporting on…as cheesy as it was!

  • Alouise
    November 10 2011

    I never went to the changing of the guard in London. I had no idea they played the Mission Impossible theme or any of the other songs you mentioned. I mean if their gonna do that, they might as well start dancing too.

    • November 12 2011

      Haha – no kidding! That will probably come next, gotta keep upping the “cheese” factor to keep us tourists interested! πŸ™‚

  • November 11 2011

    Cucumber sandwiches! Can’t get more British than that…
    Sophie recently posted..Autumn leaves in Kew Gardens

    • November 12 2011

      I LOVE cucumber sandwiches! I had no idea that those were British, I’ve been eating them since I was wee! πŸ™‚

  • November 11 2011

    Very different from what I saw about a year-and-a-half ago. How bizarre!
    Stephanie – The Travel Chica recently posted..Foto of the Week from …. Buenos Aires

    • November 12 2011

      Really? No tacky songs when you saw it? Wonder what made them up the cheese factor…?

  • Kim
    November 11 2011

    What???? Really? I just laughed out loud after clicking on that first video. That was awesomely horrible.
    Kim recently posted..The Waiting Is The Hardest Part

    • November 12 2011

      I know, right? My exact reaction as well. Horrible, but totally hilarious.

  • November 19 2011

    Not even British rock? Pity.
    Raymond @ Man On The Lam recently posted..Classic TV Combats Airport Ennui

  • Go for a picnic on Hampstead Heath – a much calmer way to experience London!

  • November 25 2011

    hahaha OMG that is so unfortunate! I first saw the changing of the guards in 2007, I can’t say I remember music like that… not sure though haha

    When I was there just a couple of weeks ago Kelley Ferro and I went for “high tea” at a fancy hotel, thats extremely British you guys should of done that! Now you have to go back πŸ™‚
    Cailin recently posted..Time to start taking more travel photos

    • November 25 2011

      We had a fancy-ish tea when we visited the Royal Palace in Brighton. Fancy = overpriced! (Still tasted the same haha!)

  • Theodora
    January 2 2012

    My grandmother took me to see the Changing of the Guards when I was seven. I found it kinda dull then. So I think Journey’s probably preferable. Not that I’m taking the nipper to do it any time soon…

    • January 5 2012

      Well, if it wasn’t for Journey, I don’t think I would have gotten a blog post out of the experience. So at least that is good. πŸ™‚

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