The sun has been dim in summer in London. The shy rays of some morning soon disappear into the overcast sky. The clouds, in their rich gray range, explode almost every day in intermittent showers or torrential rains of an intensity not recorded for three decades. The 12th of July was the wettest in the British capital: 46.8 millimeters of rain, above the usual average for the entire month, and flooding in several neighbourhoods. The incessant rain coincided with the public reopening of the Buckingham Palace gardens, which have since suffered a storm of fierce criticism from visitors.
“A total fraud,” wrote Siofra in Trip Advisor. “Disappointing,” Richard replied in his comment earlier this month. “I was very excited for this visit, but I was extremely frustrated, like many others,” criticized Michelle. London’s largest private garden, where flowers are cut for the bouquet Elizabeth II receives each day when she sleeps in her official residence in the capital, has disappointed the public. And in the second summer of the coronavirus pandemic, with restrictions on European, American and Asian travelers, visitors are mostly British citizens or foreigners residing in the UK.
The Royal Collection Trust, the entity that manages the Crown properties, promotes the reopening of the garden as a unique and unprecedented occasion. Before the coronavirus, the visit combined a tour of the state’s halls with an outdoor walk, flanking a section of its famous flower beds. This season, the throne room, the painting gallery and the room where the queen receives her prime ministers are only accessible on guided tours that include external areas of the royal precinct.
With this, the gardens gain independence from the rest of the palace, although, judging by the comments on social networks, the new option does not stand out in terms of quality and price. The picnic is the big news of the summer. Individuals, couples and families are allowed to spread the traditional waterproof towel on the grass, open the basket and enjoy their own delicacies, soft drinks or tea varieties. Alcoholic beverages are prohibited, including shots of the gin made with flowers and locally-harvested fruit, sold in the palatial shop.
“Only a fraction of the gardens are open to visitors, basically the lawn and a small winding path that I walked slowly in five minutes. Very disappointing, I feel I was cheated. It looks more like a donation for the conservation of the palace than a genuine opportunity to explore the gardens”, protested Siofra. The flora is much appreciated in the UK, where greenhouses, parks and gardens are never lacking on the touring list. But most are free to access and have nice quirks, like neighbors St. James, Hyde and Green Park.
“There’s lots of grass to sit on, but no atmosphere and just a pretty flower bed. More or less interesting things are so far from the security cord that you can’t see them well unless you pay more. A mediocre experience and a missed opportunity”, criticized Michelle. The complaint is repeated among those who did not pay extra to have a guided tour of the southwest area, with the rose garden, the summer pavilion and the wildflower field among its highlights.
The 15.8 hectares of garden date back to 1825, when George IV transformed the original house into his Buckingham Palace. Queen Victoria, called the “grandmother of Europe” by the monarchical network she wove from the matrimonial bonds of her 9 children and 42 grandchildren, established the principles of modern royal residence as a private family home, work space and focus of national celebrations . Among the centuries-old trees, Elizabeth II invited, before the crisis of covid-19, 24,000 citizens in three very popular annual parties. His two eldest children, Charles and Anne, shared as children the care of a vegetable garden and aromatic plants in some corner of the same land. It is said that when he inherits the throne, the prince intends to make official residences more accessible: Buckingham, Balmoral, Clarence House, Sandringham and Windsor Castle.
Not all comments on Trip Advisor are negative. “An oasis of peace… it is wonderful to experience the gardens where the royal family walks. They’re not exceptional, but they’re good and it’s a beautiful place for a picnic,” said Alan. “A beautiful and must-see historical place,” said Arthur. Ziggi invited his family to a palace and garden combo that, according to him, was “brilliant”. Orlando brought together three generations of family members in a “great night” in which even “time helped”. A grandmother who visited him with her four children, daughters-in-law and grandchildren wrote: “We had the picnic under a tree, but there were tents to protect us from the rain… We had a wonderful family day and I would like to repeat the dose next time. year”.
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At £16.50 (118 reais) per adult, the price of the regular visit is in the expensive range of London’s entertainment offerings. The Garden Museum, built around a church south of the Thames, charges 12 pounds (86 reais) per visitor, and Syon House, with its attractive gardens and greenhouse, costs 13.50 (97 reais). The entrance to the masterful botanical garden of Kew Gardens rises to 17.50 (125 reais), but it is advisable to go with plenty of free time to inspect it minimally. The Royal Collection Trust, which has accumulated losses estimated at 60 million pounds (430 million reais) due to the lack of tourists during the pandemic, attributes criticism of the trip to Buckingham to the rainy summer in the British capital.
At least the palace was not considered “London’s worst tourist attraction”. This label belongs to the Marble Arch Mound, a small man-made mound north of Hyde Park and west of Oxford Street that was closed days after it opened in late July. The councilor who managed the project resigned — the project’s budget soared to 6 million pounds (43 million reais) — and, now that the site has been reopened with free entry, people visit it just out of curiosity to see the disastrous construction. The municipal administration conceived the project with the intention of attracting the masses to central London, more or less like the Promenade Plantée in Paris or the High Line in New York. On social media, Marble Arch Mound ended up being called “Teletubbies Hill”.
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