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Hyde Park Review
Along with the smaller St. James's and Green parks to the east, Hyde Park started as Henry VIII's hunting grounds. Along its south side runs Rotten Row, once Henry's royal path to the hunt—the name is a corruption of Route du Roi (route of the king). It's still used by the Household Cavalry, who live at the Hyde Park Barracks—a high-rise and a low, ugly, red block—to the left. This is where the brigade that mounts the guard at Buckingham Palace resides, and you can see them leave to perform their duty, in full regalia, at about 10:30, or await the return of the guard around noon. Hyde Park is wonderful for strolling, watching the locals, or just relaxing by the Serpentine, the long body of water near its southern border. On the south side, by the 1930s Serpentine Lido, is the site of the Diana Princess of Wales Memorial Fountain, which opened in 2003 and is a good spot to refuel at one of the cafés. On Sunday, Speakers' Corner, in the park near Marble Arch, is an unmissable spectacle of vehement, sometimes comical, and always entertaining orators.
Hyde Park Riding Stables. Horses are available here for hacking the sand tracks in Hyde Park. Group lessons (usually just a few people) are £64 per person per hour. Private lessons are £89 Tuesday–Friday, £99 on weekends. 63 Bathurst Mews, Bayswater, W2 2SB. 020/7723–2813. www.hydeparkstables.com. Tube: Lancaster Gate.
The Serpentine. You can rent paddleboats and rowboats here for use on the Serpentine. 020/7262–1330. £10 per person per hr. Apr.–Oct. daily 10–dusk.
Friday Night Skate. Something of a London institution, this is for skaters of intermediate ability and upward, who meet at 8 pm at the Duke of Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, for an enthusiastic two-hour mass skating session, complete with music, whistles, and a party atmosphere. Partaking can also be a great and unusual way to see the sights, as the route often trundles past major landmarks. If you're a bit unsure on your wheels, arrive at 6:30 pm for the free lesson on how to stop. You need to bring your own skates and protective gear—try Slick Willies (12 Gloucester Rd. SW7 4RB, Kensington, 020/7225–0004 www.slickwillies.co.uk) for rental—and the organizers suggest you to bring bottled water and money for transportation in case you have to drop out. The Sunday Rollerstroll, a more laidback version of the same thing, runs on Sunday afternoon—meet at 2 pm on the east side of Serpentine Road. www.thefns.com. Free. Tube: Hyde Park Corner.
Serpentine Lido. It's technically a beach on a lake, but on a hot day in Hyde Park this is surreally reminiscent of the seaside. There are changing facilities, and the swimming section is chlorinated. There is also a paddling pool, sandpit, and a kids' entertainer in the afternoons. Kensington, W2 2UH. 020/7706–7098. www.royalparks.org.uk. £4; £3.50 after 4pm. May, weekends 10–6; June–Sept., daily 10–6. Tube: Knightsbridge.
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