It’s London and it’s two days before the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. The festivities are underway and the excitement is palpable. My mission for Day One is to walk the wedding route from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, to check out the preparations…and the characters.
The exhaustion of a seven hour flight, and exasperation of a two hour wait in Heathrow customs, dissolved quickly when I met the cheerful driver assigned to take me to my hotel. I hopped into his shiny black Jaguar (which, incidentally, will be taking an important guest, who shall not be named, to the wedding) and I laughed at his jokes all the way to the city. First stop, the lovely Number Sixteen Hotel in South Kensington, and my charming fuschia room on the top floor, looking out over the rooftops. I LOVE my room. (More on the hotel in a future post!)
Before I could begin the route scout, I needed sustenance. I stopped in to the pub on the corner for fish and chips, mushy peas, and a half pint of cider. It was a perfect way to start my adventure…cozy, and comfortable, sitting side by side with the locals.
Like many pubs, the Zetland Arms was all set to host their own wedding party.
Next stop, Westminster Abbey. This is what I saw when I came out of the Tube. Hello, Big Ben.
In front of the Abbey, colorful tents festooned with Union Jacks and Will and Kate bunting, lined the street. Die-hard Royal watchers, young and old, were camped out in order to get the best view on the big day. There were whole families, dog included, a romance writer from Canada, and an American woman who had only a chair to live in for the next two days.
Bertie and Liz, from Chester, England (which they proudly told me was near Wales, where Prince William serves as an RAF helicopter rescue pilot) had arrived earlier in the day, getting a second row place, the first row already filled. They were well-prepared with food and water, and a tent with air mattresses and sleeping bags. Bertie passed the time by weaving eyeglass chains out of string. I am now the proud owner of a pink and yellow one.
Everyone got their 15 minutes of fame, as reporters elbowed their way in to interview them, and used the crowd, and the Abbey, as their backdrop.
Bookmakers offered odds on everything from the color of the Queen’s hat (the odds are it’s yellow) to whether or not Kate would be late.
Last minute preparations at the door of the Abbey were supervised. Kate Middleton will walk through that door in two days as a commoner, and come out a princess. A real life fairy tale.
I left the Abbey and walked the procession route, past Big Ben, along Parliament Street, past Downing Street, to Whitehall and the Horse Guards.
The guards stood watch, unflinching in the midst of the madness.
A crowd gathered to watch the traditional “Changing of the Guards” ceremony.
I moved on to Trafalgar Square, which was jammed with traffic. There’s going to be a wedding watching party there on Friday, with refreshments and a large screen televising the ceremony. I haven’t decided if I want to join that royal mosh pit…
The majestic entrance to the Mall leads to the final destination of Buckingham Palace.
Alongside the Mall is St. James’s Park, which was filled with people on this sunny day.
These three were playing badminton, sans net, in the middle of the park.
A quick ice-cream and souvenir break, and then I’ll be on my way to Buckingham Palace.
The park is part of the Princess Diana Memorial Walk, which commemorates places that were associated with the Princess during her life.
The Stable Yard guard is all business as usual.
The area around Buckingham Palace has the fanciest decorations.
Even the building constructed for the television studios, across the street from the Palace, is decorated beautifully. Workmen genially worked on the fencing…everyone is in a good mood.
More reporters were in front of the Palace. I met press from Italy, to Mexico, to Houston, and everywhere in between.
Here’s the famous balcony where the crowds hope to see the Prince and Princess share their first public kiss as husband and wife.
Even these young boys were getting into the spirit of the wedding.
The window boxes all around the Palace were planted with celebratory flowers and ivy.
On a little street behind the Palace is the Goring Hotel, where Kate will spend the night before her wedding. I loved the heart-shape flower arrangements on the posts outside.
I stopped to hang out for a moment with the press and paparazzi across the street who were waiting for a glimpse of the future princess. They never got their shot…she was at Clarence House…but they did get a good shot of these four little princesses, who, I must say, gave them quite a show!
That’s all for today…more tomorrow!