I did something kind of crazy two weeks ago, only because I could. . . only because I live in Europe and I can, and it was a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity, and because my parents offered me a free place to stay, because I believe in the power of love and college sweethearts marrying after 8 years of dating, and because I was (am) a big Princess Diana fan.
Yes, I did. I flew to London to witness Prince William marry his sweetie, Kate.
|My mom, me and Big Ben|
Enough about family dynamics. Our campground did not have easy access to London. We started out the morning with a 10-15 minute walk along a rather treacherous, narrow footpath to the bus stop. Then a 30 minute bus ride to the Tube, where we would spend the next 45 minutes or so until we arrived in central London. To spend 3 hours a day just "commuting" on vacation was exhausting.
|Did I mention we had awesome seats?|
|Who is that, you ask? Oh. . . only the Queen.|
Answer: AWESOME SEATS!!!
(Editorial note: I do have to laugh at my use of the word "awesome", because it is not one I use regularly in my day to day speech. More so, in October a British B&B owner said to me, "oh, I have Americans coming? I've been told I'll hear the word awesome a lot.")
|Kate and Wills wave from the balcony, as seen|
on the huge screen at Trafalgar Sq.
At 10am, the procession started with William and Harry riding by in a car, William very visible in his red uniform. I heard someone screaming, "yeaaaaaaaah William! Whoooo-hooooo Harry!" only to realize--it was me. I honestly was not expecting that! But there was just something about the crowd's excitement, the band, the flags, the cheering--I couldn't help myself! Although as the Queen drove by, yes--it was exciting--she is the Queen--but even silly-American me knew not to yell, "yeeeeeahhh Queenie!!!"
The crows in front of us had grown from 4 people deep when we arrived at 8am, to 11-12 people deep at 10am. Fathers were holding daughters on their shoulders for hours, boyfriends giving up years of life in their backs by supporting girlfriends on their shoulders, smart people were sitting on ladders, and the lucky people were sitting on window sills (us!). We could see over the heads of all of those sad saps, 12 people back.
As Kate and her father drove by, the 13-year old girl in me emerged again, and I heard myself screaming, "Kaaaate! Kaaaaate! Yeaaaaaaa!" Even 50 meters away, through the blurred window of a steadily moving car, she looked radiant--but even more importantly--calm and happy. What also struck me (and this will sound a bit lame) was how real these people looked. After years of seeing pictures of William and Harry, the Queen, Charles and Camilla--here they were in front of me! Moving, waving, smiling, humans, simply excited about the day like the rest of us!
|The day after, at Kensington Palace. One of|
few regrets of the trip is not having brought
flowers to Kensington in honor of Diana.
I know. . . I'm a sap.
Shortly after 11am, we could spot the beginning of the parade down Whitehall (was it a parade? I don't know what else to call it. . . ). Strangely enough, a rider-less horse galloped down Whitehall in front of the entire procession, took the tight 90 degree turn into the Horse Guards Arch, and disappeared into the safety of its stable. It had apparently bucked its rider quite a ways back up the road, spooked by the crowds (Youtube has a gazillion videos, if you're curious). But nearly immediately after the horse ran past us, Kate and William were approaching, and the crowds went wild. Yours truly included. Harry (looking impish even at 50m away and a few of the kids were next, Pippa and a few bridesmaids, and as the Queen rolled by, the military band next to us struck up "God Save the Queen," to which the entire crowd sang along. Yours truly included, again. (I think I learned it in 1985, when I thought it might come in handy when I married Prince Edward).
|Check out the ring!|
I spent the next two days in London seeing the sites with my parents: a trip to Kensington Palace, Victoria and Albert museum (kind of), National Gallery, a show, Covent Garden, Camden Market, and plenty of double-decker bus riding. At 9pm on Sunday night I took the Tube to Healthrow, and spent the next 7 hours sitting in a Costa Coffee shop at the airport, waiting for Security to open (never would have guessed that it closes). By 1pm the next day, I was back in Lillehammer, to a bemused husband and daughter who was very excited to have a Union Jack flag with the faces of Will and Kate plastered on it.
All in all: totally worth it, incredibly fun. I will sleep in a tent with Greta in 30 years when William and Kate's firstborn get married. You can count me in.