Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Royal Nut

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
As I mentioned before, my parents are vacationing in England this summer in their RV. They had planned their trip to ensure they would be in a campground outside of London on the days surrounding April 29. I flew to Heathrow a few days before The Wedding, announcing to border control that I was in town for The Wedding (well, they asked, so. . . ), and met my parents in downtown London at a predetermined Tube stop. My parents have been to London something like 12 times, so to say they know the city is an understatement. They were like, "We need to take the 36 bus to Dorchester Road, because the Tube only goes to Dorchester Court, and then we have to walk the extra two blocks in the wrong direction, but the bus puts us on the right side of the street, and you don't have to deal with the roundabout there. . . " I am generally the navigator in my own little family, but in London I just sat back and let my parents be, well, my parents. And enjoyed the ride.

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?
We spent Thursday walking around London, walking the route of the wedding procession, scoping out potential good spots, gawking at the people who pitched tents outside Westminster Abbey and along St. James Park. There was palpable energy in the air already, with thousands of others doing exactly what we were doing. I had a slight pang of disappointment that I hadn't brought my own tent and sleeping bag, although I can honestly say I don't know of anyone who would have been crazy enough to sleep out with me (Alyssa maybe? If she hadn't been 35 weeks pregnant?).

Who is that, you ask? Oh. . . only the Queen.
The order of the day was printed on every newspaper and magazine available, so it was very clear that at 10am on Friday morning Prince William and Prince Harry would be leaving Buckingham Palace in a car and driving to the Abbey. The wedding started at 11am. So. . . when to arrive? Or more accurately, how early can I pull my willing-but-retired parents out of their comfy king sized bed in the RV, and get them to start the 1.5 hour journey into London? Answer: 6am, with departure scheduled for 6:30am. I admit, I was nervous about what kind of crappy seat/views we would get, arriving into London at 8am.


(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.
All modes of transportation into London were surprisingly underused. We walked past Trafalgar Square towards Westminster Abbey, down Whitehall, and noticed a few legs dangling from above. A few people were sitting on wide stone windowsills, just kitty-corner from the Horse Guards Arch--through which the cars and carriages would drive to and from the Palace and the Abbey. We spotted an open windowsill about 6 ft. high, and I scrambled up. The sill was amazing: enough room for the 3 of us, with extra room for our bags and jackets. But the view: even better! The route would take a 90 degree turn essentially right in front of us, slowing down to make it through the narrow Horse Guards arch. Had we been 5 minutes later, the spot would have been snatched up. We couldn't believe our luck. Tents be damned.

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.
Although there were speakers lining the street, we were really only able to hear singing and organ music. Any speaking was lost. The hour passed quickly, although the cappuccino that my parents had fetched me at 8am was really beginning to take effect. . . .

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!
After the procession was finished, we made our way up to Trafalgar Square, not in any big hurry, found a clean, indoor bathroom, and waited for "the balcony scene," with military jet flyover, scheduled for 1pm. It was rather impressive, WW2 planes and modern jets, in two separate flyovers directly up The Mall over Buckingham Palace. After Kate and William kissed--two short, little proper British pecks--we headed out into the streets of London in search of discounted theater tickets, coffee, and an internet cafe.

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. 


  1. Sounds so fun--I'm pretty sure I found your sitting location on Google Maps.

  2. Wow, you did have a great spot. Wonderful picture of the Queen and Prince Philip and of course William and Kate. I'm definately jealous. I'll pitch a tent next to yours and Greta's in 30 years.

  3. I've never been too crazy about royalty or weddings for that matter...but I will admit that Kate's dress inspired me and depressed me all in one. It brought to form my dream dress! Obviously as a non-princess type I would have never have worn so much dress haha but the bodice is so exactly what I have always envisioned... she was beautiful.

    I also thought it was funny to read the Norwegian coverage in VG and Dagbladet... people really do go nuts over royalty!

  4. @Lisa: yes, I took it upon myself that one of my norsk lessons for that week was to watch a half hour long TV program (in norsk) about the young royal couples in England, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. That guy who married the Swedish princess has some of the strangest glasses. . .

  5. Your seats were AWESOME! well done... Would have loved to go. lucky girl.