Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Obviously Our Invitation Got Lost in the Mail

After two separate spring break trips, we were tired.  The laundry room was filled with dirty clothes and we hadn't completely finished unpacking yet.  However, that didn't stop us from rolling out early on Friday, April 29, so we could hightail it into London to partake of the festivities surrounding the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.  Since they had to cap their guests at 1900 and we were a bit farther down the list, we decided to brave the streets with the other 600,000 folks turned loose in London for the big celebration.

Few folks enjoy crowds, but since the husband really loathes them, it was inevitable that he opt out, so we made it a ladies only trip.  We caught the 9:17 southwest commuter train out of Walton-on-Thames and changed trains at Clapham Junction (which just sounds like some sort of sexually transmitted disease, right?) so we could roll into Victoria station by 10:00.

We met up with a friend and her husband who had another couple in tow, so we began walking towards Buckingham Palace and the mall.  Along the way, we stumbled across The Goring (see the purple banner) where Kate Middleton and her family spent the night before the wedding.  The police had the street blocked since cars would be picking them up to get them to Westminster Abbey. In addition, there was white tenting set up over the entrance so that Kate's dress could be kept secret until she alighted from the car at the Abbey before walking down the aisle.

After stopping for a couple shots, we walked a bit further and found a spot to wait along the route the wedding party would travel on their way to Westminster.  We were able to get a front row spot, which in this case meant right up against the metal barrier they had set up along the roadway.  You can see ones just like it across the street from us.

The folks pedaling by on bikes with the usual traffic were hilarious.  The crowd would cheer for them and it rippled down the street.  They all seemed to think it their duty to smile and give their best royal wave as they zipped by on two wheels.  One guy took it a step further by holding out his cell phone with one hand while waving to us with the other and recording it all the while.  We also saw several of the typical black London taxis drive by with decoration for this momentous occasion.

In the first picture, you can see the children - little bridesmaids and pages - being chauffeured to the service.  They were so cute, with their little faces practically pressed to the glass, smiling and waving at all of their newfound adoring fans lining the road.  I hope they're old enough to remember their participation in this bit of royal history.  I've made the second picture larger than usual so hopefully you can see where Kate is sitting.  I was hoping for a fabulous shot because I had an unobstructed view of the car passing in front of us.  However, there was a very short and persistent Spanish-speaking woman that had wedged through and sandwiched me between her body and the very unforgiving barricade as she attempted to get her own picture of Kate.  It's stuff like this that really gets my goat.  We stood there in that very spot for about 40 minutes, a fabulous spot to get the perfect picture as the car with Kate slowly drove past.  Then this woman appears at the last minute and feels no qualms about squeezing the breath out of me in her bid to get a picture, too, and thus making it all but impossible to get my own decent shot.  At least Annie and particularly Lynn got a better picture since they weren't getting jostled and squished.  If you look closely, you can just make out the top of Kate's head over the top of the chauffeur's hat and see her white veil just to the right of the driver.

Once Kate's car cleared this area and the crowd began to disperse, we split with Lynn and friends to head out towards Buckingham Palace.  What we had no way of knowing at this point was the roads leading up to the palace from the side and rear were closed and properly barricaded.  Therefore, we more or less ended up walking in a circle and not making any progress.  

Here we are with the crowds along the side of the palace - so close yet so far away with all those barricades in our way.  However, we did have a bit of luck at this point because it's down this side of the palace where you'll find the royal mews and we were fortunate enough to see all of the following as they paraded past us on their way to the Abbey for the ride back at the conclusion of the service.  

It was a beautiful sight, everything all polished and shiny for their time in the spotlight as the world watched.  My favorite carriage is the handsome one in the 4th picture because a crown sits atop it - what a great detail!

We knew to expect tremendous crowds, but the youngest daughter still found it daunting and a bit scary.  Folks were jockeying for position or to get on down the sidewalk for a better spot, so it was shoulder to shoulder virtually everywhere.  A time or two I had to stop dead in my tracks to keep us from being mowed down from the people behind us.  There was an especially annoying group of people from some country where they don't teach manners because Cal got hemmed in and squeaked in protest.  It was at this point that I turned to the bald-headed rude dog with limited English skills and told him to back off and not run over my child.  I added my best teacher evil eye to the command, whereupon he shrugged like the middle schoolers I once taught and just kept going.  Obviously he thought manners and mature, adult appropriate behavior weren't the order of the day and I decided to just let it go since I didn't want to join the handful of folks who would be arrested for their unruly conduct.

See what I mean - it was crowded as all get out and since St. James Park was closed because it was full to the brim by this time, we had no place left to go except home.  

See how close we were, alongside the Palace?  Granted, the second shot I zoomed in to get the monument in front of the Palace, but the first shot is actual distance from that corner where the barricade stopped our progress towards the front of the palace.  After spending about 30 min trying to skirt around the barricades and get closer, we ended up on this side street where I had good views of the backs of heads.  We did get to see the coaches bringing all of the VIP wedding guests back to this side entry of the Palace for the reception Queen Elizabeth hosted right after the ceremony.  Unfortunately, we weren't close enough to have a good laugh at some of the more outrageous hats and fascinators worn by the guests.  Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice, we're talking about you.  Maybe the queen will pay for the two of them to get a stylist so they won't embarrass themselves so publicly at the next official royal function.

And now the sad part of our story.  You know those barricades that kept us from scooching around to the front of the palace into that horseshoe they had kept blocked off up to this point?  The ones we stood behind for at least an hour, having to breathe in second hand smoke and miscellaneous body odor while daughter Callie joined in the chorus of the kids around us wanting to go?  I did the old countdown for about 30 minutes and people were starting to work their way back out, away from the barricades, which seemed the sane thing to do since we had stood there cooling our heels for such a long time with no indication of when or if we might be allowed to move forward.  So, of course, about 15 minutes after we left everyone in the area where we were standing were allowed into that prime spot in front of the palace, in front of the folks who had camped out the night before so they could have a front row seat for the highly anticipated balcony kiss.  If we had held out for just a bit more, we would have been in a prime spot to witness not one but two kisses right there in front of our faces.  Auuuughhhh!

On the walk back to Victoria to catch the commuter train back home, we passed by the House of Fraser department store.  It's not high end like Nordstrom's in the states, but I would compare it to Dillard's.  In the window they had this huge Union Jack framing a card with well wishes to the prince and his future princess, so we stopped for one final picture.  It has both girls, the date, what was happening and our last name.  If I come down with the old-timers disease as I age, then I'll have this extra bit of information to jog my lapsed memory.

The girls and I took some wonderful pics, created fabulous memories together about this little bit of British history and will be able to tell the next generation about how we were there.  If this is any indication as to what we can expect at the Olympics next summer, I can hardly wait.

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