Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Weekend

We were home from our cruise for just a few days before we headed down to London to celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, or 60 years of service and devotion by Queen Elizabeth II. Although she her coronation was not until 1953, she had put in more than a years service between her fathers death in February 1952 and her coronation 2 June 1953.

We took the train to London on Saturday and upon arrival noticed bunting and Union Jacks anywhere and everywhere. Whether or not your a royalist, you will have to admit they put on a pretty good party!

We were very lucky to have been able to check into our room as soon as we arrived (before noon). We were expecting just to leave our luggage at the concierge desk and go off to explore. We have stayed at The Grange St. Paul's in the past and hope to do so again in the future! So after unpacking and freshening up, we watched the Epsom Derby to see Camelot do what was expected of him before we made it out on the streets of London.

We passed Shakespeare's globe theatre and picked up a snack at the borough market before crossing London Bridge and getting on the tube to the Olympic village. We headed to Covent Garden to have supper and decided on the Marquess of Anglesey. After our very filling meal we were planning a bit of walking to work it off but the rain was coming down pretty heavy so we only made it to Trafalgar Square were we snapped a few pictures of the Olympic countdown clock and got mooned by some girls on a party bus before we went underground and took the tube back to St. Paul's.

Despite the rain throughout the night, many people camped out along the Thames to get a glimpse of the Queen and the royal family during the flotilla. The pageant truly was reminiscent of the painting xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxx by xxxx xxxxx from 17xx. We however watched most of it from the warm dry comfort of our room. We did get out early and walked the Thames up to Parliament but walked The Strand back to the room. We did cone out to the river as the Royal Barge was approaching, we could hear the bells on the leading barge, but couldn't see a thing. The atmosphere was great though, the people along the river may have been soaked but their spirit was high and bright. Once the Royal Barge passed, we went back to our room to watch the rest of the pageant. Had we stayed out in the weather the whole time I may have ended up in a hospital bed on the same wing as the Duke of Edinburg though! That night we met up with some friends for supper and the rain just kept coming.

I must have been confused as to where we were because I did not pack any boots for London. It was the beginning of June after all, surely I wouldn't need boots! Boy was I wrong! I wore a pair of flip flops down on the train and brought my Merell Barefoot shoes with me. The flip flops only came out when we went to the pool. By the time we returned to our room that night, my feet were blue (and a bit smelly from walking around in wet shoes all day). I was very thankful to have a warm dry room that night.

A bit skeptical, I looked out the window the following morning expecting to see another flotilla coming down the streets of London instead of the Thames, but was pleasantly surprised to find most of the puddles drying out. So after some food and the pool, we walked the South Bank from the Millennium Bridge to Battersea Park, crossed Chelsea Bridge, then walked the North Bank towards St. James Park via Parliament.

We walked all around St. James Park to discover we needed to go back to where we came in and around the other way. We finally found an ok place to put our bin bags down and eat our sandwiches. We could see part of the screen minus one tree pesky tree branch. We applied for seats at the stage, but settled for the park. It was a blast, we stood up the whole time and danced most of the time. We could see the fireworks erupting over the trees behind the stage. It was truly a once in a lifetime experience!

When it was all said and done, Prince Charles put away his speech notes, Sir Paul McCartney hung up his guitar, and the Queen gave her last wave. We expected exiting the park to be a nightmare, but were pleasantly surprised. We all calmly and in an orderly fashion filed out of the park past the horse guard parade (which had bleachers already set up for Olympic beach volleyball games). We quickly made our way back along the Thames and continued our walk back to St. Paul's. 11.11 estimated miles covered and we didn't step onto a bus or a tube all day. Shattered, we returned to our room, packed and set the alarm to be at the palace early the next morning.

The alarm came much too early but our tickets to bee seated in front of Buckingham Palace (around the Victoria Monument and the stage from the previous night) said we must be seated by 0915 or we would not be allowed in. So bright eyed and bushy tailed we checked out, dropped our luggage at the concierge desk, end headed out towards the tube.

We couldn't get to the St. Paul's station due to road closures so we took the circle line from mansion house station.
Not exactly sure how to get to the north grandstand or where to get off the tube we picked St. James park. We were familiar with it after last night and figured we could cut through fairly easily if we needed to. We found a line quickly once we got to the park, but after standing in line for a few minutes my husbands gut instinct was correct...we were in line for the south grandstand. We quickly cut across the bridge, exited the other side of the park and asked a police officer how to get to our destination. Not exactly sure, he directed us to the general area.

When we got to the top of the road where we were to turn left we came up to a line of people, many of whom were holding tickets for the grandstands. This would have seemed a good point to get in line, but not for my number crunching husband. There were a total of 10,000 seats between the two grandstands, each with 5,000. The point where we came up on the cue was well over a mile away from the point of entry. Either no one was in the stands, more than 5,000 people were trying to get in, or the line had intermingled with another line.

Convinced it was not the right spot my husband started walking past the line. The more he talked, the more people we passed, the more I was believing he was correct. There was also a couple walking in front of us (with tickets in hand) walking past the line as well.

As we neared the front of the line and people started to tell us to keep their tickets out. We knew we were getting close but were still not in the right place as most of the people did not know what tickets they were talking about. We kept going though, walked around pedestrian subway, and suddenly came into a line and were directed into the security gates showed our tickets and we were in. We were directed to our seats and that was it.

The grandstands were pretty empty when we first arrived and only filled up moderately throughout the day. It was obvious the concert was the more desirable ticket. Cars started to head out and we all anticipated the Queen. I recognized her Bentley from her trip to York. It had gone into the Palace gates, but had yet to exit.

Several other cars exited before the Queen's car came out, without Prince Philip. The schedule for the day had him included in the days festivities and we were unsure of their accuracy until this point. He was indeed still in the hospital. I felt a bit sad for the Queen, for recent interviews Prince William commented on how close his grandparents relationship was, and today she was celebrating while her partner in life was ill.

We had a few hours before the royal family returned. We were able to watch the service in St. Paul's on the big screens. Also iI that time a number of bands, guards, horse guards, and police marched by. I am not sure if people thought they were missing something because they often stood up and swarmed to see whomever was marching by(even if the Queen could be seen on the big screen, obviously not on her way back).

The rain held out most of the afternoon, but not for the whole day. Just as the carriage procession was shown coming down The Mall, it began. First lightly, but steady and increasing. So much so my husband put up the hood on his jacket. It was a little soggy for the balcony appearance and fly by, but still drier than the flotilla, for now.

The Queen and potential successors did not appear on the balcony until hundreds of people calmly and efficiently filed down The Mall into the roundabout around the Victoria Monument in front of the Palace. First just the Queen, then Charles and Camilla, followed by William and Katherine. They waved, listened to the cheers, and watched the fly by and waved some more before retreating back into the warmth and dry of Buckingham Palace.

We exited the stands and joined the herds of people being corralled towards Victoria station. We found out tickets and gladly headed underground (away from the rain) to return to our hotel. Our jubilee weekend wasn't quite over, we had about 4 hours before our train left for the north, but that is a story all it's own.

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