London, Day 4: Jubilation! in the p.m.

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After the hub-bub died down in front of St. Paul’s, I walked in the other direction to get a better view of the church. Pretty soon I found myself on Fleet Street, but was lost and turned around. After the late revelry of the night before, I was hoping to find a Tube station that would whisk me back to my hotel, and specifically my bed. But the innumerable barricades along the streets prevented me from navigating in the direction I thought I should be going.

As I stood there confused, I noticed a significant amount of people still lining the barricades expectantly. I walked over to lean against one and look at my map, just as someone asked a police officer, “What time will they be coming by?”

My ears perked.
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London, Day 4: Jubilation! in the a.m.

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I figured this would be the hardest post to write, and probably also to read. To write, because I may have to explain why I get so teeny-bopper excited over the British royal family, and I have no justification. To read, because most of you aren’t going to care one whit. So, I’ll give you an out — there is lots of mooning and fawning over royals to come, so I’m not offended if you need to cut out. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. (Har, har, har.)

As Day 4 dawned, I woke early and tubed over St. Paul’s Cathedral, site of the morning Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving service, which was to begin at 10:30 a.m. Most of the streets were blocked, so I had a heck of a time actually getting to the cathedral, and I passed groups of men and women in full church attire making their way to the service. How’d they get to be so special?


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London, Day 3: Another year older, in the p.m.

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I emerged from Hyde Park near Knightsbridge, on my way to Harrod’s. I don’t actually care much for Harrod’s itself, but some souvenir (and food) shopping was in order. I later learned that the al Fayed family sold the store to the Quatari royal family, which may explain the disproportionate amount of Arab visitors. I wandered through the food stalls, past exquisite pastries and tins of biscuits and jam. It’s very touristy, and was very crowded. On my way out, I caught the shoes that were part of a contest Kate Middleton judged earlier this year (or last?). Neat.


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London, Day 3: Another year older, in the a.m.

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Monday was my birthday, so I planned to take it a bit easier and enjoy life. The only Jubilee-related celebration that day was the evening concert at Buckingham Palace, but only U.K. residents could score tickets, and in a lottery at that. I had thought about pitching a blanket to watch the concert in Hyde Park, but the weather was just too unpredictable.

I had breakfast at a little cafe by my hotel, Carmina Cafe, that was good, hot and filling — poached eggs with roasted tomato, goat cheese and rocket (arugula), toast and coffee. I actually had really excellent coffee the entire time I was in London — definitely a highlight.

For the morning, I pre-booked tickets to Kensington Palace, which was refurbished and reopened just recently. As I walked over from the Tube, the weather looked weirdly menacing but held.


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London, Day 2: Thames River Pageant

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After my weird sleep patterns and full day of sightseeing the day before, I slept in a bit on Sunday morning. The mission of the day, however, was to get in position for the Queen’s Thames River Pageant, one of the first high-profile events of the Diamond Jubilee weekend celebration.

I had been watching the crowd build up at Tower Bridge on television, so I knew I didn’t want to go there. Tower Bridge was the end of the pageant, where the Queen would disembark to watch the rest of the procession. That = craziness. Instead, I got out at the Mansion House tube stop, a ways down the river. With the rest of the country. We all — gobs of children, teenagers, families and strollers — walked for ages down the barrier streets, looking for a way in to the river. But, security was tight and every building and establishment along the river had scheduled private, ticket-only events. I’d had the opportunity to buy such a ticket, for a cocktail reception at about $250 a pop. That seemed ridiculous at the time, but not so as I walked and walked to get a decent view.

Near Blackfriars, along the Victoria Embankment, I spotted a place at the top of an incline that was only, oh, 15 people deep. So I wedged myself in and prepared for the two-plus-hour wait for the boats to reach us. There were screaming children, moments of aggressive pushing/leaning and close quarters among people who had both traveled from around the country and camped out there for the morning. It was not what I would call ‘pleasant.’ I tried desperately to protect my tiny sliver of a view of the river anyway. I was also positioned across the river from the Tate Modern museum, where a large screen was projecting someone’s, probably BBC, television coverage. So we could see images of the royal family boarding their boats, and had a vague notion of what was happening elsewhere.

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London, Day 1: On Arrival

Oh, London.

I’m freshly back from my London Jubilee/birthday excursion, and missing it already. That’s a little unusual, because as much as I am enamored with British culture, television, tea, accents, history and the royal family … I’ve just never really liked London. On this trip, though, I think the love affair began.

London’s such an easy city — to get to, to get around in, to visit alone. Though it’s nothing like New York, I felt a distinct and similar cityness — on the tube, in the hum of commuter rush hour, in just its oldness. But in that, of course, New York has nothing on London. I just felt surprisingly comfortable, and loved being back in the middle of the bustling city — you know I can throw an elbow in a crowd, hurl myself into a packed train car and speedwalk past the tourists with the best of them.

Now, it wasn’t a relaxing holiday, not like laying on a Caribbean beach with a mai tai for a week. And I killed it, every day, which means I made it through most of the sites on my to do list. It also means I hardly slept, mostly because I never acclimated to GMT. It sure made the coming home easier though — no early waking and to bed at 8 pm for me.
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