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 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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