Your royal correspondent is now ensconced in London, which is experiencing a glorious spring – sun-dappled, lush with wisteria and fragrant with lilacs.
Everything is green -- the trees have all leafed out – even the Buckeyes (called chestnuts here) which usually peak around near Mother’s Day in Pittsburgh. It feels more like sunny California than damp, rainy England. So, what better way to spend the first day in London than on one of the well-regarded LondonWalks tours – this one of the Royal Wedding,
I like the LondonWalks online site’s description of this particular tour:
“It's the fairy tale's fairy tale places. It's the route. And the course that never did run smooth. It's tap dancing in the rain on a roof. It's stag night do's (and I do's) and an £11,000 drown-his-sorrows bar bill at a night club and cakes and veils and bouquets and dresses and the Royal Chocolatier and virginity tests and herbs of love and confetti and legions of mistresses and the royal family moving with the times and Kate's rival. Let alone the world's longest running – it's been going for nearly a 1,000 years – Hello series. Our look back on this walk on by takes in everything from a square coffin and a fake lesbian wedding in the palace to "a bat instead of a woman" and a dead drunk groom with his head in the fireplace. Spun gold all of it. Head spinning stuff. And head turning. Nothing opens up history like an event – and its places. “
The walk started in Green Park, with a look at where it all began: Spencer House, where Diana’s family has lived for centuries. It’s the white classical birthday cake facade poking through the trees.
Sue Jackson, our guide, took us around to Spencer House’s entrance… peering through the open front door and the dim hallway I could glimpse a huge bust of someone… most likely the first Earl Spencer. Outside, Ms. Jackson walked us through all the monarchy’s arranged marriages, including Diana and Charles, and declared “there will never be another arranged marriage in this royal family.” S
o Spencer House represents an ending – and a beginning – in a way.
Then it was on to the really important historical spots: Jigsaw, the chic women’s clothing shop (J.Crew but a little pricier) where Kate Middleton worked as an accessories buyer while waiting for Prince William to get on with it and propose to her. Ms. Jackson, spoke approvingly of Ms. Middleton’s behavior throughout the whole breakup ordeal (“Pressure pressure pressure!”)
Here’s a photo of Jigsaw’s doorway. I was afraid to venture in because the dollar is $1.60 to the pound. No bargains there.
But Ms. Jackson also noted that Kate’s style sense has annoyed London designers, “since it goes back a couple of decades.” Vivienne Westwood, the edgiest of the British designers, scoffed that she wouldn’t be dressing the future princess “until she’s caught up to where I am.”
We had some company at Jigsaw: a crew from the Canadian Broadcasting Company stumbled upon us and decided to film us looking at the store.
Then, it was on to Swaine Adeny, “whip and glovemakers to the Queen,” Ms. Jackson noted, adding that she couldn’t imagine the Queen would have much use for the whip – unless it was to keep the Duke of Edinburgh, her husband, in line -- and pointed to the horse tackle as a way of reminding us that Kate is allergic to horses, so she won’t be riding much.
Best of all among the Mayfair stops was Mahiki, the Polynesian-themed bar where, after his second, serious breakup with Kate, Prince William decided to drown his sorrows by ordering the bar’s “treasure chest” – 11,000 pounds worth – of Champagne for everyone in the room.
Your royal correspondent felt she needed to record the moment at Mahiki’s for posterity.
Final highlight of the tour (not including Westminster Abbey and St. James’ Palace, where all sorts of really bad royal marriages (George IV and Queen Caroline) and good ones (Queen Victoria and Prince Albert)…
We encountered this camera crew along the Mall (pronounced mal, rhymes with pal) which leads to Buckingham Palace and has been festooned with Union Jack flags.
Allegedly they were shooting something for Jon Stewart’s show – some man in a bowler hat and it’s not clear if this was a joke or if this man really was someone in a bowler hat that Jon Stewart’s crew managed to corner.
Poor guy. But what fun, and just a preview of the media madness ahead.