Saturday, June 13, London –
Today has been filled with Queen and King.
I met Kyle at 10 a.m. at Trafalgar Square. We walked the short distance to Admiralty Arch, and then onto the Mall.
By 10.30 a.m., the crowd along the barricades on the eastern end of the Mall was about eight deep. Within a few minutes we were watching the Duchess of Cornwall, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, Prince William of Wales, and finally HRH Prince Philip and Her Majesty the Queen rolling by in open landaus.
The crowd thinned out quite a bit after that, and Kyle and I were just one person away from the barricade. We waited the hour until Trooping the Colour was finished, then watched the Royals return. I have video of the band and then the Queen; I’ll post as soon as I can upon my return home.
We walked west toward Buckingham Palace, joining a large throng of others wishing to see one of Britain’s great spectacles, and found ourselves between the palace gates and the memorial that stands in front of the palace. This was, of course, a prime place to watch the Royals step onto the balcony. And so we did. I waved, and I’m pretty certain that Queen Elizabeth waved right back to me. The whole assortment of Royals included all the principals, although I didn’t see HRH Prince Andrew anywhere. The RAF flyover was quite a thrill too.
I truly never dreamed to see the Queen, let alone all the Royals in one place. Today was a momentous day for this giddy Anglophile.
We followed throngs through Green Park, found a pub, and had lunch (fish and chips for me). I then bought four shirts and some ties at Charles Tyrwhitt on Jermyn Street (fashion central for snobby Britons).
And from Royals and shopping, we went to the National Gallery of Art, where I saw, among others, Constable, Turner, Gainesborough, Van Dyck, at least ten Rembrandts, every imaginable Impressionist, four Caravaggios in a row, and a dozen other paintings I recognized but don’t recall now. This place was a wealth of riches, and a very quick visual overload.
Dinner was Greek food (that makes a tropical sweep this trip, with Lebanese and Indian already).
I’ll write more later about the naked party going on at the Wellington Memorial.
As I prepped this trip to London, I couldn’t decide what other show to go see, aside from La Cage. Walking to the Royal School of Music on Thursday, I passed the Royal Albert Hall, realizing then that the 8000-seat arena was hosting a limited number of performances of The King and I. Well, duh. This is my second-favorite Rodgers and Hammerstein show. Of course I bought tickets.
Those tickets were in a second-tier box. The kind of place where royalty sits. Or the landed gentry. Certainly not the commoners.
The production was grand and elaborate beyond anything I can describe here. Only one role didn’t set well with me, but the rest were vocally powerful, physically commanding, and just right for a huge venue. This was a luxurious show!
And of course I cried when the King died. Did I mention that the King was none other than Korean-American screen actor Daniel Dae Kim (currently of LOST fame)? And that the orchestra was a bang-up band of pros who were balm to my ears after so many community and high school productions?
Funny sidebar: I last saw The King and I in Innsbruck in October. What is this about foreign productions for me?
Hyde Park is locked after 9.30 p.m., so I had to take a bus to get back to the hotel. Since public transportation in London (indeed, the whole UK) is so fine compared to the US, taking a bus is no problem at all.
Sunday a.m. now. The sky is completely blue, without a cloud at all. God is gracing this Sunday with the kind of light that will make the stained glass in today’s churches even more beautiful. I’ll attend Matins today at Westminster Abbey, then go to Cambridge for Evensong at both King’s College and St. John’s College. That’s three services in 8 hours. I hope to be glowing when the day is over, at least an internal glow of joy at choral singing in three of my favorite choral establishments in England.