After a whirlwind trip to London to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II, I am now back in Los Angeles. The trip did not go according to plan, but was still unforgettable in a very positive way.
My Platinum Jubilee Trip To London…A Trip Report
After arriving into London Gatwick Airport on JetBlue, I took a train to London Bridge, then connected on the Jubilee Line of the London Underground to my first stop.
I began the trip in Stratford, just north of Central London, where a new Hyatt Regency and Hyatt House opened just a month ago. Both hotels share the same common space and are situated in a large Westfield shopping mall. My stay was pleasant and I’ll offer a full review of both properties.
I used this time to work and was pleased that the hotel gym had not opened yet, with the hotel providing access to a large gym a few doors down called Gym Box. There, I worked off my carbs on JetBlue and there was even a sauna, which in my experience are fairly difficult to find at hotels in London.
The convenient thing about being in a large shopping center was dozens of food choices nearby, though (unsurprisingly if you know me) I chose Nando’s.
On Wednesday night, I booked myself at the Great Scotland Yard Hotel, part of the Hyatt Unbound Collection and centrally located just a couple blocks from Trafalgar Square and within easy walking distance of The Mall and Buckingham Palace.
I’ll offer a full review of that hotel as well, but it was excellent and the location is truly unparalleled.
In fact, from the window my own room I could have viewed the Trooping the Colour as the procession proceeded through the Horse Guard’s Parade and down Whitehall toward the Admiralty Arch.
Most of London was festooned with flags and other patriotic signs for the Jubilee, literally a special anniversary, and it was a lovely just to walk through the city.
Some friends were in town and we decided to meet for afternoon tea at the Ritz. I walked from my hotel through Trafalgar Square and down The Mall, turning right on Marlbourough Road, then continue up St. James Street. Just outside St James’s Palace there was a woman strolling down the street with baby carriage…it was Princess Beatrice and her baby, Sienna.
The princess did not have a security detail, was just wearing jeans and chatting on her mobile phone, but it was certainly her. I stared at her, probably too long, and she knew I had recognized her. I nodded, she nodded back, and I continued on.
Tea at the Ritz was quite a treat…jacket and tie required. I’ll dedicate a separate post to that experience.
After tea, I walked back to my hotel, again through The Mall and the Horse Guard’s Parade.
Around 3:00AM I found myself wide awake and after blogging for a bit, took a 4:30AM sunrise stroll through London. The air crisp, streets were empty, and the only sound was of chirping birds.
I reached The Mall just after 5:00AM and could have secured a prime spot for viewing the Trooping the Colour event six hours later. Here I perhaps made a mistake. I figured I could get a decent spot later, even if I was not in the front, and returned to my hotel for breakfast and work.
At 9:00AM, I returned and by then it was too late. All entrances into St. James Park and The Mall were closed and Trafalgar Square and Whitehall were also packed with thousands of spectators. I was again with some friends and we just decided to camp out near Nelson’s Column.
Practically, that meant I missed most of the parade, though the Royal Family (Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, and her three children) did proceed by us in an open carriage.
My real view:
Part of me was sad. I came all the way from Los Angeles for this and found myself crowded in a sea of people unable to move.
But you know something? I struck up conversations with those around me and it was great to spend that time chatting with “real” Brits who love their Queen, even if I did not get to catch sight of Her Majesty, as I had hoped to do.
The highlight of the afternoon was the flyover, which began promptly on schedule at 1:00PM. It was really beautiful, and meaningful that the same Spitfires that were used to win the Battle of Britain in World War II were present.
An especially memorable moment was when 15 Typhoon fighter jets flew by in a special formation forming the number 70.
And of course the Red Arrows, which brought a tear to my eye.
What a special moment it was, and all in honor of a very special Queen, Elizabeth II, who has dedicated her life to public service and resiliently displayed virtues of faith, truth, charity, justice, and courage. As an American, she’s not my Queen, but there are few public figures I respect more than her.
After the flyover, I skedaddled back to the hotel, grabbed my bags, and headed to Heathrow (some drama ensued enroute…another post).
My short trip to London this week was not what I had expected (the whole point had been to position myself close to Buckingham Place for the Trooping The Colour event), but was still a joyous time of celebration and thanksgiving for an enduring Head of State who has ruled with dignity for 70 years.
I’ll share some more photos in a forthcoming photo essay. If the Queen is still on the throne five years from now, I hope to return for the “Elizabeth Jubilee” (the rumored name for that milestone, since she has already had a Diamond Jubilee in 2012).