Royal wedding fever: A sightseeing itinerary for fans of British royals

2018-05-03 12:07
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Buckingham Palace. (Photo: iStock)

You got up in the wee hours to watch Prince William and Kate Middleton tie the knot in 2011. And, if you're of a certain age, ditto for Charles and Diana way back in 1981.

You binge-watched "The Crown" on Netflix and are anxiously awaiting the show's next season.

This year, with the nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in the offing, perhaps you're ready to visit England and enjoy some real-life crowning moments.

SEE: Royal wedding fever: $50K hotel packages and Union Jack condoms

From Windsor to window-shopping, here are some tips on where to get that regal feeling.

TAKE THE REI(G)NS

Buckingham Palace is a must-see for devotees of "The Crown" — even though the series isn't actually filmed there. In the summer, part of the palace is open to the public; tickets sell out fast so book ahead. Almost any time of year, you can visit the Queen's Gallery, a small but thoughtfully curated selection of art from the royal collection.

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From February to November, visit the Royal Mews, which houses stables, the carriage house and garage. You'll likely see horses, as well as glittering carriages. The standout is the huge, gilded Gold State Coach used at every coronation since George IV in 1821. You can even sit for a photo in a replica of the landau favoured by Queen Victoria and imagine yourself trotting past crowds of adoring subjects, waving regally of course.

A combined ticket for the Queen's Gallery and Royal Mews costs about $27 (R341.90 @R12.66/$). Planning to visit lots of attractions? Consider a multi-venue option like the London Pass.

WANDER WINDSOR

Windsor Castle has been home to British royals for 900 years. That history continues when Harry and Meghan wed there at St George's Chapel.

There's a lot to see, from ornate formal rooms to the miniature perfection of Queen Mary's Dolls' House to the rather stout suit of armour worn by Henry VIII. The castle closes at 17:15 in summer, an hour earlier in winter. After exiting, you can line up for (free) admission to Evensong at St George's Chapel, a mostly sung service that sometimes features visiting choirs. Ask the guides where to stand and when to get in line.

The castle will be closed 18-19 May for the wedding and some apartments are closed other times of the year. Click here for the details.

SEE: Royal Wedding Fever: Where to live out your British royalty fantasies

Windsor Castle is about 40 kilometres from London and easy to reach. By train, head from Paddington to Slough and change at Slough for the Windsor & Eton Central train, which delivers you within steps of the castle. Round-trip tickets are about $15 (R189.95). Entrance to the castle is about $30 (R378).


FEEL LIKE A PRINCESS

Back in London, Kensington Palace feels surprisingly home-like for a palace. This is the official residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, aka William and Kate, and Prince Harry. The grounds include the sunken garden where the latest royal engagement was announced. This was also home to Diana, Princess of Wales. An exhibit of some of her iconic outfits is on display until 6 January 2019. It's popular so click here to buy tickets in advance.

SEE: #RoyalFlying: Prince Harry ensures actress girlfriend receives royal treatment at Heathrow Airport

Don't miss having a cup of tea in the cafe, with outdoor seating overlooking the gardens and free Wi-Fi.

From the palace, you can walk to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in Hyde Park, a lovely and serene spot. Friendly notices advise that it's perfectly OK to sit on the side of the fountain and dip your feet.


(WINDOW) SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP

Bond Street, which runs through Mayfair from Oxford Street to Piccadilly Circus, is an excellent place to window-shop, teeming with high-end shops, including Asprey's, jewellers to the royal family since Queen Victoria.

The Piccadilly entrance is around the corner from Burlington Arcade, a covered shopping alley featuring a number of luxury boutiques. Across the street from the arcade's Piccadilly entrance is Fortnum & Mason, fabled supplier of gourmet food hampers (the young Prince Charles gets one in the boarding school episode of "The Crown").

You can look at samples and plan a palatial picnic, see luxury goods on upper floors, including Launer handbags favoired by the queen. Get a casual bite in The Parlour or spring for lavish afternoon tea in the Diamond Jubilee Tea Room.


ALSO CHECK OUT...

Westminster Abbey is packed with modern royal history. It was the site of Queen Elizabeth II's wedding and her coronation, the first ever to be televised, as well as William and Kate's wedding. You'll find the tombs of many noble and notable figures here, including Queen Elizabeth I and Mary Queen of Scots. Don't miss the coronation chair, which has been used in coronation ceremonies since the 14th century.

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St Paul's Cathedral, worth visiting in its own right, has a royal wedding tie-in as well. Charles and Diana were married here, and she swept the 8-metre train of her wedding dress up steps red-carpeted for the occasion.

The Tower of London isn't exactly the home of fairytale romance. This is where two famous royal wives, Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard, met their ends. But it is home to the Crown Jewels, including the 530-carat Cullinan 1 diamond, set in the Sovereign's Scepter with Cross that's been used in every coronation since Charles II in 1661.

The most often-asked question from visitors, according to the official website, is "Are they real?" The answer: "Yes, they are!

Plan your trip to London

  • Do SA residents need a visa: Yes. Read how to apply here.
  • Currency & exchange rate: British Pound (£) – 1 Pound = about R17.21
  • Main airport: Heathrow Airport.
  • Airlines that travel there: Direct from South Africa: British Airways, South African Airways, Virgin Atlantic.
  • Also: Emirates, Etihad Airways, Air Mauritius, KLM, Cathay Pacific, Qatar Airways, Ethiopian Airlines, Air China, Lufthansa, Qantas, Turkish Airlines, Delta, EgyptAir, Air France, Kenya Airways, RwandAir, Singapore Airlines, LATAM Airlines Group, TAAG Angola Airlines, United, Alitalia flights, SWISS. Search for flights here.

Royal wedding celebrations in Mzansi

There are a number of British landmarks in South Africa, and coupled with the worldwide hype around Harry and Meghan's wedding, here are some ways to embrace the royal feels in Mzansi.

Visit the V&A Waterfront

The shopping mall and leisure hangout known as the V&A Waterfront has its roots in royalty.

According to V&A, Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, began construction of the breakwater for Cape Town’s first harbour in 1860, called the Alfred Basin. When gold and diamonds were discovered, the Victoria Basin was built.

The basins were redeveloped in 1988 to become a "mixed-use area with a focus on retail, tourism and residential development, with the continued operation of a working harbour," says V&A.


#BARoyalty

In celebration of royal love, British Airways (BA) and The Independent Traveller are getting South Africans in a royally romantic mood with a competition to win royal treatment in Cape Town from 18-20 May.

"One lucky lady and gentleman, along with their partners will experience luxury fit for a prince and princess with prizes sponsored by The Twelve Apostles, Luxury car rental from Avis car rental, NAC Helicopters, Groot Constantia and Cape Town Tourism," says BA.

To enter, write a poem declaring your love for British Airways. Here's what you need to do:

  • Record a 30-second (or less) video snippet of yourself reciting a poem that pronounces your love for British Airways OR post a written submission on social media.
  • Upload your video or post (as a wall post/ tweet) to social media (Facebook, Twitter or Instagram).
  • Tag @British_Airways on Twitter or @Britishairways on Facebook in your post on your wall and include the hashtags #IndependentTraveller #BARoyalty
  • The three videos/written submissions with the most reactions will go into British Airways’ inbox to select the winner.

ALSO SEE: Namibia fit for royalty as Prince Harry and Meghan Markle plan honeymoon

Watch the wedding

Harry and Meghan will be married on 19 May at 12:00, at St George's Chapel. ITV Choice (DStv 123) will do a live broadcast of the royal ceremony from 10:25 until 16:00.

Click here to stay updated on the latest royal wedding news.