The past couple of weeks have been crazy with schoolwork, which has unfortunately prevented me from posting sooner. For that I have to apologize. Thanksgiving was great, full of cooking, baking, and enjoying good food as well as great company. Yet even though I was on break, papers and projects managed to infiltrate my time at home. Luckily, things will be more manageable after this weekend.
At any rate, I finally present to you day one of the Diamond Jubilee weekend when I was still in England. I’ve actually had it written since my train ride back to Brighton that evening, but I only just got around to sifting through the many photos I took. So let me take you back to June 3 and the jubilistic celebrations going on in South Bank, London…
This weekend marks Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year as the sovereign of England. To celebrate, everyone has a four day weekend! Events throughout the weekend have been planned, and today I went into London to watch the over 1000 boat flotilla down the Thames, lead by the Queen and royal family (well, the rowers actually went first – which makes a lot of sense when you think about it!).
I have to say that I feel pretty darn lucky to be here and take part in this historic event. After all, how often will I get to witness and take part in a time when the people of Britain are decking themselves out in flags, face paint, and generally celebrating who they are? It was awesome!
I arrived in London around noon, and decided to make my way over to South Bank by tube. The train stations have been decorated with many flags to celebrate the occasion (bunting!), as was China Town near Les Mis yesterday (see Les Mis post here)! Why South bank? You see, there is also a world street food festival going on during the long weekend over in South Bank. Does it come as any surprise that I then found myself there?
As I left Waterloo station and made my way to the river, already hundreds of people were lined up and waiting. Knowing I had a few hours before it began, I figured out where the street food was first. I’d like to say “I followed my nose”…but it really came down to some helpful “you are here” signs and a general idea of where it was. Though not huge like you may be picturing from the word “festival”, it still had a good amount of stands. As a chronic sufferer of indecisiveness, the more manageable size was actually a very good thing.
By the time I examined every stand and took pictures, I was beginning to get hungry again. And so, it was decision time – and this time it came surprisingly easy! Though everything looked and smelled wonderful, I went with one of the foods that had stood out to me as I wandered. So I found myself with this intriguing looking thing called a chicken bastilla.
A chicken bastilla is both savory and sweet, having chicken, almond, and cinnamon in an orange blossom sauce, wrapped up in flaky pastry. Readers, it was a delectable choice; I’m very glad to have been able to try another new, interesting, and tasty food. And so, if you ever stumble across a chicken bastilla yourselves, I would definitely recommend going for it!
The South Bank Festival Center is right there as well, which was great for multiple reasons. The first of which being the availability of free, and clean, bathrooms. They were also showing the Flotilla on two screens in their ballroom area, free, being broadcast by BBC 1. This would come into play later…
I happened to be in there right as things were starting and watched the Queen enter the boat she would be trekking down the Thames in. After watching that bit, I went back outside, to the riverfront, and walked up and down trying to find a decent spot or push my way through. Unfortunately, my conscience felt it would be wrong of me to cut in front of the people who had been waiting there as I stuffed my face with delicious Moroccan food. So I found a little niche for myself in front of lovely, slightly older couple and behind a lot of people taller than me.
Oh well, at least I could see a bit of the river here or there standing on my tip toes. And so, we played the waiting game. The Flotilla started at Battersea Park, and was ending at Tower Bridge; South Bank was right about on the middle, so by the time I found my spot to stand we were waited for nearly an hour and half before the first boats (the hundreds of rowers – props to them!) came under the Golden Jubilee Bridge and into view.
The most eventful thing to happen while waiting were the two people who managed to climb trees lining the walk along the river. A cheer went up when the first guy got up, followed by another when a girl (risking her white pants – brave one, she was), climbed up the next tree down. It was all good for a minute…until the cops came. (Cue the booing crowd)
The girl had to climb down which we all thought was a bummer. It was another couple minutes before they realized the guy was in another tree, however his story ended no differently than the girl’s. Well, someone had started a short chant of “higher, higher” before the kid finally made his way back down. The police took him back to chat with him, but when he was released and made it back to our area, he was the hero of the moment!
Finally, close to 4 pm, the first rowers made their way under the bridge and rowed past us. There were flags from all over the world represented on the boats, but especially those of the British Commonwealth. And of course the Union Jack and Flag of England were fairly prominent as well. People pushed as close to the rail as they could, but, as one person near me pointed out, at least being so close was keeping us all warm!
The Queen went by about fifteenth minutes into it, and the crowd cheered, waved, blew horns, and held up flags. There were people with paper masks of the Royal family, these clever mirror things for people to see higher up, painted cheeks, nails, even lipstick flag designs, flags worn like capes, hats, glasses, and more! Despite the crowd, I stood on tip toes and did my best to get some good pictures and see what I could with my own eyes.
When the Queen went by I did take out my iPad to get a video, and used that for the next 15 or 20 minutes to take more photos. It was nice, actually, because I could hold it up and then see what was on the river clearly through looking up at the screen.
Some people behind me thought the same thing as I heard kids go from, “Mum I can’t see!” to “Mum, look! I can see everything from the iPad!”. A guy not too far away had been doing that as well, to the appreciation of those behind him. So, especially because of the kids, I felt compelled to hold the iPad up for as long as I could to provide a view for them.
And while it had been sort of sprinkling when the boats started coming our way, it now began to rain harder. Having seen the Queen and stood in a crowd for 3 hours, I felt I could treat myself to a dessert from the street food festival.
I was debating between the churros con chocolate or a brownie from Outsider Tart (whom I had seen at the Foodie’s Festival and gotten an awesome monster cookie from). I opted for the brownie, getting their most popular one, “the Hepburn”. The Hepburn was a chocolate (extreme chocolate!) and cinnamon brownie and it was so good. I devoured, yet savored it, appreciating the cinnamon and cinnamon chips in it, which went so well with the dark chocolate!
Brownie in hand, the rain was really coming down at this point. So I made my way back to the festival center where I enjoyed watching the remainder of the boats on the two large screens (where I was as the Flotilla began). I’m so glad I did stay to catch the rest, too! The last boat was the Philharmonic Orchestra and choir boat, and they played and sang some very British songs and fanfare.
The very last one was “God Save the Queen” to which everyone in the room stood up and sang. All in all, it was very neat and I’m glad to have taken advantage of my being there during the celebration. Now I’m heading back to Sussex to rest up for day two of the Jubilee festivities – so stay tuned!
Well, readers, what do you think? I hope I’ve painted a decent picture of one of the main events of the weekend in celebration of Queen Elizabeth II. I promise to have day two of the Jubilee weekend up soon, in which there was a huge concert featuring many big name British musicians.
Time for me to sign out and get a good night sleep so I’m up and at em’ for my poster session at a history symposium tomorrow! Happy weekend – and to those of you students reading this, take a deep breath, keep calm and carry on (had to be done!). Thanks for reading, cheers! Until then…