Travel Diaries

Our royal wedding correspondent’s epic five days in England

By Lisa Grotts

With little sleep, lots of coffee and a pillbox of Ambien, I was on my way, but not before running into a friend in the Delta lounge at 5 a.m. She was rolling in laughter when she saw that I was wearing my wedding fascinator. The laughter continued on the plane until a flight attendant offered to take it off my head. Before shuteye, I caught a glimpse of it being passed around the crew.

May 16: With my fascinator securely in place, I grabbed a cab to the Sloane Club in Chelsea. The sun was actually shining and my room was ready early. After a quick shower, I was off to seek out royal London. All major streets were flying Union Jack banners, from Oxford to Piccadilly. I popped over to the trendy Dean Street Townhouse in Soho where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, had once dined. With a few hours to kill before dinner, I was off to Harrods to check out their Royal Wedding-themed windows, only there were none. Clive the doorman said, “Darlin,’ all of London has gone to Windsor.” A silver lining: I had time to shop before dinner. At the 15,000-square-foot shoe salon, I picked up a pair of Charlotte Olympias with a gold bee motif. Like the royals, I’m a pump girl, minus the hose.

May 17: My next stop was the iconic Tower Bridge, which was always a favorite when I spent my junior year abroad at Oxford. It was also a few minutes away from my interview with Pamela Harper, CEO of the luxury brand Halcyon Days, makers of hand-painted enamel boxes. The bespoke company holds all three royal warrants, which are seals of approval from the royal households. They supply Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip and the Prince of Wales — and have for over 50 years, which is very rare.  After a quick trip to Jermyn Street to pick up my husband’s morning suit and top hat for Royal Ascot in June, I had afternoon tea at nearby Fortnum & Mason.

May 18: In Windsor at last, but not before a blowout at Richard Ward in Chelsea, salon to Kate Middleton. My driver promised traffic, and sure enough, all roads leading to Windsor came to a royal standstill. Feeling anxious, the driver took me directly to the High (main) Street. The crowds spilled into the streets, and rumor had it that Prince Harry was going to do a pre-wedding walkabout. With little time to waste, I made my way to a press tent. When I flashed my NHG business card with a Union Jack lanyard, it took only one look at my Royal Correspondent title and I was granted access. I was escorted to the front gates of the castle, where I waited with reporters from all the major networks. Sharpshooters were in place, the castle police lined the streets, and out came a double treat: Prince William and Harry greeted the crowds with aplomb. Harry showed no sign of nervousness.

May 19: At a wedding-breakfast meeting, I spoke with Dawn Hewitt, whose mental health charity for children is a favorite of Prince Harry’s. She was one of the 1,240 people chosen to watch the nuptials in the grounds of Windsor Castle that day. Over poached eggs on toast, we traded cards and I promised to put her in touch with my favorite charity, San Francisco Suicide Prevention. By the time I reached town, all roads leading to the castle were closed. The Long Walk in Windsor Great Park was the place to be to view the wedding procession. As the carriage passed by, Ms. Markle made her British royal debut on the global stage.  You could see (and feel) the love on the faces of Meghan and her prince. It was a sight to behold.

May 20: The sun could not rise fast enough. Still on my wedding high when I arrived back in London, I jogged to my favorite newsstand in Sloane Square and spent the next four hours at the Sloane Club devouring the wedding news. From the Sunday Times to the Daily Telegraph, the headlines did not disappoint: “The Changing Monarchy,” “The Firm Rules,” “Royal Ever After.” Feeling grateful for the opportunity, I slipped into Holy Trinity Church on Sloane Square. After the service, I hit the streets with copious amounts of Sudafed to preview the RHS Chelsea Flower Show. My husband, who was in Sonoma, had wedding scoop: Flowers Pinot Noir from the Sonoma coast was apparently served at the 200-person reception at Frogmore House. You can take the girl out of Cali …

Going Home: Heathrow is one airport I don’t mind getting to early. After a relaxing breakfast in the Virgin Lounge, I befriended a gentleman who owned a hotel in Windsor (and lives in Palo Alto) where the press stayed (think Hoda, Oprah’s Gayle, Savannah).  After doing the shopping loop (Fortnum’s, Harrods, Cath Kidston) for tchotchkes and leaving no coin behind for the latest Hello! and OK! magazines, my flight home had Robert Redford seated directly behind me.

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