*SEE PHOTOS BELOW*
I didn't plan to go on vacation with Prince William. I hadn't been to London since 1982, when I graduated from college and the first stop on my European tour was visiting my aunt who married an Englishman. There was a strike on the Tube, and it was difficult to get to Wimbledon, not to mention that I didn't have a ticket. Prince William was born within days of my arrival. Even though I have been to Paris and Milan a hundred times for work since then, and Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece for vacation, for some reason I had not been back to England. Until this summer.
Truth be told I wasn't in the mood to get on yet another airplane. Travel tests my rigidity. I have to carry my life routine with me: medical-grade shakes, portable mini-blender, travel sneakers, eye shades, blankey, sanitizing wipes, you get the idea. But there I was in JFK's Terminal 8, wondering how the birds manage to live there among the rafters, out of their natural habitat. As I would for the next 10 days.
Usually I research and plan every second of a trip, but my over-preparedness annoys even me; there is no room for anything unexpected. So on my one free day I set out to shop, yoga, and browse, trying to be free-spirited, which I'm not. Marylebone High Street made it easy: Rococo chocolates which somehow didn't make it home, Ortigia Bath Oil from Sicily is my new beauty obsession, Daunt Books, The Natural Kitchen for a juice, on to Zara Home, TriYoga, I was set. But I still had some time on my hands.
It was a convergence day: England and the U.S. both won in the World Cup, the longest match in tennis history went into the night, there were delays on the Tube to Wimbledon, and I was wandering aimlessly in London with a couple of bags of chocolate, having no idea where I was, but about to converge on something good. My yoga teacher suggested I try The Embankment, it was hot and sunny and everyone would be outside. I literally said to myself, "Let me go where I'm supposed to go," a crazy notion for a control freak. Wasn't travel like that before business trips and meetings and schedules ran my life? And now, technically jobless, I am not much different than the recent college graduate in 1982, staying with my aunt, wandering around London with the Tube broken, questioning my future.
And then it happened. I was trying to get a peek inside the Royal Festival Hall and went around back. I saw the paparazzi waiting, they had to be there for someone, though Lindsay Lohan doesn't live in London. Indeed, they were waiting for The Queen. Why not? I'll wait too. Chocolate on the ground, I spoke to a cute couple from Australia. Snapped some shots of The Queen's car. She walked out, so did Princess Anne, Prince Philip, and some other non-descript people with bad shoes.
I always happen to be where the action is, for better or worse. That crazy coincidence is what I love and fear about traveling. In 2005, I was in Southeast Asia during the Tsunami. (I hadn't left my itinerary with anyone, not my parents, my office, my ex-boyfriend.) I was in Manhattan for 9/11, Rockefeller Center for the Blackout of 2003, even under the scaffolding that collapsed during a parade in lower Manhattan in the 80s. This particular morning I had just told my aunt of skiing with Bruce Springsteen in Sun Valley, by accident of course.
As most gawkers left and photographers remained, I learned that Prince William was still inside. I could wait as long as my chocolates promised they wouldn't melt. After almost an hour, he graced the courtyard and I assumed he would retreat to his car, as his grandmother had. But he started talking to a young boy in a wheelchair. Then, what? He's talking to that couple from Australia? Chatting? Come on. I can't take it another second and yell out, "California!!!" As if to say, "What are you doing talking to them about Australia when I can be talking to you about nothing?"
Let's just say the rest is now part of my personal history, told and retold, as he came right over to me with lots of questions, where are you from why are you here what do you think of London why don't you stay longer he loves California he is adorable. He couldn't have been sweeter, or more charming. I'm not making it up. Check out my photos to see how close I was. It is as if the time between 1982 and now hadn't happened, his entire life (Kate who?), or mine for that matter. I texted two friends. One replied, "Yeah, right." The other, "Don't come home without a crown."
I have to say I feel like I brought one back, at least a jewel.