I travelled to London at the beginning of September to speak at a business conference and to visit my childhood friends who live there.
I was excited to be back in London after many years and looked forward to catching up with my friends, enjoying Afternoon Tea at The Ritz and all the special activities planned for the conference. I was disappointed we could not visit Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed. Their gates close in September. However, we were scheduled for a private tour of Buckingham Palace on Sept. 12. An upgrade, if you will.
And then we got the news. We travelled in vintage double-decker buses to the historic Guildhall for a gala dinner. The Queen held many official luncheons at Guildhall over the decades, including the Platinum Jubilee this summer.
We were unsure that our featured speaker, Charles Spencer (Princess Diana’s younger brother) would still make his presentation that evening. In his opening remarks, he assured everyone that the Queen, his Godmother, would have wanted us all to carry on. He spoke about his childhood home and even spoke about his friend Julian Fellowes (who penned Downton Abbey) and the TV series. Bonus!
In the following days, the vantage point from our hotel, the Sea Containers Hotel on the South Bank gave us a unique perspective. We could see and hear the bells of St. Paul’s Cathedral and watch people walking by carrying flowers, knowing they were on their way to Buckingham Palace. The City was lit up in royal purple and billboards displayed images of the Queen.
For obvious reasons our tour of Buckingham was cancelled so we had a morning free to wander down to Buckingham Palace to bring flowers and pay homage to the Queen. My strategy was to get up early to beat the crowds. The Palace was about a 45-minute walk from the hotel, with lots to see along the way: London Eye, The Palace of Westminster, St. James Park, and Trafalgar Square.
Flowers had just been moved from in front of the Palace gates and into Green Park right next door to the Palace a few meters away, but not much to see at this point. My favourite tribute was this lone Paddington Bear still attached to the gates. The fictional Paddington Bear was made famous from this Platinum Jubilee video with the Queen.
Sadly, I was not able to stay in London for the full period of mourning, but the experience was certainly a profound one. I visited St. Paul’s Cathedral and queued to sign their book of condolences. To be in the heart of such a great city to witness the end of a dynasty was a true gift.
As a Canadian, and part of the Commonwealth, I am a Monarchist. In addition, our family are United Empire Loyalists. Loyal to the British crown during the American Revolution (1775-1783), Loyalists settled in what are now the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Ontario.
The Queen’s Favourite Foods
One of my readers asked me what I would make in her honour. There are a number of recipes enjoyed by the Royal Family for I have posted over the years, many originating from my friend Chef Darren McGrady who was a personal chef to the Queen for many years.