What a weekend – the Diamond Jubilee in London!

The flags were hanging everywhere and the bunting was covering everything so London was ready for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, a massive party to celebrate 60 years on the throne.

Where to start? There was so much going on it was amazing and I was lucky enough to go to these fun events: private garden party in Notting Hill;  River Pageant from the Tower of London; and the Jubilee procession from a seat in front of Buckingham Palace. It’s going to be a long blog…….!

Let’s start with a few photos of London getting in the mood – decked out in more Union Jacks than you could imagine:

Covent Garden


Regent Street

 I started the festivities with Notting Hill garden party, held in Ladbroke Square Gardens, the largest of all London’s private gardens (after Buckingham Palace!). It was tickets only and we were served amazing Jubilee themed cakes on china plates and even had a visit from the Queen! It was a Father Christmas moment with so many excited small children – do you tell them it’s not the real Queen?  The sun came out and it was glorious and fingers were crossed for Sunday……. 

On Sunday we were promised the largest river pageant for 350 years and the forecast was not good but we are British so we donned waterproofs and set off. I was very lucky to have a special place in the Tower of London to watch the thousand boats of all shapes and sizes go past, including the Queens huge barge, golden Gloriana, a barge of ringing bells, small boats from the Dunkirk evacuation in the Second World War, gondoliers and Native Americans and so many more!  IBy mid afternoon the rain had come and drenched the crowds leading to jokes all round about the Queen’s ‘reign’ (or rather ‘rain’). We were very damp but spirits were still high. I loved it and the moment that the rowed boats swept into view was so spectacular I will always remember it, especially knowing those brave souls had been rowing for 7 miles by then!

Hundreds of boats sweep into view!




Bells barge


The huge royal barge


Royals (at a distance!)


Important people at the Tower


Hard rowing…


The Hat boat – wonderfully silly!


(Hope the video works for you)

Monday saw the return of the sun and the huge concert at Buckingham Palace with the biggest fireworks I can remember, which I could hear from my flat!  We watched this on the TV and here are a couple of photos off the TV to show you the incredible sights.

Crowds dancing on the Mall


Extraordinary fireworks

For final day there were more formal celebrations when the Queen went to St Paul’s cathedral to give thanks for her 60 years as monarch.  The huge banks of seats, set up for the concert the night before in front of Buckingham Palace, were up for grabs in a ballot earlier in the year and I won a pair so set off to see the Queen ride in and out, to catch the royal family on the balcony and a RAF fly past.  We could see the church service and the procession through the streets of London on big screens and once the royals where in the Palace the crowds from the Mall surged into the space in front of the gates in their thousands to cheer and wave. Of course, that’s when the rain came down again!  However it was great fun and we could see the Queen and her immediate family (just Charles, Camilla, Wills and Kate and Harry) and the flypast was very loud and dramatic with Second World War planes as well as the Red Arrows.

Yours truly on the spot!


Wonderful horses


There was a lot of marching to be done


The Queen returns in her fancy carriage


Thousands waving to the balcony


The Royals


Red Arrows in prefect formation

So, then it was over and I was left with great memories and real admiration for the Queen’s stamina as she is 86 and managed to go to the races on Saturday, stand for hours in the cold and damp on a boat on Sunday, was up to light a beacon at 10.30pm on Monday, did a full day of engagements on Tuesday and still had more to do the rest of the week. I was tired out and I didn’t do half of it! 

It was a wonderful time to be in London and join the excitement of the crowds who were genuinely pleased for the Queen and proud of her. Patriotism broke out and people were so happy to be part of the celebrations, the incredible set pieces but also the local street parties bringing neighbours together. 

Roll on the Olympics!

Bye for now.


Happy Birthday your Majesty!

This week saw the official birthday of the Queen, her real one is in April but she has a second one when all the pomp and circumstance is rolled out. We got our spot opposite Buckingham Palace at 9am, way ahead of the crowds and waited in the sunshine while men on horses, men in carriages and men on foot kept themselves busy and all dressed up in their very shiniest uniforms. Then finally the royals rolled out in their carriages and there she was – very smiley and with Prince Philip who was completely submerged in a huge bearskin! There was more marching than you can imagine and a 41 gun salute from Green Park. The bands played all the usual marching tunes including one loved by the England football fans which made me wonder whether that had been put into the programme in honour of the evening’s World Cup match against the USA (I’ll gloss over that result!) And for the royal spotters here’s a photo of the classic line up on the Buckingham Palace balcony – see how many you know and yes, Harry was missing!


It was Open Garden Squares Weekend in London when hundreds of gardens are open to the public many of which are private and inaccessible to non residents. A single tickets gives you entry to them all so I rushed around to pack in several of the more unusual including the roof top garden on the Ismaili mosque in South Kensington, where no photos were allowed but you could get access to their modern styled prayer room – even to women. The guide managed to explain the background to the Ismailis in a few minutes so we all left with a better understanding. One of the stars of the weekend was the Kensington Roof Gardens which is a private club and restaurant owned by Richard Branson where the gardens on a sunny day make you feel like you are on a Spanish holiday. They famously have flamingos living there to add to the exotic feel and they are beautifully pink. Other gardens I visited were so big they felt more like parks but there were also tiny treasures just big enough for the houses that surrounded them but all spoke of a life of substantial money and luxury….


Another London treat was the live screening in Trafalgar Square from the Royal Opera House of 3 ballets. This was a wonderful treat as the tickets for the indoor version are terribly expensive and to see it for free with great sound and picture quality was huge fun if a little chilly as it was a particularly poor evening. The programme was 2 modern ballets, Chroma and Tryst followed by a more traditional Symphony in C and to my surprise it was Chroma that mesmerised me with its raw passion and driving score. The dancers wore just singlets and knickers and no ballet shoes so it felt very different to what you would expect from the Opera House and Wayne McGregor’s choreography was completely engaging at all times. These 2 photos show you how the screen works with a close up on Chroma and a shot of the inside of the Royal Opera House to see how the other half enjoyed the show.
A new local pizza restaurant to mention this week – Otto. Started by a couple of young guys who love cornmeal pizza bases and huge toppings. They’ve just opened and started with such a bang that they ran out of food on their first night! Luckily they had restocked by mid week and served a very tasty pepperoni pizza but it does fill you up so certainly go for a half each. They’ve taken over an old cafe which never seemed to work and have kept the casual cafe feel while making it more welcoming so I wish them well.
It’s all world cup for the next month with Wimbledon squeezed in as well as Royal Ascot horse racing so fingers crossed for good weather!
Bye for now,