I honestly didn't really intend to, and it was definitely a last minute decision. At bedtime last night I looked at my husband and said "I think I might sleep on the sofa tonight. That way I can get up at 2 AM and watch the wedding without waking anyone". I don't think prior to that moment that I wanted to, but there it was. Why? Well, not really to see the wedding so much, dear friends, although it was lovely. What I really wanted to see was London.
As some know I was in London just a few short months ago. I had dreamed of visiting London since I was a very young adult, and to actually find myself there was incredible. Regular readers of this blog know that Ireland came along a bit later and ran away with my heart, but London was there first, and in some ways always will be.
The first views of London this morning took my breath away. The city had that grey misty look that could become rain or could instead become glorious sunshine. The route to Westminster Abbey was lined with hundreds of that flag that means so much to me - the ever-stunning, ever-inspiring Union Jack. It may have been two in the morning but I was practically clapping my hands with glee at the sight.
The initial views inside Westminster Abbey almost brought me to tears. One of the first things I saw when I entered the Abbey in December 2010 was the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and I remember the impact it had on me. Seeing it made me realize I was really there, in a place of such history and renown. My family and I had stood in front of that beautiful, serene poppy-ringed rectangle and read the engraving while we absorbed the atmosphere of the Abbey.
If you've been to the Abbey you know it can be quite a solemn place, but today it sprang to life with green trees and bright lights. I don't know if I've ever seen anything quite as gorgeous as the Abbey was today as it waited for a future king and queen to wed. As the cameras panned around I remembered the majesty of the Abbey and just the feeling the place holds. It's almost impossible to describe but it's a sense of a depth of history that is almost beyond your grasp. It's the kind of place that makes you a bit speechless. You walk around and suddenly discover that you are standing on the final resting place of someone like Charles Darwin. You may find yourself, as I did, bending to the floor and laying your palm down on the cool slate as if you can touch the history of this place. I did this several times and initially thought it might be a bit odd until I looked around and saw so many other people doing the exact same thing.
What was so wonderful about today is that you can't take photos inside the Abbey (it is a church, after all) so being able to see it again prompted so many of the same feelings I had when I was there. You didn't see it today, but it is the resting place of Elizabeth I, and I clearly recall that I stood in front of the statue on top of her burial place and wept. I've read about her for over 3 decades and to be in her presence, even hundreds of years after her death, simply proved too much for me. I recall my daughter slipping her hand into mine, not really understanding why I was crying but knowing that it wasn't a bad reaction, just an overwhelmed one.
When our future king and queen left the Abbey (and unless things change, dear friends, they will in fact be our King and Queen some day, the monarchs of Canada) I was again almost overcome by the display of Union Jacks and the pure emotion of the crowd. As they travelled the distance to Buckingham Palace the crowd seemed to grow and become even louder and even more excited. London can be a rather distant and cool place but today it seemed so warm and festive and joyous.
Watching today reminded me of all the things I saw there, and of why I fell in love with London so many years ago. It is a place of history and beauty. It is a place of excitement and vibrancy. It is a place of possibility. The wedding was wonderful and memorable and brilliant, of course. For me, though, it was London that shone today, and I was so happy to be able to see it again as it presented it's finest face to the world. Congratulations are in order for the newlyweds. Congratulations are also in order for London, I think, because they put on a bloody good show, and I bet a few more people fell in love with that city today. Myself? I fell in love with it all over again. I sit here drinking much-needed coffee out of my Union Jack mug, and have decided that for the day I will pull out the Union Jack handbag that had gone into seasonal retirement. It just seems the proper thing to do, doesn't it?