I happened to be there! My husband and I had planned months ago to be in Westminster, London on September 14-18. Then Queen Elizabeth II died, and her funeral was planned for the 19th. So we were present while everything was going on, and that was quite the experience in itself! Even arriving at Heathrow Airport was interesting: The English man sitting beside me on the plane noted that the plane’s approach to the airport was not normal due to closed airspace above certain parts of London. We landed smack in the middle of a city and country in mourning for one of its most notable leaders, and security was very tight. We saw police officers everywhere during our four days in town.
Some of the photos here are not that great, but I wanted to write and show a bit of what this experience was like. First, the lady herself, pictured in a poster that was one of thousands all over London:
The day after we arrived, we walked towards Buckingham Palace, and were greeted with this sight just inside Green Park. It is one thing to see photos like this on the news; it’s quite another to see the vast expanse of floral tributes over acres and acres of land (you know how much I love flowers!). This is where I started to really get a sense of just how beloved the Queen was. We then found ourselves in the midst of a growing river of people on foot, winding their way around temporary pathways and making their way towards the palace. The temporary paths were designed to direct the crowds, but they also made the walking take longer. Despite my aching feet, I found it fascinating to watch and listen to people and families as they walked.
On Saturday the 17th, we walked towards the area where the Queen was lying in state at Westminster Hall. I had wanted to see Westminster Abbey anyway, but we were also curious to see the queue of people lined up for many hours to see the Queen’s casket. We ended up in an area where the people exited the building. The Abbey itself was closed to visitors during this time, but had these notices posted.
As we entered the pedestrians-only area of Westminster, this sight greeted us. The world’s press organizations were beginning to set up to broadcast Monday’s funeral events. I saw an internet photo later of this same area; it was packed with cameras and people.
After looking around the outside of the Abbey, we wandered closer to Westminster Hall to see the people leaving. As we meandered, I looked up and noticed first a helicopter hovering in the air, then snipers stationed on sides and tops of buildings. I have to say that felt just SLIGHTLY terrifying! And of course on the ground were lots of police officers keeping watch over the crowds. I had another shiver down my spine when I spotted one officer walking along with a huge gun. I’m not a gun person so I don’t know what kind it was; I just know it was huge and he was covered with protective gear. On one hand, we were in a city on high alert; on the other hand, we were in a very secure place at that time on the planet.
So, yep, it was really cool to experience such a momentous time in history. We actually were in Europe for a bit of time, using Eurail passes and cheap Ryanair flights to get around. I LOVED traveling on European trains; we could relax in comfortable seats, eat our grocery store lunches, and see beautiful scenery (hello, Scotland and Ireland!). Besides England, Scotland, and Ireland; we saw bits of France, Switzerland, and Germany. I’m composing a series of posts about the artistic delights I found in each place, and I don’t mean typical tourist attractions. I’m very picky about my photo-taking, but I just kept seeing one beautiful image after another in street art and architecture, which resulted in me collecting over 500 photos that I am now sorting through. Stay tuned for those delights. Meanwhile, here is a photo I took from my perch on the THIRD TIER of the hostel bunk bed I slept in during our four nights in London!! If you counted and saw four sets of bunks; yes, you would be correct in thinking that we slept in a room with ten strangers during this time. And we had not one problem with any of them. Except the young woman who slammed in and out the door at all hours of the night…til someone chastised her.