THE English talk about Prince William and Catherine Middleton as if they were the next-door neighbours.
While the young couple are known simply as Will and Kate, his grandmother is always referred to as “the Queen” and the Prince of Wales is only Charles when his subjects are being informal.
People discuss details of the wedding, which will take place on April 29 at Westminster Abbey, as if it were their relatives who were getting hitched. They debate topics like the dress, the guest list and even which carriage the couple should use to leave the church.
While the locals might think of Charles and Diana’s eldest son as family, they won’t be invited to the wedding. The closest most Brits will get is a spot on one of the London streets that will form part of the procession to and from the Abbey.
But it isn’t hard for those living in the UK or Australians visiting Britain during the lead-up to the big day to see some of Will and Kate’s favourite haunts in London and other parts of England and the UK.
In the London suburb of Chelsea, Tom’s Kitchen the relaxed brasserie run by Michelin-starred chef Tom Aikens is a favourite with Will and Kate, who have been known to arrive without a reservation and wait until space can be found for them to dine.
I was told Will likes the burgers and Kate often orders the chicken caesar salad, but there are dozens of options on the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus, with foie gras, fish and chips and the seven-hour braised shoulder of lamb among the signature dishes.
When Charles and Diana separated in 1992, the newly single mum moved into Kensington Palace, the historic house on the eastern edge of Hyde Park, and became just another in a long line of significant royal ladies to occupy a wing of the property. So when William and Harry were staying with their mother, they too were living at Kensington Palace and it was an open secret that Diana would take her boys into the suburb’s streets just over the back fence to give them “ordinary experiences” such as going to the movies and eating at McDonald’s.
Kensington Palace is still home to three royal couples the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Duke and Duchess of Kent and Prince and Princess Michael of Kent but one wing is open to visitors, who can explore the royal rooms while learning about the princesses who lived there over the centuries.
HETBURY AND HIGHGROVE HOUSE
Before Charles married Diana, he bought Highgrove House a bucolic estate a couple of hours from London just outside the pretty Cotswold village of Tetbury and this became the place William and Harry spent much time before and after their parents split. Diana would visit Tetbury to do her shopping.
When William and Harry were old enough, they would stop at local pubs to enjoy a pint, and Charles’ retail outlet The Highgrove Shop (www.highgroveshop.com), which raises money for his charities, is on Long St in the heart of the village. You can’t see Highgrove House from the road but the grounds are open most of the year and visitors can explore the Prince’s gardens as part of a group or attend the occasional champagne breakfasts and get a more exclusive peek inside the walls.
Tetbury, which was once the centre of the booming Cotswold wool trade, boasts 1300 years of recorded history and it’s worth a visit to see the historic market house built in 1655, to climb the Chipping Steps, walk the Tetbury Town Trail, and learn about the link to our very own RAAF.
Soon after 11am on April 29, Will and Kate will stand on Westminster Abbey’s ancient High Altar and be married by the Archbishop of Canterbury before going to Buckingham Palace for a reception hosted by the Queen, and a private dinner thrown by Prince Charles.While Westminster is a working church visitors can attend morning prayers, afternoon communion or evensong it is possible to take a tour with an Abbey verger and visit many of the royal tombs dotted around the sanctuary or hire an audio kit to do a self-guided circuit.
When William was 13, he was sent to Eton College, just across the Thames River from his grandmother’s castle in Windsor, following in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather and uncle.
Eton, which has educated 19 British prime ministers, including current leader David Cameron, was established in 1440 by King Henry VI.
Visitors can take a guided tour of Eton and see the original classroom, the Royal Scholar’s dining room, the library and the house William and Harry occupied during their stay.
THE HINDS HEAD
When Diana visited her sons at Eton, she would often take them for a meal at The Hinds Head in the nearby village of Bray.
The gastro-pub is owned by Heston Blumenthal the renowned chef who also runs The Fat Duck just next door, which has three Michelin stars who was so fond of his local watering hole that he bought it and now the menu features traditional British dishes with a modern twist.
ROYAL YACHT BRITANNIA
When the Royal Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997, after sailing more than 1.6 million kilometres, it was retired to Edinburgh, where it now sits in the Leith docks and welcomes visitors who can see how the Queen and her family lived when on board.
Not only did Charles and Diana spend their honeymoon on Britannia but their sons passed many holidays on the ship. Visitors can explore several levels of the ship, including the formal rooms and the Queen and Prince Phillip’s austere bedrooms, and walk the covered deck, where Diana famously ran to hug William and Harry when they joined her on a state visit to Canada in 1991.
It all started for Will and Kate when they both headed north to Scotland to attend university, meeting at St Andrews University and sharing a house as friends before becoming romantic. When William graduated in 2003, he said: “I have been able to lead as normal a student life as I could have hoped for (and) I am very grateful to everyone, particularly the locals, who have helped make this happen”.
There is more to St Andrews than being Scotland’s oldest university. The medieval town, 70 minutes’ drive from Edinburgh, is considered the home of golf, with 11 courses close to the centre of town, several museums and churches, as well as beautiful gardens. .
GARRAND & CO
To incorporate a little royal watching with some shopping, head to Albemarle St in London and the flagship store of Garrard & Co, said to be the world’s oldest jeweller and the company that made Diana’s engagement ring the one now worn by Kate.
Garrard & Co is close to St James’s St, the exclusive shopping enclave where several Royal Warrant Holders are located including wine merchants Berry Brothers & Rudd, hatters James Lock & Co and bootmaker John Lobb and St James’s Palace, Charles and Camilla’s London home.
THIS STORY ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN ESCAPE ON SUNDAY, MARCH 27, 2011