A trip to England wouldn’t be complete without a stop off at Kensington Palace and participation in a titch of Royal wedding merriment.
After all, timing is everything.
Langley’s famous uke man, Peter Luongo, was in northern England last week to perform and teach at the Grand Northern Ukulele Festival.
The entertainer of Italian heritage was accompanied on the journey by his wife, Sandy, who has English lineage and is a self-proclaimed fan of the Royal family.
While the uke convention dates were booked last year, when the Luongos learned their visit would coincide within days of the British Royal wedding, they decided to extend their trip. They opted to stay in South Kensington, an affluent district of West London, and take in some of the festivities.
“It was worth it,” Peter said.
It’s not like the Luongos were actually invited to the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on Saturday (May 19). But they did join hundreds of thousands who were in town for the nuptials.
“They must not have known we were going to be there,” Luongo joked about the absence of personal face time with the newlyweds.
So, they had to be content to make do.
“Frankly I was not going to get up to Windsor. I was not going to deal with that,” said Peter, who refused to get up in the middle of the night to jockey for a position outside Windsor Castle in hopes of catching a glimpse of the newlyweds as they entered or exited St. George’s Chapel.
“That’s not how I was going to spend my holiday… I was not prepared to do that,” Peter told the Langley Advance.
Instead, the Luongos would tour Kensington Palace in London – a historic residence for many members of the Royal family, including Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex – the day before the wedding.
“Meghan Markle was there that day. We didn’t run into her, but she was there that day… that’s as close as we got to the Royal family,” Peter said.
Then on Saturday, the local couple would hit the streets “reasonable early” to soak up the jovial wedding day atmosphere that they said was apparent everywhere in London.
There was not much sign of the Royals at Kensington Palace, except for a few members of the family leaving for the wedding.
No sign of the bride and groom, Peter said, faking shock and disappointment.
“So, we started hitting up the pubs nice and early,” he added. “Which if you know me is unusual, because I don’t drink.”
They checked out two or three in the area. There were small gatherings of people in each.
And as the time approached for the actual wedding, “we then hunkered down and watched the tube – that’s the television – like so many others did,” Peter elaborated.
After the ceremony, they wandered the streets of London again, returned to Kensington Palace and the neighbouring park. And like thousands of others, they hoped but did not expect to get a glimpse of the newlyweds.
“You could hear the parties going on. Like you could hear them in some of the pubs. You could hear them in some of the homes – and of course homes is apartments, flats. Everyone is living in flats there. And so there’s no doubt that there was celebration going on. But it was not as if there were throngs in the streets,” Peter said.
“We spent most of the day wandering around… seeing the merriment, the happiness that was there, people who were congregating as a community and very obviously pleased by their Royal family.”
Peter couldn’t help but notice what he called a “very real appreciation” for the next wave of the Royal family – Princes Harry and William and their families.
“It was as if they were all saying ‘These are our Royals and this is a good day’.”
Peter never thought of himself as a Royals fan, but admitted he too was proud to be an indirect part of the this weekend’s celebrations.
While the pictures they have of the wedding are of themselves in a neighbourhood pub and pictures of other fans watching the wedding unfold on the television, Luongos came home with much more.
They have what they call fond memories of a Royal wedding, copies of all three daily newspapers with extensive coverage of the wedding day, and some “breathtaking photographs” of the Royal couple shared by a WestJet flight attendant who they met on the trip back home on Sunday.
Cara Bonhage was one of four attendants who woke at 3 a.m. the morning of the wedding and, adorned in their fascinators, secured themselves a position outside the gates of Windsor Castle where they watched the procession.
“This is a one off… when are we going to see this again in our lifetime?” Peter said.
“We have no regrets about extending the stay,” Peter said. “…it was not inexpensive to extend the stay… but it was neat to be part of the excitement that was there at that time, for sure.”