With royal wedding over, Londoners start a marathon party
If Londoners were sick of the royal wedding, they sure didn't show it.
Revelers began trickling into Green Park, a large park east of Buckingham Palace, at dawn on Friday, laying out blankets on the lush grass to claim their spots. By 9 a.m. the park was full. And, as guests began arriving at Westminster Abbey for the wedding of the century, all eyes turned to a massive television screen set up by the city just for the occasion.
Throughout the ceremony, the Green Park crowd cheered, hushed and waved their flags — often in unison.
When Kate Middleton appeared in her dress, they cheered. When she and William joined hands at the altar, they cheered even louder. When the newlyweds walked out of Westminster Abbey as husband and wife, the crowd went wild.
Then, an interminable pause as the couple made their way to Buckingham Palace, and — finally — the kiss(es) on the balcony. More jubilation, more flag waving, some tears.
And then, finally, the party.
Drink of choice
Everyone, it seemed, had come prepared. Beer, wine and Pimm's —the base for the classic British cocktail the Pimm's cup — appeared out of nowhere and were consumed openly. One man passed me with a magnum of Veuve Clicquot champagne, still corked.
Liz Butter and her friends, who had arrived at 6 a.m., were happily sipping Prosecco as the crowds dispersed.
"We're more romantics than we are monarchists," Butter said, to the approval of her friends.
What would they do for the rest of the day?
"We've got tomorrow off," said Butter.
"We're going to find a street party!" added her friend Rachael Kitts.
Fortunately, the biggest party in the city wasn't far away.
Beeline for Hyde Park
More than 300,000 people, by BBC's estimate, watched the royal wedding on large TV screens in Hyde Park, a short walk from Green Park.
It's a huge park and is often the site of massive outdoor concerts and events, including the unveiling of the Princess Diana memorial in 2004.
On this day, Hyde Park seemed at first glance like a cross between Woodstock and a garden party.
Blankets were spread out on almost every inch of grass that wasn't already covered with red, white and blue confetti. People sat together in groups of four or more, sipping from plastic cups, smoking cigarettes and snacking here and there on cake. Many were in costumes; brides, princesses and court jesters featured heavily.
And don't forget the Union Jack! Apparently, you can buy just about any article of clothing with a Union Jack on it, including a unitard, a sequined mini dress, a gauzy maxi dress, blazers, T-shirts, tank tops, pants, shorts, socks, top hats, bowler hats, handkerchiefs and sunglasses.
Flags were worn as capes; wigs were red, white and blue. I even saw a woman with the Union Jack painted on her fingernails.
'Dance with me or look away'
As the afternoon wore on, empty bottles piled up. It was pretty clear, at least to this reporter, that the party was in full swing: people were, as the Brits might say, on the piss. In other words: they were out to get drunk, and succeeding.
As the television screens showed BBC footage of the royal couple leaving Buckingham Palace for Clarence House, one woman danced barefoot on a gravel path, holding a cider and shouting at anyone who walked by to "Dance with me... or look away!"
There was also the man who, for no apparent reason, was running around, beating his chest and screaming "Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!" — to no one in particular.
Or the couple, seemingly oblivious to the crowds around them, snogging on the grass.
It was all in good fun, of course, and everyone seemed really happy to be there.
How happy they'll be come morning is another thing, perhaps.