London, the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Weekend
Updated: Jul 12
We visited London for this once in a lifetime event. The Queen became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service.
We took the train from Geneva to London instead of flying, so we could experience the channel tunnel, which is 31.35 miles long and connects France and England. It is not a long trip from Geneva, but it is quite a challenge if you have a lot of luggage as you have to change trains and train stations in Paris. You have to take a 7 minute RER (regional train) trip between Gare de Lyon and Gare du Nord.
As most of the Jubilee festivities were taking place around Buckingham Palace, we booked a hotel directly next door. We stayed at the Resident Victoria, a boutique hotel. The room had a decent size for London and the staff was very attentive. We ate in the neighborhood most of the time. We went twice to BBar, a very elegant South African-inspired bar and restaurant. It is located beneath London's largest Living Wall with more than 6,000 plants. We also enjoyed Mango Tree, an award-winning Thai restaurant with modern settings and delicious food.
The extended bank holiday weekend started on Thursday with the “Trooping the Colour” celebration. Hundreds of thousands of people gathered along the Mall, a road between Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square, to watch the parade. There were more than 1,200 soldiers, hundreds of army musicians and around 250 horses. Prince Charles, Prince William and Princess Anne were all riding and passed by just a few steps from us. We also saw several carriages with royal family members including Camilla (Duchess of Cornwall), Kate (Duchess of Cambridge) and her three children. We woke up very early and had a great spot in the middle of a very international crowd. We even made it live on the Sky News channel!
The Queen made a brief appearance on the Buckingham’s Palace balcony during the Trooping and came back on the balcony in the afternoon with royal family members during the flyover of 70 airplanes. This was really great to watch and the highlight was when a group of military planes flew by in a 70 formation in her honor.
Later on, we went to Westminster Abbey, a royal church with over a thousand years of history. We had been in London many times before, but we like to revisit all the historic sites because you see something new each time. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is also known for the famous people buried inside the church (Isaac Newton, Elizabeth I of England, Mary, Queen of Scots and Stephen Hawking to name a few).
On Friday, a service of Thanksgiving was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral in celebration of the Queen’s reign. The Queen was not attending, but all other members of the royal family, politicians and members of the diplomatic corps were present. We arrived early and found a spot not too far from the main entrance of St. Paul. We were able to see all the dignitaries entering and exiting the church. The service was notable as the first public engagement in the UK by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex (Harry and Meghan) since they stepped down as working royals.
We visited the cathedral in the afternoon. It is one of the most famous sights in London. Admiral Lord Nelson, Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher were buried there. It is also where the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana took place.
Our last stop of the day was at the Churchill War Rooms, located beneath the Treasury building in Westminster. It was our first visit. The tickets are expensive, but it is really worth it. The War Rooms were in operation throughout the Second World War. They were built in the event of enemy aerial bombing. The facility includes map rooms, offices, telephone rooms and bedrooms. It is hard to imagine that people lived full-time underground in the facility during the war.
On Saturday, the main events were the Derby at Epsom Downs and the Platinum Party at the Palace. We attended the Derby and you can read about it in a separate blog. The Platinum Party was a concert hosted at Buckingham Palace. Some of the stars who performed include Queen, Rod Stewart, Duran Duran, Alicia Keys, Andrea Bocelli and Diana Ross.
On Sunday, the last day of the long holiday weekend, Jubilee Lunches were planned everywhere in the country and throughout the Commonwealth. It was also the day of the Jubilee Pageant, a large parade around Buckingham Palace. The famous Gold State Coach was part of the festivities. The carriage was built in 1762 and has been used at the coronation of every British monarch since George IV. They even had a video of her inside waving to the crowds, as she did during her coronation! The Jubilee Pageant featured more than 10,000 people including militaries and performers who displayed scenes from the monarch’s life through dance and other acts. They were accompanied by music, giant puppets and carnival costumes. Singer Ed Sheeran brought the four-day celebration to an end, but the highlight was an appearance by the queen at the Buckingham Palace’s balcony with Prince Charles, Princes William, their wives and the kids!