NEW YORK — Diane Morton will soon be flying from Florida, where she lives, to London, to be in the city when the royal wedding takes place.
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She hasn't researched the procession route, and she may or may not try to stake out a spot to catch a glimpse of the carriage carrying Prince William and his bride Kate Middleton. But she just wants to be in London when it happens.
"Even if we don't see anything, it's OK just to be there, and be part of the hoopla," said Morton, 67, of Parkland, Fla., who will be traveling with her partner, Donald Ammons. "We enjoy London. It's a fun place to be, and we have a couple of good friends there. If we are lucky, maybe we'll get a glimpse of Kate in the carriage afterwards."Story: A perfect day in royal London
Morton is one of 600,000 additional people who are expected to be in London when the royal wedding takes place April 29, according to estimates from London + Partners, the city's official tourism body.
Watch the wedding on giant screens
Those determined to wake up early and stand for hours along the procession route in hopes of seeing the royals in person may get their wish, but tourism experts say there are many other ways to experience the event, from street parties to watching it on giant screens to toasting the happy couple in a pub.
"The atmosphere in the city is going to be a lot of fun," said Dinah Hatch, author of a downloadable ebook, "Frommer's The Royal Wedding," just out from the travel guidebook company. "There will be a lot of pubbing and drinking, and even if you don't catch sight of Kate and Will, it'll be fun. Let's just hope it doesn't rain."
"We love a good party," agreed Karen Clarkson, Visit Britain's vice president for North America, "and there will be informal street parties happening all over London and around the U.K."
Officials have confirmed that giant screens at Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square will show live TV coverage of the event. Clarkson said Visit Britain expects screens will be put up at other locations as well "where people can watch it with a crowd, enjoy the atmosphere and experience the procession."
The route for the procession between Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, where the couple will wed, runs through St. James's Park along The Mall; along Horse Guards Avenue past the Horse Guards Parade; and along Whitehall to Parliament Square. Those determined to stake out a spot should be prepared for hours of waiting.
"The key is to actually get there early; everyone knows these spots quite well," Hatch said. "There's a very specific route, past lots of major landmarks. ... There are places where you can get very close to their car or carriage."
But exactly what time you should arrive is anybody's guess. Three a.m. might be too early, but 6 a.m. might be too late. Bad weather might cut down crowds and wait time, while adding to the misery.
'A historic moment'
Crowds are also sure to be filling the streets and sidewalks beyond the palace grounds in expectation of an appearance by the happy couple after the ceremony. As fans of "The King's Speech" film know, tradition calls for the royals to emerge from Buckingham Palace onto a balcony after major events to greet the public.
"Everyone will be waiting for that moment," said Hatch. "It's a historic moment. You want to be a part of history."
Clarkson said despite the expected crowds, London had ample hotel capacity as of early April, with several new hotels just opened, including the W, St. Pancras Renaissance and the Corinthia. Those for whom the W's $440 (269 pounds) nightly rates are too steep will find plenty of alternatives, with prices falling the farther from center city you go. Early April data from Orbitz.com found average rates for hotel rooms in London this time of year are 21 percent higher over the same period from last year, at $185 nightly.Slideshow: London calling (on this page)
Locales like Windsor, Brighton or Cambridge offer cheaper lodging, though you'll have to commute by train an hour or more to reach London. On the other end of the spectrum, if you can afford to live like a king, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park hotel is offering a $30,146 five-night package for two that includes views of the procession and private tours by "associates of the royal family."
Airfares, meanwhile, do not appear to be going stratospheric. On April 7, online listings offered roundtrips from New York to London for well under $800 on several different carriers.
If you go
Those with a broader interest in Britain's monarchy can visit castles, museums and other attractions offering tours and exhibits, including the Tower of London, where Anne Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII was beheaded; Buckingham Palace, where you can watch the changing of the guard daily; St. Paul's Cathedral, where William's mother Princess Diana was married; and the National Gallery, which houses paintings of kings and queens.
A two-hour, $25 (15 pound) walking tour from Celebrity Planet will show you the history of Kate and Will's courtship, with stops at Jigsaw, the clothing chain where she was working in 2007 when Will broke off their relationship; Mahiki, a nightclub where the prince racked up a bar bill of 11,000 pounds in a week after the breakup; and St. James's Palace, the official residence of William and his brother Harry.
Elsewhere in Britain at the end of April, the birthday of William Shakespeare is being marked April 26 in his hometown of Stratford; the Cheltenham Jazz Festival starts April 27; and Scotland's Speyside Whisky Festival runs April 28-May 2. "You can toast the royal couple with a dram or two," said Clarkson.
Cynics might say the way Diana and Charles' marriage turned out has dashed all romantic illusions about the royals, but Clarkson says many American visitors to England remain fascinated by the monarchy, and plenty of royal-watchers sincerely hope William's marriage has a happier ending than his mother's. After all, says Clarkson, "Everybody loves a good fairy tale."
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