It was a long and interesting weekend in Luxembourg. As a royalty journalist I of course had to work, even when the hotel internet wasn’t always working. Not only do I have a slow laptop, hotel internet, as lots of you will know, isn’t exactly very quick in the normal hotels. In between I met up with royalty-watcher friends. We talked a lot and because of the gorgeous weather, we were able to have drinks and dinners on the terraces in the old town of Luxembourg.
My arrival, Thursday, 18 October 2012
Of course I wasn’t going to miss the royal wedding of the year, so on Thursday October 18, 2012, I travelled to Luxembourg. There are several ways to get there, but I decided to take the train. I could have taken the airplane, but still then I would have had to travel to Amsterdam or Bremen first, be there in time, etc. So it would still have taken me hours to get there from my town. I took the 8.18am train from Groningen (Netherlands) to Leer (Germany), which costs just over one hour. I needed to wait for almost one and a half hour there, so I had a look in town and bought myself some sandwiches for the long train ride to Luxembourg.
Leer-Luxembourg is a seven hour ride. I passed small towns and big cities like Münster, Gelsenkirchen, Oberhausen, Duisburg, Düsseldorf, Köln (Cologne) and Bonn. Only after Bonn the views outside became really good. I passed Koblenz, Andernach – with the Hohenzollern castle of Namedy (I think I just saw it on the way back home when I really looked for it) – and Trier, and had a beautiful view on the Mosel river and hills with vineyards. Finally at 6pm we reached Luxembourg. I walked to my hotel, which was quite close to the old town of Luxembourg. When I came out again it was dark.
Surprisingly enough the weather had been really good and sunny all day. The weather forecast in the previous days had said that it would likely rain, so I had packed a few warmer clothes, shawl, winter coat, rain coat and umbrella also. But all day long I saw sun outside, and after arrival in Luxembourg I quickly changed into a t-shirt. I met up with a friend from Germany, Stefan, who had already arrived earlier. We had a nice dinner and had a short walk in the old town to have a first look on the wedding venues.
Friday, 19 October 2012
I got press accreditation for the reception on Friday morning and the cathedral on Saturday morning. So on Friday morning I left early for the press centre in Luxembourg-Kirchberg. I got my press card and pool card, including a plastic bracelet for the Saturday morning, which wasn’t very nice to wear with this great weather. And then we were driven in busses to the National Theatre for the reception. It took ages before the bridal couple finally arrived. But it was lovely to hear Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume speaking – even when I hardly understood a word – and see the couple talking to all people invited. They received some nice gifts also. Walked all the way back to the hotel to do some writing afterwards.
I was at the town hall square on Friday at 1.45pm. Just in time, because I just managed to get a place on the first row between some friends. I saw several Dutch royalty watchers I know on the square. Got myself something to eat and we spent the time waiting and talking. As we had the sun in our eyes we didn’t really mind that there came more clouds. There was a tiny bit of rain, but that was it, just before the couple arrived. Small children with their teachers in front of us, but not really in the way for our pictures. I didn’t manage to make real great pictures unfortunately, but some are quite nice after all. It took about half an hour before the couple – now married – left the town hall. Lots of waving and shouting, and presents. What we didn’t like was that they didn’t come to our side and when they posed in front of us, they didn’t turn into our direction, but of course served the photographers on the side. I think I could have walked tens of times up and down the palace in the time they needed to get back there.
I met up with some people at the Chocolate House opposite of the entrance of the Grand Ducal Palace. Had the most delicious chocolate cake ever there, although absolutely too big. More than worth a visit if you would ever be in Luxembourg. As soon as it became too crowded and the guests started arriving, we quickly paid and got outside. Too dark already to make good pictures, but great to see everybody arriving. After all the guests had arrived we had dinner nearby. I only took a salad, not being very hungry after the chocolate cake. Before we had finished we saw there was something going on at the nearby Cercle building. We had a look, and it turned out many of the noble and royal guests for the wedding – the lesser known ones – had had their wedding gala dinner there, and were now leaving. We didn’t take pictures, but recognized many guests, and just looked at the people, evening gowns and glittering diademes. I managed to congratulate Prince Georg Friedrich of Prussia with the pregnancy of his wife, which he happily accepted. Back in the hotel I packed my bag for the next morning.
Saturday, 20 October 2012
Another early morning on Saturday. I took a shower, got dressed, had a quick breakfast and left. Still dark, but not very cold, and it was not a problem walking in a dress and thin jacket. Took the bus again to Kirchberg – free on this wedding day – and there the small busses waited for us. We arrived at the cathedral around 9.15am I think. Had to get through the entrance next to the head entrance – which is at what I’d say the back of the cathedral, but it isn’t – and found our seats totally at the beginning of the red carpet. Surprisingly we were able to walk around quite freely in the back part until at least 10am. There was a barrier between the front (official guests) and the back (ordinary people). There were screens, so we could see what was going on outside, and I saw some friends outside on it a few times.
However the most important guests, as well as bride and groom, got in at the official back of the cathedral – the part with the red carpet and grass, soldiers and photographers, and most of the public – then inside turned left, passed a big room with people who didn’t get cathedral seats, and via the front entrance they officially entered the cathedral. Just a few metres away from the red carpet I had a good look at all of them, and even at the veil and train of the bride. I immediately recognized the designer was Elie Saab, even when I don’t know that much about fashion. Stéphanie absolutely looked beautiful, and not at all what I had expected. I thought she would wear a conservative and quite simple dress, but I was completely wrong. The service started with a minute silence for the mother of the bride, who died last August, and the cathedral was totally silent.
The service itself was a bit long – at least one and a half hour – for a non-religious person like me. The order of service also wasn’t always easy to follow, as the languages in it weren’t always the languages actually used. Despite of being in the back of the church the service was easy to follow, and you could even see sometimes what was happening in the front. Bride and groom and all the important guests got the same way back around 1pm. Then they let all the official guests out, and then slowly the other guests. But it took almost one hour before we also could leave. That meant we had to watch the balcony scene with several kisses on the screens. Outside the soldiers were still waiting, even when we were about the last guests to leave.
Back outside I had a talk with a few friends who were still sitting there, and then got myself some food and got to work. Had a nice evening in town. Met a French photographer, had a drink, and then we wanted to see the fire works. Unexpectedly we ended up in a complete mess. The newly weds were about to leave at the back of the Grand Ducal Palace and we of course waited. And then, with all the other members of the public walked behind them, to the balcony where they were going to watch the fireworks. In the end I hardly saw much of the fireworks, neither of the couple – but it was still fun, although a bit crowded. On their way back – again by foot – I managed to shake hands with the bride and congratulate her. The concert wasn’t much of my taste and I noticed I had received a phonecall of some friends who were having dinner close to where I was. Met up with them and four of us had a drink in town before going to our hotels.
Sunday, 21 October 2012
Sunday. The day after! Had a very nice guided tour through the city center and saw a little bit more than I had seen so far. Lovely views on the valleys of the city, and I went inside the casemats. After the tour I visited the cathedral. Nothing like the United Kingdom a year ago. Hardly queuing (instead of about two hours waiting), nice people and you got the time to make photographs (not allowed at Westminster Abbey). When I asked if I could take photos for the agency I work for I was allowed to come closer to the decorations and take photos from very close distance. I hope I am not on too many pictures of other visitors. The wedding bouquet was standing in front and it was nice to have a real close look at it. Once again outside I visited the flee market, and just before I was thinking I should go and sit somewhere as my feet were hurting terribly, I met some friends. We decided to have dinner early before they had to take the train back to the Netherlands. I spent the whole evening at the hotel, just too tired to do anything else.
Monday, 22 October 2012
On Monday it was time to go back home. As my train left at 8.20am I had an early breakfast and took my time to reach the railway station. On my way I bought the newspapers about the wedding, two magazines with wedding pictures (Revue and Telecran), some postcards and a sandwich. Turned out it was good that I bought some food, as the usual bistro/restaurant attached to the train wasn’t there this time. It was a long way back home, and I finally arrived around 6pm. Unfortunately I have seen far too little of Luxembourg, so I guess I have to return another time.