Friday, April 25, 2014

Farewell Down Under

     All great Royal tours must come to an end, and so it was that today was the last day of the Cambridge's visit Down Under.

     It was a day of solemnity and remembrance that started off with the surprise attendance by William and Kate at the ANZAC Day Dawn Service at the War Memorial in Canberra, marking the first time in 50 years that members of the Royal Family attended an ANZAC service in Canberra, as well as the first ever time that such members participated in the Dawn Service.
      The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived discreetly alongside Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove to join a crowd of thousands in solemn remembrance to Australia's fallen in past wars and conflicts. In particular, it remembers those ANZAC's (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) who landed in Turkey for the Gallipoli Campaign during World War I. Although the campaign was a failure, the actions of those Aussie and Kiwi soldiers on behalf of King, Country, and Empire 99 years ago has not been forgotten.

     April 25th was officially named ANZAC Day in 1916, and during the 1920's it became a national day of commemoration for the 60,000 Australians who had died during the war.

      During this morning's early service, the diaries of Australian soldiers from several military campaigns (including Gallipoli) were read aloud in the dark by Lieutenant Commander Desmond Woods.

     Another soldier, Corporal Benjamin Roberts-Smith, a recipient of the Victorian Cross (VC), stood before the Duke and Duchess as he delivered an address to the crowd on the endurance of the ANZAC spirit. In particular, the recipient of Australia's highest military award stated: “While the ANZAC spirit may have first arisen in troops on the battlefield, it is indeed a life-force that resides in all Australians,” and that current and future generations “must take good care of it.”
      At the service, the Royal couple joined in with the crowds as they sang hymns, and they were seen wearing sprigs of rosemary on their coats. The Rosemary is traditionally worn on ANZAC Day (just as the red poppy is worn in the UK for Remembrance Day) and it is significant for being grown on the Gallipoli peninsula.

     Later that morning, William and Kate were back the Parade Ground of the Australian War Memorial for the ANZAC Day March and National Commemorative Service.
      It began just after 10:00AM with the Governor-General (as the Queen's representative) taking precedence by leading the Duke and Duchess to the Parade Ground, where there was a march of Australian veterans of wars and peacekeeping deployments.

     Prince William stood beside Governor-General Cosgrove as the salute was taken when the parade went by, and both men were wearing their service medals with a rosemary. Nearby, Kate was wearing a poppy brooch on her outfit, which was given to her during the previous night's reception at Government House by Emma Roberts-Smith, wife of the aforementioned VC recipient, Corporal Ben Roberts-Smith. He was also at the reception with two other VC veterans, and on this day, all of them saluted the Duke during the march-past.
      A fourth surviving Australian VC holder, Keith Payne of Queensland, who received it for his service in Vietnam, also met the couple today. Poignantly, he got out of his wheelchair to march past and was helped up the steps by his fellow VC recipients. In honor of those who never returned, there was riderless horse as part of the parade as well.

      The ceremony which followed included remarks by Prime Minister Tony Abbot and the signing of hymns, including "Abide By Me." William and Kate also laid a wreath of poppies for the fallen at the Stone of Remembrance, and paused for a moment of reflection.
      For the conclusion of the National Ceremony, there was a flypast by the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18 fighters, the same aircraft in which the Duke and Duchess had seated themselves earlier in the week for ground demonstrations.
      From here, they went on to the Hall of Memory, where they laid another wreath - this time at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and they also placed poppies on the Roll of Honour, which contains the names of those who had perished in the First World War. With of the poppies on display, it was indeed very moving.
      Another moving moment occurred when William and Kate were presented with a hand crafted wooden Victoria Cross, which was made from a branch of a Lone Pine, and within it was a photograph of a Lone Pine being planted by Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester (an uncle of the Queen and the only Royal Australian Governor-General) in 1934. The Royal Couple themselves planted another such tree in the Memorial Garden in tribute to the fallen and in commemoration of their visit.
      In the end, it was fitting that the last bit of duties on this tour involved the military, given the close relationship that the Royal Family has with the Armed Forces across the Commonwealth. It was about never forgetting those who have paid the ultimate price for their families and country, and it is a sentiment shared in America as well, especially since we have served alongside Brits, Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians, and other Commonwealth service personnel over the decades.

      Finally, the three-week tour Down Under came to an end as preparations were made for the Cambridge's to head back to the United Kingdom. At the Australia Defence Establishment at Fairbairn, it looked as though the tour was ending the same way that it began: with grey skies and the threat of rain.
      Nonetheless, everyone seemed be in good spirits as the time came about, except for Prince George, who appeared a bit grumpy in the comforting arms of his mother. Later on, he seemed to let out a slight cry, possibly indicating that he was not ready to leave Australia...or more likely because he was watching his giant stuffed wombat being loaded on the aircraft without him. After an exchange of farewell's on the ground, the family boarded the RAAF jet that would carry them to Sydney, where they transferred to a commercial flight for London.

     The Royal press pack, who collectively have done a outstanding job of covering the Royal tour, assembled one last time on the tarmac to witness the Cambridge's on their way out of Australia. Among those present was Prime Minister Abbot, who has made no bones about being a monarchist, and who lavished praise on William and Kate for their time in the country.
      At around 2:00PM, William, Kate, and George gave their last waves to the press and well-wishers as they boarded the plane. Soon, they were off, taking memories of this successful tour with them, and no doubt making the Queen very proud.

Photo Credit: Twitter Feed Embeds

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Cambridge's in Canberra

     After a rather light-hearted (and hip-hop filled) day in Adelaide, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge were in Australia's capital city for one their busiest days on the tour, which was also their last full day.

     Canberra was established as a capital city in 1913 as a compromise between Australia's two rival largest cities - Melbourne and Sydney. The word "Canberra" is thought to derive from the word "Kambera", which means "meeting place" in the old Aboriginal Ngunnawal language. Canberra it is part of the Australian Capital Territory (A.C.T.), an enclave within - but not part of - New South Wales, which is similar to the American capital of Washington being part of the District of Columbia (D.C.), and not part of a state.

Canberra, capital of Australia.

     Kate was wearing a green Catherine Walker dress, whilst William was in a dark suit with a gold tie, prompting some people to declare that they were cleverly dressing themselves in Australia's sporting colors of green and gold. However, it appears more likely that they were going for nature-themed tones that would fit with their first engagement.

     The royal couple were met by the Chief Minister of the Australian Capital Territory, Katy Gallagher, for a visit to the National Arboretum Canberra, a 618 acre open outdoor area that was created following brush fires in 2001 and 2003, and which has fantastic views of the city.
      After signing the visitor’s book, the Duke and Duchess planted a tree to mark their visit, and they were joined by 6-year-old twins, Oliver and Sebastian Lye, who helped by pouring water on the newly-planted tree.

     William and Kate then chatted with other youngsters on a playground at the National Arboretum, and accepted more gifts for Prince George along the way, with Kate reportedly saying: "His cot's going to be full of little teddy bears." At one point, they made their way to a section of the playground with pods, and Kate was seen playing with some of the local children inside one of them.
      From here, the next engagement was at Parliament House for a reception hosted by Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the Great Hall.

     Parliament House was opened by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia on May 9, 1988 as part of the Australian bicentenary. It is the home of the Parliament of Australia, with a chamber for the lower legislative body - the House of Representatives, as well as for the upper legislative body - the Senate.

     Like its counterpart in the United Kingdom - the House of Commons - the House of Representatives is decorated in green, albeit with a muted color to suggest the color of eucalyptus leaves. Meanwhile, the Senate takes its cues from the UK House of Lords by having a red color scheme, but with tints of ochre to represent the earth and the Australian Outback.

Parliament House, Canberra.

     It is in the Senate where William may one day make a Speech from the Throne as King of Australia, which is something his grandmother has done before, and is similar to her duties at the annual State Opening of Parliament in the UK.

     This day's event however, was a much less grand affair, though that did not stop 600 dignitaries and guests packing the foyer and Great Hall of Parliament House in a bid to see the royal couple. To keep the attendee's entertained, a string quartet played "Royals" by the Kiwi singer-songwriter Lorde.

     When the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived, they were welcomed by Prime Minister Abbott and his wife Margie into the Great Hall, where they received a herald trumpet fanfare welcome and a warm greeting from those in the building.

     On the platform, William, Kate, and all of those in the room stood in attention during the Australian National Anthem, "Advance Australia Fair."
      Following this were speeches by the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition, Bill Shorten, which were witty and well-received, with strong support for the monarchy and the UK-Aussie relationship expressed.

     On this penultimate day of the tour, Abbot stated that "royal visits are a reminder that the best things in life are those that have stood length of time", and he thanked the Duke and Duchess for the joy they have given to millions of Australian's for whom this tour mean a lot. Shorten followed up by stating that "Royals bring out the best in Australians", and also remarked that the Royal couple had brought cheer to the country, especially to those who are "doing it tough" in these times.
      Then it was Prince William's turn. In his impassioned and heartfelt address, the Duke of Cambridge told the crowd that "anticipation has turned into deep admiration" as the tour unfolded over the last week. He praised Australia as a "lucky country", where the "harder you work, luckier you get." Of the tour, he stated that the experience of it all had been wonderful and quipped that whilst he and Catherine would take wonderful memories from it, Prince George will take away "his cuddly wombat which he has taken to chew lovingly."
      The Duke also gave an indication that he Prince Harry may take part in next year's ANZAC centenary of the WWI Gallipoli campaign. Above all else, he thanked Australia and its people for the "warmth and generosity" that had been shown to him and his family in the course of this visit, and stated: "We greatly look forward to coming back. And when we do return, it will be to marvel again at all that Australia is, and will yet become."

     In short, the speech at Parliament House was a thoughtful and emotional summary of his and Kate's feelings about their tour of Australia. William later reportedly told a reception guest that his favorite parts of the tour were the Blue Mountains and Manly Beach, where he said he wanted to rip off his pants and reveal is Speedos. (Probably best that he didn't...remember the last time a prince failed to keep his pants on?)
      Following this successful reception, the Duke and Duchess traveled from Parliamentary Triangle to the National Portrait Gallery for a tour.

     A large crowd had gathered outside the NPG building awaiting William and Kate's arrival, and when they did, there was a rapturous welcome as they headed inside.

     For three-year-old Wilhelmina Dreghorn, she had the honor of a lifetime when she presented a posy (a bunch of small flowers) to Kate at the entrance to the Portrait Gallery. Her mother had won a ballot for her daughter to have this opportunity, and little Wilhelmina talked to Kate for while as she soaked up a moment that she will never forget.
      Inside, the Royal couple viewed an exhibition of artworks and had the privilege to meet some of the subjects of the portraits. Amongst the paintings they saw was Jiawei Shen's portrait of Crown Princess Mary.

     After about an hour-and-a-half, William & Kate emerged from the NPG to greet the awaiting crowds on a walkabout. Along the way, a reporter from the Canberra Times, Jil Hogan, mentioned to the Duchess that George was gorgeous, to which the Duchess she said: "I'm sorry we couldn't bring him with us! He's very noisy." 
      After a week since the Australian leg of this tour began, it was clear that there are no letting up of enthusiasm for the future King and Queen of Australia. Indeed, it was - as CNN's Max Foster said at the beginning - as though Australian's had a sense of ownership in these people who are members of their Royal Family.

     It was on that night that these Australian royals were honored at a reception they attended at Government House held by the Governor-General, Sir Peter Gosgrove on their final night in the country.
      The Duchess of Cambridge appeared elegant wearing a Lela Rose cocktail dress at the reception, which was attended by 100 guests from the arts, sports, business, youth, conservation, and charity sectors of society. It was noted that William wore a blue tie, which was his third tie of the day - having already worn gold a red for the day's previous engagements.
      William and Kate appeared to be much at ease as the mingled with the attendee's on the night before they headed back to the United Kingdom. Among those was the Jordanian ambassador, to whom Kate said 'Shukran' (which means "thank you" in Arabic), which is a reminder that the Middleton family lived in Jordan for few years when Kate was young and her parents were working for British Airways. 

     On this night towards the end of the tour, it seemed as though any talk of an immediate move towards republicanism had been muted, if not thoroughly quashed for the time being.

     April 25th marks the very last of the 2014 Royal Tour for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince George.

     It is ANZAC (Australian and New Zealand Army Corps) day in Australia, and William and Catherine are to attend the ANZAC Day march and commemorative service at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, which will remember the 99th year of the ANZAC landings during the Gallipoli campaign of World War I in Turkey.

     This will be followed by a tree planting in the Memorial Garden – planting a seed from a lone pine which was taken from the site of the Gallipoli battle.

     The Cambridge's will then prepare to return to the UK. After farewells to their hosts, they will depart Defence Establishment Fairbairn in Canberra for London.

Photo Credit: Nicholas Brown via Flickr cc, Ryan Wick via Flickr cc, Twitter Feed Embeds

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hip-Hop and Skateboards for the Cambridge's in Adelaide

     After a day in the outback (and a night under the stars), the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge continued their tour of Australia to the city of Adelaide, capital city of the state of South Australia, which is named for Queen Adelaide, the wife of William IV of the United Kingdom. South Australia itself has the distinction of sharing a border with all of the other Australian states and territories.

     The Royal couple landed at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Edinburgh, and met leading dignitaries on the tarmac, including South Australia's Governor - Kevin Scarce, and Premier - Jay Weatherill. Kate wore a dusty pink Alexander McQueen outfit, whilst William was in a navy suit and maroon tie.
      From there, they were driven to the town of Elizabeth, a suburb of Adelaide, which was formed on November 16, 1955, and named after Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia, who had visited in the previous year during her tour of the Commonwealth.

     On this day, the primary focus of the visit was about Adelaide's youth population. The town of Elizabeth alone suffers from a 19.7% youth unemployment rate, and William and Kate wanted to observe the activities, programs, and initiatives that are taking place to improve their lot.

     Their first stop was at the Northern Sound System, a youth focused community music center and workshop in Elizabeth, which offers courses, mentoring, and inspiration to young residents with musical aspirations. The Duke and Duchess conversed with the people benefiting from the center and looked on as some performed musical acts and others showed technical abilities/skills. For a short while, William and Kate became DJ's, and Kate seemed to have a better grasp of the technique, though William gave it his best.
      Afterward, the Duke and Duchess watched a skateboard display at a skate park just outside of the studio. William passed up an opportunity to show off his skateboarding skills, but seemed to like the display, and at its conclusion, he said to one of the skaters: "Thank you for your display today, I thoroughly enjoyed it." The skater, taking a somewhat looser approach to communicating with royalty, responded: "Cheers brah. It was pretty sick aye?"

     There was also new artwork at the skate park in Adelaide to greet the Cambridge's. Here, the Duke did try his hand at graffiti by adding his own touches to the work, and did so by reportedly staying within the lines. (Somehow I doubt that Harry would have done the same).
      Following this, William and Catherine took a short drive to the Playford Civic Centre, which is named for Sir Thomas Playford, who was Premier of SA for 27 years and played a part in the development of the area.

     There, they met thousands of well-wishers, some of whom had been waiting since 3:00AM to snap up a prime position to catch a glimpse of the future King and Queen of Australia as they made their way through the walkabout. There was one woman who has not missed a Royal tour since the Queen visited in the 1960's, and even had the picture to prove it.
      At the Playford Civic Centre, a youth focused civic reception was held by the Governor and Premier of South Australia with 200 guests under 30 in attendance, and it was there that William and Kate were presented yet another gift for Prince George - this time, a skateboard.
      Outside, they also officially named a planned office block in the fore court of the Civic Centre "Prince George Plaza" during an ceremony in which a plaque was unveiled.

     After another walkabout, the couple greeted a 100-year-old named Monica Swarbrick outside the civic centre, and wished her "Happy Birthday" before leaving for the airport and returning to Canberra in the late afternoon to be with Prince George at Government House for the night.

     Later today will be one of the busiest days on the 2014 Royal Tour. The Duke and Duchess will be Canberra all day to view an exhibition of artworks at the National Portrait Gallery, attend a reception held by Prime Minister Tony Abbot at Parliament House, visit the National Arboretum with it fantastic views of the city, and finally, attend another reception held by the Governor-General (the Queen's Australian representative) at Government House in their honor.

Photo Credit: Twitter feed embeds

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Cambridge's In Uluru

     It was another bright and sunny Australian day as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge headed to the Northern Territory to see the sight of Uluru, a large and world-renowned sandstone rock formation.

     Following a 3.5 hour flight from Canberra, the Royal couple arrived in the town of Yulara, where they were greeted on the tarmac by dignitaries which included the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, as well as two representatives of the indigenous Anangu people, Vincent Nipper and Daisy Walkabout (who guided Charles and Diana in the same area 31 years ago).

     From here, they drove to the National Indigenous Training Academy, which trains members of the indigenous communities to work in the hospitality and tourism industry in the hopes of getting many of the graduates (currently numbering around 100 per year) employed at the Ayer's Rock Resort.

The Duchess of Cambridge awarding a certificate to a graduate of the National Indigenous Training Program.

     William and Kate toured the facilities of the Training Academy, where they met many of the staff and students. At the Red Centre, the couple awarded graduates with certificates of their completion of the program, and received several gifts, including a spear for Prince William which was made from a Mulga tree.

     Later, there was a visit to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Centre to view a 'Welcome to Country' ceremony, as well as a display of indigenous art and an afternoon tea hosted by the Chief Minister of the Northern Territory, Adam Giles. Along the way, they met children from local schools, and discussed school, sports, and snakes!
      The Duke and Duchess also watched an Inma, a traditional song and dance performance, and thoroughly engaged with the local indigenous culture. Among other things, they viewed a piece of artwork made from wallaby droppings, which actually looked very good. More gifts were also received, with William receiving a carved wooden shield and Kate getting a necklace. Upon also receiving a gift of clapping sticks, the Duchess said that Prince George "loves anything that makes noise!"

     For some people, the noise problem may have come from the flies, whose presence was a bit irritating as the afternoon progressed. Within the press pack, there were some who were wearing thick nets over their faces to protect themselves from the local pests. However, the Duchess of Cambridge took all of the surrounding conditions in stride, with one person remarking that "she said that the red earth was stunning, that it was pretty hot, and the flies were pretty friendly."
      Finally, the couple were given a tour around a short section of the base of Uluru. The rock formation is also known as Ayer's Rock (in honor of Sir Henry Ayers, a Chief Secretary of South Australia) and is one of Australia's foremost landmarks. Geographically at the heart of the country, it rises 1,141.73 feet above the plain and more than 2,821.52 feet above sea level. Along with another rock formation in the area known as Kata Tjuta/Mount Olga, it is part of the Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park, which was established in 1958.

     Uluru is known for appearing to change color at different times of the day and year, most notably glows red at dawn and sunset. The symbolism used in Uluru's rock art is thought to date back at least 5,000 years, and there is deep spiritual meaning for the Aboriginal traditional owners, who offer guided tours to inform visitors about the local flora and fauna, bush foods, and the Aboriginal dreamtime stories of the area.
      In many ways, William and Kate made this portion of the visit about the people living here, who were happy to invite them to take part in their traditions and culture. Indeed, the future King and Queen of Australia appeared to have nothing by respect and appreciation for the native customs and people who predate the colonial period in Australia by thousands of years.
      At the end of their day, the Royal couple posed for the camera's against the powerful backdrop of Uluru during the sunset. What was intended to be an iconic moment turned awkward as the pair seemed to struggle being natural in face of the photographers, who themselves had difficulty in getting a good shot (within 90 seconds allotted) without their own shadows getting in the way. William seemed to make light of the contrived situation by joking to Kate: "So, what shall we talk about?"

      In the end, the press (and the world) got the iconic view of the pair in front of the landmark rock they were looking for, and William and Kate went off into the sunset.
      For this night, they were going "glampling", which is short for "glamorous camping." It refers to staying in a spacious canvas-topped tent or building with modern facilities such as electricity and actual beds. The one that the couple spent the night in is part of a glamping resort run by Longitude 131 in the dunes around the park for $1000 (£600) a night. This is the only night that they will be away from Prince George during the Australian leg of the tour. At sunrise, they are expected to have awesome views of Uluru when its red color is expected to be at its most iconic.

     Later today, the Cambridges's will fly to Adelaide in South Australia to visit the suburb of Elizabeth (named after the Queen in 1955). They will be observing the work of a music studio and workshop for young people known as Northern Sound System, and watch a skate-boarding display in the park just outside the studios. 

     Following this will be a reception at the Playford Civic Center by the Governor and Premier of South Australia, and the couple will then return to Canberra in the late afternoon.

Photo Credit: Screenshots from Reuters live stream and Twitter feed embeds.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Sunday for the Cambridge's

     It was a bright and crisp morning in Sydney's city center as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived at St. Andrew's Cathedral for Easter Sunday to join 800 fellow worshipers - including Prime Minister Tony Abbot - for a service that commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
      William and Catherine were warmly greeted by crowds that had gathered outside, and were accompanied by the Archbishop of Sydney, Dr. Glenn Davies and the Dean of Sidney, Philip Jensen into the Gothic Revivalist structure, which was designed by Edmund Blacket and consecrated in 1868, making it the oldest cathedral in Australia. Joan Kerr described St. Andrew's as "a perfect example of the colonial desire to reproduce England in Australia in the mid nineteenth century." Indeed, there are hints of Westminster Abbey and York Minster in this building.

      The Duchess was wearing what has been described by some sources as a dove grey Alexander McQueen dress with a matching Jane Taylor hat.
      Following the end of the service, William and Kate signed two very important and historic books: the First Fleet Bible and the First Fleet Book of Common Prayer - so named because they came along with the First Fleet, the group of eleven ships which left Great Britain in 1787 to establish a colony that would eventually become the first European settlement in Australia. That colony was founded as New South Wales in 1788, and it was here that the First Fleet Bible and prayer book were used in the first Christian service held in Australia.

      The Duke and Duchess have followed the tradition of several previous Royal visitors who have added their signatures to the venerable books. 
      Amongst the signatures include: Edward, Prince of Wales in 1920 (the future Edward VIII), Prince Albert, Duke of York (the future George VI) in 1927, Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester in 1934 (who became Governor-General of Australia in the 1940's), Elizabeth II and Prince Philip in 1954, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother in 1958, Princess Alexandra in 1959, Prince Charles and Diana in 1983, and Prince Andrew and Sarah in 1988.

      As reported by journalist Robert Jobson, the Reverend Justin Moffatt of St. Philip's Church (where the Bible and Book of Common Prayer are kept) said that during the signing, Prince William joked that the First Fleet Bible was "in pretty good nick." He further noted that William "seemed very interested" when shown a prayer in the book for George III, and was "rather touched" when he saw the Solemnization of Matrimony page. Regarding the past Royal signatures, the Prince "seemed genuinely touched" to see them there. Indeed, to see these signatures from afar is breathtaking enough.
      Before the Royal visit, Reverend Moffatt commented that he was "very happy that William and Kate have taken time to look, understand, and sign" the books, and said that it was a "pity" that few people knew about them. Perhaps now, the books will receive a bit more attention and appreciation.

     After a break, William and Kate - now joined with Prince George - headed over to the Taronga Zoo, which opened in October 1916 and is located on the shores of Sydney Habour. It is a 52 acre facility that is broken into eight zoo-geographic regions, and is home to over 2,600 animals of 340 species.

     Amongst the animals are bilbies, who are desert-dwelling marsupial omnivores. Officially termed as the "macrotis", the bilby gets its colloquial name from the Yuwaalaraay Aboriginal language of northern New South Wales, and it measns "long-nosed rat." There were once two species of bilby at the time of European colonization, but the lesser bilby became extinct in the 1950's and the greater bilby is endangered.

     It was this type of bilby that the Cambridge's saw when they came to view Taronga Zoo’s new bilby enclosure, which is to be named after Prince George, as well as one of the bilbies. 

     The family knelt down to view the little bilby George, which was running around in its plexiglass enclosure and causing excitement on the part of Prince George, who appeared to take a genuine interest in the animal. At different times, William and Kate were holding George so that he could peer over the plexiglass and have a better look at bibly George. At one point, William kissed his son on the head in a very touching moment.

     When the enclosure was formally dedicated to Prince George, a statue of bilbies was revealed and George could not take his hands off of it. He was then given a stuffed toy bilby, which delighted him greatly as he was bounced up and down by his Dad, Prince William. Yet like most other eight-month-old's, he then decided to throw the toy on the ground, prompting William to say: “He does love it honestly!”

     With this, George's time at the zoo was over, and William handed him over to his nanny. He and Kate then went on a tour of the rest of zoo for themselves.
     Among other things, they spent time with kangaroos and giraffes, and proceeded to feed both of them. William also held a conversation with a keeper about wildlife conservation in Africa, a cause which is very important to him. Later, they journeyed to an outdoor theater for a bird show attended by several other people, including members of the press pack.
      There, the couple were introduced to a bird named Harry, and William laughed when the announcer said: "you can tell by the red hair." Finally, they came down to pet some of the animals, including a koala, to which William joked to the crowd: "this is the moment everyone's been waiting for!"

     And then, after long day in Sydney, the Cambridge's were on the plane to Canberra to bring an end to their Easter Sunday.

     Tomorrow (Easter Monday) will be a rest day for the family, and they will resume official duties on Tuesday.

Photo Credit: Screen shots of the Reuters live stream and Twitter embeds

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Sunshine Day as Will & Kate Visit Brisbane

     It was another fine day of great weather and high spirits as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge participated in Day Four of their Australian tour. The royal couple touched down in Queensland, at the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) base at Amberley, near Brisbane on the same day that James Cook sighted the East Coast of Australia for the first time in 1770.

      Upon arrival, they were greeted by members of the official party of leading dignitaries, which included Queensland's Premier, Campbell Newman, as well as its Governor (the Queen's representative), Penelope Wensley, and the Mayor of Ipswich, Paul Pisasale, who last spent time with Prince William as the city was recovering from the 2011 floods. While Kate had a pleasant chat with the politicians and other officials, William inspected the Guard of Honor, as is customary for such visits.
      With the pleasantries out of the way, they took a tour of RAAF aircraft on the base, including an F/A-18 Super Hornet. RAF veteran pilot William took the controls (on the ground) before consigning himself to the co-pilot's seat, so that Kate had a chance to see what it is like in the cockpit. RAAF officers were on hand to assist the couple and to explain the technical features of this and other aircraft. William then took part in an exercise simulator of the same aircraft, and (wearing his glasses) appeared in his element.

     The tour continued on to the Amberley Memorial Garden, where the Duke and Duchess planted a tree to commemorate their visit the base and to honor the service and sacrifice of members of the RAAF. William and Catherine also attended a private reception with air force officers, other serving personnel, families, and veterans in their officer's Mess Hall. Among those present were veterans from the recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as families who lost loved ones during those conflcits.
      While on a short walkabout following the tree planting, the Duke reached out to receive a gift from a child, but was rebuffed when the child said: "No! It's for Catherine." 

     The Duke and Duchess spent more time with the military veterans and families than expected, and they were behind schedule for a civic reception at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre at Southbank, which was being hosted by the Governor and Premier of Queensland and attended by 200 lucky residents of the state.
      Outside, there were an estimated 10,000 people waiting to catch a glimpse of the couple, who arrived at the Center about 15-20 minutes late. There, they were given a formal welcome to Queensland, which is Australia's second-largest and third-most populated state, and was founded as a British colony and named for Queen Victoria in 1859 before achieving statehood within the Commonwealth of Australia in 1901.

      As the reception went on for about an hour, temperatures soared as high as 84.2ºF (29ºC), causing some people who had been waiting for hours to faint and be treated for heatstroke. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful day which bade well for Queensland's reputation as the "Sunshine State", and there was a jazz band on site to keep the crowd entertained. Within the masses was an 87-year-old who has seen three generations of the Royal Family, and hoped to give William and Kate a bow.

      When the Duke and Duchess did step outside for the walkabout, they were greeted with a raucous cheer from the crowds.
      However, not everybody was there to cheer on the Royal couple. There were Aboriginal and republican protesters advocating land policy changes and the abolition of the monarchy altogether.

     But they were heavily drowned out by the roars of enthusiasm from massive crowd as they poured out their heartfelt affection for the future King and Queen of Australia. The couple shook hands with the people lined up against the barricades, and accepted flowers, as well as gifts - many of them for Prince George - including a stuffed kangaroo and koala.
      After this, the day of official engagements was over, and pair headed south to unwind at the Sydney Football Stadium (a.k.a. Allianz Stadium), where they watched the a rugby match between the New South Wales Waratahs and the South Africa Bulls, which was won by the hometown team 19-12.

     Tomorrow (or today for some already) for Easter Sunday, the Duke and Duchess will begin the day at Sydney's St. Andrew’s Cathedral for morning church service in Sydney. While there, they will sign the ‘First Fleet Bible’, which was used in the first Christian service held in Australia in 1788.

     Following this, they will visit Taronga Zoo and view the Bilby Enclosure, which will be named after Prince George, who may be making an appearance along with his parents.

Image Credit: Embeds from Twitter

Friday, April 18, 2014

A Good Friday, Indeed!

     Day Three (Good Friday) of the Royal tour in Australia got off to a bang as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge arrived at Sydney Olympic Park for the Royal Easter Show to the tune of 150,000 people who came out to see them and attend the show.

     The Royal Easter Show is run by the Royal Agricultural Society of North South Wales, which was founded in 1822, and in the following year, it held the first Easter Show, which was granted "Royal" status by Queen Victoria. Billed as an event in which "city meets country", it includes an agricultural show, amusement park, and fair. Among the events that take place are the showcasing and judging of livestock and produce, competitions in arts and crafts, photography, and cookery, as well as strength and skills tests in various trades. If that was not enough, the Royal Easter Show also offers shopping, restaurants, commercial stands, exhibits, horticultural display, as well as dog and cat shows and other forms of entertainment.
      Today was a bright and sunny day as William and Kate were greeted by Glenn Dudley, President of the Royal Agricultural Society, as well as to a raucous welcome by the hundreds of thousands who were in attendance. The Easter Show is in fact one of Australia's biggest cultural events and usually does attract a great many people, but there was no doubt that the presence of the Cambridge's provided an extra boost to its profile this year.

     Once indoors, the Royal couple toured the exhibitions and venues featuring the products of various industries, particularly those in agriculture, and the vendors were keen to offer samplings of their wares to the Duke and Duchess. They opened a new pavilion at the show which was commemorated with a plaque, and also met the 16-year-old 2013 Wool4Skool program winner, who designed a blue dress for the Duchess.
      Going to the livestock area, William and Kate were introduced to Fred the Ram, a sheep who is somewhat of a local celebrity, and were also witness to a sheep shearing. When Kate was shown a tuft of alpaca hair, she turned to William and said "you need it more than me" and pointed to the disappearing follicles atop his head, suggesting that he wear the alpaca hair as a toupée. He laughed at the gentle ribbing, perhaps believing that it was her way of getting back at him for saying that she looked like a "banana" in the yellow dress she wore when they arrived on Wednesday.
      Back outside, they conducted an impromptu walkabout amongst the large crowds that had amassed in the carnival/fair area. Along the way, they knelt down to talk with several children. 

     From there, the Duke and Duchess left for Manly, a northern suburb of Sydney. There, they were greeted by the recently-appointed New South Wales premier, Mike Baird, at the Bear Cottage Children's Hospice.
      Bear Cottage provides care and support for children with life-limiting illnesses and their families, and it relies almost solely on community donations to keep their doors open those families. The purpose of this visit was designed to raise awareness of the children's hospice, which is one of only two such facilities in Australia. 

     Hospice care one of her causes in the United Kingdom, and the Duchess had visited another children's hospice center in New Zealand called Rainbow Place. She has thrown her support behind the creation of more hospices throughout the greater region of Australasia.
     In a well-received speech at Bear Cottage, Kate thanked Australia for the warm welcome she and George received on their first official visit to the country. She also said that it has been special to be in Australia as a family, and that there will be fond and happy memories as a result of this visit. With regard to the hospice center itself, the Duchess praised the operators and staff for their "inspirational" work in creating a "haven" for families when they are "confronted with the shattering news that their children have a life limiting condition" that can dramatically after their life circumstances.

     Most poignantly and movingly, it has been reported that Kate and William fought back tears as they met a dying baby at the facility who is of similar age to Prince George. William said: "I welled up and was really worried I would start crying. Once I started, I wouldn't have stopped."

     At the conclusion of the Bear Cottage visit, the Royal couple went on a quick walkabout at the facility, which partly resulted in them being 20 minutes behind to their next and final engagement of the day at Manly Beach.

     There, they were greeted by a great many people who had waited for several hours to get a good sight of them on the beach, where they watched life-saving demonstrations by members and volunteers from local surf clubs, as well as from Surf Life (known as "Nippers") - the country's main rescue, water safety, and drown-prevention authority.

     They talked intently with these members and volunteers, and took a keen interest in what they do and the nature of their work. There were a few competitions as well, and before firing a gun to start a race, William called out, "Face the water!"

     While on the beach, the Duke and Duchess were joined by Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbot, as well as by local officials such the Mayor of Manly, Jean Hay, who commissioned a six foot long blue surfboard for Prince George that says: "Greetings from Manly" and "Surf City Australia." In many ways this was the perfect gift from the city since it does actually retain the name "Surf City Australia" as a trademark.

     Prince George is of course, not ready to go surfing just yet, but his father Prince William is a keen surfer and grandfather Prince Charles was at one time patron of the British Surfing Association. So we may expect to see the young lad take to the waters with this specially-made craft.

     Following another walkabout, the Royal couple headed back to Admiralty House in Canberra for dinner and to be with baby George before retiring for the day.

     Tomorrow, the Duke and Duchess will be going to Queensland, where they will visit the Royal Australian Air Force base at Amberley and then head over to Brisbane to attend a reception hosted by the Governor and the Premier of Queensland.

Photo Credit: Twitter embeds, screenshot captures from live streams

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Blue Mountain's Jounrey for the Cambridges

     After a spectacularly successful start to the Australian leg of their 2014 Down Under tour – complete with a visit to the iconic Sydney Opera House and a walkabout attended by hundreds if not thousands of people – the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge headed to the Blue Mountains just outside of Sydney yesterday.
     It was a more solemn occasion since the area had been devastated by a brush fire last year in October, which resulted in the deaths of two people and the loss of 212 homes, and the people in these communities are still recovering. For this reason, the media were requested to leave their ground cameras behind when William and Kate came to pay their visit to the victims, out of respect for their healing process (though this seemingly did not apply to news choppers, whose cameras were rolling above the scenes).

     Upon their arrival by helicopter, the Royal couple – in a manner of speaker – went door-to-door and engaged with residents in Winmalee on a street that had lost 40 homes alone in the horrific blaze, including a woman who had built a home with her late husband. She commented that Prince William had told her that he and Catherine would return for a tea visit when the house was rebuilt. Her opinion of the Duke and Duchess? “They are really lovely people.” Another resident said that the Royal visit did not replace what was lost, but did help with the process of healing.

     From there, they went indoors the local Girl Guides Hall for a sausage sizzle (a common community event in Australia and New Zealand) with some of the firefighters and first responders who assisted in the firefighting, medical, and relief efforts, including volunteers from the Rural Fire Service.
     Then the Duke and Duchess met with the Winmalee Girl Guides themselves to plant a gum tree. The girls serenaded William and Kate with the Guides song Bravo and looked on as the couple shoveled up some dirt over the base of the tree, and then all of them gathered around for a large group photograph. Instead of saying “cheese” for the picture snap, the girls said “Princess.”
     Later, at Echo Point in the mountains, William and Kate took sight of the fantastic views of the scenery which included the Three Sister’s Rock formation. It was here that the Duke and Duchess of York (the future George VI and Queen Elizabeth) also visited during their 1927 tour on behalf of George V. In 1954, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh also made a point to visit the area.

     While up there, the Cambridge’s were met by Aboriginal elders who represented the indigenous populations of Echo Point, and they presented the couple with kangaroo skin cloak for themselves and a possum cloak for Prince George.

     It was originally believed that the Royal couple would be abseiling the mountainside, but instead, they stayed on the topside. However, Prince William did decide to walk up to the edge so that he could get a view below, which produced some gasps since he was not wearing a harness or any protective gear. That must have been a bit of a doozy.
     Upon leaving the Black Mountains, the Duke and Duchess headed back to Admiralty House – the official residence of the Queen’s Australian representative, the Governor-General – for a meeting with Prime Minister Tony Abbot, which included a photograph of the two men.

     Today, William and Kate will attend the Royal Easter Show at Sydney Olympic Park and view various agricultural stands. In Manly, they will be meeting young patients, families, volunteers, and staff at Bear Cottage Children's Hospice. Finally, the Royal couple will be witness to a life-saving display by the staff and volunteers at Surf Life Saving, the country's main rescue, water safety, and drown-prevention authority.

Photo Credit: Screen shot captures from live stream and Twitter embeds