End of last year my mum found out that she was being awarded an OBE which she announced proudly at midnight at a big New Years party she had at her home. Obviously she was absolutely over the moon, in shock and humbled to be put up for such an award in the first place never mind actually being awarded it. Not only was it exciting that she was getting an OBE but the fact that it meant herself, my dad, my brother our grandparents and I all got to go to Buckingham Palace for the ceremony was obviously doubly exciting. It also meant a trip to London was in order which we of course wanted to make the most of. We travelled by train (as let’s face it, who wants to drive around London) and we were even treated like celebs once they found out why we were going there and was brought a bottle of champagne and staff took photos of us for their ‘wall of fame’. We all found this very comical but it was a very nice touch.
My mum chose a gorgeous dress, hat and shoes (which I had my eye on) and took us all shopping to find something extra special for the big day. I struggled to find something I liked as am not usually the type to wear the kind of dresses you buy for such an occasion and I am definitely not a hat/fascinator kind of girl. I just don’t like them and was adamant I wasn’t wearing one. I ended up panic buying a dress that really I just didn’t feel right in and it was one of those dresses that after getting home I started to dislike more and more as we drew closer to the date. There was another dress I was torn between and decided I would be much more comfortable in it so the next time my mum was passing the shop she swapped it for that one (the day before we went to London). When I finally received it later on that night, it was the wrong size!! As you can imagine that was a bit of a nightmare! We had to just hope that we could get something in London whilst we were there (at this point I would wear anything that fit!). My mum had the brilliant idea to order next day collect in-store at Next in London which meant I could choose a selection of Lipsy and Coast dresses and then try them all on quick in the shop and return ones I didn’t want. So I spent the remainder of my night choosing things I liked and we ordered a total of 8 dresses! Order was placed and confirmed delivery by midday the following day.
We travelled up on the morning, the day before going to the Palace and after a 3.5 hour train journey, getting stuck in traffic to the hotel for what seemed like ages, finally checking in, my mum and I did a mad dash to the shops to try find me a dress. We had exactly an hour to find something and get back to the hotel and I don’t think I have ever seen more determined women than we were storming around an area in London with our game faces on! It was ever so slightly comical, but not really at the time. Our first point of call was obviously Next, but with our luck when we got there the order had gone missing and with it being a smaller store, there was nothing really to try on suitable for the Palace. We very quickly moved to a couple of shops and with a quick scope of each store we were starting to lose hope. We Spotted a Ted Baker store and legged it over the street (my mum narrowly missed by a cyclist) and had 20 minutes left to find something. There was actually a lot of choice in there and I just grabbed anything suitable and in my size whether I liked it or not. I flew through trying each thing on and after being about to settle on something which physically did the job my mum brought in a dress that I had overlooked in to try. It looked very plain and I was expecting to hate it but I put it on and, well (cutting this very long story short) it was the dress!! We were so relieved and even managed to grab a gorgeous necklace to go with it which just made the dress. We also even had time to pop in Accessorise and grab a little tiara headband which was a compromise on a fascinator in my hair.
The evening of our first day in London we went to Covent Garden for some food. My mum and I had a quick pop in to Charlotte Tilbury and Kiko (to my dad, brother and grandparent’s delight…not) and I actually got dragged out of Kiko as everyone was hungry (how inconsiderate of them). We went for food at Strada as we had a Tastecard and it meant that our £250 bill ended up only being around £160 for 7 of us (I should mention we were joined by a friend) so it was a great deal and the food was lovely. We then headed back to the hotel for an early night as we had a super early and long day ahead of us in the morning. I finally got to chill in my room for a bit as it had so far been used just to dump bags in there. We were staying at the Tower Hotel in upgraded Executive rooms which were very comfortable. I have stayed in a lot of hotel rooms in my life and some have been amazing with jacuzzi’s and more, this hotel was a little more simple but was very comfortable, clean and I had the best nights sleep I’ve ever had in a hotel! I usually don’t sleep well without another body laying next to me as that is what I am used to and can feel a bit lonely but I was very comfortable in there. The other great thing about the room was that you had access to an executive lounge with your keycard which had free wine, fizz, beer, soft drinks and at certain time of the day free canapes. My only regret is I didn’t get time to make the most of this room since I do love a freebie!
The next morning we had to be at the Palace for 10am but we wanted to allow an hour to get there because the traffic can be so bad. We had Chauffeur driven cars and again felt like Celebs. The cars were very comfortable and there were tv’s in the head rests and when I mentioned I was thirsty to my brother the driver heard me and said, check the back a there are refreshments in there. It was definitely travelling in style and was a surreal experience driving up to Buckingham Palace all dressed up in that car. We had to get out in front of the gates and walk through but my mum (and grandparents) were allowed to drive all the way in. We presented our ticket and were guided through the gates and in to the courtyard. I was allowed to film until the moment I arrived at the entrance to inside the Palace and so unfortunately as expected had to turn it off and couldn’t film or take photos inside. I did however take a quick sneaky photo in the loos before my phone was confiscated. I was itching to film and felt like it was a crime not being able to film the experience, but obviously understood that I couldn’t. There were a lot of women doing the same in the Loos, taking a photo in the mirror and it was nice to see the effort people went to with their outfits and hats. There were some beautiful dresses and such a mix, I was actually surprised that not one person was wearing the same dress or hat, it was actually quite surprising.
It is very hard to describe what it’s like in the palace as I was like an excited little child and found it hard to focus with so much going on and so much to take in whilst trying to make sure I didn’t embarrass myself (I have been known to do that). The palace was just as you would imagine, red carpets, lots of gold colours and amazing details on walls and ceilings. I was actually surprised that it didn’t smell old or dusty or feel cold as for some reason although I knew it would be beautiful that is how I imagined it. It was immaculate inside and I just kept thinking, I wish my house looked this clean and tidy all the time. There were guards stood round like statues and at first I didn’t think they were real people. It’s amazing how still they stand and how long they can actually stand still for. When the ceremony was about to start my mum was sent off one way and we were all sent another and because my nanny struggles to walk very far and came with her wheelchair we were positioned at the very front. We joked that there finally were some benefits to us pushing her about London! Front row seats to things (before anyone takes offence, this was a joke that she would obviously find funny..).
Princess Royal did the ceremony and she was just amazing, she seemed to be so lovely and showed interest and chatted to every single person equally. She seemed so down to earth when she was talking to people, even having a laugh with them and then when it was time to move on to the next person she would extend her hand for a hand shake. It was nice to see that the Princess made everyone feel at ease and didn’t appear to rush through everyone. Hats off to her, she stood and did the full thing for 2 hours straight, no break, no sitting down, no drink. I have to admit, as someone who was sat down watching I struggled after 45 mins. It was very long and although I was thankful to be there you are just observing people being called up and then they have their back to you whilst they talk very quietly to the Princess. Being at the front, I could pick up some of what was being said but any further back and you wouldn’t have been able to hear anything. We did get to listen to the beautiful music being played which really was stunning. My bum was getting numb and although now and again my attention was taken away to look around the room we were I did notice some of the amazing people who had been given awards and there were people being knighted also which was exciting to watch. I could see my mum standing waiting to come out and she started crying and I could see her frantically trying to pull herself together as she was next. She came out and had a huge smile on her face and said she had a lovely conversation with the Princess Royal. We were all extremely proud and excited to see her get her medal.
Once the ceremony was over we dashed outside to go get family and PR photos done. We were first in line which was great as each family had quite a good long session and people were waiting ages. When we left Buckingham Palace and went out to the front gates there were people cheering and clapping which was lovely and it felt so surreal having everyone staring and pointing at us again. We had people asking for photos with us and talking to my mum to ask what was going on. It was nice to see her getting attention and praise as she really did deserve it and lots of people were admiring her medal/award (which she guarded with her life ha!). After being sat watching the awards for so long it was nice to be on our feet again and we were looking forward to the rest of the day as the celebrations had just began. We waited for a taxi to take us to the next stop on the list, they weren’t quite as posh as our transport to the palace however with my super uncomfortable heels on, I was just happy to be sat down. We got stuck in traffic for ages and by this point we were all starving and excited to go for something to eat.
We went to the Savoy Hotel for Champagne afternoon tea and as I am a big afternoon tea fan I was super excited to be trying it here, especially since the price tag was around £60/person, so I was expecting it to be great! We were quite early so decided to have some cocktails whist we waited and the boys went and got changed at the hotel we were staying at in to a different, more comfortable, but still very smart suit. We were happy to sit sipping cocktails whilst we waited for them to come and meet us. I ended up trying a rather unusual sounding cocktail called the Sam Collins which was Belvedere vodka, lemon juice, caramel vanilla, almond milk, smoked salt, agave, yoghurt and ash. It did taste really nice but reminded me of those yoghurt drinks you can buy and the ash was something I never thought I would have in a drink. The Savoy hotel really was quite breathtakingly beautiful and you could see just how well each staff member did their job. Everyone greeted you as you walked through the hotel and was very welcoming. I really enjoyed my experience there and definitely hope to return in the future, hopefully to experience a stay there also.
After the Savoy my mum wanted to go to the Shard for more drinks and we were all so exhausted at this point but everyone wanted to go for my mum. I had borrowed a pair of my mums shoes for the occasion that day and they had cut so badly in to my feet that I was struggling to walk. So after debating for a while I decided to go back to the hotel and meet them there after they had been to the Shard. I had also reached my limit of how much food and drink could fit in my body and I felt I needed to be horizontal for a bit. I went back, got changed in to something more comfortable, put my feet up and called my two boys who I was missing a lot! Due to being stuck in traffic for over and hour to the hotel the family weren’t that far behind me so it worked out quite well…apart from being stuck in traffic. We then all met in the hotel’s executive lounge which had free drinks and canapes, so we were taking full advantage, although my body was saying, pleaseeee no moreee!
It was a super exciting but very tiring day and after more drinks in the Executive lounge my grandparents decided to hit the hay and myself, my parents and brother decided to go for a look around the bars nearby and….sit and have more drinks. I was taking an hour just to drink one drink by this point and believe it or not we all began feeling slightly hungry again. We stopped off at an Dim sum bar/restaurant which had lovely small plates which was perfect. It was also very late at night and we were all flagging a lot so I think the tiredness was the reason we needed to refuel! Just as we were about to leave and head back to the hotel, the heavens opened and I can only describe the weather as the worst I had experienced in a long time! It was quite a walk (run) to the hotel and very little shelter all the way. My shoes were slowing me down so much that I ended up taking them off and just legging it bare foot…not the best idea near bars in London but luckily I made it there unharmed. Once we got back it was straight in my PJ’s and bed for everyone, I wanted to go on Facebook and do some work but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open!
The following day we were set to get the train home. We had a little wander around before leaving and went to look at the Tower Of London which I had never actually seen before but couldn’t stay long a we had to go pack our bags. I threw everything in to my case and got ready to leave, I was obviously the last one to be in the Taxi! When we got to the train station I had a mad panic as I remembered I hadn’t got anything for my little guy and I had to get him a gift. I remembered my mum aid there was a Harry Potter Shop in the station so we dashed there and bought a cuddly Hedwig and chocolate. Couldn’t believe how busy that shop was and it was only small so I had to fight my way through. We only had a very small window of time to grab something so once we had bought a prezzie we ran to meet everyone else who was waiting for us…impatiently. The journey home felt like forever but I was so happy to see my little guy and my Mr and couldn’t wait to tell them about everything. It was a very surreal experience with lots of excitement and stress at times but was definitely a once in a lifetime experience that I am very pleased and privileged to be a part of My mum is definitely an inspiration and what an amazing award to receive!