Tag Archives: Queen

Off to the Races: Royal Ascot

Royal Ascot is one of the most important flat racing events in all of Europe, and is a highlight of the English social season.

The final race day on Saturday happened to fall on the first day of summer, which as far as I’m concerned is an event in itself!

With the sun shining down, the Brits totally go for any excuse to get outdoors, dressed to impress, and pop bottles!

Royal Ascot Royal Enclosure

Royal Ascot Girls

Royal Ascot Parade Ring Hat

Royal Ascot Ladies outside

The dress code for Royal Ascot is part of what makes this event so glossy – day dresses and hats for ladies, and top hats for the gents.

Where else would a top hat ever be appropriate?

Royal Ascot Parking Lot

Royal Ascot Phone

It all kicks off with the royal parade – the Queen in all her pastel splendor trotted out in a horse-drawn carriage.

Royal Ascot Queen Carrige

Adoring eyes all look to the country’s beloved monarch!

Before the races, we all slip into the paddock to eye up the contestants.

Royal Ascot Paddock Stables

Royal Ascot Paddock

Royal Ascot Paddock Standing

Then the horses are saddled up and led into the Parade Ring to warm up just before the race.

Royal Ascot Ring

Races

Royal Ascot Horse

Royal Ascot Parade Ring Shot

Royal Ascot Time Check

The boys study their race cards and check their watches to make sure all bets get placed in time.

Royal Ascot Tote Betting

Then it’s out to the track to watch the race!

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box View

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Royal Ascot Track

It’s impossible to describe the drama of the actual race – the cheers of the crowd reverberating off of the grandstand, the thundering of hooves pounding down the track, and the precarious business of jumping up and down when your horse wins without spilling your drink on some poor unsuspecting spectator!

We applaud the winning horse as he is proudly led into the Winners’ Enclosure to cool down and be celebrated.

Royal Ascot Jockey Winning

Royal Ascot Parade Ring View

Royal Ascot Richard Pankhurst

Royal Ascot Parade Ring John Interview

Royal Ascot Parade Ring Trophy Steven Fry

British television personality Stephen Fry was on hand to present the trophy and probably make a witty remark or two… He seemed to be enjoying himself as much as the rest of us.

Royal Ascot Couple

Royal Ascot David and Serena

Royal Ascot Jockey

Eventually, we tumbled into the winners’ box for a toast to the victorious steed!

Royal Ascot Winners Box

The room buzzed with positive energy, the air sticky with excitement.

And that was before the Queen showed up to dole out prizes to the champion of the next stakes.

Royal Ascot Queen

Royal Ascot Queen Pink

Royal Ascot Queen Stroll

The Queen absolutely loves horse racing, and is practically a fixture at Royal Ascot.

We drifted around the Royal Enclosure for a while sipping champagne until we were led up to the Commissioner’s Box. It’s not quite clear who was crazy enough to let a couple of ragamuffins like us through, but believe me when I say I strode right in!

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box Bar

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box Hat Shelf

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box Hat Shelves

The best bit was the adorable little tea cakes shaped like crowns.

Royal Ascot Commissioners Box Petit Crown

Completely befitting the royal theme!

After the final race of the day, all of our friends gathered in the owner’s and trainer’s car park for refreshments.

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Royal Ascot Trophy

Royal Ascot John and Rachel

Boujis nightclub hacked in all the way from London and set up a tented outpost among the parked cars – including a dj and bongo player – and passed around free food and drinks to us weary racegoers.

Royal Ascot Carpark Bongos

Royal Ascot Carpark Crack Babies

I highly recommend the curative powers of a cool Crackbaby after a long day in the sun at the races!

Although all this horsing around had left me feeling a little un-stable.

And I clearly needed to giddy-up back to London.

Royal Ascot Carpark Boujis Crack Baby

Royal Ascot Boujis Carpark

We savored the last few golden hours of sunlight, then piled into cabs to go home, leaving Ascot in the distance.

Tea at Fortnum & Mason

If I had to sum up England using only three words, one of them would definitely be “tea.” As the largest per capita tea consumers in the world, Brits can’t get enough of the stuff. They drink heaps of it. My fiancé’s first memories of drinking tea begin when he was aged 7 years old. Afternoon tea is a ceremonial embodiment of English culture and, here and in London, it’s been elevated to an art form.

Whenever someone asks me what to do in London – be it a weekend holiday, a business trip, or a layover at the airport – I say, have tea. It’s traditional, it’s refined, it’s an occasion.  As the official grocer to the Queen, Fortnum & Mason is known for its ubiquitous luxury hampers, and is bursting with gourmet British foodstuffs. It has been proudly sourcing tea for over 300 years, and was the first department store to offer afternoon tea to their customers.

It was the last weekend before Christmas, all the gifts were wrapped and under the tree, and it was pouring down rain – so I could think of no better place to spend the afternoon! We headed right up to the recently renovated Diamond Jubilee Tea Salon, atop Piccadilly on the Fourth Floor. It’s a stunning space accented all over in that signature robin egg blue.

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The Tasting Room is the perfect place for a private lunch, or an exclusive afternoon tea.

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In our private room, we didn’t have to hush our voices (or our laughter) – we were free to have our little tête-à-tête without worrying about any nearby diners eavesdropping on our very civilized and intellectual discussions.9 10

Twice-Baked Shropshire Ham & Barbers Cheddar Soufflé with Honey Mustard Butter Sauce

Twice-Baked Shropshire Ham & Barbers Cheddar Soufflé with Honey Mustard Butter Sauce

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I ordered Fortnum’s Savoury Afternoon Tea. I love how the English linger over high tea. It’s so relaxed. The waiters don’t rush you. You are free to nibble each selection at your own leisurely pace. First, come the savouries – finger sandwiches, followed by savory canapes – exotic breads, delicate pastries, with delicious piquant toppings.

Finger Sandwiches: Cucumber with Cream Cheese, Rare Breed Hen Egg with Mustard Cress, Rare Roast Beef with Gherkin & Caper Dressing, Fortnum's Smoked Salmon with Lemon Dill Butter, Coronation Chicken

Finger Sandwiches: Cucumber with Cream Cheese, Rare Breed Hen Egg with Mustard Cress, Rare Roast Beef with Gherkin & Caper Dressing, Fortnum’s Smoked Salmon with Lemon Dill Butter, Coronation Chicken

Afternoon Tea Savouries: London Smoked Salmon on Blini with Lemon & Caper Cream Cheese, Carpaccio of Venison on Mushroom Toast with Horseradish Cream & Hazelnut, Tomato Savory Financier with Pesto Cream, Black Olive & Silver Anchovy with Pistachio Praline, Rosary Goat's Cheese on Walnut Shortbread with Beetroot

Afternoon Tea Savouries: London Smoked Salmon on Blini with Lemon & Caper Cream Cheese, Carpaccio of Venison on Mushroom Toast with Horseradish Cream & Hazelnut, Tomato Savory Financier with Pesto Cream, Black Olive & Silver Anchovy with Pistachio Praline, Rosary Goat’s Cheese on Walnut Shortbread with Beetroot

No afternoon tea is complete without scones…

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And tea! Your own little pot, which the “tearistas” keep filling up with hot water to keep it constantly steeping for a refreshing classic “cuppa.” P17 P18 P19

We spent the better part of the afternoon stirring and sipping our cups and taking in the fine English tradition of tea. Afterwards, I couldn’t help tugging a reluctant arm into the Christmas Shop for quick browse. I loved wandering around through an endless array of ornaments and holly, taking in those familiar holiday scents – orange, cinnamon, and pine.

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A visit to 181 Piccadilly always promises a magical afternoon whatever the season – but this afternoon was what London Christmas dreams are made of.