Royal campers set up in south London
Using hair tongs to hammer in her tent pegs, Rachel Huddleston admitted she was not a natural camper. But the 19-year-old American was happy to forgo some home comforts for William and Kate.
"We are a bit out of our element here," she said Thursday as she chased after the tent for the umpteenth time as it blew across Clapham Common, a patch of land in south London hosting a makeshift campsite for royal wedding fans.
Huddleston is one of several hundred people expected at "Camp Royale", set up to provide a budget alternative to a hotel for those wanting to visit London to celebrate Prince William's marriage to Kate Middleton on Friday.
"I think they're just adorable. It's a fairytale story," Huddleston said of the couple, adding: "We're so excited. There will be all these people from all over the world -- everyone is joining together over one thing."
The student and her friend Michelle Knapik, 20, hope to make some new friends at the camp. "Our tent is for three people, so we need to find a friend. Perhaps whoever lends us a hammer," Huddleston said, grinning.
A few tents down, Lisa Harrison relaxed in a deckchair in the sunshine, wearing a grey sweater adorned with the names Kate and Will surrounding a big heart. She made it herself, along with the bunting strung around her tent.
The 27-year-old from Leicester in central England was also sporting a plastic replica of Kate's diamond and sapphire engagement ring. "It looks just like the real thing, doesn't it?" she said.
Her boyfriend Dennis Hunt, 27, said he was looking forward to the "festival atmosphere, and just to be part of it".
Fellow camper Andrew Kingsley-Tubbs, 52, from Cornwall in southwest England, agreed. "It's a great occasion -- rather than staying at home and watching it on television, I'd rather come here and have a big party," he said.
Located 3.5 miles (5.6 kilometres) from Westminster Abbey by road, Clapham Common is not exactly close to the wedding itself. The location has a local reputation as a gay cruising spot.
But Thursday the campsite was decorated with bright flags, equipped with showers and toilets, and organisers promised a party on Friday complete with DJs, fairground rides and a big screen to watch the wedding.
Zane Lawrence lives down the road but he paid £75 (85 euros, $125) to camp for three nights because he hoped it would be a bit like the Glastonbury music festival -- although surveying the 25 or so tents pitched so far, he admitted this was unlikely.
Still, holding a glass of Pimms beneath a makeshift gazebo adorned with Union Jack flags, he appeared quite content.
"We live in an apartment, so it was either: go to a street party or camp, and I love camping," the 29-year-old said. Asked if it was worth the money, he deferred, saying: "Ask me at the end of the weekend."
His girlfriend Stephanie Yeo, 24, a first-time camper, was throwing envious glances at the luxury tents on the other side of the camp.
For £3,500 for three nights, they came equipped with proper beds made with Egyptian cotton, bathrooms with running water, sheepskin carpets, champagne and hot meals. Organisers said all five were booked.
Back among the regular campers, Rachel Huddleston had finally located a hammer and secured her tent. Ironically, after all that effort, she and Knapik were not even planning to stay there on Thursday night.
They were heading to join the crowds lining the route that William and Kate will take from the abbey to Buckingham Palace. "We've compared all of the maps and we've found a great spot," she said.
© 2011 AFP