One of the things I’ve been most looking forward to for the past few months was a trip to the Royal Ascot Horserace on Opening Day!
I’d never been to a horserace before and don’t know much about them, but I’d certainly heard of Royal Ascot. Ascot Racecourse has been hosting royal horseraces since 1711, and The Royal Ascot is a central event in the London social calendar, attracting celebrities and lots of press coverage on everyone’s outfits and hats. I was so excited to get dressed up and wear a fascinator, and was most excited about the people-watching! I knew that the hats would be a sight to behold, and they did not disappoint.
My parents and I bought tickets for the picnic area, where there isn’t a strict dress code, and you can bring in your own picnic lunch (although we opted to buy food from the many vendors in our section.) However, in all of the other areas, fancy dress is required, which means a top hat and tails for men! I felt bad for all of the men dressed to the nines in the 86-degree weather. Like I’ve mentioned before, England is not air-conditioned!
We arrived at Ascot about an hour and a half before the official festivities began, after a little blip in the schedule when I forgot the tickets at home and we had to go back a half hour to get them. (Oops.) It could have been worse though, since the trip was about an hour and 45 minutes in total! At least we were still in North London when I realized my error.
Once we got to Ascot, we entered the Windsor Enclosure (the “casual” picnic area, or as I referred to it, the Peasants Section) and found a table and chairs. We thought we would have to sit on the ground the entire time, but there were lots of plastic tables and chairs laid out for those early enough to snag them.We were out in the sun all day, and my friend who goes to Royal Ascot every year advised me to bring a few umbrellas. That would never have occurred to me, and it helped so much to provide a bit of relief from the sun.
We got some lunch (fish and chips and burgers) and a full pitcher of Pimm’s, England’s favorite summer cocktail.
Aside from the people-watching, I was most excited to see the Queen!!! She attends the races every year, but although there is a Royal Procession every day before the races begin, I didn’t know if she would be there every day. Since we were there for Opening Day, I thought there was a high likelihood that she would be there. But I didn’t realize I would see other members of the royal family too – including William and Kate!
The procession went by so fast, and I had to try to take photographs and look at them at the same time. As it happened, I didn’t even really look at the Queen except through my camera, but that resulted in a great picture of her doing her classic wave. I did put my phone down to get a good look at William and Kate, and I swear Wills looked straight at me and waved! It was definitely the culmination of my London experience.
Before the races began, there was a minute of silence in remembrance of the victims of the recent horrific Grenfell Tower fire and the terror attacks in London and Manchester.
My parents and I bet on a few horses, and even though we had the official guide to help us, we really had no idea what we were doing. We did one bet where we picked one horse in each of the 6 races, and although 3 of my 6 placed, I would have only won money if all of them had placed in the top 3. Having realized that, I bet on a horse in the 5th race and won £10! It was very exciting.
The official guide also told us the distance and course of each race, as well as the ages of the horses in that race.
I don’t know anything about horses, but I was so impressed by how beautiful the horses were. There were awards for both the winning horse in each race as well as the “best presented” (best groomed) horse in each race. They were just gorgeous, and it was incredible to be so close to them racing so fast.
Even for someone who knows nothing about horseracing, I had an amazing time at Ascot, and would definitely go again! It was worth it to see the Royal Family in person if nothing else, but the fabulous outfits and hats were also really fun to see, and it was a lovely day outside (even if it was unseasonably hot).
If you don’t mind investing in a hat or fascinator you might never wear again, I would definitely add Royal Ascot to your London itinerary!
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