Kate, William depart US after charming Hollywood
Monday, July 11, 2011
LOS ANGELES (AP) — They came, they schmoozed, they fundraised.
Following a nonstop weekend that included a few chukkers of polo, time with Hollywood’s own version of royalty and several events that raised millions of dollars for charity, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge headed back to the U.K. on Sunday.
Their Southern Californian stopover came at the end of a nine-day visit to Canada, the first tour Prince William and his bride Catherine have made since getting married in April.
The U.S. portion of their travels was a somewhat low key affair compared to their northern visit, where — French separatists aside — the duke and duchess were greeted with rapturous welcomes as they crisscrossed the Commonwealth country.
Excitement in California was more muted, though small crowds of well-wishers waving British and American flags lined up to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds and well-heeled fans paid thousands of dollars to sip champagne in the couple’s presence at a charity polo match in Santa Barbara on Saturday.
Disneyland, the Hollywood sign and the beaches were not on the couple’s agenda, but the duke and duchess managed to see a sweeping sampling of the Los Angeles area.
They also attended a star-studded, black-tie soiree to promote British filmmaking talent where the guests included Tom Hanks and Jennifer Lopez. On Sunday, they paid a brief visit to Skid Row, downtown’s gritty homeless core.
“Just seeing the smile on Catherine, it was great,” said 15-year-old Iliana Samaniego, who along with more than a dozen other performers danced for the couple at Skid Row’s Inner-City Arts academy.
Like many who saw the couple, the performers were taken by their easy charm. Jessica Cornejo, 19, said she was thrilled when William gave a double thumbs-up and told them “brilliant” at the end of their performance.
Many at the school were impressed by how down-to-earth and casual the couple were and said they put everyone at ease.
“They were like your oldest friends and family,” said Bob Bates, co-founder of Inner-City Arts. “The kids really took them to heart.”
The trip also included a rare display of public affection. After scoring four goals at the polo game and stepping onto a stage to collect the winner’s trophy from his wife, William gave her a kiss on each cheek.
Aside from the famous kiss on the balcony of Buckingham Palace on their wedding day, it was one of the first times they have embraced in public.
The three-day trip was a tightly scripted affair, though the William and Kate, as she is better known, took a few moments on Sunday morning to greet a small crowd that assembled near the home of the British consul general, where they stayed.
After attending a swanky reception to raise money for Tusk Trust, an African wildlife conservation group, their final stop before departing for the U.K. was with the group ServiceNation: Mission Serve, which aims to help veterans find jobs.
Inside the event in Culver City, giant U.S. and British flags hung behind a stage where the smiling duke addressed a cheering crowd.
“All the companies and employers taking part today are providing opportunities which mean something very immediate and personal to us,” said William, who is a Royal Air Force search-and-rescue helicopter pilot for the British military. “Catherine and I both have friends back in Britain who could benefit from a brilliant initiative like this.”
Kelly York, a 23-year Air Force veteran, came to the fair hoping to find a job that will allow her to remain in the Los Angeles area when she retires next year.
“I’m sure that they had 50 million places they could go and see,” York said. “The fact that they even take five minutes to stop here and say something to the veterans, that’s huge.”
The duke and duchess met for about 15 minutes with the Fraijo family, which includes three generations of Marine Corps veterans. Steve Fraijo said William, who is a search-and-rescue pilot in the Royal Air Force, seemed committed to veterans issues.
“He knows what war is about,” said Fraijo, 48.
After speaking with veterans, the duke and duchess helped prepare care packages for children of deployed service members. Their flight to London departed shortly after 4 p.m.
“As this is my last opportunity before we leave this afternoon, I would just say, on behalf of us both, how grateful we are to have been welcomed so warmly in the Golden State and the City of Angels,” the duke said. “Thank you so much.”
Associated Press writer Thomas Watkins contributed to this report.
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