Then came the announcement. "Your Royal Highnesses, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, ladies and gentlemen: Welcome to Bhutan where the local time is 10:42 a.m. and the temperature is 20 C (68 F)."
Courtesy Simon Perry
Not a typical airplane announcement, but then, this wasn’t the most typical of journeys. In the front row of business class sat William and Kate, with some of their 11-member entourage and security seated behind them. The back row of the curtained-off area was kept for their clothes, William's black suit covers decorated with red trim and embossed with a red "W" – the others sporting white trim and "C" for Catherine.
Kate, along with assistant Natasha Archer and hairdresser Amanda Cook Tucker, had just raided her makeshift closet for a quick change from the patterned Tory Burch dress she had worn coming from Kaziranga. She and helicopter pilot William were invited into the cockpit to watch the dramatic landing from over the shoulder of those at the controls.
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Visiting the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan was a huge highlight in a seven-day odyssey that also spanned across four regions of India. The couple smiled throughout, flexing their muscles at archery and trekking to the spiritual Buddhist Tiger's Nest monastery.
Perhaps my favorite moment came when the royal couple met Bhutan's King Jigme and Queen Jetsun, the "Will and Kate of the Himalayas." During a three-and-a-half-hour dinner, the king and queen shared the name of their 2-month-old son, the Dragon Prince, a day ahead of revealing it to the public. (The young prince was named Jigme Namgyel Wangchuck after a traditional Buddhist ceremony.) Later, Kate was having such a good chat with the queen that the women lagged behind the men, who had to turn back, wondering where their wives were.
Will and Kate mixed the formal – such as visiting the site where Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated and having a poignant exchange with the vulnerable "railway children" in Delhi – with the casual, seeing elephants and rhinos in the wild. But they stole moments to shut out the world and gazed into each other's eyes as they set off on safari and enjoyed a romantic campfire evening in Assam.
At the edge of Banganga Water Tank, they were trailed by some 30 people, including their own entourage, Indian hosts and local security. But I watched from across the murky lake as they seemed to shut everyone out, and enjoy a special quiet moment of contemplation as they floated two baskets of flower petals as a tribute. And on their walk to Tiger's Nest, there was a quiet hand-holding (a rare sight on royal outings) and arm-in-arm pose for the cameras.
On Saturday, after flying past Mount Everest en route from Assam, we were fortunate to fly that special charter again. "Welcome to Agra, where the temperature is 42 C (107 F)." Kate turned to face an aide, eyes widening as if to say, "Wow."
Wow. That could be the word of the tour.