Victoria, Canada, Sep 25 – Britain’s Prince William and his wife Kate arrived in British Columbia on Saturday for an eight-day trip during which they will view spectacular nature sites and meet with refugees and indigenous Americans.
William, holding his son George by the hand, and Kate, with daughter Charlotte in her arms, stepped off their plane at around 4:00 pm (2300 GMT).
George, 3, more interested in a helicopter hovering overhead than by protocol, and his year-old sister, wearing a smocked dress for her first foreign trip, climbed aboard a car with their parents headed for a gorgeous Victorian home where they are staying for the visit.
The royal family was received an hour later at a ceremony with military honors and a 21-gun salute under blue skies on the lawn in front of the westernmost Canadian province’s legislature on Vancouver Island.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau remarked that this visit would be quite different for the royals, now that they are parents of two young children, compared to their last trip to Canada five years ago.
“As any parent who has traveled with children knows, it’s a whole different experience when you bring your family with you,” said Trudeau, who has three young children of his own and joined many official visits when his father, Pierre Trudeau, was prime minister.
“Let me caution you from my own experience, if they’re anything like our kids, getting them back on a plane after a visit to our beautiful west coast will really be a challenge.”
“As Canada approaches its 150th anniversary next year, we’re excited to meet and interact with the young people who will lead this country into its next few decades,” William said, speaking to an enthusiastic crowd.
“And in the year of the queen’s 90th birthday, I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to thank the people of Canada for the warmth and generosity they’ve extended to my grandmother throughout her reign.”
After a children’s chorus sang the Canadian national anthem, William and Kate exchanged greetings with locals.
The duchess of Cambridge, sporting a blue dress and matching hat, her hair gathered in a bun, wore a brooch in the shape of a maple leaf, Canada’s national symbol.
– Nature and health initiatives –
This time, the prince and his wife will take in the natural beauty of Canada’s Pacific coast, heading as far north as the rugged Yukon territory, and will also meet with indigenous people.
George and Charlotte will stay with their nanny in Victoria, the capital of British Columbia.
Royal fever has taken hold in the city of Victoria, where the provincial parliament has been decorated to welcome the British couple.
Accompanied by the Trudeaus, the royal couple will begin their trip in earnest on Sunday in Vancouver by visiting a shelter for refugees and a home for children with mental disabilities.
Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, will also go with Sophie Trudeau to meet with women living at a drug rehabilitation residence. Vancouver has seen a spike in overdoses involving the powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl.
The rest of the visit will take William and Kate to the island of Bella-Bella for a traditional indigenous ceremony at the foot of a totem poll, then for a hike through a rainforest before heading north to the city of Whitehorse in the Yukon, a wild, mountainous territory with a sparse population.
Then they will stop off in Kelowna in the Okanagan Valley in the south of the province, near the US border.
For their fans, William and Kate have set aside time at the end of the trip for a big festival at which residents of Victoria will be able to snap photos of them and their kids.
The family will leave Victoria by seaplane on October 1, before returning to Britain on their official plane.
Some Canadians — mainly those who dislike the royal family’s expensive lifestyle — are complaining about the cost of the visit for taxpayers.
The cost of the trip to British Columbia and the Yukon will be disclosed after it is over.
But when the couple visited in 2011, two months after their wedding, the trip cost Canadians Can$1.2 million ($0.91 million US).