William, Kate off to Canada, US in first tour

OTTAWA, ONTARIO (AP) - Prince William and Kate arrive in Canada on Thursday for their first official overseas trip since their wedding, in a visit that is expected to draw record-numbers of star-struck crowds and well-wishers hoping to catch a glimpse of the royal couple.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa, open the Calgary Stampede and go canoeing in the Northwest Territories during their nine day-tour of their future realm before taking off to Los Angeles.

“The response we’ve gotten is overwhelming,” Canadian Heritage Minister James Moore told The Associated Press. “We’re already now having to adjust some of our plans from moving the couple in and around the capital here, closing off some streets and moving people around.”

The royal couple left London’s Heathrow Airport on a Royal Canadian Air Force plane Thursday morning. The duchess wore a navy blue knee-length dress by the French designer Roland Mouret paired with a navy blazer by Toronto-based Smythe les Vestes. William wore his customary dark blue suit with a red tie.

Canada’s prime minister has unveiled a personal flag for use during William’s visit. It is the first flag to be created by Canada for a member of the royal family since 1962, when the queen adopted a personal flag for her own use in Canada. Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the flag was approved by the queen and William.

The young prince plans to demonstrate his skills as a helicopter rescue pilot by taking part in a water landing demonstration, and the couple is scheduled to put on aprons and take part in a cooking workshop in Quebec City.

But the couple won’t be welcomed by all. Some anti-royal protests are expected in the French-speaking province of Quebec, with small groups planning protests in Quebec City and Montreal.

Canadian officials have estimated the royal visit will cost the Canadian government about US$1.55 million dollars (CA$1.5 million dollars), not including security.

The prince and Kate jet to Los Angeles on July 8 and will host a gala dinner there the next night to introduce up-and-coming British film talent to Hollywood executives.

The southern California trip includes a $4,000 three-course meal and a charity polo match up close with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, as they are formally known. So far, about 1,000 VIP tickets have been sold to the polo match along with about 400 general admission passes, raising nearly $4.4 million for the July 9 event. William plans to play in the match, and his wife will award the trophy to the winning team.

Decades have passed since Canadians abandoned the Union Jack and replaced “God Save the Queen” with “O Canada.” Ordinarily, most Canadians are indifferent to the monarchy. However the 85-year-old Queen Elizabeth II _ William’s grandmother _ remains Canada’s titular head of state, is portrayed on its coins and stamps and has visited 22 times as queen.

“For a new generation of Canadians it’s a new introduction for themselves into the monarchy,” Moore said.

Sheri Gray, 50, of Manitouwadge, Ontario said her husband and her altered their travel plans so they could take in the royal visit. They arrived early Thursday morning to set up lawn chairs outside Ottawa’s National War Memorial, where William and Kate are due to lay a wreath after arriving from the airport.

“My grandma was a big royal family supporter. I can’t wait to see Will and Kate,” Gray said. “I really liked Diana. It will be really nice to see her son and his new wife.”

Her husband David called it a once in a lifetime opportunity.

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