Michelle Hodge dressed for her wedding in a replica of the tiara and gown that Princess Diana wore when she married Prince Charles. Even her floral bouquet was the same.
So it was a no-brainer, Hodge said, that she would duck out from her job at the FBI yesterday to plant herself on a busy downtown Washington sidewalk for a glimpse of the prince and his new wife, Camilla.
"He is going to be the king," said Hodge, 31, clutching a digital camera as she waited for the royals to arrive at the National Building Museum.
The spectacle was not everyone's cup of tea.
Aaron Smith, 38, and his girlfriend, Kelly Dinkins, 21, breezed past the crowd on their way to catch the bus to his Southeast apartment. "It ain't like he's throwing a big bag of money in the air," said Smith, a maintenance worker at the World Bank. "What's so special?"
After two days of glittering dinners and meet-and-greets, the royal odyssey across Washington was an exhilarating splash for those who got to rub well-tailored elbows with the couple known as the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall.
But for those on the other side of the fence -- and there were many fences along the way -- the view was decidedly mixed. Some were pleased just to be in the same Zip code as the royals, if briefly. Others took a measure of the limousines and fancy dinners and pricey couture and said it all added up to a big ho-hum.
As Norman Winters, 57, put it when told that the royals would arrive a block from the house he was painting in Southeast: "I'm going home to take a bath."
A fellow worker, Tyrone Burns, 42, his dark shirt spattered with white paint, nodded in agreement and brushed aside any notion that the royal life was something to envy: "I wouldn't want to be leader of a country. It's hard enough being leader of my house."
The excitement was a tad more palpable Wednesday outside the White House, where tourists craned their necks for a glimpse of the royals even after a security guard shooed them from the fence circling the South Lawn, barking, "No more pictures! Let's go! Keep walking!"
Tamela Trotter, a homemaker from a Chicago suburb in town for a vacation, waved off a recent national poll that found that most Americans are uninterested in the royal visit. "They must have polled men," she said, pressing her husband and two children to linger for a look at the prince and Camilla.
A few yards away, Tom Tippet, 54, who repairs dental equipment, said he drove down from Rockville, but only for his girlfriend, Julie, whom he lost momentarily when guards forced everyone to scatter. "She's big on the royals," he said, squinting across the Ellipse through wire-rimmed glasses toward the spot where he saw her last. "I just listen and nod."
At that moment, Michael Blue, 55, a bicycle messenger on his way to deliver a package to the Commerce Department, put on his brakes.
"Camilla, is that her name?" he asked, acknowledging that he preferred wife number one. "Diana was cool. She had a certain je ne sais quoi, if you will. She was prettier than this one, that's for sure, but I guess beauty is in the eye of the beholder."
An hour later and a few miles away, Flora Campbell, a retired maintenance worker, also invoked Diana's name to explain why she would not hang around for a look as the couple arrived in her Southeast neighborhood to visit the School for Educational Evolution and Development.
"She stole the prince," Campbell said, referring to the duchess as she got behind the wheel of her car. "And now she's married to him. I don't care for her."
Her friend George Lewis, 66, who lives on C Street SE, said, "They don't know me from Adam, and I don't know them." He then disappeared inside his modest brick house.
But curiosity got the best of him. A few minutes later, he came outside, a $3 cigar in his teeth and an instant camera in his hand. He stood outside the school grounds, behind a tall fence, with Lila Chambers, 76, a retired computer operator, waiting.
"She wears some bad hats, but she doesn't look as good as Diana," Chambers said of the duchess. "Now, Diana could wear some hats."
Just then, the royal entourage of limousines and security vans rolled through the gate and up to the school.
"They closed that gate real quick, didn't they?" Chambers said as Lewis looked through his viewfinder at the crowd of dark suits and security in the distance.
"I can't even get a picture," he grumbled.
The view was far better from a slope around the corner, where the residents of recently built townhouses had sightlines to the school's entrance. Eric Banks, 35, a National Guard sergeant, answered his door in a T-shirt and shorts and said he had more important tasks than stargazing.
"I'm going to cut my grass before my fiance gets on me," he said, adding that his attitude might have been different if Diana were visiting. "She kept it real," he said. "She looked out for the needy, people who weren't born with a silver spoon in their mouth."
Back outside the school, Lewis and Chambers were still hanging on the fence an hour later as the entourage was about to leave. They were joined by Josephine Brent, 69, a retired pharmacist's assistant, who said she was "honored to know they are here in the neighborhood, even though I can't see them."
"It gives you a chill to be part of something," Brent said.
"It gives you a chill standing out in this cold air," she said, before heading home.