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Thousands turn out for royal couple in Blenheim

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New Zealand News | Thursday April 10 2014 10:11

Duchess Catherine in Blenheim (Getty Images)

Duchess Catherine in Blenheim (Getty Images)

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UPDATED 1.08PM - The royal couple have certainly charmed the people of Marlborough after meeting and greeting lucky locals.

Newstalk ZB reporter Jessica McCarthy joined crowds lining Seymour Square in Blenheim to catch a glimpse of William and Kate laying a wreath at the town's war memorial. 

"Thousands upon thousands of people here. Some people have chosen to climb trees to get a glimpse, and others have been here since 4.30AM just to get up close and personal with William and Kate."

PHOTOS: Royal Visit - Day 4

The royal couple then moved through the square talking to those gathered.

Returned Serviceman Dick Sutcliffe was smitten after talking to the Duchess.

"I thought she was lovely. I don't know what she asked me but whatever it was I've forgotten.

"She was only there for a couple of minutes but I've got a lasting memory of her now."

Stephanie Southey says getting there at a ridiculously early time this morning paid off.

"Absolutely awesome. Totally worth coming down here at 4.45AM for. 

"Probably an hour before they got here we were like 'we're so tired and our feet hurt', but then they arrived and it was totally worth the wait."

VIDEO: Royal walkabout in Blenheim

Tourism boom for NZ

Pictures of Kate and William in New Zealand beamed back to Britain have seen internet searchers for holidays here soar.

The Daily Mail reports flight booking sites for trips to New Zealand have seen an up to a 153 per cent increase, just on day one of the royal tour.

Price comparison website TravelSupermarket says there's been a 50 percent rise in searches for Wellington, a 66 percent increase for Christchurch and in Auckland, where the royals aren't arriving till tomorrow, it's gone up 237 percent.

Not everyone can understand why ordinary Brits would want to follow in their footsteps. One person commented: "It seems such a strange way to decide on your holidays and there's no idea why people would want to go so far away, miles from anywhere."

Kate's pricey coat

Those hoping to snap up a similar coat to the Duchess of Cambridge's cornflower blue Alexander McQueen number worn on her Blenheim walkabout had better start saving their pennies. 

Her favoured high street fashions fly off coathangers within minutes, but it might take a little longer for the US$4,195 Utility Coat Dress to sell out. 

Tack on taxes and shipping to the South Pacific and you are facing a cost of six-thousand New Zealand dollars. 

Catherine is yet to wear any Kiwi designers on her trip down under.

Blenheim pride

The couple took part in a wreath laying ceremony in Seymour Square to commemorate 100 years since the outbreak of World War One.

Sutcliffe says he's glad the royals are making an effort to engage with veterans.

"I think they need to do that sort of thing. They've got to get themselves onside with the public and by doing that they will."

Thomas's dresses up

The town's most prominent department store has decked out its windows in preparation.

Thomas's Department Store has created an extensive display, stretching across the homeware department to women and menswear, utilising the stores royal related items or those of UK origin.

Director Tim Thomas says the store mirrors the town's excitement about the imminent royal arrival.

"With the Royals coming, it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. They don't often come to New Zealand let alone Blenheim, so we just thought it was a good idea to get something together and get the town in the mood."

Mr Thomas says they're planning to give staff a break when the royals arrive so they can catch a glimpse of the Duke and Duchess.

Plane museum flying high

The planes at Blenheim's Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre have been cleaned to a royal standard in anticipation of William and Kate's visit.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will take a tour through the museum this afternoon as part of their whirlwind tour of Marlborough.

Heritage Centre CEO Jane Orphan says the exhibits always look good, but extra effort has gone into today.

"When you've got a royal visit you're really making sure everything's looking at its absolute best.

"We've freshened up a few things, done some painting, tidied up the grounds and made sure everything's looking wonderful."

Orphan thinks the aircraft will appeal to Prince William's helicopter pilot past.

Royal memorabilia selling fast

Royal visit memorabilia is proving popular amongst Blenheim locals eager to celebrate the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's trip to Marlborough.

Gifts on Grove gift shop had one hundred t-shirts specially printed with a picture of the royal couple.

Co-owner Xuemei Zhang says theyâ ve had to order in more to keep up with demand.

"Some grandmother came in to buy for their grandchildren for them to keep.

"Some got sent to Australia, some got sent to Christchurch."

Xuemei Zhang says the $20 t-shirts arenâ t big profit makers but provide a chance to remember a rare visit.

Die hard royalists excited

One Marlborough family has made sure they're in the front row for the royal visit in Blenheim today.

Stephanie Southey and her family lined up in Seymour Square at a 4.45am.

"Because it's the royal family and that's what you do. I think it just adds to the occasion to get up in the dark and drive in and sit here for hours and get front row seats.

Stephanie Southey says her children all wanted to line up early because the Royals are very modern and very now.

Photo goes global

A few seconds, a touching moment - and a photograph that's gone global. 

Wellington photographer Simon Woolf took a photo of Prince George resting his head on Duchess Catherine's head, that's now gone viral across the world. 

He says he didn't realise he'd be the only photographer present at the Plunket playgroup, until about 20 minutes prior. 

Mr Woolf says he had to calm himself before the event. 

"The royal couple are amazing. They're very very relaxed, they're very down to Earth and the baby seems to be just an absolutely normal lovely, loved baby. 

"And you can see that relationship in that photo."

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