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LONDON (Reuters) - The seats were mostly taken by the press and the only "tourists" were a few interested locals, but the bus tour around the hometown of British Prince William's fiancee Kate Middleton kicked off over the weekend.
The ride organized by bus tour operator Morton Travel around the sights of Royal Berkshire provides a glimpse of Middleton's not-so-ordinary upbringing.
The journey takes in Middleton's childhood homes, former schools, the church where she was baptized, and even the "The Old Boot Inn" where she has taken Prince William for a tipple.
The Middletons are regulars at "The Old Boot Inn" pub and landlord John Hayley is one of the lucky few to have been invited to the royal couple's April 29th wedding and happily showed his invitation to those on the Sunday tour when the bus made the first of many planned stops along the route.
Bus tour company owner Adrian Morton told Reuters outside the pub that the original plan was to create a local tour for regular customers, but discovered there was interest in it from around the globe.
"We wanted to do something for our local clientele, just as something to do in the early part of our year as an excursion," Morton said. "It was then picked up by people in the press and it sort of snowballed from there really."
He said he has had a number of enquiries from the United States, Canada, Japan, as well as Sweden and Germany.
As the tourists and the press pack settled back on the bus following a refreshment stop, Hilda Hewletts, from Basingstoke, who was on the sightseeing trip with husband Terence, was one of the few passengers willing to speak freely to the press and explained why they had turned out for the tour.
"To find out more about Kate Middleton, where she lived and what she did." Hilda Hewletts said.
Kate Middleton will marry William on April 29th in London's Westminster Abbey, in a ceremony that will be watched live on television by millions around the world.
Public interest in a royal couple has not been seen on such a scale since William's parents Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana wed in 1981. News that Britain's royal wedding invites are in the post has touched off lively press speculation, with former England soccer captain David Beckham and the King of Bahrain tipped to be attending but not U.S. President Barack Obama or William's aunt, Sarah Ferguson.
The 29-year-old Middleton is the eldest child of Michael and Carole Middleton, who became millionaires running Party Pieces, a mail order firm supplying party accessories.
The epitome of Middle England, they live in a five-bedroom house in the heart of the countryside in the county of Berkshire, west of London.
Kate was educated at private schools, ending at Marlborough College, western England, where she was said to be a popular girl who excelled at sports like field hockey.
Newspapers speculated that her mother, a former air hostess, purposefully steered Kate into the same university as William, on whom her daughter had a teenage crush.
Editing by Paul Casciato