Victoria couple's brush with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle goes viral across the world
VICTORIA -- The story of a Victoria couple's unexpected encounter with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle while hiking on a North Saanich trail has gone viral across the globe.
Iliya Pavlovic and Asymina Kantorowicz had just finished a picnic in Vancouver Island's Horth Hill Regional Park when they decided to take a few selfies. Another group of hikers who was passing by at the time then offered to take the couple's photo for them. The pair gratefully agreed to the picture just as they realized their photographer was none other than the Duchess of Sussex herself, Meghan Markle, accompanied by Prince Harry, television actress Abigail Spencer, and the royal couple's canine companions.
"I froze up, I actually couldn’t believe who it was," said Kantorowicz on Thursday. "I kept looking back and forth like, 'Is this actually happening?'"
After chatting and snapping some well-framed photos, the royal couple continued on their hike.
"She handed the phone back and said, 'Happy New Year' and we said, 'Thanks and Happy New Year.'" Kantorowicz said. "Then we kind of turned to each other laughed and said, 'Did that just happen?' I still can't believe it. It feels like a dream."
Once the Victoria couple's story was shared on Thursday, interest from across the globe began to pour into Vancouver Island.
"I couldn't believe how much attention this story has brought," said Kantorowicz on Friday. "I'm honestly still surprised so many people want to talk to me about this chance encounter."
The Victoria woman says that she's received roughly a dozen interview requests in just 24 hours, from outlets including NBC, Inside Edition, Access Hollywood, Entertainment Tonight, E-News, People Magazine, US Weekly, Yahoo Canada and more.
"I know the royals have been criticized a lot in the media and I don't understand now that I've met them," said the Victoria woman. "They're so down to earth, casual, friendly. Can't imagine why anyone would write anything bad about them."
Richard Berthelsen, a royal commentator based in Toronto, says he’s not surprised the Duke and Duchess of Sussex decided to have their Christmas holiday in Canada.
Berthelsen notes that the RCMP ensure that members of the royal family are always protected and that their visits are secretive, allowing for greater privacy than in other travel destinations.
Meanwhile, leaders in Victoria’s tourism industry say that the royal couple’s visit to Vancouver Island adds to the region’s global reputation.
“It’s a different type of royal visit,” said Destination Greater Victoria CEO Paul Nursey. “It's a personal vacation. It will inspire others who follow them for their own personal holiday.”
The royal couples aren't the only ones to take notice of Vancouver Island’s travel worthiness. CNN recently declared the island one of the top 20 travel destinations to visit in the world this year.
"We really appreciated that she stopped to take a photo for us," said Kantorowicz on Thursday. "We would not have recognized them had they not approached us."
"I was in shock and I didn’t want to make it a big deal. But then we both called our moms to tell them."