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Canada welcomes William and Kate on first royal tour

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Canada welcomed the UK's Prince William and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, on their first official foreign trip.
  • NEW: "We have been looking forward to this moment for a very long time," Prince William says
  • Prince William and Catherine arrive in Ottawa, the first stop on their tour
  • The 9-day visit includes stops in Ontario, Quebec, the Northwest Territories, and Alberta
  • It is the couple's first official trip since their wedding in April

Ottawa (CNN) -- Britain's Prince William and his wife, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, arrived Thursday in Canada on their first official foreign trip since their wedding in April.

The royal couple landed aboard a Royal Canadian Air Force jet during the afternoon in Ottawa, the Canadian capital.

"Merci beaucoup," William told a throng of well-wishers. "Catherine and I are so delighted to be here in Canada. Instilled in us by our parents and grandparents, we love this country. We have been looking forward to this moment for a very long time. And before we were married, we had a longing to come here together. The geography of Canada is unsurpassed and is famous for being matched only by the hospitality of its people."

In French, he added, "We await with impatience this adventure."

I have wonderful memories from my last times in Canada, and as such we consider it a great privilege to have been invited to Canada for our first joint tour.
--Britain's Prince William.

They laid a wreath at the National War Memorial to recognize Canada's servicemen and women, before being formally greeted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Governor General David Johnston, in an event that featured full military honors and a 21-gun salute.

Catherine spoke with a group of young women while William chatted with a male gymnast, offering the athlete some royal advice: "Pole vaulting and high jump, you should try that," William said. "You can get more gold medals for Canada as well on that one."

On Thursday evening, they met with young Canadians at a barbecue.

Prince William has said it is a "great privilege" for him and Catherine to have been invited to Canada for their first trip as a married couple.

When the pair left London's Heathrow airport Thursday morning, the duchess -- whose fashion choices are closely watched -- was wearing a jacket by a Canadian label, Smythe les Vestes.

The itinerary for the nine-day tour has been designed to mix official events with some less formal activities, including a cooking workshop in Montreal and the Calgary Stampede, an annual rodeo and festival.

More than 1,300 accredited journalists will be following their every move.

On Friday the couple will mark the Canada Day national holiday by attending a citizenship ceremony and later joining thousands of people for the Parliament Hill Noon Show, featuring music and military displays.

Friday would have been the 50th birthday of Prince William's mother, Princess Diana, who was enthusiastically received in 1983 on her own 18-day visit to Canada with Prince Charles.

Widespread support for the monarchy makes Canada, which is part of the Commonwealth -- a loose association of nations that used to be part of the British Empire -- a pretty safe bet for a debut royal tour, correspondents say.

However, as many as 300 anti-monarchy protesters are expected to demonstrate Sunday at Quebec City Hall, Canadian media reports say.

A spokesman for the Quebecois Network of Resistance, a group which wants to cut Canada's ties to the British monarchy, told CTV News: "As tourists, they're more than welcome in Quebec. But as long as they want to hold a title or pretend to have any authority in Quebec ... they are not welcome."

A poll released on the eve of the visit by Angus Reid Public Opinion suggests one in three Canadians would like to sever all ties with the British monarchy.

However, nearly three-quarters of those surveyed have a favorable impression of Prince William, who is second in line to the British throne, while 68% like Catherine.

Prince William, who was famously mobbed by screaming girls when he visited Canada as a teenager in 1998, has been keen to return to the country for many years, his private secretary said ahead of the trip.

"Catherine and I are very much looking forward to our tour of Canada. We hope to be able to meet as many people as possible and to see as much of the extraordinary and diverse country as we can," the Duke of Cambridge said in a statement on the Canadian government's official website for the tour.

"I have wonderful memories from my last times in Canada, and as such we consider it a great privilege to have been invited to Canada for our first joint tour."

The itinerary also includes stops in Prince Edward Island -- where Prince William will take part in a coast guard rescue exercise -- the Northwest Territories and Alberta.

While in the Northwest Territories, the couple will take part in aboriginal activities, including traditional drumming, dancing and sports.

The Canadian government, which is paying for the visit, has described it as "a distinct honor" and Wednesday unveiled a design for new personal flags, incorporating maple leaves, to be flown to mark the couple's presence. It has also launched an iPhone application to help people follow the tour.

Royal enthusiasts can buy a wide range of souvenir merchandise, such as "I love Kate and William" T-shirts featuring the Canadian flag.

Queen Elizabeth II, William's grandmother, remarked on her trip to Canada last year that, for the royals, the country is a "home away from home."

After they wrap up their Canadian tour, the prince and duchess will head to California for three days.

CNN's Max Foster contributed to this report.