Duchess of Cambridge visits Liverpool charities
The Duchess of Cambridge has visited a children's hospital as part of her second public engagement without her husband, Prince William.
She met children at Alder Hey Children's Hospital in Liverpool after visiting a charity which provides free accommodation for visiting families.
Earlier, she went to an alcohol-free bar run by the Action on Addiction charity, of which she is a patron.
The Duke of Cambridge is on a six-week posting in the Falkland Islands.
The duke's tour, which is part of his role as an RAF search and rescue pilot, means the couple will spend their first Valentine's Day as a married couple more than 7,900 miles apart.
But despite being apart, Catherine revealed to one youngster that her husband had sent her flowers and a card.
The duchess met four-year-old Paige Hearn, who has leukaemia, who presented her with a photograph of herself watching the royal wedding on television last year.
The youngster's mother, Claire, from Warrington, Cheshire, said her daughter "loves princesses".
Mrs Hearn said: "Paige has been very excited to meet a real-life princess and has been practising her curtsey for weeks. The duchess was lovely, she asked about Paige's condition and how the treatment is going."'I love your spark'
She visited Ronald McDonald House (RMHC), a charity which provides free accommodation for parents and carers of critically ill children, which she described as a "fantastic place".
The duchess, who was on her first royal visit to Liverpool, was introduced to families who use the centre on a long-term basis.
She met 10-year-old Ethan Harris, who presented her with a Valentine's Day card he had made himself, in which he wrote: "You're smiley like the sun, you're bright like a star, you're light when it's dark and I love your spark."
The card included a heart-shaped picture of his younger brother, Carson Hartley, who has complex medical needs.
RMHC director Jan Harris gave a formal welcome to the duchess, telling her "we're very proud to welcome you here today".
The duchess later unveiled a plaque commemorating her visit, and greeted the crowds on a walkabout.
Catherine later made a private visit to meet young people being treated for cancer and burns injuries at the hospital, which cares for more than 200,000 children each year.
Catherine's Liverpool trip also included getting behind the bar at The Brink, a "dry" bar in Parr Street, where staff member Paula Carey showed her how to make a special non-alcoholic cocktail called The Duchess, consisting of milk, honey, banana, cream and almonds.
The duchess took a sip of the drink and said: "Amazing, well done."
The crowds of people at Alder Hey Children's Hospital started to arrive a couple of hours before the Duchess of Cambridge - waiting in the cold, waving flags and jostling for position.
Some of the children shivering along the route were given blankets by hospital staff to keep them warm and in good spirits.
But they needn't have worried about morale during the long wait.
The cheers started as soon as the duchess arrived and the welcome couldn't have been any warmer.
It's the first time that Catherine has done a public walkabout without Prince William by her side, and she arrived in Liverpool to find that the crowds had turned out just for her.
The bar is run by the Action on Addiction charity.
She heard from recovering alcoholic Rachael Lyons, 36, from Toxteth in Liverpool, who gave a speech on how the charity has helped her - she has been free of alcohol for almost a year.
The duchess also witnessed a performance by the bar's resident choir, the Raucous Caucus Recovery Chorus, comprising those who had previously experienced alcohol problems.'Incredible honour'
Jacquie Johnston-Lynch, head of service at Action on Addiction in Liverpool, thanked the duchess for her support.
"Thank you so much, your Royal Highness, for being here today," she said. "This is just such an incredible honour. Anything that can put recovery on the map is 100% amazing."
Mrs Johnston-Lynch's son Jaqson, eight, presented the duchess with with flowers, cake and a Valentine's Day card, and told the royal he was sorry Prince William could not be there.
Catherine replied: "He's in the Falklands but he's sent me a card this morning."
Kathleen Cummins, 65, was among the crowds gathered outside The Brink.
The grandmother said of the visit: "It is a boost for the city and especially this bar here helping people. It is one of the duchess's charities and I'm just really pleased that she is coming."
As well as Action on Addiction, Catherine is a patron of three other charities - the National Portrait Gallery, East Anglia Children's Hospices and The Art Room.