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Published: September 25th 2016
Thursday and our last full day in London and its going to be another perfect warm late summers day.
Today we have a plan to visit Windsor Castle and get it ticked off the bucket list.
Our previous trips to London have seen us staying either out the east side or south of London Bridge and too far away to make Windsor a day trip without leaving really early in the morning.
From Brentford though we are just a stone’s throw away, so to speak.
Actually it became a bit of a logistical nightmare to select a transport route to get to Windsor mainly because there was a slightly closer over ground railway station called Kew Bridge which Google wanted us to use yet there were infrequent services from there to take us to the line that would finally get us to Windsor.
So we had to get a bit smarter with the logistics and do it step by step rather than let Google take us all the way in one hit.
This worked out fine in the end and we set off late morning after a bit of a lie in to recover from
such a full on day yesterday.
It was a straight forward walk to Brentford over ground rail station where we picked up a train to Feltham where we changed for Windsor and Eton which is at the end of the line just under the grand Windsor Castle.
Making the change was easy enough but we hadn’t read enough about travelling out of the zones that cover the Oyster Card which we were using to pay for the train travel.
When we got to Windsor and Eton the card reader would not acknowledge our Oyster Card which meant that the last sector we had ridden from Feltham to Windsor was without a ticket and the ticket office was closed at Winsor to buy one retrospectively. We hoped the whole thing might work itself out but this was really hopeful and not really going to happen given the technology behind the way the Oyster Card works.
It hadn’t been long since a good size breakfast but a sandwich and a drink was in order so we could get through the 2 to 3 hour tour of Windsor Castle without feeling too peckish.
The walk up to Windsor
Castle could be a bit of a tourist trap given that there are so many souvenir shops wanting you to buy branded items before you got to the attraction you came to see. We ignored these on the way in realising that they would still be there on the way home.
With our tickets bought we entered the grounds of the castle that the queen apparently prefers to Bucking ham Palace as her home and picked up the audio guide to have around our necks to inform us of the history and the anecdotal stories of each room as we passed through them the same as we did at Bucking ham Palace yesterday.
Whilst it is warm out in Windsor the lesser built up area means there is more of an appreciable breeze which while warm is also refreshing enough to make it a pleasant day.
After entering through the main portal that a couple of centuries ago used to have a drawbridge when the castle was in fact a defensive building here to protect the city of London from any invading force we were introduced to the surrounds of the main tower where a moat used
to be the final defensive line. Today the moat is a very picturesque garden which we are sure the Queen would enjoy strolling around when the public have gone home for the day.
You have the choice of either visiting the State Rooms from here or St Georges Chapel.
We chose the chapel because we had heard so much about it and its history that we thought it would give us a very good introduction to what would follow in the State Rooms.
And what a building it is. Grand to the extreme in its dominance as you stand in the nave and become awe struck by its internal construction and through the audio description realise just how cleverly it was built back in the 14th
The history of the Knights of the Garter just oozes from every nook and cranny and every step you take leads you to some other important event in the history of the United Kingdom which has some connection to a reigning monarch of the time. It is such an inspiring building that you really need more time than we had to take in all the history that goes with
this place of worship.
There are important people buried in tombs all over the place including Kings and queens and you need to stop every now and then to put them in their place for their time in history.
With a sugar boost required we stopped for an ice cream on our way to tour the State Rooms. Chocolate of course for Gretchen(what else) and blackberry with clotted cream for me(I have to keep up the intake of clotted cream whenever I have the opportunity as it will soon be a thing of the past for the BBA V3 as it is not a delicacy you see very often in NZ).
Like yesterday at Bucking ham Palace the State Rooms held treasures that were amazing and just wonderful to stand and admire as one listened to the history about a painting or a chest of drawers or a writing desk made for or purchased by a certain King or Queen who resided in the Castle over the centuries.
Charles the Second 1660-85 had a big impact on the style and furnishings of the Castle and there is a theme that you can pick up on as
you go through the State Rooms. In particular the painted ceilings in three of the rooms that include Catherine of Braganza wife of King Charles II who went back to live in Portugal after King Charles died in 1685.
The Grand Entrance and staircase created in the time of George IV (1820-30) sets the scene for what is to come and one has to dwell a bit on the staircase to take it all in. You can understand why visiting dignitaries get the feeling the British Royals really know how to start a palace up.
Then you sweep into the Waterloo Chamber again created by George IV as a mark to the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1815 where you can marvel at all of the portraits of the leading commanders of the British forces involved at Waterloo. All of this history has led me to try and find a Kindle book with a concise version of the Battle of Waterloo to read.
Walking on through the rooms paintings by artists such as Rembrandt, Rubens and others make one realise why such superhuman efforts were put into fighting the drastic fire of 1992 when many rooms were
destroyed and in particular the Grand Reception Room and St Georges Hall which have all been restored by the finest craftsmen who were available at the time.
There is an opportunity to walk past cabinets of the dinnerware used over the years and admire the hand painted china before dropping into servants rooms where history of those servants who served in the World Wars of the 20th
century is recounted.
We finished off the tour with a visit to Queen Mary’s Doll House built between 1921 and 1924 and a perfect replica of an aristocratic home of the days which even has electricity and hot and cold running water! The display ended with a walk past cabinets with French Dolls presented during the French State Visit of 1938 and lovingly cared for all those years to present in immaculate condition.
This was what Gretchen had been waiting to see and I had to remind her we had a long journey home and some packing to do before it was time for bed tonight.
Although we returned to the railway station by the same road we walked up to the castle by it seemed that we were
able to bypass the shops as we were keen to start our tour. Now that was over the shops were ‘reaching out’ to us as if to say ‘this is your last chance to buy more souviners’before it was time to depart England tomorrow morning. So we did do a bit of shopping!
After the section of ride from Feltham to Windsor this morning had been ‘free ‘because we had ridden further than the Oyster Card allowed we thought we had better be honest and at least buy a ticket to take us back to where the Oyster Card would kick back in again.
The journey home took a bit longer than the one going to Windsor as we just missed a train at Windsor and there was a longer wait at Feltham for the connection to Brentford.
We were pretty tired by the time we walked back to the apartment but it had been a most enjoyable day and we had achieved another tick off the bucket list with our visit to Windsor Castle.
It is hard to rate one castle Buckingham against the other Windsor as both of their own individual charms and we gave them a joint first for the new sights we had taken in during our stay in London.
We had one other major exercise to complete before we could call it a night and that was to get a repack of the suitcases and backpacks so that we got everything contained. After much packing here and then repacking there we concluded that we couldn’t do any better and because we couldn’t weigh the suitcases to check that came in under the 25kg each allowed on Emirates we would have to leave that in the hands of the person we checked in with at Charles de Gaulle airport on Saturday evening.
Tomorrow we essentially start the long haul home but with the knowledge that family will be waiting for our return we are sure we will survive the 30 hour plus trip.But first a train to Paris and a stay at Citizen M !
PS:no better way to finish our English leg of the BBA V3 than with that all time favourite of Vera Lynn.Although the version sung by the D-Day Darlings(whoever they are) is a very good version too.Enjoy as usual on Youtube.
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