Note that this is the blog entry for Wednesday, May 16, 2012.
I woke up today to much improved and sunny weather! I decided it would be a good day to visit Windsor Castle. I didn't know how to get there and, of course, couldn't get online to research it, so I hiked up to Starbucks with my phone to see if I could find some info. Thankfully, Starbucks is ½ block from Bayswater tube station.
I found I could get to Windsor via a train from Paddington Station. Paddington is the first stop after Bayswater, so off I went. When I got to Paddington, I wandered around for a few minutes when I got to the platform hall and was totally lost and confused. I could see lots of ticket machines and departure boards, but didn't know which train would get me there. I eventually found a hall with ticket windows and had to stand in line. I told the clerk where I wanted to go and he printed my tickets, told me to go to Platform 10 and that I'd need to change trains in Slough. It was 9:45 and my train was leaving at 9:50.
I walked as fast as I could to Platform 10, passing a lot of first class coaches, and kept going until I found a regular coach. There was no one on the platform. I stepped on the train and there was no one on it. At this point I started to worry that I was on the wrong train. Then a cleaning lady came through and I asked her if this was the train to Windsor. She said no, and pointed to a train on Platform 11 that was just leaving. So, I missed the train.
I walked back to where I entered the Platform and asked the guard where I could catch the next train to Windsor. He said to go to Platform 13. It was leaving in 3 minutes. And, I had to go up one way of the platform then down another way to get there. I was walking as fast as I could and then people started running past me. I figured they knew more than me, so I started to run, too. Got to the train and flung myself into the doorway, out of breath, and asked the first passenger I saw if it was the train to Windsor. Yes! She was a very nice woman from Chicago who was also going to the Castle. And, off we went. Those trains wait for no one!
This particular train made several stops along the way. When it got to Slough, I got off and literally had to run up some stairs and down some others to get to the Windsor train. I hopped on with mere seconds to spare. Whew! But, that was the end of running for the day.
I arrived in Windsor in a very large, Victorian station with lots of shops & restaurants. Upon exiting the station, there above me on a hill, was Windsor Castle. Wow! But, one thing is clear from the get-go…Windsor is very close to Heathrow Airport. There are loud, low jets flying over constantly.
From what I could see of Windsor across from the castle is a charming little village with cobblestone streets and Victorian architecture. It was a really cute and colorful place. But, I was there to see the castle, so I started up the hill. I saw a long line and stood there for a bit until someone asked if I was there to buy a ticket. I said yes, and he directed me to another, much shorter line. Apparently the one I was in was for groups. Made sense as there was a large group of teenaged schoolboys in front of me.
I bought my ticket and then had to go to another room for airport-like security—had to place all my belongings on a conveyer and had to walk through a metal detector. Once through there, I was free to enter. The first stop was to pick up an audio guide. Then it was an uphill walk.
My first stop, after taking a few photos along the way, was Queen Mary's Dolls' House. Oh, my gosh! It was incredible! I had seen photographs of it online but that doesn't compare to seeing it in person. The house was encased in glass, in a very dark room with dim lighting and we weren't allowed to take pictures. But, you could walk around all four sides of the house and peer into each room. The finest craftsmen, manufacturers and artisans of the day were commissioned to build and furnish this miniature house. It even has electrical lighting and hot/cold running water. There are miniature paintings hanging on the walls, miniature books in the bookcases, linens in the linen closet, woven rugs, embroidered towels, real silver plates on the dining table and tiny wines in the cellar. It was very impressive and I loved it!
In the next room were large dolls with all their accoutrements. The best fashion designers of the day created ensembles for these dolls as gifts to the Royal family. There were dresses for every occasion, shoes, gloves, lingerie, purses, hats, robes, cosmetic cases, trunks, entire trousseaus! Loved this, too!
In the next room, there was a photographic tribute to Queen Elizabeth and her 60-year reign. It was a display of 60 photographs. I enjoyed it.
Then it was on to view the state apartments. The first room displayed case after case of fine china. It was beautiful! Lots of lovely patterns. Then up some steps into a drawing room-type area which included more of Henry VIII's armor—obviously when he was heavier. There were displayed many gifts of swords, and lots of guns and pistols. Hundreds of them!
After that, it was room after room of utter opulence! Original and extremely valuable oil paintings on every wall. Lots of gold, beautiful furniture, velvet, tapestries, clocks, vases, tables. Just everything you'd expect to see in a Royal household. It would take me days to describe it all! Perhaps there are photos online.
After the lengthy tour of the state rooms, I went off in search of St. George's Chapel because I wanted to see Henry VIII's tomb. I was a little disappointed because I thought it was one of the massive, above-ground crypts with an effigy on top. Instead it was a marker in the floor.
After leaving the castle I walked around Windsor for a little bit. Just about every shop has the exact same stuff as every other shop. So, I didn't buy anything. I did pass a nice looking pub and decided to have a fish & chips lunch. It was just o.k. I wasn't overly impressed. I hope to have some better fish & chips while I'm in England.
I'd also like to come back sometime to take a little riverboat cruise on a gondola. Sure wish I had time for that, today.
By then I was ready to get back to London. I caught the 4:00 train and was back in my hotel room around 5:00 or so. I was totally wiped out and decided to lay down for a bit. I fell right to sleep and didn't wake up until 8:30, I think. I came on up to Starbucks but they close at 10:00. So, I didn't get much done online.
I had to stop for some meds on the way back to the hotel. I had a bad sore throat and was sniffly. Didn't feel well at all. Despite taking a nap earlier, I fell asleep and slept reasonably well except it was very hot in my room.
So, that concludes this segment of my blog. Tomorrow is another whirlwind day. Stay tuned!!
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