Windsor Castle with Claire and Adrian

Trip Start Apr 25, 2012
Trip End May 12, 2012

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Flag of United Kingdom  , England,
Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Today I met up with Claire and Adrian in Maidenhead.  I aimed to leave Astrid's by 9 am and make it to Maidenhead by noon.  Adrian said he would look out for me from 11:19 am on.  I was proud of myself that I made it out just a few minutes past 9 am.  I took the #73 bus into St Pancras Station and that took almost an hour.  From St Pancras, I got on one line and then had to switch to the Hammersmith line to get to Paddington Station.  A Tube person gave me directions but I swear he told me Platform 2.  A train came in immediately and I got on it only to find it was going in the wrong direction so I had to get off and go back one stop and get on the right track AND make sure I got a train on the right line since 2 different ones were on the same track.  I managed it and was off for Paddington Station finally.

Once I got to Paddington, I looked for a restroom.  This one had turnstyles and you had to put in 30 pence to go through.  I asked the woman behind me to fish out my coins ... that way I wouldn't block her entrance any longer than possible.  I stood in a line at the train ticket counter to pick up my Cornwall ticket and get my ticket for Maidenhead, then headed for the track and got on the train seconds before it took off just before 11 am.  I arrived at the Maidenhead station around 11:40 and was met by Claire and Adrian on the platform.  Claire was so sweet saying she was so happy to see me!   There were hugs all around.

I hadn't done my research so I was depending on Adrian and Claire to make suggestions.  First we went into Windsor to a favorite pastry shop of theirs and had some lunch.  Adrian's lunch was a cola and cake.  Claire had quiche and hot chocolate.  Hot chocolate sounded good to me and I added a toasted cheese and tomato sandwich.  From there we walked over to Windsor Castle.  I was lucky in that some extra things were open and so was the castle, but the castle would be closed for the Queen's Jubilee visit on Friday.   Adrian pointed out some of the buildings:  Sections are devoted to State Rooms, the Queen's private quarters and the semi-state rooms (or something like that).  He mentioned that they had seen the fire that burned a large part of the castle from their house when it happened in the 90's. 

We first went into the State Rooms.  These were even more impressive than the ones in Kensington Palace - the ceilings more ornate - or maybe there was just more gold.  We must have gone through 4 or 5 of the different rooms.  I am not sure I can remember what distinguished one from the other.  Adrian looked for all the secret servant doors between the rooms and the passageways that the servants used.  These rooms had lots of paintings of famous royalty and other famous people as well as Renaissance and other early paintings.  We also saw the King's bedroom (that is no longer used as such), and a dressing room. 

After the State Rooms, I think we saw some of the Queen's rooms but these are historical and the royal family members have their private rooms in the other section.  We could see the private quarters from the windows of some of the State Rooms.  We heard from one young woman that there are something like 93 horses still kept on the grounds and facilities for over 110.  I kind of wondered where you could ride around here but apparently the grounds are very extensive.  Another staff person had another story.  And still another told us about the ghosts in several of the rooms, including the one we were standing in.  A woman tourist went into a trance and started speaking Portuguese maybe.  (A royal personage who used that room came from Portugal.)  Some other people got pushed over by the ghosts. 

The guide told us about there being around 1000 clocks and Steven the clockmaster wound them all every day.  There are two clockmasters.  There was also something about the old clocks giving them less trouble to fix.  The guide told us about the French clock in the shape of an African woman where you pull her earrings to get the time and something else - each earring does something different.  You can only see the time in her eyes.  This clock cost something like 3000 pounds but since England was then at war with France, the clockmaker never got paid for the clock.  Perhaps I have some of the details of this story wrong.

At this point Adrian went off to put more money in the parking meter and Claire and I went to the see Queen Mary's doll house.  There had been a rather long line when we first got there but now there was no line.  The doll house was quite large - a castle-sized doll house with a huge music room, bedrooms, bathrooms, a kitchen - very fancy rooms and cars parked outside.  Claire said everything works like the real thing.  I asked if the toilets flush, and she said yes. 

From the doll house, we went to St George's Chapel.  To me it looked much more like a full-blown church in size and decoration.  It seemed to have more rooms than I am used to seeing in a church.  The main door led to an open section with vaulted ceiling and had folding chairs set up.  Then there was a partitioned area behind it that was a lot darker and had knights' shields and high-backed chairs in rows and a throne for the queen.  There were side aisles with tombs lining them including an alcove with tombs for King George and the last Queen Mother.  There were also slabs on the floor for famous people buried below the floor I guess.  The stained glass windows were in many small panels with a lot of detail. 

We waited for Adrian outside the Chapel and I tried to take a photo of the guard in his beaver hat and red jacket.  We may have walked around the outside at this point, or maybe earlier, but I saw a number of towers, one of which is the archives, the contents of which were not harmed by the big fire.  I haven't really given a good description of the castle because there was so much I didn't see and the walls were huge and the stones looked remarkably good for its being so old.  It is a huge complex ... much, much larger than I could have imagined.  I think Kensington Palace must be miniscule in comparison.  Later when Adrian drove us around Windsor, he pointed out the property which extends for quite a ways.  There is a long driveway broken by the road and fields or lawns on either side.  There is plenty of room for the Queen to ride horses within the private park and there is also Windsor Park that is open to the public.

Now I am no longer sure where it was, but we stopped at a crooked restaurant - I think it was still Windsor - where we had tea, or Claire and I did....tea with scones and jam and clotted cream and Adrian had some sort of sweet toast.  Ah, the clotted cream was quite decadent...and very nice.  I was getting quite filled but managed to finish all the cream with my scones.  We walked along the Thames and saw the Queen's swans and some ducks too.  Adrian had mentioned miniature golf and Claire was disappointed we couldn't do it since we had run out of time on the parking meter by now.

Adrian drove over a bridge to Eton and I saw buildings on either side of the road.  Adrian said that the college owned a lot of land surrounding the school where there were farms and houses and apartments too.  They also have a lake for rowing that is Olympic-sized and the London Olympics will hold the rowing events here.  I saw a few of the Eton students in their black frock coats and stiff collars.  I had no idea that their uniforms were so fancy.  We also saw some of the St George's School children in their uniforms.  Claire noticed some girls in uniform and thought they must have now been admitted to St George's.  They had straw hats with light blue ribbon bands as part of their uniform.  Claire said she and Adrian thought about sending their son Adam to St George's but they have quite rigid requirements of the children and Claire didn't want to put her son through that.

We ended up at their house in Maidenhead and I got to see their gardens and some of the improvements they built themselves - very nice gardens, house and location.  They abut a large field so they have birds and natural landscape out their windows, including the estate, now a hotel, associated with the 1963 Profumo scandal with Christine Keeler.  After Adrian had a glass of milk to drink, they drove me to the station to catch the train back to London. 

It was great to see Claire and Adrian and spend the day with them.  We reminisced about the London-Aqaba trip and talked about our planned trips and I got to hear about some of their activities and their son's involvements with cart racing and I think car racing as well.  They were so sweet to take me all around and buy me treats to eat. 

I worked my way back to Astrid's and decided to take the Tube most of the way so that I could do it on Friday because it might be faster than the bus to St Pancras.  While on the Tube from Paddington to St Pancras, I ran into Sarah from my Patagonia trip.  We were both stunned.  We talked while she was on the Tube and then we talked while the door was still open when she got off at the next stop.  She was sweet and said Hilary would be jealous that she had seen me.  It was amazing that out of the millions of people in London, we should run into one another on the Tube.

Once back in Stoke Newington, I went to Whole Foods to pick up a few things including stuff to eat for a light, quick dinner.  Astrid came back just as I was finishing.  She helped me book my transport from Gatwick to Heathrow on my return from the Channel Islands.  We tried to settle any arrangements and agreed to meet at the pub at 6 pm tomorrow.  Time for bed for me too now.

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