We went seriously Tourist on Wednesday and went over to nearby Windsor, about 10 miles away, and toured Windsor Castle. It’s the “oldest and largest occupied castle in the world”, according to the guidebook, and figures in “900 years of British history”. Queen Elizabeth is said to go there most weekends during the season when she’s in residence in London. The weather was a dreary and constant drizzle but at least it was warm; good weather to be inside.
Inside, touring the “State Apartments”, we agreed it was on a par with a visit to Versailles. The opulence and grandeur of the rooms is stunning. These are the public rooms used for various functions and some of the historic rooms, such as the King’s Bedroom, which are maintained for display only. Alas, no photography is allowed, of course.
The art on the walls alone is worth a visit: Rembrandt, Rubens, Canaletto, Gainsborough, and van Dyke, are there, to name but a few. The weaponry on display, arranged in clever patterns on high walls, is also quite amazing, from all eras of the British Empire. A staff of 150 lives in the castle to keep all that stuff well-polished and, no doubt, to see to every Royal need.
What was once the moat around the interior keep is now dry and landscaped with a beautiful garden. The castle is quite a tourist draw, complete with airport-style security, and there were lots of visitors. The girls and I thought it was a marvelous afternoon. Be sure to put it on your list!
By popular demand we spent the girls’ last day here back in London. We had a nice, partly sunny day, and our first stop was the famous Abbey Road crosswalk that appeared on the Beatles album cover. Luckily, this is a “Zebra” crossing, which means traffic must stop if anyone is crossing.
And there were quite a few people there getting their pictures taken, slow-motion goose-stepping across ala the album cover. The actual Abbey Road Studios are two doors down and surrounded by a white wall that’s covered with graffiti greetings from pilgrims. The neighborhood, Saint John’s Wood, is very posh and seems an unlikely location for a studio.
In keeping with our 60’s theme, our next stop was Soho and Carnaby Street. In the 60’s, Carnaby Street was associated with the “Mod” fashion style and was home to many independent clothing designers. It eventually fell out of favor but has made a bit of a resurgence lately as a pedestrianised shopping zone between Oxford Circus and Piccadilly Circus, a block off of Regent Street. We spent the afternoon (mostly) window shopping and enjoying the good weather. The girls reported that the prices for everything were really high. When we’d seen all there was to see in Soho, we walked down to Westminster to let the girls get some photos of themselves with Big Ben in the background, and then made it back into the tube before the afternoon rain began.
Incidentally, if you’ve been following this week of sight-seeing you should know that all of the places we visited charged an admission fee of between 10-15 GBP per visitor (yes, even Stonehenge). Contrast this to the Smithsonian Institution’s nineteen totally-free museums around Washington, D.C. !
Back in Reading, we rested up a bit and then went out for a nice farewell dinner. Afterwards, we strolled the Reading City Center, enjoying the warm evening and talking about our week.
The next morning, I surrendered those two wonderful young women to the tender mercies of Virgin Atlantic airlines and sent them home. I started missing them the minute they were out of sight.