Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Days 9 and 10 in the UK!! Cheerio!

DAY 9- March 15, 2013
The next morning, we took the tube to Paddington Station, where we got on the 30 minute train to Windsor.  Travel tip--if you are day tripping from London to Windsor, take the "1 stop" train from London to Windsor, with a change in Slough.  The change is SO EASY and it is actually faster than the "nonstop" from Waterloo.  We took Rick Steves' advice and it was the right call.  Thirty minutes total.  Bam.
Windsor was my favorite thing to see the last time I was in London, and this time was even better.  The Queen was not staying at the castle, so we got to go in and tour the State Apartments, which were the perfect example of palatial luxury.  It was one of Jordan's favorite things we did too.  

Up the walkway toward the Round Tower.
Jordan in front of St. George's Gate.  Notice St. George slaying the Dragon up in the sculpture over the gate.

The seal of the Order of the Garter- the most prestigious chivalrous order.

Beautiful gardens inside the castle grounds.

Jordan in front of the Quadrangle in the Upper Ward of the Castle.  I'd probably just walk around this everyday if I were staying here at the castle.

The Norman Gate- the portcullis still works.

A view of the portcullis of Norman's gate.  The three big holes are for dropping boiling goo on intruders.

Once inside the castle walls, we saw the amazingly detailed Queen Mary's Dollhouse, complete with running water and electricity.  All the place settings are gold.  We couldn't take pics, but here are a few courtesy of the web:

Then we went into the State Apartments, where we saw many drawing rooms, the King and Queen's bedchambers, ballrooms, multiple dining rooms, collections of china and fine weapons, and throne rooms.  It was breathtaking, and I think part of the reason there are no pictures allowed is because no one would ever leave because everything is so gorgeous.  Here is a vastly unrepresentative taste from some internet images:

St. George's Hall, where you can seat 160 guests.  The Queen entertains here.

The Grand Reception Hall.

St. George's Hall without the table.

The Garter Throne Room, where new knights are inducted into the Order of the Garter.  There can only be 24 at a time, and Prince William was only the 1,000th knight in the order's 660-year history.

George IV's Diamond-Hilted Sword.  There was literally a whole room of jewel-encrusted weaponry.  My favorite was a deep blue sapphire encrusted sword.  The room also held gifts from foreign royals and dignitaries.

The Crimson Drawing Room.
It was breathtaking.  Afterwards, we walked through St. George's Chapel, where we saw the tombs of many of England's kings, including Henry VIII and Jane Seymour.  Then we walked around the castle walls to get a great view of the Long Walk.
This "Long Walk" stretches to the South of the Castle.

From the Long Walk, this is what you see.  Can you imagine arriving by carriage here?
After touring the castle, we had lunch at the cutest restaurant, The Crooked House.  I had soup and treated myself to an afternoon tea with scones and clotted cream.  The chamomile tea was so fresh the flowers had to be strained out.  Jordan and I also shared Butter Bread Pudding with warm vanilla custard poured over it.

Steak and Kidney Pie for Jordan!
The Crooked House.

Scones and Clotted Cream with Chamomile Tea!!
We took the train back to London, where we headed to Kensington Gardens.  After the splendor of Windsor, we decided against going through the palace, though I remember it being lovely last time I saw it.  We stuck with walking around the Gardens for a bit before heading back to our hotel to rest.
The Round Pond in front of Kensington Palace.

In front of the palace.

Sunken Garden.  Beautiful even when most of it isn't in bloom because its cold.

In front of the Orangery, a beautiful restaurant.

Look what we found in the Gardens!!

After a little rest for our feet, we headed out to find some evening entertainment.  First we tried to get tickets for Macbeth, starring James McAvoy.  Yeah, right :)  So then, we decided on tickets to the Faure Requiem by Candlelight at St. Martin-in-the-fields, where we had enjoyed dinner a few days before at the Cafe in the Crypt.  We liked it so much that we ate there again and enjoyed a beautiful concert by the English Chamber Choir, the Belmont Ensemble of London, and three soloists.  In addition to the Faure Requiem, they played some Vivaldi, Handel, Mozart, and another of my favorite Faure pieces, Pavane.  It was relaxing and so beautiful to hear it- especially by candlelight.  All in all, a magical evening.  We got back to our hotel to sleep.

DAY 10-March 16, 2013
The next morning, we got to sleep in a bit, have breakfast, and pack up our bags.  We took the tube to Heathrow airport where we started our long trip home.  We saw four movies back to back on our way from London to San Francisco, and then I slept on the much shorter flight from Cali to Phoenix.  We were exhausted, but invigorated by having over a week together in a beautiful country.  We saw so many beautiful, interesting things and are so blessed that we got to take this trip of a lifetime!  Hope you enjoyed the pictures!

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