See our photo post here.
Today, Wanderboy, Brisbane J and myself went to Windsor Castle, a still-functioning royal home in Berkshire, an easy train tide from London (or two train rides, rather). It’s the largest inhabited castle in the world, and the longest-occupied palace in Europe, according to Wikipedia.
We met Brisbane J at Paddington Station this morning and attempted to puzzle out the train schedules, soon realising we were overcomplicating things: it was only simply train ride with a transfer at Slough. Being awake earlier than 8:00 am on a Sunday had rattled all our brains, so the first order of business upon arriving at Windsor was procuring coffee.
It was one of those brilliantly blue, cloudless mornings that by looking outside you might think you should pack sunblock and short shorts. But it’s November, of course, so instead of thick, hot air, we got fresh, crisp air. Though occasionally there was a bitter wind, it was overall lovely weather to stroll through quaint Windsor with a coffee heating your hands.
The Windsor that you follow from the train station up to the castle and that skirts around the castle grounds is quaint, but admittedly in a bit of a contrived way. There are a number of sweet shoppes (yes, all spelled in the Old English!), boutiques in which you can sample different sorts of oils and scotch, trendy chocolate shops, wine stores, and all other many of posh things. We browsed briefly briefly before the train home and I bought some sherbet lemons to send for my sister’s birthday, and toffees for my friend Jae.
Further away from the castle there was a lovely riverside where we saw some visitors from Canada:
There were also a lot of lovely houses a touch further from the core of Windsor. Christoph was rather excited to spot “The Oliphant House,” which I’ve sinced learned was actually the home of Margaret Oliphant, a Scottish novelist, historical writer, and literary critic.
But the castle was of course the highlight of the day. Our first impression of the castle was that it was very…castle-y. Like if you asked a child to draw a castle, this is what they would imagine.
The castle echoed the mildly contrived feeling of the town surrounding it. Indeed, Architect Sir William Whitfield has described it as having “a certain fictive quality.”* I don’t know what Whitfield intended by his comments, but I don’t mean to cast a negative light on Windsor – it was lovely. I actually quite enjoyed how self-consciously castle it was.
The Royal Standard was flying at the top of the round tower, meaning the Queen was in. Sadly, she did not invite us to take tea with her. We wondered amongst ourselves what she was doing – and wearing. WB tried to convince us that the Queen wears jeans on her days off, but I refuse to agree with that theory. Maybe – maybe – she wears some pastel slacks and a matching blazer, but never jeans! And always a hat. I bet she wakes up wearing a hat. Or has special hats that she wears to bed.
Inside the castle had its own curiosities. There was an exhibit of royal family photos which I actually found quite interesting. Seeing pictures of the monarchs as children in frilly white dresses, playing with dolls, really reminds one that they are actually real people, not just figureheads. Elizabeth looked like a very solemn little child; Margaret looked more mischevious.
The castle was also positively packed with stuff, which is apparently the pride and joy of the royal family. The tour recording bragged about all the things they had stolen and were given throughout their conquering of the world. My favourite part was about the statue of Queen Victoria in a room surrounded by artifacts from around the globe, praising her for presiding over the Empire onwhich the sun never set, and then, in a jovial tone, points out her faithful life companion, her dog, by her side.
Canada hardly has an excellent history when it comes to relations with its native peoples, but it isn’t something we are proud of. I find it interesting as someone taught that the days of colonialism were horrific, violent, and morally misguided if not plain wrong, that in England it’s looked back on with nostalgia as the glory days.
There were other oddities such as Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, which was a darkened exhibit through narrow corridors showcasing a detailed miniature mansion and several porcelain dolls with extensive and luxurious wardrobes. Also, the recording kept bragging about the flushing toilets on the premisis. I assume this must be a feat of engineering due to the age of the building, otherwise I can’t imagine why we’re supposed to be shocked that the royal family has access to modern plumbing.
After finishing in the castle, we made roasted veggie and hummus sandwiches and ate in the sunshine. There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a beautiful day and a yummy sandwich, is there?
St. George’s Chapel was closed, at it was Sunday, so we didn’t get a chance to see Henry VIII et al, unfortunately.
So we took the train home with enough time to have a relaxing and rejuvenating evening after a day of good, clean fun at Windsor Castle.