A couple more England-related posts, although a bit later than I intended.
Apparently while I was away, Serdic was asked what his wife was doing in England, and his response was "seeing as many castles as she can possibly get to, I think." And it's true that this trip was particularly heavy on the "big piles of stone that used to house famous people" portion of the itinerary. Besides the previously mentioned excursions to Hever and Kensington Palace, I did two day trips by myself (while PetDoc and Noise had to work) -- first to Windsor Castle, then to Arundel Castle. I had been to both castles before, on previous trips to England, but for a variety of reasons I decided I wanted to revisit both.
I had actually been to Windsor twice before, once on my very first trip to England when I was in grade 10 (it was a school March Break trip), and again five years ago when SingerDad and I did a trip to England and Ireland. On that first trip, we only went into the chapel, but didn't tour the castle itself. And I was too young to appreciate the history of the chapel, or its place in British royal history (I certainly didn't realize that Henry VIII and Charles I were buried there, among other illustrious rulers and consorts!). On the second trip, SingerDad and I toured the castle, but unfortunately we chose a Sunday as our Windsor day, and the chapel (by this time I was more acquainted with its history) was closed to visitors. So I decided to give it one more shot, and see if I could have the complete Windsor experience.
Windsor is an easy trip from London on the train, and the castle is only a few minutes by foot from the train station. I had made one miscalculation -- this was Monday, Easter Monday to be exact, and a bank holiday in the UK. Imagine my surprise and chagrin when I rounded the corner of the castle to discover the line to enter stretched for blocks. I briefly debated how badly I wanted to do this, but decided that I was already there and going back to London and making a Plan B would take longer than waiting in line. So I took a deep breath and plunged in. I waited approximately 45 minutes and the line seemed at times to be barely moving, although I did eventually figure out that part of the problem was that they were changing the guard inside the castle and limiting entrance until that was over. Once the guard had paraded away, the pace of the line picked up a little. (I nearly cried a little, though, when I finally, finally got up to the "tickets" hut and discovered that inside there was one of those Disneyland-esque winding layouts that added a good fifteen minutes to the wait when you thought you were almost there!)
Once I had my ticket and was through security (I still find it a little strange to go through a metal detector anywhere other than an airport, but I understand why they are becoming more common, even if it does make me sad), things picked up considerably. Despite the long line the crowds inside were not too bad, and I was able to wander and explore as I chose. I decided to do the state apartments first, followed by the chapel. Both were open and so I finally felt like I got my full Windsor experience.
I love Windsor, frankly. It has the perfect mixture of historical and contemporary -- I think mostly because the royal family still lives there, so it still feels like a living, working castle, even though it is also one of the oldest in the country. It brings together all those things I love about England -- the pomp and circumstance, the history and tradition, the royals, and the very essential "britishness" of the place. And in a very silly sort of way, I also feel an affinity for Windsor because I grew up on Windsor Street, so the very word evokes all those good associations of home and family and happiness and all that jazz. So it was a really cool day, and I'm glad I didn't turn around and go back to London when I saw the line to get in!
Next post will be Arundel, and I promise it won't take me another month to get to it!