NB: This is a large post.
12 March 2011
Woke up at 0728 – two minutes before my alarm, which seems to be my standard now. Did the usual to wake up and was out the front door by 0830.
I got the tube to Waterloo Station and started to look for the person taking the tour. After a few minutes, I saw a woman in a red coat with a “London Walks” badge. She seemed to be having difficulty controlling the number of people who had arrived. Made me a little nervous as to how she would pull off a tour. When it came to my turn, she asked me for £30. I was surprised and annoyed at the same time as the website says £25. Did not ask about it then and there cause of how busy she was. It also annoyed me, as I had to then go and buy a day return train ticket for £8.20. Either in this kind of situation, you get stressed and angry or you go with it. I learnt in the Middle East there is no point being stressed. The very large group boarded the 0958 train to Windsor and Eton.
The journey itself was non-descript. There are some very quaint little houses with cottage gardens in their yards. Everything is so green. I am sure I have said it somewhere else but it is true. The day itself was cool but the sun was shining and the clouds were light. Gorgeous and perfect for walking.
Hilary, our guide, led us out of the train station and down towards the Thames. One of the first houses I took note of was that of Sir Christopher Wrens – designer of St Pauls. We walked onto a bridge and Hilary began the tour.
|Sir Christopher Wren's House|
|view from the bridge|
|Hilary starting the tour|
William started both Windsor and the Tower of London. In between them, at 20-mile points other castles were being built. 20miles is a crucial figure for the location of castles as that is as far as a soldier, fully kitted, could walk in a day.
Kings and Queens that followed William added to the castle. George VI, during his reign, started the Eton school. George VI is the king who would not give the USA their independence. Hilary rattled off many names that the students call breaks, teachers, classes, and sports. I cannot remember the majority of them. The school itself was interesting but because the semester is still running, we could not go in to most of it. Alternatively, any of it really. I mainly took photos and daydreamed. It somewhat surprised me I was bored by the school give my almost comic love of history.
|Spring blossoms at Eton|
|Chapel at Eton|
|15th Century wood carved gargoyle - the swirly looking parts are the nipples|
By this point, it was nearly 1215. The tour had been going for just over an hour. We walked back along the high street of Eton and across the bridge into Windsor. We split up for lunch but were asked to meet by the statue of Queen Victoria.
I have to be truthful and say it was good to get away from the group. A few of the women had worn high-heeled sandals and stockings. The older one started to complain we were walking to fast and that her feet were hurting. Another woman was a bit like the old spinster cat lady who asks the same question that has just been answered, hits people with her backpack, wears joggers with a long skirt, wears un-brushed long hair in a pony rail and old round glasses that she constantly puts on and off. You also have the ones who cannot walk in a straight line, keep up, or shut up when someone else is talking. I did not know how much there might be still to see and I thought I might miss something important for always having to wait.
|Eton High Street|
|Pubs and shops by the side of the castle|
|The crooked house|
|The Long Walk|
|Seal of the Garter|
On the banks of this area, which looks like a moat but is not, is a well-tended garden. This garden and building are now home to one of the Queens main men. His name, unfortunately escapes me. I took a few photos as I think this area is something Grandad would love to see. Daffodils, jonquils, and others I do not have the names for.
|Garden below the Mott|
From here, we moved down into the Lower Ward. The idea and use of Wards was not explained and it is not until now I have even thought to wonder. A quick Google search offers no titbits so I shall have to look further.
In the Lower Ward is St George’s Chapel. It is huge in size and you can feel its power and presence as you stand near it. Across from the chapel are a series of little houses where men live who stand in for the Knights of the Garter at Sunday services. They continue in this duty until they are no longer able to or they pass away – as is what happened most recently.
I cannot really remember much to tell from inside the chapel history wise. By this point, all I wanted to do was loose the group and start exploring for myself.
In one corner of the chapel George IV had a marble statue carved after the death of his only daughter, Princess Charlotte – she died in childbirth at 21. The carving is impressive and a little overdone. The dead form of the Princess is covered in a shroud and from under it; you can see her fingers where they have fallen out. As the audio guide points out, childbirth is the great leveller of the classes. It was and is not only the province of the poorer classes. A term I find myself having issues with.
Many people of note are buried in the chapel.
|St George's Chapel|
|St George's Chapel|
Outside the chapel, we again had to wait for people who cannot tell the time. We walked back up to the Middle Ward and around the corner. We stood looking at one of the Queen’s Guards walking back and forwards. We were also shown the outside walls of the area of the castle that burnt down in 1992 and were restored.
After this, we were able to go on our own way to explore the castle. Well, the guided tour part anyway. I like audio tours – blocks out everyone else from talking to you. Feels kind of insulated and safe.
The one thing I do need to write about is seeing Henry VIII suit of armour. I felt a little humbled to be standing before it. In size though, it is different to what I would have expected. In height, he would have been about the same height as me, but in build, which you can see clearly from the side, he was quite portly when the armour was made. It is an amazing thing to see. I cannot help but think I missed something not meeting Henry.
By this time it was 4:15pm and the castle was starting to slow down and get quiet. Amazing how full of life it still felt even when there was so few people left inside.
I made my way back down to the train station and got on. Halfway home a group of three girls got on and say in the seats near me. Normally, this doesn’t bode well for me but these girls were great. Really funny. One of the spent the entirety of the trip trying to get out of going clubbing. I said she should pretend to have a headache or something. This she did and it was hilarious to watch her and her friends playing out the scenario.
Arrived home in the end at about 8pm.
|Henry VIII gate|