Tuesday Trip Report – Windsor and Eton

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I was thinking about a few themes for posting on the blog each day and decided that since we travel quite a bit, and have travelled tons in the past, Tuesdays would be a good day to give trip recaps.  We’ve been living in the UK since the end of July last summer and will probably be moving back to the Mainland US in August of this year, so we have been trying to squeeze in huge amounts of sightseeing this year.  Now that I’m almost 34 weeks pregnant, our travels will be slowing down, so I will probably recap a trip from the past year in each post rather than a new visit, although this week, I actually have a recent excursion to post about – yesterday’s visit to Windsor Castle!

I’m not sure if I’ll be able to successfully post pictures within this post, or if I’ll have to make separate posts, but either way, we’ll get some neat shots up for your viewing pleasure 🙂  Today started off nicely with a 3 1/2 mile run, accompanied by my lovely new friend Meriwether who is visiting from South Carolina for three weeks to help out our family, visit the England, and start off her European travel which continues on the Continent next week.  We enjoyed the cooler weather (it’s actually been pretty hot here for the past ten days, after 6 straight weeks of miserable rain), and I had a respectable 11:22/min average pace.  I run with my Ipod Nano, the older one that syncs up with a Nike chip in my shoe, and lately the Nike site has refused to post any of my runs to facebook, although they do update on the Nike site.  I saw a run tracker on someone else’s blog that looked pretty neat, and really, seeing your runs recorded for all posterity to view truly does help motivate you.  Or it motivates me, at least.  Guess it could be seen as a pride thing, but I think it is more of just enjoying mutual encouragement with others.  Most days when I run I pass sheep, cows, and horses (usually with people posting on them properly in English riding habits – for real), and there are amazing flowers around every bend right now.  Thankfully, my compression socks fend off the stinging nettles for me 🙂

The rest of the day was spent editing my husband’s 15,000 word essay he has due for his Master’s tomorrow (that’s why we are here in the UK – he goes to the Defense Academy of the UK as an international exchange student) and making yummy shrimp and chicken fajitas for dinner.  I must admit that the Mexican food on the mainland (we were in Hawaii for three years before this, and they don’t really do a great job with Mexican food there either) is the thing I miss the most about the U.S., and I cannot WAIT to get back there for a delicious Mexican meal that I don’t have to slave over myself and can just enjoy (along with bottomless glasses of iced tea!)

On to Windsor then – here – let’s see if I can insert a picture…

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Here’s a frieze right when you go in the gate of St. George slaying the dragon.  We visited Windsor Castle last summer as a family, and then again yesterday with just my mom and dad and Meriwether.  Windsor Castle was started by William the Conqueror in 1070s, then built of stone in the 1170s by Henry II, and improved upon more by Edward III.  St. George’s Chapel there was started by Edward IV in the mid-1400s, having been completed by Henry VIII, and is the burial place of ten British monarchs.  Windsor is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world!  On our first visit, we stayed at the Harte and Garter Hotel, across the street from Windsor Castle, which is a combination of two 14th-century Inns (yes, built in the 1300s!): “The Garter Inn, named after the Most Noble Order of the Garter, which was founded by King Edward III and The White Harte, named in honour of the Royal Emblem worn by King Richard II. In the late 19th Century they were joined together to form The Harte & Garter Hotel, a building in the Jacobethan style, much loved by the Victorians and reflecting the Shakespearean connections.”  Here’s a picture:
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This is looking at the hotel, in the background on the right across the street, where you can clearly see how it used to be two separate buildings.  We took this during the changing of the guard, and this:
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While in Windsor we strolled along the Thames River and saw Eton College across the water, making sure to feed the Queen’s swans along the way.
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In the city of Windsor are several neat places, like The Crooked House, which happens to be on the shortest street in all of Britain.  We also rode on the Windsor Eye (a giant ferris wheel) and took a few shots of the castle, the Thames, and Eton College.
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Above is the beautiful chapel at Eton College (more on that later.)
We had high tea yesterday at The Crooked House, a place built in 1687 which is literally leaning due to its being built with unseasoned green oak.  It comes complete with a secret passage to Windsor Castle, now blocked off.Image
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On one previous visit when I picked my parents up in Windsor after they had flown in to Heathrow and taken the train there, we walked over the bridge to Eton to meet up with a friend.  For those not familiar with the British system of schooling, the term “college” could refer to a particular segment of a University, or to a sort of “prep” school – which describes Eton.  It is a boarding school for boys from 13 up through the time they would attend University at age 18.  All of the boys in the Royal Family attend Eton (and one random cousin or some such thing passed by me while I was being toured around) and have attended it since its founding in 1440 by King Henry VI.  You can’t actually tour much of the place, but Jim snuck us (my parents and then me, separately, so someone could stay outside watching the children) into the chapel for a quick perusal whose construction was started in 1441.  The picture of the amazing church from the Windsor Eye is Eton Chapel, and here are my kids chilling outside of it waiting for me to come back out:
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Some things I found interesting – there are student pubs on campus, where they each get a pint a day rationed to them, and no faculty are allowed into the pubs.  Also, the faculty all wear caps and gowns like we would see them wearing at a commencement – every day!  Jim is THE ONLY faculty member who gets to go around in a sportcoat and tie each day (I’ll tell you why in a minute…)  The students wear what looks like a TUXEDO with a black vest and bow tie, and long tails, every day to class.  It was amusing to see skinny short 13 year old boys rushing to and fro carrying armloads of books.  Here are a few waiting to cross the road:
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So my mystery friend Jim who gets to wear whatever he wants? It’s the Pipemaster for Eton College that gets the special treatment, because the person is traditionally Scottish and is allowed the exception based on that for some reason.  He teaches all the pipers privately and fields a sort-of band (It has no drums, though, because anyone with Scottish heritage sending his son to Eton naturally wants him to learn to play the Great Highland Bagpipes!)  He was the official “Queen’s Piper” from 1998-2003 after serving as a soldier, then a piper, then the Pipe Major with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders.  The Queen was so fond of him (He also played for the Queen Mother’s funeral) that she hand-picked him for this post.  We met on his visit to Hawaii to play with my band there at our Burns’ Night Supper, and got to play together on stage on one set of bagpipes, a pretty tricky feat if I do say so myself.  So here are a few of Jim with our band in Hawaii, the Celtic Pipes and Drums of Hawaii, and one with him on stage at the pub with me after the official part of the night was over (I played there – O’Toole’s – every Saturday night on the pipes and whistle with Doolin Rakes.)
Signing off right after the photos – hope you liked the little run down about Windsor!
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