My Royal Castle and Dinton Meadows

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
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Trip End Mar 15, 2007


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Friday, June 30, 2006

I discovered there is a wireless connection somewhere near Elizabeth so was able to do all my emails, etc and searching without having to go in to Starbucks. I did laundry and hung clothes on the line - what a nice opportunity. Had a very nice morning just doing simple things and communing with Thomas.

In the afternoon I went out to Windsor Castle. It was another very hot day. It is a lovely place and I spent about 2 hours with a very well put together audio guide there. The people on the audio guide telling the stories are real people (Prince of Wales, the keeper of the Queen's Pictures, etc). Externally it is a huge affair. I believe it was a fortified Norman Tower with a moat which I don't think was ever breached. There are huge stone walls and fencing. Now it is all very peaceful and made into Royal gardens sloping down to where the moat was. I imagined much of ancient times and people both armed and visitors, as it has been open to visitors all this time as well. Photography is allowed in the Castle Precincts but not in the State Apartments or St. George's Chapel.

Windsor Castle is an official residence of The Queen and the largest occupied castle in the world. A Royal home and fortress for over 900 years, the Castle remains a working palace today. Visitors can walk around the State Apartments, extensive suites of rooms at the heart of the working palace. For part of the year visitors can also see the Semi State rooms, which are some of the most splendid interiors in the castle. They are furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection including paintings by Holbein, Rubens, Van Dyck and Lawrence, fine tapestries and porcelain, sculpture and armour. In addition, an Exhibition of Photographs to Celebrate the 80th Birthday of HM The Queen is on show and it is absolutely delightful. Some can be seen on this site http://www.royalcollection.org.uk/default.asp?action=article&ID=26

In the Royal apartments, I saw collections of armour, tapestries, pictures, painted ceilings, friezes, statues, furniture, all memorabilia from past monarchs. Many rooms were designed and set up by one monarch and maintained by successive ones. One of the stories was about solid silver furniture being the rage in about the 1600's. It was, apparently easy to melt down for more money if needed. Some silver which was captured in battle has been melted down but when the English took one, (a large silver table and huge mirror above), they brought it back as a prize of war. My thought, which I expressed to the docent, was "How do they keep it clean?" His reply to me was, "You're not the first one to ask, madam, but I am never here when they do it, so I don't know". I thought that was a very good answer.

As one walks slowly through the rooms and through Windsor itself, the pace of life feels like it slows down to a regal courtier's pace. Stopping to smell the roses, as it were. The area of the fire in the late 1900s has been restored beautifully. Almost too beautifully. Looks something like computer digitalization it is so perfect. While the fire destroyed some priceless works of art, they were able to preserve others and in an ingenious solution, saved the original flooring by simply turning it over to show the other side. I noticed a little sign at the bottom of one of the walls of the restored room, which was not a part of the audio tour. It said that this piece of wall was where the original outer wall of the garderobe was before the Castle was extended at some point, I suppose. Interesting to think that despite all the fully restored beauty of the room now, in its former life it was simply a bathroom at the end of the hall.

Within the Castle complex there are many additional attractions, including the fourteenth-century St. George's Chapel, the burial place of ten sovereigns (including King Edward IV in 1483, Henry VI and VIII, Charles I in 1649, King George V 1936 and Queen Mary, George VI in 1952 and the Queen Mother in 2002 and many others. It has also been the setting for many Royal weddings. There are also amazing views of the Nave and Cenotaphs, many Chapels and Chantries (a shrine or chapel on private land where monks or priests would say (or "chant") prayers on a fixed schedule, usually for someone who had died) with intricate wrought iron gates protecting them. This place of worship was untouched for the most part, by the Reformation and one can still see the most amazingly ornate windows (in one case there are two side by side - one, in stone from the Gothic and one, wooden from the King Henry VIII's Renaissance periods)

I found St. George's Chapel very moving and I spent rather a lot of time wandering up and down through the endless rows of tombs of deceased monarchs and their advisors. The College of St. George was founded by Edward III in 1348 as a self-governing community of priests and laymen dedicated to daily prayer for the Sovereign and all the faithful, and so it remains. The present building was begun by Edward Iv in 1475 and finished just over 50 years later by Henry VIII.

It is really one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have so far seen. Also, in its own way, it was quite mind-blowing as one is repeatedly overwhelmed by the carvings and the colour and the height of things and the realization of the length of time history has been happening in this place. I don't think it was much damaged in the English Civil War. Did not get lost once coming or going, which is a first for me this trip.

Elizabeth came home the same time as I did and we went out for a lovely walk at Dinton Pastures Country Park in the Loddon Valley (which was famous for eels, which were caught in willow traps up to 1000 years ago - this was still being done as late as 50 years ago). This is a 350-acre site with meadows, fishery, watersports and conservation lakes. There are three bird hides, an orienteering course, a children's play area, countryside centre and cafe. It was once a part of the Royal Forest at Windsor and was later a farm and gravel extraction site. We walked the "Duck Trail" and a bit of the "River Stroll" sticking totally to the meadows and conservation lakes and saw a "mixed marriage" black duck, Canada Geese, mallards, coots and we thought may have been terns. I was stung by stinging nettles but Elizabeth found some "doc" to relieve the itching.

My cousin replied to my email and gave me her folks' phone number as I will be passing by not to far away on Sunday. I called them and they would be happy to meet me so we made an arrangement for lunch.

Another wonderful dinner of salad and tuna lightly warmed over in the fry pan with some balsamic vinegar on it. Afterwards had ice cream with chocolate crackle on it. I'd never heard of it before but apparently you shake up the bottle well, pour it on and it hardens up once poured over ice cream. What a good idea.

A good sleep other than the heat. Elizabeth gave me a sheet to sleep under and this was much more comfortable. I think Thomas the cat slept the whole night on my bed. Whew. Heat on heat.
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