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A change of plan: we’re on a train to Windsor.

When I looked out the window this morning, the sky was solid grey with cloud, not one hopeful sliver of blue. Kate got up while I was in the middle of yoga and had a bath; then I washed and dressed and went downstairs to find Kate and a cup of tea waiting for me.

Kate asked what I wanted to do today. That’s when I had a thought: [personal profile] mitchy had asked if we’d be free on Saturday. So why not put off the British Museum till then?

As we were already looking at a generally London-ward direction, we decided on Windsor Castle, because I’ve only seen two of the royal palaces: Hampton Court and the Tower of London. (Well, three if you count an hour and a half stood outside Buckingham Palace last Thursday.)

So Kate looked up train times, and away we went to the station. We caught the Southampton train; we changed at Southampton Central for the cross-country to Newcastle, which stops at Reading, where we’ll change for the Slough train. I’ve managed to eat a rather large fruit salad and drink half a bottle of water, and we’ve only been one stop.

Later—the train to Surbiton

So at Reading—where the station is being renovated—we changed for Slough (pronounced sl-oww, as in “I’ve stubbed my toe and it hurts”); at Slough, we changed for Windsor. Then at last, we were at Windsor.

At the Central station, when you step off the train, you have to pass through Windsor Royal Shopping. We had a wander round, then headed out into the town itself.

Windsor Castle, naturally enough, is at the top of a hill. Most castles are, really—tactical advantage and all. So we walked up, through some gates, then up some more. There was a long roped-off queue to buy tickets; we also each got souvenir guides. Then we had to go through security, just like at the airport, right down to the x-ray of our bags. It makes sense, though, since it is a royal residence.

Outside, Kate popped into the loo, and I popped into one of the souvenir shops for a quick shufti. Nothing really caught my eye, and I was out to meet Kate shortly.

We strolled along, taking loads of photos. The castle is beautiful, very much a proper-looking castle. Lots of lovely brick- and stonework.

Windsor Castle

Towers

The Round Tower

We went inside via the entrance to King John’s Tower. Unfortunately, we got muddled: that “entrance” is actually an exit. But one of the lovely royal wardens let us through the ropes and up a short set of stairs to the China Museum, because, she said, it was quicker and easier than sending us round the right way.

So we had a look at some fabulous royal chinaware. I was especially captivated by a fantastic turquoise set from, I think, the early 1800s.

We moved from there to the Drawings Gallery, which right now has an exhibit of portraits of Her Majesty. From here, we went outside so I could join the queue for Queen Mary’s Dolls House, which I’d seen in a television programme about the royal palaces. Kate opted to have a sit and work on a story she’s come up with. So I waited for less than ten minutes, then I was admitted to the exhibit.

The Dolls House is a perfect working replica of an aristocratic townhouse, on a 1:12 scale. Except for the taps: they couldn’t get the water to work on that scale, so the taps—which work, just like the electric lights—are a bit bigger. My favourite bit of the Dolls House was the garden. In the garden there is a 1:12 pram, accompanied by a 1:12 brown-and-white spaniel.

As I left the Dolls House and the big fancy dolls presented to the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret by the children of France, another lovely warden reminded me of the state apartments. I went out to fetch Kate so we could see these.

I have no words for the State Apartments. I was stunned, utterly gobsmacked by the sheer glory of these rooms. Gilding everywhere; gorgeous paintings; exquisite furnishings. I walked into the King’s Dining Room and broke off mid-sentence with a “woooww,” at the sight of the frescoed ceiling. And that was before I saw the magnificent wood carvings around the walls. Sadly, no photography is allowed in these rooms.

We strolled gazing in awe about us. We entered one room—I’m not sure which—and were confronted with a number of famous paintings. I looked at the walls, where hung Rembrandts, Bruegels, and van Dycks, and said, “I’ve seen these… in books.”

After that dizzying tour, we headed outside, aiming to find food, since it was now a quarter to 2 in the afternoon, but were waylaid by the St. George and Albert Memorial Chapel. I enjoy churches and chapels and the like, both from an architectural and a spiritual point of view.

Leaving the chapel and the castle, we paused for the obligatory photo of (though not with) a bear-skin-hatted guard, then we were out in the town. I must say, I’ve never heard so much French in the middle of England. There were several tour groups, and many of those were French schoolkids.

Attention!

Later still--Romsey

We strolled along till we reached Eat, where we decided to have lunch: chicken and mushroom pies. Yum! Then we headed for the train station.

Here’s where things started to get interesting.

Kate had earlier phoned her mother-in-law in order to re-arrange a proposed visit. However, her mother-in-law, June, told her to come along today anyway. However, June lives in Kingston. Kingston was not part of our route when we bought our tickets. We enquired at the Central station, and were told we’d have to go down the street to the Riverside station. So we did.
At the Riverside station, we perplexed the nice Sikh ticket man with our needs. He eventually determined that our best course was two singles to Surbiton and two singles from Surbiton to Basingstoke, whereupon we could pick up our original course.

When we arrived at Surbiton station, we hopped into a cab. However, because of a sinkhole or some such roadway obstruction, we had to be let out some distance from June’s house. Not a problem, of course—it was only five minutes’ walk.

We arrived at the house, where June greeted us from the upstairs sewing room. When she opened the door, I saw an adorable little gnome of a woman layered in cardigans, wearing thick socks and sandals. She invited us in and made a pot of tea, and we sat having the most delightful chat.

As our visit was ending, Kate took me down the back to show me, through the door, the garden, which backs onto the River Thames. What a magnificent prospect! I told June there were folks back home who would kill for a view like that.

We walked back the way we’d come, after parting with June, and caught a bus to Surbiton station, which has a magnificent 1930s façade Kate says is often used as a shot in “Poirot.” I can see why. And apparently its café also made an appearance in one of the Harry Potter films—Half-Blood Prince, if memory serves.

So we caught the train from Surbiton, not to Basinstoke but to Woking, which Kate said would be quicker. At Woking, we changed for the Portsmouth Harbour train, which stopped at Eastleigh. At Eastleigh, we changed for Romsey. And then we were home.

Steve, bless him, had bought pasta and sauce for tea. And so we sat down to spaghetti and meatballs, with “Russell Howard’s Good News.” Tea was made and drunk. Now we are exhausted and going to bed, because we’re off to Cornwall in the morning.

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September 2015

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