Monday, May 2, 2011

Visit Windsor Castle and Maybe see the Queen


It's British fever these days, what with the Royal Wedding hot in the news: William and Kate, Pippa and her show-stealing dress, and those oh-so-cute miniature flower girls. So I thought, what better time to talk about visiting Windsor Castle, home of the Queen and her royal family?

The lush gardens of Windsor Castle in London.

I was lucky enough to visit Windsor Castle in April of 2010 with my school Travel Club trip. If you're a regular reader of this blog, I'm sure you're sick to death of hearing about this trip, but we saw so much during this journey that it is inevitable that I'm going to blab about it again and again. So here I am - bragging about my Travel Club AGAIN! ;)

Standing with the pre-pubescent guard at Windsor Castle.

A side trip to Windsor Castle was an optional side trek offered by Explorica, our travel company. I signed us up for it, without even consulting the participants, as I thought it would be an interesting and valuable experience. I was right! Windsor Castle is impressive in its architecture, decor, and historical value. My students thoroughly enjoyed their day tour to both Windsor Castle and Windsor Village.

The outer castle walls, separating Windsor Castle from Windsor Village.

I won't go through our tour step-by-step - I think you should experience that for yourself. But I will outline the highlights of the Windsor Castle tour. The moment that still reverberates in the minds of my students, a year after their voyage, was visiting Queen Mary's dollhouse. The dollhouse takes up the entirety of a State Apartment room, and is impeccable in its attention to minute detail and its obvious perfection. My students pointed out the fact that the jewelry resting on the dollhouse dresser's table looked like real jewels, and each and every light and chandelier in the dollhouse glistened with real electricity. The drapes were made of real silk, the ceilings were covered in real gold leaf, and the grandfather clock actually chimed on the hour. Even the basement cellar contained casks of wine - we weren't sure if there was real wine inside!

An example of the resplendent rooms at Windsor Castle, taken from a postcard.

The State Apartments were also amazing to view. The splendor of the castle is indescribable - walls, ceilings, and chairs were covered in gold foil. Thick, luxurious velvet drapes lined the grand windows. Giant paintings covered the walls. Armory and weapons glinted in the chandelier light. Photographs are not allowed in the State Apartments, so I did the touristy thing and bought a pack of postcards to use as a memory aid for when I'm old and senile. This was one place that I did not want to forget!

One of the gold-themed rooms in the Royal Apartments, also from a postcard.

Another favorite place to visit was St George's Chapel, located within Windsor Castle's walls. The architecture is distinctively Gothic, with its towering spires and arched windows. Inside, you feel like you are stepping back in time, passing over the tombs of such famous personages as Henry VIII and his favorite wife, Jane Seymour, the Queen Mother and her husband, King George VI, as well as many others. The stained glass windows are breathtaking, and the choral area is stunning with its carved wooden panels. Once again, there are no pictures allowed, so be sure to look up this wonderful structure online to see what I mean.

Standing outside the Gothic-looking St. George`s Chapel.

My students and I looked in vain in an attempt to sight the Queen. Atop the Round Tower (where we were told the Royal Gardener made his home) the Queen's flag, known as the Queen's Standard, was flying. This meant she was home. We excitedly poked our heads into every nook and cranny we could find, hoping to catch her out walking her Corgi dogs, but to no avail. Perhaps maybe next time!

As we headed back to our tour bus at the end of the day, we had a bit of time to explore Windsor Village. If anyone reading this has the chance to visit Windsor Castle, don't just go to the castle and then home again! Explore Windsor Village, which is cute, quaint, and full of surprises. Our favorite moment was discovering the Crooked House, randomly built on a side street in the village. It was the delight of adults and youths alike!

The crooked house in Windsor Village.

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