2003 Discovering Britain & Ireland – Day 27

LONDON – of castles and kings

Friday – early morning – another continental breakfast and today is yet another Evan Evans Tour – Windsor Castle and afternoon tea at Hampton Court Palace.

This time I have to make my way to the pick up point as they do not pick up from where I am staying.

Off to the tube at South Kensington, then to Green Park, Bond Street and then to Marble Arch.

HISTORY LESSON : Marble Arch was built in 1828 as the chief entrance to Buckingham Palace, but when the Palace was extended in 1851, the Arch was moved to its current site as an entrance to Hyde Park. On top of the Arch was meant to be a bronze equestrian statue of George IV, but this ended up in Trafalgar Square.  The Arch is made of white Carrara Marble.

Waiting on the corner for the bus to arrive I note that there are a few on this tour – including the l-a-r-g-e girl I sat next to on the Insight Tour and her parents – but I make sure this time I have a seat to myself. We head off through the streets of London for Windsor Castle.

HISTORY LESSON : Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world. Over a period of nearly 1,000 years it has been inhabited continuously and altered by successive monarchs.

Some were great builders strengthening the Castle against uprising and rebellion, others living in more peaceful times, created a palatial Royal residence. 

William the Conqueror chose the site high above the river Thames and on the edge of a Saxon hunting ground. The outer walls of today’s structure are in the same position as those of the original castle built in 1070.

In November 1992 there was a major fire that started in the Private Chapel. It took 15 hours to put out the blaze. Nine principal rooms and over 100 other rooms were damaged or destroyed – approximately one-fifth of the castle area.

The next five years were spent restoring Windsor Castle to its former glory. More history and we are virtually left to our own to discover the palace, which is great.

Lots of photos outside – but once again – no photos inside. So yep, buy another book.

We are allowed to go inside St Georges Chapel and see the tombs of Monarchs and Royal family members including the tomb of the King George VI and Elizabeth the Queen Mother, well, it is really just a place on the floor with a plaque.

HISTORY LESSON : The Chapel was begun by Edward IV and completed by Henry VIII. It is dedicated to the Patron Saint of the Order of the Garter – Britain’s highest order of chivalry.

After wandering around and around I head off for a quick little visit to Windsor Town which is just up the street from the Castle. Back on the bus and onto Hampton Court for afternoon tea.

I visited Hampton Court last time I was here but this tour was just around the gardens not going inside so it was just more of a wander and check out the outside of the palace that was under re-construction when I was here before.

Little did they know – – –  typical touristy me – I look around to see if anyone is watching – there is not so I head into the gates to take a photo of what I missed last time and all of a sudden there is a guard asking me what I was doing and did I have a ticket.  I am sure that he must have been hiding behind a bush!

I think to myself should I pretend not to understand English but all of a sudden I reply in my best Australian grammar ‘taking a photo and no’ I apologise profusely, explaining that it was under wraps last time I was here and hurriedly leaving I head back out the gate and into the gardens to disappear before he has a chance to wonder what had happened!

And by the way – afternoon tea was not included in the cost but no matter – I still had scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam!  Back on the bus we are dropped off at Marble Arch to find our own way home. This has been a rather full day – we spent a lot of time at Windsor – so I am glad to get back to my room.

Highlight of the day: St Georges Chapel at Windsor Castle

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