Oh my goodness. How is it that I keep falling more and more in love with this country after every new place I visit?!
I only did a day trip to Windsor today – but was enchanted by every bit of it. I was so enamoured that I almost got locked in the 4,500-acre Great Windsor Park in pitch dark – but I’ll get to that later.
I had to get up at 4:30 A.M. in order to jump on a train from Oxford to London, drop off my bags, and then head to Windsor Castle from there. Unfortunately, I lost a bit of time with my horrid Google Mapping skills (I should have known that the pinpointed “Windsor Castle” was not in CBD via the Underground, but instead 30km outside the city centre. Duh, Debbi). I still managed to arrive right as the admission gates opened, so I beat most of the crowds (fortunately).
I barely realised that the state rooms were closed for cleaning (opening again Jan. 21), the changing of the guards was scheduled for tomorrow and not today (fail), and the admission price was half the normal one because it was wintertime. This is what happens when my trip is disorganised chaos (never again). England has this cool system where you can come back for a year once you buy a ticket, though – you just get your ticket stamped before leaving. If only Disneyland worked like that?
Since the state rooms weren’t open, it was easy to whip through everything in less than 45 min. The Queen’s Doll House and exhibit were the only things open aside from the St. George Chapel (which was absolutely stunning). The chapel was INCREDIBLE. It was like stepping into an elaborate palace of gold tresses, columns, rainbow stained glass windows, and all sorts of carvings. No photography was allowed, so I’m going to rely on Google for photographic memories.
Once again, the castle wasn’t the highlight for me. Instead, I fell in love with Windsor Great Park, about a 5-min walk from the castle (and free!). I can only describe it as the most beautiful park I’ve ever visited in my life – and I’ve been to a billion parks because I absolutely love the outdoors. I’m pretty sure every single one of my coworkers at REI would love it as well – it’s a mix of posh and redwood-like forestry.
The Windsor Estate extends to 15,800 acres – 4,500 of which are the Windsor Great Park. The “Long Walk” is about 2.65 mi (4.26 km) long. Because I’m a typical overachiever (HA), I walked a further 7 miles or so to get to Virginia Lake (I just kept following signs) until realising that I’d obviously have to allow time to walk all the way back to the train station.
Sure enough, while the evening hilltop views of Windsor were beautiful, I got stuck on the trail for a good hour with just my janky iPod flashlight in the pitch dark, walking as quickly as possible in hopes that the gates weren’t already shut. I contemplated how I’d explain scaling a 10-ft high gate on a Royal estate – “Oh, me no speak Engrish, me so sorry” – but thankfully didn’t need to actually carry that out. This is probably the 10th time or so I’ve wound up walking in the dark on a trail by myself while abroad, so I really should make better use of my headlamp (that was conveniently sitting in my suitcase).
Despite my sore feet (20 miles and 47,000 steps walked in a day beginning from 4:30 A.M. until about 8 P.M. was a bit much), I absolutely enjoyed every bit of Windsor. Savell Gardens, part of the Great Park, were even offering free admission for the month of January (probably because half the plants and flowers were shrivelled up and brown). However, it was stunning, and I really enjoyed walking around taking millions of photos. There was even a New Zealand Garden – ah, bringing together two of my utmost favourite places on earth.
There are heaps of trails within the Great Park that span far and wide- along lakes, past playgrounds, past herds of deer, through lush forests – and I sadly couldn’t get through all of them in just five hours. I definitely want to stay a couple days and properly explore the next time I’m here. I could live in this park forever, I really could.
I was also stoked on life that I had spontaneous afternoon tea (probably my first and last, because I ain’t paying to dine alone ever again like a loser) at this beautiful place tearoom called Madam Posh. The three-tiered display of small sandwiches (smoked salmon & cream cheese, egg salad, chicken, shrimp), desserts (four that I whacked up and didn’t know what they were but they all tasted divine), and scones (plain and fruit, with butter and jam. MY FAVOURITE). Along with quintessential English Breakfast tea, I practically rolled out of lunch. I savoured every bite – the food here is sensational. I’d live here just for high tea any day.
Windsor Castle at night is also magical at night. My camera did a fantastic job of getting the moon AND some of the stars in the background. I didn’t want to leave – I wanted to stay in Windsor forever. Anything posh and luxurious and I’m sold – coupled with parks and gardens and acres and acres of countryside greenery – I’m smitten.
Onward ho to Cambridge tomorrow! xx