Airplane travel is nature’s way of making you look like your passport photo. -Al Gore
If you’ve ever flown to Europe, you can sympathize with the mix of dread and excitement felt as you board the plane and settle down into your seat. Excitement because – Hey, I’m going on a great trip! And dread because it’s a long flight that scrambles your body clock. It is hard to sleep on a plane sometimes and to have any hope of getting enough sleep (and it’s never enough) you have to try to get to sleep as soon as possible. Generally, the airline serves a dinner not long after taking off and once that is cleared away, I try to settle down as quickly as possible -even though my body thinks it is only about 8 or 9 o’clock. Waiting until after dinner doesn’t leave much time for anything but a long nap –but anything helps. In the morning, which your body clock is telling you that it’s about 3:00 AM, they bring up the cabin lights to wake people up and start serving a snacky breakfast. Ours was a cup of yogurt and some sort of breakfast bar. Not long after that they start preparing to land.
Our destination for this trip is actually Ireland, but since the Ireland dates were already set before I worked out the airfare, I ended up having to play the airfare game. I realized we could save hundreds of dollars by kicking our heels in London for a couple of extra days before traveling on to Ireland.
I’ve been to London several times and there’s always more to be seen, but Mike has decided he’s not interested in “big dirty cities” anymore. I researched economy hotels close to Heathrow Airport and randomly picked one that I thought would be convenient to get to from the airport by way of the London Underground.
Our hotel is definitely an economy hotel and located in a tired, but lively, area on the far edges of London.
It was less than 2 blocks from the Underground to our hotel. We passed Bulstrode’s and thought it was a cool looking building.
Inside, it looks a bit more modern, but we met an old friend of mine from the Paris trip!
We walked around the immediate area and took some pictures.
The one thing we agreed to make a point of seeing is Windsor and Windsor Castle, which is about 10 miles West of Heathrow. I’ve known about Windsor during past trips, but it always seemed too far out to bother with. Now that we find ourselves too far out to bother with much else –it’s the perfect way to spend a day.
We actually spotted Windsor from the air on our landing approach to Heathrow. I wasn’t able to snag a picture, but my sister Laura and her husband were going to be arriving in a couple of days so I asked her to try. She missed it too -but got a second chance when she departed!
I’d done my research and knew that if we walked about a mile from the hotel to a nearby train station that we could get to Windsor that way. The 10 mile trip ended up taking about 45 minutes to an hour to complete, since we had to change trains along the way.
We arrived in Windsor at the Riverside Train station.
It was opened in 1849. There are two train companies with service to Eton-Winsor. The railway lines were racing to provide service to Windsor –probably because they both wanted the prestige of possibly carrying royal passengers- and both opened around the same time. Eton College is across the river from Windsor and at the time, the college leadership opposed the coming of the railway because they thought it would lead the Eton boys astray.
For some reason I was expecting Windsor to be a quaint village lost in time. While there are obviously many old and historic buildings, it is actually quite upscale. We walked around Windsor and took some pictures before heading to the castle.
One place I’d been keeping an eye out for was Nell Gwyn’s house. Nell was born in 1650 (or 1642, depending on the source) . She became a very famous actress, but more importantly she also became famous as the mistress of King Charles II. Perhaps she’d be shocked to learn that her old house in Windsor is now a Chinese restaurant?
The original castle at Windsor was built by William the Conqueror in the 11th century. It has been in use as a royal residence since the 1100’s. Over the ensuing years, other monarchs have continued to add to it and/or remodel it. The existing castle is mostly the result of renovations done in the 1800s by King George III and George IV. Queen Elizabeth II uses Windsor as her weekend home. The history of this castle is an extremely long story –too long to even try to do the Reader’s Digest version of (for those old enough to know what that even is!)
We took loads of pictures around the grounds. Unfortunately, they don’t allow photographs in the state rooms we were able to walk through. They were lavish and beautiful –like something you’d expect to see in a movie.
Some will recognize St. George’s Chapel as the scene of two recent royal weddings, most notably Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (now the Duchess of Sussex). The chapel was first established in the 1300s. Like the castle, it has been added to and remodeled over the years. It is the mother church for the members of the Order of the Garter. Order of the Garter
I was surprised to realize that you get to the “famous” chapel steps by passing through the wall you see at the left edge of the picture. You enter into a very small paved area with a building called the Horseshoe Cloister a very short distance across from the stairs.
In typical me fashion, I didn’t get a picture to show how small this area is. I was going to take a picture of the horseshoe building, but there were two girls in the way taking a picture of a cat on a car. Did I say A picture? Maybe 50? I gave up waiting for them to move out of my frame and moved on myself.
A couple more photos after leaving the castle:
We took a brief “wander” across the Thames River to the edges of Eton, which appeared a bit more like what I’d imagined Windsor would be.
Then it was back to the train station
This last picture was taken at Staines, where we had to change trains.