“Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times.” — Asian Proverb
I think Mike and I are just about ready to take our exams in British history. We’ve learned quite a bit over the past few weeks, and today, our knowledge was deepened by a visit to Winsdor Castle, a one-hour train ride from Waterloo Station.
Would the Queen’s flag would be flying, indicating that she was at home? Maybe we’d have a sighting. But, no such luck. And she wasn’t at Buckingham, either. Just where was Elizabeth II — off galavanting around the Empire or at one of her other castles, I guess.
Windsor is the oldest occupied castle in the world, and Queen Elizabeth considers it her home away from home. And why wouldn’t she? While Buckingham Palace is dripping in elegance, Windsor, away from the frenetic pace of Lomdon, sprawls over acres and acres with high walls, a moat, gardens, a golf course, and the St. George Chapel, where Henry VIII (his head sewn back onto his torso), Princess Margaret, King George VI, and other crowned heads are buried. Our tour of the staterooms led us through bed chambers and drawing rooms of long-ago royalty, and the dining room that seats 160 when the Order of the Garter is feted at its annual ceremonial banquet.
Outside near the garden, we chatted with a guide named Gordon, a retired British Airlines exec who now works at Windsor. He pointed out the back roads where the young princes learned to drive and told us about the Queen’s annual tradition of handing out the Christmas gifts to staff, greeting each individual in her employ. His respect and admiration was evident as he spoke of his nervousness at being in her presence.
Before we left, we took the obligatory photos next to one of the guards. Imagine what this long suffering young man must be thinking as we dorky tourists pop in and out for our goofy pics.
Windsor was fantastic, but I only have one complaint. When our tour guide showed us around, her words were sometimes drowned out by roar of jetliners overhead. Turns out, Windsor is right on the flight path to Heathrow. Huh. Why would William the Conqueror build his beautiful home so close to the airport?