On the day after the Wellington Tour ended, Sunday 9/14, Victoria and I remained at the Castle Hotel in Windsor for a few days in order to rest up and see the sights of Windsor we hadn’t taken in before.
Amongst the scintillating things on our agenda was a walk to station in order to ask about our getting to Hampstead in the near future. We also visited a number of the town’s more tacky souvenier shops in order to stock up on touristy shot glasses and key rings.
Afterwards, we took a leisurely stroll across the River and strolled the length of Eton’s deserted High Street.
More on our post tour jaunts coming soon!
And so Hubby and I arrived at the end of our journey. We decided to have our last English meal at the Three Tuns, another of the historic pubs of Windsor that happens to be located directly behind the Guildhall. I wanted my last meal of bangers of mash. And enough rum to drown my sorrows.
“Are you sad about going home tomorrow?” Hubby asked once we were seated.
“I’m home now. I’m sad about going back to Florida.”
“Most people in England would love to trade places with you,” Hubby commented.
“Mad dogs and Englishmen,” I replied.
“Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun,” I said, referring to our sub tropic Florida weather. Humid doesn’t begin to cover it. I expect that Gunga Din and Wellington felt the same about India.
“The grass is always greener,” Hubby went on.
“How droll. Actually, the grass does happen to be greener in England, where it isn’t scorched by the blazing midday sun on a constant basis.”
I gave Hubby a scathing look and he dropped it. “What time do we leave tomorrow?” he asked instead.
Oh boy. Here we go. “About tomorrow . . . . “
Now it was Hubby’s turn to glare. “C’mon, out with it.”
I ordered another round from a passing waiter and forged ahead. “After we fly into Newark, we have a four hour layover before our three hour flight to Florida.”
“Ssshhhh! Don’t get excited.”
“Excited? Is that what you think I am? Excited? Because I’m telling you right now, excited I’m not. Why would you do that to me?”
“It was either that or wait till the next day to fly home.”
“For Christ’s sake, why didn’t you wait till the next day?”
“I didn’t know which option to choose and then I decided that you’d have blown a fuse no matter which way I went, so I opted for the layover. But it’s okay because Brooke is going to come to the airport to pick us up. We’ll all go out to eat, then we’ll go back to her house for a while and then she’ll bring us back to the airport. So we won’t be stuck at the terminal for four hours.”
This mollified him a bit. A very little bit.
“Listen, the next time you plan a trip to England for us, do it in the summer, will ya? And don’t include London on the itinerary. London is too crazy for me. I liked Bath and I like Windsor. Think small. And when you come over here to look for houses, you’re coming by yourself. I’m not traipsing all over England looking at houses. Understand?”
I kept my counsel, wisely deciding that now was not the time to tell Hubby that when a man was tired of London, he was tired of life.
“Alright, then, I’ll just bring Vicky with me.”
“And that’s another thing,” Hubby went on. “Don’t think I haven’t noticed that Ed and I don’t figure in the plans that you and Vicky have for living in England. I’m just hoping you two plan on letting us die natural deaths first.”
“Ideally you and Ed would be dead, granted, but I’ve got everything planned out in case you’re still alive when I move here.”
“Oh, brother. Go on. I can’t wait to hear this.”
“When we move to England, you’re going to raise chickens.”
“I’ll take care of the sheep and you’ll raise chickens.”
“Are you nuts? Why would I raise chickens?”
“So that you can barter the eggs, of course. Just think about it, you’ll put on your tweed coat and make your way out every day to collect the eggs. Then you’ll take your basket and you’ll toddle your way down to the pub and trade your eggs for pints of beer. `Here are six fresh eggs in exchange for a pint of your best, my good man.’ I can hear you now.”
“It’s the twenty-first century. No one barters any more.”
“They do in England.”
“You’re nuts. You do realize that, don’t you? Explain to me why I wouldn’t just get in the car, drive to the pub and pay money for a pint of beer. You know, the way normal people do.”
“See, this is why you don’t figure into my plans for living in England. If I asked Vicky to collect the eggs and trade them in at the pub, she’d do it without an argument.”
“Because she’s as nuts as you are, that’s why. You’ll be known as the two crazy American women.”
“We’ll be known as the two crazy American widows.”
“Listen, all joking aside, dead or alive, I am not raising chickens. Got it?”
Our dinners arrived and we ate silently for a while. Then I asked, “Did you enjoy anything at all about the trip?”
Hubby looked at me. “Sure. Sure I did, Hon. I enjoyed all the parts that weren’t London, that didn’t involve walking, or rain or being sick.”
As near as I could figure, that left the plane ride over. And Burger and Lobster. And Café Nero.
“I wish you loved England as much as I do.”
“I don’t have to love England. I love you and that’s all that matters.”
I smiled at him as we joined hands across the table. “Next time, I promise we’ll go somewhere warm.”
“It doesn’t matter, as long as we’re together.”
“You mean that?”
“I do, my good man. Now tell me what in the Hell you think you know about raising sheep.”
After leaving the Guildhall, Hester and I took a leisurely stroll down to the Thames and stood on the bridge.
“One day I’m going to come back and take the boat ride,” I sighed.
“You’ve never done the boat?” Hester asked.
“No. I never have the time. There’s always somewhere to rush off to see.”
“Speaking of which,” Hester said, looking at her watch, “we’d better get ourselves some lunch before it’s time for the kitchen tour at the Castle.”
So off we went and found ourselves a nearby restaurant, where we ordered tomato basil soup accompanied by warm bread with lashings of butter and two lattes. I can’t recall exactly what Hester and I discussed over the meal, though it had something to do with conducting research at the Royal Archives, the families (ours, rather than Royal) and other odds and ends. Afterwards, we made our way to the Castle.
“Tell me the truth,” I said to Hester as we made our way to the entrance, “are you heartily sick of my dragging you to the Castle? It seems like I make you do it every time I visit.”
Above is a rendering of the vast Windsor Castle kitchen in late Georgian days. The present day kitchen tour “takes you behind the scenes to the oldest working kitchen in the country, in constant use for nearly 750 years. Today, staff of the Royal Household use the Great Kitchen to prepare food for both grand ceremonial occasions, such as State Banquets, and more informal events in the royal diary. Your guide will tell you about the devastating fire of 1992 and how restoration work uncovered the Great Kitchen’s original medieval structure. You will hear about royal dining, past and present, and have a fascinating insight into Windsor Castle as a working royal palace.” In addition, the tour includes the State Entrance and the medieval Undercroft, areas not normally open to the public.
After the tour, we returned to the gift shop, where I finally made up my mind and purchased the Jubilee beaker above. It now holds pride of place on my living room mantle.
The Final Installment In This Series Coming Soon!
After Hampton Court Palace, Hubby and I went back to the Castle Hotel and rested for a while before venturing out again for dinner. This time, we ventured a whole two blocks away, just down the High Street to the Duchess of Cambridge pub.
Soon after we’d sat down, I realized that the three blokes at the next table were ardently discussing Downton Abbey. I tried to eavesdrop, naturally, but it was hard to decipher every word and, besides, I was distracted by the Duchess of Cambridge. The Duchess of Cambridge who? I wracked my brain for an historical Duchess of Cambridge who’d rank pub name status. In Windsor, no less. Which Duchess of Cambridge had ties to Windsor? Princess Augusta, who’d married Prinny’s brother, the Duke of Cambridge? Hadn’t they spent a good portion of their time in Hanover, rather than England? And his son, George, had married an actress, whose existence was ignored by the entire Royal Family and she’d been denied the title HRH, anyway. And upon George’s death, the title became extinct until it was bestowed upon the present Prince William. Hhhmmmm . . . .
“You were off in a cloud. What are you thinking about?” Hubby asked.
I opened my mouth to answer, realized what I’d been thinking about, and said instead, “Nothing.”
Our waiter approached to take our orders. “Can you tell me which Duchess of Cambridge the pub is named for?” I asked.
“Er, Kate Middleton?” he answered.
This brought me up short. “But the pub’s been here for years. I’ve been here before, long before Kate was the Duchess of Cambridge.”
“Oh, yeah, it’s been here for centuries, but it wasn’t named the Duchess of Cambridge then. We just changed the name last year.”
Ah, now I felt better, although slightly tricked.
After dinner, we made an early night of it and the next day I met Hester at the Guildhall for a private, guided tour of the Museum – where Hester got to meet the Queen.
The present Guildhall replaced an older cornmarket and was built in the late 17th century and is often associated with Christopher Wren, although there’s no evidence of this. The Museum itself is housed in a 19th century extension and serves to display items of local history.
Upstairs, royal portraits adorn the walls, including one of himself given by Prinny which was so large the council had to take a window out to fit it in. Also upstairs is the room where Prince Charles married Camilla – dubbed by myself as “the scene of the crime.” The room contains several stained glass windows and more portraits, including a grim one of Queen Victoria and a rather nice one of the present Queen when young.
Here’s Hester standing in the very room where, by the way, Elton John was also married. To the left in the picture above can be seen one of the new Diamond Jubilee windows, showing Balmoral Castle.
Here’s the story of the dock, or pulpit, Hester is standing upon in Hester’s own words: “In 1882 a Scotsman, Roderick McLean, attempted to shoot Queen Victoria at the railway station. He missed, but was arrested and was to be brought before the magistrates in the Guildhall next day, for formal proceedings to send him for full trial in Reading (county town). But there wasn’t a dock. So overnight a carpenter knocked up the piece of furniture you see. McLean was duly arraigned and despatched for a full trial at Reading. There he was found ‘Not guilty but insane.’ The Queen was furious, there was a big fuss and the result was that today in such cases the verdict is recorded ‘Guilty but insane.’ McLean spent the rest of his life in a mental asylum. Why did he want to shoot the Queen? He had sent her some poetry he’d written, and she hadn’t said thank you! (I always draw the moral when children are present.) Nowadays this dock is used by witnesses giving evidence at Coroners’ Courts.”
Part Two Coming Soon!