Friday, May 23, 2008

England and Belgium Trip Report, part I.

From 2000-2002 my husband's twin brother, Charles, and his family lived as expats in Windsor, England. We visited them each year during Spring Break. The first two years we left the girls at home and took Will with us. The third year Dorothy Anna (Dots) joined us as well. At the time she was 4 and Will was 10. What follows is taken from the texts of emails I sent home while we were there.

Saturday, 9 March 2002

We had a safe, uneventful journey to England. Our final two upgrades to Business Class came through at the last minute, but our seats weren't all together, so Robert sat with Will.

Dorothy Anna and I sat together several rows back. Dots loved the little TV at her seat as well as how far the seat reclined and the unlimited drink service - don't think she'll be content in 'last class' ever again. I took an Ambien and actually slept for 3 hours - a first for me on a plane.

Charles was waiting for us when we cleared customs. We drove with him to their house in Windsor. The weather was beautiful, cool and windy with unexpectedly blue skies. The daffodils and crocuses are in full bloom, and the spring trees are beginning to bud; Charles and Patti's garden is predictably lovely and inviting. I unpacked, distributed gifts to the children and Patti and then took a short (less than two hour) nap.

At noon Patti and I dropped Robert and Charles and the children in Windsor to get Will's haircut and to wander around a bit. She and I headed to Hungerford to go antique shopping. Hungerford is a pretty little village 30 minutes or so west of here. There's a small stream running through the town that is home to many ducks, and several picturesque bridges cross the High Street. We had tea and sandwiches in a tiny shop at the top of an antiques arcade, and then we browsed through the shops. Patti found a beautiful large chest with a marble top, which we were able to load into the back of her Volvo estate wagon. Amazingly I refrained from buying anything (another first).

After dropping the chest off at the house (good thing
America's Funniest Home Videos wasn't around to catch us unloading that -- she and I have no future in the moving business), we met everyone at Pizza Express in town. The others had had a good time as well. They had wandered about Eton and Windsor -- saw lots of Eton boys in their morning coats (even on a Saturday) and played at several playgrounds and in a maze in Windsor. The Queen is in residence at the castle, as her royal standard is flying. Dots expects an invitation from her to be forthcoming shortly.

Will fell asleep at the table while eating pizza, so we made a quick dinner of it and headed home. Robert and Charles stayed in town to have a pint or two at a pub. The children and I were in bed by 8:00 and slept well.

Sunday, 10 March

Patti took Dots, Owen and Hollis into London today to see "Bob the Builder Live" at the London Arena. They ate lunch at Chili's and had a great time -- bought lots of Bob the Builder souvenirs; I guess commercial marketing isn't limited to the US.

Charles drove Robert, Will and me to Salisbury. We arrived around 11:30. A service was just beginning at the Salisbury Cathedral. The cathedral is quite large and impressive, and we enjoyed looking at the models, which showed how it was built (back in the 14th century).

We watched a choir of boys process in (they looked to be about 12 or 13 years old); they wore heavy green robes with stiff lace collars -- Will was not ready to enlist! After the service I asked one of the boys if I could take his picture. He puffed up his chest and posed quite proudly.

Housed at the Cathedral is the most intact and legible of the four remaining copies of the Magna Carta. It is encased inauspiciously in a side room where parishioners were milling after the service, seemingly unaware of the significant historical document in their midst.

We departed Salisbury and drove to Stonehenge. Will had requested a visit there as there is a full-scale replica near his camp in the Texas Hill Country. Stonehenge is awesome up close, but we took a rather abbreviated tour. It was quite cold, and the wind was blowing fiercely; I'm not sure when I have been so chilled. Charles joked that the actual intent of Stonehenge's constructors was to build a shield from the wind.

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