Tuesday, June 10, 2008

England and Belgium Trip Report, part V.

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, 16 March

This morning Robert and Charles went running in the Queen's Great Park, part of the extensive Crown Estate between Windsor Castle and Ascot. After they returned, showered and dressed, Patti and I dropped Robert, Charles and the children off at Legoland before setting off in her car for the Cotswolds.

The buildings in the Cotswolds are constructed of limestone which is quarried in the area, many with traditional stone-tiled roofs, a few roofed in thatch.

We drove through several of the picture-book little towns (Barnsley, Bibury, Northleach, Upper and Lower Slaughter and Burford), stopping in Bourton-on-the-Water to tour a perfumery.

In Stow-on-the-Wold we shopped for antiques. I liked the narrow walled alleyways in Stow, which were originally designed for funneling sheep into the market in the town square.

Bibury was an exceptionally pretty town, with a little stream running through it and a lovely mill by the water.

On one occasion my navigational skills landed us on a tiny lane with sheep everywhere and several precious lambs bleating at us through a gate. That was actually one of my favorite memories of the day.

A funny aside on these Cotswolds pictures: Robert took our digital camera to Legoland that day, and I carried our old-style "camera with film." We never used that camera again, and I neglected to have the film developed until this week when I needed some pictures from my day in the Cotswolds! I dug the camera out of the depths of a closet, used the bare amount of battery left to rewind the film, took the roll to be developed (been awhile since I've done that!) and voila: pictures that look like they've been pulled from someone's 1970's photo album. I don't recommend keeping film in a camera for six years!

We arrived at the house at roughly the same time as the exhausted but contented Legoland throng who reported a great deal of fun had been enjoyed by all.

We elected to order 'take-away' (British term for 'to-go') from Domino's and call it an early evening. Before retiring, though, we did watch the World Championships of our favorite British TV show, Robot Wars ('Chaos II' was the victor).

Sunday, 17 March

As Patti was in charge of an Easter Egg Hunt at the American School, she dropped us off in Windsor around 10:00.

The town of Windsor is quite charming.

Here we are on a street leading up to the Castle.

We went to Windsor Castle and took the 4-year-old-attention-span tour (read: the very quick run-through).

Inside the Castle walls.

Dots is actually very interested in all things royal, as she considers herself our resident princess, but she didn't want to linger too long in any one place at the Castle. She did like Queen Mary's Dolls' House, a wonderful model of a Palladian country house, decorated in the eighteenth century idiom and made as a gift for Queen Mary. The furniture in the house was constructed by premier craftsmen of the day, each tiny painting which hangs on the walls was executed by a great contemporary artist, every volume in the library has a tiny bookplate, and each book was written by a contemporary author or poet specially for the Library, notably Thomas Hardy, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Rudyard Kipling among many others. The hot and cold taps supply running water, and the bottles in the wine cellar even contain real wine. You can tell I also enjoyed the Dolls' House.

The highlight of our Windsor Castle tour, though, was spotting the Queen riding her horse on the grounds (seemingly oblivious to the tourists gawking at her through the windows of her Castle).

I promise that Queen Elizabeth is out there riding her horse. We really could see her from the window, even if that is not at ALL apparent in this illegally snapped picture!

This guy was not impressed that we had just seen the Queen.

We ate lunch at our favorite spot in Windsor, the Covent Garden Soup shop (a chain of restaurants throughout London selling wonderful fresh soup) before boarding a train at the Windsor Central Station for Paddington.

Purchasing Paddington Bear souvenirs at Paddington Station.

Heading Robert's list of things he still wanted to see in London was the Imperial War Museum. Sensing Dorothy's fatique and lack of interest in battle displays, I bought tickets for the two of us to ride one of the Hop-on, Hop-off bus tours of London instead. We enjoyed this, riding two different routes over a four-hour period (she napped for about two of these hours), despite being rather cold since she insisted upon riding up top.

We met the others the Texas Embassy Cantina in Trafalgar Square at 6:30, but not before Dorothy Anna (and I!) had our eyes opened a bit by the throngs of St. Patrick's Day revelers in the tube stations on our way there (who clearly had been celebrating all day). I sure wish I had thought to take a picture of them!

We had a most undistinguished Tex-Mex meal (though my margarita hit the spot) before bidding good-bye to London and returning one last time to Windsor.

Monday, 18 March

Will and I rode with Patti to take the boys to school and then returned to her house to enjoy one last scone and cup of tea in the solarium before loading up and driving to Gatwick for our flight home.

We sat on the plane a while before departing and then circled DFW for a while before landing, so we had been on the plane close to 12 hours by the time we landed. We retrieved our bags and cleared customs and then drove home where Mom and Dad and Vivian were waiting for us. We were all glad to see Vivian! I stayed up sorting through mail in hopes of not awaking at 3:00 a.m. and was on my way to sleeping until at least 4:00 when Dots came in our room bright-eyed and ready for the day at 2:45. She had slept 4 hours on the plane, so 8:45 London time seemed a reasonable awakening time to her little body. Will woke up soon after that, so we just made a party of it, watching videos and playing Nintendo. I imagine we'll all be crashing mid-afternoon, except for poor Robert who has to catch a flight to San Diego this morning.

All in all we had a wonderful time, with each of us reporting different favorites from the trip:

Robert: the Imperial War Museum, Brugge and Bath
Eloise: Great Foster's restaurant, the Cotswolds and Belgian waffles
Will: his day at the International School of Brussels, Stonehenge and The Lion King
Dots: Bob the Builder Live, Legoland and the 'McDonald's Show' in Piccadilly Circus (the McDonald's video ad on the marquis - basically hamburgers being cooked and assembled and French fries dancing!)

No comments: