Sunday, 27 March 2011

Day 4 - Windsor Castle

By now all of us were feeling a bit tired of sightseeing but knowing it was our last day we wanted to make the effort just once more to visit Windsor Castle.

A short drive and easy car parking close to the centre of Windsor made the journey more pleasant. The weather was on the change and although we had sunshine, there were noticably more clouds and rain was in the air.

Windsor in all its splendour however, did not fail to impress, even me as a native Britain! We collected our now customary multilingual hand sets and proceeded through strict security into the grounds of the castle. After making our way following the guided tour points, we entered the castle to first see Queen Mary's Dolls House that was not created to play with but to show royalty what was possible to make on such a small scale. There was a working hoover that was only 3 inches in size and all the furniture was an exact replica of the full sized versions made by renowned craftsmen of the time, orignal miniature paintings and fine china tea sets with places just measuring 1 inch in diameter (1.5cm approx) adorned the miniture rooms.

After walking round the dolls house twice we then moved onto the impressive state rooms with swords, suits of armour, paintings and sumptiously dressed rooms in bright colours and gold leaf. After spending 2 hours in the castle we moved on to St Georges Chapel, where a number of important royal figures are buried including the Queen Mother. The chapel itself was designed and built by the brother of the person who built Bath cathedral, just in case you are interested!

After a sandwich, we left Windsor, returning home via Reading to collect some liquorice (I have a terrible passion for a certain type of liquorice that you cannot buy in France, so as I had a suitcase allowance this time I decided to stock up!) Then on to Basingstoke to sort some car stuff and then back to Newbury to meet a number of girlfriends and their children for tea at Pizza Hut, which by the way, was enjoyable but chaos with 8 adults and 12 children, the noise was deffening!

Tesco, the large supermarket chain in the UK was frequented on our visit a number of times and the final task before returning to France was to get all our purchases in the suitcase without being over the weight limit............believe me the liquorice was coming with us whatever!!

Home on the Thursday morning in the rain was time to reflect on what we had achieved in such a short space of time and to plan a girly weekend away without kids for the next trip!

Day trip to London

Day three, a super speedy visit to London was spent taking in as many sights as time and children would allow. We took the 10am train into Paddington buying a one day travel card which includes the tube and bus (once in London and also gets you into some of the main attractions for half price) our first stop was Parliament Square.

As we emerged from the Tube into bright sunlight again, we were greeted by big ben striking midday. The golden paintwork gleamed in the sunshine and we just had to take the opportunity for a photo session! We then walked along the side of the houses of parliament and back past Westminster Abbey, although the queue to get in and the price was prohibitive. As we had already seen a number of cathedrals, we decided to give it a miss, however William and Kate had been there the night before us to choose the music for their wedding! Walking on to Victoria we then joined Buckingham Palace Road and the Royal Mews where the Royal Golden Carriage is kept and the cavelry horses, then it was on to Buckingham Palace itself. After watching the guards for a few minutes we walked through St James Park and into Trafalgar Square.

We stopped for another photo opportunity with the lions guarding the base of Nelsons Column and took the tube (mainly to rest our feet and keep the kids happy) to Tower Bridge and the Tower of London. After yet more photos we made our way back to Paddington, where Nathalie wanted a photo of the large rail station before we got onto the train!

Phew, exhausted.

Bath Spa

Day two of our 5 day whirlwind tour of Southern England was a trip to Bath Spa. Only about an hour in the Car from Newbury, we arrived at 10.30am after a minor detour (as I forgot how to find the carpark). Again, fortunately the weather was great and despite a bit of haze the views over Bath from the Lansdown carpark were fantastic. We left the car in the park and ride and took the return bus trip for just £3 for the day, bargain!

We were dropped in the centre of Bath itself and paid a quick visit to a fab cheese shop and then moved on past the great shopping with many other tourists to the Roman Baths where we bought our adults tickets for £15 each. This again (like yesterday) included a multilingual tour and meant that even though Nathalie's and Aude's English was not bad, the understanding of what was on display was made much easier. We spent a number of hours wandering around the baths being amazed by what had been uncovered and much of it quite recently.

After a sandwich sitting in the sun we went into Bath Cathedral, which again like Salisbury is a major feat of engineering. The sun shon through the brightly coloured stained glass windows bathing the whole cathedral in multicoloured shadows that bounced off the angled stonework it really was beautiful.

At 4.30 we made our way back to the carpark and arrived at my sisters at 6pm just in time for beef stew and dumplings, yummy!

Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral

Goodness me............I have not written a blog since February!

So much to tell but I will write seprate blogs so as not to bore everyone and try and keep them brief, so where shall I start....

Why not with my trip to the UK at the begining of March!

I have been planning to return to the UK with my French friend Nathalie and her daughter for a while but either due to work commitments or financial constraints it has not happened. However, on 5th March we finally made a trip for 5 days to take in as many sights as possible, and boy did we cram them in!

As I have travelled extensively, I found it strange that Nathalie was enthralled by the sight of the clouds below the aircraft wing at 30,000ft and the moving walkways at Gatwick when we arrived on British soil. Fortunately, the public transport system didnt let us down and we arrived at my dad's for good old British Fish and Chips around 8pm.

Up early the next morning, depite the cold weather, to do a quick trip around our local pretty villages taking in Kate Middletons family home and local pub and then off to Salisbury and Stonehenge.

The weather for the time of year despite only 5 degrees was fantastic, blue skies from edge to edge and fantastic sunshine, almost unheard off for the UK in March, someone must have known we were coming!

Salisbury Cathedral as always, was amazing and boasts the tallest church spire in the UK. It can be seen for miles around and you can even pay to walk up on the inside to see Salisbury from a birds eye view, no time on this visit, but next time perhaps.

After lunch in a cute cafe we headed off on the short car ride away to Stonehenge, well it would have been short if all the roads were not being dug up and we had been sent on a bizare diversion! As we came over the hill on the A303 the Henge came into view and all in the car were excited. The public entrance is dissapointing for such an important world heritage site but the entrance fee was not extortionate so we opted for the multilingual handset guided tour. Even after a number of visits over the years I learnt more about the monument this time than I thought possible, perhaps I was in a different mindset previously!

For an hour we listened and looked in awe at the huge stones and finally left after taking copious amounts of photographs. We headed home via Marlborough, which has one of the widest high Streets in the UK and is on the A4 between Bath and London for tea in an "italian restaurant!"

Next installment Bath!