Agenda today? Tea with the queen.
I rolled out of bed later than I intended but I count it an accomplishment when I wake up at all. So I mosy-ed to the kitchen to have breakfast and to get my day started. Today I had planned to go see Windsor Castle; the residence of the queen. It wasn't far from where I was staying at Brunel University. A bus, two trains, and bam. You were literally dropped off at the front door of Windsor Castle. Seriously. Not even kidding. You walk out of the train station, you see the castle, 5 minutes walk later you're at the front door. Very convenient.
I had picked up a straggler, Dr. D, when I met him in the kitchen that morning and I knew he had no exciting plans. So I invited him along on my little excursion. He gladly joined me. So off we went to see the glorious castle. Sovereigns have been living there for the past 900-950 years, it's also one of the oldest castles in England (at least thats what the sign said when I went in). So I knew this would be pretty sweet.
So anyway we arrived there, walked to the castle entrance, which had a pretty massive waiting line, and paid our £15 to get in. They sent us through security, gave us these audio tour devices and sent us on our way. We walked through the outside courtyard which was pretty nice just like a nice stately outside courtyard should be. Told us the surrounding exterior walls that protect the interior was 4 meters thick and that the castle was on a very advantageous spot as it was well protected. We wandered past the exterior part of the walls and wandered into the more central courtyard of the castle. It was here you could look down over the wall and see the most beautiful amazing garden filled with flowers ever. It was so beautiful. I could just imagine Queen Elisabeth walking through the paths of roses in her simple frocks like she does.
I should clarify, like I always like to do, that the entrance to the castle didn't allow us to see everything, just the state apartments, Mary's doll house, and the church within the castle. "Well that's not a lot" you say. Not really. The entire thing took us about 3 hours. And we didn't even see the doll house.
That was itself enough. We didn't see the round tower and the queens private residence because, of course, that's her living space. Though I don't know how one person could use all that space. Anyway.
So we decided to tackle the state apartments. At first I thought we were going to see the "hotel rooms" of the Windsor, but it contained the king and queens drawing room, their appearance room, banquet halls, coronation rooms, etc. I could tell you so much but I realize you have a short attention span so I'll try to hit the highlights. Also you're going to have to use some imagination here as they strictly, and I mean, strictly did not allow photography....even though I did snap one fuzzy photo....but other than that I have nothing to show you when I get home.
So highlights. I saw Rembrandt's self portraits (several actually), Rubens paintings, almost all of the English paintings that were in my European history books in high school, I saw gold covered plates....like the real thing and....the ballroom which I could have died happily in. It was amazing, it was as if Disney's Cinderella ballroom came to life and I saw it today. It had crystal chandeliers, smooth wood floors, tapestry covered walls, high ceilings, mirrors on every other wall, silver tables and paintings tastefully dispersed. I saw the banquet room which was amazing as well. The room was made of dark wood and fruit was carved out in the walls, but in 3D, so the fruit came out of the wall. Greek gods were painted on the ceilings celebrating food (Katherine would have loved this room). It had more paintings over the fireplace with other Greek gods dining. I saw the coronation room. Theres YouTube videos of it. Watch it and know that I was standing in that room.
What else........it's hard for me to remember what I saw because I saw a lot of it. It wasn't opulence that I saw.....it was just a lot of intricate details, but rich intricate details. Something did stick out in my mind....so we're in this castle that belongs to sovereignty and I would walk by a chair where the fabric was worn down or a tapestry was faded and I would think: "Aren't they rich? Can't they fix that?" As I walked along I got my answer. Yes, the queen is quite wealthy and she could fix that, but they measure wealth differently. You're probably aware of old rich vs new rich.... Well same sort of mentality.
She could fix it so that the chair looks newer, but the English value old things, because their history is in that. It doesn't necessarily have to look new for them to demonstrate their wealthy. They would rather leave it as it is and value it for its history rather than for it's newness.
We then walked over to the church and wandered through it. It was very stately and had the helmets and crests of the current knights near the interior, by the altar of the church. What caught my attention in this church however, was an emotive marble statue. It had the body of a young woman lying on a bed covered by a sheet with only her hand peeking out from underneath it. Around her bedside were women weeping in anguish. Above the sheeted marble corpse was a woman looking up to the heavens in joy. She was flanked by two angels, one of whom was holding a small baby. I had a hard time looking away from this marble scene. I was torn between weeping with the women by the bedside and rejoicing with the woman who was looking upward. The audio guide device told us this was made in honor of one the queens who died when giving birth to her child, who also died during the birthing process. This was a common scene in early English history. It was rare women survived birthing children.
Dr. D and I continued walking through the church and then began discussing religion. He is not a religious man but a moral man, so suffice to say it was an interesting talk, one where I may have mentioned Romans."..."........................
We grabbed a late lunch before I headed off to the station to leave Brunel and head to Epping where Bella and her sister lived. We got back in a timely manner and I headed off to the station.
I was supposed to arrive in Cambridge at 7:23 but due to tube delays, train delays, fire on the train tracks delays, and every kind of delay you can think of I arrived there almost an hour and a half late. Kyle, his wife Daniela, and Bella picked me up from the station and we traveled to their brand new home on base. Kyle works for the Air Force and thank goodness he does. It's kinda nice to see familiar American things. Me and Bella got ready for bed and passed the heck out. I was tired. Till tomorrow.