Thursday, November 20, 2008

Vacation in the UK-8

I'm hoping to finish this tonight. I've had a couple of really busy weeks. Not really done with all the deadlines, and I'm terribly far behind on NaNoWriMo, but I plan to write most of the day tomorrow. Hopefully, I'll get caught up on that. So tonight I'm going to try to get through the last two posts on our time in the UK.

Tuesday was a very long day. And by the time I checked my pedometer at the end of the day, we'd walked just over eight miles!

We started early, this time going to Waterloo to catch the train to Windsor. We got there about 10:00 and by the time we found the castle entrance, we were surrounded by school groups. But they had a different gate they went through. After buying our tickets we had to go through a security check. Really the only place we had to do that in all our tours. Other than the airports, of course. We then picked up our audio tours where the man handing them out seemed very glad to hear we wanted English. There was also quite a crowd of Asian people.

After getting through the entrance, the crowds of school kids thinned out. We knew there was a changing of the guard at Windsor that day, so we asked one of the docents when it was and where when we came to a place where we had to decide what to do next. He told us it would be in the area in front of the guardhouse at the bottom of the hill . . . in front of the church. So instead of starting the palace tour, we decided to go into the church for a while before getting a spot for the changing of the guard.

Windsor is not only the Queen's official home, it is also home to the Order of the Garter, the knights. The church, St. George's, is where they go through their commissioning service when they are admitted into the Order. Very interesting. The church is a beautiful building with lots of history, as is the case for the entire castle.

We only saw a little of the church before going outside again. Not knowing how many people would be coming to see the ceremony, we were out there in plenty of time. So again we were up against the barriers. But this time we weren't looking through a tall fence. And when the ceremony began, we were standing right behind the new guard as they came on duty. We could hear the commands much more clearly, and I actually felt that I understood much more of what went on. Of course, the ceremony was much smaller, involving less people. But again, it made it easier to follow what was going on. Still had all the ceremony and pageantry of the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace.

After the ceremony was over, Roger took a picture of me with the new guard. Felt a little strange. *smile* Kind of like standing next to a breathing statue.

When we went back into the church to pick up our tour where we left off, it was packed with all those who had watched the changing of the guard. So we worked our way through most of the people to where we'd left off. However, it was never as peaceful as before. So we walked through the rest of the building rather quickly. Then we headed up to the tower and took the tour there. Since this is the official residence of the Queen, we were only allowed in the "public" parts of the castle. But that was still a lot of ground to cover. It was interesting to see how the work on the portions of the castle that were burned several years ago had maintained the flavor of the original rooms.

Lots of armor and weapons in the rooms we went through. Randy would have loved it. One of the rooms, a long gallery, had coats of arms from every knight who had been in the Order of the Garter placed on the ceiling. Some were blank white, meaning that in some way that person had disgraced his position, with criminal activity or some other way, and therefore had been removed. (Think King Arthur and the Round Table.)

After a late lunch at a teahouse, we walked through several shops, buying some souvenirs and books for research on our way back to the train station. Eton is also at Windsor, but while we looked for it a little, we decided not to pursue it when we didn't find it. We knew we were still up for lots of walking later in the day. We caught the 3:20 train back to London, and I got in a nap.

We were meeting Kathy for dinner before our walk that evening, but she couldn’t meet us until at least 5:45, so we decided to check out the Metropolitan Tabernacle where Spurgeon preached and was pastor for many years. It’s still a Baptist church, but Kathy warned us it wasn’t a very good part of town. Not sure how long it would take us to find it, we went to the tube station (Elephant and Castle—love the name!) near there, and came out of the station right across the street from the church. It definitely wasn’t one of the nicer spots in town, and there were tons of people milling around. We took the subway (pedestrian walkway) under the street to get to the other side. Roger took some pictures and we checked to see if the bookshop was still open. It wasn’t, so we headed back to the station and to the hotel to drop a bunch of stuff we’d bought in Windsor before heading back out to meet Kathy at 6:15 at the Tower Hill tube station.

We found a nearby pub where we could grab a quick supper before meeting our London Walks group back at the tube station at 7:15. Wow! We never expected so many people to be interested in Jack the Ripper! We broke into still large groups. Then we were off on our walk through the east end of London where the murders took place in 1888. We stood at the places where each woman was found and the guide included all the gruesome details. J Not that I ever really want to write about anything connected with Jack the Ripper, but I may write something in that time period, and it’s good to know. As we walked we also received quite a few theories of who might have committed the murders, but to this day no one knows. It was quite a walk, probably covered over two miles.

It was a good end to the day. *smile* One more day in London before heading home.

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