WINDSOR.........a doll house and a Toy land
At the London bus station, after we'd bought tickets on a Greenline bus to Windsor, the warden gave us a virtual coaching class on where to stand ( " on the other side " emphasised with hand gesture) )to catch our bus back to London. Miss the last bus and we'd be stranded ,we were led to believe.
Nodded. And made ourselves look like we were suitably spooked.
After we'd occupied our bus seats, the beefy driver made a general announcement, but looking directly and pointedly at us, that Windsor visitors have to stand on the other side of point X to catch the return bus. Nod. Nod ; dutifully.
As we slid out of London, it started drizzling.
If its London, it has to drizzle, I guess.
But it was not a gloomy weather. Pleasantly bright, comfortably cool. Non-intrusive drizzle that soon cleared off once we entered the countryside outside London.
The high windows of the Greenline bus afforded splendid snapshots of green scenery dotted with elegant cottages and farmland.
We were deposited at the stop nearest to the castle. And before driving off, the bus driver called out, reminding us, yet again that to catch the return bus we'd have to stand on the other side of the road. Was so much dinning in of a piece of what is only common sense really necessary ?...But no use getting jumpy about it. The dear chap meant well. ' just making sure these brown hicks from the dung fed paddy fields of HolyCowland dont go and get lost somewhere !'
Well, once we arrived at the castle, we did become a bit like the hillibillies of the busman's imagination and it took some effort to push the dropped jaw to saner position. The castle was MAGNIFICENT. And HUGE ! (45,000 Sq.mts)
( i admit i had no ready answer to my little girl's genuine puzzlement : "why does one queen need such a big house ?")
Soon however, our senses got adjusted to the scale of things here and we took our time strolling about the walkways on the outside, admiring the excellent views of the countryside, and the inner chambers, overflowing with right royal grandeur and stately style. The ramparts and battlements standing on an artificial hill are truly awesome. The famous Round Tower, so readily recognisable as a symbol of Windsor, must serve as the focal point of a million tourist photographs !
The Windsor Castle has the distinction of being the oldest and the largest occupied castle in the world that has been used continuously for close to 1000 years. The Queen and her family live there for most part of the year, so touristy visits are actually like an intrusion of gawkers into a home ! ...anyhow, even when the queen is not in residence, some 150 people, the staff, are said to live there . Common folk with no blue blood with the castle as their residential address ! Can't get more fancy than that !
As the place is in constant use, the list of areas the public can see are also frequently modified. During our visit, we were not allowed into The Moat Garden and The Northern Terrace, but were given partial access to the State Rooms ( some refurnishing work was going on ) . The Semi State Apartments were fully open.
The rooms, apartments and halls with their riches of paintings ( Reubens,VanDyke,Holbein), furnishings ( at times rather loud and gaudy) and collections ( down to table ware !) are indeed spellbinding, but personally, i liked the St.George's Chapel better. There was something overwhelming about the place. Not just its exquisite stained glass windows or gilt plasterwork or gothic grandeur ; something more evanescent , the "presence" of history, echoing around the walls of this handsome building. Ten monarchs are buried there, including the hapless Charles 1 who was beheaded and replaced by the radical Cromwell, whose government used this castle as - of all things-a prison and garrison ! Also resting in peace ( at last !!)is the colourful HenryVIII. (His supersize armour is on display elsewhere in the castle). And many royal weddings have been celebrated here. The legendary King Arthur is also said to have passed by.
The best curio in the castle is of course Queen Mary's Dolls house. Lavish, perfectly crafted, with fully working parts ( incl. electrical fittings, hot and cold showers and really flushing toilets !). A marvel in miniaturisation ( long before the Japs and koreans woke up) this 3 feet high house is built to the scale of 1:12 and the architect was Edwin Lutyens, the same gentleman who built our own Rashtrapathi Bhavan and other New Delhi landmarks. The Dollhouse is said to have been a wedding gift for the bride, Mary, in the 1920s. Did the queen ever play with it ?
( The two rooms in above pics. are from the Doll House )
The Souvenir shop at the castle is a nice place to browse in. Bought some imitation antique coins and a tiny metal soldier in full armour .
After we had had our fill of the monstrously huge castle, we headed towards the land of liliput.
Not far from Windsor ( a little over 2kms. i guess) is the magical land that can drive kids crazy. Legoland. The first park created by the brand outside its homeland. Its a miniature town built entirely out of lego blocks.
Opened in 1996, it was still in its infancy when we visited. The miniature buildings were all there. Also the train that resembled duplo blocks that carried us from entrance to play area. The hands- on creativity area was swarming with squealing kids and the queue was long.
The rides were few, but the Dinosaur and the other creatures ( an Abe Lincoln too !) made of legoblocks were truly wonderful
( Thats a lego building with lego men )
Of course, there had to be a shop and there had to be demands ! Also denials, considering that Brand Lego comes tagged with particularly heavy numerals and our touristy wallet was on a well planned diet that allowed no gluttony. And so, there had to be sulks - which melted away with icecream cones and a jolly ride in the duplo train to the exit.
As dusk started falling, we took the Greenline back to London , without getting lost ; but the beefy driver who drove us into Windsor wasn't seen around, to sigh in relief.