Friday, February 22, 2013

Windsor Castle

Guess what? This is my final post about London! I know, I know~it's taken me soooooo long to get here. But here we are at last, at what proved to be our favorite destination: Windsor Castle. It also turned out to be the worst day weather-wise. To say that it POURED would be a drastic understatement. We were beyond drenched. We were freezing. The wind destroyed my umbrella. Still we moved on determined not to let the weather ruin our day. We weren't disappointed. With its history and architecture, Windsor Castle really intrigued us. Here's a bit about it: "The oldest continuously inhabited royal residence in Britain, the castle, originally made of wood, was built by William the Conqueror in around 1080 to guard the western approaches to London. He chose the site as it was on high ground and just a day's journey from his base in the Tower of London. Successive monarchs have made alterations that render it a remarkable monument to royalty's changing tastes. King George V's affection for it was shown when he chose Windsor for his family surname in 1917. The castle is an official residence of the Queen and her family who stay here many weekends." (DK Eyewitness Travel: Great Britain. 2011. Page 236.) Indoor photos were prohibited, but here are some exterior shots.
Brittany and Emma wanted to be in a photo with a royal guard.
At Windsor Castle, I picked up a few piece of chinas: a cup and saucer for my teacup collection and  a small box. This is the official Windsor Coat of Arms china pattern.
This is the Queen Victoria pattern. I like the colors and the fact that it has a "V" on it.
This is St. George's Chapel which is on the Windsor Castle grounds. "The architectural highlight of the castle, it was built between 1475 and 1528 and is one of England's outstanding perpendicular Gothic churches. Ten monarchs are buried here." (DK Eyewitness Travel: Great Britain. 2011. Page 236.) Thankfully, we entered the chapel a few minutes before it closed. Brittany really wanted to find King Henry VIII's tomb. We all know what a dog King Henry VIII was, but it was interesting to see his burial place nonetheless. 
This happened to be New Year's Eve day. After the castle closed at 4:00, we wandered back down the hill to the town of Windsor. Like Cambridge, Windsor is a small, quaint town.
At the train station, we came across a fabulous tapas restaurant where we stopped to have dinner. It was a welcome break from the rain and wind!
Back at the hotel, Rick and I watched Emma while the kids celebrated New Year's Eve. The old folks and the wee child were sound asleep by nine, as we had to leave for the airport at 5 AM.

When we got home, Miss Emma discovered that Santa had left Merida's costume for her! (Merida is the newest Disney princess). The hair is totally my favorite part!
Apparently, Rick asked Santa for hair. He should have been more specific, don't you think?
So ended our fabulous trip to London. Hope you enjoyed the journey!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Day in Cambridge

Guess what? Only one more post about England after this one! I wish I had spent as much time in England as it's taken me to blog about England. :)

This was our best day weather-wise. Although it was cold (hey, we're used to cold~we live in New England), the sky was bright and sunny and beautiful. We headed out to Cambridge for the day to see where Keaton lives and goes to school. 

I've told you that Keaton is completing a 1-year Master's Degree at Cambridge University. Think Hogwarts (the British school of magic in the Harry Potter series) and its four "houses" or schools (Griffindor,  Slytherin, Ravenclaw, and Hufflepuff). Cambridge University is set up a bit like that, though without the wizards and witches, at least as far I know. It comprises 31 colleges, the oldest of which began in 1284. These 31 colleges specialize in different areas and are situated around the center of the city. Each college provides its own housing. Keaton is in Churchill College. Here are some interesting facts about it:


Churchill College, which received its Royal Charter in 1960, is the national and Commonwealth memorial to Sir Winston Churchill. It is the embodiment of his vision of how higher education can benefit society in the modern age. Like the thirty other colleges in Cambridge University, it is committed to outstanding academic achievement; more than twenty of its members have won the Nobel Prize. While it focuses especially on science, engineering and technology, its teaching and research also reflect the intense interest in the arts and humanities of Sir Winston himself, whose own Nobel Prize was for literature. And it builds bridges from academe to business and the professions.

Open, friendly, progressive and outward-looking, Churchill also builds bridges to the wider community. It pioneered the entry of women to all-male colleges. It seeks and welcomes able students who might not otherwise aspire to come to Cambridge. It gives bursaries to those in need. And it draws a rich variety of scholars from abroad, some through Overseas Fellowships and others through schemes such as the Winston Churchill Scholarships, which enable outstanding graduate students from the USA to study in Cambridge. In short, Churchill College provides a most attractive and inspiring environment, as its founder wished, for new generations keen to learn and to meet the challenges of the future.

Churchill occupies one of the largest sites of any Cambridge college, over forty acres close to the University's expanding science, engineering and mathematics departments. Playing fields adjoin the spacious lawns and quiet courts of the College, whose buildings, faithful to the traditional collegiate pattern, were the first major work of modern architecture in the University — deemed by Pevsner "the best of the new". Churchill has generous facilities for social, cultural and recreational life — a vital part of the educational experience. Among these are a splendid theatre, a superb music centre, elegant halls and galleries, a fitness suite, and tennis and squash courts. Other amenities include the Sheppard and Wolfson Flats for family accommodation and the Møller Centre, which provides first-class residential and conference facilities for academic and business leaders from around the globe. (http://www.chu.cam.ac.uk/)

This is Keaton's house. I think he shares it with 20 other men.
   
This is the uber cool Math building.
It's a 20-minute walk from Keaton's house to the center of town. What a charming walk it is!
There are actually quite a few sundials in Cambridge. I cannot remember which one this is, but it's awesome nonetheless.
We were bummed that we couldn't tour any of the churches (there are quite a few). Not sure why they were closed, but they were. These are photos of Great St. Mary's Church. Also known as St. Mary the Great, this church dates back to at least 1200, with the present structures built sometime during the 15th century. Supposedly you can enjoy a spectacular view of Cambridge from the top of the tower. Maybe we'll get a chance see it when we return for Keaton's graduation.
King's College Chapel
I don't remember the precise scoop on most of these photos but they are all part of Cambridge University. Do not fret: I managed to get some branch and steeple photos, ha ha. So here you go:
Keaton tried to convince Emma that this is a pesto pond. She didn't buy it.
She did, however, love her hot chocolate when we detoured into a small cafe.
When we arrived back in London, we found this in the train station.
Yup, it's the platform for the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter movies. Cool, huh?

Ok, one more post about England and it happens to be one of our trip's highlights: Windsor Castle.

Happy President's Day!