In which the Queen ignores us


What the heck is opprobrium?


On our vacation, we had a hard time distinguishing between breakfast and lunch. Other than the difference in spelling, they seemed a lot alike. We spent all our mornings trying to tell where one ended and the other began. So on our fourth full day in London, we waited until we knew for sure that lunch was over before we headed out. Destination: Windsor Castle. Tickets: purchased months in advance. Cameras: all batteries charged, correct settings optional.


By the time we got off at Windsor & Eton Central station, we had worked up an appetite from the exhausting hour-long train ride, so we stopped at a café for a drink and a morsel. All was well, too well, too idyllic, too perfect. Something was missing, something like an emergency, something like leaving the tickets to the castle on the table in the apartment.


What Windsor Castle would look like from the village if there were no sky.


As we walked to the castle from the café, I castigated myself, flogged myself with all my past failures, declared myself unfit for vacationing, and prepared my pocketbook to pay the entrance fee – again. Apparently ordering them once online was not enough for me. Unable to reach abject despair and a sense of worthlessness by myself, I begged my brother, daughter, and granddaughter to heap opprobrium on me. They refused, partly I believe because they had no idea what it was.


While I was standing in line at the castle entrance huddled beneath my personal small dark cloud, my more rational daughter flagged a worker and told her our dilemma. She directed us to the counter where a young woman smiled about the forgotten tickets, said it happened all of the time, and swiftly found my information in the computer. Already paid. My pocketbook rejoiced; I took back all my flogs, uncastigated myself, and proceeded to have a jolly good time.


Visitors are not allowed to take pictures inside the castle, at least with cameras, but I took pictures inside of my head of Queen Mary’s dolls’ house, along with the paintings, tapestries, armor, and woodwork in the areas of the castle open to the public. One current exhibition showcased sixty photos of the Queen representing her sixty years as monarch. Go to the royal collection here to see them.  As striking as the architecture and furnishings were, I was struck by the thousands of gleaming weapons displayed on the walls. Not literally struck, of course. But in room after room, swords and guns formed herringbone designs up and down the walls, and spears and halberds were crisscrossed into patterns that looked as if they were created to be decorations. The beauty and craftsmanship of the weapons adorning the castle almost made me forget they were instruments of war and death. A hundred years from now I wonder if we will have disarmed nuclear missiles artfully arranged in the gardens of government buildings, with groups of tourists strolling by snapping pictures of them. Unfortunately, I can’t offer any inside pictures of Windsor castle and few are available online, but it you want to see virtual tours of three of the rooms, go to the official website of the royal residences. Equally unfortunate, I can offer pictures of the outside, and I have made them available online.


When I initially booked the tickets, I had no idea the Queen would be in residence that day. Normally she stays at Windsor on weekends; we visited on a Thursday. Perhaps she was resting up before her Diamond Jubilee the following week. On hearing that the Queen was at Windsor, the grandchild felt confident that she would invite us in or at least come out to say hello when we stood outside the gate in front of her apartments and waved. She must not have seen us. We left feeling just a tiny bit dejected.


The Queen was in one of these rooms not looking at us as we waved.


However, on our walk through the village later, we discovered Hotel Chocolate. Their free samples consoled us, and to prepare for any future dejection, we purchased more consolation, along with a bottle of port, just in case we got lost at sea. Our motto: any port in a storm.  (Note to readers: Hotel Chocolate does not use slave labor cocoa.)


Even though the grandchild interacted with PIGEONS! throughout the day, enjoyed the train rides, and partook of the chocolate consolation, that night the little one suffered a bout of homesickness. Two weeks is a long adventure for a five-year-old.

First we were four; then we were two


We scheduled the last full day in London for shopping, even though none of us planned to buy much. My brother headed out to some camera shops, while my daughter, grandchild, and I took the Tube to Oxford Street. It may surprise you to learn that after walking around an hour or so, we stopped for a small repast.


When we met up with my brother, my daughter decided to go with him because the grandchild and I wanted to ride on a double-decker bus. We rode down the street, got off many blocks later, then got on the Tube and went back to Oxford Circus station, so we could once again ride in the top in the front seats all the way back to Notting Hill station. On the way back to the apartment we bought a meat pasty and a chicken pie for dinner.


Oxford Street seen through the glare of the window from the top of double-decker bus.


That night, for the first time on vacation, we went to bed early because we needed to be up at 4:30 a.m. I set my phone alarm but I needn’t have worried. At 3:30 someone full of cheer and beer walked down the street behind the apartment singing at the top of his lungs.


At 5 a.m. my brother and I said goodbye to my daughter and grandchild; then two hours later, our ride came to take us to Euston Station. The train carried us across the British countryside to Holyhead on the west coast where a ferry waited to take us to Dublin, Ireland.


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Next Installment: From the land of Eng to the land of Ire