Experiencing Windsor, England with David and Dad

In mid-April of 2013, I was fortunate enough to take my 83 year young dad to spend two weeks in Windsor, England.  We flew over on Virgin Atlantic and landed early on a Saturday morning (April 20th).  I had arranged for a taxi to meet us and then take us to Windsor.  

It was bad planning on my part as we were unable to check into our apartment

Benches in front of the castle.

until 2:00 in the afternoon.  We arrived in Windsor around 9:30.  With no where to go, we had the taxi drop us off in the center of town.  

Windsor’s town center is dominated by Windsor Castle, the home of Queen Elizabeth. I was told that Buckingham Palace is her “office”!  In front of the castle wall is a row of benches and that is where my dad and I sat for about an hour, surrounded by our luggage and watching as the town began to wake up.  Fortunately, it was a very sunny day and we were comfortable.  

After an hour of sitting on the park bench like two waifs, we made our way to a coffee shop and sat there for another hour.  At this point, it was around 11:30.  We heard some band music and I remembered that it was the time for the Royal guards to march through town on their way to the castle for the changing of the guard.  We made our way out to the main street to see this.  I had seen it before on several of my previous visits to Windsor but I had never seen it with a dog marching with the guards.  The regiment marching was the Irish Regiment and they have an Irish Wolfhound as a mascot who marched with them. I loved it as I so love dogs….especially Irish Wolfhounds.  

After the changing of the guards, we were able to drop off our suitcases, which was a big help.  Our apartment was conveniently located directly off of the main street, in a quiet courtyard.  It was a perfect location.  

We were a short distance from the Great Park which is a beautiful park nearby

the castle.  This originally started out as a path for William the Conqueror in the 11th century,  to take him to the nearby woods for hunting outings.  Over the years, it developed into more of a walkway especially by King Charles the II in 17th century. He was instrumental in planting the rows of elm trees along the Long Walk., Today, it is a lovely park which Dad and I enjoyed while waiting for the apartment to be ready.  

In Great Park, they were having a 21 gun salute in honor of the Queen’s birthday, which is April 21st but celebrated officially in June.  The “guns” were miniature cannons and many were being set off by children with the help of an adult.  It was really cute and fun to watch.  This year, Queen Elizabeth turned 87. 

Patiently waiting to set the cannon off!

After lunch, it was finally time that we could check in.  Such poor planning on my part. I don’t know what I was thinking and why I just didn’t make arrangements for a later arrival with our flights or arrived a day early and spent the night in a nearby hotel.  Ah well, live and learn….my dad was such a good trooper and is really easy to travel with (thank goodness). 

David arrived the next day from Saudi Arabia and the three of us had a great

time together.  One of our first outings was for a meal of English fish and chips in the local pub.  The pub we visited was Horse and Groom.  A building has been on that property since the 14th century.  It is speculated that it was tenements, markets and shops.  In the 16th century, a small framed timber building and according to records from 1719, it was a pub known as the Lower Rose and Crown.  

This pub is across the street from the castle and in the earlier years, there was a cellar underneath the building that was a passage which lead to the castle.  At some point, it was filled in.  In 1792, the name was changed to the Horse and Groom when it was bought by Richard Knight.

I loved this pub and as you can see from the pictures, it still maintains a real

traditional feel to it – the beams and hardwood floors, not to mention the mantle over the fireplace. It was the perfect pub for Dad’s first ever visit to one!

Dad riding the train

A day trip that we took was into London.  We caught the train from Windsor into Paddington Station.  Dad loved this as it reminded him of his youth growing up in Oakfield, Maine, one of the major hubs for the B&A Railroad.  His dad, my grandfather, was an engineer for the B&A.

Once in London, we found a taxi driver who was willing to drive us around to the various sights, as it would have been too much walking for him.  We drove through Hyde Park where we pointed out Kensington Palace but Dad was more interested in the heavy construction equipment that was being used in the park!  Next, we drove around Buckingham Palace and toward Sloan Square in Chelsea to show Dad where we lived along the Thames last year. 

We saw the Parliament Building, Westminster Abbey, the London Eye, Trafalgar Square and ended up in Covent Garden for a look around and lunch.  It was a good drop off point for us as we had tickets to the musical Top Hat at the Aldwych Theater, a short walk away.   The musical was written by Irving Berlin, so had music from Dad’s era and lots of dancing, which he thoroughly enjoyed.  It was a lovely day out together.  

Sadly, my dad developed a horrific cold and spent four days inside the apartment.  He had a terrible cough and at one point, David wanted to fly him back to the states.  Honestly, I don’t think the airlines would have allowed him on the plane.  We also discussed taking him to the hospital or a doctor and Dad flat out refused.  He said he had a cold and it would pass.  Thank goodness there wasn’t anything about SARs in the news or his wishes wouldn’t have been respected!!!

One of the days that Dad stayed in, David and I made another trip into London where we met up with David’s boss, Dave and his wife who were traveling in London on Dave’s break.  We spent the afternoon in the pub and had a great visit together. 

Dad did start to feel better a couple of days later, just in time for the State Visit of the Queen with the President of the United Arab Emirates.  It was such a great experience.  First of all, we never expected to see the queen. Secondly, the procession was held in Windsor as that is where the queen was staying at the time of the visit, so the streets weren’t overly crowded.  

The procession was on High Street, right in front of our apartment…just down a small alley way.  I went out early to make certain that we would have good spots for Dad to see it.  It was well worth the wait…the parade was so wonderful and full of all the English pomp and circumstances.  There were over 160 horses (I think) in the cavalry troops that march in the parade and because the streets were so narrow, they could only ride 4 abreast.  It seemed like there were so many more. It was such an impressive sight to see the guards in there dress uniforms. 

Of course, the highlight of the day was seeing the queen!!  When they went by, it was at a fairly good pace but we can say we saw her.  Dad got a kick out of it as he claims that when she passed by, he waved and she nodded her head!  I am so grateful that Dad was feeling well enough to watch the parade.

Queen Elizabeth and the President of the United Arab Emirates

We had another outing to the Savill Gardens. It is the enclosed part of the Great Park, which I spoke of earlier in this blog.  It was created by Sir Eric Savill in 1930.  Although it was early in the season, the rhododendrons and daffodils were in full bloom.  It would have been nice to see the garden it its full glory, but still, it was a lovely, sunny day.  After walking all through it, we enjoyed a light lunch at the cafe before heading back to Windsor. 

Our last little outing was taking a cab around to a couple of the nearby villages to give dad an idea of what a “quaint” English village looks like.  The cab driver took us to his town which was the perfect quintessential village.  It had the tudor style buildings, the small stream running through town, a busy downtown shopping area.  It gave dad an idea of what life in a smaller town is like. 

We, also, took a quick spin around Eton, across the river from Windsor. It is where Eton College is, a private prep school for privileged boys who are mostly from the upper class of England.  There are some impressive buildings that you can see from the road, not to mention the students running to class in their tailed-tuxedos!

Finally, at the end of the tour we drove past Elton John’s estate.  This is a picture of the estate gates.  We were so close….

David and I had a great time showing Dad parts of England that we enjoyed.  The two weeks went by too fast.  Before we knew it, it was time for David to leave and for Dad and me to head back to the states.

Sadly, I think that was Dad’s last major trip.  He did great but it took its toll on him and honestly, I was glad that David was there to help with getting him around.  One of us was needed to assist him getting onto the train or in the cab, while the other took care of his walker.  Dad himself has said that he really enjoyed the trip but that he didn’t care all that much for flying and didn’t really care to go anywhere else.  

So, he is back home enjoying the pictures and memories….as are we!

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