Friday, August 15, 2014

Windsor and Oxford

After our detour to Edgeware (aka the middle of nowhere) the day before, we woke up and headed straight to Picadilly Circus to hopefully be the first in line at Golden Tours. This is where we were told we could get a BritRail pass. Side note: When Ben was in Europe 6 years before, he had a first class BritRail pass, and him and his guy friends would just hop on most days and see where it took them. All of this was done through Baylor, so it was a bit shocking to find out that we couldn't just get one exactly like that (for 25 and younger backpackers), and that it was going to cost a bit more than we expected. Our early start paid off, and we were the first in line. The line started forming pretty quickly behind us. Apparently, Golden Tours is also where you get a London Pass which we heard was great for sightseeing. The BritRail pass was pretty pricey, but it was on our "must" list, so we bit the bullet and got it! It was back to Paddington Station for us to actually head to Windsor this time!! 

It was perfect timing! When we arrived in Windsor, everyone was lining the streets around the castle. Turns out it was for the changing of the guards. We got up right next to the castle gates as the guards came out playing a little tune. I was absolutely giddy!!

Just getting off the train and walking into the town, I felt like a little girl! This town is so so cute! I mean do you see those cute little buildings on the left?! They are everywhere! Windsor was exactly what I was hoping it would be! 

After the guards passed and the excitement settled down, they opened up the gates to Windsor Castle and we went in to buy our tour tickets. Ben and I both absolutely loved our tour experience. It's a "self-guided" tour with this little thing that you can punch a number into as you see them throughout the castle and it will tell you what you're looking at. I liked not being with a big group, but still getting lots of information. 

Welcome to Windsor Castle, where the Queen spends her weekends!! I don't think I would mind spending my weekends here! 

First stop - the gardens...oh the gardens!! Please Lord, can I please have a garden like this one day?! These gardens were absolutely incredible! The men working on the lawn actually had to tie themselves to a tree at the top of the hill and then repel down in order weed eat. Crazy! 

After standing in awe of the garden for a while, we headed around to the doll house exhibit and a mini museum. Unfortunately, we weren't able to take pictures, but both of the exhibits were awesome! The doll house was out of control HUGE. I never had a doll house, we mostly made barbie villages every Christmas, but it totally made me want to have one for our little girl one day. 

The rest of the castle tour was of the state rooms. Again, we could not take pictures, but it was so neat to see so many rooms in the castle. Maybe I am just not a history buff, but I had no idea that the king and queen had separate rooms. I thought this was so odd! Each of them had a meeting room, a dressing room, a bedroom, etc. Seemed like they kept things pretty darn separate! 

The tour took us a couple of hours and after we finished in the castle, we walked around a bit more outside and then to St. George's Chapel. 

St. George's Chapel was really neat. They actually open up the services to the public. The chapel seemed like it was very dedicated to the important people surrounding the castle. Kings, queens and many other important people are buried in the chapel. It got Ben and I talking about who is being worshipped in the chapel. It was just something to think about...

Our tummies were rumbling and we were starting to get a bit hangry once we left the chapel. We turned in our little devices and started walking around the cobblestone streets and alleys to see if anything sounded good. We stopped at a little place called Casavilla where we could eat outside. It was good, but nothing spectacular. I had a chicken caesar salad and Ben had a pizza. Once we finished up with lunch, we thought about wandering around some more, but decided that we still had half a day and could get to Oxford and explore! 

We hopped back on the BritRail and headed to Oxford, both of us taking a bit of a catnap on the way. Once we got off the train, we asked a few people how to get to the Eagle and Child, the pub where J.R.R Tolkien and CS Lewis used to hang out. They pointed us in the right direction, but we took the scenic route and walked all around. 

We saw Christ's Church and walked around the grounds for a little while. There were tons of students roaming around, and the grounds were gorgeous! I think there was some sort of initiation thing going on that night because there were many students that looked like they had been in a crud war and were carrying champagne. It looked like a blast! 

Oxford just had a really neat feel. It's a college town and that is exactly what it felt like. There were students (young people) everywhere. The streets were packed with people walking around or riding around on their bikes. It would be such a neat place to spend some time in college! 

We continued to walk around and head to the Eagle and Child. We saw some other really gorgeous buildings and with our feet about to fall off, we finally made it to the pub! 

There weren't many tables open, but I snagged us one that needed to be cleaned off and crashed while Ben ordered drinks - a beer for him and a much needed diet coke for me. We both decided that we could eat, but weren't super hungry, so we split the pulled pork nachos. They were delicious and definitely hit the spot! I think we enjoyed the company surrounding us even more though! We were flanked by students (a little bit older) getting their masters or PHD, etc. Their discussions were very interesting and totally different than the conversations Ben and I generally have. We had a great time sitting there, people watching, and having discussions of our own. 

Funny story - when we walked out, I asked a lady to take this picture and she seemed to be ignoring me and walking off. She finally turned back around and said, "Oh sorry, I thought you were someone asking for money!" 

After dinner we headed back (the short way) to the train station and made our way back to Paddington Station in London. Our feet were tired and so were we! Our day in Windsor and Oxford was one of my very favorite days! Both Ben and I had a blast and loved all of the sites! 

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