TEN-DAY APRIL 2001 LUTMAN-BURLINGAME LONDON TRIP

Sunday, April 8, 2001. Day 10 of 12. QUEEN'S FLAG OVER WINDSOR CASTLE, THE LONG WALK, FAST-MOVING THAMES

We wake up in the Castle Hotel. The sun is shining so I run down to the corner of the road to Windsor Castle and zip off some photos in case the clouds and rain come in the next hour.

Queen Victoria guards the corner. A clock on a tower is a nice touch. I get a shot of the castle corner in the sun. A tower occupant drives out through an entrance between a set of towers. The cathedral looks good between two buildings across an alley from each other. Then it's time to head back to the Castle Hotel.

We have breakfast about 8:30, then gear up for the castle tour, after which we three musketeers head out.

The buildings along the entry road shine in the sun. The flag above the big tower signals that the Queen is in residence at the moment.

The ticket gate opens at 9:45 and there is a big rush to the ticket counters. Almost all of the huge crowd is entering to the right of the sign that says "Groups." The "individual ticket" line is empty. I walk up and buy three tickets. Easy as chicken pot pie. A lady tells us, to our great excitement, that although normally there's no guard change on Sundays, that there will be one today, and it will be extra special. Maybe because the Queen's in residence. Hot Dog! A little further into the castle, we rent audio wands.

Upon entry, we walk through the castle history display, Sharon taking the most time, as she likes to read everything. I exit the display first, as usual, since it doesn't take me long to examine a hot horseshoe. No, that's a different story.

Anyway, when Sharon finishes, we continue in, turning left at the top of the Lower Ward. As we walk down this grassy area, we can see a sundial to our right. Then a series of towers rising from the roof. After that, blue sky through open wall windows makes an excellent shot.

At the bottom of the Lower Ward, Nancy andSharon pose on either side of a guard. Then we visit a souvenir shop, and each get re-entry wrist bands, because Sharon wants to be outside with the video camera when the bands and parade marches up the street before entering the castle. I, on the other hand, armed with my digital camera, will be near the fence at the Quadrangle, where the guard change itself will occur.

An unknown (to me) mounted horseman statue stands in this side of the Quadrangle, with stonework as a backdrop. Then we learn that a coach (bus) broke down on the motorway, carrying the members of the band for the guard change, and that the guard change would be postponed about 40 minutes. Uh oh, I don't like the sound of this. And sure enough, a few minutes later, we learn that the guard change is cancelled altogether. Hoggypegaloomer, Blast that Flatterap!

We then go into the main tour, which loops through many incredible rooms. We see works of famous artists, usually portraits, jewelery, furniture, richly appointed rooms for particular occasions and the famous Queen Mary's Dolls House. This shows actual rooms of the castle in exact 1/12th scale. There are gifts from the heads of states from nations of the world, through the years.

My back finally has had enough and I breeze through the rest of the rooms. My favorite is the incredibly tall and long room containing the shields of about 950 recipients of the Order of the Garter, a prestigious award given by the reigning monarchs over the years.

I exit the building right next to the Quadrangle, just in time to see about six red-coated guards and about eight camouflage-jacketed and bereted (is that a word?) military men. These are in two different groups, each marching to their own cadence, and marching separately. This must be the "short" version of the guard change.

I get video of most, but take one shot of the red-coated guards as they are walking away.

I take a great picture of the large tower above yellow flowers, and another of a cannon on the tower. Nancy, who has finished early also, points out the Queen's sitting room, where she may be watching us right now. Turning around, I get a picture of a delivery truck for the Royal Mail.

Sharon finally finishes, and we begin our walk out of the castle. Sharon requests a photo of a nice waterfall. A little further, and I stop to admire one of the streetlamps, with a crown on top, then get a shot of Sharon and Nancy in the arched doorway as we are leaving.

I get one more shot of the corner where the town road meets the castle entry road.

We make it back to the hotel, and I ask if it's OK if we check out one hour late. It's OK. We load up, check out, and head out. On the way out, Sharon recognizes something called the Long Walk. We stop and a photo of the Walk, then S & N on the walk, with the castle in the background. Then a picture from the grass of the castle in the distance.

We decide to drive the Thames Valley road which follows the river. After losing our way a couple of times, we change our mind and decide to see if we can have a boat tour on the river, and we stop at a marina.

While I'm checking, Sharon and Nancy amble along the side of the Thames. I'm told that there are two problems. First, the boats are for rent to people who pilot the boat (no drivers available to drive you -- it's not that kind of place), and second, the river is flowing way too fast. The rental fellow says that it's too dangerous, and when I look into the marina, I see that about a foot below the water level is a whole other set of docks that are unwalkable because of the high level.

Meantime, Sharon is looking down into the water, and signals to me excitedly. She says it's a (Holy Cow) *MANDARIN, an unbelievable, exotic-looking duck from China and Japan. They were introduced here in the mid-1700s, and have been long established as a species in England. They are secretive and shy, and this pair swims behind a boat every time they see us.

I go back and get the video camera, and return. I have to be sneaky to photograph them, waiting for Nancy and Sharon to show themselves to the ducks, who are "parked" between two boats. The ducks then move over to the next slot, where I am waiting to click a shot of this great Mandarin male.

I also get photos of the high water level, a country house across the water, and a nice view of the castle in the background, behind several large trees, whose reflections can be seen in the river.

We head on out, and drive to a small town, just off a motorway, near Gatwick Airport, where Nancy will leave from tomorrow morning. In a fit of poor luck, we choose the Europa, the hotel of unexplained phenomena. More on this in the next, and last, report.

After we settle in, Nancy asks about dinner, and learns that a flight to Detroit has stranded 175 passengers, who are going to sleep here. The problem is that they need the entire dining room, and we will have to find somewhere else to eat (Unexplained Phenomena #1).

I am told that my room telephone should allow me to connect to the internet for email, etc. Well, at least that's good.

We get hungry and decide to drive into one of the local villages, find a pub, and have our last dinner together in England. We wind up at a restaurant which reminds me of a Denny's, near a Holiday Inn Express. First I run over and learn that the HI Express is cheaper than the hotel we've chosen, and that their room telephones have a data port right in them. Just the ticket for email connections.

Oh well, the room in the Europa is supposed to work too. I'll try to send off a report tomorrow.

We have our last dinner, then after getting lost a while, find our way back to the hotel. After reviewing the day's great digital photos on the laptop, we swap goodbye hugs, and Nancy is off. Except that Sharon wants Nancy to stop buy tomorrow morning at 5 AM or so, just before she catches the hotel shuttle to Gatwick.

I finish off a trip report and hit the sack. Ahhhh.

Bird Summary:
Life Birds: Today, 1. Mandarin. For the Trip, 12.
Trip Birds: Today, 1. The lifer. For the Trip: 33.

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