Windsor Castle and Town - 15/10/2015 - Tonbridge U3A-Travel

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Windsor Castle and Town - 15/10/2015

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The day we went to Windsor began with looming clouds and a damp feel in the air. However as the almost full coach travelled west the skies brightened and by the time we arrived in the Windsor coach park the sun was trying to come out and the weather continued to improve during the course of the day.
Assorted groups of U3A members drifted off towards Windsor station, many intent on topping up with a coffee and others eager to view the castle and chapel as soon as possible.
Windsor Central station is amazing. The old ticket office has been preserved and the station has been given a tasteful make over converting it into a comfortable bijou shopping and meeting area suitable for greeting a Queen.
Windsor is certainly a well preserved town and it is obvious any new ideas would have to go through strict planning regulations!  
Walking up the street to the Castle entrance we realised there was a considerable police presence, so we dispatched the male member of our intrepid quartet to ask, "What's going on?"
Of course Changing of the Guard was due in 20 minutes. We made haste to the entrance and due to our pre-paid tickets got through security in record time, grabbing sets of earphones and audio machines on route. We made it just in time, to observe the Welsh Guards in a very slow motion guard changing military manoeuvre, not unlike a quadrille, unravel over the next 30 or so minutes, to the occasional accompaniment of pipes and drums.
This was all performed under the magnificent walls of St George’s Chapel. Entering the Chapel is an awe inspiring experience.  I don't have the architectural knowledge to describe it in all its glory, so I leave it to the reader to imagine the wonderful arched ceilings, magnificent windows and airy light feel to a calm and beautiful building.  We discovered a secret passageway and balcony, which Queen Victoria used to attend services and ceremonies unobserved.  One of the extremely knowledgeable wardens showed us in his file a copy of a painting showing Queen Victoria observing from the balcony the marriage of her daughter, Alexandra.  Another steward talked us through some of the Knights colours and shields.  Some 600 years of history.
From the Chapel to the Castle itself. A series of magnificent and luxurious rooms, most of which are still functioning, including the semi-state rooms which are used for functions such as investitures.  There was the enormous and stunning St George’s Hall Dining Room, used for state occasions putting TV dinners to shame with the accuracy of placing cutlery and dinner services!
There were displays of beautiful porcelain, extraordinary elaborate china services and the enormous Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, containing rooms depicting in minute detail many parts of the Castle.
There was hardly any evidence of the dreadful fire of 1992 due to the meticulous refurbishment, and we were told only two items had not been rescued an enormous sideboard and a wonderful painting of Queen Victoria and her family, both of which have been reproduced in exact detail.
We quietly left the Castle and looked up at the Union Jack fluttering in the breeze on top of the tower, only to realise it was now the Royal Standard!  Her Majesty had arrived to prepare for an investiture the next day, with no ceremony and not letting us know she was there!!!
A lovely day was finished off with lunch at a very pleasant bistro overlooking the River, which we finished just in time to return to the coach and enjoy a relaxed journey through Windsor and Runnymede and then onto the M25 arriving in Tonbridge in good time thanks to our excellent driver and terrific organisers.
Lois Mitchell

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