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Thursday, May 15, 2014

London: Tour of Windsor Castle, City of Bath and Stonehenge and the flight home

Windsor Castle
Mary Alice had arranged this tour a long time ago through Trip Advisor. We were in London in 2010 and we saw much of the sights then and we had both been there before. So this time we decided to venture out of the city. 

She made arrangements for the tour bus to pick us up at the Hyatt and take us to the Victoria Coach Station where we met our bus driver, Adrian and tour guide, Rowan. The tour is offered by Evan Evans Tours in case you're interested in doing this. 

We left Central London, 50 tourists in a bus, and headed west to Windsor Castle. It was about an hour's drive in the morning traffic. We were given two hours to walk through the main residence of the Queen.  According to our guide the Queen spends the majority of her time at Windsor rather than Buckingham. Oh, she was "in residence here" as indicated by her flag on the rampart.
You can see the Queen's flag above us on the rampart.

Our first stop, security checkpoint and there were plenty of armed UK police around. 

After entering the castle grounds, you are issued a small audio guide that is programmed with all pertinent information.

Windsor Castle is the official residence of The Queen and the largest occupied castle in the world. It's been a royal home and fortress for over 900 years and it remains a working palace today. 

Looking at the number of fighting positions, the castle had substantial number of defenders and they were successful.

After going through the State Apartments, and seeing where ole King George slept we made our way outside where one of the friendly guards told us the changing of the guards was about to start.  We hurried down the hill to catch most of it.

Changing of the guard:  Windsor Castle....doesn't get any better than this, very British
Before boarding the bus we grabbed two sandwiches and chips for a "picnic" on the bus, next stop, Bath.

Bath, England is an old historic city dating back to the Roman Empire. The Romans discovered the rich mineral hot springs. The Roman baths were covered up through hundreds of years and found in the 18th Century. The hot baths and rich mineral waters attracted the wealthiest in England and the city of Bath emerged. 
I was impressed with Bath Abbey, a Gothic church build in 1500 on the ruins of a Norman cathedral. It took until the 18th Century before the church began to be rebuilt to its present structure. It was bombed and heavily damaged in 1942.  

Some photos of Bath Abbey:

We met some very friendly "Bobbies" in Bath. 

I should say the weather was fantastic. Even though it rained on us in Bath, we had sunshine in Windsor and Stonehenge. We departed Bath for a short drive to Stonehenge, the prehistoric rocks.

Here is the paragraph from the tourist's info map and guide to Stonehenge:  Stonehenge is an ancient temple aligned with the movements of the sun. The stones were raised 4500 years ago by sophisticated prehistoric people. English Heritage's project to transform the setting of Stonehenge returns a sense of context and dignity to this ancient marvel of human endeavor, leaving Stonehenge surrounded by grass and reunited with its ancient approach.

We were told that archaeologists and engineers attempted to move a rock similar to the ones you see from their source miles away. They thought the ancient ones used trees to roll the stones from a quarry to the site. The modern engineers were not able to budge it. How the stones got there remains a mystery today.

Our tour came to an end and we boarded the bus for the trip back to Central London.  The next day we would take a van to Heathrow Airport and United flight #5, nonstop to Houston.

May 13th, Tuesday
After getting aboard the newest passenger jet, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, Mary Alice made friends with the flight attendant supervisor, Leigh Skinner. It turns out that Leigh was a Pan Am flight attendant as was MA. They bonded like sisters. 

Leigh gave MA a tour of the aircraft including the galleys, the crew rest bunks, and the electronic cabin control panels. She met most of the other flight attendants and then got to sit in the "jump seat". The captain even came back and introduced himself to us, thanking us for choosing United. Today in Houston he was kind enough to respond to MA's email thanking him for the warm welcome and sending him a photo we took of him. Turns out the Captain is from France and he told MA her "French" was "perfect". She's planning on print that for her French teacher!

Needless to say my wonderful wife was overwhelmed and very happy, almost to the point of tears. She sure didn't need an airplane to finish the flight back to Houston.  There's something special about Pan Am folks, that's for sure!

Here are some photos I took  on the 787 Dreamliner:

Cockpit of the 787
The captain invited us to come forward to see the cockpit after landing and gate arrival.  All in all, this trip was one of our best ever. We are very thankful to God for all of his blessing on us and watching over us as we travel. WW

PS:  We stopped at Susan's and picked up Tanner. He was so glad to see us. He's a happy dog. Thank you Susan for taking such good care of our boy. 

1 comment:

  1. WW I was with you the entire time and it was a great and informative trip, as usual the photography was great. Thank you for taking us along on your quest, it was just like being there. John S


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