April 12, 2009

Warwick and Windsor

Too jet-lagged and exhausted from extensive driving after day one, I failed to blog it yesterday. Instead, I crashed on the couch for a bit, then discovered Premiere League Match Day on BBC, then discovered sleep. So this entry covers both our first full day in the UK and our second (nearly full) day. Monday and Tuesday will be Paris, and I'm not bringing my laptop, so the next entry will cover, um, whatever.

Saturday: We decided to go to Warwick Castle, but because of the time change we got a bit of a late start. Fortunately, our hostess left her GPS unit, which frequently reported I was driving 400 miles per hour. We have not yet gained tremendous confidence in this device, but it has a very pleasant voice with a British accent, so it sounds trustworthy. In any case, it got us to Warwick just fine (about 90 minutes away), and we drove around seeking parking for 20 minutes. Eventually we stopped at a playground park with a little cafe, paid our few paltry coins for insufficient parking time, bought "hot dogs" for lunch (the polite clerk informed us that these were not "American hot dogs," but we thought that was just peachy, so we got them anyway), used the change for additional parking time, and wandered off to find the castle.

Castles are not as hard to discover as you might think. They tend to put the castles pretty near the town centers, so if you find parking you are likely to find the castle. When I was in 10th grade, I visited Warwick Castle on a school tour. It was very cool, and nearly no one was there, and in the Great Hall among the armor and other Things of Historic Note was the Dudley coat of arms. Dudleys ruled as Earls of Warwick for three generations, if I remember correctly. But Warwick had nothing about the Dudleys that I could find, even in the kitschy gift shop which had coats of arms for 200 different names, pretty much every English name ever created except Dudley. So I can not at all recommend Warwick Castle.

Anyway, today's Warwick Castle is not nearly as tacky as York's Jorvik Viking Museum, but it is far more tacky than you might expect your basic historic castle to be. Some of the tacky was good, like an encampment of people living in period costume and methods, and a battle reenactment, but some was less good.

Still, we had a great time seeing a real, medieval castle and walking the ramparts and towers and some of the interiors. It was terribly crowded, though, and I found that detracting from the ambiance. The towers and ramparts stroll included over 500 steps, most of them in four spiral staircases in two towers.

Saturday night we tried to find one pub in a different town, but our amusing GPS cleverly took us on a seven mile circular route right back to the house, so we went to the Rose & Crown, a local place that my 9 year old called "the most welcoming restaurant I've ever been in." I'd have to agree, for the most part. Terribly friendly, decent food, lovely cozy atmosphere. (This is not the Ascot Rose & Crown but the one in Surrey.)

Sunday the Easter Bunny made an appearance, miraculously finding where Ethan and Sam were spending Easter and cleverly providing English candies instead of American ones. Then we stuck at home to receive the household dog from its minder, then allowed its next minder to pick him up a half hour later. It is a dog of much friendliness and vigor, of very high spirits. Afterwards, we successfully drove into Windsor (20 minutes away) with the intent to visit Windsor Castle. After looking at the entry line (about 90,000 people long) and the pricing, we decided instead to wander the shops. A lovely little town with a sufficient compliment of tourist gift shops and cafes. Here are the boys in one of the streets with the castle in the background behind them.


McKoala said...

"discovered Premiere League Match Day on BBC". You've just experienced the traditional weekend pursuit of most British males.

It looks like taking the scenic route, against your will, is going to be a feature of your holiday! Ah, well, you'll be seeing a lot of the country.

JaneyV said...

I love your GPS - it's got a real sense of humour. Warwick Castle looks like fun. I have to say I find a lot of British Tourist sites are heavily over-priced and have way to many visitors for my liking. I end up feeling like I'm being herded and charged a small fortune for the privilege. But that's just me - not big on crowds. The day we went to visit Windsor we did the exact same thing as you - saw the queue and the price of entry and decided to spend a pleasant afternoon wandering around the town instead. Did you see the McDonald's with the Ye Olde frontage?

That dog that's walking behid the boys in the last photo looks just like my Pooch.

Have a great time in France.