Thursday, May 22, 2008

Windsor & Eton

A FULL English breakfast at our B&B, below...


... and full includes eggs, bacon, sausage, fried bread, fried tomoato, fried mushrooms and baked beans. Not to mention the grapefruit starter and the coffee, toast, and marmalade. For tomorrow, since we have to leave early, we have ordered the scaled-down version. After a quiet half hour in our room to gather strength and energy, we set off into town with brief stops at Boots and Marks & Spencers, as much for old time's sake and out of necessity. We had decided somewhat casually to stroll around the castle, and had not fully realized what we were in for. For a Friday through Monday weekend retreat, it's a nit like our Laguna Beach cottage--but the comparison ends there. This place is HUGE. Here's the round tower atop its great mound, started by William the conqueror in the 11th century.




It has been added to by a variety of monarchs in the intervening centuries, but the tower still remains at the center of things, and the many wings reach out from there. Here's one of the resident veteran's cottages with the devise of the Knights of the Order of the Garter, Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense (rudely translated as "Honey, your silk stocking's hanging down.") It actually means "Shame to him who thinks evil of it"--referring to the king's gallantry in picking up a garter that had embarrassingly slipped from a lady's leg.



And here's the view from the North Terrace down over the playing fields of Eton: the old myth has it that the Duke of Wellington sagely pronounced that "the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton."



It's a lovely view, anyway. And here are the governor's quarters, nestled nicely in the shade of the castle walls, with a beautiful English garden down below, where the moat used to be.



No pictures inside, I'm afraid, but Ellie and I gaped goggle-eyed at Queen Mary's Dolls' House, a miniature Buckingham Palace where even the tiny vacuum cleaner in the maids' quarters is said to work, along with the plumbing and the cars in the gagage; and at a small part of the Queen's inherited drawing collection, with masterpiece drawings by the likes of Leonardo; and at the Royal Apartments with their incredible furnishings and paintings by Rubens, van Dyke, Rembrandt... We were bowled over, too, by the vast hall of the Knights of the Garter--only recently damaged by fire but restored with loving care for the exquisite detail of craftsmanship, by the armories and St. George's Chapel where the late King George VI and the Queen Mum are interred, along with many of their forebears. We have been to many palaces throughout Europe over the years, but Windsor was still enough to surprise and delight us with it mostly rather tasteful magnificence--if magnificence can be tasteful. I myself have certain reservations about the privilege of aristocrats and monarchies. It all seems rather... undeserved. Still, I swallowed down my prejudice in the face of all this material wonder. I suspect you might have, too.

A little less magnificence at lunch, in a narrow passage way where Shakespeare stayed as he was writing "The Merry Wives..." and where Charles I kept his favorite mistress, Nell Gwynn, in those happy days before his head was forcibly removed. Here's Ellie, head intact, at the outdoor restaurant where we enjoyed a salad and a sandwich.



After lunch, we walked down across the River Thames and out to Eton, where we admired, from the outside, that other bastion of privilege, Eton College, where many of the celebrated statesmen and peers of the realm have enjoyed an excellent education--to prepare them, of course, for their Waterloos. Here's a rather poor image of the chapel and the "school hall" (to the right):




I myself rather liked this tombstone in the chapel's graveyard. It appealed to my Buddhist sensibilities, as well as to my disapproval of social privilege (don't forget, by the way, that the 's' was written back in those days like and 'f''!):



How indigent the Great, indeed. I think, irreverently, of George Bush and his golf clubs.) Leaving the college, we strolled back through Eton to the banks of the Thames, and walked along for a while, admiring the wild life...



... and under increasingly graying skies.



It's a beautiful country, you'll agree, rich in history and tradition. We talk sometimes about coming back to live here for a while. But then we compare the weather to what we have in Southern California, and the chicken factor kicks in. Maybe one day, though... If the Bush tradition survives the assault of Barack Obama...

More later. Tomorrow early, on to Helsinki.


4 comments:

MandT said...

Thank you for the lovely tour---with pics too!

roger said...

i did travel to england many years ago and recall the full breakfasts. i loved the fried tomatoes.

khengsiong said...

I suppose English breakfast should come with tea, not coffee. You have been living in the States for too long :-)

TaraDharma said...

what a glorious photo of the sun beams....