Monday, October 25, 2010

An English FairyTale

Although flocked by tourists from across the globe, Windsor still gives the satisfaction of discovery to a wandering traveler. The best way to reach Windsor is to board a train for Slough from London’s Victoria and then take the 10min shuttle to Windsor. On arrival at Windsor station a long courtyard flanked by colorful shops and restaurants lead us to the main road opposite Windsor castle. As we caught our first glimpse of the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world we were awed. The stone edifice in itself is stunning. The Castle covers an area of about 5 hectares (13 acres) and contains magnificent State Apartments furnished with treasures from the Royal Collection, St George's Chapel (one of the most beautiful ecclesiastical buildings in England and the burial place of 10 monarchs), and Queen Mary's Dolls House, a masterpiece in miniature.

We tarried in front of the castle for a while, soaking in the medieval atmosphere and taking plenty of photographs.At 20 quid per head we decided to give a tour of the castle a miss and instead set out to discover the towns of Windsor and Eton.

Windsor Castle is situated on a slightly hilly terrain in the English county of Berkshire. The topography was quite interesting with some steep winding paths leading to the riverside or to the main roads out of town. As we tumbled down the incline our eyes darted across to the shops which flanked the road and mine came to a halt in front of the most scrumptious looking confectionary and cake shop ever!!!It was like an invisible hand was tugging at me and leading me to my very own version of “Charlie and the chocolate factory”. On opening the tiny door of the shop I beheld the yummiest sight. There were rows and rows of cupcakes in different shapes and colors accompanied with at least a thousand different varieties of sweets and candies. There were round candies and long candies and mushroom shaped cupcakes and sour jellybeans..hmmm..the very thought is now making me salivate. Anyways at that time I was able to show admirable restrain and instead decided to sample the cupcakes post lunch.

No sooner had we dragged ourselves from heavenly that we tumbled into a home made fudge shop. What is it with the English and confectionary? The owner of the shop was very friendly and even gave us permission to view the kitchen (if that’s what it can be called). The little room had a huge burner on the side with a big vessel to heat the sugarcane. Beside that there was a flat table where the fella laid out the hot liquid sugarcane, mixed the natural flavors and let it cool down before cutting it into pieces and sending it out into the shop. While I am not a big fan of fudge my husband loves it and unfortunately he has absolutely no restrain when it comes to all things with saccharine. So he bought fudge for himself, and then he bought fudge for my mum, and then he bought fudge for my granddad and then he bought some more fudge for himself. Anyways we decided to avoid the shops now and continue on our tour of discovery. Despite the tourists the small town is quiet and beautiful and offers stunning scenery. I was also very keen to visit the nearby town of Eton and we decided to follow the signs pointing us towards the town.

On our way, we crossed a number of people jogging or cycling vigorously. Apparently they were all training for the county triathlon which was scheduled to take place the following weekend. We also saw a number of 50 something’s enthusiastically train for the event which kind of put us to shame considering that all the walking was already taking its toll on me. Now, Eton is actually situated on the opposite bank of the river Thames from Windsor and as we were following the signs for Eton we reached the farther side of the river. There were beautiful English houses on either side of the embankment and some benches a little further ahead. Joseph and I decided to perch ourselves on one such bench in order to absorb the environment around us. It felt like we had stepped into an English fairytale.

It was a classical scene of the knight and his lady sitting by the riverside, feeding the ducks and enjoying the idyllic scenery. Well, we didn’t quite fit into the knight and his lady portrait but the rest of it is pretty much accurate. Anyways, after resting my feet and enjoying the scenic beauty for a while we headed towards Eton, which is connected to Windsor via a footbridge over the river Thames. The setting was very romantic. A man sat at the foot of the bridge strumming his musical instrument. The weather was just a bit chilly and as we crossed the bridge hand in hand with music in the air I felt like I was walking around in a romantic movie….what? You say well hello!!!fairtytale or movie? You see that’s the best part about travelling. It allows us to explore and actually live out our fantasies. There is absolutely no limiting factor.

Eton has an importance of its own both historically and commercially and it is impossible to think about Eton without reference to its famous public school, Eton College. Eton High Street is packed with galleries, boutiques, antique shops and gift shops. One of the most interesting buildings is the Tiger Garden Restaurant which contains the remains of the original cock fighting area, which was popular during the 17th and 18th centuries. It is said to have been frequented by Charles II.

In front of the restaurant is an original pair of stocks and a Victorian post box. At the end of the high street lies the boundary of the famous Eton College. There were young lads milling about in their uniforms and dress coats just like St.Cares et all. The atmosphere closer to the school seemed very pedantic, reminding one of the famous alumni of the school.

After soaking in the scholarly atmosphere we head back towards Windsor. Just at the foot of the bridge on the Eton side we discovered a fantastic wine shop from where we picked up some delicious wine.We had some not so great food at a Bangladeshi restaurant on the Windsor side which we tried to make up for by finally gorging on ice-cream and cupcakes. If truth be told, the cupcake after a couple of bites was way too sweet for me to finish off.

Post all the wandering around we were now bit tired and I was looking forward to heading back to London. As we were dragging our feet towards the station Joseph snuck into this store called Vomfoss which housed whisky, vinegar and spirits. And boy! was Joseph glad that he discovered this treasure trove. I think this was the high point of his trip. The store sold Scottish and Irish whisky which was produced by independent breweries and then sold in casks via stores like Vomfoss. Each whisky had a distinct flavour and the best part was that one could sample contents from the casks before buying. Also because it was sold from casks we could buy any quantity that we pleased with a minimum of 50ml. Joseph had a field day tasting the whiskies and ended up buying four different kinds/ages of whisky. The store also had a rack of differently flavored spirits right from tiramisu, to peach flavored vodka to plum flavored rum. I must confess that I tried quite a few before picking up tiramisu rum and an apple flavored vodka. We also picked up some nice basil flavored olive oil for mum. We came out of the store completely exhilarated and a tad tipsy and eventually headed towards the station. After a short 15minute wait we were on our way back and wheeled into London a quarter of an hour later.

Our visit to Windsor was nothing like we expected it to be and we were happy to have been thrown into this fairytale. While on vacation, there are always some days which go into that special place in our head called memories. The day we spent at Windsor and Eton has definitely earned its place there!


  1. hey, nice post. well written.
    I guess a picture or two will be a great help for the people who are not familiar with the place.

  2. i think , its a very well written article. the author seems to be very articulate in structuring her thoughts.
    gives you a good feel of the English fairytale.