The Queen uses the Castle both as a private home, where she usually spends the weekend, and as a Royal residence at which she undertakes certain formal duties.
Every year The Queen takes up official residence in Windsor Castle for a month over Easter (March-April), known as Easter Court. During that time The Queen hosts occasional ‘dine and sleeps’ events for guests, including politicians and public figures.
The Queen is also in residence for a week in June, when she attends the service of the Order of the Garter and the Royal Ascot race meeting.
I had some holidays carried forward from last year – these are those holidays for which your company tells you to “take it or loose it”. February being one of the chilliest months in Europe, we decided not to go too far and end up spending a lot of money. The choice was quite limited to seeing some place within UK which does not hurt the wallet a lot as this was during the Valentine’s day weekend (16th Feb to 18th Feb 2013). The best thing about being in UK is that if you know how to use the internet, you can really save a lot of money – use key words like discount vouchers, evouchers, coupons, discount codes etc on Google and you are bound to get a deal that you cannot resist. I had a lucky day and managed to find 2 night weekend stay in a 4 star hotel close to Windsor at a throw away price of £55 per night from Travelzoo. The room was a superior plus room with complimentary wi-fi, leisure facilities like steam, sauna, whirlpool, swimming pool, car parking and full English breakfast for two included.
We took a fast train just after noon from London Paddington to Slough (£8.60 per person) and reached Slough in 17mins. From Slough station we walked down to the hotel – a nice short 30 mins walk with Google maps assisting us with the directions.
Given the idea of this trip was only to relax, we checked into the hotel and threw ourselves on the bed. The hotel room was very comfortable with all modern day amentities one could hope for. Even before we had stretched ourselves, it was evening. We went for an exercise session in the gym followed by long swimming, steam, sauna and zacuzzi sessions. After a hectic week of work in London, going out to the country and relaxing in a spa is the best thing to do, it completely unwinds you down.
For dinner, there was a restaurant inside the hotel which we decided to try. Being vegetarian does not give us too many options anywhere, so we ordered the most predictable options Fried Noodles with Mixed Vegetables and Fried Rice with Mixed Vegetables along with Steamed Tofu for main course. We went a little innovative with out dessert of Banana Fritters and Chocolate Spring Roll with Raspberry Sauce.
The noodles were the best noodles I have ever had – I tried to get the recipe from the Chinese waitress who was having difficulty in speaking English. All I could get out of her was that these were Singaporean noodles and were therefore thin. Rice noodles are thin too, but I don’t like them as much as I did these. The dessert was a bit of a let down, but after this outstanding main course, I could not complain too much.
The next morning, we got up early to visit Windsor castle. Being somebody who is not too much into historical buildings, we decided only to click a photograph from outside and move on.
Don’t forget that Windsor castle is the official residence of the queen. An extract from the royal website provides more context –
This was February and the queen will not be in the castle anyways (not that you will get to see her if she was). But anyways, what interested us more is a “long walk” between the Windsor castle to the Windsor Great Park. It is 2.65 miles (4.26 km) from George IV Gateway at Windsor Castle to The Copper Horse. We decided to do the walk by foot and see the Copper Horse for ourselves. The picture below taken from the internet was taken in 1930s.
Whilst it may not look a lot to walk just over 4 kilometers, the vast expanse around and the long road with no sight of an end in front of you can make the journey longer in your mind than it actually is.
The weather was brilliant so we did not mind the walk at all. The icing on the cake was when I spotted a sole car coming towards me (which would be towards the castle as we were walking towards the Great Park). Wondering who would dare to bring a car on a walk that looked very private with one royal guard I spotted at a doors on the side, I realised it was no one else but the queen herself on the driving seat and her husband accompanying her. She must be on a private visit to the castle to spend the weekend. Something that hit me was the unassuming character of this experience. The royal highness, Her Majesty the Queen out on a private weekend driving her car down on her own with no show. If I become a famous social celebrity in my life ever, I would really love such a lifestyle – where you are allowed to completely switch yourself off and have those moments of a normal life. Honestly I just really loved seeing that!
Okay back to our “long walk” from the philosophical discussion, we were back with freshness after the little distraction. It took us around 50 – 60 minutes to complete the walk, but the prize was worth it, we indeed had come a long way.
I dozed off for a while below the copper horse. Then we had our packed lunch on the grass under the beautiful sun. All I could now see around me was a vast expanse of greenery. I could not see any park gates and realised that to reach to one I may be on a journey of not knowing how much to walk. In comparison I at least knew how long I will have to walk on the long walk to reach some habitation. So I chose the easier option and went back to the city centre via the long walk. The return journey felt shorter than the onward journey somehow (may be because I now know how long it really was whilst on the onward journey it just looked like a never ending walk).
We came back to the hotel by sunset. Had our usual routine of the leisure facilities and had almost the same dinner as last night. The next day was all about packing, checking out and the making the journey back to hectic lifestyle of London.
Such outings give you time to look at the bigger picture of your life from a distance like a painter does once in a while during his painting. It is very important to do such contemplations, trust me. If you have not taken such breaks, do so now without fail.