Friday 18 July 2014

London Day 6: Windsor Castle & Buckingham Palace

We didn't know it then but it was to be the hottest day that we have ever experienced in London! If we had thought that the previous days were hot, today would be 10 times worse. My feet were so badly sun-burnt that weeks later, the tan lines outlining my shoes were still there! =S

Anyway, we set off to Waterloo Station (change at Westminster Station to the Jubilee line) to take the national rail to Windsor Castle. We arrived at Waterloo Station at around 10am (after 9.30am as we bought the cheaper, off-peak tickets) and realised that we had just missed the train to Windsor. The next train would only arrive in another 20 minutes so we decided to shop around while waiting.

Shopping at Boots (left);
While watching the screens for the platform that the train would be arriving at (right)

The moment I noticed that the train had arrived at the platform, we quickly boarded the train as we did not want to wait another 30 minutes if we'd missed this one!

National rail from Waterloo Station to Windsor & Eton Riverside Station

We didn't know until we boarded the train that our tickets were actually for Windsor & Eton Central Station but the train was going to Windsor & Eton Riverside Station! I had neglected to check the National Rail Map and had just assumed that when my colleague said to take the train from Waterloo Station, it would go to Windsor & Eton Central Station.

Since both stations were very close together (and we didn't want to waste precious time), I decided to take a chance and see if they would allow us to exit the station.

First time on the national rail train

The train was really spacious, with ample spaces for strollers and wheelchairs. We thought it was a lot more comfortable than the tube! The train was really fast too and it took us less than an hour to reach Windsor & Eton.

Windsor & Eton Riverside Station

Thankfully, there were no gantries at the station so we had no problems exiting with a ticket that was actually for another station *whew*

We had no idea how to get from the station to Windsor Castle so we asked the lady of the small drinks store at the station for directions.

"Turn right, walk down the road to the traffic light, cross it and go up the hill.." she answered, with an as-a-matter-of-fact-cos-I've-said-it-a-billion-times voice. "Thanks!" I said, truly grateful for her help even though I knew it wasn't easy for her to repeat the same instructions to every tourist that passes through the station.

And up the hill we climbed indeed, in the heat of the mid-day sun!

Terrace houses and shops along the way
Walking up the pathway with the castle on our left and hotels on our right

Finally, we have arrived at Windsor Castle. To be able to see a real castle in person after only seeing them in movies (mostly Disney of course) was breathtakingly amazing! I was, of course, beyond excited!

Windsor Castle
(Opening hours: 9.45am-5pm)
Clockwise from left:  The flying of The Queen's flag on top of the Round Tower indicated that the Queen was in!
Visitor Entrance to the Castle; Gateway to the castle grounds

We bought our tickets (GBP 18.50 / adult) and were informed that the State Apartments were closed to the public because The Queen is entertaining important guests. We were told that we could come back another day but obviously we didn't because we didn't stay nearby. On hindsight, we should have told them that we did not want to visit the State Apartments as the tickets without the State Apartments were cheaper (GBP 10 / adult only)! I didn't know that at that time! *argg*

Walking into the large castle grounds!
(Notice the bright sunlight on my mum's face!)
World famous Round Tower and the beautiful gardens surrounding it
State Apartments were not opened so the gates were locked
I joined the many commoners (I mean tourists) peering through the gates trying to catch a glimpse of royalty
(Obviously we were trying to spot The Queen and/or the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge!)
Beautiful day to be entertaining guests at the State Apartments

We didn't get to see The Queen so we moved on to the next attraction to see Queen Mary's Doll House and the Royal Collection. And guess what we saw while waiting in the queue!

The marching of The Queen's Guards! (Bro, this is for you!) =)

No photography was allowed in the gallery of the Royal Collection but my itchy fingers couldn't help but take one (ok some but who's counting?).

Queen Mary's Doll House

The doll house was an exact replica of an aristocratic home, with miniature furniture and items that actually work! The carpets are hand-woven, the plates are made of real silver like the real thing, the lights can be switched on and off and the toilets can actually flush! I love the details that went into making the doll house, which was presented as a gift to Queen Mary in 1924. It's like a larger than life version of the Sylvanian Families doll house. Very cool =)

I also enjoyed seeing the historical pieces found in the Royal Collection, such as King Albert's letter to Queen Victoria when he was still courting her and the hand-painted China presented to the royal family by various countries.

We continued to explore the rest of the castle grounds after we emerged from the exhibition.

Selfie while waiting for my mum to visit the toilet
(We had to take turns carrying the baby)
St. Georges Chapel
(People actually worship here, it's not just for show!)
Photo with one of the Queen's guards

I can sense some frustration from this poor fellow, who seemed to be really irritated by all of us taking pictures with him. If I can hear his thoughts, he was probably thinking, "I'm a real guard you know! Not just a display piece!!" *laughs*

And that concluded our tour of Windsor Castle. We were famished so we had our lunch at Wagamama, which came recommended by my colleagues.

This Wagamama outlet was located at Windsor Royal Shopping
Cute storefront and familiar sauces
 (Note that there is a flight of stairs down to the restaurant so be prepared to carry your stroller)
It's not a baby chair but a space-saving baby seat that is attached to the side of the table
(Looks a bit scary though!)
Succulent Beef Ramen for me
Tasty Wagamama Ramen for mum

I personally preferred the Wagamama Ramen, which was full of ingredients and rather value for money. The soup base was also sweeter, tastier and more suitable for me =)

When we were full and very happy, we headed back to London via the national rail at Windsor & Eton Central Station (the correct station this time).

Windsor & Eton Central Station

The train from Windsor and Eton Central Station does not go directly to London. You'd have to change at Slough Station to the train bound for Paddington Station, the place we visited on the 2nd day.

Slough Interchange Station
Change here for the train bound for London Paddington
Waiting patiently for the train
(This station is wheelchair friendly, although the lifts were quite far away.
We were so afraid that we would miss the train because of it!)
On the train bound for Paddington
(you can see a pushcart, which they'll use to sell snacks and drinks to the passengers on the train)
I found a nice place to squeeze my stroller quite comfortably (left);
Baby Boy enjoying the ride (and showing off his fat thighs) (right)

We arrived at Paddington Station and asked a nice security officer for the direction to the Circle line (yellow).

"Where are you going?" he inquired kindly, to which I replied "Buckingham Palace."
"Ahh, exit at Victoria Station. Victoria." he said with conviction. I had actually intended to exit from a different station but since he sounded so sure, I decided to heed his advice.

"And take care of your belongings.." he continued as we were leaving, "especially this little fellow (pointing to the boy). There're a lot of thieves out there!" We smiled and thanked him for his help. "Now that was nice," I thought to myself.

We took the Circle line (yellow) to Victoria Station as advised and followed the signs until we arrived at Buckingham Palace. It was about a 10-15 minute walk but it felt longer because the sun was scorching hot!

Buckingham Palace
(You can see the strong sunshine in the background! Crazy!)
The beautiful gates of the palace
You can see the Queen's guards if you peek through the gates
(You can watch The Queen's Guards change shift at 11.30am daily if you like)
Victoria Memorial Monument
(In memory of Queen Victoria)
Selfies of mum & I with my Olympus OMD

It was so hot that I couldn't take a decent photo of the shiny monument. We walked around the monument once and couldn't wait to leave! We scooted as fast as we could to the nearby Green Park to escape the heat.

Green Park
Neat rows of trees with open fields for chilling in the shade

It was quite an enjoyable walk. The parks here are really lovely.

At the end of the park, continue on to Piccadilly Road and walk along it until you arrive at the famous Fortnum & Mason, the store that is responsible for supplying tea and biscuits to the royal family. It is not very far (screenshot a map of the area to help you find your way) but in the terrible heat, it seemed like a walk that went on forever to my mother. *sigh*

You can even buy tea served at Will & Kate's wedding at Fortnum & Mason

Even Her Majesty, The Queen, gets her groceries delivered from here! Obviously i had to buy some tea and chocolates. I wanted to buy the tea set as well but I don't think that I will be able to transport it back to Singapore without cracking it! Looks like I'll just have to get mine from Robinsons or something.

We walked back towards Green Park along Piccadilly Road to Clarges Street, to have dinner at the popular Burger & Lobster.

Burger & Lobster
(Address: 29 Clarges street, Mayfair London W1J7EF;
Opening hours: Mon to Sat, 12-10.30pm; Sun 12-5.30pm)

However, all the tables in the restaurant were occupied and we would have to wait at least 30 minutes. The bar area was available but we had a baby with us and they did not have a baby chair so we really couldn't eat at the bar. Mum was too tired to wait so I decided to take away their signature lobster set (GBP 20) to eat at our hotel instead.

We took the tube from the nearest tube station, Green Park Station, back to Hammersmith. I couldn't wait to rest our feet and dig into the lobster that my colleagues had gushed about.

Whole lobster with salad and fries

Even though it was already cold, it was still really sweet and juicy! Oh man, too bad we couldn't eat it fresh at the premise =(

Other than the terrible heat and burning sunrays (even my milky white baby got darker! *sob*), all in all it was a great day! =)

Continue to >> London Day 7: Trafalgar Square, Kensington Palace & Covent Garden
<< Back to London Day 5: Westminster, Shangri-La at The Shard & Tower Bridge


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as well as other travel itinerariesMany thanks to my friends, who had contributed many of the recommendations included in our London Itinerary 2014.

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