Euro Top 10: #2 – Windsor Castle

No-2-paris

#2 – Windsor Castle

(Still better late than never, right?)

#2 on my list of best adventures in Europe is Windsor Castle.  My parents and I took a day trip here, out and back from Waterloo station.  We got an audio tour and what turned out to be a private guided tour (because no one else showed up!).  Our guide told us all about the history of the place and the people who still live there today.  She also told us that the queen was expected to arrive that afternoon – we would know if she was there because her flag would replace the Union Jack.

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The castle itself was fascinating.  The round tower, seen here, was built in the 1100s, and sits on a hill with a dry moat around it.  It was never meant to be filled (and today, contains gardens).  For the first 100 years, the tower atop it was wooden, in order to give the man-made pile time to settle before loading it with rocks.  Apparently this is how most castles are started!

Windsor is still in use today, so it has a strange mix of history within its walls.  One room is filled with commissioned paintings depicting the battle of Waterloo – next door is a hall filled with armor from all eras and origins.  Then other parts of the state apartments had their actual walls and ceilings completely destroyed by a fire – but the furniture, which was put aside during renovation, was saved and now the rooms represent another era entirely.

My favorite part was Saint George’s Hall, which contains depictions of all the coats of arms belonging to the members of the Order of the Garter, and bearing their motto over and over – Honi soit qui mal y pense. That’s Middle French for “Shame on him who thinks evil of it.”  (Read more about the Order of the Garter here.) Prince William’s is up there, along with those of Sir Edmund Hilary, Margaret Thatcher, Winston Churchill, and others.  And then between the red, blue, and gold, there are also blank shields for those who lost their honor and have been erased from the ranks – mostly from treason, back when that was a thing that kings and queens literally lost their heads over.

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Mom and dad very effectively guarding the Norman Gate

 

We ended the day with tea at the Crooked House – more about that delicious meal here!

And by the time we left – lo and behold! – the flag had changed to the royal standard.  Somehow, the queen slipped past us (probably while we were eating our second scones…).  Maybe next time we’ll actually get to see her…

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Royal Standard flying over Windsor Castle

 

Top tips of you go to Windsor Castle:

  • Get the audio tour and also go on the guided tour – totally different material and worth every penny
  • You can’t take pictures in the castle, so get ready to just enjoy yourself
  • But you CAN take great pictures outside, including with guards.  At other British landmarks, it can be difficult to get close enough to take a good photo, but here, we were able to pose at will without having to share the spotlight!
  • Phones also don’t really work in the castle (dead zone, I suppose) so don’t lose your group or else one of you will end up at the exit wondering where in the world the rest of you go to!
  • Always end your trip with tea.  Always.
Dad didn't get the memo about making a serious face.

Dad didn’t get the memo about making a serious face.

 

The #2 is brought to you by a racetrack next to the Seine in Paris!

All photos are my own unless otherwise stated.

Click here to read the other posts in this series.

 

Written in the snow

Written while waiting for the T on Wednesday morning

Hello from the snowy Northeast!

Boston is waking from its blizzard-induced slumber. The T is trying its hardest to resume normal service, without much luck to report. And the streets are still mostly snow, a few cars, and many pedestrians putting their LL Bean boots to the test.

Yesterday, my neighborhood of Davis Square was a ghost town – silent and white. Katie and I ventured into the square where only CVS and the liquor store were open (priorities, people!). From down the street, other adventurers approached with only the whisper of their boots. If you were looking for a good time to cheaply film a movie about a zombie apocalypse, I hope you got a few good shots yesterday.

And with that swift kick of New England weather, it’s back to work – if this train ever arrives.

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Euro Top 10: #1 – Tea time

I can’t believe that I’ve been back from Europe for more than two months.  It feels like yesterday that I even had the idea to shake off the states for a while and have some adventures abroad. What resulted was a great 35 days – a time to reflect, expand my horizons, see/eat/buy new things, and remember all the fun that the world has to offer.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing my favorite things and moments from my trip and saying a little more about what made this journey memorable.  I hope you’ll join me, and tell me about your own travel adventures along the way!

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#1 – Tea time

 I know, we broke away from old King George partly because of the tea tax, and the famous rebellion involved dumping crates of tea into my own city’s harbor.  Still, I can’t help but think that tea time is one of the very impressive things that the Brits are doing right, revolution or not.

I certainly enjoyed it, on this trip as when I studied abroad.  The thing is, tea isn’t just a meal – it’s a state of mind.  It’s a moment of rest during the day, a chance to nourish your mind, soul, and especially your body.  Unlike coffee, tea isn’t made to be gulped down or taken on the road – it comes with its own timeline, literally written on the teabag.  How hot the water should be, how long to leave the bag in, even what to enjoy your drink with.

But the glory of tea goes well beyond the drink and the pause – the food is AMAZING.  This is the tea I had with my parents at the Crooked House of Windsor. Clotted cream, scones, sandwiches with the crust cut off, and a pot that begs you to drink more than one cup of the piping hot delicacy.

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That is just my serving.  Yes – we each got that.  And we licked the plates clean.  Sure, it cost us an arm and a leg, even before converting into dollars, but it was worth it. I still think about it when I’m making coffee in my office Keurig.  I also think about my roommate when I studied at UCL – he was from Hong Kong when it was under British rule and he grew up with the concept of tea.  But whenever he said he was having tea, he really just meant a little sandwich, usually enjoyed in our sunny kitchen.  I always pulled out my crumpets and joined him (chicken salad = not tea in my book).

Since I’ve been home, I’ve tried to capture the essence of tea again – picking my cup with care, getting good honey, really relaxing for a minute.  But unless someone serves it to me with the crust cut off my sandwiches and a no-holds-barred pot of clotted cream, it just won’t be the same.  Guess that will be my excuse to return to England next time!

The #1 is brought to you by a train platform in France!

Boston 2024!?

Yes, you read that right – an exclamation point and a question mark.

My fair city has been put forth as the US candidate to host the 2024 summer Olympics.  If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I adore the Olympics.  I love the cheesy ceremonies, the serious politics that get brought up when we all get together to hit a few balls around (see: the Russian government’s stance on homosexuality), the live-tweeting and medal hysteria, the theme songs and backstories to make us care even more when they miss that shot/jump/step.

But here?  I’m… skeptical.

The mega fan in me says that this is the chance of a lifetime.  I don’t really care about claims that “without the Olympics, Boston can never be world class” – if we cared, you’d know by know, world.  But to have the games here, where my friends and I can go volunteer, cheer, show off our history and cannolis, winding streets and brick buildings – I love that part of bringing the games to Boston.

Yet the critic in me says that the games are never done right – people on the margins of the host city always suffer, along with the the city’s budget.  Plus, our transportation system is as antique as our state’s stance on alcohol (no discounts ever, not even allowed to use Groupons to get cheaper booze, etc.).  If it’s going to take them 52 weekends over 3 years to fix the Longfellow Bridge just so two trains can move on it at once, how can we possibly get ready to host a global event in a mere 9 years? (Note: that statement makes me feel old. I used to think tomorrow was far away!)

The good news is that no one asked me… yet.  The city claims that they’re going to hold public conferences to let people be involved in the planning process.  And to be fair, the process seems good so far – lots of plans to reuse college campuses for housing and events and such.  Plus, this might be the GIANT kick in the rear that we need to bring our transportation system into the late 19th century (let’s not get too excited here – the 20th is still ages away).

At the end of the day, I trust my city to try to do this right, as much as any city can – now, let’s see if we get the chance!

What do you think about Boston being picked to host the Olympics?  Do you think it would be a good or bad move for the city, state, and residents?

Happy *cough cough* new year!

I started the year with the banging of dozens of party poppers at my friend Anju’s house in upstate New York… followed later that weekend with a cold that’s still rattling around in my chest.  It kept me out of work for two days and delayed this New Year’s post by a week.

But now, I’m back!

And it really was a great way to start the year, surrounded by my college friends and their loved ones, eating delicious food, playing endless board games, and staying up until 2 AM talking about life, the universe, and online dating.

In the next twelve months we shall hereby call “2015,” I plan to check some fun things off my bucket list, ring in 30 with style, make some new friends and get back in touch with the old, change some lives, and hopefully pitch in on the campaign for a certain women’s college graduate who is most likely going to be running for president in 3…2…1…

Yup, this year is going to be big – so stay tuned! Coming later this month: my top 10 moments from my trip to Europe this fall!

Holiday shopping for boys and girls

Part 2 of 2 in this year’s helpful tips to help survive the holiday season.

While you’re finishing up your shopping, here’s how to make sure you’re not getting the “wrong” gifts for all the kids in your life.

Because really – anyone should be able to appreciate an awesome doll, or firetruck, or set of blocks.  Even this 29-year-old loves some ungendered Legos (hint hint).