Travelling in the 90s: last days in London

And now for more Travelling in the 90s — tripping back in time to 1994 and my last few days in the UK…

[Saturday 29 January, 1994] Yesterday we headed back to London via Oxford. We wandered around for a while — saw the canal, saw the castle, saw some shops — before picking up a walking tour at 2pm. Our guide was French, and we were taken through Corpus Christi College, Merton, Aureole, Jesus — all of them consisting of courtyards surrounded by student accommodation.

I am so envious of Oxford Students! To live in such gorgeous buildings as these. But they have to wear academic gowns to dinner every night, and all through exams. Pain in the neck!

Oxford is a university city all through, with thirty-six colleges and around 100,000 bicycles. We also saw the Bodleian Library which has over six million books.

When we got back to London, we had to give the car back. 😦

windsor castle
Windsor Castle

[Sunday 30 January, 1994] Today we were up really early to see Windsor Castle — that other Royal Residence. It took over two hours to get there by train, and cost 6.50 pounds. We certainly rued the loss of our car. Nevertheless we were in by 11:00, and rampant.

Well, Windsor Castle is certainly very large; however, we didn’t go into that much of it really. The main attraction is the Royal apartments — these consist of ornate ceilings, paintings by master artists (Rubens, Van Dyke…), and swords, guns and armour!!! This Windsor family has far too many of these than is fair — they line every wall in intricate arrangements and patterns. If only I could have one — just one!!

Queen Mary’s Doll’s House was a replica of just about everything, including armour, electricity, plumbing etc, and we also saw the Queen’s presents and carriages (we pretended to be under 17 so it was cheaper — how depressing that they believed us).

Amazingly, there was no food (but 5 souvenir shops) to be found within the castle, so we had to leave out the St Georges Chapel which did not open until 2:00pm on Sundays. After lunch, we had “cream tea” in the Windsor Chocolate House, which was delish. The train back home was just as tedious.

horse guards
Horse Guards

[Tuesday 1 February, 1994] Only one more day in England to go! Yesterday, we traipsed all around London again — but we STILL haven’t seen the changing of the guards. We are doomed to miss it I fear — oh well, something for next time. It was a bitty day. We checked out planetarium times, bought tickets for Les Miserables, took photos of Trafalgar Square (we hadn’t until then), and went to St Catherine’s House, where H was to search for some death certificates in order to assist her mother’s family tree compilation. While she was thus occupied, I amused myself by looking up the birth records of Dad and Grandad.

rosetta stone
Rosetta Stone

After lunch we went finally to the British Museum. We burned around a bit, searching for famous artifacts: Rosetta Stone, Egyptian Mummies etc, but… DISTRESS! The caryatid stolen from the Acropolis was in a box somewhere while its display was renovated. After all this we were exhausted. However, we had to hang around because we went to see Les Mis, which was brilliant!

Today we went to Bodiam Castle, and then down to Battle — scene of the Battle of Hastings 1066. Bodiam is beautiful — straight out of a fairy tale with four towers and a moat (although it’s a ruin). In fact, it’s on the front covers of both my castle books. Unfortunately the weather was lousy — excessive wind and then rain. (Great atmosphere though — the dark, brooding shell of an abandoned castle.)

bodiam castle
Bodiam Castle

We lunched in a pub before going on to Battle. It was quite fantastic to visit such a famous site. The battle-ground is now lush and green with trees. At the site stands the ruins of the abbey which William built to atone for all the bloodshed — he placed the altar on the site of Harold’s death. History is so powerful, and although it’s so often bloody, I was moved just to be there.

[Thursday 3 February, 1994] This morning, we were up early (7:00) because we were leaving at 7:50 to catch the 8:08 train to Victoria, to catch the 9:25 boat train to France.

But there was drama. First we were told that the weather was forcing us to catch the ferry from Dover to Calais, instead of the Hoverspeed Sea Cat from Folkestone to Bouloigne — so we were shunted off to Dover on the train. At Dover it transpired that we were catching the Sea Cat, and there would only be a 15 minute delay — oh goody. Once on the Sea Cat we were informed that all the furor was due to rampaging Normanby fishermen which had closed the Bouloigne sea port. In Calais we had to wait an hour to be bused to the Calais ferry-train-station, where we had to wait another half an hour for the train to depart.

The result of all this stuffing about is that we will be in Paris more than two hours later than the 4:15 we were expecting. We’re on the train on the moment, so we’ll just have to see…

Well, the Eurostar train certainly makes it MUCH easier to get to Paris these days… And Paris is where you’ll find us in the next installment of travelling in the 90s! This is approximately the 2/3 mark of our 12 week holiday.

PS – To this day, despite revisiting London several times, I have STILL never seen the changing of the guards… And I really need to go back to the British Museum.

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