Jul 25, 2013

Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!

Oi! Oi! Oi!

I'm back in Australia!   The adventures never end.  Stay tuned.

Crikey!

Apr 12, 2013

Sand Tobogganing and Seafood: Bolonia, Spain

I ate it big time, a second later!
With the gloriously blue sky, warm sunshine, and calm breeze beckoning me outside this morning, I finished my cardio session, Skyped with mUm, then woke the sloths family, with the call of, "We are going to the beach!"

Living in Southern Spain, where winter is but a whisper long, it is easy to feel completely spoiled, but it makes it even easier to get out and enjoy the natural beauty of this amazing country.

Today was definitely a beach day, but not your ordinary lying in the sunshine, kind of beach day.  Oh no, we decided that we were going....
SAND TOBOGGANING!

We packed up our make-shift sand toboggans, (cardboard boxes) and drove the easy hours drive from Puerto, to one of our favorite hideaway beach day spots:Playa de Bolonia!    The tiny seaside town of Bolonia--population 117--is home to the beautiful Baelo Claudia Roman ruins, cows on the beach, and the exquisite pure white-sand dune system, regarded as one of the largest in Europe.  


We have visited the ruins before, which are fantastic, offer free entry for EU residents, and are absolutely worth a visit, but today was all about tearing down the soft white, and hot sand on our non-sanctioned, almost guaranteed to fail, toboggans.

The Atlantic shoreline walk from the ruins--dirt parking area--to the base of the dunes will set you back a half-mile, but then, my friends, depending on your chosen run, it's either a steep climb, or a steeper climb!

We chose the two-handed steeper climb--of course--which, my husband can attest that, when you've got a four-year old on your back...IS NOT FUN!


The view overlooking Bolonia, across to Tariffa, and to the tip of Africa, including seeing the wild horses frolicking along the cliff edge, was spectacular.    Our cardboard boxes...were, ah, not so much!

My expectation was to feel the thrill of extreme danger at warp speeds while avoiding trees, partially hidden rocks, and fearing the very possible possibility of falling a*s over t*t, and breaking something, but alas....I did not!

Darn last minute cardboard boxes.  Michael however, loved every moment!

I am currently researching sand toboggans for our next adventure;next time there will be warp speed involved.

Following our hot sand dune adventure, the walk back along the beach involved, collecting an assortment of large shells, and a near miss of Michael standing on a Man of War jellyfish.  

Hungry, we randomly followed a back road to its very end, where we discovered La Cabana Chiringuito.  With its wonderfully laid back atmosphere, delicious, inexpensive and fresh seafood, and exquisite looking strawberry mojitos, I quickly decided that La Cabana beach bar is where I want to spend my last few summer days and nights, before we leave Spain!

Of course, given that I am still in heavy training mode for my first figure building competition--April 27--I was unable to savor the delights of the mojitos, but, come Sunday, April 28...you know where you will find me!

Crikey!

How to Get to Bolonia:
From Puerto/Rota:  Follow A48 towards Tariffa.
Take Bolonia exit: sharp and easy to miss.  Follow this winding road until you reach the beach:small dirt parking area.   Start walking towards the dunes...it's that simple!

La Cabana Chiringuito:  From the beach parking area, turn RIGHT to follow the road that runs along the beach (not up the hill) all the way to the end. There are only two roads in Bolonia...one will get you to La Cabana.


Half way up

They moved about an inch


Michael attempting to surf



Another ordinary day in Bolonia: Waiting for cows to cross the road!







Apr 2, 2013

Organic (Ecologica) Living in Rota, Spain

Produce packed in reusable wooden crates

When we first moved to Spain, maintaining the organic lifestyle, that came so easily to us while living stateside, seemed like an impossible task.  

With little, actually, no knowledge of the Spanish language or fine navigational skills of anywhere other than the Base-Rota-Puerto areas, we stuck with what we knew...the Commissary.  




Strawberries: Greenhouse Grown
While the Commissary does stock a limited selection of organic and USDA Certified organic sundries including canned goods, cereals, frozen items, baby food, and milk, as of this post, USDA or European certified organic meat, eggs, and produce are unavailable.*  

Andalucia, Spain is renowned for it's abundance of fresh produce, and until recently, the term GMO was nothing more than a whisper in the wind.

Unfortunately, however, the giants of the GMO world have recently made their way onto Spanish soil, thus voiding my 100% trust in purchasing produce displaying the 'Product of Spain' sticker.


And, so the search began to find quality, fresh, pesticide and GMO free fruit, eggs and vegetables, grown and sold locally, that wouldn't cost our entire pay check.    I began translating endless Spanish web pages, until, randomly and THANKFULLY, I stumbled upon Vela Blanca (White Candle) farm in Chipiona.    




Vela Blanca is a delightfully small farm--area of land--in Chipiona, that has been in operation since David Florido Ramirez began cultivating produce in 1970.  Certified by the Andalucian Committee for Organic Farming (ASAC), Vela Blanca prides itself on the ecologically friendly systems that are used to grow their seasonal variety of incredibly delicious organic fruits and vegetables.

Beautiful Cauliflower
Vela Blanca also houses a large indoor/outdoor chicken area where the birds are free to roam, eat, drink, lay their eggs, and sleep when and where they choose.  

When I was at the farm last week, I heard the chickens squawking loudly, and wondered why the sudden increase in noise, until I saw a farm hand throwing wheel barrows full of rich green spinach leaves, chard and plant debris from the farm, as they followed, munching;in addition to GMO free corn feed.

These are some happy birds.

The egg yolks are a rich golden yellow and, as per the French test that determines a  good egg, they hold their shape when dropped and swirled about in the pan.  Given that I am eating 15 eggs per day, I am rather familiar with Vela Blanca eggs, and I love them.

I think, going without organic produce for almost a year, my tastebuds had forgotten just how sweet and delicious mother nature really is.  The strawberries are out-of-this-world sweet, the basil and parsley are so aromatic, and the tomatoes...well, never have I tasted a tomato so incredible as those at Vela Blanca.

The vegetable leaves had snails on them, which made me very happy to see, indicating no pesticides, and the weeds were being pulled out by hand, while David, and his eight, or is it nine, rescued golden labs walked us around the farm.   Michael even helped pick our carrots out of the ground...leaves, dirt and all.

All of the produce grown at Vela Blanca is seasonal and, is grown how it should be, without the aid of genetically modified seeds or harmful pesticides that leech inside.  Sometimes the potatoes are small, or there's a bug on my artichoke, or, the carrots are dirty, but I wouldn't want it any other way.

As for pricing, considering that a variety of USDA or EU certified organic produce and eggs are unavailable at the Commissary, and in most supermarkets (Mercado's) in this particular area, I cannot really compare apples with apples...excuse the pun, however, the inexpensive exceptional quality and taste of the produce grown at Vela Blanca far exceeds that of non-organic produce.

Some examples of pricing at Vela Blanca:

Pimiento (Italian Peppers): €2.60 per kilo
Zanahorias (Carrots):            €1.70 per bunch (about 6-8 carrots)
Fresa (Strawberries):            €1.70 per container
Perejil (Parsley):                     € .70  per bunch (huge)
Huevos (Eggs):                        €2.90 carton (medium size eggs)

...and the list goes on.

What I like most is that, my delicious and pesticide-free, healthy purchases are directly supporting a local family owned and operated farm.
Sweetest Strawberries

David Florido is the main contact at Vela Blanca, and although his English is limited, he is exceptionally friendly and helpful.

I suggest using email as your mode of contact if you do not speak Spanish, (Google translate) to place orders, or if you have any questions.

A weekly list of produce available to order, will be emailed to you, with pick-ups and delivery (certain areas) available 24-48 hours thereafter. *Cash only.

Vela Blanca is situated in Chipiona, approximately a 15-minute drive from the Naval Base, and if you email David in advance, he will arrange to meet you in Chipiona, so that you can follow him to the farm.  

Email:  davidfloridot@hotmail.com  

Crikey!

*I have not received, nor will receive any monetary or produce compensation for writing this post.    

*The Commissary is expanding their selection of organic items, and from what I have been advised, is currently searching for a supplier of organic produce.  Organic eggs are available, although they do not carry the USDA or European certified organic symbol.



Lima Beans, Eggs, Strawberries and Huge Bunch of Parsley

The Perfect Egg Yolk

True Vine Ripened Tomatoes 








Dec 26, 2012

Married to the Military!

Military life isn't for everyone, in fact, it's probably one of the toughest jobs physically and emotionally for not only the service member, but for the spouse who, in essence becomes a single parent, and for the children who wave goodbye to their mUm or Dad, at every deployment, often for months, sometimes back-to-back, at a time, there is no other life.

'Married to the Military', although a jovial cliche, is anything but when you're the one standing at the airport or on the dock, sharing those last loving words, hugs, and kisses for what could be a few months, and knowing that when you wake up tomorrow morning, life must continue.  It's a countdown from that first morning, and no matter how many times you wave goodbye, or someone suggests that you will...you NEVER get used to it!

I've heard many people -myself included- say that the military cares ONLY for the mission and the sailors attached to it, and although I have felt extremely frustrated on many, many, many--you get my point--occasions based my own experiences,  I still honestly don't think it's fair to demand from the military that as a military spouse I am the only one who gets to wave the flag on the top of the totem pole.   Hope, dream, want perhaps, but demand, absolutely not!

Before you sharpen your pitchfork and strike a match, allow me to explain...how I see it.

The military is aware that my active duty spouse has a family, they know that I have plans and a life together with my husband and our children, but this family, these plans, and this life that I hoped would begin with a once upon a time and always end with a happily ever after, has often fallen second, perhaps third in the priority line against ensuring the freedom of this country and of his commitment to it.   If the overall mission of the military is to ensure freedom remains for me, my family and for all fellow countrymen, then who am I to demand that I alone am more important than that? 

Does it mean that I cartwheeled across the room cheering U.S.A when he told me that he was deploying a week earlier for six, seven, possibly eight months, or that I wasn't sure if he would be home to see our son born, or that the first Father's Day my husband was actually home to spend with our daughter wasn't until she was four years old...absolutely not, but it wasn't a surprise either!

When I married my active duty husband eight years ago, while technically I said 'I do' to love and cherish him 'til death do us part, I also said 'I do' to his career, his life...the United States Navy.    I said 'I do' to lengthy deployments and last minute extended at sea missions, to moving my entire family across the country and the world, and to saying goodbye every three years to the life that I'd just spent those past three years building.

But, I did so knowingly, without being blindfolded by the reality that we wouldn't always--ever--be a Mon-Fri 8:30am-5:30pm family, or that Tom Cruise and his singing cronies hadn't lost that loving feeling every time I walked into a bar--although it did happen once, in a bar in Australia of all places, but that's a whole other story.

I am married to the military, because I am married to my husband, it's a two-for-one deal.   I haven't allowed this unordinary life to consume that which I can not control, but I have opened my eyes to a life rich with unbelievable experiences and challenges that I would not have expected possible.

That is my only demand!

Crikey!




Nov 8, 2012

London Calling - Day 3: Inside Buckingham Palace & Westminster Abbey

Front of Buckingham Palace facing the Mall
Chop, Chop, mustn't keep the Queen waiting!

Our first stop this morning, a visit inside the stunning Buckingham Palace followed by a leisurely stroll through the incredibly lush palace gardens.

Buckingham Palace has served as the official London residence of Britain's sovereigns since 1837 and today is the home to the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh, and the administrative headquarters of the British Monarch.



Most visitors are familiar only with the facade of the palace that faces the Mall (not the shopping mall) where daily* at 11:30am the colorful spectacle, Changing the Guard, a tradition dating back to 1660 commences.  The Changing the Guard lasts about 45 minutes and is viewed by thousands of international faces peering through the solid steel bars that surround the palace.

Lovely little lake within Buckingham Palace gardens

Contrary to what excited visitors expect, unless you actually happen to be a royal, through the bars, squashed by backpacks and camera lenses in the back of the head, is the best view that you are going to get of this spectacle.


However, during Summer of each year, Buckingham Palace opens it's doors for the commoner to step inside and experience the inner grandeur of the palace, with tickets selling out months in advance.

With our 10:15am timeslot ticket voucher in hand, we caught the tube to Victoria station and walked (10 minutes) to the palace entrance.

On the Mall
After a brief wait to collect our official tickets we were given the 'Don't Touch This, Don't Do That, No Photographs' spiel before passing through a strict 'Don't even think of bringing that in here' security point, and collecting the free audio guide.

We were then guided through a rather unexciting hallway and into the official entrance of the palace where Prince Charles (via audio guide) welcomed us to the palace before sending us on our way up the grand marble staircase and into the deep red Throne Room (where Will and Kate posed for wedding pictures).

It is simply impossible to describe the abundant wealth covering every possible space within this royal masterpiece, with it's individually decorated 775 rooms including the opulent Throne Room, Grand Ballroom, and the State Ballroom where the royal family, government and other political leaders are welcomed by the Queen for State banquets

I remember rushing through the palace on my last visit, yet this time I was able to slow down and appreciate it's beauty more, especially since at every turn I kept thinking, 'Ooh Will and Kate would have walked in here or sat over there on their wedding day'.  

To really appreciate and enjoy Buckingham Palace at a leisurely pace (listening to the free audio guide) including a stroll in the beautifully manicured gardens, I would suggest allowing yourself 2-3 hours, more or less if you have an overtired tantrum-throwing 4-year old.

View of Big Ben from Westminster Abbey
Strollers (prams) are permitted inside the palace and aside from the grand staircase, the rooms are easily accessible.

Keep in mind that there are NO public restrooms once inside the palace, so I strongly suggest using the loo beforehand, however the staff did advise that if our child needed to go, they would accommodate us within the palace 'wink wink'.


Gives a whole new meaning to using the royal throne!

Upon exiting the rear of the palace into the gardens, there is a large public restroom facility, a gift shop and cafeteria.  The path then meanders it's way through the gardens and out onto Grosvener Place.   Turn right for Hyde Park Corner tube station via the Wellington Arch (built 1826-1830) or left for Victoria tube station .  Either station is about a 15 minute walk from the exit of the palace.

Westminster Abbey
Visiting Buckingham Palace
*Prices and hours for 2012 season to be used as a guide only.
30 June - 8 July and 31 July - 7 October 2012
09:45 - 18:30 (last admission 16:00)

Nearest Tube/Rail    Victoria

Adult         £18.00
Over 60     £16.50
Under 17   £10.25
Under 4     Free
Family       £47.00 (2 adults and 3 under 17's)
Changing the Guard subject to change.

WESTMINSTER ABBEY
The simplistic yet breathtaking Westminster Abbey, in the heart of London (next to Big Ben) is designated as a World Heritage Site and Royal Peculiar (the Dean answers directly to the monarch), and in addition to welcoming millions of visitors each year, revolves around the daily pattern of worship; Morning Prayer, Evensong, and the Eucharist.

Westminster Abbey, fondly known as The Abbey, founded in 960 was the original site where Benedictine monks came for daily worship until Henry III in 1245 began building the present church.

The Abbey has witnessed the coronation of Kings and Queens' since 1066, the burials of significant people in history including Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, Henry V, and Tennyson, and the unforgettable wedding of William and Kate.

Despite popular belief, although the funeral of Diana, Princess of Wales was held at the Abbey, at her request she was buried on a small island on her family's estate in Althorp Park.

The Abbey is an abyss of historical treasures including paintings, stained glass, the Cosmati pavement, textiles and other artefacts, including the Coronation Chair made on the orders of King Edward I in 1300-1.   The Coronation Chair which once featured the Stone of Destiny is placed in the sacrarium facing the high altar, and has been used to crown almost every monarch since 1308.






Photographs are prohibited within the Abbey itself, however permission is granted in the Great Cloisters within the Abbey walls, providing for some beautiful photographs.  

Naturally, not one to follow 'all' the rules, we snapped a few (flash-free) images of the unbelievable ceiling work inside the Abbey.







Visiting Westminster Abbey
Nearest Tube Station:   Westminster (Jubilee, District and Circle Lines)
* Next to Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament 

Opening Hours
Mon, Tue,Thu, Fri:     9:30am-4:30pm
Wednesday:                  9:30am-7:30pm
Saturday:                         9:30am-2:30pm
Sunday:                           Worship Only (all are welcome however)

Prices

Adult           £16.00
Over 60       £13.00
Students    £  6.00 (11-18 years)
Under 11    Free (Accompanied by an adult)
Family       £38.00 (2 adults and 2 children - £6 per extra child)

* All prices include audio-guide

Follow the London adventure:  St. Paul's Cathedral and High Tea at the Ritz darling!

Crikey!


Who needs a magnet when you've got a Buckingham Palace chocolate coin?


Within the perimeter walls of Westminster Abbey 
War Memorial in Hyde Park Corner

Within Buckingham Palace Gardens

The Wellington Arch































Sep 29, 2012

London Calling - Day 2: Tower of London, West End, and Some Groovy Short Shorts!

Yeoman Warder 'Beefeater'
With the heavy London rain falling outside, and absolutely no desire to bare the dreary weather, we snuggled in our apartment, lingering for a little while longer before venturing outside on day two of our London adventure.

After a quick smoothie stop at Moosh Cafe followed by a bustling tube ride to Tower Hill, we exited the station to hear thousands of voices yelling and cheering.  The women's marathon frontrunners were due to pass at any moment.  We crammed against the barricades lined with endless Team GB flags waving furiously, and watched in awe as these incredible seemingly superhuman athletes sped past at near warp speed.

With the weather turning ugly fast, we urged our way through the masses and immersed ourselves into the rich 1000 year history of the Tower of London.  The Tower of London was established in 1066 by William the Conqueror to keep hostile Londoners at bay.   Still guarded today by Yeoman Warders or 'Beefeaters', the Tower of London is now a peaceful place, yet during it's dominant reign has witnessed torture and murder, beheadings and hangings. 



Tower of London Viewed from the Thames River
In 1536, Queen Anne Boleyn was beheaded on Tower Green by a swordsman brought especially from France, and then, in 1554, Lady Jane Grey, the 'nine days queen' was also executed on Tower Green at the request of Queen Mary.

In 1605, Guy Fawkes was tortured at the Tower following the failed Gunpowder Plot to assassinate the King, James I.  Although he fell, breaking his neck before being hung, as was the custom penalty for high treason, he was still drawn and quartered with his body parts distributed to 'the four corners of the kingdom' to be displayed as a warning to other would-be traitors.    




Beyond the grim history of torture and beheadings, the Tower of London is home to the exquisite Crown Jewels, a royal collection of precious ceremonial objects associated with the coronations of English Kings and Queens, including the the Sovereign's Orb and Sceptre (1661), and the 12th century gold Anointing Spoon (Ampulla), used to anoint the Sovereign with holy oil.  

Coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. St Edward's Crown, Sceptre, and Orb
However, one of the most beautiful pieces in the collection is St Edward's Crown, last used to crown Queen Elizabeth II on 2 June 1953.  She was only 25.  The prestigious crown weighing 2.23kg (almost 5lb) is made of gold and decorated with sapphires, tourmalines, amethysts, topazes, and stunning burnt orange citrines.

If superstitions and legends intrigue you, the presence of the captive, wing-clipped, jet-black ravens that have roamed the Tower grounds since the time of King Charles II (1660-1685), certainly with tickle your interest.



Legend has it that the ravens protect the Crown and the Tower, and that 'If the Tower of London ravens are lost or fly away, the Crown will fall and Britain with it."  

So precious is this legend that the ravens have their wings clipped, and, under the care of the Yeoman Warders are fed a special diet of fresh meat -8 oz per day-, fruit and cheese, including cod liver oil capsules to maintain their healthy appearance.

Visiting the Tower of London

Nearest Underground (Tube) Station     Tower Hill (District or Circle lines)
Nearest Pier                                                       Tower Pier (from Charing Cross, Westminster, Greenwich)

Opening Times
Tuesday - Saturday  0900-1730
Sunday - Monday     1000-1730
Last admission           1700

Ticket Prices
Adult                             £20.90
Over 60                         £17.60
Under 16                       £10.45
Under 5                         Free
* Strongly suggest purchasing tickets online in advance, especially during the Summer months.  
* The London Pass includes the Tower of London as an attraction, however before purchasing the London Pass, do a cost comparison of each attraction you plan to visit versus the cost of the London Pass.  We purchased the London Pass as it was better value for our crammed itinerary.  The London Pass grants 'front of line' access.
NOTE:  We purchase all tickets (where possible) for European attractions through www.365tickets.com as the prices are cheaper, the customer service efficient and tickets are e-ticket (in most cases) versus on-site collection.


The Wizard of OZ

Wizard of OZ at London Palladium
Musical theatre is a passion, one that has found me either crying, laughing or both in countless orchestra performances of musicals around the world from The Secret Garden in Australia to Rent on Broadway, from Jersey Boys in LA, to The Wizard of Oz in London, yet unfortunately, living in Spain, this passion is one that I am unable to indulge enough in - the whole not understanding Spanish thing.




Fortunately, Andrew Lloyd Webber's production of The Wizard of Oz was in it's last few weeks of performances at the Palladium, and with a coinciding 'Kids Week' Sunday matinee performance, we were able to score fabulous orchestra tickets for half price.  Michael's first musical.

He loved every quirky classic and reinvented song, the tongue-in-cheek moments, the whirling tornado, and of course, the perfectly on-cue Toto!   Young children will love this show, however, I found it to be somewhat lackluster in it's musical numbers and character interpretation considering it's an ALW production, but that's just me...take the kids, they'll LOVE IT!

Shopping Spree - UK Style!

When I lived in London back in 1998-2001, the one permanent destination on my weekend shopping sprees was TopShop in the heart of Oxford Circus, so you better believe that after fifteen years, I would be making a step back in time and spending some time and money in my favourite store.

From the moment I walked through the doors, I saw that nothing had changed - it was just as fabulous as I remembered it to be.  Way too many clothes to choose from, way too many floors to navigate, and way too long of a line to try on all my newfound pieces....ahhhh I was home!

'Chad, just take Michael and go sit in the cafe.'  Order a beer, a few, buy him chocolates, look they have food, I don't care, I can't think, too many clothes,  I'll be back whenever I'm done.'  

Of course, TopShop does make a smaller appearance in Gibraltar, some 1.5 hours drive away from Rota, Spain, however the prices and the excitement just doesn't compare with that of the London flagship store.

After a long day of conquering London, the only destination in mind was an old English pub for a beer and traditional Sunday roast.   Finding an old pub in London doesn't take more than a few steps in any direction.

The George served up a hunkin' leg of  lamb and potatoes, pulled some luke warm pints of English beer, and took us out of the crisp afternoon air for but a short while, before bounding off to Piccadilly Circus to watch 'The Bolt' take another gold medal.

Going on 11:00pm and utterly EXHAUSTED, we jumped a black cab back to the apartment.

Follow the adventure - Day 3: Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, St. Pauls Cathedral, and High Tea at the Ritz!

Crikey!









http://www.royal.gov.uk/The%20Royal%20Collection%20and%20other%20collections/TheCrownJewels/Overview.aspx
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/gunpowder_robinson_01.shtml
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanged,_drawn_and_quartered
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lady_Jane_Grey
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ravens_of_the_Tower_of_London

Sep 27, 2012

London Calling - Day 1: Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and a Bloody Good Curry!

Windsor Castle
Last night's -actually 1am-5am- Lampoon-style efforts to locate our central London apartment from Stansted airport, without a working GPS or reachable onsite contact -out of town- left us utterly exhausted and sleeping way past the scheduled alarm time.

However, with frustrations, dark circles and eye boogers aside, we grabbed some bottles of OJ, a few chocolate coissants, and began our -40 minute- drive out of London town and into the beautiful English countryside, passing via the famous Royal Ascot Racecourse and into the quaint, yet touristy village of Windsor, home to the dramatic Windsor Castle

The Horse & Groom Pub, Windsor



I had visited Windsor Castle with my family some fifteen years ago -in calf length white pants, white socks, green loafers and teased fluffy hair- in the Winter time and was as awe-struck by it's dominance then as I was on this visit.  And, just as I did fifteen years ago, I found 'The Horse & Groom' pub, even sat at the same table, and devoured the traditional English steak and kidney pie with mash and gravy

Windsor Castle is a medieval castle and royal residence -the Queen's preferred weekend home- built after the Norman invasion by William the Conqueror in 1066.  Windsor Castle was built as part of the defensive ring of motte and bailey castles around London -each a day's march, approx 20 miles apart from the next city and castle- allowing for easy reinforcements in a crisis.   

A brief history lesson here about Windsor Castle is simply impossible, given that the castle has survived the First Barons' War, the English Civil War, the First and Second World Wars, the 1992 fire, and has been the royal residence and home to many of England's kings and queens including King John -Magna Carta-, a King Henry I-VIII -King Henry VI became king at the age of nine months-, Queen Victoria, Mary, and the current Queen Elizabeth.  

Windsor Castle has undergone many improvements and refurbishments in the structure and interior design at the hand of it's rulers since it's construction in 1066, however the one constant is that Windsor Castle is a dominant structure of grandeur that still stands watch over the surrounding countryside.

More than 500 people live and work in the castle, making Windsor Castle the largest inhabited castle in the world therefore ensure that you plan accordingly, keeping in mind that this is a working castle and residence therefore closures for state dinners may occur at short notice.   

Visiting Windsor Castle
Horse & Groom: Same table 15 years later!
The castle is easily accessible from London whether you catch the train, a coach, drive yourself or take a guided coach tour.   

The village of Windsor itself is charming albeit touristy bustling with an array of street entertainment, creaky old pubs -The Horse & Groom- serving traditional English pub meals, modern shopping -The Gap, HMW- and even some fancier eating establishments.

Visiting the castle with the family is wonderful as the external grounds -not the inner castle apartments- with dragons and cannons and moats and marching guards are perfect for little legs to run around in wide-eyed delight.  

Inside the State Apartments however, the mood is more subdued with photography, food, water and strollers -prams- prohibited.  Strollers can be checked in/out at the exit: ask on arrival.

Lavishly Decorated State Apartments Inside Windsor Castle
By road: M4 to Exit 6. M3 to Exit 3.  Driving and parking information visit: www.windsor.gov.uk

The parking ramps and spaces are narrow.  The machines accept British Pounds -coins- and are timed pay in advance.  The walk from the parking stations to the castle takes 10-15 minutes.

By train: To Windsor from London Waterloo or London Paddington (approx 1hr, 15 min)

See National Rail UK for tickets:  Average £9.00 o/w
Approx 10-minute walk from the train station to the castle.

By coach: Green Line operates daily services from Victoria Coach Station, London.

Windsor Castle is open Mon-Sat: 9:45am-5:15pm *excluding special dates, events, and ceremonies.
Adult         £17.00
Over 60     £15.50
Under 17   £6.20   
Under 5     Free 

STONEHENGE

Stonehenge Prior to Perimeter Fence
In the quiet little town of Amesbury some two hours from central London, Stonehenge, one of Britain's most important prehistoric monuments sits surrounded by lush green fields, tantalizing visitors with it's mystifying theories about incredible construction and symbolism.   

Was Stonehenge a temple for sun worship, a healing centre, a burial site or a huge calender, and how did those huge dramatic stones arrive from the mountains of their origin so far way, to this location when at the possible time of it's construction around 3100 BC, only the most primitive of tools were available?




Summer Solstice at Stonehenge
Each year on June 20-21, thousands of visitors from around the world gather at Stonehenge to mark the Summer Solstice and to see the sun rise above the stones.  At dawn the central Altar stone aligns with the Slaughter stone, Heel stone, and the rising sun to the northeast.   

Admission to Summer Solstice is free with visitors permitted direct access inside the stones circle from 7:00pm through to sunrise.  

Visiting Stonehenge

By road:  Junction A303 and A344/A360, Amesbury, Wiltshire-SP4 7DE

By train:  To Salisbury from London Waterloo (approx  2hrs)
- See National Rail UK for tickets:  Average £34.70 o/w
* Catch a taxi to Stonehenge or,
* Join the Stonehenge Tour Bus which runs 1/2 hourly during the Summer months and on a reduced timetable during the Winter months.  This is an actual hop-on, hop-off tour with stops at Salisbury train station, Old Sarum, Stonehenge, and the Salisbury Cathedral with prices dependent on your selected tour route.

Traditional English Pub Food: Steak & Kidney Pie
The Stonehenge Tour  *entry to Stonehenge included
Adult       £20.00 
Child       £12.00 (5-15)
Family     £60.00 (2 adults, 3 children)

Stonehenge is open 9:30am-6:00pm (March-October) and 9:30am-4:00pm (November-February)
* Summer solstice (20-21 June) hours vary.
Adult        £7.80
Over 60    £4.70
Child        £4.70 (5-15)
Family      £20.30 (2 adults, 3 children)


Tour Companies:  Many companies including Evans Evans, of which I have joined in the past, offer long extensive day tours -12 hours- that incorporate both Windsor Castle and Stonehenge, and range anywhere from £39-£79 per person.  

Having visited Stonehenge three times, I would suggest that unless you are 100% determined on seeing the inner stones of Stonehenge, or you are visiting for Summer Solstice, perhaps just catch the train to Windsor, spend a few hours visiting the castle and village, then spend the remainder of your afternoon sightseeing around London. 

My reasoning is this.  Unlike the eerily beautiful images seen of Stonehenge jutting high amidst an early morning mist or sunrise in ceremonial formation against a rich skyline backdrop, the stones themselves, while undoubtably mystifying, add not only an incredibly long extended drive from London to Windsor Castle to Stonehenge, and then back to London, they are not accessible unless you arrange the English Heritage-Stone Circle Access -before opening hours- or visit Summer Solstice


A Bloody Good Curry!

After a long, tiring, and cold day visiting the castle in a skirt and tank top -I foolishly packed for Summer without reading the weather report- we drove back to London, returned the rental car and useless 'signal can not be found' GPS, and found ourselves at Marsala Zone, an Indian restaurant in the heart of Fulham.

Being early on a Saturday evening, the restaurant was quiet which meant the service was efficient, the drinks arrived as quickly as they were consumed, and the exotic sounds of Hindu music added to the already cool atmosphere.


The rich menu presented us with an array of unbelievable curries, Thalis, - large stainless steel platters with an array of small bowls of different dishes- unique desserts, and my new favourite drink: Marsala Ginger Mojito!  

I promised Chad that we would eat curry in London, and although Marsala Zone was a little pricier than other Indian restaurants in the area, the food was sensational, the atmosphere exquisite, and, oh did I mention the Ginger Mojito?  


A few ginger mojito's and full bellies later we jumped a black cab -ooh how London- back to our apartment, and exhausted, fell asleep to the sounds of London rain pitter patting on the street below.

Follow the Adventure - Day 2: Tower of London, The Wizard of Oz, Piccadilly Circus, and Some Groovy Short Shorts!

Crikey!









Mackworth-Young, Robin. (1992) The History and Treasures of Windsor Castle. Andover, UK: Pitkin. ISBN 

The Stonehenge Stone Circle News Blog

Stonehenge image courtesy of www.freephotooftheday.com