Well here I am in the village of Eton! The exclusive school of the same name has its own gift shop – of course. Here is a teddy in the boys’ uniform. Yes, they wear tails, pinstripe trousers and a waistcoat to school every day.
As I mentioned to you yesterday my London accommodation fell through just a few days before I set off. I was planning to rent an apartment in Fitzrovia/Bloomsbury but last weekend Jean, the lady who owned it, called me very apologetically and said the apartment wasn’t available as her builders had fallen behind schedule. She was horribly embarrassed and took it upon herself to find me alternative accommodation. Unfortunately we are talking about London in summer – they have just had Ascot and now it’s Wimbledon. Try finding three nights in a decent London hotel with two days’ notice! Jean and I kept emailing each other to see if ether of us had found anything but neither had any luck. She managed to find one night at the Morgan, where I stayed yesterday, but nothing for the other nights. I had found a room at the Radisson (and I’m sure if I looked there may have been something at the Athenaeum, The Ritz or Claridges…) but I think that worried Jean a bit as she had promised to pay the difference in the costs of my new accommodation. Whilst I was scared of ending up in a hotel with bedbugs, Jean was scared I’d end up at The Dorchester.
It was the night before I left Liverpool and I still had no accommodation and I didn’t want to set off without definite plans (you may have noticed I’m a rather organised person). In the end I came up with a compromise. I had been planning to go to Windsor to see Windsor Castle so I suggested that instead of making it a day trip I actually stay in Windsor for the remainder of my stay. That way I could take in a few more sights in that area as well and also not have to move hotels perhaps twice more. Even then it was difficult finding accommodation in Windsor, which is about a half hour to an hour’s train ride (depending on which train line) from central London.
I then decided to try Eton instead of Windsor – as Eton is immediately across the river from there. Luckily I discovered The Christoper which is where I am spending two nights. It’s very pleasant and their Full English breakfast is good.
Jean has paid for half of all my hotel costs and has offered me a few nights free in London next time, so I’m happy with that.
Anyway, let’s go back to the start of day two.
I began my morning back in London, where I visited the V&A (the Victoria and Albert Museum). The exhibition I saw was called The Cult of Beauty and explored the Aesthetic movement of the mid-to-late nineteenth century. There were wonderful paintings by Edward Burne-Jones, Whistler, Frederic Leighton, Rosetti, Millais and others. The exhibition focused more widely though and included design, sculpture, furniture, ceramics, clothing and jewellery. The aesthetic movement was all about art for beauty’s sake and was very much influenced by medieval chivalric tradition. Picture lots of ladies with long red hair in flowing gowns, and Oscar Wilde.
My tip for travelling in London is to purchase all of your tickets in advance and print them out at home or have them delivered. I was in the exhibition at opening time, no queues and not overly crowded. By the time I left around midday there was an enormous crowd at the ticket counter. I figure your time on holiday is not worth the waiting – factor in your travel and accommodation costs and see how much half an hour waiting is really costing you at each attraction. There have even been cases where I wanted to visit exhibitions and they have already been sold out for the entire day.
In the early afternoon I went to the Tate Modern to see the Miro exhibition. Miro was a prolific twentieth century Spanish artist who began in the realist tradition, moved to surrealism and then onto abstract art. It explores how the Spanish Civil War and Franco’s rule affected Miro’s art but also follows the artist into the sixties and seventies as he reached the end of his life.
By the time I had finished at Miro it was raining – a warm humid rain – apparently the people at Wimbledon were very grateful for the new roof over the court. I made my way back to the hotel to collect my suitcase and then I took the tube to Waterloo station, where I caught a train to Windsor.
I’m standing on the bridge that leads to Eton over the river Thames. I’m facing Windsor with the castle in the background. The Union Flag instead of the Royal Standard is flying off the Round Tower, which means the Queen is not in residence at the moment. It was Prince Philip’s ninetieth birthday last week so maybe they’ve gone caravanning in Devon.
Eton is full of antique shops, antiquarian bookstores and interior design studios.
Also designer bakers who make cakes in the shape of handbags.
Here are some Eton students heading to their Latin classes.
This is the chapel at Eton College. The school has tours but was closed to the public when I visited.
Back down at the river the boys were practising their rowing. You should have heard how loudly their coach was yelling at them.
My PE classes were never like that. Well, the teacher yelled at me but I wasn’t rowing on the Thames – I was in the “Multi-Purpose Room” trying to do the climbing frame.
The castle dates back to the Norman conquest so it’s almost a thousand years old.