Long Layover at Heathrow? Here’s an idea….

Africa2015 593Recently I had a 7 hour layover in Heathrow…..ugh…..what to do?   With the dollar still relatively weak against the pound, shopping for hours on end, even duty-free,  was out of the question.  So, I decided to get out of the airport and into the English countryside, for a visit to the town of Windsor and Windsor Castle.  Great move.

I enlisted the help of Luxury Vacations UK, a Virtuoso supplier, and I was met by my own car and driver at LHR and whisked away.  Windsor is a quaint little town about 25 minutes away from LHR that you can easily walk about, and Eton is also not that far away.  My Blue Badge guide John was incredibly knowledgeable about the history of Windsor and of course Windsor Castle.  The Queen was actually in residence while I was there, and her car was parked under a car port, evidently near her personal apartments.  All info courtesy of Mr. John.

Windsor Castle is the official residence of The Queen of England, and the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world!  No, the Queen does not live in Buckingham Palace, that’s her workplace; it  is commonly referred to by the British royal family as “The Office”.  Windsor Castle is home.  It was built in the 11th century after the Norman Conquest and still looks rock solid.

The Castle is quite large and you need at least 2 hours to visit.  You can just walk the grounds, or also go inside and tour the State Apartments, which I did.  These are incredibly lavish and formal rooms that are still used for state functions and dinners.  For me, the most fascinating thing on view is Queen Mary’s dollhouse, built in the 1920’s.  It’s big, occupying half a room, and remarkable in its detail and finishing.  Everything in it is a copy of the real thing, and it has operating elevators and fully functional lighting and plumbing.  It took 1,500 craftsmen over 3 years to build.   Well-known writers such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote special miniature books that were specially bound for the dollhouse library, and famous painters painted miniatures for its walls.  There are even real gem replicas of the Crown Jewels in a strong room.

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The Castle is known for its collection of armor, and they have quite a collection of items such as various weapons and revolvers from the Battle of Waterloo.  They even have the bullet that killed Lord Nelson on display, as well as uniforms of Napoleon Bonaparte.

St. George’s Chapel is also on the premises, which is considered one of the best examples of Gothic architecture in Great Britain.  At least 10 monarchs are buried there, including that lecher Henry VIII.

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And of course, there’s a super gift shop on premises as well.

My guide John and I took some time in the village of Windsor to have a cup of tea and some scones with clotted cream before we headed back to Heathrow and Terminal 5.

If visiting the castle isn’t your thing, I can also recommend a luxurious hotel and spa that is nearby, where you can have a nice lunch,  a massage or a lovely afternoon tea before heading  back to the airport.  Why waste all your time in the airport when you can get some fresh air, exercise and awesome sightseeing in between flights?

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