As usual, trips are stressful and tiring but fun. Last night we finalized all the details and were off this morning about 8:15. We took a different ferry this time we meant we had to go to EAST Cowes. We live in West Cowes. The towns lie on either side of the Medina River. The shortest and quickest way to travel from one town to the other is across the chain ferry bridge. It is one of only five left in the UK. It is hilarious that you wait in line and pay 1 pound 50 pence to cross a mere three hundred yards or so to the other side. The ferry crosses on a bridge of chain links under the water. Off to the larger car ferry to cross the Solent to the mainland of England. So far, so good.
This is our first time traveling the mainland. We headed north to Warwick. Uncle Josh read about the castle there and suggested we make a visit. On the way, we take a small detour to Stone Henge. You know, that big pile of rocks standing upright. Well, that's the way the kids described it. It is amazing and you certainly can't be within a few miles and not stop to see it. We couldn't manage to convince the kids that it was an awesome feat for the people to move the stones here and arrange them this way. After some quick photos, we continue the drive to Warwick.
We arrived at the castle in the afternoon. It was cold today but sunny for once. We arrived in plenty of time to explore all the castle has to offer. Sir Walter Scott described Warwick castle as "the fairest monument of ancient and chivalrous splendor which yet remains uninjured by time." Much of the external structure remains unchanged from the mid-14th century. We climbed all the towers you see in the photo for a magnificent view of the castle grounds, town and the River Avon. It was quite a steep, twisty walk but made all 536 steps. Another tower is called the Princess Tower. Here is where old England meets Disney-style fun. Our tour was guided by a princess who explained they were preparing for a royal wedding. We saw the wedding gown and helped pick the accessories. We played a bit of a princess trivia game which Mary Elizabeth passed with flying colors. There was a dress-up room with both princess and knight items, a royal throne for picture posing and even a frog to kiss. At the end, you could write your wishes in a guest book. I wish I had gotten a peek at Mary Elizabeth's wish.
A large portion of the castle buildings were converted into a luxurious mansion. We toured many of those rooms which had wax figures on display and explained a bit about life in the castle in the late 1800's. There were also some displays about medieval life in the castle and a scary dungeon tour which looked quite gruesome and not what our kids would enjoy. We ended at the Pageant Playground with just enough daylight to run off some energy.
Next, we headed to Stratford-Upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. We had made reservations at the Salamander Guest House which was recommended by the Frommer's guide. We made it there with only a few wrong turns and our humor still in tact. Our host at the guest house is Pascal, a Frenchman who moved to England to study the language more than 30 years ago. He said love kept him here and now he is serving a life sentence. He is a very eager host, willing to chat (and chat and chat and chat!) about the local sights and restaurants. We realized our place was in a great location as we headed out in the frigid cold for a walk to find dinner. We ended up in an English chain, pub-type place. Think Fox and Hound in America. It was warm, affordable, noisy enough for our crew and the service was prompt. What more could you ask for?
Now we are tired but happy from our successful day. We are looking forward to a full English breakfast served by our kind host tomorrow morning then we will hit the highlights of the town, including Shakespeare's birthplace and grave as well as the house of John Harvard, founder of Harvard University. After lunch, we will drive to London and are lucky to have one last stay at our free flat. We are excited to show Uncle Josh our new favorite city.
How would Shakespeare end a post?
Maybe, "I bid thee farewell."