Windsor and Eton, England

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My main reason for leaving London and paying a visit to Windsor, England was to visit Windsor Castle.  But that destination comes with a bonus: I was able to get out of the busy, crowded city for just a little while, and enjoy a small town in the English countryside.  Two small towns, to be correct, since Windsor and Eton are separated by a quick walk across a small bridge.

I’ll talk about both towns in just a moment, but first, I’ll tell you how to get there.  As an American, taking a train is somewhat of a foreign concept.  But when visiting Europe, it’s a necessity, and a nice way to get around.

Getting to Windsor from London requires two train rides.  I boarded my first train at Paddington Station, headed to the town of Slough, which is about a half-hour (by train) from the city.  I had a TravelCard, which covered all types of travel (bus, tube, and train) through certain zones, and Slough fell within that range.  Otherwise, I would have needed to purchase a ticket.  The ticket or TravelCard allows you to pass through a turnstile, and then you walk directly onto the train and take a seat.

Once I reached Slough…

… I needed to transfer.  You can probably see on this sign, that the next train to Windsor & Eton Central departed on Track 1, at 11:30.  That gave me 14 minutes…

… to walk from one platform to another, then wait.  Windsor is only a few minutes away on this short spur line.  This part of the ride was covered on my London Pass, and the guide book explained that I might need to present the Pass to a conductor.  However, no one questioned me, and I got on and off the train without talking with anyone.

Windsor

The train arrives in this beautiful, modern station, that’s filled with restaurants and shops.  I’d say it’s the center of town…

… if not for that other central landmark, Windsor Castle.  The royal residence is only a block or two away from the entrance to the train station.  For information on the Castle, check out this page.

Windsor has a nice, walkable downtown business district, with plenty stores and gift shops along Thames Street.

There are also some shops and restaurants on the narrow, pedestrian-only streets that are just outside Windsor Castle.  I probably would have been wise to find some other place to have lunch, since these businesses obviously cater to tourists, and are probably more expensive than other restaurants elsewhere in town.  But, after my tour of the castle, I was hungry, so I sat down…

… and ordered the cheapest meal I could — a curry dish — which cost me about £10 (about $16 in US Dollars).  After waiting forever, then eating my meager, expensive portion, I left hungry, and in a hurry to get back on schedule.

Thames Street curves around the wall of the Castle, then heads downhill…

… where it reaches the River Thames, which is much smaller here than in London.  Cross the footbridge, and you’ve arrived in…

Eton

… the town famous for its private school of the same name.  Eton College is down High Street, about a 10-minute walk from the bridge…

… but on the way there, as you pass by a line of old storefronts,

you’re bound to see some of the Eton boys, dressed in formal attire, walking the narrow streets.

I suppose, with all those well-dressed teenagers, this is a good town to be in the shirt business.

Before you get to Eton College, you’ll pass another school, with an odd name.  You can make up your own jokes about what’s being taught at “The Porny School”.  The truth is, the Porny School is a “first” school, which is what the Brits call an Elementary school that covers the American equivalent of kindergarten through 3rd grades.

Eton College

As you approach the school from the south, you’ll see the outer wall of the College Chapel.  Construction began in 1441.  It was originally meant to be much bigger, but Edward IV cut off the funding.  The Chapel makes up the southern side of the complex, which surrounds a central courtyard, known as the School Yard.

Visitors are allowed inside Eton, though you have to pay an admission fee (free with the London Pass), and take a guided tour that lasts about an hour.  However, when I walked through the graveyard, around to the back side of the Chapel, I found the entrance gate open, and the ticket booth unmanned.  So naturally…

… I wandered inside, into the School Yard.  Unfortunately, I only managed to take one picture (this is the Upper School, built in the 1600’s) before someone approached me, and told me I wasn’t supposed to be there.  She invited me to take the next tour, which was about a half-hour away, but I didn’t have time to wait for it.

Eton College, or simply Eton, is a boys-only school, for ages 13-18.  In England, it’s known as a “public” school, though in America we would call it a “private” school, because it’s not part of the government-run educational system.  It was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI, and has an impressive list of Old Etonians (former students), including:

  • Princes William and Harry

  • David Cameron and 18 other British Prime Ministers

  • Actor Hugh Laurie (Dr. House)

  • John Maynard Keynes (economist)

  • George Orwell (Nineteen Eighty-Four, Animal Farm)

If you wish to take a tour, check out Eton’s website for more details on what you will see, and tour times/admission fees.

Once I was expelled from Eton (that almost sounds good enough to put on my resume), I headed back through town, towards the train station.  Along the way, I took an alternate route, which looped around the central core of downtown.  The only things of interest I saw…

… was this smart car, completely covered in fake grass carpeting…

… and the tiny Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church.

Back in Windsor, I hopped aboard a train, transferred at Slough, and took the ride back to Paddington.  The return trip wasn’t nearly as comfortable as the outbound journey — the hot train was packed with people, so there was no foot-propping on the neighboring seat.  Back in London, I decided I had enough time to travel even further west, across the city, to Greenwich.  You may, however, want to visit another attraction that’s west of London (if you’re driving or you can plan an appropriate rail route) —Hampton Court Palace.

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