Windsor is one of my old stomping grounds. On weekends I would jump on the train and head here with a group of friends and mooch around the town, filling our time in the way only teenagers can.
I’ve been back here many times since and I still haven’t lost the tingle of childish excitement I used to feel when I stepped off the train and arrived in this tourist covered town. It always made me feel a little smug to see the hoards of tourists eagerly snapping away at Windsor’s famous castle or hovering outside of its posh boutiques, I revelled in the fact that I could come here whenever I pleased.
Visiting as an adult I can finally appreciate Windsor in the same way the thousands of tourists who pass through here every year do. Instead of lounging around in McDonalds or sneaking free tasters from The Fudge Kitchen, I finally appreciate the amazing castle and the lavish opulence of neighbouring Eton.
Parking in Eton (probably the cheapest of the local car parks) it is only a short walk over the Thames to Windsor. This offers great views of the river and the castle which is nestled behind more modern architecture, providing a vibrant contrast.
After crossing the bridge we strolled along the river and made friends with a group (gaggle?) of the massive swan population which bask in Her Majesty’s hospitality. It’s an act of treason to kill a swan as they all belong to the Queen, so they thrive bobbing along in her backyard.
Now, I get quite nervous confronted with so many swans (they can break a man’s arm you know!) and so we headed into town. On our way the heavens opened so we ducked into the covered Windsor Royal Shopping Arcade. This is one of my favourite places in Windsor, the covered indoor market is surrounded with eateries and coffee shops and is buzzing with a warm, almost Mediterranean atmosphere. A great place to escape the downpour.
With the rain showing no signs of stopping we grabbed a seat at The Cinnamon Cafe. Although both Costa and Cafe Nero are located in the arcade, I try and use local (and cheaper) alternatives when I can. This time I wish I hadn’t bothered. Although the prices were reasonable (£1.80 for a Green Tea, around £2 for coffee and £2.80 for a slice of coffee cake), the mugs were filthy and the cake dry. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to be cheap…
Despite the disappointing offerings, it was a great place to sit and watch the world go by. Throngs of tourists shuffled past, mingling with young families and ‘ladies who lunch’.
We had a quick browse along the high street before braving the drizzle for some sightseeing. It was such a shame that it was such a gloomy day as Windsor is at its best in the summer months when you can sit outside one of its many tea houses or take a stroll down the Royal Mile. Today, I could understand why Queen Victoria looked so grumpy…
Despite the weather, Windsor is still a charming place.
And you can’t really complain when you have a whopping great castle on your doorstep!
We didn’t venture inside as the entrance fee is a costly £18.50 for an adult or £16.75 for a student. Instead we occupied ourselves meandering around the castle’s neighbouring streets, home to traditional pubs and al fresco restaurants.
Leaving the cobbled streets to the ghost of my teenage self, I headed home. On the way back we passed the grandeur of Eton college, deserted in the summer holidays and frequented only by groups of Chinese tourists. It was a shame as the boys dressed in their penguin-esque uniforms are one of the more amusing sights of this royal town (see what I mean!). It’s always fun to point out our next prime-minister or high-profile fraudulent banker. I suppose their teenage memories of this town will be slightly different to my own…
Where was your childhood stomping ground?