London and Beyond: 1997

 Excursions I

On our day trip to Stratford, we decided to add Warwick Castle to the itinerary.  Warwick is one of the great medieval castles in England and has many extras for the tourist.  In the apartments at the castle, there's a wax museum showing Victorian Royalty at home.  In another section of the castle, another wax museum shows the difficult life of the medieval commoner.  Visitors can walk the walls, view the armory, or simply enjoy the relaxing parklike setting with the resident peacocks.
Stratford-upon-Avon is a must-see sight for all tourists, but there are many things that can be disappointing.  First of all, in the high season, it can be unbelievably crowded; people on the streets are almost cheek-to-cheek at times.  Even in November when we visited, we saw more people in a smaller space at Stratford than at any other sight we visited.  One of our small disappointments occurred when we walked out to Trinity Church to see Shakespeare's Grave and then discovered that the church was closed for the afternoon while the choir practiced for a special event.  Among the Shakespeare properties, our favorite might well be the Mary Arden farm.  The crowds are a little smaller there; the exhibits are well done; and the tour of the house gives more detail of 16th century life than anything you find at the other sites.
Only a little more than half-an-hour southwest of central London by train from Waterloo Staion, Hampton Court makes an ideal excursion for the London visitor.  Henry VIII liked Hampton Court so much that Cardinal Wolsey decided to "give" it to the king.  It remained a royal favorite for more than 300 years, and today it has much to offer the sightseer.  Several itineraries are offered; some provide guided tours and others come with audioguides that enhance the experience.  Among our favorites are the chapel, the kitchens, and (of course) the famous Maze. Ironically, like Windsor, Hampton Court also suffered a terrible fire a few years ago.  Today, little from that damage can be seen.
From Paddington Station, the trip to Windsor is also another short trip from the city.  Along with the Tower and Warwick, Windsor Castle is one of England's great medieval fortifications and would be worth the visit even if it weren't one of the homes of the Royal Family.  But, as a Royal Residence, the Castle provides the visitor so much more to see.  On this particular trip, the queen was in Windsor so we weren't able to visit the parts of the royal apartments that are sometimes open to the public.  But we did get to visit St. George's church and see the final resting place of many former monarchs.

City- Excursions II
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