The Best of the Rest of the UK

During one of our days in the UK, we got to spend the morning and early afternoon in Hampton Court Palace and the rest of the day in Windsor. It was a royal castle extravaganza.

Hampton Court was the favorite residence of Henry VIII. It now functions as a tourist attraction kind of like a permanent renaissance festival. It has actors portraying Henry and his court on the day of his sixth wedding. You can tour the kitchens which have been designed to recreate the actual medieval kitchen experience. There was even a falconer. We enjoyed touring the kitchens and apartments, but perhaps the most impressive part is the gardens. They are huge and ornate, filled with interesting trees, flowers, and fountains. They were beautiful. They also had an old hedge maze built for King William. It is the most famous hedge maze in the world, so we had to take a stab at it. We almost gave up, but in the end, we persevered and triumphed. It was fun.

Later that afternoon, we headed over to Windsor, a beautiful city on the Thames famous for being the home of Eton and the weekend palace for the royals. We toured the palace, and it was amazing. The exterior is huge and formidable. The interiors are elaborate and filled with expensive treasures and artwork. It is hard to imagine that people actually live in this place. The queen wasn't there while we were, so we didn't see her or any of the other royals. Still it was really interesting. Out of the four castles we saw, this was by far the most impressive. Later we took a river cruise along the Thames that was very nice and quiet. We saw lots of the beautiful countryside around Windsor. We also saw lots of swans. During our time in Europe I think I took about ten pictures of swans because I had never seen one before. I think Lauran was less impressed. Finally, the Bowsers came out to pick us up that night, and we had dinner at a great Indian food restaurant (Brits' favorite food).

Our last day in the UK, the Bowsers took us out to Bath about 1 and 1/2 hours west of where they live. It is an old resort town where the Romans originally built some thermal baths and spas, the only location of a natural hot water spring in the UK. It is beautiful because it is nestled in a valley along the River Avon. We toured the baths which are over 2000 years old, probably the oldest place I have ever been. We also visited the Jane Austen Centre, which was fun since we both like her. She apparently hated the time she lived in Bath, but that didn't stop them from capitalizing on her success. On the way back home, we drove past Stonehenge, so I could see it. It is impressive, but much more "in ruins" than I expected it to be. I didn't realize that some of the stones had fallen over.

We had such a great time in the UK. We were sad to leave, and we owe much thanks to the Bowsers for being such great hosts and tour guides. We are blessed to have friends like them.

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