Saturday, August 5, 2006

This is my earliest morning by far, but as an avid antiques collector, I am determined to explore the shops and stands along Portobello Road before heading to Windsor Castle for the day.  Unlike in the states, I see real antiques here, not “collectibles” and flea market junk disguised as antiques.  I love everything, but can afford nothing.  I am especially taken with a tiny porcelain box that has a hand painted view of St. Paul’s on the lid and the words “A souvenir of London” written underneath.  It dates to the mid-18th century and costs £495.   Seriously.  There’s just no way.  At Alice’s across the street, I overhear a good-humored argument between the proprietors about one partner’s drinking and carousing the night before, which delayed their opening the shop.  To soften the loss of the St. Paul’s box, I settle for a pair of reproduction Staffordshire figurines from them instead, which puts a temporary stop to the bickering.


By 10:00 AM I am on a train for Windsor, heading out from Paddington Station.  I switch lines at Slough and arrive well in advance of the Changing of the Guard, only to find that they have changed the schedule instead.  I missed it the day before…  I thoroughly enjoy Windsor Castle and its state apartments nevertheless.  I do wonder about the common sense of some people, however, and greatly sympathize with the poor guards who have to stop them from taking pictures at every turn-sometimes the same person two or three times in a row.  For goodness sake, just buy a guidebook!  Perhaps the ancient art of drawing and quartering should return as a punishment for those who cannot listen.  Just kidding.

I break for lunch in town at the Café Rouge, where I order a pastry filled with goat cheese and roasted vegetables, then walk back to see more of the castle and St. George’s Chapel.  I saw a few episodes of “Windsor Castle: A Royal Year” on my local PBS station last year and wish I could remember more about the Order of the Garter.  I will have to rent it when I get home. 

By 6:00 PM I am back in London and at Harrods, where I eat a rotisserie chicken dinner in the food halls.  Overall, I am not as impressed with the store as I thought I would be.  It seems a bit crass.


I end the day with a flight on the London Eye at 9:00 PM — the last of the night.  Perfect weather, perfect time.  How I wish I could go around twice, once to take pictures, once just to enjoy.  Heck, why not go round and round all night?  The view is that good. 

In the darkness, on my walk back to the tube across Westminster Bridge, a bagpiper stands upright and alone, playing his heart out.  This is a great city.


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