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Hever Castle, located in Kent, definitely has what most would expect in a medieval castle: towers, a moat, a drawbridge, the “murder holes”, beautiful gardens, a maze and swans in the lake. Add a warm, sunny day and it made for a wonderful visit. Over 800 years old, Hever Castle was the family home to the Boleyns. Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VIII and her sister Mary was a mistress of Henry’s for a short time. Brother George ended up being executed along with Anne on (trumped-up?) charges of Treason. In 1539, the Castle came into the King’s possession after the death of Anne’s father. A year later, he gave it to his fourth wife, Anne of Cleves, as part of their divorce settlement.

In 1903, William Waldorf Astor purchased and restored the beautiful house and gardens. It’s obvious he was very particular about what he wanted for the house and it can be seen in the details such as the beautiful wood paneling, antique furniture, Tudor paintings, portraits, collection of torture devices, classical statues and a portion of a Roman triumphal arch (circa 52 A.D.). The only original part of the castle is the gatehouse.My favorite treasure of the house is Anne Boleyn’s “Book of Hours” ~ a prayer-book she had with her in the Tower of London on the eve of her execution. She wrote in the book “Le Temps Viendra” (“The time will come”). There’s also the room where Henry slept during his few visits to Hever. There’s a portrait of the king in the room and I can’t help but wonder what he really looked like since none of the portraits I’ve seen are flattering. I imagine the artists “air brushed” the portraits in order to win favor from the monarch (or at least avoid his wrath) so I can only imagine how his portrait would look if the artists were completely honest.

The Long Gallery is an impressive room and chronicles Henry VIII’s six wives using mannequin images. In case anyone forgot, the wives are: Catherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard and Katherine Parr. The guide told us the rhyme to remember what happened to the wives: divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived.

Hever Castle, Kent, UK

Hever Castle, Kent, UK

Hever Castle with rental cottages in the backgound

Hever Castle with rental cottages in the backgound

Hever Castle Fountain

Hever Castle Fountain

Hever Castle Love in the Gardens

Hever Castle Love in the Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Garden Statue

Hever Castle Garden Statue

Hever Castle Garden Walkway

Hever Castle Garden Walkway

Hever Castle Statue

Hever Castle Statue

Hever Castle Gardens

Hever Castle Gardens

Graveyard outside of Hever Castle

Graveyard outside of Hever Castle

Outside Hever Castle ~ Bench

Outside Hever Castle ~ Bench

Hever Castle Swans ~ True Love!

Hever Castle Swans ~ True Love!

If you want to visit Hever Castle, it’s located 30 miles SE of London and can be reached by train from Victoria Station in about 50 minutes. We went by bus and it was about a 1.5 hour drive. Click here for information about visiting Hever Castle. No photos allowed inside the castle but the grounds are gorgeous for photography.

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We decided, very last minute, to visit Windsor Castle and Eton. Unfortunately, the scheduled 55 minute direct train from Waterloo Train Station (London) to Windsor & Eaton Riverside Train Station took over TWO hours. The tracks were undergoing repairs which required a change of train stations via a 30 minute bus ride. Being flexible is a must when traveling on public transportation, especially on the weekends when repairs are scheduled.

Arriving in Windsor, we walked across the bridge over the River Thames and into Eton. The area oozes with history and I loved walking down the High Street looking at the old buildings and all the details on them.

Bridge between Eton and Windsor

Along the Thames

Swan Feeding along the Thames

Feeding the many swans along the Thames

Directional sign in Eton

Directional sign in Eton

15th Century home in Eton

15th Century home in Eton

Details on 15th Century house

Details on 15th Century house

Private alleyway in Eton

Private alleyway in Eton

Bike stand

Bike stand

Eton College is one of the most prestigious all-male schools in the world for boys ages 13-18. No less than 18 Prime Ministers of the UK have graduated from Eton including the current PM.  The school was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI who wished to provide a free education for poor but scholarly boys.  The college continues to offer scholarships but for the rest of the attendees, the cost of schooling runs about £ 32,000 per year ($41,800). Famous graduates you know: Prince William and Prince Harry.

Eaton College

Eaton College

Statue at Eton College

Statue at Eton College

Henry VI Statue in Eton College Courtyard

Henry VI Statue in Eton College Courtyard

We walked back over the bridge and up the High Street towards Windsor Castle. There are lots of restaurants and shops along the way.

Crooked House in Windsor

Crooked House in Windsor

Shortest Street in Britain

Shortest Street in Britain

On one of the buildings in Windsor is the “Warrant to Execute” King Charles I. He’s the only sitting monarch in England’s history to be executed.  And we think politics is rough these days!What a dangerous mess it was back in the 17th century.  Oliver Cromwell was instrumental in the downfall of the monarchy by having Charles I executed (his signature is easily seen on the warrant). On Feb 6, 1649, the monarchy was abolished and Oliver Cromwell became Chairman of the “Council of States.” 11 years later, Charles II returned to re-establish the monarchy and more heads rolled.

Warrant for the excecution of King Charles I

Warrant for the excecution of King Charles I

After working up an appetite walking around, we stopped for lunch at The Thai Place  (12 Thames Street) and it’s the best Thai food we’ve had in the UK. Very friendly and attentive service. I’ll definitely go back next time we visit.

Windsor Castle dominates the landscape and can be seen from every angle of town. It’s one of Queen Elizabeth’s official residences and is used for state dinners/sleepover for Heads of State. The castle was built by William the Conqueror over 900 years ago. Not only is it the oldest occupied castle in the world, it’s the largest.  It’s impressive with a spectacular chapel, beautiful staterooms and a fascinating collection of artwork, china, furniture, and memorabilia. My favorite were the gifts given to and from Queen Victoria with hand written notes. It’s so obvious how in love she was with Prince Albert, her husband. If you plan to visit the castle, check the website to make sure it’s open to visitors. They close occasionally when the Queen is in residence and if there’s an event happening there.  No photos were allowed in St George’s Chapel or the state apartments but I took plenty outside!

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle Entrance

Windsor Castle V

Windsor Castle IV

Windsor Castle at Dusk

Windsor Castle tour

Windsor Castle Logan at Dusk

I haven’t marked Windsor Castle/Eton College off my “London must see” list just yet since I’d like to go back and take a “Precinct Tour” which the guide discusses the history of the Castle and I’d like to go on a tour of Eton College when it’s open to the public (between March and October). There’s also the Saville Gardens (located in Windsor Great Park) which I’m sure will be a lovely display of flowers.

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