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6 August 2018

a whirlwind 24 hours in windsor

last year i managed to make my way around the uk almost ten times, as well as a smattering of weekends abroad, but this year i've only managed two. so far, that is. so when i assessed my annual leave balance at work and realised i hadn't even taken half of this year's allowance as yet - i made quick to rectify that, and that's how i found myself up in royal windsor last thursday and friday, with a long weekend ahead of me.

stay at the royal adelaide hotel

when you find a pastel georgian hotel with the same name as your hometown, it's a bit like fate really, so there was nowhere else i'd recommend staying for a short stay in windsor than the royal adelaide. it's a small walk out of the town centre, which also makes it super quiet and tranquil, which is also a massive bonus when you cherish sleep as much as i do. the other thing i cherish, in this abominable heat, is an air conditioner, and this hotel has that in spades.

the hotel dinner menu has you covered for a home cooked and seasonal meal in the garden, with the staff the most attentive i've met in a while. in fact, i chatted far too long with mandy - ten years in the business and not a bad word to say about windsor, and whom i hugged before heading up to bed. was that because i'd had a little too much wine (read: mandy kept topping up my wine)? possibly, but whatever the case, it was really nice to sit and chat in the evening sun, sipping a cold wine, and devouring a thick and juicy salad (ok, it was a steak but leave me alone).

i hand on heart have not slept that well in a really long time. with the air con on high all night and a brand new temper mattress under me, i was in heaven during those sleeping hours. in fact, i took a book and planned to read it all, but one second on that bed and i was destined for sleep; it was all i could do from treating myself to a second night in heaven.. nothing will ever compare.

wander a while through the markets

both open and under cover, handmade and modern, there are markets in windsor for everyone. i was visiting on a friday so i assume they were a bit tamer than normal, but still - the whole town of windsor has a very welcoming and community vibe about it, and that' goes for the market stalls and shop fronts alike. each shop i walked into was happy to see me (even though i was just there for the air con, mostly), and it was nice to see that the local, independent ones were just as busy as the others - something that always brings a little happiness to my heart.

relax on the river

at 11am i jumped on board a french brother's boat tour of the thames. partially because i love me some useless facts, and those audio tours are the best way to harvest that sort of stuff, but also because it was hotttt and i figured the river would be cooler. and it was, thankfully. the tour lasted about 40 mins, and putted up and back down the thames as we sat, breeze in our hair, smile on our faces at some of the fun facts being told by the guide.

like, did you know that the district line used to run all the way to windsor? it did, but it was too long so they stopped it. did you also know that there's a train bridge in windsor designed by isambard kingdom brunel - thought to be his last remaining industrial design still in use? or, did you know that you actually don't *have* to pay to go to eaton college, and that 70 students are year are required to learn (and only communicate in) latin, like the original classes were taught way back when? cool facts, huh.

stop for a bite at browns

i was recommended a few places to eat, but i only had time for one so i made it count. browns is a well-known brasserie, sure, but the windsor one is the first i've ever actually made it to. so, if you already know browns, maybe move on. if not, deffo give it a look as you can get two courses and a drink for under £20, which is pretty bloody good for a fancy lunch with a river view, no? i, of course, decided on a main and a dessert, and a gin cocktail the size of my actual head. it took me longer to get through the drink than the two courses combined, but that elderflower posset was the highlight of my day, for sure.

take in the amazing castle

you'd be a fool to get all the way to windsor and not head to the castle, though.. be warned, there will be lines. i walked past around 10am and the line was already half way up the main road. the way to avoid this is by buying your ticket in advance, or having an annual pass - this way you skip the queues and head straight in. it's also worth noting that the moat gardens are not always open to walk through, but if they are, they're an extra £2 on top of the already-expensive entry price of £21.40 for an adult, and they only take coins at the gate. so have some cash on you, or you don't get in - like me. but know what doesn't need coins? the royal ice cream van, so do yourself a favour and go there, too. i had been to the castle before, so i didn't spend too much time in there, as a) it's not air conned, and b) i had only a short amount of time in town. you need at least two hours to take it all in, so if you go, c) buy your tickets in advance, and d) go early while it's not-so hot (or busy).

have an afternoon drink around town

it wouldn't be england if there was anything less than a pub per person, so you'll be happy to know that windsor is no different. there are a number of nice little spots along the river to stop in and drink at - the boatman, the dutchess of cambridge, and christopher wren were all on my list - as well as the royal windsor by the station, but as i was short on time, i stuck with my giant gin at browns. had i had another hour or so, any of those places would have been a real goer for me. not too crowded and out-of-london prices? yes please, make mine a double!

jump on the train back home

and after all is said and done, you'll be back to london in less than an hour, every half an hour thanks to the wonder and speed of south western railway. not so much the coolness, as on the way out on thursday night i was in rush hour and there was nowhere to stand, nor any air con, but on the way back on friday arvo i not only had a seat of four all to myself, but the coach was spacious and air conned too - a double whammy on a friday? not sure i'm worthy. your standard single is about a tenner, too, so not too shabby!

i have to say, since the wedding this year there's clearly been a massive boost to tourism in the city, and it shows. the bunting, the colour, the happiness of the small businesses - a little bit of royal economy goes a long way for these "on the thames" commuter towns, and it's certainly changed a lot since i was there last way back in 2012. will i be back? oh definitely. will you come too? oh, i hope so.

*i was a guest of the royal windsor hotel for the evening, and they arranged for my castle entry. everything else was on me, and i couldn't have asked for a better time!