When we lay down to sleep at midight, Maiko and I expected to wake at six am, fully refreshed and ready for the tour that lay ahead. Of course that didn’t happen.
Jetlag and excitement = the worst possible combination during a trip.
Instead, we pseudo-slept at 12MN, and woke up at 2AM. We started talking about the tour that lay ahead and how amazing it was that we were finally in London. At around 3AM, we decided that we should try to catch some zzz’s. We switched the lights off and closed our eyes.
Five minutes later, we were up again. We kept on trying to fall back asleep, but we always ended up talking or surfing the net. Finally at around 5AM, we gave up and decided to get ready for the day.
We had some snacks left over from yesterday’s trip and had those for breakfast. The hotel provided us with an electric kettle, teacups, small plates, teabags, and sachets of instant coffee, creamer and sugar. After cleaning out the green gunk in the electric kettle, we made ourselves some tea and coffee.
The sun was already up by the time we stepped outside.
Outside the hotel early in the morning
We looked around for some shop to buy water for the day. We were lucky enough to find a small grocery store open at 6AM.
Hurray, an open store!
We had an extra hour before the tour company picked us up at the Holiday Inn, King’s Cross. We had some time to look around the neighborhood.
Gate to a public garden
We noticed a lot of people using these blue bikes to get to work. We found one of these bike stations nearby and studied it curiously.
Bikes for Rent
Apparently for 1GBP a day, you can rent one of these bikes. You can pick them up at one bike station and then drop them off at a different location. Maiko wanted to try one, but she knew I wasn’t a very good biker and that I wasn’t used to biking on the left side of the road with all those cars behind me. I promised Maiko that we would do some biking in (less busy) Salisbury, for sure.
The Holiday Inn-King’s Cross hotel was about seven minutes walk from our hotel. We got there early at 6:50 AM. A Premium Tours bus was supposed to come and pick us up at 7:15am. We waited, trying to guess which way the bus would be coming from.
At 7:30am, a big white tour bus appeared and stopped on the other side of the road. Maiko and crossed the busy street and climbed on board. The tour guide asked for the name on our reservation, and I said “Windsor.” He looked at me curiously.
Being Asian, and having the same surname as the Queen of England apparently will get you raised eyebrows and curious looks—every time.
The bus driver gave us a big scare with the way he careened down the busy, narrow streets of London. In one instance, he decided to do a 3-point turn on a small road. By the time he realized that the bus was too big to even fit diagonally on the street, it was already too late, and he had already hit a tree. While the bus driver checked if the bus’s rear end was okay, a tour guide hopped on the bus and joined us for the duration of the trip.
The bus had to pick up other people from different hotels. Most of the people on the list weren’t waiting outside like we were. The tour guide had to go into the hotel and ask the hotel if they could check the records if the people who were supposed to go on the tour were staying at the hotel.
At the end of the rounds, there were only about ten of us in the big bus, and we were all going on different tours. The tour guide asked us what tours we were on and gave us the gate numbers where we had to wait.
We arrived at the Victoria Coach Station at around 8am.
Inside Victoria Coach Station
Maiko and I got off the bus and made our way to Gate 7, where our tour guide for the day was supposed to meet us.
Gate 7: Tour 5
Our tour guide soon appeared. He introduced himself as Alan and asked us to follow him to the medium sized coach that was waiting for us. He checked our names off the list. Smiling, he gave me that “you’re a Windsor?” look again. Alan told us to choose our seats, drop our bags and pop in to the loo for a “weewee” because we had a bit of a drive ahead of us.
Following his directions, Maiko and I made our way to the loo—or restroom, where we had to pay 30 pence to use the toilets.
A few minutes later, the coach was chugging out of the station, and Alan was doing Sean Connery impressions while telling us about the day ahead.
We were on way to our first stop: Warwick Castle.
Outside Warwick Castle
We arrived in the town of Warwick (pronounced War-rick) at around 10am. Alan led us through the castle entrance, and gave us an hour and a half to explore the grounds and meet back at the bus.
Being part of a tour group was great because we got to go into the castle before the grounds were open to the public.
Inside Warwick Castle Grounds
Maiko and I took pictures in different areas of the castle grounds, before heading inside the castle to check out the various rooms.
One of the castle walls
Beautiful view from a rampart behind the castle
An old catapult
We learned a lot about the castle’s history from Alan’s short history lesson on the bus, and from the various exhibits within the castle itself.
old armor and weapons
Double, double, toil and trouble. A cauldron used in kitchens of long ago.
Posing with Henry VIII and his six wives
A toilet used in the early days of the castle
The most interesting exhibit we saw was the Kingmaker, which told the story of Richard Neville, who in the War of the Roses in the 1450’s supported the Yorkists. When the Yorkists won in 1461, King Henry VI bestowed the title of Earl of Warwick on Richard Neville. But when fortunes changed, Richard the Earl of Warwick went against Henry VI and took him prisoner at Warwick Castle.
Wax figures in the Kingmaker exhibit
The Kingmaker exhibit featured waxworks by Madame Tussaud along with music and snippets of dialogue that demonstrate the life of everyday castle inhabitants and preparations for battle.
Due to the lack of time, there were many exhibits we didn’t get to see—such as Merlin: The Dragon Tower and the dungeon tour.
Entrance to Merlin the Dragon Tower
Maiko and I made our way up the narrow stairs toward the ramparts and towers.
I made it halfway up the tower
Halfway through, my acrophobia kicked in. I began to feel dizzy as I caught a glimpse of the ground from above one of the ramparts. I gave Maiko my nice camera and told her to go ahead and continue up the tour without me.
Up the tower
The stairs were actually one way only, but luckily, nobody was going up when I chickened out and decided to climb back down.
Maiko took pictures of the great view.
The view from the tallest tower
She even snapped a picture of me waiting on the bench below.
Waiting on the bench
We met up at the bench and Maiko told me that I made the right decision to pass on the tower climb. Her legs were shaking like jelly from fatigue after walking up 530 steps. It was already 11:20 so we headed out of the castle.
Outside the castle entrance, an archer was showing off his skills:
Warwick Castle archer
Maiko and I passed by an old stockade left outside the castle and decided to have some photo fun before heading toward the parking lot.
We could have spent a whole day there, but we had to move on to our next stop: Stratford-Upon-Avon.
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