June 21, 22
This is our last entry in this blog before going back to Australia. We booked the Hotel Petersham in Richmond for one night. Our flight back home in on June 22, at 10:15PM. We decided to go to the hotel and check in as early as possible. That way we can use it as a base to explore London. We also missed visiting Windsor castle though we were in Windsor for two days. If we get enough free time, we could consider visiting it on the 22nd morning, before returning the vehicle at the airport.
We left Stratford-Upon-Avon after an early breakfast and arrived at the Petersham Hotel in Richmond at 10:30AM. We could have come early, but the city bound traffic delayed our arrival. We knew we were too early, because the agreed check in time was 2:00PM. We left the car and our luggage at the hotel and told the reception that we will be back in the evening to check in. We got a taxi down to go to the Richmond station.
We bought day tickets for the train. That ticket is valid for all services for one full day. We could change trains and buses anywhere in London and get off anywhere we liked. We had three places to visit which we have not done earlier. The important one was the Tower of London. We decided to see it first and then think of other places.
Tower of London is the place where the crown jewels are kept. It is an old palace and one of the main tourist attractions in London. The place was packed with tourists. We bought tickets including self tour guides and went inside building. There was a very long queue to visit the crown jewels. There is very high security and your bags are checked before you enter the building where the jewels are kept. We waited nearly one hour to get into that building. Unfortunately, we cannot take photos inside the building. It is well worth visiting this place and look at the actual crown jewels used by the royal family.
We spent nearly three hours in this place and then left to visit Harrods. All visitors to London invariably visit the prestige department store Harrods. We saw many visitors buying small souvenirs just to say they bought something from Harrods. We visited most of the departments including the food section and had coffee in one of the Harrods restaurants. We bought a few items including some chocolates and hand bags. There are some luxury items which are extremely expensive, at the same time there are some items which are reasonably priced. We compared the prices of crystal lamps and dinnerware we found in the Waterford factory and Harrods. They were the same in both places.
We then decided to visit the last place we had in mind. That was the Hamleys Toy Store. It was alright, but not impressive as we thought it would be. In the evening we came back to the hotel to have dinner in the hotel restaurant. Petersham is an old colonial hotel which was first established nearly 150 years ago. It is still regarded as one of the best hotels in the area. You can see the river Thames from the hotel restaurant. We selected this hotel because its location Richmond is closer to the airport and Windsor castle and also has transport links to London.
Next morning we brought all our bags into the room and packed properly to take them to the airport. We spent the morning in the hotel and checked out at 12:00 Noon. Our plan was to go directly to Windsor and see the castle and then proceed to the airport. It was raining when we left the hotel, but it cleared up later. It was hard to find parking near the castle, but we circled the area twice and finally found a good parking spot close to the castle. We would have regretted if we did not see this castle. It is the biggest and the best castle we have seen so far. It is a working castle and the queen uses it regularly. In fact we were told that on that day, the queen was coming there at 4:00PM. She is in an area which is not open to public. We found the castle a fascinating place. There are some extremely valuable items and art collections in the castle. Most of the items are gifts to the royal family which they received from various world leaders and rulers of other countries. Some items were items captured while conquering those countries during various wars. There were some items taken from Napoleon Bonaparte when he was finally defeated by England. Based on present day values, it is arguable whether they have a right to keep those items with them. My feeling is that those items, specially the looted items should be returned to those countries, the rightful owners. Once again we were not allowed to take photos inside the building. We had cream tea and some scones in a restaurant in Windsor.
Then we drove to the car rental place near the airport. The flight home was uneventful. We did not buy anything in Dubai. The flights were on time and we are back in Sydney now.
We will try to add more photos to the blog when we get time. I was limited by the amount of time we had in the hotels and the speed of the WiFi connections to the internet. In some places it worked very slow and uploading photos was almost impossible.