Today, The Drake Chamber Choir arrived in London at the Heathrow Airport at 6am. It was misty and foggy but the air was much warmer than our typical Iowa weather. The air was light and crisp and around 45 degrees F with a slight breeze. After exiting the airport, we met our tour guide, the wonderful and highly knowledgeable, Anita Baker. On our way to Windsor Castle, we were lucky enough to see the English equivalent of American lawnmowers: sheep.
We looked out of the window and could see part of the Great Windsor Park. The park can be characterized by an abundance of cattle, green fields, and flatlands. Anita informed us that it is 2,000 acres and that the products are sold at the market. Windsor is a city of about 30,000 people and was the hotspot for the royal family during World War II. When London was being bombed, the royal family chose Windsor as their safe place due to Hitler’s stays there for holiday, not making it a target. Today, it is a place where people around the London area commute to so that they can escape the busy city life. People who live here are able to find a balance between rural and urban attractions such as having a nice quiet home and a lot of land while still being able to shop at popular stores and socializingwith the public.
When we arrived in Windsor, I felt so much joy. Colorful brick buildings were close together, there was quite the arrangement of snazzy looking cars, and there were centuries of stories and traditions built into it. Three of my friends and I went off to a small café called “Lillibet’s” and had pastries and coffee for breakfast. I noted that almost everything the city displayed had to do with the queen or the royal family such as the original train station and most shops. My friends and I also ran into an ancient water well and a bright red single-stall phone booth where we took cliché but necessary tourist photos.
When entering the castle, Anita told us that William of Concord had ordered the building of castles in the 1100s. Windsor Castle is now the most inhabited castle out of the approximately 500 castles in England. In a few weeks, Prince Harry and Megan Markle will be getting married at Windsor Castle. I guess the Chamber Choir can say we sang there first! On a visual note, the castle’s surroundings include a giant garden and what could have been a moatcircled around it. I really enjoyed walking on the stone steps. It was a change from the boring, flat concrete we are used to walking on. Inside of the castle, Queen Mary’s massive dollhouses are displayed as well as the royal family’s wide variety of carefully selected China sets.
The castle itself has been remodeled and inquired add-ons since its building around 900 years ago. King George IV added the upper levels of the castle in the 19th century. Now, people of high-merit get to live in its apartments, including the governor of Windsor. In 1992, Windsor Castle set fire and required 58 million pounds to repair all of the damage.
Most of us were able to witness the changing of the guards at 11am. It was an intense and fun duty to witness. Bagpipes and drums played, guards yelled and military moves were carried out to honor long-held British traditions. Many of us then decided to explore the gorgeous St. George’s Chapel. The ceilings were high, the woodwork looked almost unreal it was so perfect, and the stain-glassed windows were captivating. There were also many famous royal individuals who were buried in tombs under or above ground. The Chamber Choir was given the opportunity to do an informal singing while at the chapel. We rehearsed in the dungeon where the rest of the public could not go into. The pieces we performed were Kyrie, The Three Kings, andAlleluia. The acoustics were magnifying and so pure and there was a good attendance from random people walking through the cathedral.
After the informal sing, we had free time to get some food. A group of us ate at a place called “Eat”. We also made sure to stop by the crazy candy store! I could tell that most of us where hitting a wall due to the lack of sleep. Many of us took a short nap on our way to Salisbury. We arrived to our hotel called the “Mercure Salisbury White Hart Hotel”. Before dinner, a group of us went on a little evening tour where we viewed the massive Salisbury Cathedral, which was built in 1220 and took only 38 years to construct. The groups then split off again so that people could either go back to the hotel or could go to the Evensong service. I did not go, but my fellow peers told me that it was “mystic sounding with beautiful tone and meaning behind it”. To wrap up our extremely long day, we had a fabulous group dinner at the hotel. It included a delicious appetizer, hearty main dish, and fancy dessert. I can now say I am ready to fall asleep after my 48 hours of being awake. Today was just the beginning of a life-changing adventure and I look forward to what tomorrow and the next 12 days have to offer.