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Archive for April, 2007

View of Rovinj and St. Euphenmia

When Istria markets itself as the New Tuscany, in some ways it’s exaggerating (e.g., the food and wine, on which I’ll post next, is disappointing), and in other ways, it’s selling itself short. As an example of the latter, Istria has not only the picturesque hill towns described in my last post, but also it has seaside towns that are a dead ringer for any number of Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre towns. Specifically, Rovinj (pictured above) reminded me of Amalfi and Vernazza.

Because Rovinj is just 30 minutes from Mrgani, we visited the town four times during our week at the Captain Morgan’s Villa. Rovinj is a big enough town that we could find supermarkets, open-air markets and restaurants open at regular, reasonable hours, but in addition to these sorts of conveniences, it’s also high on charm and history. It seemed as if everyone in Rovinj spoke Italian and some German (perhaps because the Germans have already “discovered” Rovinj as a destination?), and during the summer, the rumor is that you can take a 3-hour ferry ride across the Adriatic to Venice.

In no particular order, my favorite parts of Rovinj are:

rovinj sunset over the water

  1. Sunsets. Whether you’re watching from a boat, sidewalk, restaurant terrace or roofdeck, it’s impossible not to ooh and ahh over the Rovinj sunset.
  2. The Church of St. Euphemia. The sun-bleached stone of St. Euphemia and its campanile (bell tower) crowns Rovinj. Climbing up the winding cobblestone streets of Rovinj (cobblestone streets are always winding, aren’t they?) to reach St. Euphemia is just part of the fun. When we reached the church, we had an almost 360-degree view of the Adriatic, as well as of a wedding taking place in the church. It doesn’t get more feel good than a wedding.
    Also, saints being what they are, there’s a creepy, morbid story to share about the church. The short version is that in the 3d century, a lovely young Constantinople virgin (Euphemia) was thrown to the lions by everyone’s favorite persecutor of Christians, the Romans. Her heavy stone coffin miraculously washed up on Rovinj shores 500 years later. Hence, the need for an elaborate church in this otherwise sleepy seaside town.
    The sculpture of Euphemia that sits atop the campanile spins like a weather vane, so if you believe boat captains (see below for more on our buddy, Milo), locals predict the weather based on the direction in which Euphemia points.
  3. The Lim Fjord is not the natural wonder we’d hoped it would be, but we did enjoy the adventure of bargaining with Milo, a water taxi operator, to get him to take us to the Fjord. Homemade grappaWe were a little nonplussed about our deal when Milo asked for 200 Kuna ($40) up front and then promised he’d be back in two hours to take us to the Fjord, but considering the major tour operator in the area, Delfin, totally disappeared when (I guess) they realized they couldn’t get enough people on their boat to justify an outing to the Fjord, we didn’t have too much choice. Milo did, in fact, come back to the harbor to pick us up, and his irreverent commentary, odd refusal to acknowledge the many nude sunbathers our boat passed, and his generous servings of homemade grappa made the 1.5-hour cruise well worth the money.
  4. Drinks on the sun-drenched, seaside patio of Puntulina Restaurant. Although our server flubbed our final round of aperitifs (i.e., Sarah mysteriously ended up with a virgin pina colada – highly entertaining, obviously — and Jon was given a glass of wine that wasn’t even the same color as the one he’d actually ordered. When Jon asked the waitress what had happened, the server told him that the restaurant had run out of the wine he’d ordered, so of course she gave him “another wine.”), we were happy and feeling very relaxed on the restaurant’s patio. To the extent you got the cocktail you ordered, the drinks were quite good and the views of the Adriatic excellent.
  5. The covered, outdoor market. Finding fresh produce in Istrian supermarkets was a major challenge, so the key to getting tasty and gorgeous fruits and vegetables is to swing by outdoor markets like the one in Rovinj closest to the designated parking area.
  6. People-watching in Rovinj harbor. There are tons of cafes and restaurants lining the harbor, and even though we were in town during low season, it was still a treat to sit back and check out our fellow travellers. The harbor also is where we spent a lot of time trying to convince Milo (see point 3) to take us out to see the nearby Lim Fjord.

Overall, despite the many schlocky-looking restaurants lining the harbor, Rovinj is a very walkable and relaxed town. It’s great during low season, but I think if you throw in the possibility of a day trip to Venice via ferry, the high season in Rovinj sounds pretty irresistible.

In addition to our many trips to Rovinj, we spent an afternoon in Pula, which was about an hour’s drive from Mrgani. EasyJet recently started direct flights between London Stansted and Pula, so it’s an easy starting point for trips to Istria.

old roman arena in Pula, Croatia

Although it’s a seaside down, Pula’s water views are interrupted by huge construction cranes and tankers. Gotta make a living somehow until hordes of tourists start generating more revenue, perhaps. At least the old Roman arena is still standing. At the Pula arena, Jon and I were so excited to be offered an audiotour (we’re addicts) that we just forked over our 30 Kuna for it without applying some healthy skepticism. It turns out most of the audiotour describes what events would happen in the arena in Rome, and then the audiotour would comment on whether or not such goings on could have happened in the Pula arena. In short, not a very helpful audiotour, but the arena is a gorgeous pile of rock to explore. It’s not half as big as the Colosseo in Rome, but we had the whole place to ourselves, which is something that probably never happens in Rome.

The old Roman Forum in Pula is now a large, sunny piazza, lined with cafes. Because everyone in our group was craving ice cream, and because the piazza cafes claimed not to serve gelato, we didn’t spend too much time admiring the piazza’s ancient Roman buildings. The gelato we eventually found was no great shakes, but what did get me excited was the Mercator HyperMarket located just after the entrance to town. I don’t normally sing the praises of big box retail, but after several days of scrounging around tiny mom-and-pop stores selling dicey and pricey goods, it was nice being in a large, clean store that stocked anything you could possibly want. Even Vermont maple syrup.

And that’s the story of our seaside town adventures in Istria. Stay tuned for the food and drinks post next!

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Groznjan views, Istria, Croatia

After having spent eight days exploring Istria, the peninsula in the northern part of Croatia that markets itself as “the new Tuscany.” Visually, I’ve decided that many Istrian towns lived up to the description. Hill towns glowed gold in a warm, spring sun, and all the ones we visited were crowned by weathered stone buildings, many dating back to Roman times.

The villa we rented, Captain Morgan’s Villa, sits in a small hilltop town called Mrgani, named after the pirate, Captain Morgan, who allegedly founded Mrgani after giving up his plundering ways. Other than the town name and our villa, there’s nothing very nautical in town, so I’m not sure why Captain Morgan would have settled there (except perhaps to attract tourists like us).

The closest town to Mrgani that you can (sort of easily) find on a map of Istria is the marginally-larger town of Kanfanar, which boasts a post office and a tiny supermarket. Mrgani is a collection of two dozen stone buildings and made for a quiet getaway. Most mornings, Jon and I went running past vineyards and country views to reach Jural, 2 km away. Jural is an even smaller hill town than Mrgani and distinguished only by the number of barking dogs we found there. If you brave all the barking, though, and walk through Jural, you come upon a stunning bird’s eye view of the Lim Fjord.

Dvigrad ruins, Istria, Croatia

Also near Mrgani were the ruins of Dvigrad. The name means “two castles” or “two towns,” which is what used to stand there during Roman times in the 700s. Apparently the towns survived into the 1400s, when the Venetians took over Istria, and then soon after that, the residents cleared out or died out because of disease. If this description sounds totally vague, it’s because none of our three guidebooks (Footprint, Rough Guide, Time Out) could tell us much, and Dvigrad isn’t the kind of place that comes with audiotours.

The good part about Dvigrad’s obscurity is that were able to explore the site by climbing around ruins and wandering aimlessly through crumbling towers overgrown with weeds. I felt like I had discovered an archeological treasure. On the other hand, the ruins are haunting and substantial enough that I wished some organization were watching over the ruins and perhaps giving some context about the original use or history of the buildings that used to stand on the site. Maybe in ten years, Dvigrad will be regulated and preserved (though this would probably mean bus tours and souvenir stores would follow).

My favorite hill towns were Motovun and Groznjan.

Motovun walkway

Motovun is a hill town that’s marketing its truffle-rich forests and picturesque Medieval buildings. When we arrived in Motovun, we parked as close to the top as we could (only residents can drive all the way to the top) and then climbed the cobblestone streets to reach the oldest part of the town. The higher we climbed, the older the buildings were. On the way up, we passed stores selling the same overpriced gourmet goodies: truffles, Croatian wines (more on this in a soon-to-come post), olive oil and grappa.

First we passed through a 15th century gate that introduced views of the surrounding green valleys and rooftops. There was a café just beyond the gate where we took a much-needed Orangina and gelato break at the end of our wanderings in Motovun. Past the 15th century gate, there’s a 13th century gate that admits you to the oldest, original part of Motovun. A stone walkway encircles this collection of 13th century buildings, and as we walked along the path, we drank in views of rolling hills and forests and engaged in high school prom-style photo portraits. Very fun.

Groznjan walkway, Istria, Croatia

After seeing Motovun, I was ready to declare it the prettiest of the hilltop towns, but then we decided to drive another 20 minutes to see Groznjan, which really took the cake for sheer beauty. Groznjan is today an artist colony, which is a result of the Croatian government’s effort to save hill towns from abandonment by offering cheap rents to artists. The town has survived two near-wipeouts – the first one in the 1600s from the bubonic plague, and the second one in the 1960s after Italy gave up Istria and the town was abandoned by Italian residents who moved out of Istria. I think the repopulation of town by artists has paid off, because everything from the flower pots to the building signs is picturesque. The town is small enough so that you could wander every winding street in less than half an hour, but it’s so pretty we spent over an hour ambling around and admiring the views. You can see the Adriatic in the distance as well as dramatic valleys below. Groznjan was hands-down the prettiest town we visited during the week.

Not all the hill towns were worth a visit. For example, we wasted part of one afternoon in Zminj, which Villas Forum (the agency managing the rental of our villa) described as a must-visit because of an “agricultural fair” that takes place there during the second Wednesday of every month. We were expecting the color, bustle and tourist goodies like those you’d find in markets in Provence or Tuscany. Instead, we found only one short street lined with stands selling cheap, unattractive clothing and shoes. Blue overalls or olive-green canvas jackets, anyone? Other than a rotisserie chicken stall at one end of the street and a few grappa sellers, there was no food for sale. It wasn’t much of a market, much less an “agricultural fair.” The rest of the town was not particularly picturesque, either. I’m curious if anyone has had a good experience in Zminj?

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Ljubljana Triple Bridge at Night

We arrived in Ljubljana last night with few expectations, figuring only that we would be hard pressed to find any open restaurants or stores today, which is Easter Sunday. But it turns out that Ljubljana has such a lively, gracious cafe culture that not even Easter Sunday prevents crowds of friends and family from gathering along the riverside walkways and cafes.

The part of Ljubljana that interests weekend visitors like us is the scenic Old Town, whose streets center on the banks of the Ljubljanica River. Like Old Towns across Europe, there is a lot of charm by way of cobblestones and brightly-colored Baroque buildings, but what sets Ljubljana’s Old Town apart is how well-maintained and “human scale” everything is. The green weeping willows that line the River and the city’s pedestrian bridges are uber-poetic. I’d love to return sometime soon.

Things to Do:

Ljubljana CastleThe Ljubljana Castle is a little disappointing as castles go, mostly because there doesn’t appear to be a lot of historical significance to the building. Instead, the Castle has been modernized so that you can have your wedding or private party there, or you can climb a modest clock tower for views of the city below and then watch a 30-minute computerized rendering of Ljubljana’s development and growth from around 500 AD to the present.

Jon and I laughed when we followed signs to a “gallery” and found ourselves gazing at 20 photos of construction workers putting together the funicular that connects the Castle to the Old Town below. In an attempt to find the gallery exit, we ended up in some little cave that housed a weird art installation. Art Installation at Ljubljana CastleLights with smurf-hat-shaped glass covers grew “up” out of the cave floor, as if they were stalagmites, and playing in the background was this creepy, echoey, New Age-sounding music. We high-tailed it out of there as fast we could. You just never know what you’re going to find at a castle, I guess.

Overall, the Castle’s worth a climb and a look because it’s so easy to reach from Old Town, and the Castle cafe is sleek and comfortable when you need a break. But if you don’t make it up the hill, it’s not a huge loss.

We tried to visit the Slovene Ethnographic Museum (because there’s a special exhibit taking place about China’s influence on Slovenia – curious, no?), but it was closed for Easter Sunday. The sleek cafe (yet another museum with a really nice cafe!) was open, though, and packed with guests. Again, no doubt about the strong the cafe culture here.

Although our trip to the Museum was a bust, we loved the walk there. We passed through some run-down-looking areas, and highlights were the “Boston Fried Chicken” and the “Red ‘N’ Hot Horse” restaurants. The latter actually specializes in horsemeat, and the former – well, who knew Boston was famous for its fried chicken?

Because most cafes were open today, Jon and I grabbed a riverside seat this afternoon at an inviting place called Corso. We read novels (Suite Francaise is stunning, by the way), nursed our blood-orange Oranginas, listened to passing oompah bands and accordion players, and basked in the sunshine while the world walked by. Very action packed day.
Piranske Soline store displayThe one open shop that tempted us today was the salt boutique. Cooking has definitely risen in prestige when there’s a salt specialist sitting next to the Bang & Olufsen. The place is called Piranske Soline, and according to a 2007 New York Times article, Alain Ducasse and unnamed top chefs favor salt from this place. Although the store helper couldn’t explain the differences among the various salts for sale, we took it on faith (in Alain Ducasse?) that at these prices, the salt has got to be out of this world. So we will report back if our 15 euros’ worth of salt isn’t worth the money.

Where We Stayed:

Our hotel, the Antiq Hotel, sits on one of the Old Town’s charming cobblestoned streets and is within a 10-minute walk of most shops and restaurants. The room we have is enormous but still welcoming, and at 153 euros a night, including breakfast, it’s a great value. The hotel is a family-run business housed in what looks like a former townhouse, and the service is very friendly and helpful. My one complaint is that our shower was a little iffy when it came to consistent hot water, but overall, I would stay here again.

Eating:

Eating in Ljubljana has also been great value. The food we’ve had is very similar to Italian food – lots of fresh pastas and pillowy-soft gnocchi, for example. The Eastern European/German influence shows in the popularity of stewed meats, and this blend of influences works fine.

Zlata Ribica (“The Golden Fish”), near Golden Fish at Zlata Ribica restaurant, Ljubljanathe city’s famous Triple Bridge (photo at top of this post), is casual, friendly, and served great soups and good pastas. Jon’s roasted garlic soup was deliciously creamy and sweet. Sopping it up with bread was like eating the ultimate fondue. My beef broth with noodle soup was refreshing and packed with flavor, but it was no show-stopper when compared with the garlic soup. Jon’s tagliatelle was fresh and al dente, and my gnocchi was fluffy (though mixed with a slightly-tough pork stew), and we were happy as clams pairing everything with a decent, slightly-watery local cabernet sauvignon (2004 Vinakoper Capris). Total tab: 37 euros. Brilliant.

Paninoteka: For 2,80 euros each, we gorged ourselves on fresh arugula, prosciutto and cheese panini. We couldn’t have asked for a quicker, tastier lunch than the hot sandwiches from this small shop on the west side of the Cobbler’s Bridge.

Julija: Because it’s around the corner from our hotel, Jon and I walked by this restaurant half a dozen times today, and we were drawn to the menu (seafoods, pastas, risottos) and the decor (cheery, whimsical Baroque, like at Serendipity 3 in New York).

So when our friends, Colleen, Sarah, and Damon, arrived in Ljubljana this evening, Julija is where we headed to dinner. Our starters were good, especially the grilled eggplant-and-cheese (fresh ingredients hot and cheesy, where can you go wrong?). My risotto with clams was al dente and chock full of clams for a mere 9,50 euros. Spaghetti carbonara was unusually, but addictively, nutty and creamy (I feel like I ate most of Jon’s and Sarah’s orders), and the gnocchi eaters claimed much fluffiness was in effect. The white we ordered, a sauvignon blanc from a local vineyard, Kristancic, paired well with our meal, and we left full and happy campers with a bill that came to 15 euros a person.

Tomorrow, the five of us are driving down to Istria, where we hope some fun in the sun awaits!

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Abercrombie & Fitch London Flagship Store

Good Friday is a public holiday in the UK, which means I had the day off from work. Jon and I are leaving for a ten-day vacation tomorrow (Slovenia and Croatia with our friends from college), but the weather was so sunny and inviting today, we started our holiday in town by picnicking in Hyde Park with friends and then going on a scavenger hunt in Westminster.

While we were out and about, I noticed a lot of double-decker buses emblazoned with Abercrombie & Fitch ads. They’re hard to miss thanks to the double-decker size of the half-naked hottie featured, and it reminded me to describe my visit to the new Abercrombie flagship store in London.

Only if you work in retail (or if you are a hardcore fan of the store – i.e., an affluent, white, twenty-something) might you know that the London store opened to the UK public on 22 March and is Abercrombie’s first venture outside North America. I, however, showed up a few days before the 22 March opening to be part of an “investor tour,” which is an open house-style event for people who own (or might own) big chunks of Abercrombie stock. You show up, get your name crossed off a list by an investor relations/PR-type person, walk around inspecting stuff, maybe talk to corporate reps (the CEO and folks less august), and then leave with swag.

The store sits on Savile Row and is steps away from the Burlington Arcade. If that last sentence meant nothing to you, I’m saying the area where the Flagship opened is super old-school in a big-jewelry, expensive Grandma-soap kind of way. It’s a funny place to locate a store that aggressively sells youth and sex.

Also confusing to me is how nondescript the store is. There was no signage and I almost walked past the entrance – that is, until I heard the pounding techno music inside. The Flagship is housed in a sober stone building whispering “private club,” rather than shouting “American retailer of sexy clothes.” (See photo at top)

Inside, the store was service heaven. It was like being back in America – there were helpers galore.  The staff had American accents, and everyone was asking if they could help. No need for the requisite dance with British servers to get basic help (“oh, please, would you ever be so kind as to take the time out of your busy day to see if perhaps you might possibly have this T-shirt in a different size?”). I mean, I’m not saying in America it’s OK to be rude or mean (never acceptable, anywhere in the world), but just that in the US, you can say “do you have this in a different size” without drawing a scornful “what an asshole” look from people who were presumably hired to help you.

As you’d expect from Abercrombie, the helpers were embarrassingly good-looking. An especially attractive young man and woman greeted guests/investors in the vestibule, and as is the Abercrombie way, the man was standing around without a shirt – the idea being that if you want to be like He of the Rippling Abs, you should buy Abercrombie’s £40 T-shirts.

The store interior was all high drama. Dark rooms; soaring ceilings; pinpoint lighting; gorgeous wrought-iron railings and grand stone staircases. The most entertaining touches were the oil paintings of studly young men in their American football outfits. And here I thought oil painting was a dying art.

I haven’t been in an Abercrombie store since college, but overall, I’m highly unlikely to shop there now (and to be fair, they’re not marketing to 30-somethings like me, so no loss to them, I suppose). Two things in particular annoyed me, and I’ll be curious to see if they annoy the 20-something target audience:

1. The Jeans Bar on the ground floor looks user-unfriendly. Jeans are displayed in glass counters and also along the wall behind the glass counters, as if you’re in a jewelry store. To try on the jeans, you have to talk to the helpers manning the counter, and honestly, I like to try on an annoyingly-high number of pairs before I decide on one that fits, so I’d rather not have to interact with anyone if I so choose. I also had to laugh out loud at jeans in the Men’s area that came with a sign announcing that only 250 pairs of these jeans exist in the world, and only the extra-cool stores (LA, New York and London) stock them. Obviously, there’s a price premium attached to such exclusivity.

2. Bad-value goods. Like many Americans, I love casual clothes, and I don’t shy from the occasional “investment piece.” But £70 for a sweatshirt that says “Abercrombie” on it? Seriously? The £50 tag on underwear-length shorts also made quality dinner-party fodder the past few weeks. And there were rooms of this stuff (sweatshirts and shorts), by the way. I haven’t seen any Londoner wear shorts, ever, so what’s with this inventory decision? Additionally, the sizes were American, not British. There’s a big difference between the two: an American women’s Size 6 is a British Size 10, for example. So, given European sensitivity about American insensitivity towards the world’s cultural differences, selling items in UK sizes would be a nice gesture, don’t you think? Or at least smart business.

I’d go back to the store if it ever closes and turns into a martini lounge. If that happens, the new owners should keep the helpers around. They’re hot.

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Windsor Castle, Round Tower

The Round Tower at Windsor Castle

Finally, after living in the UK for about 570 days, we ventured outside of London to see Windsor Castle, Queen Elizabeth II‘s weekend getaway.

Because I’m a train fan, there were only two options for reaching Windsor: a 1-hour direct train ride from Waterloo or a 1-hour ride from Paddington with a transfer at Slough (Office fans among you have heard of the unfortunately-named Slough). The latter doesn’t run on Sundays, so Waterloo, it was.

For £7.20 a person, you can get a “cheap same day return” ticket to Windsor Central Riverside station. The Southwest commuter trains that run to Windsor are clean, comfortable, and overall much nicer than the plastic-seated NJ Transit trains of my youth.

It was an easy ride into Windsor, and when we hopped off, we found ourselves on a busy, but still quaint, road called Dachet, and Windsor Castle loomed above. Because we’d packed a picnic lunch, we walked over the pedestrian-only Windsor Bridge in search of green patches to spread our blanket.

All we found across the bridge was the Eton boat house and a large, forlorn-looking grassy field that screamed “don’t picnic here.” I’m pretty sure I saw tumbleweed blow by.  So we turned around and headed back towards the Castle, which is so enormous that it took forever to walk around the perimeter to reach the tourist entrance.

I was amused to see the road circling the Castle walls was lined by chains of all shapes and sizes – McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, Ben & Jerry’s and Thai Square, for example. There’s even what appeared to be a Medieval-themed shopping mall. I wonder what the Queen thinks. Does she go to McDonald’s? She’s probably grateful the Castle is surrounded by 4-meter-thick (high) stone walls.

After buying our tickets (£14.20 a person – yowsers) and making our way through security screening, we asked a guard where to picnic, and he suggested the delightful-sounding “Jubilee Gardens.”

Well, it turns out the Jubilee Gardens is a small, paved bandstand surrounded by a narrow strip of greenery and flowers. It’s right on the footpath visitors take to get from the ticket office to the main entrance of the Castle, which does give you the feeling you’re on display as part of the scenery.  Still, it was sunny and 50 F today, so we didn’t mind (too much) gorging ourselves in public on the paved bandstand.

Our free audiotour guided us through the few parts of the Castle that are open to the public.  Walking around, I could imagine how cold and tough it was to live in the Castle when William the Conqueror built the first part of the Castle, the Round Tower (see photo at top), in the early 11th century as a fortress.

Today, you know the Queen is in the house when the royal standard flies from the top of the Round Tower, as it did today.  The heavy, thick, stone walls studded with narrow slits (through which archers could blast out a few deadly arrows) didn’t conjure up warm and fuzzy thoughts, but the interior rooms, which are lived in and are therefore comfortable, do provide a big contrast to the Castle’s appearance from the outside.

When inside the Castle, the audiotour directs you first to see Queen Mary’s dollhouse. Another case of a misleading name. I thought it was a dollhouse given to Queen Mary when she was a child, but actually, it was given to her when she was an adult (an avid miniature-collecting adult). Weird. The dollhouse comes with real silverware, crown jewels and even vintage wine in miniature. Oh, and did I mention the electricity and working plumbing? No doubt it has a better heating and water system than my flat in London.

I enjoyed the photo exhibit of Elizabeth II’s life in the Castle’s Drawings Gallery, capturing her on film from infancy to the present. It’s easy to forget that the inflexible, reserved woman portrayed today has lived through some interesting times, including WWII during the Blitz, and these photos put her life in a context I’d never really considered.

The State Apartments were, as Jon says, “just like in any palace.” Lots of ponderous beds draped in heavy fabrics, Van Dycks, Reubens and throne rooms here and there, gilt-and-crystal everything; and china sets galore.

Windsor Castle Quadrangle

Quadrangle at Windsor Castle

For me, the interesting bits were the “spoils of war” from various colonies (e.g., a solid gold tiger from the throne of Tipu Sultan) as well as the pains taken to reconstruct parts of the Castle destroyed by a fire in 1992. In one grand room, the intricate wood-tiled floor was restored by removing each tile, flipping it over, and gluing it back down. Genius.While walking through the State Apartments, if you look out the windows, you get a nice view of the Quadrangle, which is a college-looking courtyard that looks too inviting to be left so empty of pedestrians. Alas, no visitors allowed on the Quadrangle. Queen only, I suppose.

Overall, Windsor is a nice place to visit, and I wish we’d had more time to walk around the pretty town streets. I might skip bringing a picnic lunch next time and just join the tourist hordes at the McDonald’s. It spares you the indignity of sitting out on a bandstand by the Castle entrance.

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