Famous Queens and Infamous Kings

by Jessica on March 4, 2009

Famous Queens and Infamous Kings were the order of the day. First, we toured Windsor Castle, the residence of Queen Elizabeth II. The boys enjoyed the tour and especially enjoyed the opulence of the State rooms. Mostly,they wanted to catch a glimpse of the Queen. Even though I assured them that they would likely not see the Queen, they still spent the whole tour looking around every hidden corner. We did not linger at any one point in the tour too long, and we opted to skip the doll collection in hopes of keeping their attention. Honestly, I would have enjoyed seeing Queen Mary’s doll collection, but with a group of boys that cover their eyes for ‘girl’ commercials, I decided to take one for the team.

Windsor Castle

After we had toured the castle grounds, we turned a corner and saw a guard changing ceremony in progress. Jokingly, I suggested we find a place to watch the ceremony, but before the boys could run away screaming, I let them off the hook and suggested we go to a park down the street instead.

After lunch at the park, we drove to Hampton Court Palace to explore the home of Henry VIII. I had done much research about Hampton Court, thanks to the wonderful resources provided for children on the website  As an aside, I have been so impressed the focus provided for education at the sites in England. Also, I have a personal tie to the castle, as the Cardinal who originally owned the castle is a part of my family tree.

Hampton Court Palace

The visit, though, was somewhat disappointing. Most of the castle involving Henry VIII was unexpectedly closed. The ticket office offered us a pass to return another day and tour the castle for free, but would not be useful to us. We did our best to salvage the visit. We explored as much as was possible. The boys really enjoyed the garden maze and made quick work of finding their way to the end of the maze.

Posing proudly at the end of the Garden Maze.

At the suggestion of the ticket office, we checked out one of the two audio tours designed for kids. I had high hopes for that, as the boys had such fun with the audio tours at the baths. The tour was designed to take us through the Victorian era of the castle. In each room, a segment of the Victorian lifestyle was explored and then we were offered a multiple choice question that we had to key into our handset. Room after room, we found it impossible to choose the right answer. We even tried to cheat the system, and each of us picked a different answer. We were still all wrong. The boys were getting more and more frustrated with the system, and were even starting to take it personally. The final insult came in the last room when they answered the last question and the prerecorded voice demanded that we knew nothing and instructed us to get out and never come back. That sent Ryan running from the room with tears in his eyes, and Evan was not far behind with just as much frustration. Perhaps it was designed to be funny and the cultural differences were lost on us, but it was not received humorously by these boys.

The Gardens of Hampton Court Palace

On our way out of the exhibit, we saw another group entering with their headsets. “You don’t what you’re getting yourself into,” Ryan warned from across the courtyard. That was an excellent summation of our day, I think. Despite my penchant for planning (or overplanning), there were things that just didn’t go the way we had hoped. Ah, well. Conventional wisdom has it that a bad day on vacation is better than a good day at home. I tend to agree.

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