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Monthly Archives: July 2012

SEPTEMBER ISSUES!!

I was a late bloomer when it came to interest in fashion. But since the Anna Wintour/Vogue documentary “The September Issue” came out, I’ve been obsessed with this month in the publishing calendar*. Not in a knowledgeable sense by any means, I leave that up to the real experts. But in an eye-candy sort of way.

This includes Vanity Fair’s International Best Dressed List which has just been released today (!). Below are some favorites from the Vanity Fair slideshow, but you can see the entire list here or by clicking on any of the photos below.

They are adorable. 

Oh Matt Lauer, you are so stylish for an American news show host and we love you for it. 

Thank you, as always, Vanity Fair.

All photos found here. 

*If you have not seen “The September Issue” – and especially if you have seen The Devil Wears Prada – go rent it now. Its the real world behind a fascinating industry and the people behind it. 

I will admit it. I hoped Windsor would live up to my expectations. Funny thing is that now I can’t even remember what those expectations were. It is honestly the most beautiful castle I have ever seen.

Fact: William the Conqueror built a defensive ring of castles around England, including Windsor in 1066, spaced some 24 miles apart. Why? That is the average marching distance of an army in one day. (There were many *lightbulb* moments for Jessica on this visit…this was the first.)

We followed a guide around the first leg of the visit (highly recommended – as is the audio guide). You learn all sorts of interesting trivia, such as: in 1992, you would have seen the above lawn strewn with furniture and precious items being saved from the fire that tore through the State Apartments. The castle was badly damaged (…sad mental picture of a heartbroken Queen here) and Buckingham Palace was opened for the first time to the public in order to raise funds for the repair. Happily, the castle has been beautifully restored – including the Gothic wooden ceiling of St George’s hall – and it is reassuring to know that such skill has not been lost. 

Fact: The Queen drives a hunter-green Land Rover. That is her ride pictured above.

Another fact:  We, I mean, Tourists had their eyes fixed on those doors throughout the day hoping to get a glimpse of Royalty as the Queen was in residence. I hope she was resting up for her big helicopter jump with James Bond.

Pictures inside Windsor are not allowed (something i have never witnessed crowds actually abide by, but in this castle, no one dared take out a camera). I have scoured the internet for some photos, but even the very few posted there are not worthy of the real thing.  You will simply have to go visit and make sure to look upI have never seen ceilings as gorgeous, treasure more beautiful or history more painstakingly preserved as at Windsor.

Some additional facts about Windsor Castle:

  • Elizabeth I liked using the Castle for diplomatic functions. The many visits of foreign dignitaries served as the basis for Shakespeare’s play The Merry Wives of Windsor.
  • Buckingham Palace was to become the new royal residence during the reign of Queen Victoria, but she was so bereaved following the death of her husband, Prince Albert, she chose to live out her remaining years in Windsor Castle, leading to Rudyard Kipling popularizing the phrase the “The Widow of Windsor”.
  • Victoria preferred candlelight and as such, electricty was not introduced to the Castle until the very end of her reign.
  • Queen Mary’s dollhouse is a must see at the castle. Not only is it enormous (in dollhouse terms), but it is a tiny time-capsule.  All of the items inside were either commissioned or volunteered by artists, craftsmen and business leaders of the day. A tiny gramophone, complete with records, was offered to the project after tests had been run to prove it could really play.
  • Some 500 people currently live and work in the Castle.
  • Look up as you walk through the stone gates into the castle grounds. Many have scrapes on either side from modern fire trucks rushin into the castle during the fire of 1992. Ingenious firemen let out the wheels of the trucks so they could pass under the gates into the centre courtyards. (Windsor Castle has since built its own fire department…) 
  • There used to be a pub on the grounds until it was closed for rowdy behavior. Now it is the gift shop closest to the Chapel.
  • Grass surrounds the outside of the castle and if you walk on it, you pay a fine. Unless – true story – you are a little kid. We anxiously watched as a little kid took off one evening and ran right up to touch the castle wall… an alarm must have gone off somewhere as we watched several heads pop over the ramparts, but they let the kid go. Nice guards at Windsor, kids. You’ll be ok.

Patience personified. 

The second gargoyle from the left is mocking you. 

And finally, after you have wandered all over the grounds and emerged exhausted from hours of consistent *lightbulb* moments, you can rest your feet across the street at a recent tribute to the newest addition to the Royal family:

Travel notes:

Windsor is about a 45 minute drive away from London and is also the home of Eton College and the nearby Ascot racetracks.

On a nice day, visit the castle early in the morning to beat the biggest crowds, then meander around town for some quality shopping, buy picnic-makings from M&S and eat a leisurely lunch in the long park that leads up to the Castle. Top quality people (and dog) watching and if you are lucky, you might just see the Land Rover drive by.

 

Our first two days in England were spent doing Royal things. When I say “Royal things”, I mean we visited a palace and a castle. And when I say “a castle”, I mean THE Castle…

…but i get ahead of myself.

First stop was Hampton Court Palace, a massive stately home* on the banks of the Thames just outside London. The Palace was famously expanded from a medieval residence by Thomas Wolsey, who did such a good job that Henry VIII “expressed his admiration for the Palace”, which I believe if you are Henry VIII, translates into “Give me your house, Wolsey”.

The Tudor part of the house is full of evidence of Henry’s many wives: Anne Boleyn was integral in designing the Great Hall, Jane Seymour died after giving birth at the Palace, Henry’s divorce from Anne of Cleves’ was finalised there, Catherine Howard was imprisoned on suspicion of adultery and Henry married Katherine Parr in the Palace Chapel.  This section of the Palace has a very manly feel to it, even with its stunning ceilings and painted walls.

What makes Hampton Court Palace interesting is the many different generations represented in the building’s architecture. You begin walking slowly around the site and quickly realize you should pick up the pace as it is enormous and brimming with history. As Lord Protector, Oliver Cromwell used to spend his weekends there. Sir Christopher Wren (famous for building St Paul’s Cathedral) was hired in 1689 to give the place a face lift for William III and Mary II, and as a consequence, much of the Tudor Palace was demolished. A large part of the exterior one sees is now Georgian in style.

A walking gallery, for battling the unpredictable English weather. 

My favorite part of the visit were the gardens. The trees have been spectacularly shaped into much-harder-than-i-thought-to-photograph giant mushrooms and the whole space has a calm and magical feel to it. (Magical might actually be the right wording for it as there have been rumours of at least two ghosts roaming the Palace grounds.)

Magical or ghostly we wonder? 

The Palace has interesting modern history too. Sophia Duleep Singh, an Indian princess, was granted access to the Palace in 1898 and later joined the English suffragette movement, accompanying Emmeline Pankhurst on her first march to Parliament in 1910.

In 1944, General Eisenhower began planning the Normandy invasion from the park, which extends across 750 acres. Rain kept us from getting lost in the Palace maze, but for a future trip, I am always up for getting lost.

Hampton Court Palace is certainly worth a visit if you are a fan of history and its architecture and  size will keep you interested for hours. Do some reading up before you get there on their website. (I would skip the audio guide, which is more concentrated on narration from fictional characters than actual facts about the building itself.)

Tomorrow, THE Castle.

J xx

*Stately homes – a term familiar to the English but one which Americans find endlessly amusing. “Stately home” just does not roll off the tongue right in an American accent, just like how we cannot get away with saying tea is “lovely” (i.e. – is tea beautiful?) or say that a show was “brilliant” (i.e. – the actors were shiny?)  

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