Windsor is almost ready for its closeup.
Excitement is building in this small city at the base of mighty Windsor Castle, where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle will soon tie the royal knot at St. George’s Chapel, inside the castle walls.
Set for May 19, the “wedding of the year” is creating a worldwide buzz with much attention focused on Windsor and the still to be revealed wedding details. (What title will be bestowed on the newlyweds? Will Canada’s own Jessica Mulroney be Meghan’s maid of honour? Will Prince William be the best man? Where will the couple spend their honeymoon, etc.)
While many details are still a closely guarded secret, we do know that after the televised ceremony, which starts at noon (7 a.m. EDT), the newlyweds will take a spin around town to greet well wishers.
The prince and his bride will travel through the centre of Windsor in a royal carriage, then turn back to Windsor Great Park for a short drive up the Long Walk before re-entering the castle for private celebrations.
It’s a forgone conclusion that possibly hundreds of thousands of people will line the processional route. And the town plans to set up giant video screens so those who aren’t near the front will be able to catch a glimpse of the newlyweds as they pass by.
“Windsor is the Queen’s home,” and well used to managing big crowds and royal events, says Amanda Bryett of Windsor Tour Guides during a tour of the city and castle.
Buckingham Palace is “the office,” the Blue Badge guide continues, while Windsor is where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip spend their “free weekends and family holidays.” Windsor Castle is also where the young royals stay when visiting their grandparents.
Some official occasions take place there, too, and world leaders are frequent guests. Most recently heads of the 53 Commonwealth nations — including Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — met there.
Still, the size of the crowd streaming into town is expected to be nothing less than mind boggling.
About 1 million spectators turned out for the 2011 London wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. And while this wedding is not a state affair, Prince Harry and Meghan are also very popular and attract large crowds wherever they appear.
So residents and shop owners are preparing to be overrun with paparazzi and royal watchers in the days leading up to the event.
Shops are chock-a-block with royal wedding gewgaws — mugs, tins, aprons, tea towels — even cardboard Harry and Meghan masks.
Some local businesses have created original products to commemorate the event.
The Queen Charlotte pub — a great place for lunch that stocks more than 100 different gins — has teamed up with Oak Taverns Ltd. on the limited edition Gin&’er. The first bottle will be auctioned with proceeds going to a charity of Harry’s choice, GM John Parry said.
And a local brewery has created Harry & Meghan’s Windsor Knot Pale Ale. In a nod to the couple’s heritage, the craft beer combines British and U.S. hops, and barley grown on the Royal Farms next to Windsor Castle.
The castle, which is open to the public most days of the year, will be closed to all but invited guests May 18-19.
Area hotels have been booked up for months and train tickets to Windsor are sold out. Police are warning drivers that many roads leading to the city about an hour from London will be at a standstill that weekend, and there could be closures.
So if you want to visit Windsor and you didn’t get a royal invitation or have friends or family living there, perhaps a post wedding visit would be wise.
Then you could tour the castle grounds, watch the changing of the guard, take a peek inside St. George’s Chapel or attend evensong, and tour the sumptuous Royal Apartments.
Finish your visit with a stroll through Windsor Great Park — where Prince Andrew and Elton John have homes —and a trip across the bridge to Eton, where Prince William and Prince Harry attended school. Who knows, you might even see a member of the royal family.
* When the Royal Standard is flying, it means Her Majesty is in the house.
* Prince Harry was christened at St. George’s.
* Prince Andrew’s daughter Eugenie will marry at Windsor Castle in the fall.
* The State Apartments have outstanding artworks.
* See windsor.gov.uk.
* See visitbritain.com.
A day at the races
ASCOT, England — This is horse country, home to the fabled Ascot Racecourse and Royal Ascot — a week of throughbred races attended by members of the royal family, a who’s who of British society, celebrities, gents in waistcoats and ladies in head-turning hats.
Royal Ascot takes place June 19-23 this year. Queen Elizabeth, who is very knowledgeable about race horses and owns more than 30, is expected to attend all five days as she has every year since 1945.
Mere commoners can also attend, provided they adhere to the strict dress code. (Tickets at a variety of price points are available online.)
While Royal Ascot is the centrepiece of Britain’s social calendar, many other high profile races and events are held there throughout the year.
Me and my travelling companions attended the recent Spring Family Race Day, and I discovered a day at Ascot is nothing like a day at any track I’ve been to in Canada.
In addition to multiple restaurants and bars — serving everything from bangers and bubbles to caviar and craft beer — there was lots of free kid-friendly fun such as pony rides, meet and greets with Peter Rabbit, hedgehogs and other furry friends, nature workshops and crafts, a climbing wall and more.
We spent the racing part of our day in a private box, where — between races — we enjoyed afternoon tea and many glasses of bubbly.
During the afternoon, Anthony Kemp — an Ascot “Tipster” — dropped by on his rounds to explain how to read the racing form, how to place bets and to provide some insider intel on horses and jockeys.
For information and tickets to Royal Ascot and other events, see ascot.co.uk.
Staying and playing in style
Tourist can’t stay at Windsor Castle but there are many places with royal connections nearby.
One of the best is Coworth Park, a lux country house hotel on 90-hectares that was once the estate of the Earl of Derby. The property was later acquired by British-
Canadian businessman Galen Weston, who turned it into an equestrian centre before selling it to the Dorchester Collection.
After extensive renovations, Coworth Park Hotel opened in 2010 with everything the English gentry might require for a relaxed but pampered weekend in the country: Horses (ponies for children), polo — fields, tournaments and lessons — indoor pool, zen-like spa, tennis and croquet courts, meandering paths and lush gardens.
Perhaps it’s Coworth’s laid-back vibe that has attracted the young royals. Prince Harry and Prince William played in a charity polo match there in 2013, and Harry and Meghan Markle were spotted after another match there last year.
Or maybe it’s the excellent cuisine. There are three restaurants — The Barn for informal dining, the Michelin-starred Restaurant Coworth Park, overseen by rising
British culinary star Chef Adam Smith, and the Spatisserie for light bites.
Accommodation is in 70 rooms and suites situated in the carefully restored Georgian mansion, converted stables, cottages and a three-bedroom Dowager House.
In May, a Royal Wedding Afternoon Tea will be served at Coworth and The Dorchester Hotel, the company’s flagship London hotel.
Source : http://torontosun.com/travel/international/romancing-the-castle-all-eyes-on-windsor-in-lead-up-to-royal-wedding