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The last busy weekend of the season

The weekend was spent in various activities involving our latest visitors, which explains the first non-travel two-day post gap since sometime last year. With our approaching long holiday, it should be the last active “home” weekend for a couple of months. Anyway, here is a brief re-cap.

On Saturday, we went to one of the last remaining “major” destinations in greater London not visited before – the Windsor castle. While overall very impressive, to say nothing of huge, it left us slightly underwhelmed. Possibly we’ve seen too much opulence at various palaces over the years. Or the absence of usually requisite vast surrounding grounds diminishes the impression.

At the Windsor castle

The State apartments boast great armour displays and a worthy of a top gallery collection of paintings by Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Canaletto, Holbein and others. Otherwise, their grandeur is fairly understated – not a bad thing, really, just not exactly awe-inducing. There is an incredible Dolls’ House as a separate point of interest (prepare to wait in line for an hour or so), and a marvelous chapel within the castle’s precincts.

Interestingly, the youngest members of our group were the ones who had the most fun. Kimmy and little Sammy walked around with their own audio-guides set to children-oriented narrative, which constantly asked them to look for specific things in each room. They were on a sort of a treasure hunt all along…

We also spent a bit of time strolling through the busy shopping-and-eating area around the castle and walking across the river to the atmospheric Eton village. A great day-trip, overall.

On Sunday, we escorted our friends to the familiar environs of Greenwich, Prime Meridian and all. The weather was lovely, so we eventually found a pleasant spot on one of the Greenwich Park’s vast lawns, and the kids and their Dads engaged in a lengthy round of “monkey-in-the-middle”, while the Moms idly relaxed in the sun.

Dima and I later tried the quintessential British pursuit of going to a pub. Old and lazy guys that we are, we figured that the nearest pub to the house will do quite fine. The flaw of the plan was that, due to its location and its status as a “gastro-pub”, the establishment lacks the true atmosphere of a pub. It was quite deserted. We both rather value comfort and quiet over the hustle and bustle of a crowd, but the experience was certainly less than quintessential.

Later on, it was time for a guitar and a karaoke. Perfect finale!

In unrelated news, Natasha did not get on with the program after the recent international calling debacle and continued making calls to Russia in the regular manner. That resulted in our outgoing calls being blocked again, and I still cannot get it resolved as the monthly bill is only expected by the end of this week. We decided that we did not care to do anything about it, on account of leaving on a holiday quite soon. If the stupid phone company does not want us to incur legitimate charges – and they will eventually compensate us back for all of the illegitimate ones, no doubt! – then that’s their problem. We can do most of our calling from the mobiles.

Kimmy woke up this morning with a despondent feeling of being the only child in the house who still needs to go to school. It took me a while to convince her that there are only a few days of it left. Many breaks during the year are all fine and dandy, but it’s entirely ridiculous of the British school system to have children in classes in mid-July…


  1. Ilya

    Vince, I wrote elsewhere on this site about the peculiarities of British school calendar. Three terms (Sep-Dec, Jan-early Apr, late Apr-July) are separated by two-weeks-long holidays around Christmas and Easter, plus seven weeks in summer. In addition, each term has a week-long half-term break. The total vacation time comes to about 14 weeks a year, which is comparable to the US, but spread into the summer…

  2. Jim Wright

    School in July? What a great idea (he says after two months of having the 12-year old under foot).

    It’s been years, but Windsor Castle looks as beautiful and as imposing as I remember.

  3. Ilya

    The theory that the calendar is about “making it easier for the working parents” is widely accepted here…

    I’ll have more pictures of Windsor up eventually…

  4. John the Scientist

    How is that “making it easier”?

    Here in the States, you can find someone or some camp to look after the kids in the summer, but these week-off deals just leave parents scrambling for daycare when the summer help is back in college. We also have a plethora of “service days” where teachers write report cards, hold conferences, etc.

    I believe that Jerri complained about this a while ago. I hate the fact that with 2 different spring breaks, my kid was going until June 20. My wife stays home, so we don’t have the daycare problem, but I get half day fridays in the summer, NOT during either of their DAMN spring breaks.

    School should begin the last week in August for 3 days, and then allow a 4 day week for Labor Day the next week to ease the kids into the schedule. It should end by the first week in June, IMHO. I guess this means that summer jobs are a bit more scarce in the UK, since employers over here want a solid three months out of the kids.

  5. Ilya

    I don’t have any firsthand knowledge of this, but observationally it feels that the “summer job” culture is a lot less prevalent here than in the States.

    Also, do not forget that children start traveling – and staying home – on their own a lot earlier in the UK than in the US. I am guessing that the daycare problem is, therefore, not as painful.

    I think the “easier” argument simply talks about not having kids percolate at home for 10-12 weeks in summer…

    Your proposed schedule is very close to what I had when I went to school (we had 6-days weeks, of course, but that’s a different subject) and I think some states actually work that way too.

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