We're off! Leaving Los Angeles on Virgin Atlantic Airlines about dinnertime on Wednesday, we arrived at London about lunchtime on Thursday. Of course, Los Angeles time was about four in the morning, and not everybody had slept on the airplane!
Some members of the choir (and spouses) traveled independently of the main group. Here are Lois Bourgon, Lynn Coulter, Delpha Flad, Rita Koch, Nancy Jackson, and Evelyn Belt greeting us as we came out of the Customs area.
It was too early to check into our hotel, so we went for a quick visit to Windsor Castle. This is the oldest continuously-occupied royal residence in the United Kingdom, and is currently the principal weekend residence of the Queen. Much of the castle was closed to the public, but since we had only two hours or so we didn't run out of things to see there!
The oldest fortified part of the grounds is the artificial mound raised about 1080 by William the Conqueror, who built a wooden fortress atop it. A century later Henry II built the Round Tower of stone on the site, and subsequent kings added to its height. In front are some of the guards, marching from their posts after being relieved by others.
After founding the famed Order of the Garter in 1348, Edward III expanded Windsor to serve as the seat of the Knights of the Garter, and a century later Edward IV built St. George's Chapel to honor the patron saint of England and of the Order. We were able to go inside, but photography was not allowed; it was very moving to see all the tombs and memorials of royalty and other people important to the long history of Britain. Henry VIII and at least one of his wives were there, as were George VI and his queen Elizabeth who passed away just months ago. One area seemed to be dedicated to the organists of the Chapel!
The formal halls of the castle were all closed, but we did get to see Queen Mary's Dolls' House (again, no photos allowed). This was a 1/12 scale replica of a royal residence, built in the most meticulous detail (for example, miniature books handwritten by the authors of the actual books they modeled, or tiny monogrammed napkins) as a gift for the Queen in 1924.
Of course some of the group, especially those who had been to Windsor Castle before, didn't make it past the shopping area attached to the railway station where we parked!
After regrouping at the buses, we drove to our hotel, which was a few dozen miles outside London, near Oxford. Most of us were pretty much ready for bed because of jet lag, but we had dinner and a quick a capella (without accompaniment) rehearsal first. And, it gives me great pleasure to pass on to you the news that Rev. Ray Lambert gave us at dinner: he and Terri Breitling announced their engagement! How's that for starting off the trip on the right note?
new 27 June 2002, revised 12 July 2002