10 Oct 2009

Stamford and back to London

Today is the last day of the tour. We all have mixed feelings about leaving the tour. For one thing we've met some wonderful people on the tour. No doubt there are some who still are very outdated and have snobbish outlooks - one of them is Val (don't know her full name) who is from Australia. She has this upper class look and is quite snobbish - hardly talking to Repin and myself. Her husband though is a very nice and friendly guy and told us that they had visted Kuala Lumpur and enjoyed their stay at the Palace of the Golden Horses. The majority though are really friendly and I made a number of friends among them - Joy from Ohio, Charmaine and Barbara from Sacremento, Dot from Florida, Buddy and his wife from St Louis. There's also a lovely Japanese- American couple from San Francisco who are sisters and are such dears. I think this is a wonderful way to meet friends.

From York we went on to Stamford, a small market town in rural England. We had lunch here - pasta for me and tuna sandwiches for Repin. We were joined later by Penny and her sister who also did not want to visit the church there. Stamford is a charming town - so typical of many English country towns - narrow cobble streets, small but beautifully designed shops,a small river that flows through - the Tweed I think -and a village green where we can see people basking in the sun. Lots of quaint looking English pubs with funny names - like The Stag's Head, Queen's Arms and so on.

The huge dining room

Our last visit is Belvoir Castle - a beautiful castle which still has the original owners staying there! The castle was originally built during the time of William the conqueror, by one of his close friends, a knight. The Duke of Rutland (who is the owner) still lives there with his wife and four children. Its really quite awesome - not just the castle but the family itself. Imagine being able to trace your family way back to 1066!

With Repin in the garden at Belvoir Castle

For a building that's been around for centuries, it's remarkably well kept and beautifully maintained. According to Hugh the Duke's family made their millions during the hey day of the wool trade and clever investment and cannyknowledge of economics have built it up. I'm sure it needs a lot of money to maintain a castle this size!

We were given a guided tour by the manager of the estate - a woman. The halls are so luxuriously furnished and it seems every monarch from the time of William had stayed here, including the present queen.

There were so many paintings - originals by Constable, Gainsborough and many others I did'nt recognise. There was also a painting of Henry VIII - an original done during his time at the time when he was still handsome.

The dining room is so huge - with 24 chairs at the dining table. You can't talk to the master of the house if you are sitting way down for sure! And the bedrooms - gorgeous four poster beds that Queen Elizabeth 1 had slept in.Imagine that! They must be super rich to live in a real castle and to be able to maintain its huge grounds. There are even peacocks in the garden.Part of its maintenance come from these guided tours - it costs about 6 pounds sterling to visit the castle.

At last we are on our way back to London - The Hilton Metropole in Edgeware Road. We arrived about 3.15pm and were quickly checked in. Both Repin and I did our prayers and had a rest after which we walked to Oxford Street for some souvenir shopping. Tomorrow we are meeting Nurul again and go and visit the British Museum and perhaps the L0ndon Eye, Covent Garden and some used books at Charing Cross Road.

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