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Letter from Europe: Windsor, England

 

It’s been many trips back and forth to Ireland, England and the continent. I’ve been on planes, in trains and driven myself all over Ireland – for the first time. Now it’s time to unwind. Of course I had to bypass London this visit. When I’m there, I never want to miss a thing. Unwinding is not an option for me over in “London Town.”  I sought out the countryside. Something close enough to all the action (if the urge overtook) yet sufficiently removed that I could connect with England. There are so many choices, just on the outskirts of the capital.

england2Windsor it is. As I sit and write, gazing out my extremely large windows, I’m prone to fantasize. The castle is only steps away from The Macdonald Windsor, and my digs, The Onyx Suite, was perfectly perched to give me the right vantage point. The sculpture of Queen Victoria, somehow capturing her as both statuesque and rotund, provided excellent fuel for my imagination of what went on behind those thick stone walls. This vision, juxtaposed with the scores of business travelers staying at my hotel, gave it an edge. It was the initially stark contrast of the changing of the guard, which happens every morning during summer – a tradition that never gets old – against the well-dressed business people milling about the lobby, posting up on the couches and having power-meetings over coffee, that made me wonder what was going on in Windsor.

Turns out that the town is a hub for professionals. A multitude of global companies have sought out the town and surrounding area as their UK base. These international enterprises have found a home close enough to London to lure talent yet just far enough removed to be efficient without the big-city hustle and bustle. The Royal Family knew this for centuries! Think about it…if the queen can run things from here, then why should anyone else have an issue with doing the same. Business, history, shopping, loads of pubs, restaurants, hotel lobby lounges and museums to explore…I like Windsor, right off the bat.

I’ve just stepped out of my oversized bathtub and decided that going out and taking a tour of the castle or shopping the narrow streets that house an eclectic mix of goodies would need to wait a day or two. I had everything I needed to unwind right at my fingertips. Then I wrapped myself in a plush hotel bathrobe, peered out the window again and began to string bits of fact together with other fragments from my fantastical imagination.

I knew the Castle had history, been in the royal family for centuries…and that the juicy tales didn’t just pop up with Lady Di. If those walls could talk! However, I’d only recently learned the Macdonald’s history. As Paola, the general manager, joined me for a glass of wine, she spilled the history… and with each drop of the tale, my eyes widened as my mind went into imagination overdrive.

englandThe 120 rooms are all of varying shapes and sizes because the hotel is an amalgamation of very old buildings. Initially, it was a department store on all floors, dating back to the 1890’s. See? Such intrigue contemplating all the comings and goings. My room was from an annex to that original store, as it grew in popularity. It had a fireplace… and it was original. Part of a set of townhouses that were bought up and converted into additions to the store. The banister, just to your right upon entry, is original and blends seamlessly with the luxurious and contemporary decor. It’s casual elegance in a way that can only be done in England and really, only by the chain of Macdonald Hotels. They have 41 hotels in the UK, started in Scotland in 1990, as well as properties in Spain and Portugal. Most have a great story to tell.

The Bath property, for example, was used as a hospital during the war. The one in Woodstock dates to the 13th century; Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton frequented it during their affair. I love a property that combines wonderful history with all the modern amenities and excellent service. I’ve just ordered a hot fudge sundae to my room and will have to leave you here. Tomorrow I’ve got big plans to visit the bees on the fourth floor. Macdonald Windsor

Until next time,

Peta Phipps




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