March 9, 2016

Warwick Castle: Our First Castle Experience

October 3, 2015

Not to sound cheesy or anything, but Warwick Castle will always be near and dear to our hearts because it was our very first castle experience after moving to England.

(I have to put that qualifier in there because Patrick traveled to Scotland and England in the third grade and slept in a castle, so it wasn't technically his first castle experience.)

I kid you not, we spent the entire day exploring the castle and the surrounding area. With it being the beginning of October, it was just chilly enough for me to need to wear a long-sleeved shirt under my baggy man sweater, but the chilly, drizzly weather set the mood perfectly for a day of castle exploration. In Birmingham, we don't feel like we are in England; that day, it totally felt like we were in the England of our dreams. It was amazing.

Every time we talk about Warwick Castle, the locals respond with something like, "Oh, yeah, it's alright. I mean, it's a castle." And we're like, "YEAH, THAT'S AWESOME. We don't have those!"

The castle was personally owned until the 1970s when the company that manages Madame Tussaud's wax museums purchased it and performed extensive renovations. That means that people have been living in this castle for hundreds of years... hundreds of years. It had been occupied for hundreds of years before the Americas were even discovered, let alone before the United States became a country. We totally geeked out all day long and it was fantastic. 




But before we got to explore the castle, we had to get there. Our trip to Warwick (pronounced "war - ick") castle from Birmingham requires a 30-minute train ride and a walk from the station. I'm not really sure how far the walk is as we're so used to walking by now that I don't really even pay attention anymore.

Alright, back to the point. We had to catch the train. Since it was only the beginning of October, our experiences with public transit were still rather limited - it takes far longer than 4 weeks of occasional use to become a pro at public transit. The train station we were supposed to take was Snow Hill; since there are multiple stations in central Birmingham, we looked up which station that was and how to get there ahead of time. No big deal as it seemed like a pretty straight shot.

Wrong. So wrong.

We left a few minutes later than I would have liked to catch our train, but we still had plenty of time to get there.

Well, we would have if we knew the location of flipping entrance to the station.

Long story short, savvy map technology might lead you to the location of the station, but it's not going to tell you where the entrance actually is. You might end up at the side of the station along a very, very long, very high brick wall with not a sign around to give you the slightest hint as to which direction you need to go. You might walk the wrong way around the entire train station because, let's be honest, if you have two choices - right or left - you have a 50% shot of getting it wrong. You might waste all of your cushion time trying to find the dang entrance to a flipping train station, only to eventually end up there and guess what? It wasn't that far away if you had chosen the other direction, but the front doors are hidden waaaay back in the midst of rather tall, official-looking buildings - it doesn't look like the entrance to a train station at all. You might walk into the station at the exact minute that your train leaves. And you might not know how in the heck train tickets work if you miss your train.

Enter panic attacks. Two of them. All because we couldn't find the entrance to that blasted station.

Oh yeah, and the entire walk was uphill, because that's how Birmingham rolls. Even when you're going downhill or under ground, chances are you'll have to walk uphill or up stairs at least once.

Then, once we got into the station and printed our tickets, we talked to someone and they told us we could catch the next train leaving from Platform 3 but to hurry because it was scheduled to leave in two minutes. We bolted down the stairs and ran to the platform only to hear the attendant's whistle signifying that the train could leave. He took the whistle out of his mouth, turned his head and saw our sorry selves and said, "Sorry guys."

Oy, I'm tired and flustered just thinking about that morning. Mercy.

But, lo and behold, many train tickets (especially commuter trains) offer multiple times of use, especially around city centre. We hopped on the next train, went over to Moor Street Station (my favorite station to look at because it's cute and old-world-y but my least favorite location because I have to travel through Mordor to get there), and switched trains to one that would get us to Warwick.

Thank goodness for people who know what the heck is going on.



At Snow Hill station



Sometimes after experiencing traumatic events (like missing trains and panic attacks), it doesn't take much to send you into a fit of laughter. Apparently I said something snarky or sarcastic (surprise, surprise) and the both of us busted up laughing. I'm glad I caught this moment on camera because it makes me smile every time I see it.





The railways pair up with local attractions and offer specials. Our railway ticket got us a 2-for-1 ticket into the castle.
Which is great because those tickets are freaking expensive.

After filling out our railway ticket info and finding the map that led us to the castle, we started walking. Let me just say that Warwick is a beautiful and quaint English town, one that I never tire of visiting. For this Californian-turned-Okie living in the not so English city of Birmingham, it was a dream come true!






This is a for real street name in Warwick. And I laughed like a 12 year old. Still do!


I told him to stand right there and then called him a bag head. I'm mature like that.




Yeah, that's the entrance to the castle. In real life. I died a little bit.



Eek! We're here!



Before getting to the castle, you pass the entrance to the castle gardens. Because this post has way too many pictures, I've written a whole post just for the castle gardens because England is magical and has gorgeous flowers blooming all of the time.







We saw this guy as we were leaving. He was hilarious!








A view of the River Avon. Yes, the same River Avon that takes you to Stratford-upon-Avon!







That's a death mask...

Ahem. Death mask. Weird.




This castle is humongous. These grand rooms go on and on for ages!


A TAPESTRY. A real life tapestry! Imagine what it looked like in its hay day!


Just chillin' with my homie King Henry VIII and his women.









Note the dates. England has ruined me for anything "old" back home.




The castle has its own chapel.







At one point, the residential part of the castle is decked out in styles that reflect various eras. It totally felt like Downton Abbey in real life. And I forgot to mention that there are Madame Tussaud wax figures thought the castle. They're extremely lifelike and tripped me up in rooms where they were standing.












Those books were ginormous.

I like biiiiiig books and I cannot lie.

Yeah, that's a bear.



Be still, my heart!









I know his eyes are closed, but this has to be shown. From this walkway you can see the great hall below!

...See! The great hall!

I love this shot of the River Avon.








Lunch time at the castle.

We had a friend join us for lunch. He wasn't very interested in conversation, though.

Warwick castle has a bird show every day. It's incredible!




Nom nom goes the bald eagle.





























We thought this sign outside the Bear Tower was humorous, but they're not kidding! There are a lot of stairs, and a lot of reeeeeeally tight spaces. Our legs were sore from all that climbing for at least two days.


Too tall.

So small.




Up, up, up the stairs we go...







I think I have a thing for spiral castle staircases.









Like I said. SMALL spaces. But that view!







This is the part of the castle that seems a bit touristy, but I really didn't mind; they do a phenomenal job of bringing the history of the castle to life.










I cheated and took a picture of the picture they were trying to sell us.
Our faces make me laugh. So does the placement of the shadow of Patrick's hand. Because I'm 12.








There is a mill on site at the castle, and boy does it smell like one. Musty, musty, musty, but rife with photogenic opportunities. Right next door to the mill is the private establishment which houses the Mill Gardens - a mere £2.00 fee gets you entrance into one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen! But that's for another post. :)

If you're ever in the area, I highly suggest forfeiting a day and forking the bill to see Warwick Castle. It's a gem, and I'm so very glad that it was my first-ever castle experience! But it certainly wasn't the last...


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