Here's What It's Really Like to Be in Windsor Ahead of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's Wedding
Plus get the inside scoop on where the PEOPLE team is crashing for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's big day
But as the crowds descend for the royal wedding, the town remains as idyllic a place to wait for the big day as ever. At its heart is the castle, which has stood as a monument to royal history since the 11th century. And on the other side of the River Thames is Eton, providing a charming village atmosphere.
Nestled between them is a landmark four-bedroom, three-bathroom home dubbed Rafts Cottage, which the PEOPLE staff is calling home for the upcoming weekend. Situated on the banks of the river and built from an old boathouse owned by Eton College (Harry and Prince William’s alma mater), guests wake up to swans noisily flapping their wings as they land on the water and, as the world emerges, boats moving up and down just yards from a deck leading out from the living room.
The luxury HomeAway rental is topped off with the master suite, the Admiral’s Den, that comes with a magnificent stone bath from which you can look up and see views of Windsor Castle. Continuing the nautical theme, the two other double rooms are the Captains Hideaway and the Lieutenants Courtyard, while a fourth bedroom called The Stowaway has a futon that can be folded down for an extra bed.
Amid the Moroccan-style décor of dark woods and rugs, hanging above the kitchen and into the living room is a 25-foot-long rowing boat, nosing towards the river that the Eton boys and millions of others have battled, and tootled around, on.
And not forgetting the wedding fun, owner Christine and Jason had left out some commemorative fudge, created a few streets away at the Eton Fudge Shop and flavored with Eton Mess (a typical desert founded at the famous college), as well as American cheesecake.
There are few better places in England in the late spring and early summer to visit than Windsor. Take the ten minute walk across the river from Eton and up the hill to the castle, which is open all year round (when there isn’t a wedding on!) Inside the walls, apart from the grand state apartments, stunningly restored following the 1992 fire, is St. George’s Chapel, where the royal couple will say their “I dos.”
The burial place of Kings and Queens (Queen Elizabeth’s parents, King George and Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, are the most recent additions), it is also one of the best examples of gothic architecture in Britain and the center of the most prestigious order of chivalry, the Order of the Garter.
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The journey from the riverside village of Eton is one that Princes William and Harry would take when they headed up to the castle for tea with granny the Queen during their high school days. For William, those afternoons were often accompanied by a constitutional history lessons in the rudiments of what will be expected of him when he becomes King.
About four miles away, Legoland is the nearest theme park – based around the creative, colorful toy bricks. With London only 30 miles to the east and an easy train ride.
If visitors couldn’t make it for Prince Harry’s nuptials, they can still time a trip around a royal event. There is polo at nearby Smith’s Lawn in early summer and the Royal Ascot race meeting from June 19 to 23, while further ahead, is the Royal Windsor Horse Show, that takes place from May 8, 2019. Last week, it celebrated its 75th anniversary, and marked a welcome return to public view for Prince Philip, who is recovering from a hip operation.
But if another wedding celebration is what you’re after, then you’re in luck: Princess Eugenie, Harry’s cousin, is getting hitched to Jack Brooksbank at St. George’s Chapel in October — and those spring swans and trees will be replaced by fall colors in the Great Park.