A Christmas Carol at Windsor Castle

March 20, 2018
March 20, 2018 Hilary

A Christmas Carol at Windsor Castle

I realize I’m writing about Christmas in March, but with good reason.  Have you ever had an experience so unexpected, so absolutely magical that it stayed with you in vivid memory like it just happened yesterday? I have, and I just couldn’t wait until the festive season rolls around again to share it with all of you.

Christmas tree in St George's Hall, Windsor Castle Royal Collection Trust / (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The Christmas tree in St George’s Hall, Windsor Castle Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Now of course everyone’s idea of a magical day out differs, but if you love all things fairytale including castles, royals and history you’ll definitely want to keep reading! If you’re just after tips and advice for visiting Windsor Castle scroll down, otherwise fix yourself a cuppa, this is going to be a long one.

Afternoon Tea Corinthia Hotel London

English Breakfast Tea

Look at it this way, if after reading this post, you find yourself inspired, you’ll have 280 ish days in which to plan your own magical day out! Nothing wrong with planning ahead, right? So, how did this magical day out come to be? Well, it had all happened similarly once before. Let me explain…

Windsor Castle England United Kingdom #crown

Magical details are everywhere in the Royal Palaces

A Tale of Two Christmases

Many years ago, six in fact, I decided I was quitting Christmas, at least the big at home extravaganza that no-one seemed to appreciate all that much. Instead we set off to see how the holidays were celebrated in Rome and London. I felt quite sure Santa would find us, and “he” did!


Related: Buon Natale da Roma  Merry Christmas From Rome!
Related: London: Our Favorite Hotel!

During my trip research I discovered a special event taking place at Buckingham Palace. The Palace, which isn’t normally open to the public during the winter months, would be offering small group tours twice daily for five weeks only. Sign me up!

I had a feeling this might be something special, and I didn’t want anyone tugging at my sleeve asking when it would be time to go home, so I went alone.

#buckinghampalace

Buckingham Palace

As soon as I entered the Palace my mouth literally fell open. Beyond the already beautiful interiors, there were multiple Christmas trees glittering with beautiful ornaments lining the entrance hall, and evergreen boughs filled with brightly colored baubles climbed the stair rails on both sides. Everything, and I mean everything, was decorated to the hilt, and it all seemed to give off a golden glow.

Windsor England United Kingdom

These are the decorations from our recent visit to Windsor in December 2017

During the tour I learned that the interior really hasn’t changed since Queen Victoria lived in the Palace, and as you can imagine everything is in perfect condition, almost as if you’d just stepped back in time.

We visited the State Apartments, just as visitors in the summer months do, but because the number of visitors was greatly reduced there was no need for roped off areas or removal of certain items. For two hours it was just our small group, the guide and the Palace. Something about being inside this very real in use Palace made me feel about 11 years old. SQUEE!

At the end of our tour we enjoyed a glass of champagne (not for 11 year olds) and had time to shop the items in the billiards room, which was temporarily serving as the souvenir shop. The ornaments I’d seen on the Palace’s Christmas trees were for sale. and you know I picked up a few!


Related: Oh Christmas Tree

Six+ years later, and my memories are just as vivid today as they were the day I went. I know this was an experience I will never forget. Are you still with me? I did mention this would be a long one… I hope I’ve done justice to just how magical I felt this experience was, but photos aren’t allowed inside the Royal Palaces, so words will have to do.

Six years later… Windsor

Knowing we’d once again be in London during the festive season I set about trying to  repeat the amazing experience I’d had six years prior. I discovered a special holiday event would be taking place at Windsor Castle! For nine nights only, a presentation of Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol would be performed in the Waterloo Room. Although very familiar with the story, we’d never seen it performed inside a castle. This time I would bring the boys along! Sign us up!

Windsor Castle with kids

Approaching Windsor Castle

Stepping off the train at the Windsor Eton Station I was delighted to see that the entire town was decked in royal themed holiday decorations, I couldn’t wait to seem them lit up later that evening!

Windsor Castle Day & Night

Our special event wouldn’t take place until 7 pm, so we decided to make a complete day of it, and purchased tickets to tour the Castle during the day. This way we would see it both day and night.

Windsor Castle England United Kingdom

Castle Hill

Built in 1070 by William the Conqueror, Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world. A visit here means you’ll be walking in the footsteps of 40 different monarchs over the course of almost 1000 years. Talk about history, now if only walls could talk!

Windsor Castle England United Kingdom

To the Castle!

As you can imagine there is a lot to see and do at Windsor Castle. There are three main areas within the castle walls, the Lower Ward, Middle Ward, and Upper Ward with each section containing worthwhile points of interest.

Windsor Castle England United Kingdom

The Lower Ward

Your ticket includes a tour of the State Apartments, Queen Mary’s Dolls House, A 30 minute Precinct Tour, St. George’s Chapel, and an audio guide. Allow plenty of time!

Windsor England United Kingdom

You’ll enter the castle through St. George’s Gate

Windsor Castle Quadrangle #windsorcastle

The Quadrangle Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle England United Kingdom

You’ll exit the State Apartments through The Norman Gate

St. George’s Chapel – Dragons, Knights, and Fairytale Weddings

St, George’s Chapel, located in the Castle’s Lower Ward, will serve as the venue for the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry to Meghan Markle. I did mention fairytales didn’t I?

Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel England United Kingdom

The current chapel is over 500 years old, but there has been a chapel on this site since the 1200s. The building, stunning inside and out, is filled with amazing artifacts. If you’re traveling with kids they’ll want to look out for the 6+ foot battle sword, as well as stone carvings of angels, animals and flowers which encircle the entire inside of the chapel and line the roof.

Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel England United Kingdom

The Chapel is the final resting place for many members of the royal family including some of the most well known: Edward IV (who built the chapel) and his queen Elizabeth Woodville, Henry VIII (who finished the chapel) and his favorite wife Jane Seymour, Charles I, and King Charles VI father to the current queen, and his wife Queen Elizabeth.

Windsor Castle St. George's Chapel England United Kingdom

Sunset at St. George’s Chapel

The architectural details and craftsmanship are exquisite and I particularly enjoyed the Quire with it’s beautifully carved stalls and fan ceiling. The story of St. George defeating the dragon is represented in the wood carvings above the stalls, and the stalls themselves are lined with gold plates, dating back centuries, each of which represents a Knight of the Order of the Garter.

Break Time

Currently, there isn’t anywhere within the castle grounds to get a meal, but you can exit and reenter as needed, so after our visit to St. George’s Chapel we grabbed lunch, across the street from the castle, in the town of Windsor.

Queen Mary’s Doll’s House

After lunch we visited Queen Mary’s Dollhouse, which is located in the Castle’s Upper Ward. The Dollhouse is a replica of a Georgian town house and was built to showcase what aristocratic life might have been like in the 1920s.

Everything within the dollhouse is operational and it is complete with working lights, and running water. There is even a tiny flushing toilet with a tiny bath tissue roll. The dollhouse cellar is filled with miniature wine bottles complete with wine, and the library’s tiny books were all contributed by famous authors including J. M. Barrie, A. A. Milne., and Vita Sackville-West, whose book is pictured here.

Royal Collection Trust / (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Royal Collection Trust / (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The State Apartments

The entrance to the State Apartments is just beyond Queen Mary’s Doll’s House.  Starting with the Grand Stair case you’ll walk through 23 beautiful and very ornate rooms. Each one filled with priceless works of art and furniture collected over centuries.

Windsor Castle England United Kingdom

Waiting in line to enter the State Apartments

The entire castle was decorated for the festive season, and you can probably imagine just how beautifully done up it was. My favorite rooms had to be the Crimson Drawing Room with it’s gorgeous red walls, and St. George’s Hall with it’s magical golden Christmas tree. Lets just look at it again, shall we?

Christmas at Windsor Castle, Royal Collection Trust/(C)Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

Christmas at Windsor Castle, Royal Collection Trust/(C)Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

We’d spent the entire day exploring the castle, and in fact stayed until it closed enjoying a spectacular sunset as we left .

Windsor Castle England United Kingdom

The Round Tower at Sunset

Windsor Castle England United Kingdom #sunsetwindsor

Sunset over the castle

We still had some time before the evening’s performance, so after we took photos of the town’s holiday decorations we warmed up with tea and cakes at a nearby shop, and waited for 7 pm to come around. Still with me?

Windsor England United Kingdom

King Henry VIII Gate

Windsor England United Kingdom

The Town of Windsor as seen when exiting the Castle

Windsor England United Kingdom

The Town of Windsor

Windsor England United Kingdom

Holiday projections on the Garter Tower

Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol

Arriving back at the Castle after dark was exciting! There was a buzz among the guests, as entering the Castle after hours seemed particularly special. We would all be participating in this first of its kind experience together. We checked in and pre-purchased refreshments, which we would collect later during the intermission in the Grand Vestibule. Now that we’d taken care of business it was finally time to head up to the Castle…

Windsor England United Kingdom

The Round Tower as seen from the Moat Path

As we made our way up Castle Hill we noticed a little girl sitting on the ground just outside St. George’s Gate. Just as I wondered, what is she doing there? She spoke, “Would you like to buy some matches?” Huh? We continued along the Moat Path, but before I could process what had just occurred a tall gentleman in a top hat breezed by us, shouting “Bah Humbug!”

Edward-Halsted-as-Ebenezer-Scrooge.-Royal-Collection-Trust.-Copyright-Her- Majesty-Queen-Elizabeth-II-2017-photographer-Matt-Humphrey-2-1000x667

Edward-Halsted as Ebenezer Scrooge. Royal Collection Trust. Copyright-Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017 photographer Matt Humphrey

The play had already started!

The State Entrance at Windsor Castle Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

We hung up our coats and checked our phones in the State Entrance Royal Collection Trust (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

We made our way up the Grand Staircase and into the Waterloo Room. The Play would be performed in the round, and there were big fluffy cushions on the floor for the children. We quickly took our seats and anxiously awaited the play to continue.

A Christmas Carol at Windsor Castle

The Program from A Christmas Carol at Windsor Castle

The play was performed by just 8 actors who along with limited props, mood lighting and music managed to transport us all to 1840s London. As Scrooge came to from his ghostly adventures he invited us all to join him in St. George’s Hall where the play concluded around the base of the most magnificent Christmas tree I’ve ever seen. It was truly glowing with a golden light as the players and the audience proceeded to sing Jingle Bells, Hark The Herald Angels Sing, and We Wish You A Merry Christmas.

Royal Collection Trust / (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

The Christmas Tree St. George’s Hall Royal Collection Trust / (c) Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2017

I felt almost in a daze as we collected our things, and filed out into the quadrangle. History, literature, and holiday traditions had all came together to create what had been a truly magical evening in a fairytale setting.

I do hope you’ve enjoyed my tales of surprise, delight and Christmas Magic! Have you ever had what unexpectedly turned out to be the experience of a lifetime?

Windsor England United Kingdom

The Round Tower as seen from the Quadrangle

Fun Facts, Tips & Advice:

Windsor Castle England United Kingdom

Portraits of the Queen and her family hang in the ticket office.

  • Plays have long been held in the Waterloo Room. Queen Victoria had a passion for theater, and Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret performed pantomimes to raise money for the troops during WWII.
  • A special edition of A Christmas Carol from 1882 was on display in the Grand Vestibule and we enjoyed looking at it as well as other items of interest during the Play’s intermission.
  • I was interested to learn that many of the holiday traditions we know and love today came from Victoria and Albert’s love of the Christmas season and their celebrations at Windsor Castle.
  • Prince Harry will marry Meghan Markle in St. George’s Chapel on May 19, 2018.
    Windsor England United Kingdom

    Harry and Meghan Mania

  • Windsor Castle is open all year round, but is still very much in use by the Royal Family. Do check the official website for operating days and times.
  • Check the official website for special events, which are offered throughout the year.
  • The town of Windsor is 30 minutes by train from London’s Paddington station. The Windsor & Eton Riverside station is the closest stop to the Castle, and is only a few minutes walk from the Castle.
    Windsor England United Kingdom

    Heading back to London on the train after our magical day/evening out

  • Purchase your tickets online in advance. Alternatively you can wait in a very long line like the one pictured below.
    Windsor Castle England United Kingdom

    The VERY long line to purchase tickets.

  • Families with younger Children will enjoy the many family themed activities available throughout the Castle.
  • Although there are no restaurants within the Castle, your ticket allows you in and out privileges, and the town of Windsor has many food options. Make sure to stop in a castle shop to get a wrist band before leaving.
  • The multiple shops within the castle grounds sell everything from fine china, tea, and other kitchen items to toys, purses, and of course those ornaments I mentioned earlier. The ornaments are made by St. Nicholas, and benefit a women’s charity in Thailand.
  • While I wasn’t able to take interior photos during my visits to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. I did source photos via PicSelect for the purposes of this post and have noted wherever they’ve been used, otherwise all photos are my own. Look for additional official photos on the Royal Family’s Instagram  and Facebook accounts.

Pin for later:

Family Travel Visiting Windsor Castle Day trip from London  Special Events at Windsor Castle

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Hilary

I love to travel & explore the world both near and far! I do my best to make the most out of life each and everyday! I have two boys and wherever I go, they go! This means they are, at the ages of 9 and 15, world travelers and all around go along guys! There isn’t anywhere I can’t take them! It is my hope this blog will be a way to share the fun things I’ve learned while on our many adventures together!

Comments (62)

  1. Clare Thomson

    Wow, you’ve really captured the magic of Christmas in a royal castle, Hilary! I love that it’s written from the point of view of an American because it can be all too easy for us Brits to forget how insanely special all of this is because we’re so used to it. We really love visiting the Royal palaces and Windsor Castle is one of my boys’ favourites. I was blown away by the grandeur and the history and would visit again in a heartbeat. Even more so if I could see a performance as special as this at the same time. Plus, that dolls’ house is absolutely incredible!

    • Hilary

      Thank you! Yes, knowing many of my blogging friends are British can be intimidating at times. It was very special and I’m grateful we had such amazing experiences not just once but two times! Something about this all taking place in a working castle rather than an uninhabited one makes a huge difference. I could have spent hours at The dolls’ house!

  2. kriebelbeth

    I loved reading about your two royal holiday experiences! Those tickets sell out fast from what I recall. As I LOVE Dickens and Christmas this is really a no-brainer for me, so I must book this if/when it becomes available this coming December. I am curious…what was your interval snack? And what did your boys think about it? You know, I have my priorities (food!) in order. Ha!

    • Hilary

      I do hope they do this again as it was truly magical! I read they performed Cinderella in the Moat Garden during the summer tho for me that wouldn’t have been the same. Funny, I deleted the line listing our interval treats I guess I should have left it in… we had white wine, a chocolate bar and some juice for the boys.

    • Hilary

      Oh! My boys enjoyed this! The younger one more as I was close to him and could whisper explanation if need be. The older one is a teen, so… he rarely admits to liking anything, but seemed to enjoy this.

  3. I’ve been to both of those castles but during the summer. A Christmas experience looks like it would be so much more magical! #citytripping

    • Hilary

      The exclusivity coupled with the exquisite holiday decorations made visits unforgettable!!

      • katherinefenech2017

        Well that does it. We’re doing a Christmas trip to England and we’re doing both of these castles 🙂

  4. Wow, sounds like quite the experience! I do love making the most of Christmas with a special outing like that. Windsor Castle is on our list for this year – the boys are now 5 and 7. Perhaps I’ll look into their special events to plan something really memorable. #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      Oh! I hope you do! I noticed they also offered summer plays in the Moat Garden, hopefully they’ll do it again!

  5. Wow, that’s some Christmas tree ornaments! Windsor Castle looks more exciting than I thought is was going to. #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      If you’re at all interested in castles then consider Windsor it is one of the best I’ve visited!

    • Hilary

      Thank you! I do love Christmas time! It’s so beautiful and festive!

  6. bavariansojourn

    Windsor is so pretty isn’t it? You are right though, Christmas might seem far off, but I typically need around 280 days to plan anything. It looks wonderful! 🙂

    • Hilary

      It truly was wonderful! Ha ha! Yes, I’m a planner, and with events like this planning ahead is a must!

  7. I was a bit unsure about reading a Christmas post but this is such a fun read Hilary! The dolls house looks brilliant and the play sounds great fun. All very festive! #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      Yes, I know it’s the wrong time of year… however planning ahead never hurt anyone, and while reading about Christmas travel at Christmas seems more appropriate by then it’s too late to plan… that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

  8. You manage to find some unique experiences during your England travels, somehow I don’t think it would ever occur to me to see if Buckingham Palace was open at any other time than the summer, or that there might be special events going on at Windsor over Christmas. Seeing A Christmas Carol in a royal castle really must have been very special, what fabulous memories to treasure. #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      My initial experience was quite by accident, but I loved it so much I think I’m always attempting to uncover amazing experiences like this everywhere I go! It truly was magical.

    • Hilary

      It truly was! I already love a good castle! But when you throw in a Christmas play and a royal wedding venue It’s a while other level!

  9. So I’m currently sat on a beach in Mozambique reading this, it’s March, and you’ve made be SO excited for Christmas! It looks so magical!

    • Hilary

      Im so glad you’re inspired although a beach in Mozambique sounds pretty magical too! 😘

  10. This is such a great story and all your pictures are magical! Getting in the Christmas Spirit in March over here. 😀 #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      Thank you! Nothing wrong with a little Christmas spirit in March, or anytime!

  11. Wow, what an experience! I love the story of your tour of Buckingham Palace but Windsor at Christmas sounds incredibly special- it is ages since I was last in the castle but my daughter has never been so I would love to take her around as well. Perhaps this Christmas would be the perfect introduction. Thanks for linking up with #citytripping

    • Hilary

      I think Christmas would be a perfect intro. Will you watch the royal wedding? Will your daughter? Maybe she’ll enjoy visiting the chapel?!

  12. You’re right, this is sooo magical. Loved reading this post, felt like Christmas all over again. The Buckingham Palace experience sounded incredible but Windsor Castle – wowzers – and that tree in St George’s Hall. I really want to do this at Christmas!! #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      I’m so happy you enjoyed it! It was sooo magical! And the tree!!! Photos just don’t do it justice!

  13. Two wonderful Christmas experiences. I was skeptical at first…a post about Christmas in March…but i loved reading about both the tour of Buckingham Palace and your day at Windsor Castle culminating with the performance of A Christmas Carol. I will definitely look out for such events in the future #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      It’s tough because writing about holiday experiences at the holidays means your readers won’t have time to plan ahead. However, most people don’t share holiday experiences at other times of the year… I’m glad you were Inspired, and I hope you’ll find your way there one day!

    • Hilary

      I loved the dolls’ house! The craftsmanship is amazing! The palaces do an amazing job with children’s activities too!

  14. Wonderful post. I have not been to Windsor during Christmas and your post with its beautiful photos have certainly inspired me. It’s was so great you could visit Buckingham Palace in winter. I would love to visit the palace someday. Thank you so much for this post.#farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      I’m so happy you enjoyed the post and we’re inspired! I hope you get to visit someday it’s worth it!

  15. This is something I had never thought to dowhile still back home in the UK. I can only imagine how beautiful the castles would be around Christmas! Such a cool idea and seems like a lovely day out 🙂 #farawayfiles

  16. If I could have it my way, it would be Christmas all year round, so I don’t mind a Christmas-related post in March at all! How lucky that you got to experience the Christmas festivities at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace! I’d love to see the doll’s house, and St. George’s Chapel is so beautiful, I can see why Prince Harry and Meghan Markle picked it as their wedding venue!

    • Hilary

      I agree! Christmas is magical! I didn’t get married in a church, but I wouldn’t mind St. George’s Chapel if I had a do over. Ha ha! The dolls house is spectacular.

  17. Ruth

    These two experiences sound great and unforgettable (like you mentioned). I am sure spending the end of the year in London is something high on traveler’s bucket lists. My family didn’t celebrate Christmas when I was growing up. Therefore, Christmas decoration do not necessarily wow me. Now, there are places like New York City where the decorations are superb. Going to New York at the end of the year is special too. #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      We didn’t celebrate Christmas either, but I admit to loving all things glittery, glowing and sparkly! It was a truly unforgettable day out… both times!

  18. Wherejogoes

    Two wonderful experiences here, I love it when something unexpected happens. How amazing you were able to get tickets for these unique Winter events – I had no idea that there were winter visits to Buckingham Palace nor plays at Windsor. The play sounds fantastic especially with the actors interacting with the audience prior to going on stage. I was fortunate enough to visit Buckingham Palace as a guest when the Queen gave my father in law a special award and it was a wonderful day with all the pomp and ceremony you would expect. Windsor Castle I’ve visited as a tourist – so much to see! I haven’t taken my children to either so I must do that some time. Thanks for sharing your special experiences and for hosting #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      Wow, now that’s an experience that must have been for you to see a ceremony like that and with someone in your family being honored in such a special way. We were so surprised and delighted at the way everything worked out with both of these visits! I hope you’re kids love it when they visit!

  19. Oh, my! What a treat to visit Windsor Castle at the holidays! We ran out of days to visit during my last trip to London. I hope to return, and this will move to the top of the list. And the holiday trees and decor and a play. You planned everything just right!

    • Hilary

      I admit it all worked out beautifully, and I felt very fortunate. In a city like London it’s hard to find time to fit in all the wonderful in city activities let a lone getting out of town for day trips.

  20. Indeed sounds very magical! I just love that the actors were already in full swing on the ascent to the play! How great that you got to see Windsor Castle both during day and night. #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      It was a very magical day and evening out! I’m sure we’ll remember it for a lifetime!

  21. Oh my, how lovely! A little jealous that you had a chance to pay a visit to Windsor Castle during the festive season and experienced A Christmas Carol play 🙂 Your pictures are beautiful and i bet the castle was probably more beautiful in real settings, bedecked in Christmas lights and decorations. Will look out for special events at the castle when I travel to London in the future 🙂 #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      You’re so right about it being even more beautiful in person, its hard to describe just how lovely it all was. Magical really! The good news is they offer a variety of special events all year round, so definitely keep your eye out for opportunities next time you’re in town.

  22. What a wonderful post, and with the weather as it has been in the Uk recently its not actually that hard to imagine Christmas! Windsor castle is so impressive isn’t it, I can only imagine how magical seeing A Christmas Carol performed within the walls of it must have been. Definitely something to add to the list for later in the year. #FarawayFiles

    • Hilary

      Thanks you! I’m so glad you enjoyed it! It was SO magical, and would have been anytime of the year, but throw in all those magnificent decorations and the play and I was practically floating on air I was so happy!

  23. There is always such a warming atmosphere around these occasions, who couldn’t enjoy an evening at a Royal Castle.

    It doesn’t matter how many times you see ‘A Christmas Carol’ it always a pleasure to watch. A lovely post and full of wonderful photos. #farawayfiles

    • Hilary

      Thank you! I’m with you, an evening at a Royal Castle is always a good idea. The play was wonderful as always. It just wouldn’t be the holidays without A Christmas Carol.

    • Hilary

      It was pretty great! I practically floated to the train after I was so excited!

  24. pigeonpairandme

    The details in the doll’s house are impressive. I really must get over to see it with the children. And as for watching A Christmas Carol there……what an experience! It may only be March, but I’m getting that tingly festive feeling just from reading, and looking at your pictures. #CulturedKids

  25. How in the heck did I miss this post?! This would be awesome! We just spend Christmas Day reading A Christmas Carol out loud (me) and drinking hot cocoa! I’m going to make it a yearly tradition!

    • Hilary

      What a lovely tradition! It was an amazing and unforgettable experience! I highly recommend.

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