Do you know what happens if you are a little late returning to the car you left in the car park just below Windsor Castle?
The warden boots your car–locks on a wheel clamp–and charges you 120£ (125£ if you use a charge card instead of a debit card or cash) to remove it. The barman and a housekeeper who heard the story when I got back to the hotel in search of ice for a desperately needed vodka-tonic described it as “extortion.” The warden thought chances were good that we would get at least a partial refund. I hope so.
Gracious me, it really is extortion or at least an utter scam. Three hours time was 6.30£ or about $9.97. Let’s just call it ten bucks or about six cents a minute. The penalty? $197.91 exclusive of credit card surcharge or somewhere in the vicinity of $14 a minute. The company that owns the lot is parking Control Management (UK) Ltd. and has a post office box in Slough.
A quick visit to the Internet shows that the company is under fire for “extortionate practices” and some of the stories are really horrifying. Despite this situation, the company was appointed to a government board aimed at ensuring fair practices. Why not just fricassee the chicken and poach the eggs and serve it up to the fox on porcelain and damask cloth.
The housekeeper said that she would have advised me, had she known I was headed that way, to park by the Eton School and walk across the bridge to Windsor. How I wish I had met her earlier.
This is not to suggest anyone should forgo a visit to the Castle. It is a remarkable place in which history needs no costumed interpreters or elaborate tableaux to make it felt. St. George Chapel with its exquisite vaulting, monuments and effigies, stained glass and countless artifacts of ordinary people is a most moving experience. The great hall of the Knights of the Order of the Garter burned in 1992 and today is fully rebuilt and restored. Some of the most beautiful works of art in the world—drawings by Leonardo da Vinci and paintings by Bruegel, Holbein, Rembrandt, Van Dyck and Rubens—cover the walls.
But the driver must beware. According to Parking Control Management, the purpose of Windsor Castle is not to awe, inspire, and delight—it is to lure the unsuspecting into their deadly web.