Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Southeast of London

On my next 49 hour London layover, I decided to take a bus tour south to the coast. It has taken me a long time to post this blog, because I was so overwhelmed by the experience, and all that I saw.  I don't think I can do it justice, but I will try.
I have never liked the tour buses that we ride on from the airport to our hotel.  The seats are not comfortable for me at all, and I squirm and wiggle around in them all the way into the city. I was hoping that I wouldn't feel this way about them when I was out of my uniform and rested.  I booked a tour that picked me up a my hotel,
and I could purchase the ticket from the concierge.

It was easy, convenient and they did a good job,  but I still hated the seats.  However, it was definitely worth putting up with to see what I saw on this trip.
Our first stop was about an hour southeast of London at Leeds Castle. I have visited quite a few castles, but this one is truly exquisite. Located in the beautiful countryside of Kent, "called the garden of England

amid pastoral lanscapes,

on an island surround by a moat, it is breathtaking.

We owe the pleasure of enjoying this castle to Lady Baillie, an American who came to love it,
own it, restore it, and create a foundation to preserve and support it.
Her story is at this link

The castle sits on 500 acres of parkland,

a golf course,

has an atrium of exotic birds,

a restaurant, a maze, and gorgeous gardens.

Peacocks roam free, as do the black swans imported from Australia by Lady Baille.

We spent about two and half hours here, but it would be nice to spend an entire day.

We continued our drive through Kent, and the beautiful fields of yellow flowers.  I thought the crops were mustard, but rapeseed is the popular choice for farmers, as it yields two crops per year.  In the picture below you see an oast house.  These were formerly used to dry hops for ale, before beer making became big business. The hops were heated in the house below, and the moisture escaped through the "bells" on top.

Many of the oast houses have been turned into private residences, and a few into bed and breakfasts.  The one at this link looks delightful.

We arrived at Cantebury, ready for lunch.  A few of us decided to eat at a tea room near the cathedral, called Tiny Tim's, which turns out to be the most haunted building in Cantebury.  

Lunch was excellent, as was the Kentish hard cider enjoyed by
my tablemates.  I chose to try a light, pleasant Kentish white
wine.  I don't know if that had anything to do with it, but I
swear I heard one of the ghosts groaning in a hallway.

I had visited Cantebury Cathedral about 45 years ago, and had many vague memories of it.  The town has grown up around it, but the cathedral is somewhat timeless. I am
going to refer you to the following website, since the photos there are far superior to mine.


I especially remember the design in a floor I stood over. The area is blocked off now to preserve it, but the floor was as I pictured it after all these years.

I have a couple of  black and white photos of myself on the road to Cantebury,

and in a garden in the cathedral which is no longer open to the public.

Seeing the road today, I couldn't believe that we rode our bicycles from Dover to London.  I'm sure there was much less traffic then, but it is still narrow and very hilly.

There is so much to see and do in Canterbury, but I would recomment one more place to you if you are a literature lover or history buff.  There is Canterbury Tales Visitor Attraction, which is worth your time.


Our last stop on the tour was Dover, and the famous white cliffs. They are not as spectacular when viewed from land, as they are when you approach by sea......but spectacular, none the less.

We passed Dover Castle as we entered the town, but did not have a chance to visit it. You can easily spend a day here touring the castle.


At the close of the day, I stood on the beach and viewed France, just
26 miles across the English Channel, and you all know that what I really wanted to do was to catch the next ferry to Calais, and retrace my steps back to Paris. 

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