London, United Kingdom
Our day trip out to Leeds Castle, Dover and Canterbury Cathedral required us being at the Bloomsbury Hotel by 8am. This was a 15 min walk from our apartment and we set off under more grey skies and in the usual chill of about 8 degrees. The bus pick up from there took us down to Victoria Station, a journey that we could have managed to do ourselves. We eventually departed from Victoria Station at about 9am.
The trip to Leeds Castle took about 2 hrs and Leslie, our guide, filled some of this time with chatter about William The Conqueror and the various King Henrys. The road we took on our journey was apparently the same as the one taken by pilgrims throughout history on their way from London to Canterbury, down to the site of the Cathedral. Chaucer wrote about one such pilgrimage in his book of the Canterbury Tales. This was rather like Chaucer’s idea of what, in modern day terms, would be called a ‘travel blog’!
Leeds Castle was built in 1119 and was primarily for King Edward 1 and his Queen, Eleanor of Castile. Various Kings have held it since then but most of them gave the Castle over to their Queens; hence it is often referred to as the ‘Ladies Castle’ as it was ladies who spent most of the time in this vast domain. Our guide seemed impressed that this was the only Castle in England with a vast shoe cupboard, further testimony to this ‘Ladies Castle’ fact. I will probably remember this stop though as the one with worst, and most stale, scone that I have ever been served. Now, in this the land of ‘cream tea’ or ‘Devonshire tea’ this is no mean feat. I did ask the girl about this and she said I must have been just very unlucky to be served the one and only old, tired and stale scone. Hmmmmm.
From Leeds Castle, ‘home of Stale Scone’, it was about a 30 min trip down to Dover with its ‘white cliffs’. This stop was rather underwhelming as well though as not much of the cliff face can be seen from the land, or road. This is clearly a view to be better appreciated from the sea. They didn’t tell us this though until after we’d parted with our hard earned dollars!
We then set off to Canterbury, a further 30 min drive back towards London. The rest of the group took up Leslie’s suggestion of a cafe for lunch that served fish and chips, chicken and chips or jacket potato with melted cheddar cheese. Gee, tough choice there! Mark and I took off on our own and found this charming little pub, The City Arms Hotel. This pub was tucked away in one of the old town cobbled lanes and we had a delicious meal of homemade carrot soup and a ploughman’s lunch with, of course, a beer and even a decent South African white wine. The others in the tour group were quite jealous when they heard of our dining experience as, apparently, their meal was rather awful. Surprise surprise!
Leslie then guided us down a short walk to Canterbury Cathedral where we were left, yet again, to make our own way around this site. This is one of the oldest Cathedrals in England and home to the Archbishop of Canterbury, leader of the Church of England. Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory the Great in 596 as a missionary to the Anglo Saxon Community and he founded this Cathedral in 597. One its greatest moments in history though is marked by the murder of Thomas Becket by the knights of King Henry II. This was made more dramatic by the fact that Thomas was a childhood friend of the King. A shrine to Thomas Becket was erected after his murder but was razed, in later years, by King Henry VIII.
We all later regrouped, after wandering around the Cathedral, and headed back to London. Mark and I walked back to our apartment from down at the Embankment tube drop off. We were rather tired and decided to go to ‘Whole Foods’ to buy some food to take home and re-heat for our dinner. This, I must say, was the best, and healthiest, meal we’d both had since being in London! We sat in our apartment on the 15th floor, with our spectacular views of a glittering London skyline, eating great food and drinking Aussie wine and Italian beer……..heaven!