Travel through time and space by choosing from below:

Tuesday-Sunday, April 28th-May 3rd / Monday-Wednesday, May 4th-6th / Thurday-Friday, May 7th-8th / Saturday-Sunday, May 9th-10th / Monday-Thursday, May 11th-14th

Monday-May 11, 2009

When we woke up this morning, we both noticed from our window the extraordinary Tudor Chimney Pots on the house next door.

Then downstairs to breakfast in the dining room, which was filled with brasses and fittings from steam engines and ships.

Then, having noticed on a map that we were near the famous Bluebell Railway, I decided to be brave and add an extra little road trip to the Horsted Keynes Station (below). We got there with no trouble. We arrived at least 2 hours before the first trip, so no "steam up" for us. Perhaps Gil and I (and perhaps the ever patient-with-us-train-loving Martins) can come out here another day. (Note: this railway is very short, but the group is keen to extend it. Steam locomotives on this railway have been featured in many recent movies.)

Our journey continued, with only a few arguments with the GPS. (Actually, I just turned it off for awhile and followed the road signs to Canterbury. Hey, that works!!) We found ourselves in the rolling hills of Kent. Surmounting one hill, we came to another lovely village, and decided to stop. Welcome to Goudhurst!

We parked behind the church and refreshed ourselves with a pot of tea at the old inn below:

Then, naturally, we went for a walk, down the hill. We turned right at this Oast House by the Public Footpath sign. The towers were used for drying hops, which used to be grown extensively in this county of Kent. Hops are used in making beer, of course.

Just your everyday perfect English view. Sigh. It was very breezy, which added to the fun. We went down the hill, towards a wood. Along the way, we had a nice chat with a local lady, who was quite knowledgeable about the local wildlife (we heard a real cuckoo!!!) and hedgerows, which are being removed by Big Agriculture at an alarming rate.

THIS, my friends, is a Bluebell Wood! The invasive Spanish variety is often found in fields, unlike the English variety, which is almost always in woods. We like to see the curving stems of the true English Bluebell.

We walked back up the High Street, had lunch at a tea shop (ooh, fresh made sausage roll, Gil and Daniel!), then walked back to St. Mary's Church to have a look around. Each church we visit is very different, and tells a lot about the community and local history.

The interior of St. Mary's Church, high atop the hill. This church is quite stunning. Some of the original paintwork from the 1200's/1300's can still be seen in the ceiling timbers on the south side:

A magnificent memorial to the Culpepper Family. Alas, they've had a mishap (see next photo) They are evidently still able to write, although they died in the 1600's.

And finally, we arrive in Canterbury, at a truly elegant Bed and Breakfast - The White House - at 6 St Peters Lane. It's a listed Georgian Building and has been stunningly restored and decorated. I'm typing this in a beautiful sitting downstairs for the guests. It's a mix of antiques and and modern pieces and original art which works beautifully. The landlord has lit a fire just for me, and lovely classical music is playing softly in the background. He's adjusted the lights and lit candles, and brought me tea and biscuits and inquired after Mom ("Tucked up in bed, is she?") He doesn't even mind that I have commandeered one of the breakfast tables that was already set for breakfast. (Of course, I put everything back when I was done.)

Our room is lovely, as well, although these photos hardly do it justice. It would appear that no expense has been spared by the landlords to make everything just perfect.

Mom and I did venture out onto the pedestrianized High Street earlier, and ate at an Indian Restaurant. Tomorrow we'll have all day to explore the city, which is very near at hand. And - no driving!

Becky and Awanna

Tuesday-May 12, 2009

Yay, no driving today! Just a whole day to savor the city of Canterbury.

Our White House Bed and Breakfast was literally just steps away from the High Street and the sights of the city.

Although some streets, like the High Street, have been pedestrianized, they are still crowded and the occasional vehicle does manage to get through. The crowds are speaking any number of languages, and include lots of students in large packs.

We went on a self-guided walking tour we had found earlier in Realm magazine.

First, we looked at the Christ Church City Gate (1520) that leads to the Cathedral grounds (below).

Then we looked at the city walls, which were built originally by the ancient Romans who founded the city of Canterbury.

Lady Wooton's Green contains statues of King Ethelbert (a pagan, who became king here in 561 AD and his Queen Bertha, who was a Christian). They welcomed Augustine, who was sent here from Rome to spread Christianity; he founded an Abbey nearby (now in ruins) and the Cathedral at Canterbury.

Across from Lady Wooton's Green is King's School, said to be the oldest in the country. Famous alumni include Christopher Marlowe and Somerset Maugham.

Next, we enjoyed a cup of tea in Dane John Gardens. The mound marks the spot of an ancient castle keep.

More walking took us back to heart of the City, where we had lunch in Tiny Tim's Tearoom (sweet potato and leek soup for me; watercress and egg tea sandwiches for Mom). Although the building looked rather plain from the outside, when I went upstairs to the toilets, it was plain to see it's hundreds of years old, constructed of lathe and plaster. Set into the wall is a Salt Box, which was constructed between 2 chimneys to keep the salt dry.

The Canterbury Tales visitor attraction was rather interesting - it's an entertaining way to relearn some of the most popular of Chaucer's Canterbury tales. Built into an old church, it's a little bit hokey, and dangerous for the mobility impaired, being dark, with unexpected steps and very few railings.

Next, the Museum of Canterbury, which was excellent. It tells the story of Canterbury from prehistoric to modern times, including the ancient Romans and Vikings. It's built into a medieval Poor Priests' Hospital. Several exhibits are on an upper floor, which allowed us an up-close view of the rafters of the Chapel.

I was impressed with this Viking knife from the tenth century, made of bone.

One of our favorite parts of the museum was a modern-day painting, modeled after the Bayeux tapestry, which told the story of Archbishop Thomas a Becket's assassination in 1170, which started the whole pilgrimage-to-Canterbury tradition. The painting, which wrapped around 3 sides of the room, was wonderfully informative and even a bit whimsical. The gift shop, unfortunately, sold nothing at all related to this painting, nor have I found it on a website.

Also in the museum, the "Invicta" locomotive was built near Canterbury in 1830. The driver stood on the driving platform the whole journey, operating the start level with his left hand, the forward/reverse with his foot and the speed regulator with his right hand.

The Sun Hotel (1503), where Charles Dickens stayed when he was in Canterbury. He set several scenes from his novels in Canterbury, including David Copperfield.

We took a brief walk through the Cathedral, including the site of Becket's murder and the crypt.

Sign on the door of the Cathedral, an admonition which seemed reasonable enough...

...but upon entry into the Cathedral, one is met with a Gift Shop and the following unexpected sight:

Mom bought a new bear, which she later named Becket. Given the irreverence of the gift shop, I thought Becket might like to give a sermon from the pulpit...

We returned a bit later, to attend the 5:30 Evensong service. We enjoyed the choir very much - a mixture of about 32 boys and men. The boys were dressed in stiff white ruffled collars, purple gown and white robe. Sorry, I didn't take any photos. Their voices were wonderful, especially in the Cathedral setting.

We then headed home, stopping at our favorite Newsstand along the way. We repacked our suitcases, preparing for the next day's road journey, and found ourselves quite exhausted.

That's it for today,

Becky and Awanna

Wednesday/Thursday-May 13/14, 2009

We arose early (actually, Mom suddenly sat upright in bed at 5:00 am and said, "Why don't we leave right now?" which was unexpected, but a good idea) and at 7:25 I summoned the landlord (who arrived in his bathrobe) so that we could pay him for our two nights. He was so good natured about our sudden change in plans!

We had just three goals for today - see Darwin's House just outside of the town of Downe, turn the car in at Heathrow, and get ourselves to our hotel near the airport.

We packed our car... the way, here is the special place for Spot on the dashboard - worked great!

The GPS helped us get out of the City just fine, but after a while, I began having my usual issues (probably my fault, in large part) with not knowing where I was, and the GPS giving instructions that didn't seem to match "on the ground." Inevitably, I had to pull over and try to sort things out, using the map book the Martin's gave us, and the GPS, and trying to find signs that told us what town we were in.

At last - we were at Down House, just outside of the town of Downe, where Charles Darwin lived with his large family for the last 40 years of his life, and wrote his greatest books! We arrived shortly before the standard opening time, in a light mist. The house is furnished, on the ground floor, with much of the original furniture, and his study was the most fantastic room, filled with his special furniture (everything on castors), his custom made microscope, his books, tables, etc. Reading Irving Stone's "The Origin" and then his granddaughter Gwen Raverat's book, "Period Piece," in which she describes her childhood summers at Down House, really helped us prepare for the experience.

The front of the house (no photos allowed inside the house):

The rear of the house, with the veranda on the left:

View of the back lawn from upstairs (where there were several interesting exhibits, including a full size mockup of Darwin in his cabin in the Beagle):

The mulberry tree mentioned by Gwen Raverat in her book.

We walked to the end of the kitchen gardens... the entrance to the famous quarter mile Sand Walk, where Darwin used to walk everyday and do his best thinking. He also led many famous scientists down the path, which he designed and built.

Mom sends an "OK" message from the Sand Walk:

We thought we'd take another footpath to return to the house, but found our plan didn't work, so we traipsed back across an adjacent (very wet) pasture.

After lunch in the tearoom, we returned to the road, and made it straight to Europcar rental returns with no mishaps - the GPS really came through this time!

At Heathrow, after dealing with two surly bus drivers and then a surly taxi driver, we made it, along with a lady bound for the Galapagos Islands (of all places!), with whom we shared the taxi and our stories of surliness, to the Comfort Inn, Heathrow.

And then there was the flight the next morning....

We finally arrived in San Francisco, spent the night, then drove up Highway 101 towards home. We stopped in Ukiah at the Grace Hudson Museum known as the Sun House (art gallery plus beautiful Arts and Crafts style home) and then at Founders Grove.

We enjoyed our trip so much, and our dear friends and acquaintances along the way, but now it was good to be home!


Becky and Awanna

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