Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Last Five Days of the Trip to England

So sorry I took so long to add the end of our journey...thanks for your patience.

September 20, 2016
Overcast day, but no rain. We drove about an hour north and visited two beautiful National Trust properties today.

Our first was Knole House, a very old 15th Century home that was once a royal palace. It has so many building that people refer to it as a village. This huge house has been in the Sackville family for the past 400 years. And they retained the right to live for 200 years after they deeded it to the National Trust. It was the birthplace of Vita Sackville-West but she could not inherit the property because she was a women. She later purchased Sissinghurst that we visited on the 15th. She was the writer who wrote in her castle. Knole House was also owned by the Archbishops of Canterbury, until King Henry VIII decided he wanted the Knole House as one of his palaces.

We then went to Ightham Mote. A beautiful old Tudor home that is surrounded by a moat. It is 700 years old and at one time an American heiress lived there with her family and entertained lavishly with famous people of the day including the Novelist Henry James. He was inspired by his visit and wrote "The Turning of the Screw" after he left. More beautiful gardens and then home. We stopped along the way and picked up fish and chips which we enjoyed at home.

September 21, 2016

We woke to a bright sunshiny day today, our last full day at Leeds Castle. We lingered over breakfast making plans for today and tomorrow. By ten o'clock we were over the hill on our way to the castle for one last visit. We passed the first group of Segway passengers on their way around the park.
The castle was nearly empty, we strolled through the rooms at a leisurely pace compared to last Sunday. Several rooms that had been changed for the wedding were back to normal, a tapestry that had been our for cleaning in the Chapel was back on the wall but the yellow drawing room was closed for some work. Oops.....the one painting that Jim wanted to see again was in that room.
He asked a guide but she said no. As we neared the end of the tour Jim started talking to another guide and he went to the room and asked the curator who was restoring one of the walls if he could bring Jim into the room to see the painting by Teipolo the Elder of clowns. He was invited into the closed room and twenty minutes of conversation ensued while I stood around waiting. But the guide who got Jim in said he'll probably be awhile and offered me a chair. But, I stood there and he told me stories about Leeds Castle and the family of Lady Baillie.

The door had florist blocks (green Styrofoam) and he told me they would be filled with flowers for the upcoming Flower Celebration this weekend.

Soon we were back at the cottage for a bit of lunch and then on the road to visit The Friars. It is a Carmelite Priory that was originally built in 1242 but closed by King Henry VIII in the 15th century. It was reopened in 1949 and is once again a place of pilgrimage with over two hundred thousand people a year coming to this place of peace and prayer. It was very peaceful walking through the various chapels and buildings

Then we drove back into Maidstone, our nearest city, and located the All Saints Church. Built in 1395 with a large house for the Archbishop...which now houses public offices; and a large stable along with many other buildings. The property is now split by a major highway and the stables are a Museum of Carriages. The church is the largest parish church in England. It is the size of a cathedral.
Back to Leeds where I walked back to the Maze and enjoyed finding the center without any help. Then a boat ride across the lake and beautiful vistas in the park on the way to the cottage including meeting the peacock on the path.

Tomorrow we return the car to Gatwick Airport and then plan to take the bus into London for the afternoon. Friday we fly home.

September 22, 2016

I woke early this morning and pulled back the heavy Tapestry drape that covers our Dutch door during the night and saw a dawn full of fog and a surprise on the pond. A white swan had come to visit. I opened the top of the door, a split glass window; and watch her and the sun rising on the horizon. As soon as the sun broke free of the swan slowly swam away towards the castle.

Soon we were finished with breakfast, packed and out the door by 9 am. Within an hour my trusty navigator app on my phone had us back at Gatwick Airport with the gas gauge below a quarter of a tank. We'd decided to come in empty, hopefully not on fumes.

Enterprise is in south terminal and we rode the transport to north terminal and walked across the street to our hotel. Checked in and then headed back to the south terminal where we purchased a one day travel pass in time to catch the 11:20 am train into Victoria Station in London.

By noon we were strolling through the British Museum enjoying the Elgin Marbles from the Parthenon, Assyrian treasures and the Rosette Stone along with many other priceless antiquities.
Out the door to darkening skies we were soon on the Underground again to St. Paul's Cathedral by 2:30 pm. Jim has never been inside and I've only been there once with my sister in 2009. Such a majestic building full of history. We each had an audio/video player that kept us moving after first climbing to the top of the dome. Yes, we both did 528 steps up and another 528 down. So peaceful sitting in this church soaking in the classical architecture of Christopher Wren.

By 4 pm we were both exhausted and decided to call it a day and head toward Victoria Station for our train ride back to Gatwick.  By 5:30 we were safely back in our hotel. Tomorrow we fly to the USA.

September 25, 2016

Hello Friends and Family....
Yes, we've crossed the pond and are safely back in California at Jim's sister's home in Newport Beach. Visited St. Martin's yesterday afternoon in Yorba Linda with Jim's sister at their annual Octoberfest; and saw most of the children who were all there participating in various booths. We enjoyed the activities and mass before heading back to Newport. Good to be home. Must say as we entered the airport on Friday camera was packed or I would have taken a photo, a group of about a dozen young men as they arrived each wearing a different suit with matching shoes, etc. of flower gardens! pinks, blues, greens, etc. It was a stunning group! And they were oh so happy. Later we saw another group in the airport where one of the men was dressed in a tutu complete with fairy wings (but he'd forgotten to shave) and waving a wand as he lead his group who all were regularly dressed and had matching tee-shirts.

Life is good and thanks again for joining us on our journey to England through the wonders of Facebook.   To those that are reading my blog…thanks for being patient with me as I was always behind a few days in copying and pasting the journey into Armchair Travel With Martha.

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