This weekend, while Rob was away, the girls and I took Saturday as a touring day. We didn’t know what to expect since we hadn’t ever done an organized tour before. The day began with an early wake up to get to the coach station by 8am. We loaded up the coach (side note: coaches are hired busses, the red public transportation busses are busses. the guide also joked that public transportation drivers are called bus drivers and coach drivers are called gentlemen.) and we were on our way.
Our first stop was Leeds Castle. If you have time to read about the history of the castle, it is pretty fascinating. The first stone castle was built during Henry I’s reign, around 1100. Around 1278 Queen Eleanor of Castile, the first wife of Edward I, bought the castle. Edward and Eleanor were married at the ages of 15 and 12. Their arranged marriage was part of a political deal. Getting married so young doesn’t seem like it would end up working out, but it did. They fell madly in love with each other and ended up having 16 children together, although not all of the children lived very long. Eleanor didn’t like leaving Edward’s side so she even traveled with him to battles. When she died he had 12 stone crosses built to mark the route of her funeral procession from Lincoln to London. The castle saw many changes over following years and eventually ended up being sold and became a private home in 1926 when Lady Baillie purchased it. The castle is beautiful and much of the ground floor has been restored to it’s glory when King Edward and Queen Eleanor were there. The top floor remains as it was when Lady Baillie owned it. The grounds are also beautiful. It was snowing while we were there so it felt even more magical to walk around the lake and see the maze with everything covered with a bit of snow. I wish we had more time to explore the grounds, and even try to make it through the maze.
Our second stop on the tour was Canterbury. It is a fun little town. The main attraction here is the Canterbury Cathedral, which is the “mother church” of the Anglican Church. We didn’t have a chance to go inside, but we did learn a lot about the history of the Cathedral. It is beautiful on the outside, and I am sure it is even more so inside. We enjoyed walking around the city and browsing through shops. We found a museum, The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge. They had a huge range of art on display. It was really interesting to see London recruitment posters from WW2, paintings depicting the murder of Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury who was murdered inside the cathedral in 1170 at the hands of 4 of the king’s knights, and amazing paintings of animals, which I think were the girl’s favorite part of the museum. We also saw a crooked house, which is the second most photographed building in Canterbury, the first being the cathedral. The house started to lean after renovations were done on a chimney inside the house. It continued to lean and would have fallen over had the city not stepped in and reinforced the home with a steel frame. To see how severe the lean is, check out the angle of the front door.
Our next stop was in Dover to see the White Cliffs. We didn’t have long there, but we did spend about 10 minutes at the waterfront looking at the English Channel and taking photos of the cliffs. It was pretty foggy and overcast, so we couldn’t see much, but it was fun to be there and to be able to touch the water. The youngest and I were trying to put our hands in the water, but we were surprised with how quickly the water came back and we ended up with our feet in the water too, shoes and all! Soggy shoes make for a memorable visit to Dover!
The last stop was Greenwich. The plan was to take a walking tour, but it was quite cold and rainy, so the tour group made the decision to drive through the town while the tour guide gave a bit of a history lesson. We then boarded and earlier Thames River Clipper boat to head back to London.
We had a really fun day. It was fun to see new sights and learn new things. It was fun to laugh together over wet shoes and funny stories about Kings and Queens. It was fun to walk around getting snow caught in our eyelashes. It was fun talking with the tourists from America who were surprised to learn that we lived here. We had a brilliant day.