Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Another five days in England...this time in Maidstone at Leeds Castle

September 16, 2016

This was a day off so no new castles or gardens to show you. 
Thanks to my friend Florence Lovejoy Hannigan, I realized I'd forgotten to show you the Sissinghurst Castle and gardens. They really are spectacular and a must see on English Garden Tours. Enjoy these few photos and put it on your bucket list. It was late when I posted yesterday....we played cards before I did my tasks...
Walked from our cottage to the castle tonight after the rain stopped. Nice evening walk before dinner.

September 17, 2016
Today the promised clear skies were still drizzling off and on but we were on schedule and out the door by 9:30 am to our first National Trust home called Stoneacre. We took the shorter route on the byways and enjoyed multiple villages and didn't hit any of the mirrors on cars parked on the narrow roads. I just close my eyes and pray...
We arrived at 10:30 am and discovered both the gardens and the house were closed until 11 am.
We walked up the hill to the house in light sprinkles but about 15 minutes later a couple walked up and opened the gate. We followed through exclaiming how happy we were that the gardens were actually open. They explained that no, they were volunteers arriving for work; but they invited us to tour the garden early as we were the only ones there. As we reached the back we met the tenant/caretakers and had a conversation with them about the property. Alex was very friendly and he and Jim kept up a running conversation most of the time we were there. It has been in the National Trust for almost a hundred years and has been surprising and delighting visitors ever since. It's a typical medieval timber-framed yeoman's house hidden away in Kent. Began in 1480, it has seen many owners and changes. In 1920 it was practically a ruin when it was purchased by Aymer Vallance, a writer and designer, who returned it to its original splendor using original materials available from the many great homes being torn down at that time. A jewel hidden in the woods.
We left about noon and headed for Chartwell, house, gardens, studio and estate of Winston Churchill. We'd made a reservation online last night for a 2:15 pm entry to view the house. We arrived at 1 pm and squeaked into the 1:30 que early. No photos inside, but a beautiful family home where they raised their children in the 1920 and 1930s. And retired to in later life after friends gathered and purchased the estate for them with the caveat that it be given to the public after their death. It is now a museum for their personal mementos, his awards and gifts along with a massive collection of his paintings. When it was turned over to the National Trust, his wife requested that Winston's private bedroom not be opened to the public. It is rumored that it will soon be opened since all of his immediate family have passed away and there is a high demand for the opening. They do have photos to show the visitors now when requested.
Another great day. We did follow the GPS and took the faster but longer way home on the freeways....arrived by 4 pm and enjoyed dinner in our cottage.

September 18, 2016
Sunday morning we drove to St. Francis Church in Maidstone for mass and then back to the cottage to fix our breakfast before we walked over the hill through the field to visit Leeds Castle. It's about a 10 minute walk but very pleasant. Many people but not too crowded. We strolled through at our own pace and could take as many photos as we wanted. We'll probably go again during the week with less people. Weather was overcast and cool but no rain.
There is a wedding at 4 pm in the castle today...must be a very expensive venue. We saw the bride arrive at 1:30 in a beautiful old white Rolls Royce...the dress was carried in behind her. Staff was concerned about some hovering helicopters and there was much excitement. Would love to know who they are.
From there we walked towards the Falcon area for the 2 pm show. Early so we walked towards the area where they keep the birds of prey. The area is directly behind the maze so I took Jim on a shortcut. Oops....we got lost for a long time and Mr. Jim was more than a little upset. I love the challenge but he tells me he has NEVER gone into a maze because there is too much unknown. This one was really difficult and we finally located the exit under the grotto in the center! But we did make it out with some help from the staff.
We then walked around the maze to the bird area and enjoyed their birds of prey that are used in the show. Walked back to the show field in front of the maze and found a bench to sit on during the show. Jim was startled when a Harris Hawk on his way to the handler flew so close that he felt his wings ruffle his hair! It really startled him as it happened so fast. Great show with six different birds and two handlers.
We walked back across the castle grounds and found our neighbors in the Keepers House enjoying the sunshine which finally popped through the clouds about 2:30 during the show. They left for home just before dinner and we are alone again by the duck pond. Another wonderful day. Fixing dinner soon and then we'll enjoy chocolate with our daily game of hand and foot cards.
Remember the wedding today...it's now 9:30 pm and just as we were going to bed the fireworks started over the castle. I had to turn my camera back on and go outside in my pajamas to get these photos. Great ending to a marvelous day. The dark area to the right in the photos is the weeping willow tree outside our cottage over the pond. Good night everyone.

September 19, 2016

We decided to ignore much advice about not going to Dover and left on the M20 this morning to see Dover Castle known as the Key to England. This was never bombed because Hitler wanted to celebrate victory in this castle when he took England.
We toured both of the underground tunnels. One was used for the Operation Dynamo which was the evacuation of Dunkirk. The other was an underground hospital. These tunnels actually go back hundreds of years and were used in the French vs England wars.
We climbed up and down the 100 plus stairs in the old castle and visited several of the other sights.
Finally decided to call it a day and headed back on the M20. It was traffic free both ways.
We arrived home to two black swans on our pond and freshly cut grass and trimmed hedges. We're walking up to our castle at dusk to see the lights on the castle at night.
I thought you'd enjoy my photos I took this evening of our Leeds Castle with the lights on. It was very dark for the walk home but we had flashlights with us to light the way home.

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 notables 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.

Friday, September 16, 2016


September 10, 2016

This is our home away from home for our week in Brighton Beach. It's called the pool house because originally an above ground pool sat on the location. Karen is a delight and has spoiled us with many extras, especially all that we need for English Breakfasts in the mornings. We're enjoying a day off today and listening to the rain while we play some cards and catch up on details.

Our outing today was a drive through downtown Brighton Beach. The first thing we saw was a huge and very tall pole. Turns out it is the newest adventure and has just opened according to the article we found after returning home. We plan to ride it before we leave. Also the palace that was built in the eighteenth century was modeled after palaces in India. It is called the Brighton Pavilion now. Built by members of the royal family. It was used as a hospital for soldiers from India during WW II. Another of our planned tours for next week. We've enjoyed most of the day resting and catching up on planning. It's been raining since 3 o’clock.

September 11, 2016
Sunday morning began with 9:30 am mass at St Joseph’s church downtown. We managed to drive 3 blocks driving the wrong way on a single lane road.
Then we moved the car to a parking garage across the street from the British Airways i360 ride on the beach. Due to excess wind yesterday they'd been loading and unloading on the lower level...that's why we thought it was unfinished as we only saw the pole. A fabulous run up and down...much like the London Eye.
Once down we walked to the Brighton Pier and out to the fun zone. Very hot day but still fun.
From there we walked to the Royal Pavilion and did the tour of the old royal palace....but, no photos allowed. Extremely ornate but unusual in that it is done in India and Chinese decor.
Walked back to the car through twisting narrow walking streets full of shops but shady so was really good. A four mile day of walking.
Home by 3 pm and over to our neighborhood pub for a Sunday Roast. Delicious. ... a great Sunday.

September 12, 2016

Today was full of surprises. ... the Lewes Castle was so much more than we'd expected. It was recommended by the bartender at our pub. Thomas Paine lived in Lewes for a few years and Ann of Cleves owned property there resulting from her divorce settlement from Henry VIII. A fun hour visiting the town and climbing up and down some 250 steps in the castle after walking down and up a very steep street in the village.
Drove an hour from there to visit a National Trust property that we found in the book last night. Petworth House and Gardens. WOW... we were amazed by what we saw. The home was elegant and for over 900 years the occupants had collected a major art collection equaling any of your major museums in the world. More Turner paintings then we've seen in any museum. Van Dyck, Gainborough and a myriad of other old masters.
Difficult to leave but we did also enjoy the extensive servants quarters and kitchens in a separate building.
Home by 4 pm and Chef Jim is preparing pasta for us tonight. Another day filled with beautiful sunshine.
September 13, 2016
Took a late start but still had heavy traffic most of the way westward to the famous Historic Dockyard of Portsmouth. Took a wrong turn...one of many over the last five weeks, and saw the WWII memorial and the very new attraction called the Spinnaker Tower....similar to the i360 in Brighton Beach. It is 500 ft. tall and you can go up to enjoy the view. Snapped photos and went on to the dockyards.
Amazing, several very old ships and work in progress in the actual boathouse that we toured. The tent for a restaurant came in handy as we had a sudden five minute rainstorm that didn't cool us down but added a chance to sit for a few minutes.
Back on the highway we drove about half way back and stopped in Arundel to see the Castle that has been home to the Duke of Norfolk family for 900 years. This is the top Duke of all the Dukes according to our travel guide book by Rick Steves.  It is absolutely huge and per Mr. Jim has the very best art collection of old masters that we've seen.  But not as many of the Turner paintings that we saw yesterday.  One could easily do a whole day here.
This is their personal home and they have taken great pride in sharing their history with visitors. Many of the gardens and fields are open for residents and visitors to enjoy at any time. A few are reserved for the paying guests. If you are in the area this should be number one on your list. And it is privately run by the family and not part of any trust. It's literally a museum of their family history.
We ended the day in the village of Arundel, shopped in an Old Maps shop and enjoyed fish and chips for an early dinner at the Moat house Cafe.
Resulted in heavy traffic on the trip home but we relaxed and enjoyed the extra time together.

September 14, 2016

Our morning started with finding the laundromat which turned out to be across the street from the church that we attended last Sunday. Had we realized that, we would not have taken so many wrong turns. Then there was parking. Nothing legal was open and there were many cars parked illegally up on the sidewalk;  so we joined them temporarily. Jim watched the car while I loaded the washing machines. He left to look for a legal spot and the policemen was writing our ticket when he returned. He played innocent and sweet and we didn't get a ticket like everyone else was getting. He quickly moved the car to the new spot that he'd found!
After returning the laundry home, we headed east to find Monk's House. This was the home of the writer Virginia Woolf. Originally their weekend home but after their London home was bombed in the blitz they lived here permanently. Beautiful gardens and her writing hut in the garden was just what every writer needs. Jim was very happy.
As we finished we were told about her sisters home about eight miles away. It is called Charleston Farm. Her sister was Vanasa Bell, she along with Duncan Grant were pioneers of early 20th century British Art. They created the Bloomsbury period of art. Short lived but unique. They lived together with other notable artists and famous people from 1916 in this farmhouse. T.S. Elliot is one of the better known writers who spent time here along with Virginia Woolf.

September 15, 2016
We were packed and ready to leave Brighton Beach by 9 o'clock this morning. It took us nearly 2 hours to drive to the very old village of Rye that sits on the English Channel just east of Hastings. We visited the Mermaid Hotel that is very old. It was rebuilt in 1420 after the original one burnt down. I stayed there in 2010 when I visited with my sister-in-law.
We walked many of the streets, visited two different churches and the Castle. Before we left we even went to the weekly market which was in full swing while we were there today. It was a fun filled two hours.
Back in the car we headed north to our second destination called Sissinghurst Castle and Gardens. Originally a great Elizabethan home that eventually was rented to the government in the 18th century to imprison French sailors.
Early in the 20th century the ruins were purchased for a song by a wealthy English family. There was only one room in the tower that was livable and they basically camped there when visiting during the reconstruction.
Today it is famous for its gardens and fairytale towers. Vita Sackville-West wrote many books in her towers and there are tales about what happened during the many visits of her very close friend Virginia Woolf.
Back on the highway we made some wrong turns and GPS was not working well. It took us on a serendipity trip down country lanes to our new home on the grounds of Leeds Castle in the lush landscape of Kent. We had several brushes with the hedge rows but finally arrived. Our place for the next seven nights is a bit magical. See the second story I just posted.
Our day wasn't over....we moved in and then left to buy groceries. Lost again and the ten minute drive lasted three times longer but like always we eventually found a wonderful large supermarket when we stocked up for the week. And, we found the short way to home.
The rain is coming tonight and all day tomorrow so we're taking a day off. May walk over to see the Castle in the late afternoon....we have passes for the week so we can go every day!

This is our last week and we are settled in to our cottage on the grounds of Leeds Castle near Maidstone. We are in a private area and have a duck pond outside our door. The building is actually several hundred years old but has recently been completely modernized inside. We even have the code to a private gate to enter the grounds 24 hours a day. We feel like royalty. We also have passes that allows us to visit the castle as often as we like during out week long stay.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

First Three Days in Brighton Beach

Second story for September 6, 2016

Corfe Castle...so little space to tell the story that I thought I'd give it a special spot. We arrived at the parking area and found that we had to walk about 10 minutes uphill to reach the village and castle. A gentle walk along a woodland path. The village is alive and doing well right into the 21st century. It was built to support the building of the castle and continued into a full-fledged town during the life of the castle. In 1106 Corfe was one of the best fortified castles in England. Many important battles took place here as the royal owners continued to make improvements, including Henry III and Edward I. The last royal owner was Elizabeth I who sold the castle to Sir Christopher Hatton in 1572. In 1635 the castle was sold to Sir John Bankes. During the civil war many sieges took place here and much damage was done. The castle was ordered to be demolished by Parliament as a punishment during the wars. The Bankes family tried to recover what they could but the damage was too much. They built a new mansion at Kingston Lucy....yes the home we visited just prior to the Castle. In 1982, after three and a half centuries of ownership by the Bankes family, the castle was given to the National Trust.

September 7, 2016

We were out the door early today with plans to visit three sites. Our first was the village of Shaftesbury, known for its hill of gold, a steep cobbled street lined with picturesque cottages, one with a thatched roof. It has become renowned as a television and movie site. One of the more famous was directed by Ridley Scott. It's known locally as Hovis Hill because of an advertisement for Hovis bread that is an all-time favorite ad. Walked the street and the village before visiting their tiny museum.
Soon we were on the highway towards our second location. It was a 400 year old home known as Montacute House that was built by Edward Phelip. A true manor house in every detail right down to one of the longest gallery used to display their paintings and for the ladies to walk daily for exercise during bad weather. This one was located at the top of house. Forever views on a massive estate with wonderful English gardens. Wolf Hall was filmed here.
Back on the highway we had good roads all the way back to Salisbury. Of course we still had to negotiate the last two blocks: 3 lanes up hill and curved at the top. Two way traffic and parking on both sides of the street. Leaving one lane for traffic. During our six days we've never met another car coming in our out. One more trip tomorrow!
We parked and then walked over to the Salisbury Cathedrale Close for our last house. Mompesson House is an 18th Century town house located within the Cathedral grounds. It was used in the movie Sense and Sensibility. Beautifully maintained by the National Trust. One of my favorites was a door on a brick wall for decoration and used to make the house appear larger than it was.
Soon we were headed back to our apartment
For dinner and laundry. Tomorrow we move to Brighton Beach with a surprise stop along the way which the guys will love...tune in tomorrow for the details.

September 8, 2016

Out the door before 9 am, we headed south to the most important car museums in England: Beaulieu National Motor Museum.
Amazing collection of automobiles that tell the story of the Industry by Lord Montagu who inherited the estate in the late 18th century. There are over 250 automobiles.
The original land grant was to Cistercian Monks by King John in the year 1204 for an abbey.
The original Abbey, one of the largest in England, was destroyed by King Henry VIII except for a few buildings. When the Montagu family took control of the property they built what they call the Palace House...a large country manor home that is now open for tours.
It was a long drive almost to the English Channel and then back out again for our drive on to our new home in Brighton; but worth the effort. We were there for over three hours and could have stayed longer. Many extra exhibits, a monorail around the property and a double decked bus ride. It's definitely a destination for a day.
The weather was beautiful all day and the wind is brisk tonight here in Brighton. We're not on the beach but in a residential neighborhood about 20 minutes inland. We are in a self contained cottage at the back of a single family home. Karen even stocked the refrigerator for our English breakfasts.
September 9, 2016

Another great day of looking history in the eye and finding the real feeling for the history book we read so many years ago.
We first drove the tiny roads lined with eight foot hedge rows scraping the sides of our car. I literally stop breathing on some of the roads when we are passing other vehicles. But we made it to the town of Battle. Here the famous Battle of Hastings took place...some twenty plus miles from where they came ashore in 1066 with William the Conqueror. He killed King Harold and became the King Of England. He built a beautiful Abbey on the site with the main altar on the spot where Harold died.
Six hundred years later this beautiful abbey was destroyed by Henry VIII. The main remaining building...the guest house has become a school. We climbed 53 steps to the top for views over the countryside before leaving.
Back down the hill to the shores of the English Channel in Hastings where we walked all the way to the end of the massive pier on the beach. Then we drove into the ancient town for a quick look at the buildings that were built according to one in the circa 1450. Smallest streets even!
Back up the hill we decided to go see the ancient Bodiam Castle. It is a shell but very complete on the outside. It sits in the middle of a moat. We climbed 73 steps to the top for some great views of the countryside. They were sitting up for a trialthon on Sunday. The athletes will swim several laps in the moat before riding their bikes and finishing several laps around the castle.
A fun day completed by another hair raising drive back to Brighton Beach. Did I mention the problem when you go from bright sunshine to a tree tunnel that is nearly black! Old eyes don't function well with fast changes! But we made it home by 5 pm and have just enjoyed a pint of beer with pizza at our favorite pub around the corner from home. Now we go home for a game of cards with our wine and chocolate. Good night everyone and thanks for tuning in.