With my friend Deator visiting my in London, we decided to take a day trip and do a bit of exploring outside of the city.
We booked through Premium Tours, and it was fantastic! Our tour guide and driver were so sweet and funny, and kept me interested and entertained throughout the entire day, which can be difficult to do. It wasn’t a bad price, considering everywhere we visited, and that the cost included entrance to both the castle and cathedral, and a private tour.
Our first stop of the morning was to Leeds Castle in the county of Kent, nicknamed “The Loveliest Castle in the World”. We arrived before it was open to the public, and just before it started to downpour. The castle is surrounded by hundreds of acres of land (I think the tour guide said 500, but I could be wrong!), and the drive leading to the castle was magical.
The castle is surrounded by a huge lake (ANOTHER MOAT!), and a classy golf course with extra green grass. And, since it’s spring, these beautiful pink trees lined the drive up to the castle, making it even more fairytale-esque!
We hurried inside because it was a) cold, and b) getting ready to pour rain
A castle has been on this site since 1119, although what is standing now is not the original, or even the second rebuilding of it. In 857 A.D., the “castle” that stood on this place was just a wooden structure on the two islands in the middle of the river. By 1119, the structure was rebuilt using stone, and became much larger.
Eventually purchased by King Edward I for his wife, Eleanor, and handed down to King Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon, a section of the castle today shows how the kings and queens would have used the castle during medieval times.
The last private owner of this castle was American Heiress Lady Baillie, who bought the castle in 1926. Lady Baillie was definitely a socialite, hosting elaborate parties and entertaining celebrities, politicians, royalty, and countless others.
The most exciting thing I learned about this castle was that Lady Baillie was a huge animal lover (a girl after my own heart!), and at one point had zebras roaming over the castle grounds.
Can you imagine drinking tea in England and gazing out the window to watch zebras galloping about??
It poured rain almost the entire time we were there, so I didn’t get to explore the grounds as much as I would have liked 😦
Next, we made a brief pitstop in Dover to see the White Cliffs!
Unfortunately, it was cloudy and foggy, so the white cliffs were looking a bit gray…
Everyone on our bus made a quick hop off for a photo op, and then ran back to warm up. I really can’t describe how cold we were. Right after this picture was taken, it began to hail…
I would have loved to have had more time to walk on top of the cliffs, but it’s probably best that we didn’t; I may have blown away!
After a short drive we were in Canterbury! I had already been to the city a few weeks ago (see my other post, Writing My Own Canterbury Tales for more pictures of the city), which was perfect, since this time I only had time to explore the Cathedral.
Still as pretty as the last time I saw it 🙂
For more pictures from inside the Cathedral and around town, see my other post, Writing My Own Canterbury Tales.
Since the weather was so crappy, we didn’t get to look around town at all, and stayed at the Cathedral and in a cozy pub next door for the entire duration. This was fine by me, since it gave me a chance to explore the Cathedral again and really take my time.
Luckily, we left the rain behind in Canterbury. Our drive to Greenwich was sunny, and the weather held off until the end.
Greenwich is definitely a part of London I need to explore more! Last November I went to the Samuel Pepys exhibit on the 1665 Great Plague of London, and in 2012 I visited the Grand Meridian line at the Royal Observatory, but other than that I haven’t even thought of visiting the area.
There seemed to be a lot more to do in Greenwich than I had originally thought! We passed by lots of cute little shops and museums I want to go back and take a look at.
Because the University of Greenwich is right on the river Thames, it definitely seemed as though it was a bit of a college town.
I know I keep saying how cold it was, but let me emphasize again: it was REALLY, REALLY cold. No one in our group wanted to stay and explore, so we waited for our boat to take us back to central London.
Our reward for putting up with blowing winds, pouring rain, hail, and nearly freezing our fingers off, was a nice double rainbow while we waited for our boat
And of course, I could never pass by this bridge without taking a picture, and I especially could never float UNDER the bridge and not take 1,000 pictures… 🙂