Leeds Castle, Canterbury and the White Cliffs of Dover

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May 21st 2016
Published: May 28th 2016
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Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, and the White Cliffs of Dover

We meet up with Sharon and Dave in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Mayfair and head up the street to the Ritz Hotel to await our bus to Victoria Station. Victoria Station is the main place for all tour busses in London and today we are off to Leeds Castle, Canterbury Cathedral, and the White Cliffs of Dover.

As we approached Leeds Castle through the countryside, we could see it atop a hill. Leeds Castle has been a Norman stronghold; the private property of six of England’s medieval queens; a palace used by Henry VIII and his first wife Catherine of Aragon; and an elegant early 20th century retreat for the influential and famous; and in the 21st century, it has become one of the most visited historic buildings in Britain. By 1925, one hundred years after a restoration and rebuilding, the family was forced to sell the property to pay death duties. It was acquired by the Anglo-American heiress the Lady Baillie, who did a magnificent job of restoring it.

The castle is surrounded by a large, beautiful functioning moat and lake with little boats taking people around and swans and ducks. Leeds castle has been called the "loveliest castle in the world" and we would have to agree. It is stunning. During the 1930’s Lady Baillie had a fascinating guest list that included film stars and other notable people such as Douglas Fairbanks senior and junior, Fredric March, Charlie Chaplin, Errol Flynn, Lili Damita, Robert Taylor, James Stewart, Barbara Hutton and the James Bond author Ian Fleming.

In addition to the beautiful castle, across the lake there was also a “Dog Collar” museum. Can you believe? Yes there were dog collars from medieval times to the 1800’s. Hundreds of them and virtually every one was some type of metal and they ranged from extremely ornate with the dog’s name on it to terrifying with huge spikes that would dig into the dog’s neck. Even though this museum was fascinating it was also a little sad to think of the types of collars these dogs would have to wear. Jean was so interested in all of it but also wanted to escape ;-)

Back across the lake and a stop for a photo shoot with Sharon and Dave then on to…

Canterbury Cathedral in Canterbury, Kent. First stop lunch as we

were starving. So a stop at Pantells was first on the agenda. Yum, delicious fish and chips and a fun, cute waiter! Ah refreshed we head on to Canterbury Cathedral.

We walk down a long winding road through the middle of town with lots of shops and tourists before we enter through a tall arched gate, to see one of the oldest and most famous Christian structures in England. It is the Mother Church of the worldwide Anglican Communion (Episcopal Church in the US) and seat of the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Cathedral is both a holy place and part of a World Heritage Site. The original building lies beneath the floor of the Nave – it was extensively rebuilt and enlarged by the Saxons, and the Cathedral was rebuilt completely by the Normans in 1070 following a major fire. There have been many additions to the building over the last nine hundred years, but parts of the cathedral and some of the windows and their stained glass date from the 12th century.

After a long visit in the cathedral we head back into town with its nice restaurants, lovely shops and parks. Also great coffee ;-) Yes, Jean had to stop at Lost Sheep Coffee, where coffee connoisseur Mike Healy was holding court and made the ultimate “decaf, skinny, vanilla latte”! If you find yourself in Canterbury stop by his lovely shop on the sidewalk by the transportation center and tell Mike “Hi, Jean sent me”! http://www.lostsheepcoffee.com/

Alas, it has already been a long but wonderful day as we headed out for the White Cliffs of Dover. Cope had seen the cliffs many years ago but Jean was anxious to see this famous landmark. The cliffs form part of the English coastline facing the Strait of Dover and France. The cliffs were on the frontline in both world wars and, with France just 21 miles away, the White Cliffs of Dover became a crucial part of the British defenses. The white cliffs are very visible from the English Channel and during WW II the Germans used them as a navigation point as they came to bomb England.

To be honest the cliffs are not that impressive. The history behind them, and knowing that Churchill directed much of the war effort from here is. We took time to gather rocks from the beach (no sand here just rocks) and to walk along the waterfront. A good leg stretch before heading back to London.

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