Fri. May 13, 2016:
London to Canterbury, England
I managed to get a semi-decent amount of sleep on the plane, even though that meant skipping dinner. My legs and knees had started to get really cramped and I was beginning to see the benefits of flying first class. Eventually I woke up because of the sun, coming in through the window. I was so hungry and thrilled that they were offering us breakfast snacks- until I found out that it was banana bread. This was topped off with them trying to pass off tea as coffee, as if adding milk would disguise it. I couldn’t fall back asleep and we were already so close, I watched Brooklyn Nine-Nine instead.
Thankfully the rental car place had complimentary coffee and free water bottles. I was feeling pretty good, not very jet-lagged, just really hungry. I could not get used to the roads, it was nerve-wracking to be on the “wrong” side of the road. Thankfully we had Stuff You Should Know to listen to, it calmed me down to listen to them talk about snake handling.
It was an hour long drive to Leeds Castle. We drove by fields and fields of sheep and cows. I quickly learned that roundabouts are a regular road feature in England, making it difficult for me to give directions. The weather was gorgeous, warm and sunny. I had been worried it would be rainy, foggy and cold. I was starving by this point, but we did not pass by anything on the way. At Leeds Castle we went to the café but they only had pre-packaged sandwiches. The other café was even worse, they only had ice cream. On the way to the second café we had passed the gardens and the hedge maze, we figured we may as well do those now and go for food after.
The maze was infuriating. Instead of dead-ends it would lead you back to previous sections of the maze, you had no way of knowing if you were making progress or not. Adding to the irritation, the maze was overrun with French school children who thought it would be fun to run around tight corners all the while yelling. We gave up and left, we had been going in circles. Lunch was what one would expect from a pre-packaged sandwich: not that good. I had gone with the tuna sandwich because it was on white bread which never goes stale, the other sandwiches were baguettes. Brent confirmed that indeed his sandwich was stale. The elderflower lemonade and the Kettle chips were delicious.
On the grounds of the castle there were so many ducks and geese with their babies and nests. It was awkward to walk to the castle entrance because of these nests. We had to slowly maneuver around them as the geese and ducks hissed and stared. The castle was a self-guided walk through. The best room by far was the library, it had a corner couch reading nook nestled against the shelves! It was cool to see medieval weapons, even though they were used purely for decoration. The castle had beautifully carved wooden ceiling beams.
There were even birds nesting in the spaces in the stone wall of the mill and guard tower outside the castle. We watched the baby birds get fed, all we could see were there little mouths opening and chirping.
It was a stressful drive to the hotel, the tiredness was really kicking in and we were having trouble adjusting. The roundabouts did not help. We still had some energy left though. We left our stuff in the hotel and walked over to Canterbury Cathedral. It was unbelievably beautiful. First we circled the exterior, behind we found the ruined shell of an old building (we later found out this had been the church’s library and archives). The interior had beautiful gothic arches and stunning stained glass windows. The crypt was dark and creepy, but stupid people had scratched their names into the pillars. Leaving the cathedral we saw a lady in a big fancy hat, it was so British-seeming, it made my day.
On the way to the cathedral I had seen a sign for a small pub down an alley that looked more promising than the ones on the main stretch. The Crown Arm Pub was amazing, they had a bunch of Canterbury beers on tap. According to the menu, they were all brewed locally nearby. Apparently cider is almost as big as beer, we were in cider country. I had an apple-pear cider, it tasted too sweet and like juice. It was still enough for me to decide that this vacation was to be a cider tour, I would try as many as I could.
On the way back to the hotel we stopped at Tesco Express to get some evening snacks and to stock up on drinks for our vacation. There were so many new snacks to choose from! Mini Jaffa cakes, Oreo Cadbury milk chocolate bar, Double Decker chocolate bar and sweet chili chips (I will never switch to calling them crisps). There were so many different ciders to choose from. A few were different flavours of brands we have at home (new flavours of Rekorderlig). I grabbed two that seemed the most like real cider, not like alcoholic fruit juice.
The Aspall Suffolk premium cider was more like it, nice and dry and cider-y. It was still only 6pm and we were struggling. We tried to watch a British quiz show on TV, but it was pointless, we knew none of the answers. I went to check my phone and saw that the battery was at 5%… and it dawned on me. We forgot to bring a converter!!! A mild panic passed through me. The plan was to buy one the next day and hope we did not need it until then.
I tried so hard to stay awake, browsing Buzzfeed and drinking cider. By 7:30pm I caved and showered (while eating mini Jaffa cakes, not the best idea). Once again I was infuriated, this time by the handle being on the right side of the toilet. I really was in need of sleep, by 8pm I was in bed.