Friday, 30 April 2010

Our Kent Holiday–Day 5: Dover Castle

Today we went to Dover Castle. I have wanted to go for ages. In WWI my grandfather was given the task of wiring it (he was in the Royal Engineers and there was a garrison stationed there) and he thought it would be a doddle until he realised that the walls were 20 feet thick!!! Also, a few months ago I saw a Time Team Special on TV, about the amazing restoration work they've done in the Great Tower, to bring it back to how it would have been at the time of the Court of Henry II, and I was very keen to see that.

We saw the interior of the castle before lunch (which we had in the Naafi Restaurant, where the food was fortunately not wartime rations, but unfortunately it was not at wartime prices!). Here are some of the pics I took:

03 Drawbridge

This is one of the views over the sea from the Castle:
103 View of Sea from Castle

I was able to get around in the Rolls Royce on the lower level, but had to climb up the spiral staircase to the upper floors and use my crutches up there - my hubby got a bit up tight because I was so slow and he was worried about my energy levels but I told him not to fuss because even if I had to pay for it afterwards, it was Worth It to see what I'd come to see!!

12 Great Tower Spiral Staircase

I was able to sit on some stone steps when I got there. Here is the bed in the Guest Chamber on the 1st floor:

33 Large Bed in 1st Floor Guest Chamber

This is the Guest Hall where the King would have wined and dined his guests:

36 1st Floor Guest Hall

This is the King's Chamber - his bedroom, which was apparently not very private as he'd have audiences in there - something Winston Churchill revived during the war - he used to have meetings while still in bed!

42 2nd Floor King's Chamber

This is the King's bed (I want one of those!)

46 Bed in 2nd Floor King's Chamber

and a painted chair in his bedchamber:

59 Chair in 2nd Floor King's Chamber

Interestingly, the embroideries on the various cushion covers and elsewhere were done by prisoners (a lot better than sewing mailbags, I should think!). We were told that one woman prisoner got so keen about it that on her release, she has set herself up in business, doing special embroideries for reconstructions like this. Good on her!

This is the King's Hall, with the thrones, where he would have had more formal audiences:

75 Thrones in 2nd Floor King's Hall

This is part of the frieze running around the top of the walls - I particularly liked this picture because it was reminiscent of the Bayeux Tapestry, and I love all the horses on the boats!

77 Ships Frieze in 2nd Floor King's Hall

After lunch, we went on a guided tour through the WWII tunnels. I knew they had underground rooms but had no idea the extent of the tunnels, or how old some of them were - the first ones were dug during the Napoleonic Wars. It was from here that the Dunkirk operation was masterminded, and we saw the plotting rooms, and telecommunications - no computers, of course, but it was state of the art technology of the day. The telephonists (WRENs) took 12 hour shifts and never saw the sun - they had to sit on what looked like really uncomfortable chairs, and they couldn't talk to anyone about what they were doing - even people in different tunnels. We also saw the hospital, including the operating theatre, and a recording was played throughout, following one particular soldier who had been brought in with a shrapnel wound to his leg, and hearing all the voices of the staff and doctors etc., and the lights blinking off during the operation! The conditions they had to work under... I was able to go down there in the Rolls Royce but there were some very steep slopes and my hubby and another chap helped push me. Unfortunately we weren't allowed to take any pictures down there, but I took one of the entrance:

100 Entrance to WW2 Tunnels

It isn't everyone's cup of tea to go underground - some might find it frightening or claustrophobic, but we found it immensely exciting. The whole thing was very well presented, and there were a couple of short films for us to see, the second one being a Movietone Newsreel film from the time, about the rescue from Dunkirk. It really brought home the very real danger this country was in at the time. On a clear day you can actually see France from Dover, and all that stood between us and a Nazi invasion was that tiny strip of Channel...

It was a highly adventurous day, not least because I had a couple of disasters - the first a very minor one - I dropped one of my gloves in the loo!!! I fished it out and washed it, and tried to dry it under the hand drier without success, so I had to use another pair I had with me. The second disaster was a lot more serious, and could have been very nasty. We got in the land train, and as he started it up, he jerked forward a bit, and I tipped over backwards and bashed the back of my head on the upended metal ramp! I was squashed and couldn't get up - we were the only 2 in the last compartment of the train, so my hubby pressed the red button to attract the attention of the driver, who immediately stopped, and he and my hubby managed to extricate me! I was OK, and I sat on the floor for the rest of the trip and they hauled me off afterwards. I have now got a bump the size of an egg on the back of my head, but the skin was not broken and no harm was done. I felt a bit shaky at lunch time but was fine to enjoy the rest of the day. I was more worried about any potential damage to the Rolls Royce!

Apart from that, it was a great day, and it didn't rain - the rain started yesterday afternoon just as we were getting in the car to come home, and it was lovely again today, but a very cold, strong wind which made me wish I'd taken my anorak.

Tomorrow we'll probably go to Ightham Moat.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Our Kent Holiday–Day 4: Leeds Castle

Today we went to Leeds Castle and it was the most, most, most fantastic day out! If you get the chance, do go. It's nothing short of magnificent, with so much to see.

22 Entrance Gate

All the stewards and staff were so charming and helpful and friendly, and we had some good laughs - they had a little "land train" to take the likes of us from the car park to the castle and the driver was a delight.

Unlike the National Trust, and any other stately home we've visited come to that, Leeds Castle allows you to take photos inside, so you can imagine how much snapping I did! It was truly magnificent and full of beauty and interest, surrounded by incredible views.

117 Lake

In the grounds were beautiful gardens with so many tulips out, and beds edged with box hedges which smelt delicious with the sun on them. There were lakes filled with geese, ducks, and swans both white and black, and fields beyond with sheep and lambs. There is also an aviary filled with exotic birds and I managed to photograph quite a few of those.

124 Culpepper Garden Tulips

135 Pergola

169 Sleeping Mallards

The castle was the home of Lady Bailie, who loved birds, and there is evidence of this throughout the house, and of course her famous aviary.

152 Crane in Aviary

80 Bird Sconces in Lady Baillie's Bedroom

Here are some more pictures of the inside of the house, which you can see is so beautiful, and filled with treasures.

37 Large Bed in Queen's Room

This is the Henry VIII Banqueting Hall and you can see his portrait hanging over the fireplace.

53 Portrait of Henry VIII in Banqueting Hall

113 The Inner Hall and Stone Staircase

We had lunch in a converted barn with all the wood exposed - very attractive, and good food too. After spending the afternoon in the grounds, we went to the shop, and as we came out, one of the peacocks strutted his Stuff in front of a couple of totally uninterested females - all that effort, shimmering and trembling loveliness, and they were more interested in pecking bits out of the dirt! I got some super photos of him, and he performed for a rapt audience of humans when he realised his ladies weren't interested, and he turned round and around and enjoyed everyone telling him how beautiful he was!

177 Peacock with Indifferent Mate

176 Peacock Front View

179 Peacock Head Detail Front View

We met some lovely people today - several struck up conversations because of the flowers on my Rolls Royce, and we met a super elderly couple who live nearby and who visit Leeds Castle regularly. We were very impressed that our tickets lasted 12 months! Pity we prob won't be coming back to Kent during that time though. It certainly would be a good deal if you lived locally. I got in at disabled rate and my hubby got in free as my carer (as often happens when we go out), so it was a terrific deal for us.

It was such a good day. Knocked me out, though, so I slept in the car again on the way back. Again my feet and ankles got really swollen during the afternoon, but better after I got my feet up again. I spend so much time with my feet up that I don't think they are used to being in "normal" sitting or standing positions!! It was also rather hot. I wish I'd brought my flight socks with me.

Mrs. Tom Tom was very well behaved today and didn't lead us astray.

Not sure where we're going tomorrow. All being well, we've still got Dover Castle, Canterbury and one or two other places lined up before we return home, and we have also arranged to meet some friends from Brainfog. Can't wait for that!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Our Kent Holiday–Day 3: Chartwell

We got to Chartwell eventually, but with not enough time to do everything I wanted, but we got round the house which was simply great! I was able to use the Rolls Royce downstairs and its flowers and lights delighted all the stewards who were so friendly and lovely. Then I staggered up the stairs and there was an iron-maiden-type wheelchair there that I could use (really made me appreciate my own set of wheels!) and I'm so glad I made the effort, because one room was full of all sorts of wonderful things that people had given Churchill over the years, from all over the world. He did get given an awful lot of cigar boxes! We also saw all the different uniforms he wore in his various capacities through his long life, and there was a case displaying all his hats! He did have a lot of hats, both literally and figuratively. There were loads of his paintings all round the house, and in one room, on a table beside his armchair, was a cigar box and a large cigar laid on an ashtray. I felt for all the world that he might walk in any moment.

By the time we came out there was only time to go to the loo and a very brief visit to the shop before they closed. My hubby kept saying "can you see anything you like/want to buy?" and I told him that with that sort of chivvying I could do no serious shopping at all, which made the shop lady laugh! (Why do men and women have such totally different approaches to shopping???) I don't know about you but I can't shop under pressure!

We didn't get to see the gardens which was disappointing. I was also very exhausted by the time we got back to the car (although they let us park close by) and I again went right off to sleep on the way back. My hubby was also very tired. I had a bit of a go at him this evening for trying to do too much - he needs to rest on this holiday too, as he's been very tired recently, also not helped by his sleep apnoea problems.

I suggested it would be best if we tried to do only one thing per day, and take it at our leisure, rather than dashing from A to B like wild banshees! He's doing all the driving, and loading the car etc. as well as working out what we are going to do and planning the itinerary, and it's a lot.

Mrs. Tom Tom behaved a bit better today, except that she tried to direct us onto the M25 via an "authorised vehicles only" road which wasn't a proper slip road, which would have been very unsafe to attempt! (If the police caught us at it, I'm sure they wouldn't appreciate being told "Mrs. Tom Tom told us to do it.") She got a bit miffed when we turned round and went in completely the wrong direction for a while, through the next village till we were sure she'd pick up and direct us sensibly (which she did). We could almost hear the petulant tone as she repeated "turn around when possible"!! She didn't throw any hissy fits today, though.

One of my Brainfog Forum friends suggested my hubby now had "another woman"! I told her I wasn't sure about that - Mrs. Tom Tom is quite bossy, and he's very anti "bossy women" and often misconstrues things that I say as being bossy (Moi??? As if I would... ) Perhaps I will have a fiddle with it one day and find the sexiest male voice I can and see how he reacts!!! (I'd have to find one that said "crawss the roundabout" like she does, though!)

I didn't manage to take many photos today except for some sheep and lambs.

02 Sheep and Lamb 1

Not sure what we're doing tomorrow.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Our Kent Holiday–Day 2: Tenterden and Hastings

We were supposed to be having an easy, restful day today. My hubby took me to see a National Trust house in Tenterden - where the Victorian actress Ellen Terry lived. It was an ancient, timber framed house without a straight line in it - the floors were all up and down with little steps between the rooms - not exactly accessible but with a few bumpy wheelies I was able to manoeuvre around downstairs and saw all the incredible collection of theatrical artefacts, and then staggered upstairs and around the rooms up there on my crutches, where the floors were more like mountaineering! I was pretty tired after that, as you can imagine...

03 Smallhythe Place 2

Eventually we managed to find a rather indifferent pub lunch and made our way to Hastings. We're great Foyle's War fans and wanted to explore some of the sites but couldn't find his house, which was disappointing... We had a "stroll" along the lovely sea front and then decided to come home.

That was when the fun with Jane started. I've been calling her "Mrs. Tom Tom." She's got a personality of her own, to go with her pawsh accent! I think my hubby confused her by giving her two "homes" - he decided to put our B & B as "home" so she'd direct us safely back each day, but somehow he didn't delete the "real" home, and we found ourselves being directed back to Devon - via the M25!!!

The trouble is, every time my hubby changes something on Mrs. Tom Tom, he manages to touch the screen when he puts her back on the windscreen and heaven knows what changes he's made!

I think the main problem is that she's a jealous so and so. First of all, she got really miffed when she saw him looking at the map, so she decided to get her own back. Then she was really annoyed because he didn't take her out for lunch.

He inadvertently silenced her at one point and she was Not Pleased to have her voice stopped! She hates being ignored...

I can see this is going to develop into an Interesting Relationship.

By the time we got back it was nearly 9 p.m. and I was exhausted - swollen feet again, and aching bum and legs - that car seat is not comfortable for long trips! My hubby is also exhausted after all the driving. (I knew it was too much to hope for to have a quiet day immediately after our arrival - my hubby likes to fill every moment - real action-packed stuff!)

We've seen more oast houses today than we can count! They are so attractive... Also such pretty houses - I had no idea there was so much weather-boarding, and lots of simply gorgeous timber framed houses which are just bursting with character. And the blossoms... Everywhere there are flowers. We had such lovely weather today and it was like the Garden of Eden.

07 Timber-Framed House 
If Mrs. Jane Tom Tom misbehaves herself tomorrow she'll get a smacked botty.

Our Kent Holiday–Day 1: Our Arrival

Well, we've made it and are now in Kent on our hols. For the first time on holiday, we've got Internet access - WiFi at no added charge, which is just great.

We had a long drive up - with a lunch break and then a half-hour stop so my hubby could have a sleep - it took us 8 hours. When we arrived I was totally shattered. I did sleep quite a bit on the journey. I've overdone it these past few days getting ready to go away etc. When we arrived I just collapsed on the bed and had to good rest - my feet were quite swollen and it was really nice to get off the car seat which really isn't too comfortable for long journeys and awful not being able to put one's feet up.

Our B & B is way out in the country on the North Downs of Kent, nearest place Sittingbourne. As country-dwellers this suits us fine. It's wonderfully quiet. The house is Victorian. Our room is a modern weatherboard extension on the ground floor with wheelchair access - the bathroom is en suite with a wet room shower, grab rails, support thing round the loo and a really nice shower stool, and also a non-slip floor. Apparently a previous owner had a disabled son and had the extension and adaptations built, and it's a good selling point for the B & B owners to have disabled facilities. It is all beautifully appointed, bright and clean. We've got a TV and loads of tea making stuff and a very pretty iron bed. The car is parked right outside so my hubby hasn't had to hump loads of stuff upstairs. He's really tired after all that driving, so we've agreed for both our sakes to have a fairly quiet day tomorrow and not do anything toooo adventurous!

01 Our B & B - N
Here's a link to their website:

www.downcourtcottage.co.uk/

For anyone with a disability looking for a nice quiet place to stay in Kent, this is ideal.
The approach to the B & B was by lots of narrow lanes (also just like home but at least you can see the view, which you can't over our high banks). Surrounding us are orchards full of fruit trees laden with blossom - quite beautiful and also unexpected!

05 Fruit Orchard 1

We saw our first oast house today.

01 Oast House

We came up on the A303 which is nicer than the motorway (it goes really close by Stonehenge!), and everywhere the May blossom is just starting, and there are primroses and daffodils and bluebells everywhere. This is simply the best time of year, and certainly the best for hols!

We joined the motorway just before the M25 (nightmare - sooo glad I don't have to go on that every day!!) and then country roads again.

I gave my hubby a Tom Tom satnav for an early birthday present and it was incredible. He's chosen a woman's voice (called Jane) and she gave very good clear directions all the way.