We went away last Sunday through Tuesday for my 40th Birthday treat. It was a really good few days away—mainly because for the 1st time ever—we actually planned what we were going to do and see before we left home. Trust me—this saved a lot of in-the-car-arguments over ‘what do you want to do next?’. Honestly—how can I know what I want to do next when I’ve never been somewhere before? So—we planned and organized which is really how we both function best. Especially as we know the plans aren’t set in stone and we do like to stop at off the beaten route stops. Another bonus to the weekend was we cashed in some of our reward vouchers from our main food shop to gain free entry to some of the attractions we wanted to see. Anyway, back to the story of the weekend in Kent. Kent is on the South East coast of the country, and neither of us has ever been there.
Our first port of call was to the Historic Dockyards in Chatham.
The main features are two historic warships and a submarine. We spent some time on the HMS Gannet- one of the last Victorian sloops. I thought the kids would like that one the best—but they didn’t. What they really enjoyed was the warship, HMS Cavalier. And I would have to concur—it was far more interesting. The sloop was basically an empty shell, whereas the warship was left as it was when last used in the 1970’s. So there were gadgets and gizmos galore to look at—and of course—a bell to ring. After exploring the ships we headed off for our second picnic lunch and a play in the playground. That was nearly three hours of exploring ships, the ropery and the playground. Luckily enough our entry ticket, which was free thanks to the vouchers, is good for unlimited readmission for a year, because we didn’t see half of the attractions. We knew the kids could only handle about 3 hours of walking around—so in the spring we’ll probably go back. It is definitely someplace I’d recommend—it is one of the few attractions we’ve been to that I thought was worth the entrance fee (normally about $20.). After that we just checked into the hotel, had a picnic dinner, and put the kids to bed.
On Monday I FINALLY got to see Canterbury Cathedral. I have wanted to see this Cathedral ever since I was young—I was fascinated by the stories of Thomas Becket. Let’s face it—I’ve always been fascinated by the history of England. It is the one place I constantly mention visiting, but we never seem to go. Needless to say, that is why Michael booked this visit for my birthday present. It was a winner. Even the bit of rain that day helped to enhance the visit. We spent most of the time it rained in the outdoor courtyard—the rain and the cold make it feel more real to me. The huge cathedral courtyards never fail to remind me of how the cathedrals were really a working and thriving community in their heyday.
While walking through the main part of the church I was struck, which is I’m sure the artist’s intention, by two stained glass windows. They looked like they were part of the psychedelic era—they were so bright they made me laugh. One of the deacons happened to be walking by as I was laughing—mostly in delight of the windows non-conformity- so he offered an explanation, which I accepted. The windows were done in the 1950’s, so way ahead of the psychedelic era, by a Hungarian Jew who had been a Nazi prisoner. They really do a good job of depicting the story Mr. Bossyani wanted to tell—and it was a nice change to see some brightness in a church. I always wonder why they always keep them so dark and gloomy—aren’t they supposed to be places of joy?
After the Cathedral we went to our 1st real Italian restaurant in over three years, Pinocchio’s. It was an enjoyable lunch—started with a delicious anti pasta, then on to a four season’s pizza (olives, anchovies, mushrooms and Parma ham) and then to a delicious spicy sausage and basil calzone— definitely not like ones back home. We really do enjoy the fact that H & K don’t think twice about eating ‘normal’ food, who says kids can’t have anchovies on pizza or shouldn’t pinch the last olive or Parma ham?
Our next destination after lunch was to St. Margaret’s Bay, which is the closest point to
France. It is one of the few spots where you can go and be at the base of the Cliffs of Dover. So, we there we were on this pebble beach; it is cold, windy and a bit drizzly out. So what do we eat? Yes that’s right, ice cream. Only in Britain can that be called a fine day by the seaside! It was fun, and the kids tried their hardest to throw the large pebbles into the sea. Hazel had a knack of throwing them on either side of her, so we were lucky she didn’t hurt anyone.
Just before the storm came in we got back into the car and headed out to Dover, for an impressive view of the White Cliffs of Dover and Dover Castle. To see the view we walked to the end of The Prince of Wales Pier, which is at least ¼ mile long. Luckily enough at the end of the pier was a small café where we had a typical British seaside café dinner. Sausage and chips for the kids, and egg and chips and two steaming mugs of tea for Michael and I. Classy lunch, cheesy dinner!
Right outside the café is a small lighthouse so we went out there and wa
tched the ferries for a bit. Dover is the ferry port to France, which we are hoping to use in a year or so. When it was time to go, the kids practically ran the whole way down the pier. They kept stopping and tried to get us to chase them—boy they thought it was hysterical. Obviously they know I’m not about to actually run and chase them—but they do forget I can outsmart them. At one point I distracted them, yes, they fell for the ‘look, a purple elephant in the water’ gag—giving us enough time to catch up and startle the day lights out of them, much to many an on-lookers amusement. Then it was an hour drive to the hotel, a quick bath and bedtime.
Tuesday was my birthday. The day started with presents in bed—always a nice way to start a day. There were the usual lovely gifts— a kitchen garden book, a fictional book, and some cd’s—believe it or not Frank Sinatra and Neil Diamond, yes, I’m old! Then the kids picked out a lovely mug with heart decorations, some plastic kitchen containers with floral designs and the lovely box of chocolate. They will always pick one of those as they think I must share with them. Michael also printed out lots of photos from the past few years and put them in an album for me. But the best gift of all was from the kids. One day the week before they came inside to get paper and crayons to bring out to their playhouse. Awhile later Hazel came in for a plastic bag. Next thing I know she is clinging to this bag and the two of them are trying to hide it so I wouldn’t look in it. I told them they could put it anywhere they wanted, I’d never look in something they asked me not to. Hazel put it in her room and then the night before we left she put it in her suitcase—she was so excited. It nearly made me cry! So I finally got to open all my cards they made for me. What a special moment. They aren’t even five yet and they can think to do such a wonderful thing for me. It’ll always be a special memory.
We then headed out for an enjoyable visit to Hever Castle, the former home of Anne Boleyn.
They had a water maze there that we all enjoyed and managed to get through without a drop of water getting on Kieran’s clothes. We then had a nice walk in the gardens—the kids were actually naming some of the flowers. I illegally walked through the rose garden, but I couldn’t help it. They actually had such a lovely scent. So many flowers these days don’t have a scent at all—it was such a pleasant surprise. The sad part was I’m really becoming an addict—I wanted a pair of secateurs as the roses really needed some dead-heading.
We had a nice lunch in one of their restaurants. After lunch it was about to rain so we, and everyone else, headed for the castle. It was very well maintained and well run. The kids handled it well, and only started to get fussy near the last few rooms. Can’t blame them, it was a bit crowded and they’d been walking around tourist attractions for three days. We then headed for home and had pizza for dinner, and then crashed out for the night. What a lovely birthday.