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Villages of South England- Part 1

Our Villages of South England trip was in late June. We spent four days in London before taking a Blackberry car to Canterbury. We were scheduled to be picked up at 1:00PM, but the driver was late. He called to say he was delayed because Brexit protests caused the police to cordon off areas around Parliament and Buckingham Palace. Since our hotel was near Buckingham Palace, our street was cordoned off. Somehow he made his way to us, only 15 minutes late, and we left town.

Day 1: We arrived in Canterbury around 3:30PM but I had neglected to print out Rick Steves instructions to the Canterbury Cathedral Lodge. Evidently GPS doesn’t work in Canterbury so we snaked around narrow streets congested with people. One way streets. Blocked streets. Dead end streets. Aaargh. We stopped several times to ask directions. These consisted of, “Go to the next street, right, then turn left.” The “right” in the middle of the sentence was not a direction but a pause to make sure you understood. Finally we found the tiny lane that led to the guard shack that controlled access to the cathedral grounds.
Our information about the tour said there was a 5:00PM meeting, but when we checked into the hotel, we discovered it had been changed to 4:30. This led to a lot of confusion as our guide, Roy Nichols, tried to conduct a meeting with people showing up late and apologetic. “I thought it was at 5:00.” Finally, Roy was able to give us an overview of the trip, have each person introduce him/herself and then lead us on a brief walking tour to our first group dinner.
Note to Rick Steves” Rick, the headsets do not work if you are any distance at all (say one block) behind the guide. Since the streets are narrow and full of people, it isn’t possible to stay close enough to hear anything. If they could put a man on the moon over 50 years ago, it does seem like headsets could be made to work.
Okay, on to dinner. We had a nice group meal at individual tables. This worked well and people began to get to know each other. There was a nice selection of side dishes that worked for the vegetarians in our group.
The hotel was absolutely spectacular. Well, it was a basic, clean hotel room but it could have been a hovel and I wouldn’t have cared because the view outside the window was of the spires of Canterbury Cathedral. Even though it got light at 4:30AM, making it difficult to sleep late, no one really cared because the sight outside was so magnificent.
Day 2: We left at 7:30 AM for Dover Castle and the White Cliffs of Dover. We stopped along the way at an underwhelming memorial to pilots--spitfire and otherwise—who died fighting the Germans in World War II (I think). Wikipedia says: “The National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne, on the White Cliffs between Dover and Folkestone in Kent, is dedicated to Churchill’s famous “Few” who fought in the skies overhead to keep this country free from invasion.”
Then we were back on the bus and on to Dover castle. I should note that our bus driver James had a nice, dry sense of humor, which he never lost, even in the face of aggravations, traffic jams and narrow roads.
At Dover castle we toured World War II tunnels, saw some old film footage and lots of World War II era equipment. Then we had lunch at an on-site restaurant. Fast and casual. Vegetarians should know that you will never eat so much mozzarella cheese and tomato sandwiches in your entire life as you will in England.

After lunch we explored the extensive castle grounds, climbed the circular stairs to the very top, stopping briefly midway for a medieval re-enactment that involved a king, his son who were revolting, his imprisoned wife, etc. The day was perfect with blue skies and a cool breeze.
Then we got back on the bus and headed off to the white cliffs. One nice thing about our group was that everyone was punctual and we rarely spent time waiting for someone to be back at the bus at the appointed time.

Posted by
1256 posts

"We stopped along the way at an underwhelming memorial to pilots--spitfire and otherwise—who died fighting the Germans in World War II (I think)"

Yes, obviously the Second World War.

I'm surprised you found it underwhelming, considering the sacrifice it represents.

Posted by
1320 posts

" We stopped along the way at an underwhelming memorial to pilots--spitfire and otherwise—who died fighting the Germans in World War II (I think). Wikipedia says: “The National Memorial to the Few at Capel-le-Ferne, on the White Cliffs between Dover and Folkestone in Kent, is dedicated to Churchill’s famous “Few” who fought in the skies overhead to keep this country free from invasion.” "

I was on this tour a few weeks earlier and thought this was one of the better short stops. Definitely a keeper in the tour. Guess we all have different priorities.

Posted by
4978 posts

Yes, we found that site beautiful and very moving. Again, different strokes.

Posted by
2018 posts

Agreeing with above posters, I found this particular memorial very evocative and moving. Also as said, different places appeal to different travelers. I absolutely loved the Cathedral Hotel and you are so right in saying the view from all rooms (from what i heard!) was absolutely breathtaking! The breakfast when we were there was one of the best I've ever been offered on a tour. Loved the salmon and eggs.

Posted by
27 posts

Just to clarify, I found the memorial underwhelming. This somehow was translated into a lack of respect for those who fought there. Having fought in a war myself, I am well aware of what sacrifices are made.

Posted by
4978 posts

spencerstickell, we didn't mean to belittle your impressions of the monument. Some of us were more moved by it and enjoyed it more than others. We don't all love or enjoy the same things.