Sunday, August 24, 2014

Our Lifestyle Adventures: Touring England Part 1

my yellow New Year in June hat
I now go back to our European swing 2014. My posts on our two-week tour of Scandinavia and our two-week cruise, the Enrichment Voyage, have been completed. Now let me tell you about our road trip through England. We disembarked from the MV Explorer on June 15, 2014 at Southampton, England after a fun New Year in June party. It was a Sunday and there were no cars available for rent. Bill and I were forced to take the train. It turned out to be a lovely ride, our first view of the English coast, English towns, and English fields with lots of sheep.

AIDS Park
British Heart Foundation's bikeathon Finish Line
@ Brighton Beach with the Brighton Pier as background
We reached Brighton and took a cab ride from the train station. The ride gave us a peek of the vibrant happenings at the pier and beach. But I was dismayed at our hotel…it was a walk-up! Without an elevator, we were given a room at the fourth floor! But gallant Bill took everything up to our room. We ventured out to find a Laundromat and, on the way, we stumbled upon a lovely garden dedicated to the prevention of AIDS. After, we found a suitable diner for some English roasts. It was Father’s Day and Bill deserved his night out!  

a nice view of the Brighton Wheel
After dinner, we walked to the beach and found a HUGE surprise waiting for us. The bikeathon that started from London that morning, an annual fund-raising campaign for the British Heart Foundation, had just finished and there was a sea of cyclists that swarmed the beach. It was a grand fiesta atmosphere, despite the chill from the sea breeze. The sight was awesome, especially with the Brighton Pier as a background and chancing upon a cyclist who had just finished the race.

the Royal Pavilion in Brighton
The following day we took another walk through town, passing by the War Memorial, the Victoria Fountain, and the Brighton Wheel.  We found a giant yellow flip-flop, a James Brown mural, a huge Jack Daniels ad, a Clock Tower, and other fascinating nooks and corners. So I tried to look for my fascinator for the wedding there. After lunch at an English Pub for some bangers and mash, we got another pleasant surprise in The Royal Pavilion. Built in three stages from 1787 in the style popular in 19th century India, it was a seaside retreat for George, Prince of Wales, who became Prince Regent in 1811.

We took the train again the next day to Canterbury, passing the English Channel and English fields. We were pleased with our Victorian hotel, especially the Carvery buffet dinner waiting for its weary guests. We rested for the night, eager to see the town in the morning.

Foremost to see was the Canterbury Cathedral, founded in 597 AD as the home of the leader of the Anglican Church. It is where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered in 1170 by knights of King Henry II in the struggle between the power of the Church and State. The Cathedral became a popular place for pilgrimage, especially after his posthumous veneration as St. Thomas, and is now a World Heritage Site.

Westgate of the Roman Wall in Canterbury
After a good night’s rest, we took the short walk to town where we just followed the crowds through the Westgate of the Roman Wall that encircled it.  We found ourselves in the heart of town, with shops galore and tourists slowly making their way to the Canterbury Cathedral. Afterwards, we followed the remnants of the Wall, stopping by the Dave n John Mound and, at the other end, the haunting ruins of the Canterbury Castle. From everywhere, the Cathedral’s towers and spires made such great photos. 
    
Canterbury Castle
Before we took the short walk back to the hotel, we passed by the Greyfriars Chapel, the only surviving building of the first Franciscan friary in England from 1224 (during the lifetime of the order's founder Francis of Assisi). The view from the river is lovely. Just a block away is the Westgate, completing our loop. There we discovered the pretty part of the walk back to the hotel, the Westgate Gardens.

Judging by these two lovely towns, the vibrant, colorful, and creative Brighton, Londoners' favorite day trip, and Canterbury, a historic city, a World Heritage Site, and a pilgrim's favorite, our English road trip promises to be a memorable one! Especially since my daughter Trish and granddaughter Yeye are joining us!
Canterbury Cathedral