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Sunday, 10 November 2013

Kent Castles - Day 3

I am loving the breakfast in this hotel! After filling my tummy and a couple of cups of good strong coffee, we set off for Canterbury.

Canterbury is a popular tourist destination: consistently one of the most-visited cities in the United Kingdom, the city's economy is heavily reliant upon tourism. There is also a substantial student population, brought about by the presence of three universities. Canterbury is, however, a relatively small city, when compared with other British cities.

Parts of the city have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Many historical structures remain, including a city wall founded in Roman times and rebuilt in the 14th century, the ruins of St Augustine's Abbey and a Norman castle, and perhaps the oldest school in England, The King's School. Modern additions include the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, the University College for the Creative Arts, the Marlowe Theatre, and the St Lawrence Ground, home to Kent County Cricket Club. The city lies at the heart of the City of Canterbury, a local government district.

Once I had dropped everyone off I was a little bit naughty and dashed for a photo of the cathedral before taking the coach to the coach park a little out of town.

We hadn't been here for long before the heavens opened and it poured with rain. The rain didn't stop until we left. We were parked at the back of Starbucks so I gave Lorraine an umbrella and we went for coffee. 

While I was locking the coach, Lorraine was struggling with her umbrella. She thought she had it sorted and was stood waiting for me. Once I'd locked up, I looked at her and just as I was going to say 'you're umbrella doesn't look fully open', it closed around her head! She was stood in the pouring rain with an umbrella stuck on her head and I couldn't stand up straight for laughing! It was just like something you'd see in a comic strip and once again, I didn't have my camera handy. It gave me an enormous amount of entertainment for the rest of the day and I am still having fits of giggles at the thought of it!

We went to pick everyone up at 1430 and were expecting to see a line of drowned rats stood waiting for us but they were all surprisingly dry. They had all found things to interest them and keep them out of the weather, whether it was one of the many museums, the cathedral or one of the other UNESCO sites, or the Canterbury Tales. They were certainly not wet, cold and miserable like we had expected and had all enjoyed their time.

Next, we set off for the Medway for a short visit to Rochester. Lorraine and I had decided to add this to the itinery so everyone was pleasantly surprised to learn we were making an extra visit today. A city steeped in history, dominated by a fine Norman Castle and Cathedral, bounded by the maritime traditions and spirit of past British naval dominance on the River Medway.

The town was for many years the favourite of Charles Dickens, who lived nearby at Gads Hill Place, Higham, and who based many of his novels in the area. The Diocese of Rochester, the second oldest in England, is based at Rochester Cathedral, and was responsible for the founding of King's School in 604 AD, which is the second oldest school in the world. Rochester Castle, built by Gundulf of Rochester, has one of the best preserved keeps in England or France, and during the First Barons' War (1215–1217) in King John's reign, baronial forces captured the castle from Archbishop Stephen Langton and held it against the king, who then besieged it.

This was the first time I had visited Rochester and I liked it very much. It is only one small high street but everything you find there is independent, individual and in keeping with it's surroundings. We were only here for just over an hour which, for us today, was long enough. Although it had stopped raining it was getting bitterly cold and would soon be dark. 

We arrived back at the hotel at 1700hrs. Just in time to get layered up to stand out on the golf course to watch the firework display from Leeds Castle. We were told we would have the best free view and that the fireworks would fill the valley. Everyone was a little disappointed to find that we couldn't see the fireworks but I did see a hare, an owl and found a very haunted looking cabin in the woods! Needless to say, I didn't explore that one!

Our menu this evening was disappointing although I did enjoy the food that was served. The majority of our people have disappeared straight after dinner to pack their cases because tomorrow we are heading home. That left an empty bar for Lorraine and I to enjoy a glass of wine in peace before I disappeared to watch the X factor on +1!