One of the advantages of being based in Milan is the close proximity to other wonderful European destinations. We had a hefty agenda of places to visit while we were here. Our first stop was the UK. Some friends of ours live in village outside London in Kent and invited us to stay. It was also opportune as my cousin was in London the same weekend before returning home after her big trip around Europe.
So, after Italian classes one afternoon, we packed our carry-on bags to the hilt and boarded a Ryanair flight to London. I had heard lots of bad things about Ryanair – both from fellow travellers and in the media. We were alert, but not alarmed by the potential issues we could face. However, Ryanair were by far the cheapest and we figured as long as we stuck to their rules – we would be ok. And we were. The seats were cramped and there was a shameless stampede of passengers onto the plane due to the lack of assigned seating – but we arrived on time and without personal incident.
Our friends met us at the airport and we headed to their gorgeous, quaint village in Kent. We enjoyed a hearty meal at the cosy village pub – I had the bangers and mash, an English classic. We turned in early as we had a day of sightseeing ahead.
Our destination for sightseeing was Hever castle – Where Ann Boleyn grew up. We explored the grand rooms of the palace and admired the plush opulence of a by-gone era. As we continued through the tour, we came across a cold tower room filled with various metal contraptions – used for torture! I am always amazed by the incredibly inventive torture implements of the time. Most of them I couldn’t figure out what they were used for – and quite frankly I was glad for this as the ones I recognised were horrific.
Eldad and I did archery in the gardens with a very enthusiastic teacher, dressed in the Tudor style. My aim was true, but unfortunately, never on target. Well, actually I did almost get a bullseye – but when my teacher upgraded me to aim at the deer some distance away, my arrows ended up in a tree.
Hever Castle Fun Fact The portrait of Anne Boleyn features her wearing a necklace with a large ‘B’ and three pearls dangling from it – As an Ugly Betty fan – I recognised this as the same necklace Betty wears! Who knew?
That evening, we dined at a stately manor. It was an exceptionally posh establishment fit for the likes of Lords and Ladies (and apparently, often B grade celebrities too!) The food was exceptional and the service impecabale. After dinner, we even reclined to the lounge in front of the fire for coffees and petit fours. We had explored castles like kings and finished the day eating like kings.
Our next morning, we headed to a grey seaside town called Whitstable. I call it grey, but to be fair, it was September in the UK. It was chilly, but I could see how this would make a lovely spot in the warm months. We strolled around the promenade looking out to the grey sea beyond. Oyster shells were piled high along the beach path – often free to take. I queried our hosts as to why people would want empty old oyster shells – apparently people like to use them in their garden as I learnt.
We enjoyed a scrumptious and warming brunch then strolled around the promenade. It was a lovely end to our stay in Kent, catching up with good friends. Our next stop was the train bound for bustling London town!