We started the day by going into Canterbury to check out St Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Cathedral. Both were really good – such history! This is the place of the founding of Christianity in England. Mind-boggling really. St Augustine himself was buried at the Abbey (although I don’t think he’s still there).
Canterbury Cathedral was spectacular. Big, beautiful and bristling with important English history. St Thomas Beckett is entombed here – he was killed in the church in 1170 by King Henry II’s soldiers. Apparently Beckett was causing the King a bit of trouble. Beckett was canonised soon after his death, and the Cathedral has been a pilgrimage site since then.
King Henry IV is entombed here also, as is Prince Edward, the so-called Black Prince.
We got to Dover about midday, and spent a lovely afternoon exploring Dover Castle. It’s at the top of a hill overlooking the ocean, and has been a defensive fort for almost 1000 years. It was an important military based during WWII – with big anti-aircraft guns defending London against the Germans.
The castle has a massive intact keep (tower at the top of a motte), with some really good re-creations of what it would have been like in its day – wall hangings and furniture etc. We had a good poke around.
We completed our mission of dropping of the rental car and went to our hotel for a bit of much needed R&R. It’s been a busy week!
Tomorrow we finish our stay in England, and head off for France.
We started the day with a spot of laundry-doing. It’s always a pleasant reprieve from the travelling to pause for a couple of hours and watch your clothes spinning around.
After that, we were on a mission! We were off to see Battle, where the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066. We were not disappointed – the battleground (really just a big open field of grass and sheep) has a great pathway and audio guide that gave us the full history of the battle. What amazes me, looking down from the English front line to where the Normans were fighting from, was how the English managed to lose. The Normans had to battle their way up a steep slope to get at the English. It really was the English’s battle to lose, and lose they did. King Harold (only crowned a few weeks prior) was killed in the fight, and William the Bastard walked away with a new title – the Conqueror.
We made a quick trip into Hastings to swap my sunglasses (the ones I had purchased in Oxford were broken) then made our way to Ashford for the night. Hastings was an …interesting… place. Let’s just say that the average wage here seems like it’s a lot lower than other places we’ve visited.
We chose to stay at Ashford Holiday Inn rather than driving into Canterbury – it’s much cheaper to stay in smaller places just outside main cities, and the hotels are better set up for working travellers, so we can usually get a big breakfast and wi-fi included in the room rate. And we don’t have to worry about parking.
I had a really tasty Indian meal at the local pub – amongst the best I’ve ever had!
We drove into Oxford in the morning to look around, but mostly so I could do some shopping. Gap, Marks and Spencer, yes! Oxford Castle was expensive and not terribly impressive – just a stumpy mound with no actual stones. So we went in search of other, less stumpy mounds in the area.
Berkhamsted Castle was a good place to stop for lunch. We parked up at the train station and wandered around town. Berkhamsted village had the feel of being quite wealthy – perhaps inhabited by workers who commute to London, and London retirees?
From there, we made a beeline for Stevenage, so we could meet up with Dave and Margareta – Stephen’s gamer friends from way back. We met up with Margareta in London last time we were here, but Stephen had never met Dave IRL before. Dave was in Ghana for work last time we were here.
We had a lovely dinner out with them – nice to have other people to talk to! It was a late night for us – we didn’t get to bed until about 11pm, and considering we’ve been waking up between 5-6am, that felt quite late.