Touring southeast of London
Trip Start Jul 24, 2010
17Trip End Aug 09, 2010
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Where I stayed
Leeds Castle was the first stop today. It has been called the loveliest castle in the world. The setting is beautiful and it has a long history, but most recently it was owned by an American heiress who restored it and willed it to the British people after her death. Our guide pointed out one portrait of three women and told us that those three women had nine husbands between them. They were the owner of the castle and her two daughters.
Next we drove on southeast all the way to the coastal town of Dover stopping for lunch at The Lighthouse Inn
After the visit to Dover, we went back towards London stopping at Canterbury, the seat of Protestantism in England. This was where Henry VIII declared that he was not Catholic, and he started the new Church of England to fit his needs. Specifically, he wanted to divorce his first wife, but the Pope wouldn't allow it. When you’re the king you can even start a new religion if you want to. We visited Canterbury Cathedral and had some free time to walk around the village.
The last stop on the tour was in Greenwich where we walked though a park and heard the history of the area and its importance. As we walked, we headed downhill toward the Thames to join a cruise back into central London and the end of our tour, which turned out to be at the Embankment Pier just beside the hotel.
We had dinner at the Café in the Crypt. It is at St. Martin’s in the Field which is just off the Strand and a few minutes walk from our hotel
In the evening we went to see the Ceremony of the Keys at the Tower of London. I had tried to get tickets to it the last time we were here three years ago, but I didn’t order them early enough. This time I sent in for the tickets several months ago and received them in the mail a couple of weeks later. This is the official locking up of the Tower at night and has been performed every night for over 700 years at exactly the same time with only one exception. Once during an air raid in World War II, the ceremony was delayed for about 30 minutes. The military guards in residence accompany the official key holder throughout the ceremony to use "Elizabeth’s keys" to lock the Tower. We had to be at the gate precisely at 9:30 p.m. to be admitted to the Tower and escorted to the area near the Bloody tower for the ceremony. All very formal, very serious and perfectly scripted, the guards volley greetings and commands back and forth between themselves to assure the sentry that the tower is properly locked and no one has breached security. The ceremony took about 15 minutes, after which our Beefeater escort, named Shady, answered all the questions that anyone in the group had, then he showed us out by the secret door. (The main doors had been locked, after all.)