Saturday, February 14, 2009

Canterbury and Leeds Castle are aMAZEing...

Today I spent my Valentine's Day traveling around the eastern part of England. We took a tour of the county of Kent. Kent is considered "the garden of England" and it holds Canterbury Catherdral and Leeds Castle, which were the two destinations of our journey.

First I would like to offer this picture to begin our journey. Phoebe and I had mints on the bus. I joked that I needed a mint because it being Valentine's Day, I never knew who may want to kiss me. Then I had the mint and it was seriously the strongest mint ever. The kind of mint that makes you scrunch up your face in disgust because you can hardly stand the strength. We then began laughing that although my breath was minty fresh, no one would want to kiss me because I was making this disgusting face... It kept us entertained as we traveled the hour and a half east to Canterbury.

And so we arrived in Canterbury. To give you some history (and remind me of it mostly) Canterbury is a very important place in Christendom. It is the first church established in England and is the home of the Archbishop of Canterbury. It is also the seat of the Anglican Church. Most of you may know it as being associated with Chaucer and his Canterbury Tales. Our tour guide Susana, with whom we have become WELL acquainted with on our travels around England, boasted that this Cathedral was the most beautiful in England... very strong words to someone in love with St Paul's. (the gate to enter Canterbury Cathedral)
(The actual Cathedral)
I must say that it is stunning and very old... I did in fact gasp upon entering because it's so vast. But I still love my St P.

(the interior)

Canterbury is also known in association with Thomas Beckett. Now Thomas Becket was kind of the go to man for Henry II and did ANYTHING for the King. As the king tried to expand his power he decided to make Thomas Becket the archbishop of Canterbury to ensure his hold over the church as well, since Becket was so very accommodating. But Becket proved very devout in his new role and went against the King choosing God instead. So Henry II had him killed. Upon his death miracles began to occur at the sight of his burial and therefore he was canonized a Saint. Since then Henry VIII in pursuit of absolute power in his new Anglican religion and separation from the Catholic Church desecrated anything having to do with Thomas Becket, and so his memorial (to which people would come far and wide to visit) was lost. They rebuilt this monument to him instead (less miracles occur here now).
I liked this sign... it's good to know where my martyrdom could in fact take place... and that there is wheelchair access.

This was a very little door...
This is where baptisms take place - the font. It was really pretty.
After touring the church, Phoebe and I made our way to grab lunch... along the way we also indulged in crepes from a street vendor... mine had Nutella (chocolate spread) and bananas!! A very fun Vday treat!

Then we set off for Leeds Castle... not to be confused with Leeds the city, which is in Northern England. But Leeds Castle is known as the Queen's castle and has been a gift from Kings to their Queens since the time of Edward I, who was very much in love with his wife Eleanor. Most of you will know Edward I as Edward "Longshanks" from Braveheart.
Anyway, Leeds Castle was purchased by a very affluent American heiress named Lady Bailie and she redecorated the entire castle into what it is today. It's very lovely inside, but unfortunately very 1960's in decor. There are also peacocks roaming around the grounds... This one was very accommodating in that when I asked him to turn for a picture, he did... seriously I was talking to the bird like a person and people were staring.
The exterior around the castle was really cool... very old and tons of ruins.
Us girls in front of Leeds Castle
It was rather cold in Kent and because of that the "moat" of sorts was frozen. They had these signs around the grounds warning of ice... instead what the sign appeared to us to be was a sign for a new dance craze "danger ice." Not ones to deny anything popular and british, Phoebe and I were quick to hop on the bandwagon.
this was inside the castle... charming courtyard
After we briskly walked through the castle (not very interesting aside from the eye-spy game that is offered to little kids to play on the tour while their parents enjoy history. My friends and I too found this more interesting than the castle), we made out way to the maze. We were ready for something lame and childish... oh how mistaken we were. Instead we were met with a maze akin to that of the 4th Harry Potter movie!! We of course had to stage pictures of that nature (Phoebe and Victoria even have wand suckers with them at the ready)

scary puddle
We were actually quite daunted by the maze and with little time before we had to be back at the coach (bus) we were afraid of getting horribly horribly lost
Luckily, Victoria had purchased a post card with an aerial view of the maze and since I ROCK at mazes, I found our way to the center with the "map."
So how do we get out?? glad you asked, well we followed the signs that said "way out" and found ourselves descending below the maze to a tunnel that would lead us out! We therefore left the 4th Harry Potter book and descended to the 2nd Harry Potter Book and into the "Chamber of Secrets." This was by far the COOLEST part of our trip!!!
strange face in the rocks
tunnel to freedom
my flash was unkind to my skin pigmentation We made it to freedom.
As we walked to the coach (bus) we passed by this strange building on the property. There was no explanation offered at to what it was, so we named it the "Shrieking Shack" - which is from the 3rd Harry Potter book.... 3 Harry Potter Books in one day!!!
To finish off my Valentine's Day right, Phoebe and I ordered a large pizza from Perfect Pizza in Egham and watched Enchanted!! I ate half of the large pizza... it was delicious! I also finished out the evening with a skype date with best friend Kendra!! It was a great day!!

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