My parents came to visit this past month. Because the girls were in school (it is apparently almost impossible to get an absence excused if a child is not sick, and there is even the possibility of being fined for absences), the trip was planned so that we could visit with them during the weekends when my daughters were out of school.
After spending a few days getting over jet lag in Bath, my parents took the train to Margate to stay with us for the weekend.
Because of the traveling we planned to do that weekend, we decided to rent a car. With the girls at school, we picked up the rental car just in time to go pick up my parents at the train station. We immediately experienced the smallness of the roads, compounded by the fact that in order to have seats for six people we had to rent a minivan. Driving on the left side of the road wasn’t a big issue since we have been traveling via our bikes on the roads for the past several months. However, it definitely took some getting used to driving from the right side of the vehicle, as well as shifting with the left hand. We definitely almost lost a side mirror on more than one occasion. It wasn’t even a matter of making sure you hug the Center line and then knowing you are safe, because often there is not enough room for two cars to pass each other with cars parked on the side of the road, and on smaller roads there may not be room for two vehicles to pass one another period. Needless to say, driving, and being the copilot in my case, was a bit stressful.
After picking up my parents, we picked up the girls from school and took a quick tour of the surrounding towns and the sea before returning home. We had made several requests as far as things for them to bring from the US, and so it felt like Christmas to get a 32 oz Costco bottle of organic maple syrup, as well as a stock of some other supplies we have been having difficulty finding here, and a few gifts for the girls.
We set out Saturday morning for Leeds Castle. Despite the name, Leeds Castle is actually between Margate, where we live, and London, rather than near the town of Leeds in the northern part of the country. After the 1 1/2 hour drive we arrived. The weather forecast had predicted rain throughout the weekend, but we were lucky to have several hours of sunshine, allowing us to explore the grounds.
The castle itself is beautiful, the kind of castle you think of in fairy tales. We strolled down the path to the castle next to a few ponds filled with geese, swans, terns, and a few other water birds. We watched part of a falconry show, and then my parents and I headed into the castle for a tour, and Bill and the girls went to the two massive kids playgrounds on the property. By mid afternoon the clouds rolled in and Bill and the girls met up with us in the castle when it started to rain. They were not able to explore the maze made out of hedges, we will have to do that when return again another time.
After leaving the castle, we took a small detour on our way back so that we could quickly give my parents a tour of Canterbury. We walked up and down the busy streets and saw the Canterbury Cathedral, the old city wall, and the downtown area. An added bonus was that Bill was able to pick up some groceries from the indoor market and whole foods market that we like.
We continued out journey back towards Margate, traveling through the adorable little villages of Littlebourne and Wingham. We stopped in the neighbouring town of Minster for dinner and returned home.
The following day we headed south for Battle Abbey where there happened to be a reenactment of the 1066 Battle of Hastings. We opted for a quicker route, though narrower and windier roads on the way there. Unfortunately, Tanager ended up getting car sick about a half hour before we arrived, and we spent twenty minutes or so cleaning her up as well as the van. Needless to say, that evening on the way back we took a longer route that involved freeways. We did not luck out with the weather that day, and had to put up with a lot of rain. The event itself was pleasantly surprisingly interesting, with over 400 people participating in the reenactment. Earlier in the day there were places to try out archery as well as walk around the “village” the reenactors had created including tents with beds, cooking food over fires, and watching people at their trades such as making flour, carving things out of wood, making bows, et cetera. The reenactment itself was a bit dramatic and drawn out, and Tanager and I ended up walking around some after she lost interest in the battle.
The following day, the girls returned to school, and Bill and I dropped my parents off at the train station to continue their journey to Paris for the week where the did a lot of sight seeing, stayed in the heart of the Latin Quarter, and took a day trip to Normandy. We had a great first weekend with them. We then returned the van, and Bill couldn’t wait to hand over the keys. Luckily, ourselves and the van were on one piece.