Monday 12 August
We left Bruges early enough to give us plenty of time to get to the ferry at Calais. And, of course, as soon as we crossed the border, Thomasina Tom Tom woke up and we thought we’d be OK. But no! She had one last trick for us. We got to Calais, but went, quite literally, round in circles as she took us to every exit (including the right one) and still couldn’t work out where we were meant to be. We eventually parked, rang and sorted it out. The French could really do with some lessons on directional signs.
The ferry ride was smooth and on time. We picked up our hire car and our first stop was Carphone Warehouse for our SIMs. Thomasina Tom Tom went for her final trip to the suitcase and could stay there for the rest of the trip.
Then to Dover Castle where we joined English Heritage and just had time to tour the WWII tunnels. We would come back the next day to look at more.
Our B&B in Hastings is a blacka nd white house in the old town. Everything I expected – low beams, uneven floors and run by a slightly odd couple.
Tuesday 13 August
Back at Dover Castle we climbed the Tower and went through the Medieval tunnels, which was enough for the morning. Definitely a full day visit if you want to see it all.
We drove down to Beckley to visit the church where Stu’s Great Great Grandparents were married in 1838 and I finally got to walk round an old cemetary – one of my favourite things to do. We didn’t find any family graves but did get to look around inside as the church was unlocked and the organist was practising.
Next stop was Battle to do the audio tour of the 1066 battlefield and Battle Abbey. I had done the battlefield tour before but on a wet day and didn’t get the chance to appreciate the Abbey, so enjoyed that. It’s hard to imagine such an historic battle taking place in such a small area, but the audio guide explains where the armies were and what would have been happening so you can appreciate it.
Wednesday 14 August
Only 2 stops today. First was Chartwell – Churchill’s family home. Another place I’d been before but this time it was a fine day so we were able to enjoy the gardens as well. I felt that last time the information focused more on the family life and less on the politician and I think I enjoyed that more. There are plenty of museums dedicated to the political and the war years and this house doesn’t really need to be another one. Still nice, and an intimate family home atmosphere with beautiful grounds
Stonehenge was our other stop for the day. Again, a return visit for me but once is not enough and I would go back any time. It was cold, wet and dismal and the stones were impressive as always. There’s something atmospheric about this place and it feels different in different weather. Eerily, we found out the next day that friends were there at the same time (on a bus trip from London). Would have been even spookier if we’d run into them.
Thursday 15 August
One of my favourite things in the UK today. Yes, I know, everything seems to be one of my favourite things. This one is on my must do list. Well, at least so far. 3 times to the UK and 3 times to see Mary Rose. Last time I was there I took a long last look because I couldn’t imagine I’d go back. But when I heard she was no longer being sprayed and was in a new museum, I had to go back. An I’m so glad I did. You can now get a much better view of her and the new museum is well laid out. And of course we also got to see the Warrior, which we didn’t see last time.
Checking our English Heritage book, we decided to have a look at Old Sarum, which was on the list and near our B&B. I’ve heard people say this is better than Stonehenge. I don’t think the 2 can be compared but I must say I was a little disappointed. It is certainly impressive and imposing and has fabulous views but a totally different experience to Stonehenge. I think my pre-conceptions may have been raised unreasonable expectations. Don’t be put off, but don’t expect something comparable to Stonehenge. It’s a totally different experience.
One of the reasons we wanted to stay in this area was to see the chalk Rising Sun badge at Codford. Stu’s grandfather was stationed there in WWI before being mobilised to France. Well, we saw it, but that’s all. We couldn’t find anywhere to stop (legally) where we could get out and get a good view of it. Or, in fact, any view of it. So we drove past. But we did also manage to find one of the prettiest little villages I’ve ever seen, so it wasn’t a total waste.