My first thoughts when told we would be staying in a stable, next to a graveyard left me more than a little dubious about this trip to 'Jolly Old England'. The reality proved to be far better than I could have hoped for. No animals to share space with, picturesque views of the garden and yes, a quaint historic graveyard. The best part was the short walk through the cemetery to the 'local'. Despite England's less than gourmet reputation, the ploughman's lunches at this pub were outstanding. The cheese, fresh bread and beer needed no apologies.
Now to explain my husband's designation as the 'ABC' tour. Under the guidance of our relative/tour guide we visited 'Another Bloody Castle'. There was Hever, Sissinghurst, Penshurst and Leeds (referred to as 'the loveliest castle in all the world'. Knole was one more 'castle-like' stop on the tour.
What seemed common to all were the spectacular gardens, roaming wildlife and birds. Peacocks, guinea hens, swans and ducks took residence everywhere, even when no moat was available. Two other noteworthy places were Chartwell (Winston Churchhills' home) and Batemans (Rudyard Kiplings' abode). Chartwell had an amazing rose garden and Batemans was impressive for the leather-bound walls in the author's study.
A day trip by train into London proper took us to all the obligatory tourist 'must sees'. Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Victoria and Albert museum, Trafalgar Square and of course, Harrod's were all on the list. Those dead hanging creatures in Harrod's food court did dull one's appetite but not enough to forgo a spot of cream tea and accompaning scones. Of course, speaking of hanging we had to include The Tower. Under the tutelage of our Beefeater, we learned all about the role played by the wing-clipped ravens and their surrounding legend. Supposedly, if these birds leave, England will fall. No worry, these birds are taken good care of by the ravenmaster. Fresh meat and posing for photos ensure that the five on duty will always have good reason to stay.
A side trip to Cantebury added one more notch in our literary belts. The cathedral was beyond impressive with its multitude of statues and heraldic shields. The pilgrims must have been taken aback by the grandeur. Murder aside, it was well worth the visit.
Although I don't think we missed much along the way, two stops did not make the list. A. the dog collar museum and B. getting to toss sticks off Christopher Robin's bridge in the Hundred Acre Wood. Sorry, Winnie the Pooh, maybe next time. As for the dog collars, I apologized to our dog for missing it. I could have taken pictures.
My version of the ABC tour will remain as "Always Beautiful Countryside". I guess its all in the eye of the beholder.