We arrived in London Heathrow around 9am having had little sleep during our flight. After collecting our luggage and the key to the rental car, we headed straight for Rye. If you’re not familiar with Rye, it’s a small town about 2 hours south from London, in East Sussex. Rye is convenient for visiting some of the nearby sights like Canterbury Cathedral and Leeds Castle. The town has many lovely B&B’s and restaurants serving up locally sourced foods. Rye is a town with old charm and modern thinking, which appealed to me.
After we settled into our room at the B&B we were staying, we went for a walk around the town. Many of the houses and structures in the town of Rye are from Georgian, Tudor, and medieval times; some of which have been converted to B&B’s and guesthouses. It was like being transported to another time especially when businesses closed for the day and everyone headed home, leaving the streets still and peaceful.
As I mentioned earlier, businesses were closed (around 5pm) by the time we refreshed ourselves at the B&B so we weren’t able to peek into the shops and partake in afternoon tea at a local teahouse. Although we were able to step into a ceramics shop upon arrival that sold beautifully crafted ceramic tiles, figurines, and other tableware. We were very tempted to purchase a bowl but realized we were only at the beginning of our trip and I was certain that it would eventually end up in pieces by the end.
We headed out for Canterbury Cathedral and Leeds Castle the next day. Canterbury Cathedral is in the town of Canterbury, northeast of Rye and about an hour drive away. We didn’t spend too much time in the town . We were strictly there to see the famed Cathedral and stained glass windows (more pics will be uploaded separately).
Unlike some of the other cathedrals we visited later in our travels around England, Canterbury Cathedral is protected like a fortress with thick and high stone walls as well as original stone buildings that make up the precinct surrounding Canterbury Cathedral. We walked along the fortification on the narrow street, trying to find the main entrance. We
eventually emptied onto a square and behind us was the immense gate through which we could see the Cathedral beyond.
I felt like I was caught in between periods; the medieval past of Canterbury with the sloping and lop-sided medieval houses and the modern conveniences and shops of the 21st Century set in them. Canterbury was bustling as I would imagine it was during medieval times or as seen in movies reflecting this period except those who have flocked to this somewhat preserved medieval town are more international and there aren’t any livestock herding through, and it’s clean.
We walked throughout the Cathedral admiring the beautiful stained glass windows which is one of the many elements the Cathedral is famous for. I’m not a stained glass expert but apparently, we are supposed to be impressed with the quality of the stained glass because of when it was made.
After taking a tea break in Canterbury, we headed to our next destination, which was Leeds Castle. It was about an hour drive and west of Canterbury.
Leeds Castle is set on the grounds of a country estate which is open to the public as a park, which you pay an admission to get into. Admissions includes access to the grounds, the castle, the maze, rose garden, aviary, and bird show. The estate is also a golf course. It is also the only castle we visited during our travels of England that was surrounded by a moat. The Castle once belonged to descendants of royalty and then later noblemen. The last person who was to own Leeds Castle was Lady Baillie who upon her death wanted to make the park and estate available to the public and thus created the Leeds Castle Foundation.
As with most royal and noble homes, the rooms displayed period appointed decor and furnishings, which showed how previous residences lived. The last person to have resided at Leeds Castle was Lady Baillie, whose sense of style caught my attention. While most of the rooms and bed chambers maintained the traditional interiors of what you would expect to see in a medieval castle that has survived through various styles of the times when visiting a royal or noble home, Lady Baillie’s personal style and fashion sense reflected the roaring 20’s and 30’s especially coming from continental Europe, Parisian perhaps. It’s very apparent when you walk from room to room before entering the wing where Lady Baillie resided. Even the artwork added a breath of freshness to the traditional portraits of notable figures with their hollow stares. There is a lively painting of Lady Baillie with a parrot. The lines are very loose, almost light and whimsical, and the medium was watercolor! I believe this was done on a whim by the artist. I must admit that when I entered and walked through Lady Baillie’s quarters, I had a smile on my face – I was impressed with the legacy she left.
We also visited the aviary, which is open to the outdoors displaying a collection of exotic birds each in their own spacious environment. When you walk through Ms. Bailey’s quarters, you will notice many bird themed artworks and motifs. I think she had a thing for exotic birds. The aviary has an impressive collection.
We also entered the garden maze. My first time going through one of these things. It didn’t take us long for to get lost and stuck. Luckily, there was a man perched in the center of the maze who makes sure people like us eventually reach the center peak, which grants you a very pretty view of the park and estate at a higher elevation. You exit below the peak into a grotto, very dark but with lots of interesting textures and dramatic lighting, and eventually leads you back to the grounds.
We returned to Rye after a long day and got a restful night’s sleep before heading out to our next destination.
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For more information about Canterbury Cathedral, click here.
For more information about Lady Bailie, click here.