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11 Jul 04

day 7: leed’s castle

well, our britrail pass is now officially used up. we’d considered a number of locations for our day trips (including brighton and salisbury) but weather and cost ended up ruling them out. today’s final trip was to leed’s castle, which was pretty fun but turned out to be quite the adventure.

we were to meet at charing cross station this morning (as per the instructions on the leed’s castle website) at 8:30, so i left at around 8:10. unfortunately i hadn’t taken into account the fact that my direct route to charing cross wasn’t available this morning because an entire tube line was shut down for maintenance. once i’d figured this out (which involved reading a really cryptic map) i was away, and ended up arriving 15 minutes late. thankfully, our train wasn’t scheduled to leave until 8:55 so all wasn’t lost.

we couldn’t figure out how to actually GET to leed’s castle from that station, so we asked and were told to change at paddock gate. no problem. 15 stops and an hour and a half later we were there, and we once again couldn’t figure out how to get to the castle. we asked again and were told we had to switch trains AGAIN at maidensomething barracks. that train arrived 8 minutes late, thus causing us to miss the train to bearsted (aka the train to the castle). we wandered around the little town for a half hour or so (and i bought yet more allergy medication) and generally found that it was completely untouristy –
not a bad thing really. finally we arrived at bearsted, and caught a bus to the castle – the whole trip took us about 3 hours, compared with the hour estimated in the guide book. it’s lucky we left at 8:55 rather than the next train at 10:55.
when we actually arrived, we discovered that there’s a direct train back to victoria station. why the website told us to come from charing cross is beyond me – the ride home was much easier. but, as an aside, i’d never have ever considered transferring trains like we have over the last couple days if i were dealing with via. when was the last time a via train arrived on time? the train system here is in a different class.

leed’s castle is quite a bit different than windsor. obviously, it’s no longer a royal residence (although it once was for henry viii), but it also has enormous grounds surrounding it that the leeds castle foundation have converted into some pretty nice touristy stuff. we spent quite a while initially wandering around the grounds – looking at the million ducks and handful of peacocks, admiring the gardens, touring the aviary, getting frustrated in the labyrinth (never actually FINDING the goal before we gave up) – and then finally headed up to the castle. it was a bit of a different experience because it was actually in use up until the early 1900s by someone named lady baillie (who was quite obsessed with birds, as the castle’s decorations demonstrate). a couple of the rooms looked as they might have several hundred years ago, and they proved to be the most interesting to me. others, however, were a bit more modernized, and it turns out that the castle is now bookable for conferences and weddings, so many of the rooms are ready for use for such purposes.

anyway, we ended up leaving by the 3:10 bus (after wading through about 10 italian tour groups made up of 13 year olds) and made it home by around 5, which was our goal – we wanted to give jo a bit of downtime/prep time for her placement that starts tomorrow. this is the first time i’ve been at my hotel at this time, and i’m enjoying relaxing a little bit before grabbing some food (and heading to an internet cafe to actually post this).

one final question: what is it in this country that i’m allergic to? i was much better while at leed’s castle, but wow is it ever frustrating.

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Pronunciation: 'ch&mp
Function: noun
Etymology: perhaps blend of chunk and lump
Date: 1883

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