Monday, 24 March 2008

Sissinghurst Estate

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Bodiam Castle

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A walk through Cranbrook

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The George Hotel - Cranbrook

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An Easter weekend spent back in time

George and I were transported back in time this weekend. We woke up this morning in "The George Hotel" in Cranbrook (First recordings of the The George Inn, as it was known, were made in 1300!) This hotel played a role in the broadcloth industry (fine, smooth woollen cloth) of which Cranbrook became the manufacturing capital. We noticed the hooks on thick wooden beams which were used to hang the broadcloth while we were having dinner in the Brasserie the previous evening. While walking up the staircase to our room, I realised that I was walking in the footsteps (literally) of Queen Elizabeth I as she stayed there during her visit in 1573.

My favourite spot was sitting at the fireplace in the reception / bar / lounge area. We warmed ourselves there before dinner after an afternoon walk through the town's medieval streets. While walking, we couldn't miss the Union Mill - the tallest smock mill in England. It was built in 1814 to make bread for the French prisoner's-of-war held at Sissinghurst Castle. Interestlingly, Cranbrook means, "the brook visited by Cranes or Herons."

After a scrumptious breakfast we left Cranbrook (with a promise to return in future) and continued our "back in time" adventure by visiting Bodiam Castle. I was so excited when we arrived, as this castle, built in 1385, is a wonderful example of a medieval moated castle. It was such fun exploring the inside and imagining what it must have been like to live there. What I found most fascinating was that one can still see the markings inscribed on the stones used to build the castle that were made by the masons as proof of their workmanship in order to get paid.

We used the opportunity of this visit to join The National Trust. The National Trust maintains and protects special places of historical interest, houses and gardens throughout England, Wales and Ireland. It also protects farmlands, forests, archaeological remains, castles, beaches etc. A quick read through the material in our "Welcome Pack" makes me feel that we have a wonderful year of discovery ahead.

We made use of our membership straight away (one of the benefits is free entry to places for the year) by visiting the Sissinghurst Castle Estate, known for its beautiful gardens. I smiled to myself when walking through the manicured hedges. I was thinking of you, Dad, and how you just "loved" cutting the hedge at our home in Willett Place and how time consuming it was. Mom, we will have to book a garden tour with the Head Gardener when you visit as I am sure that you will enjoy every step along the garden paths. I can't wait to return to see the transformation of the gardens from Spring to Summer...and then again in Autumn. The gardens are still "in bud" so one can only imagine what they will look like in a month or two's time.

Driving through Kent on the way home, I kept saying, "Oh...this is so beautiful" - I don't know what other words to describe the countryside, little lanes, quaint homes and pretty gardens filled with bright yellow daffodils.

Well, we are back in the present...our bags have been unpacked, a shirt ironed and lunches made for work tomorrow. We even fitted in a gym session before settling down for the evening.

Tonight I will be going to sleep knowing that we have added another memorable adventure to our memory collection.

Tuesday, 18 March 2008

18 March is a very special day

Our families and special friends witnessed George and I exchanging our wedding vows on 18 March 2006. The ceremony and reception was held at "The Dunes" guesthouse in Cape st Francis (see "And she said, "Yes!" entries in archives)

We celebrated our 2nd anniversay at the "Honeymoon Restuarant" this evening - a delightful Chinese (and Thai) restuarant...just around the corner from where we stay. Our food was delicious - imagine roast duck in an orange sauce, sweet and sour pork, mushroom chow mein and a bean sprout vegetable dish. After a shared banana fritter dessert, the owners treated us to a liquer each "on-the-house"! An unexpected treat to end our evening.

We will be sharing many more meals at the "Honeymoon Restuarant" in future.

And she said, "Yes!" 2

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And she said, "Yes!" 1

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Monday, 17 March 2008

Bewl Water 16.03.08

One of the Seven Wonders of the Weald*, Bewl Water, is South East Kent's largest lake. This was our destination on our Sunday drive. It was a cold and wet day but, that didn't deter the committed sailors...the lake was really busy. We will definitely be back. We look forward to doing the 17mile walk around the lake and the cycle route is a must. We will be sure to pack a picnic to replenish our energy levels. A brochure highlights events for the year e.g. Flyfishing courses, a Photography Exhibition., Vintage Car rallys...the "Have-a-go" weekend looks like fun where one can try one's hand at canoeing, sailing or windsurfing..I wonder who will win the Dragon Boat races, a fundraising event held each year?

We ended our day at Nero's coffee shop with a delicious Cafe Mocha (coffee and chocolate drink). George browsed through the Sunday papers and I curled up on chair to contue savouring the book, "The House at Riverton", a wonderfully written book by Kate Morton. This is the first book that I have bought since I a charity shop.

The charity shops in the High Street are great places to browse...I can't resist popping in while walking past...lots of knick knacks - old and new - and some really useful things at only a few pounds.

*Seven Wonders of the Weald - a group of attractions all within 15 minutes drive -
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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Take a look inside our home in Tonbridge...

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Our home in Tonbridge

Our apartment is the one with the balcony - on the left of the picture. The address is:
32 Abbotts House, Arundel Close, Tonbridge, Kent, TN9 2UG.
It has one bedroom, a lounge, kitchen and bathroom - much smaller than we are used to at Clevedon Road in Port Elizabeth! We bought a bed and Max, our landlord, very kindly left us a few things - 2 couches, a portable TV, the curtains, a vaccuum cleaner, etc. Just what we need to make a start...our container from SA is arriving at the end of March. It has a few small things to make the apartment more "ours" - we can't wait to unpack it!

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Wednesday, 12 March 2008

A walk through castle gardens and some scones and cream

After a lazy Sunday morning we decided to take a trip to a village I spotted when coming home on the train from London last week. It's called, Leigh and looked very picturesque with horses and paddocks etc. We looked it up on our AA map book and started driving. What a lovely place it is...only 2 minutes to drive through, but it looks like pictures out of a story book.

We noticed a sign to Penshurst and decided to follow it. Penshurst is another very small village which is home to Penshurst Place - an English house (dates back to 14th century) which has been passed through the hands of royalty and notable courtiers and nobles during its history. The Sidney family still live there and allow part of the house and its gardens to be open to the public. Penshurst was actually used as a location for some of the scenes of the movie, "The other Boleyn Girl" which has just been released in the cinema this month. (co-incidentally, we watched the movie on Friday night in Tunbridge Wells) After paying an entrance fee, we took a walk through the gardens and the house. It's still too early in spring to see the gardens at their best so we will have to visit again!

Before driving home we decided to visit a tea room. We had some delicious coffee, scones, strawberry jam and cream. From an information brochure we found out that one could cycle along a traffic free route from Tonbridge to Penshurst, so guess what we will be doing soon...

Hello! from Tonbridge in the UK

I'm here!! A whole week already. It's wonderful to be with George again. The days are longer and brighter (than when I was here in Dec/Jan) but the air is very cold...but I'm sure that I will get used to it...I am already dressing more wisely when going out as I know that when on the train/bus or in an office, it is quite warm.

We have settled in really nicely in our new home. I am looking forward to receiving our few boxes from SA as then we will be surrounded with a few of our own things - even if it is something small like a tea cup! (there's not much space for much else!) It's been quite fun setting up home again and experiencing the things that people use for their homes here - there are many "spece-saving" ideas which are quite clever to use that we are not familiar with in SA as we have so much space in our homes and the sun outside to dry things often

It was sad to leave a beautifully renovated home. The handover to the new tenants went well and we hope that they will enjoy living there and love our home as we do.

I have been spending some time catching up with everyone. My days here are quiet...George and I go jogging in the mornings (light at 6am but very cold), do some housework, catch up on admin and then go for a walk, explore the area and read - sometimes meet George at lunch for a hot chocolate/coffee at Starbucks...mmm. I will enjoy this pace for now as it will get really busy when I start working.

I have made contact with some recruitment agencies. I went for my first meeting yesterday and the agent has put me forward for 2 training positions, both with above average incomes. I want to do as much investigation as I can before jumping into a job just to get a job.

We went to a friend's birthday on Friday night in London and then stayed over with my cousin and his wife - Nico and Lize. George left early on Saturday morning to get to work and I spent a wonderfully lazy day with Nico and Lize. On Sunday we took our first trip through Kent. We visited the seaside village, Whitstable. Whitstable is only an hour's drive - north east of Tonbridge. It took us longer to get there though as we went through a few villages and also visited an Antique Fair which I really enjoyed. We drove in a Fiat (something like my Uno - only with 2 doors - but more comfortable and it has power steering which is really great.). It is Nico's "old" car and he has offered to sell it to us which we will most likely do as it's just the thing we need for now. It won't be used much during the week as we are within walking distance of the station, bus stop and George's office.