London 2018 - Day Four
I woke at 8 again, after a long uninterrupted slumber. Josie and Angela both woke around 9:30. We took our time getting ready, then headed to the bus stop. We rode to London Bridge, looked at The Shard, and then checked the times on the train to Hever. We had about an hour to wait, so we walked along The Queen’s Way along the Thames. We admired the Tower Bridge from there, then headed back to the train station. We boarded an empty car and enjoyed a smooth ride. An employee - either a conductor or ticket checker or some other role - chatted with us for about 10 minutes. He explained that the trains had been full of kids as it is half-term, so students are running all over on holiday. The conversation wandered into travel, then immigration, and some how on to gun ownership. It was a little weird, but he was friendly enough.
We got off at the Hever stop and looked around. There was nothing to see. The station itself was completely vacant. We walked around the corner into the parking lot and found a sign pointing us toward the castle. We walked up the drive and to the connecting street. There we found a sign directing us to the footpath, which we happily took. The road was as typical a British country road as you could imagine: tall hedges on both sides, and narrow!
The path was a thin dirt trail leading along one hedge. Opposite was a field. As we continued, we saw sheep in the field up ahead. A little farther along we found a wooden gate that opened into this field. The path went right up to the gate. We were a little confused as to whether this was the right way for us to go, or if we would be trespassing on private property.
We decided to take a risk and walked through the gate. There were the sheep, just staring at us. Josie found this all hysterical. We walked on through the field, which was quite a bit larger than we expected, and quite dangerous due to a distressing quantity of sheep poop! We went through another gate, and finally back on to a road that led to the castle.
Just before the castle was a pub called The Henry VIII. We stopped for lunch, and were again pleased to find a gluten free bun option for Josie! Then we went on to Hever Castle.
Wow! What a great experience! The castle was beautiful, with a moat and drawbridge. The grounds were beautifully maintained. Inside the castle was historical information about Ann Boylen, Henry VIII, a little bit about the Jacobites and Hanoverians, and more. It was all well presented, informative, and in just the right quantity.
After walking through the interior, we went to the yew maze. This was a special treat for me because I’ve always wanted to go through a hedge maze! It was no match for Josie, who got us out quickly and with only a few wrong turns.
Next we went to the water maze, which was even more fun! The goal was to make it along the various stepping stones without getting wet. Several of the stones were traps, and stepping on these would trigger small jets of water to block your path forward. It was a lot of fun to work through, and it was made all the more fun by the shrieks of laughter from all the kids running around getting wet! Josie worked through it three times, she had so much fun.
Bonus: this very castle and its mazes were the focus of a kids show we watched a while back called Are We There Yet? World Adventure. It was a great surprise to recognize this location!
Finally we made our way to the kids playground, which was an enormous wooden castle just for playing! It had climbing ropes and nets, a variety of slides, two fireman’s poles, and a ton of nooks and crannies in which to hide. All the children in this space were running full bore, shouting at the tops of their lungs, and generally having a wonderful time. Josie enjoyed it every bit as much, sliding down the poles several times in a row.
At this point, we realized we hadn’t planned our return trip very well, as we didn’t know when the train would arrive at the station. Angela consulted Apple Maps and we were a little shocked to find that we could either catch the 17:15 train or the 18:55 train. As it was 16:40, we had to make a quick decision whether to run back along the footpath to try to catch the train, or cool our heels at the Henry VIII pub. We started on the former, then quickly realized what a bad idea that was.
At the pub, we faced another decision: stay long enough there that we wouldn’t have to wait as long at the deserted station, or leave with enough daylight left so as not to be walking along the footpath after sunset (remember: lots of sheep poop!). While nursing beers, we consulted Apple Maps again and learned that the train arrives every hour; for some reason our initial consultation did not present this information! So we were able to finish our pints, enjoy a casual walk back along the footpath at dusk, and have only a couple of minutes to wait at the platform.
We retraced our bus ride back home, but got off one stop early in order to get some takeaway dinner. We chose the Greedy Cow, an Indian joint just down from our street. Angela told the proprietor that we are vegetarians who like spicy food, could he make a recommendation for us? He happily suggested two dishes, and we happily ordered them. When we got home, we learned that we need to be more careful about ordering spicy food: it was really spicy! Angela could only finish about a third of the lesser spicy dish, and it was a real challenge for me to finish off the other one. Josie, safely, had previously elected to eat cereal for dinner.
We had to ensure we were home by 20:30 so that Josie could FaceTime with her best friend. About five minutes after her conversation started, Josie announced to us that she was bored! She really does miss playing with her best friend, and video chat just isn’t a good enough substitute.
Today was a great day. We had a fun adventure, made some great memories created together, and made it home in time to unwind.