Tuesday, August 09, 2016

Our First Glimpses of England

Flying into Gatwick Airport, it looked a little overcast.
No problem, we came prepared for English rainy weather.

After an uneventful and fairly pleasant flight 'across the pond', we arrived to a brand new morning on July 1st at Gatwick Airport.

Somewhere in there we lost a night's sleep, but we didn't notice it right away, what with getting through a long line at customs/immigration, where our agent very cheerfully welcomed us to have a pleasant stay in England, and then figuring out what train will take us to the town of Royal Tunbridge Wells. Well, it would take several trains actually. In the end it was an easy enough trip -- people were very helpful and we learned early to ask questions. Yes, all the while we were carrying our bags around. Weren't we glad that we packed small and light -- one carry-on and hand luggage each -- by the end of that first day!

Flying along at 'trainneck' speed through the countryside, we were entranced. Rooftops, rolling fields, woodsy areas, and country lanes flashed past our window. Flocks of sheep grazing on hillsides surrounded by hedgerows* and rock walls. We tried taking photos but it was mostly a blur. So we sat back and just watched. After changing trains a couple of times, we finally edged our way into Tunbridge Wells station at which time we looked for a taxi. The young man when we told him we wanted the Russel Hotel said, "It's just up the hill and down the street from here -- you can walk there. The fare is £5." By that time we didn't care if it cost £20 and only five feet away, please relieve of us our now too-heavy baggage and carry our weary selves there. He obliged.

By the way, on our way back to London twelve days later, we had the energy and knowledge of the lay of the land. This time we walked with our bags on wheels to the train station. We were seasoned walkers by now. And we felt pretty clever -- we were almost locals by this time and we certainly knew the train was just down the street and down the big hill. Those poor sods looking bewildered and pulling huge suitcases up the hill.

We arrived at our our hotel and checked in. A lovely old Victorian mansion, we had a spacious room with old-fashioned windows that opened to let the breezes in. The ad goes like this: "The Russell Hotel (AA**) is a privately run family hotel that has twenty six comfortable bedrooms, all with en-suite bathrooms. The d├ęcor is very traditional without the blandness of modern chain hotels so each room is different with loads of quirks and character."

Yes, the phrase 'loads of quirks and character' sums it up quite well. We adjusted to the quirks and when it was time to leave, we felt a wee bit sad -- we'd had a wonderful twelve days here.

 Russell Hotel, photo from hotel website

The historic spa town of Royal Tunbridge Wells is a large affluent town in western Kent, and we soon noticed all the fancy cars on the streets. Yet it seems many people walk everywhere. Lots of lovely shops, cafes, and restaurants along the High Street -- so much within walking distance. A good thing, because we didn't have a car, fancy or otherwise.

"The area is well-known for its world-famous gardens, fairy-tale moated castles and mellow country manors; don’t miss the romantic moat-ringed Scotney Castle or the enchanting Sissinghurst Castle and gardens, former home of Vita Sackville West, and an inspiration to gardeners world-wide."

Yes, that's what we came to experience ... a little English romance sprinkled with magic, wonder and awe. Let the story begin.

Our First Glimpses ...

Heading towards our hotel on the left side

Backs of houses along our street

Better start the shopping early!
Note the Royal Mail truck at the back

Let's see where this path leads

Old stone walls with flowering plants in the crevices

Lots of flowers everywhere

Big trees and vines growing like wild

Interesting roof edging on buildings

Did I mention there are flowers everywhere you turn? We loved it.

A glimpse of Russel Hotel through the trees

We found a happening restaurant for dinner our first night.
Food was great -- I had their amazing curry dish.


 Calverly Grounds is a spacious park and boasts a small formal garden within
Tunbridge Wells. Great for taking strolls and having Sunday picnics.

This gorgeous kitty was out in the grounds walking with his family --
He stopped so we could admire him.

Wow ... and this is just the first couple of days! Our next adventure and next post is about our visit to Chartwell, the beloved family home of Sir Winston Churchill from 1922 until his death in 1965. Because Sir Winston is a hero of mine, this proved special to me.

I'm having so much fun writing this with you in mind. It gives me a chance to remember and sort through all that we've seen and experienced. Do you recall the lines from Wordworth's famous daffodil poem where in the last stanza he says:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
   In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
   Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

When I recently opened the parcel we'd sent home ahead of us early on in our trip, things I'd forgotten about suddenly came alive again. Memories flashed upon that inward eye and I was there again, in those beautiful places, smelling and feeling, dancing and remembering. Bliss!  

Till next time,

*Hedgerows = linear plantings of shrubs, trees, and thickly tangled vines, 5 metres wide or more, along roads and between fields.


  1. Thank you Brenda, I enjoyed the experience as if I was there with you. Reminds me of our trip to London last July.

  2. Aaaaah! I love reading travel blogs! I'm so glad you two had such a fantastic trip. Looking forward to episode two in this blog series! (And hearing stories in person soon...)

  3. Oh Brenda your photos and words are simply wonderful. I feel as if I am right there in England seeing everything through your eyes. Your Russell Hotel looks so charming and the curry dish very delicious. Hope you share more if your English travels. Hugs!

  4. How can a person be in love with a place without ever having been there?! I don't know, but that is the way I fancy myself loving England, and the whole of the British Isles. From my home in the US, I 'long for' ancient stones, English gardens, 'moors', fog (yes, fog), and houses exactly like those in your 'back of houses along our street' photo. Which is all to say that I will be glued to your every word, and if you took 12,000 pictures I hope you will share 12,001!!!

  5. Oh, wow, what a wonderful trip you had! Thank you so much for sharing.

  6. Oh dear old Blighty - a nickname for England, I think started by troops in WW11, not positive though.Your descriptions are wonderful, and yes Wordsworth's poem, I know every verse off by heart.Looking forward to the next leg of your journey.Thank you so much

  7. "You can walk." Goodness, does the poor boy not recognize travel weary people? Ha! Hope that you took photos of your quirky room at the hotel. I love quirky and whimsical and English.

  8. Love what you do share with us, Especially the kitty =^x^=
    Have a wonderful weekend

  9. Hi Brenda I enjoyed reading your trip to England and see the beautiful pictures.

    I also loved the saying of Franz Peter Schubert.

    Sandra xoxo

  10. Hello Brenda, I am late in catching up, but I wanted to start at the beginning of your trip......Oh, it does sound wonderful and the hotel is gorgeous! Laughed about feeling like a local by the time you left :) Lovely photos. xx K

  11. Hello Brenda, I am late in catching up, but I wanted to start at the beginning of your trip......Oh, it does sound wonderful and the hotel is gorgeous! Laughed about feeling like a local by the time you left :) Lovely photos. xx K

  12. This is a lovely start to your trip. Quirky hotels can be fun when one approaches them with the great attitude that you did. Thank you for this lovely bit of England (in the three posts I've enjoyed this morning). I nodded and sighed and longed along with you.
    Hope your late August days are filled with loveliness.

  13. So pleased you had a wonderful flight and stay in England. You stayed in the town where I was born, so homesick.


To My Beautiful Readers,

Some people come into our lives, leave footprints on our hearts, and we are never the same. ~ Franz Peter Schubert

Thank you so much for leaving your 'footprint' here in my comment box. I do appreciate you taking a moment to share your thoughts today.

Brenda xo