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Trip Report Our Adventure to the Southeast of England and London

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We just got back from our two week adventure to the UK. We are DH, DS and myself and this was our third trip to the UK but our second to London (last time we skipped London and ventured to Oxford, York and Edinburgh). This time we wanted to explore the castles and gardens of the Southeast for the first week along with a revisit to London for the second week. They don't call the Southeast the Garden of England for nothing.

I apologize for the length as I tend to be very wordy. I found other people's trip reports and comments to be very helpful in my planning so I want to return the favor and post our results in hopes it helps someone else who wants to plan something similar. Plus it acts as a memoir for us. Up front I want to thank Janisj, Palenque, Annhig, BigRuss, FlannerUK, PatrickLondon, and Latedaytraveler among others who offered excellent advice and suggestions throughout my planning. I apologize if I inadvertently left someone out of this prestigious list that should also be included.

On this trip I had a very long list of things to see/do and we were able to get to a good fair share of them. We did not get to Greenwich (again we missed it) nor the British Library and we had wished to do more London Walks especially the Lure of the Underground one but we did manage to squeeze in two walks with them. Not too concerned about the skipped places as they will remain on the list for the next time! Overall we were very pleased with what we were able to accomplish and I will elaborate as this trip report continues.

Prior to the trip we purchased a Royal Oak Society Pass which lets US residents get into National Trust Properties. We bought the family pass. In addition, we purchased through a promotion a month long English Heritage Pass good for two adults and children (although we only needed it for two weeks). Those two passes offered great savings. The English Heritage Pass also provided one cream tea for two at any participating English Heritage Property. In addition, we purchased tickets for Billy Elliott and tickets for a guided tour of the Matisse Cut-outs Exhibition at Tate Modern.

Our flight from the East Coast had a 30 minute delay for takeoff as we waited for folks from a connecting flight to board. DH and DS slept on the plane. I can not. We arrived early though and I thought since it was so early in the morning that the immigration line would not be too bad. Wrong! There were two flights that came in approximately at the same time. Our flight and an Air Canada flight both arrived at the new Terminal 2. We waited quite a while on the immigration line but it was moving--there were just so many people.

Let me describe Terminal 2 the Queen's Terminal--it goes on and on for miles it seems. There are escalators down and then there are escalators up and then there are at least 4 moving walkways before you spot the masses at the immigration line. After immigration we went to baggage claim. Signs say it is a 15 minute walk from the plane to the gate and vice versa. It prepares you for the tube rides and subways except you have luggage with you for this adventure. DH wanted to avoid the escalators so he took the lift and got used to it pronouncing "doors opening" and "doors closing". In the US, the elevators are not pleasant--they just close without any warnings.

Off to shuttle for the rental car to adjust to driving on the "other" side of the road for the first week. Our B&B in Tunbridge Wells did not want us to check in until late afternoon and it was very early in the morning. Airplane food is gross so our first item on the agenda was to get a decent breakfast somewhere before heading over to Wisley. When we arrived it was pouring with rain. When we got out of the rental car area it was brightening up a little. The nearest town near Wisley I believe is Woking and after getting lost we found it and a small bakery that was open. Yeah! Coffee and scones and croissants--Yum!

Once nourished we found our way to Wisley. On that day they did a birds of prey exhibit. Since it was still overcast and called for rain again in the afternoon, they brought out the big vulture to the morning show at 11AM which they usually save for the afternoon show. We saw vultures, falcons and owls flying about. The baby owl refused to fly. The show lasted an hour. It was great. We toured Wisely a bit and saw the big glasshouse with different climate zones. We also saw the rock garden, the rose garden that had a few roses still looking vibrant, and the bonsai garden.

We made our way over toward Tunbridge Wells and since we were close by the Seven Oaks area on our way we decided to pop into Ightham Mote. This place is hidden in very narrow winding roads and we are driving on the "other" side. Yikes. We went up the wrong road only for the GPS to tell us we were heading in the wrong direction. We found a spot where we could turn around after driving for a while and then finally found the correct approach into Ightham Mote. More about Ightham Mote later.

I find I encounter jet lag on the way back and not on the way there.

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