On Sunday, September 20th Julie and Roc continued their 2015 European Adventure by flying from Prague in the Czech Republic to London’s Heathrow Airport. There we were met by our good Shell friend, Guy, who drove 90 minutes from Southeast England to pick us up and take us to he and Sue’s house, a converted “double Oast” named “Lymden Oast” located near the town of Stonegate! Oast buildings were a type of kiln built during in the 19th century to dry hops. After we unpacked in our bedroom on the Oast’s second floor, Sue made us an excellent English traditional Sunday dinner of leg of lamb, potatoes, mashed carrots, and string beans, followed with drinks by the fireplace in their sitting room.
On Monday, we drove a short distance to the town of Tonbridge Wells to explore town and have lunch. We walked through the village, looking at an old church where Princess Elizabeth once attended, and window shopping the stores that that line the old town built when the town hosted summer visitors for the curative waters that might cure their ills. Now, the town is home to a huge pedestrian street of shops, in addition to an indoor mall with a Marks & Spencer’s store. The day was cool and overcast and so we had lunch indoor. As we left town to return to the Oast, typical English rains began to fall. That evening, we went to a local pub, “The Bull” for drinks and a dinner of fish and chips, ribs and lamb burgers. The evening was followed-up back in the sitting room, in front of a fire, playing a card game called “Frustration”.
Tuesday was a rainy, cool day, and we traveled by car to visit Sue’s mother, Jo, in the town of Bromley for afternoon tea and biscuits. We then returned to the Oast in time for dinner with Guy’s mother, Shirley. That evening we all had a lovely time catching up since we had last met years before.
On Wednesday, September 23rd, we took the train from the nearby town of Wadhurst, into London, where we caught the “Tube” to travel to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Stadium, soon to be the home of the West Ham Football Team.
This stadium would host tomorrow’s World Cup Rugby Match for which we had tickets, and we used this preview to walk around the area and to tour the ArcelorMittal Orbit, the tallest sculpture in England. Located at the top is a beautiful observation deck and a series of inverted mirrors. To get back down, we walked the series of 450 steps and connecting ramps that wrap around the sculpture.
We then had lunch at a sports pub, “The Football Club” located in the adjoining shopping mall, “West End.” We felt completely at home in our rugby jerseys, watching the many soccer games that surrounded us on television. After returning to London on the “Tube”, we exited at the Waterloo Station and began a walking tour to the London Eye. From the giant wheel, we could see much of downtown London. After the 30-minute ride on the “Eye” we walked across the Thames to Big Ben and Parliament, and then on to Westminster Abbey, King James’ Garden, and Buckingham Palace.
We then strolled through the park to Piccadilly Circus for shopping and dinner. After a light dinner, we made our way through Leister Square to Charring Cross where we caught the train back to Stonegate for Rugby Match watching on television.
Thursday morning, we relaxed with Sue & Guy. Julie went out to the edge of the yard and picked blackberries. Later that day, Roc and Julie retraced yesterday’s route taking the train and tube to the QEII Olympic Stadium to attend the RWC Match of New Zealand vs. Namibia. We arrived early enough to enjoy the Fan Zone, including free Coca Cola, signs and flags for everyone. All of the fans were in full rugby attire and there was a big screen showing rugby matches, with volunteers making sure everyone was having a good time. There was lots of food and drinks, and even champagne available. We entered the stands early and people watched, listened to an Irish band and watched the teams’ warm-up. It was a predominantly a New Zealand crowd, but there was lots of cheering for the Namibian team. A large group of fans from France were behind us and there were locals to each side. New Zealand scored in first five minutes and the game was on. Namibia eventually had 2 field goals and one try. But, by the end of the game, New Zealand was out front: 58-14. It was a fun game! The stadium personnel funneled everyone out one direction and we easily caught the tube and then the train arriving back at the Oast at midnight.
Friday, September 25th was Sue’s birthday, and after breakfast, Julie and Roc took a long walk along the local footpaths through the valleys and farmers’-fields to the “The Bull” Pub at Three Leg Cross in Ticehurst for beer and cider. Later that day, we all caught the train into London and walked about Coventry Garden for shoppers, stopping at SoHo for a drink. We then headed to “The Archer” for a celebration of Guy and Sue’s daughter, Nicola, and her fiancé, David’s, engagement. After a bit of partying, we were off to visit nearby Chinatown, for a birthday dinner of duck, scallops, beef and chicken. Eventually, we took the train home, arriving back at 11:30pm.
We began Saturday leisurely with a light breakfast. That day, we were all meeting for lunch at “The Bell”, including Nicola and David, some of their bridal party, as well as Guy and Sue’s younger children, James and Frankie. That afternoon, Julie and Roc walked some of the footpaths of Lake Bewl, stopping for a drink on the return at The Bull” before walking back to the Oast. That night, we were on our own, as the Kent Family had tickets for the England-Wales Rugby Match in Twickingham – a match disappointedly lost by England. Julie and Roc watched on television and relaxed in front of the cozy fire.
Sunday, we spent time doing laundry and getting ready for our Rugby Match that night – Ireland vs. Romania. Tonight Guy and Sue were our guests, and it so happens that the rest of their family was going, as well, since David’s family is from Ireland. This game was in Wembley Stadium on the opposite side of London from QEII Olympic Stadium that we had traveled to before. We drove to the Wadhurst train station where we caught transport to the game. The crowd was pro-Ireland, and the large Wembley Stadium allowed it to be filled to the max, setting a new RWC record of over 89,000 fans! Romania played well, but they were no match for the strong Irish Team which won handily. Again, when the match ended, we made our way back home for another late night.
Monday, we packed and then took the final occasion to take a longer walk around Lake Bewl. The walk started at the Lake’s Marina, and we made our way across the damn and through the meadows until we exited near the town of Ticehurst and made our way back to “The Bell”, where we had fish and chips for lunch. That night, we watched rugby, played cards and went to bed early to be ready for our trip the next day.
On Tuesday, September 29th, we rose early and Guy drove us the 2-hours back to Heathrow airport for our flight back to the USA. We so enjoyed our time spent with good friends in England and in attending the Rugby World Cup Matches. However, it had been 6-weeks since we had left the USA, and it felt good to finally be returning home to reconnect with friends and family.