It was nice to wake up at our friends’ house, with no notices pasted on the walls at all, like the b&b in london.

we started the day with porridge.  when we went to scotland, we got great porridge every morning, but they didn’t serve it at our london b&b.  i guess it isn’t a typical thing to serve in england, but how can that be?  what about in “oliver,” didn’t he ask for more porridge?  maybe it wasn’t porridge oliver was asking for, maybe it was raisin bran.

anyway, carol made us some delicious porridge, and then she had to run a couple of errands.  we all went to a huge craft store that’s a lot like Michael’s, except bigger – it was two stories, and it was fun to wander around and see the stuff they had.

after that she had to stop at the mall.  i was amazed at the number of people there – it wasn’t a holiday or anything, and yet there were lots of people walking around.  i think our mall is only busy on some weekends and before christmas.

one of the many shops, undoubtedly related to kevin.  i guess everything in the mall wasn’t open when we first got there.

after the mall, we walked through the also busy town center.  lots of shops, lots of people.  maidstone is a bustling place.

they dropped us off at the maidstone museum.  it was a small place, and we couldn’t imagine that it they’d have much in there.

the first thing was saw was a big display of military stuff – guns, uniforms, etc.  it was well done and interesting.  we wandered around the museum some more, and there were more things than you’d think they’d have in a museum in a small town.  it helps that they have way more history than we do.

there were very few people in the museum, and we ended up in the little gift shop where i bought a whole bunch of small paperback cookbooks, things like “favourite scottish recipes” and “favourite teatime recipes.”  i haven’t made anything from any of them yet, but i enjoy leafing through them.

after the museum, we headed for the small town of Rye, on the southeast coast of england.  according to google maps, Rye is 32 miles from Maidstone, and it should take about an hour to get there.  unfortunately, i didn’t write down how long it really took us, i just remember a harrowing ride through the country.  Alan took “shortcuts,” i think, and most of the roads were very narrow, with tall hedgerows on either side.  alan didn’t care, though, and just barreled on through, unconcerned about the threat of certain death by head-on collision.

i shot a little bit of video of the car ride on the way back to maidstone.  this is a picture of one of the wider expanses.

this is about the width of most of the road.

i think alan might have made a wrong turn somewhere, and so we came in to the back entrance of Rye.  Hmm, it didn’t look quaint at all, but rather dreary.  they were afraid we were almost too late to get tea, so we stopped at a plain little bar.

it wasn’t much to look at on the inside, and i ordered a tuna-stuffed jacket potato, which is basically a baked potato, except that it was the BEST POTATO I’VE EVER HAD IN MY LIFE.

carol told me the secret of baking them; i think it involves baking them at a low temperature for a long time, but isn’t that how you bake any potatoes?  i never bake potatoes.  i’m pretty sure there was some other delicious step that made it so delicious.

a couple of the people at the bar had their dogs with them, and i petted one of the dogs.

after our tea, actually lunch, we set off for the old part of Rye, and there it was in all its quaintness.

i love rye, and i’d like to go back again some day and spend the night.

out in the distance is the english channel.  i have it on video, but i don’t think there’s a photo.

i wanted to see Rye because that’s where the author E. F. Benson lived.  he wrote a series of books based on a character named Lucia, and you probably haven’t read them, but they’re funny and delightful reading.  i have the whole set.  The characters in the book went to this church, st. mary’s.  Lucia’s rival, Miss Mapp, climbed up to the bell tower on top of the church so she could spy on Lucia out in her garden.  Lucia’s house is based on Benson’s actual home.  I wanted to climb up to the top to get a look for myself.

here’s the dire warning at the bottom of the long and steep climb.

after going up narrow, uneven stairs, we had to climb some ladders.

here’s the inside of the bell tower.

and this is the glorious view.  it had been raining a little bit earlier, but luckily it was a beautiful, sunny day.

kevin took this fabulous panorama shot of the valley, and you can see just a bit of the english channel.

there’s the church cemetery, and you can barely see those two tiny dots in the bottom right corner – that’ alan and carol, waiting for us down below.  i have good video of them waving at us.

this is a little closer.

The main house on the left, with a little black plaque, is Lamb House, where Benson lived.  I kept trying to see the garden, but couldn’t find it anywhere.  maybe there weren’t as many houses back then, or maybe the trees have grown up.  they probably grew a little, since the books were set in the 20’s and 30’s.

oh yeah, henry james lived in the house before E.F. Benson.

here’s the E.F. Benson plaque.  unfortunately, the house was closed that day so we didn’t get to go inside.

here’s the garden window that Benson wrote about a lot.  Before Lucia owned the house, it was Miss Mapp’s, and she spent a lot of time spying out of the window.  It was always a little hard to visualize how that worked, so it was totally great to actually see it.

here’s carol, walking down the cobblestone street from the house.

Alan and kevin.

we left rye and hurried back to maidstone, had a quick tea, aka dinner or supper.  we had cheddar and chutney sandwiches, which are now one of my favorite things.  we also had yummy baked goods that carol had bought in rye.

we then headed out to Leeds Castle, which is very close to Maidstone, only about 2o minutes away.  in my research about the trip before going, i had read online about Leeds Castle – they showed different movies out on the lawn during the summer, and had different events.  our trip coincided with a screening of “some like it hot.”  this sounded really cool, so carol got us the tickets.

i also explored other options – they had packages where you could spend the night at the castle, and have dinner and cocktails there and wander out to see the movie.  this would have been crazy expensive, so taking the short drive from carol and alan’s house was much better.

the parking lot was a little distance from the castle, and we saw this peacock along the path as we hurried along.  we weren’t late, but we didn’t know how many people would be there and we wanted to set up our chairs in a good spot.

the castle – one of my favorite photos that kevin took during the trip.  it’s kind of too bad that we didn’t get to go inside, but on the other hand, many times castles are more interesting on the outside.  not true for buckingham palace, of course, but the queen doesn’t live at this castle.

it really was huge.  kevin kept taking pictures, and i kept videotaping.  it helped that it was a beautiful evening, with rosy clouds in the sky.

i guess we did go a little crazy with the pictures and the video, but it was just so lovely, and there were so many beautiful angles to shoot from.

here’s the big screen.  it wasn’t on the front lawn of the castle, but across the road.  still on the property, of course.  plenty of people were already there, but we found a fine spot.

we brought some snacks, but they had stands set up, selling fancy fare.

i love that little camper that sold hot chocolate with bailey’s, among other things.

there was time to look around – there were lots of interesting-looking footpaths where we were, but they were closed cause the castle was closed.  instead, we headed back to the castle to take many more pictures and video.

this is another of my favorite england photos that kevin took.  it’s funny that almost nobody else was walking around the castle; they were all just hanging out at the screening place.  they were probably mostly locals who had seen it enough before.

in the distance are a couple of guys out playing golf.  they must have been staying at the castle, or maybe they had golf passes.  maybe there’s a leeds castle golf club, which is probably really cheap.

kevin finally stopped taking pictures, but i videotaped a little of the movie; you can see that it was an excellent quality picture.  it got kind of chilly as the night wore on, but luckily we had plenty of coats and blankets.

in the video i was enamored with the porta potties, only of course at the castle they weren’t potties, but rather “Luxury Mobile Toilet Units.”  going inside, they were more like real bathrooms.  they probably have fancy things like this at outdoor events here in the US, but i guess i’ve never been to anything fancy enough for that.

at one point i’m shooting video in the setting sun and say that it’s too bad you can’t hear the jazz band playing.  luckily, though, you can hear them, and it’s a very idyllic little moment and i’m glad i captured it so that i’ll be able to remember.

it was a fun, jam-packed day, and saturday and sunday were more of the same, except completely different.

here’s Video #6.

ok then,