After a very busy week, and still feeling the effects of her fall, Mom decided she was going to stay at the hotel today. We had a late breakfast and sorted ourselves out in our new rooms and then she spend the rest of the afternoon relaxing and napping. I went up to Oxford Street and poked around in a few of the shops and then decided to wander around SoHo. The sun was out and it was nice not to be quite so cold!
Graham's bus arrived early which cut short my wandering and I took a taxi to Victoria coach station to meet him and take him back to the hotel. Mom joined us a little while later in the afternoon and then we headed to the lobby where friends of ours and their little girl were joining us. We had coffee and tea in the bar and then, as previously decided, ate a lovely meal in the carvery in the Strand Palace. They put on a really good spread and the price was an Easter special and included a drink as well as the buffet and dessert. Always good to catch up with friends!
Friday night we headed to Her Majesty's Theatre to see another musical, the long running Phantom of the Opera. It's one of Graham's favourites and one Mom had always wanted to see. Again, we were not disappointed though I was a bit surprised that the stage wasn't as large as I'd expected. It wasn't small, but it wasn't vast either. The theatre is another older one and I didn't find the seats quite as nice as the Lyceum's. The performance was a very different one compared to the Lion King which is a contemporary production. Phantom is elaborate costumes, operatic and very theatrical. It's very colourful yet darkly lit because it all takes place inside a Parisian theatre or under it in the lake that actually does exist under the Opera Garnier in Paris. It truly was a memorable experience.
After the show, we walked up to see Piccadilly Circus lit up. It might not be Times Square, but it's still amazing to see! We headed back down Haymarket and caught a bus back though we could have walked to the hotel in about 15 minutes or so as well.
Saturday was a long day but one of the highlights. A few of the things we saw are detailed in other tips. We had booked a day tour with Evan Evans company for about 60 pounds per adult. This included all entrance fees to Leeds Castle and Canterbury Cathedral and also included afternoon tea at an old pub in the village of Denton in Kent. Very good value for money when you think it also included the transportation, and a very good guide. We were surprised that Saturdays they will provide a bilingual tour in Japanese. Which would explain why there seemed to be quite a few Japanese tourists on our bus. It was actually quite interesting to hear.
Leeds Castle was first stop (see detailed tip). There are cherry trees (I think) along the moat and they were in pink blooms. Lovely for framing photos of the Castle over on the little islands in the middle of the moat/lake. We had about 2 hours in all I think to do what we wanted on the grounds. We spent most of it in the castle as it was too cold to check out the aviary and gardens.
We drove to the City of Canterbury from there and were walked down into the old section by the huge gothic Cathedral (see detailed tip). This was a very different type of cathedral compared to St. Paul's. Much older, for a start and the only decoration are a few elaborate tombs and the old stained glass windows. There are other items around of course but the ceilings aren't gilded or full of mosaics. They are high and vaulted and are spectacular just as they are.
We had the chance to get lunch in Canterbury but knowing we were going to have tea and sandwiches a little later, we didn't bother other than getting a cup of tea and a bun to tide us over. The streets near the cathedral are pedestrianized and the old buildings are all fronted with shops. There are some good museums and attractions in Canterbury as well and it's a good place to spend the day. We only had time for the cathedral as we spent quite awhile poking around in there.
From here we were driven down to the coast to Dover for a photo stop of the famous White Cliffs. We parked by the beach and just past the ferry terminal. I didn't think the view was all that great but it was ok. It was also very, very windy and cold so we weren't off the bus too long. I do know there are other vantage points but probably not that accessable for a bus.
Back inland to the little village of Denton to a pub/inn called Jackdaw. This place dates back about 300 years though parts of it are more up to date than that. It's a lovely brick building and the sun obliged us by peeking through the clouds for about 10 minutes as we arrived, lighting up the flowers that surrounded the windows and door. The back restaurant area of the pub is where we were sitting. We had two sandwiches each, with each half a different kind. Hot tea and scones with clotted cream and jam topped off the lunch and after such a cold day, hot tea never hit the spot so well! This pub apparently also offers very good food if you happen to be in the area. It's not that far from Canterbury either.
We finally got back to London about 6:30 and were dropped close to the hotel. We decided to go straight to a restaurant for our evening meal. Over to Maiden Lane, just around the corner, to a burger restaurant called Gourmet Burger Kitchen. (see detailed restaurant tip). This is a chain of burger joints but a very good one and kicks McDonald's all over the map! We stuffed ourselves on burgers and banana milkshakes before finally heading back to the hotel to chat about our day.